Photos by: James Wratt (professional looking ones of birds) and Tash (group shots from the top of the trig).
A bleary-eyed group of strangers met at Wellington train station at 7am on Sunday morning. We drove north and arrived at Paraparaumu Beach in good time for our 8:30 sailing with Kāpiti Island Eco Experience. Our hosts asked us to check our bags for rodents, bugs, lizards and seeds then welcomed us to board their boat on a trailer towed by a tractor on stilts. A gentle 15-20 min crossing in beautiful weather brought us to the shores of the island.
Brenda our host welcomed us with a brief history of Kāpiti Island, from Maori occupation through European agriculture to its current status as a pest-free island. We starting walking around 9.30am, past the Historic House and up the Trig Track. Because we carried the name of “tramping club”, Brenda and our boatmates expected us to reach the summit in record time. Instead, we meandered along and were delighted to stop and admire the abundant birdlife. Birds who are unafraid of humans are a wonder to observe. Even with all our stops we matched DoC time (3 hours) and reached the trig around 12:30pm. From the viewing platform we could see the Tararua Ranges, the South Island and the Kāpiti Coast stretching north around the Wanganui Bight. Some of us believed we saw Mt Taranaki. The local weka cheekily begged for crumbs and sneakily investigated our bags as we were eating.
After a good long break and another layer of sunscreen we began the gentle descent down Te Ara o Wilkinson (Wilkinson Track). By this point, tūī and korimako (bellbird) were so common we hardly acknowledged them. We were enamoured by a preening kākā, a joyful pair of hihi (stitchbirds), a whitehead and a weka chick among others. I was struck by the volume of the forest: whenever there was a natural gap in conversation it was softened by the chirping all around us. It made the mainland forest seem eerily quiet and dead by comparison.
Our descent was likewise similar to DoC time (2.5 hours) so we had only half an hour at the coast. Anne went for a quick dip in the ocean while others relaxed on the stony beach, read information boards or power-napped in the shelter. Some combed the beach for rubbish and found only one piece; the island is pristine.
Thunderclouds were gathering over Wellington and the waves had picked up since the morning. In single file we lined up behind Brenda, stepped onto the gangway and zigzagged to our seats. This return crossing was a bit rough but we had nothing to worry about with another friendly host on deck and a trusty skipper at the helm. He successfully manoeuvred us into the boat trailer and the tractor towed us out of the ocean, back up to the carpark to disembark.
After farewelling Anne we headed to Paraparaumu Beach to satisfy our cravings for ice-cream, and arrived back in Wellington just after 4pm.
Many thanks to Tash for organising such a pleasant day trip to this very special part of New Zealand.