WELLINGTON (so it begins)

Back in Wellington now and I have reentered the world of work. Some routine in my life is good. Photos of my swanky new offices to follow.

I have managed to keep up the walking at the weekends, but I am craving the alpine environments of the South Island. Last weekend I walked the Rimutaka Rail Trail. I found this long, almost flat forest walk extremely dull in terms of scenery. Trees on either side of the track and little birdlife. The ‘summit’ was in fact the summit of the rail trail rather than the conventional meaning.The walk back was a trudge rather than a hike. I didn’t take a single photo. My second trip to Rimutaka Forest Park was slightly better – a 3.5 hour variation of the Orongorongo trip that involves ascending the steep Butcher Track (c.300m), travelling the Cattle Ridge and returning back down most of the Orongorongo track. However the promised views didn’t arrive – darn trees and their darn leaves – and I made a wrongo-wrongo at the bottom of the Cattle Ridge track so missed visiting the Orongorongo river. I have learnt my lesson: I have to go further afield than Rimutaka (which is 1 hour drive from Wellington).

Walks in closer Wellington surroundings have fared slightly better. I was disappointed by the short ascent to Mt Kau Kau having been promised a 2 hour trip and in fact making it to the top in 25 minutes. So I extended it by walking most of the Skyline Walkway back to Wellington. A nice meandering track above the hills, crossing farmland complete with plenty of cows and a bull (aka bull detour). Amazing to be out in the countryside like this only a 20 minute slow train ride from Wellington. This weekend I followed the recommendation of a tramper I’d met earlier in the trip and hiked the Tip Track- a short, steep rocky path used mainly by out-of-their-minds mountain bikers. The top of the path had a damp fog blowing in off the sea – which the photos demonstrate. My skin was still clammy 90 minutes later (too much information?)

I continued my search for good Pinot Noir, taking it to extremes by going direct to (one of) the sources. In Martinborough I hired a bike and set to work. After less than an hour and 12 wines, I spent $50 on a single bottle. Luckily I had my wits about me to realise that the tastings were putting my wallet in a potentially vulnerable position. So I packed my wine in the pannier and went for a 20km loop to sober up. Then back to the wine tastings… and a sleepy bus/train ride home with a heavier bag and a lighter wallet.

I also paid my second visit to the Slow Reading Club this week. This is a delight and I commend the concept to everyone. You arrive at a nice cocktail bar, order a drink, read your own book in silence for an hour for 20 other people, then hang around afterwards for a chat if you want to and leave it you don’t. A joyfully wacky kind of group meditation. As if that weren’t enough, this meeting came with the added bonus of recruiting two members to the brand new Slow Reading Slow Tennis club. First meeting tbc. I am excited about testing my new racquet, which was unnecessarily purchased prior to my arrival and transported halfway around the world, and then getting cracking with my rapid ascent to tennis greatness.

But the most exciting news is that I have got wheels! A 2006 Honda Fit. The world is my proverbial oyster. Me and the Fittie are getting along a treat. Videos of vehicular excursions to follow once I’ve worked out a way to set this up without endangering life.

Skyline Walkway (Khandallah to Aro Valley): 16km
Rimutaka Rail Trail: 20km
Tip Track to wind turbine: 12km
Cattle Ridge: 12km

Kilometer-o-meter:  240km (plus 20km cycle!)

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