Caroll Hut, Arthur’s Pass National Park

Impressive old southern rātā along the track.

Just beyond Otira, the main highway snakes along, with the Otira River on one side and impossibly steep slopes on the other. A track takes off from Kelly Creek and shoots straight up. My husband said he’d often looked up at those slopes thinking, “Glad I’m not going up there.”

But that’s exactly where we went Friday. Eight hundred twenty-five vertical metres over a mere 2700 metres horizontal distance, if the topo map is to be believed. That’s an average slope of 17 degrees, which doesn’t seem like much, except that parts of the track are flat or go down, so many sections are practically ladders, and require hands and feet.

In spite of the steep grade, it’s not a difficult climb—tree roots and rocks provide plenty of hand and foot holds. And the slow climb upward affords plenty of time to gaze back up the valley towards Otira, watch a train rumble down the tracks below, enjoy a waterfall, examine the flora, and listen to the bellbirds. The forest is full of gems like southern rātā and mountain neinei (a tree that could only have come from Dr. Seuss’ imagination).

View towards the west coast from above Caroll Hut

You emerge above tree line to a gentle climb to Caroll Hut. A little further uphill, cresting Kelly’s Saddle, the view opens to the west coast, and you can see all the way to the Tasman Sea. 

It’s not a hike you’d want to do in bad weather, but Friday’s calm clear air was perfect. A lovely day out.

Walking Wellington

2016-06-03 10.22.20I spent the weekend in Wellington at a convention, but I have to admit that the best part of the weekend was walking around the city.

I could never live in Wellington—I’m just not a city gal, and it would kill me—but I love to visit. Yes, I enjoy Te Papa, and the Carter Observatory, the World of Wearable Arts show, and all the other indoor attractions. But mostly I like going there to walk.

And I have to think I’m not the only one who enjoys walking in Wellington. The streets are full of people walking—to and from work, during lunch breaks, to shops, to the bus stop…

You can walk along the waterfront, or through the residential neighbourhoods with their many finial posts, through the parks or the botanic garden, or along bustling Cuba Street. You can even walk to the airport, if you’ve got time and inclination—the city is compact enough that nearly everything is within a reasonable walk.

Well, reasonable by my standards.

Of course, when Wellington’s weather turns, it’s not a place you want to walk. I’ve been drenched by wind whipped waves on the waterfront, even when it’s not raining. But on a good day walking Wellington is a delight.

This past weekend’s weather was crisp and clear, with almost no wind. Perfect. I did about 10 hours of walking from Friday to Sunday, and would have happily done twice that much, had my schedule allowed.

So, if you’re planning a trip to windy Wellington, be sure to pack your walking shoes.