I get up early to catch the cool air. It’s steep stairs up and up through bush finally into open sky. I pass four overweight Maori, but glad they’re out puffing like me, as this is better than any stair-master.
Colonial Knob is in mist, but I’m happy to not be in the hot sun. At 459 meters, it’s no small hill rising high above the ocean. The traffic is still loud as sheep go about their business. Rubin camps at the top and I fly down with him on switchbacks in the forest sharing mud stories before he and his gal peal off. A little fluffy dog follows me down the road.
So close to urban sprawl, the Oharu valley road is rural and silent, but for sheep and birds – and lots of horses. Up ahead, the last knob I have to climb looms before I drop into Wellington.
At the top of Mt. Kaukau on a perfect day, windmills give way to bush give way to houses, then buildings and finally a perfect little harbor surrounded by mountains looking down on the sound. Again, so idyllic, like a child’s rendition in crayons.
I pop over to the actual summit, looking back on where I’ve come, then head over on the Skyline track. It reminds me of California – dry, fog, golden hills. I look out and realize these giant mountains over the Cook Strait are in the South Island and my feet will soon be on them.
I stop at a dairy in Ngaio for a couple of Mac’s sparkling soda, giving hokey pokey cola a chance.
The walk takes me down to a stream, Trelissick park, built by city elders and used now by many a dog walker. When I’m finally spit out above at Wadstown, I walk straight up a road until it’s no longer possible and I need to take stairs into the town belt, a steep section of reclaimed land planted with native trees in the ‘40s and acting like a giant lung.
Emptied into Thorndon on Tinakori street, I pass hip boutiques and eateries and find my friend of a friend of a friend’s home, Rafe and Laura, both from Minnesota making it work in New Zealand.
We connect instantly, talking home and politics and work and life choices. The evening is beautiful, not a regular occurrence in windy Wellie, so we take the bus into town for Malaysian food and music at the night market. Independent bookstores abound in New Zealand, Amazon has yet to exist here. People the world over serve delicacies and I’m tempted to purchase Maori greenstone. We cross the street with drag queen and gay activist Carmen in the Cuba neighborhood.
Eventually we return to their townhome and stay up late talking about ethical living, asking hypothetical questions with no answer and making plans for tomorrow. I am thrilled to meet such awesome people at the end of this section, though I have a few more k to go, so we’ll walk a bit together while taking in sites.
A day of hills upon hills, not quite enough to drink – which I remedied tonight – and finally some serious intellectual challenge. Just what I needed right now.