Anticipating our three sets of successive visitors, with first arrivals due in about 2 ½ weeks (December 29), I’d done some research and, guess what: NZ has a lot to see that I never even knew about!
(NOTE: This is the best planning website I’ve found: https://www.newzealand.com/int/)
Coincidentally, I was feeling restless, as in “itchy feet,” and a mini-vacation seemed a clear solution.
From looking at that website I initially decided I wanted to visit the Coromandel Peninsula. However, Doug provided the reality check that it would require at least eight days since it’s a two-day drive each way from our Masterton home. He then offered the suggestion that we visit the Kapiti Coast, especially since I’ve often commented on how much I like the sound of that name. Yup, just a two hour drive from home and guess what: I would get to see the other side of the Tararua’s, the mountains I see from my house and also part of a mountain range I’ve been trying to understand (as referenced in my last posting).
I hopefully asked: will we get to drive over the mountains at a new location? YES! Since there are only three roads* over this extensive, non-developed range (described in my prior blog), I figured this would be another way for me to “get” my new home. AND IT WAS!
*(One is the Rimutaka Hill Road, State Highway 2 – the most southern and the most direct from my home. The other two are close together in the north, leaving about 60 miles of mountain in between with no roads!)
To get there from here, on our Day 1 we drove about 50K (31 miles) north on SH (State Highway) 2, then west on Pahiatua Track, a small windy two-lane road over the mountains. We could see the city of Palmerston North in the distance –and bi-passed it. Once over the mountains I caught glimpses of the sea, but it took our stopping at a beach, and my walking out on the sand, to actually get it.
It didn’t look like other beaches I’ve visited, and this picture taken at Foxton Beach accurately shows what I saw:
I’ve seen many beaches, of course, but somehow this looked and felt different. Maybe it was the striations in the sand, or its being deserted, so clean, so unobstructed, and going on and on seemingly forever. It just felt different. Good different.
We’d made an inexpensive ($53 U.S./night) Airbnb reservation to stay for three nights in a small, lovely home-share across the street from the beach at Raumati South – a teeny tiny town.
We’d brought our basic, inexpensive mountain bikes, so the next day we went for a ride through nearby Queen Elizabeth Park. This large (650-hectare/1606 acre) park is described in LP (Lonely Planet) as “a relatively unchanged area of dune and wetland. “ Ah, sweet meandering …
Which led us to a surprise: US history! The US and NZ have been joined by extreme cooperation:
(*)Continuing onward, we ended up at the other end of the park at another utterly adorable tiny town called Paekakariki.
*(Ignore many parentheses -cannot figure out how to delete them)
There is a station there for the 45-minute Metlink ride to/from Wellington (every 20 minutes weekdays; 30 minute intervals weekends).
At that station there was an exceptionally well-organized used book store manned by a resident author (who has a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies), and a train museum. The author posed for me in the museum.
This ‘jigger” was used to transport track maintenance gangs.
(Across the street was “town,” where we had another fab café lunch.
We next did something that was a first for me: we rode back on the beach!!!!! Yes, the sand was firm enough to be no problem at all – and I’m told cars also drive on it, so that was a clue that it could work.
(The paved well-signed road parallel to the beach is called the Kapiti Coastal Cycle Route.
This goes for 25 VERY scenic flat Km (15 ½ miles) each way, so there is a choice when the tide is up and no more sand.
That night I walked across the road of our lodgings to see the obligatory sunset.
For our Day 3 we had booked a boat ride out to Kapiti Island, 5 km offshore, a protected bird sanctuary, to which visitor numbers are limited so reservations are required via the boat companies that take you there. It was rough seas on the 20 minute ride out. And yup, there were all sorts of birds,
(many unafraid of humans, including this Kaka who was attempting to open the zip of Doug’s day pack.
(Most of our time was spent hiking (i.e. tramping) 1½ hours up to the top (521 meters/1700 feet) of a steep mountain which, unfortunately, had some cloud cover. Again, I made the mistake of believing a Kiwi who’d said “it’s not hard,just steep but not very long.” Hence, I did not have my hiking boots or hiking poles – both of which would have made me happier. For me, it was hard!
[Note: I seemed to find it harder than the others who climbed, including Doug. I HATE these fitness reality checks.]
When we returned to the bottom I did have time to meander and look around and listen to birds and use the very fine new binoculars I’d purchased for the occasion.
I would go back – but not climb the mountain, just spend time focused on the many fabulous protected native birds and the native plants and the sea.
Our final day, Day 4, we again rode bikes into Queen Elizabeth Park. Benches abound – not just here. Seems to be a Kiwi thing: benches well-placed for scenic viewing.
We took a new route and ended up at a tram museum.
And then, another of what I call “Kiwi moments,” when two people randomly come together and find out they already know each other. Turns out Doug went to H.S. (here called“college”) with the volunteer manning the Tram Museum that day. I got to hear a lot of reminiscence, including recollections of the tram that ran down to Wellington College and all the kids that hung on so you couldn’t even see the car.
Next – off for the one-hour drive to Wellington, and then home. Good-by Kapiti Coast.
P.S./General Comment: Seems to me that in NZ names are given to short sections of larger geographic entities, e.g. The Rimutaka’s being a name of one section of larger mountain range.
I have just discovered it’s the same with the Kapiti Coast. Here’s a pic taken from the summit of the Paikakariki Hill Road, the original road between Wellington and the Coast which has now been replaced by SH 1 (unfortunately the pic is marred by haze).
In this pic you can see the entire coastline which I had thought comprised the Kapiti Coast. Wrong. “Kapiti Coast” is the name for only the nearest, southern 33 km (20 mile) section (Paekakariki to Otaki). The entire coast, visible in this picture, extends the full 153 km (95 miles) to Whanganui. As a tourist, I would recommend considering the whole thing as one long fab beach-filled playground. Have fun.