Kapiti’s Paekākāriki Escarpment Track: ‘Te Kaupae Ki Te Rangi’ (“Stairway To Heaven”)

Ko Kapiti, te wāhi tapu o ‘Ngāti Toarangatira’ . . .

Kapiti has a rich history riddled-with tall-tales of ‘toatanga’ (“warriors/winners, and their many courageous deeds and feats”), hence the name of the home ‘iwi’ (“people”) of the place: ‘Ngāti Toarangatira’ (“the tribe of chivalrous and chiefly warriors”).

Kapiti (harakeke) ki te kapiti; little bit of aroha shown to some harakeke along the Escarpment’s track/s.

Perhaps most infamously occupied by Ngāti Toarangatira chief ‘tipuna’ (“ancestor”) Te Rauparaha, ‘Kapiti’ is an abbreviation of the lengthier moniker: Te Waewae Kapiti o Tara rāua ko Rangitāne, which refers to preceding times, and the imaginary (albeit very real) line dividing the tribal boundaries of the Ngāi Tara and Rangitāne iwi.

As well as being a ‘rohe’ (“region”) in its own right, Kapiti is also an island just off the West Coast of our lower North one, sitting pleasantly and reassuringly right there alongside the length of the Escarpment Track, particularly if travelling from south-to-north (i.e., from Pukerua Bay Railway Station to Beach Road, Paekākāriki).

Paekākāriki Escarpment is one minor section of the much (much(!)) lengthier and far more demanding Te Araroa trail, which spans rather spectacularly from Te Rēinga in the far north (where spirits depart for Hawaiki, our ancient Māori homeland), to Te Kārehu-a-Tamatea (‘Bluff’), at the very basement of Aotearoa.

The Escarpment is also touted as our version of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), although I’m not entirely convinced of that, having experienced first-hand, and more than once, the difference/s in sheer magnitude and “how we do” with regards to us, and the mighty US.

Nonetheless, what’s touted in terms of distance and time is fairly accurate: so, do expect to travel the 10-km, end-to-end, in, say, 3.5 hours.

The scenery is stunning, despite being disappointingly constant – sea views, lots and lots of ’em (is “ocean monotony” even a thing(?)); peaks and gullies, super-exposed bluffs (these are even a wee bit scary in parts, due to slips), tiny specks of bush here and there, steps-steps-steps(!), railway, a couple of swing-bridges, and the odd occupied paddock.

Don’t get me wrong, the heights here are grand, dizzying even- but fuck, hills, and water, and hills, and water, (*phew*).

[*You can tell my passion is with ‘maunga’ (“mountains”), and the massive differences to be seen and experienced across that type of terrain, nē(?) (*grins*).]

A view from one of the swing-bridges.
Hills and paddocks…
‘Stairway to Heaven’.

Starting at Pukerua Bay means a slightly higher start – certainly the grade feels gentler at this end than at the other – and, you get to ascend the Stairway (‘cos, why wouldn’t you want to(?), other than the 490+ steps invoking nothing less than pure huff, puff, and perspiration).

At the very least, with Kapiti Island continually in-view, your ‘whakaaro’ (“thoughts”) are free to wander/wonder over warriors and ‘waka taua’ (“war canoes”) that once-upon-a-time would’ve also adventured ’round the place…

‘Nei rā te mihi rangatira ki ngā rau rangatira ō Kapiti, koutou mā ko ngā tīpuna (ngā ‘tipua’ rānei, me kī);

‘Haere pai atu, hoki ora mai nei’ – or: “Go well, and return safely”, always,


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