Nov 3 day 64 Porirua to Wellington 32 km 7:00- 2:30
Camp Elsdon had a school group staying, so the place was crawling with loud middle schoolers and their harried teachers. Lots of doors slamming, loud voices, but I slept through it all well and got on the trail early. The morning was supposed to be a gentle hike up to Colonial Knob. The trail was excellent though the first steep km was all steps which can really wear you out. Even though it was cool, I was soaked with sweat when I got to the ridge; then I stepped into the wind tunnel. Thank god it wasn’t raining because the wind was epic (and was officially “gale-force”). I had to strap the stuff on my pack extra tight just to keep it from flying off, and there were sections where I staggered and actually worried about being overthrown. After a few kilometers, the path turned inland away from the sea and the Cook Straits, and the wind abated, though even then occasionally I would get a full shocking blast. The trail designers had to figure a way to bring hikers into a large metro area without just street hiking. Above Auckland they take hikers out on the beach, above Wellington it is over some close-in peaks, a really great walk through the Spicer Forest and, once in the city, through small (or large) reserves. It takes you through Ngaio where I stopped at the village center for coffee. It has been a while since I was in young-couple suburbia, and the cafe, which was nice and had free wifi, was full of very loud mothers and their louder young children. It seemed everyone communicated by yelling. Made me feel old and also long for the woods. After trekking through two other reserves which had great views of the city, it dropped me out at the Sprig and Fern, a wonderful pub where I met my friend Estelle a few years ago. I wanted to stop for a commemorative pint, but they were not yet open, so I crossed the Botanical Gardens, stopped at the cable car stop and then headed to city center. First stop: Little Beer Quarter, my favorite Wellington watering hole where the bartender comped me my first beer, an Eagle Pale Ale–ahhh, loyalty–and they play the best music: Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding. After checking in at the hostel I wandered Courtenay Street. It’s so good to be back in this city that I know so well. It was like walking home today.