As we walked along Stokes Valley Road, looking at the spire of the Buddhist temple glinting in the sunlight, I wondered what we would do when we got to the end of the road. Along Stokes Valley Road there was an ominous sign reading "Walkway" and, along at the end of the road, another sign reading "Walkway" leading up a narrow bush path.
I'd never seen the sign before, so I don't know whether the walkway is new or just the sign. Either way, I persuaded two boys to walk up there with me. Matthew was more enthusiastic than David. After a short distance, the forest got thicker, but the path was still well-formed. A little further, then a little further and soon we were scrambling up steep banks with tree roots for handholds.
At some point, I think David and Matthew wondered whether going along the so-called "Walkway" was such a good idea after all. Indeed, I wondered the same myself. After a good fifty minutes walk, climbing almost all the time, we came out onto the summit, which has a spectacular view over the whole of Stokes Valley and into Taita, Avalon and Naenae. Stokes Valley Road, Delaney Park and Fraser Park were all clearly visible. A little further, Avalon Studios were plain to be seen and further down the coast, the whole of the bay and, indeed, Wellington City itself were clearly visible. Truly an awesome view, and well worth the trip for this alone. David and Matthew were thrilled by the view and the large area we could see.
The only problem was how to get home. When we reached the summit - yes I know I already said we had - we found a geodetic station belonging to the Lands Department. I must find out what it does. This meant we probably were at the real summit. Indeed, the land did fall away after this point, but to where? After a few minutes, we found an unmade road, which we followed for over an hour. Eventually, the views over the Hutt Valley disappeared and it became apparent that we were on a road to nowhere.
We turned round and retraced our steps, taking in electic pylons 21 and 22 and a radio transmitter station on our hunt for civilisation. From the transmitter station, we could see a possible route down over a hill, but it seemed like a very long way home indeed. Then we saw a bicycle tyre mark leading down a narrow passageway. We reckoned that if it was good enough for a cyclist, it was good enough for us. It proved to be a dried stream-bed, which at least meant that it was going down. We followed it as far as we could and found ourselves on a wider area of land, too steep to walk down but the only possible route. On all fours some of the way and walking some of the rest, we gingerly made our way down this extremely steep path and after a while found ourselves at the entrance to another, or possibly the same, dried stream-bed.
From there, we found our way down and could see a built-up area below us gradually becoming larger. A wire fence was our first suggestion that human life was near: canine life certainly was. We followed the path down and were surprised to find that we were walking down somebody's driveway, which possibly explained the barking.
Once on a road, we found a more major road and a dairy where I bought some cream soda and asked the way. We were in Naenae! We walked straight up the road to the station, drinking cream soda as we went. A few minutes at the station and a Taita train arrived. We were very pleased to see it, along with the bus to Holborn which took us home when we got off the train.
I cooked the corn on the cob for the boys. It was enjoyed by David and me, but not so much by Matthew who is still complained about a loose tooth making it hard to eat. Apparently it stopped him eating the kebab effectively yesterday. Yet some foods, mostly the ones he knows and loves, don't seem to cause any problem at all.
I think that tonight will see an early night for us all. Certainly it's been a lot quieter here tonight than it has been any of the other nights so far. I don't think they'll be keen to repeat this experience tomorrow, but if we can do this sort of walk, then Rangitoto next week will be a breeze.