I headed out on the motorway to Petone and hung a hard left in the middle of the roadworks. The lowest entrance to Belmont Regional Park is in an industrial area. But cross the wooden bridge from the carpark and you are straight into a little gem of a reserve. The lower part of the gorge is open, with the easily sloped track sometimes sidling quite high above the creek. Stock have obviously been removed from the area for quite a while as there are all sorts of ferns and I guess coastal colonising plants. The southerly was howling through here, twisting gusts in a narrow corrider.
There was eagerness in my legs and it wasn't long before I took the LH option at the junction (it was to be a clockwise loop from here) and headed up the western branch of the Korokoro crossing the stream occasionally in the remnant forest. The first landmark was "Baked Bean" corner, perhaps named I suspect for someone who ate baked beans here. The track heads up steeply first then rolls and climbs up in a lovely mixture to Belmont Trig at 456metres above the car.
I was in my amateur (no make that amateurish) botantist mood. Which was great because it was a fascinating botanical journey. I started off the climb contemplating, as I often do in Wellington, how great it is that we have given the bush the chance, through time, to reclaim many of the hills in these parts - and how lucky we are that gorse as a monoculture is a nourisher not a smotherer. I picked out the plucky little natives making headway. Rewarewa, Rangiora and others Penny tells me the name of every time and I forget straight away.
I expected as the hill climbed wI would come out on a grassy exposed ridge. I couldn't have been more wrong. Where I least expected it the forest appeared first in groves then en masse. Predominantly Tawa, but there was kiekie and all sorts of ferns sprawling from the trees. Kawakawa in the darkness below and little clusters of baby lancewoods flourished where perhaps there was a little more light. There was even an ancient and dead Rata trunk ghostly beside the track.
This was great! And the track kept going up, till I sensed we were near the top, and then I realised I was running through a flaming explanse of Horopito, or pepper tree. Penny and I are both into this tree at the moment, especially after our trip to Mt Taranaki which just seemed to have the brightest specimens I have ever seen. Although I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder I do wonder whether there is a difference in the colouration from one location to the other. In a crazy coincidence after thinking about this stuff I was talking with a friend tonight who is going to be helping out with a phd research project looking at whether Horopito colouration is some sort of defense mechanism against herbivores and the research is going to be undertaken is this very spot!!
The trig site is a beautiful spot. A trig, some striking rocks and Horopito with views all around. I feel by exploring this part of the world I am developing a connection with it already. I can see my island from here, but in front of it is the Makara area with its cycling routes and as I swing to the right there is Colonial Knob (an adventure waiting to happen), Porirua with Whitireia Park and the "famous" rock climbing of Titahi Bay, Pauatahanui Inlet which we kayaked across recently (oops story to come!), Paekakariki Hill and behind that the dark mass of Kapiti Island which we look forward to visiting soon thanks to some friends generosity, then Battle Hill, the mighty Akatarawas, Tararuas, down to the Upper Hutt and the Blue Mountain climb, then Lower Hutt and the hills on which Casper and I rogained earlier this week. Then down on the other side of Wainui Road the hills above Eastbourne which we are also quickly becoming familiar with. Wow what country if you're into rough as guts running, mountain biking and exploring!
This place also feels alive. There is energy in them there hills - their ridges form waves flowing from the backcountry down to the urban area of Wellington where their force crunches into the salt spray of the other major influence in this part of the world, the sea. The harbour doesn't cease to amaze me, sometimes a mill pond, sometimes a brutal glimpse into the churning seas of hell. Supernatural Wellington, as the Forest and Bird locals have coined. Bloody oath, this place is powerful.
The track continues down through farmland then back onto some well made single track (how many kilometres of this exists in the Wellington region?). It twists and turns before when you least expect it dropping into a massive flat grove of Tawa in the Eastern Korokoro stream. Now this isn't Urewera like forest but the trees are bigger here, they have been spared and they stand proud. I'm enjoying the running and the track rolls up and down past the Korokoro dam, and then flies down to the earlier junction. It is only when the howling wind faces me in the gorge that my foot remembers to hurt.
Some people get tired from running, but for me a 90 minute loop through those wonders is incredibly energising and I am immensely grateful to those people that have helped create places like these. Lets make many more.