Should you happen to be on-the-hunt for a half-day-walk here in Wellington that’ll make you gasp (*with awe, I mean – although you’ll likely be left with empty lungs and a suitably busted gut, too), then the push to Belmont Trig is “it”.
As usual, my affection for maps is hereby transferred to you, and should you choose to use this one, the ‘Ōtonga Track’ (also, the ‘Ōtonga Tramping Track’, and ‘Belmont Trig Tramping Track’) comprise our little collection of route/s.
There’s a tonne of history in these hills.
Early 19c Māori (i.e., pre-European, post-1820) occupants included the Ngāti Mutunga iwi (straight outta Taranaki, *doitz*), and it was their chief ‘Te Poki’ who actually claimed and named a significant piece of our walk.
Observing the earth with a Māori world-view means that our Earth Māmā ‘Papatūānuku’ assumes the female form as our living, breathing earthen landscape. She feeds us, sustains us, and nurtures us – we are indeed interconnected. And perhaps not surprisingly, as Māori we find that she also possesses geological features that remind us of our own bodily curves and crevices.
Te Poki reflects this exact ideation in his description of Korokoro Stream, and is quoted as saying: ‘Ko te korokoro tēnei o taku tamaiti’, or (*loosely): “This place is the throat of my child”.
With this in mind, he goes on to officially name this particular body of water: ‘Te Korokoro o Te Mana’ (“The Throat of Te Mana”); our European colonisers preferred the much simpler colloquialism: “[the] Throat Stream”.
And this really does provide something of a sense of how things look and feel out here: the initial descent into the floor of the valley; the ‘Sunday drive’-type stroll alongside the stream; and finally, the much bigger thrust up-and-out, as one exits the ‘mouth’ of the metaphorical “beast”.
This guy was on to something.
Te Korokoro o Te Mana is a pretty major player along our hike – there are many crossings and negotiations that need to happen en-route to the trig, most of them with ample opportunity to wet those feet.
The name ‘Puke-ariki’ (*again, loosely: “hill of chiefs”) is another Māori moniker oft-associated with this place, and it actually refers to the pre-European, ‘past life’ purpose of Wellington Harbour as something of a Māori maritime “hub”.
I was told a fascinating story once by a very trustworthy local expert, and it described Puke-ariki operating alongside two other neighbouring hilltop locales (Wainuiomata’s ‘Puke-atua’ was also one, and ‘Puke-ahu’ comprised number three) as beacons of light – a way of signalling to one’s ‘clique’ that visitors were entering the harbour, and simultaneously, a message to the rest of the world that the locals bloody well knew they were there.
Accordingly, the ‘Puke Ariki/Haywards Korokoro Traverse’ is the name of the park’s 22km “signature walk”.
We start our walk at Maungaraki’s ‘Oakleigh Street’, and simply follow the trail towards ‘Stratton Street’ until we eventually pop-out at the trig track’s T-junction (*turn left, and ascend, ascend, ascend).
That’s certainly not to imply nothing exciting or “interesting” happens along said trail – no-no, on the contrary there are some spots that are absolute puffers, not to mention super-narrow, steep-sided, seriously squishy, downright gnarly, gut-busting, and slow-going, in moments.
‘Greater Wellington’ (*Regional Council) have their own suggested route to the trig which demands descending into Korokoro Dam – and you can (*if you haven’t seen the dam you should probably purposely head-there, just once), but the turn-off to Stratton Street sets you off on a more direct pathway.
Detour if you want to – but know you don’t actually need to, is all.
And, make the most of ambling alongside that stream, because the final push up (*towards the T-junction, not the trig) and out of the forest to farmland and fresh views will blow both guts and mind, sequentially.
The silver-lining is that comparatively, the trudge towards the trig from here is nothing major. Heck, for the most part this is an easy-moderate jaunt up some fairly obliging terrain, with ever-improving vantage points to view our wee city from the further forward you venture.
The trig stares down at the road, too, for the entire climb. One of those visual teasers that giveth, and taketh away, in equal measure and rather unfairly.
Do not be fooled into thinking the trig’s turn-off is “just around the next bend” (*grins*).
As for the trig – well, that’s the proverbial icing, and some pretty fucking fabulous views of Wellington and all her sweet surrounds are totes there for the taking.
Assuming you’re game, I also suggest you sign-up for a 4WD sunset tour with Greater Wellington here. I went up last year in a little green Jeep Cherokee, just me and my awesome driver, “convoy-styles” with all the other vehicles. Fucking epic.
Considering how kid-unfriendly this walk is (certainly the bush portion), a sunset tour is a good opportunity to get them up there for a nosey.
Older tamariki would handle starting the trig walk from the Stratton Street entrance, I reckon.
Whatever your fancy, make sure you pack your best boots, some extra layers, and plenty of fuel and fluid/s; a lot of ground gets covered in this place, and you want to stay ready.
‘Haere pai atu, hoki ora mai nei’ (“Go well, and return safely”) – always;