I haven’t been out tramping for a while and this morning I ended up with a free day on my hands, so I decided to just walk North towards the Kapiti Coast for a while and see how far I’d get. This is actually the third time I’ve done this, and the second time in the Kapiti direction, but it’s the first time I’ve written anything about it.
The general idea is to just walk through suburbia, keeping reasonably close to bus routes and/or railway lines so it’s easy to bail out and go home whenever it’s convenient. I quite like doing this on occasion because it involves minimal organisation and it’s not necessary to arrange any special gear. Just some contingency money for a bit of food and public transport home is all. It’s also just quite a nice change from walking through the back-country, I think. Suburbia changes quite a lot as you walk through it (at least it does on this route), and I find it interesting wandering along the streets and watching things going on as the day progresses.
Date: 6th July, 2008
Location: Wellington suburbs (Northland, Johnsonville, Tawa, Porirua, Plimmerton).
Intended route: Start at Northland and walk north along suburban streets in the general direction of Kapiti, keeping near public transport.
After some lazing around at home, I left Northland just after 10am… specifically where I live, which is near Chesshire Street. I think it’s important to state the starting point reasonably accurately, because the trip time can probably vary by an hour or two depending on exactly where one might start from. Last time I did this several years ago I began from Kingston, which is on the southern end of central Wellington, and it took about an hour before I even reached where I began from today.
I followed Wilton Road and Churchill Drive, and after an hour’s walking I’d reached what I think was somewhere between about the Simla Crescent and Box Hill Railway Stations. Continuing along Burma Road, I turned off at Fraser Avenue, which is a less popular back road into the Johnsonville Shops. It’s in the district of the quarry above the Ngauranga Gorge, and there’s a reasonably narrow view out towards Matiu Somes Island in Wellington Harbour. I reached the Johnsonville Shops at 11.30am, and stopped for a quick lunch in the food court. After figuring out how to get around the various roads and roundabouts, I was finally walking along Middleton Road at 12pm.
After the last few houses near Johnsonville, there aren’t many landmarks along Middleton Road. About 20 minutes along (I think it was exactly 12.20pm), I reached the point where the Paraparaumu Train Line emerges from its second (and longest) tunnel. After this there was another 20 minutes of walking before Takapu Road Railway Station (12.40pm). There isn’t a pedestrian footpath along this stretch of road, but I generally found there was enough space on the edge for me to walk safely. There was only one short stint where I found myself hugging the crash barrier to let several cars drive past.
The main road through Tawa is just called ‘Main Road’, according to my street map, but I think it’s also called the Old Porirua Road. I was at the Tawa Shopping Mall by around 1pm (3 hours of walking so far, including lunch), and by 1.45pm was briefly sitting down opposite Porirua Railway Station for a quick bit of chocolate. Last time I did this, I found it quite difficult figuring out exactly where to go as a pedestrian to get through Porirua and out the other side. Ultimately it’s necessary to get to the eastern side of the motorway north of Porirua, and there are at least a couple of ways to get there. I think that if one crosses the motorway and railway line via the double-overbridge roundabout to get to the start of Mungavin Avenue, there’s a walking track that follows the road north on the eastern side from there. The way I chose this time, however, was to stick to the western side of the Porirua Stream (which drains into Porirua Harbour) until the northern-most motorway on/off-ramp. This has a cycle lane on the southern side, which can also be walked on (at least nobody tried to stop me), and leads straight into the walkway on the eastern side of the motorway north of Porirua.
By now I was starting to feel the beginnings of some blisters in my feet, which I guess could be a consequence of walking for so long on cemented footpaths, which I don’t do a lot of. I finally reached Plimmerton (ie. Opposite the railway station) at 3.10pm, just in time to see the 3pm train pull out 10 minutes late. For a while I was still considering the idea of continuing to walk around the coast to Pukerua Bay, but eventually decided not to since to do so it’s really necessary to commit to doing it properly given that the coastal track is away from public transport and (potentially) cellphone reception. Being the middle of winter with only a couple of hours of light left and not having given anyone clear indications of precisely where I was going, it seemed like a good idea to avoid the risk of getting stuck there. I consoled myself by buying an ice cream, going for a quick walk along the beach, and hopping on a train back home.
In conclusion it was quite a good walk to fill in some time – roughly 5 hours from Northland (near Wellington) to Plimmerton. I think if I’d wanted to make it to Pukerua Bay, I probably would have needed to leave an hour or two earlier, or otherwise go in the summer when days are longer. Perhaps I’ll try to remember to do that next time, which admittedly might be a few more years away.