Wellington Vacation Recap Plus Day 69 and City Walk to Island Bay

On day 69 we woke up in Paekakariki with the intention of staying that night in Porirua, and arriving the next day in Wellington. We left the holiday park at around 7 and walked the five or so blocks through town to the foot of the Escarpment Track, a 10 km track that climbs up on the cliffs overlooking SH1 and out over the Tasman Sea below. The first couple km were flat and gravel so they zoomed by, and then we started climbing up some very nicely constructed but super steep stairs, switchbacking up the cliff. We got nearly halfway in, all the way up to the main lookout, until we saw any other hikers – as we sat at the lookout we were joined by a older couple out for a day hike. On the way down, it was late enough in the morning that we passed a bunch of groups making their way up in the opposite direction. It’s a popular track, just having opened this season, partly for the purpose of replacing a nasty highway section of the TA but it also has attracted a lot of day hikers because of its proximity to the city and its beautiful views with relatively easy access! On the way down we crossed some cool swing bridges over particularly steep valleys. 
At the end of the track, we took some break time at a playground, and in the course of the break ended up deciding to just fast forward and train into Wellington that day – the Escarpment Track was the last thing we were super excited about before the city, and given that Jack’s mom and brother were already in the city (and Jasper’s family would be arriving later in the day) we valued getting in a day early and being able to see them over completing the rest of the trail itself until the city, which included a lot of road kilometers that didn’t look the most appealing. It was a tough decision to just skip completely 44.5 kilometers of trail, but we feel confident that we enjoyed our time in the city with family more than we would have hiking on suburban road margins for another day. 
So we spent the next two nights in the city together, before Jasper and I went with his family on a little vacation up north, spending a couple days at a lodge near Lake Taupo, and a couple in the Gisborne area, while Jack and family explored Wellington, and Shepard met up with his girlfriend and mom, staying in the city a day or two before heading south to explore as much of the South Island as possible for about a week. 
Before we all separated, though, we thought we should walk the Wellington section of the trail – so we woke up early on our first morning in the city, cloudy and blustery, and met up downtown. We set off along the harbor, and turned up onto the Skyline Track, starting through some forest in a residential area. The trail took us up to a ridgeline, with mountain bike paths branching off every so often. It was impressively forested for being in the middle of the city, and we felt almost unprepared without our packs and only a couple layers. It took us about two hours to make it up and over Mt. Albert, which was the high point, and meander down through hills and fields still within the city, and finally out onto some residential streets right on the southern coast, at Island Bay. The official plaque denoting the southern terminus of the TA North Island section is located in a city park overlooking the bay itself, and we made sure to snap a picture before getting out of the wind and taking a cab back up to the downtown area.
After our separate vacations we met back up in the city, minus Shep who was still with his mom, and spent a night getting ready to take on the South Island. This takes us to Day 70 – on which we crossed the Cook Strait.
Sam

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