For the long weekend I took a trip down to Wellington with Mum and Dad to see my brother, didn’t turn out to be a relaxing break from work at all. But we got lucky with the weather (especially considering this was the day after Cyclone Cook flew through the country).

After travelling down to Wellington in the morning we picked Brayden up and headed back out to the Escarpment Track which runs up along the ridgeline between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay. We parked the car at the Pukerua Bay station and caught the train north up to Paekakariki. After arriving and guessing which way the track was (the signposts are far from clear), we started on the trail alongside the train tracks. It wasn’t long before we started climbing the ridge, leaving the road and tracks below us we scaled the many sets of stairs.

There were a few rest stops on the way up, but once we made it to the highest point pretty early on, it became a nice walk with great views along the coast. Couldn’t have asked for a better day for it really, hardly a cloud in the sky but the wind meant that it wasn’t too hot. The steps coming down were strange, they were rather steep and the incline of the hill meant that when you stand at the top of each set, the hillside seemed to just drop away entirely. Was definitely a place where you had to watch your step carefully, a fall down these stairs wouldn’t be fun at all. We crossed a couple of swing-bridges and made our way along the rest of the trail back to the car. It took us 2 hours and 30 minutes to cover the 9.9km, with a total elevation gain of just over 500 meters.

The next morning we drove out to Eastbourne and unloaded the bikes for our bike ride to the Pencarrow Lighthouse. The weather was looking good for the morning although the wind was starting to pick up. Riding south along the coast was nice as we had a tail wind pretty much the whole way, it was possible at points just to sit and take in the scenery. After having the double back at one point and push the bikes up a trail, we made it to the lighthouse. The Pencarrow Lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses in New Zealand, it opening in 1852 and was the first lighthouse to be staffed by a woman. The wind on top of the hill were incredibly strong, it was a struggle even to walk into it. Worryingly these winds also seemed to be blowing from the direction that we had to go to get back to the car.

 We walked our bikes down the thin trail to the coastal track and started the long arduous ride back to the car. It didn’t start off too bad, but every time we rounded each corner the winds got stronger and stronger. About halfway along the track it started to get really old and I just couldn’t wait to be back. Eventually we all made it back to our starting point, after 40 minutes straight of biking into the wind (fun!).

 To reward ourselves for all the hard work, Mum had heard of a cafe in Lower Hutt that (according to Scarlett Johansson) has the best chocolate cake in the world. The cafe is called Zany Zeus and has pretty much exploded in popularity since word got out. We made it there when they had about 30 slices left for the day, and looking at the rate they were being sold it didn’t seem like that would have lasted long. I’ve got to say I way actually really impressed with this cake, it had alternating layers of cake, chocolate ganache and a raspberry coulis. Then on top was a layer of frosting and sliced almonds, all served with a dish of cream or yoghurt. The slices were massive, and after having one each instead of sharing, we decided that the dinner reservation needed to be pushed back for that night.

For the final day day of the trip we headed to Adrenaline Forest, a high wire course set in a forest just outside Wellington. I’d done a few of these courses many years ago but wanted to give it another go. We arrived just after it opened and after quickly going over the safety briefing we were let loose on the course. The new safety line system that is used there is really smart, you are attached to two clips that you clip onto the cable at the start of each course. From then on at least one of the clips must be attached at all times, it’s not physically possible to detach both of them. We quickly made our way round the first two courses without any issues, it was more a case of getting used to the equipment and figuring out the easiest ways to move around the platforms and wires.

As we got up onto course 3 the going got a bit tougher, with each obstacle requiring more balance and concentration. The crossed logs and then the stirrups were probably the hardest things we encountered so far, the latter actually required a fair amount of upper body strength if you missed the footholds on your first attempt.

After completing course 3, Dad and I had a break then climbed up the ladder to the start of course 4. This one was a big step up from the last course, with the challenges being significantly harder and the heights being noticeably higher. We slowly worked our way through the course, having to stop a couple of times to wait for people who had given up and were being lowered down (although they were welcome breaks as my arms were really starting to feel worn out).

The last few obstacles were definitely the hardest, and being 25+ meters up in the air definitely added to the challenge. The long two wires extended out in the same way that we’d crossed many times up to this point, but the height along with the length made this one the toughest yet. It became really hard as I got closer to the end to keep the top rope in front of me, as it pushed back against me. Then finally was a set of long vertical logs with small footholds at the bottom, now this one was a real challenge that I had to push myself to get through (these are in the last photo in the gallery below). They swung back and forth as you grabbed onto them, and the footholds were easy to miss as you had to aim for the ones around the opposite side of each log. My arms were on fire by the time I clambered onto the platform on the other side.

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