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Paekakariki Escarpment Walk

Six trampers signed up for this trip, which began with a 1 hour 40-minute drive from Masterton to

Paekakariki, the beginning of the northern end of the escarpment walk.

The first 100 metres takes us past the Paekakariki cafes (tempting but saved for later), on to a path

that runs alongside SH1, through an underpass and we are at the start of the track. We read the

information board, with last minute reminders that include:

 The walk should not be attempted by those without a reasonable level of fitness

 Track exposed to weather extremes

 Steep drop-offs

 No handrails

 Steep stairs - unsuitable for those with vertigo or cardio illness.

We carry on. The weather is clear, overcast and unusually windless. We hear a lot about this track,

and all include the words “steep”, “steps” and lots of them. However, the beginning is an easy,

undulating track as we gradually wend our way up the side of the hill above SH1 and the railway

line. The expansive views that this walk is known for, start to emerge – the sea, sky, Kāpiti Island in

one direction and a distant Mana Island in the other.

After an hour or so we reach the highest point and lookout, at 220m. We stop feeling smug about

the weather as a cold blast of rain passes over and we hurriedly dive into packs for raincoats.

From there, the gentle undulations are replaced by what the track is famous for: sidling along

narrow paths and steep stairways as we head in a generally downhill direction. It isn’t that bad but

there is a lot of steady ascending and descending, switchbacks interspersed between stairways,

and sidling along skinny tracks that hug the side of the hill with perpendicular drop-offs (which are

best to avoid taking a look at). Sometimes it feels like being on a precipice with nothing between

us and the sea. Twice, steps drop into a gully that is crossed on a swing bridge, and then inevitably

follows with another flight of stairs to climb. In amongst all this the sun comes out and clothing

layers come off again.

We pass through occasional native forest stretches but most of the track is bare and exposed with

superb views up and down the coast. There are plenty of signs, seats, information boards and

evidence of volunteer groups working on plant re-generation and sharing the history of the track.

About 3 ½ hours from the start we descend on a gradual path towards Pukerua Bay railway

station, leaving the view behind while our focus changes to walking fast to catch the next train to

take us back to Paekakakariki.

This well-formed coastal walk was an interesting, different experience for those of us who do most

of our walking amongst the tangle of roots and mud in the Tararuas. We took our time, stopping

to admire the stunning views, taking lots of justified photos, reading the information boards and

catching our breath on the endless steps. Time taken for the 10km walk – 3 ¾ hours. Our ‘Chief

Step Counter’ counted 800 steps (up and down) but there could have been more!

Trampers – Julie (Trip Leader), Jietong, Bronwyn, Robyn, Janet, Chris

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