26 January 2015

NZ Must Do: Adventures in Wellington - the walk to Baring Head lighthouse

Ever since I found out that you could walk out to Baring Head lighthouse I've been wanting to go there. Even more of an incentive is the fact that we can actually see Baring Head from our house. As the crow flies it's only 16km away and it's very distinctive as it juts out on the headland and we can see the light of the lighthouse beaming every night - we've counted it at 8 seconds on, 5 seconds off.

When you consider that it's quite close in a straight line, the fact that it takes almost an hour to drive to the car park and another 45 minutes to walk to the lighthouse boggles the mind. But then when you see the big harbour you have to drive around first and then you're out in the wop wops driving all the way down to the coast I guess it makes more sense!

It was a lovely day to go with awesome cloud formations but man is this place W-I-N-D-Y even on a day that is not-so-windy anywhere else.

The start of the walk takes you across the Wainuiomata river and up a 4WD track. The worst of the climb is over pretty quickly and you're immediately rewarded with views of the coast.

From here you head over the ridge and Wellington city appears in the distance with an ever present ferry chugging its way into the harbour.

As we turned and headed south along the coast, the Kaikoura mountain range in the South Island was also in plain view.

There's a real sense of isolation out here. So close to the city but in reality miles from anywhere!

The shot below is looking directly across to Sinclair Head and Red Rocks which we also walked out to in August last year.

You're also never far away from seeing a ferry if you're anywhere on the Wellington coastline.

This shot below is probably my favourite of the year so far - so much so that I entered it into a few of the regional newspaper's Summer Photo Competitions entitled 'Walking under Azure Skies'. I love the leading lines of the road, the symmetry of the fence posts and the wonderful streaky clouds - I guess there has to be an upside to all that wind!

Once the 4WD track ends, it's only a short ten minute walk through farmland with views of the coast (although incredibly there is even a private property out here!) before you reach the lighthouse.

There are a number of boarded up old dwellings out here near the lighthouse and I read just the other week in The Wellingtonian local paper that they are thinking of making it possible for people to come and stay out here again in the future.

Although there's some possible resistance to the idea from the science community as Baring Head is of world-class scientific significance as a 'clean air' area - apparently the air here is incredibly pure as it travels over open water before reaching this point and hasn't been contaminated by human activity so it has been important for studies into global warming and climate change for the past 40 years (source: NIWA and The Encyclopedia of NZ).

And here were we thinking it was just a cool spot to visit for the day!

The two littlest people in our party did ever so well on the walk there, but the way back was another story though as I'll describe below!

This is my favourite shot of the lighthouse with Red Rocks way away in the distance. It's awesome to think we have been there too in the past six months - we do get around!

The coastline here is so wild and untamed - the headland you can see in this shot below is the start (or end depending on which way you go) of the now world-famous Rimutaka Cyle Trail which was recently named in the Lonely Planet's hottest new travel experiences for 2015.

We could have taken the 4WD track back to the car which in hindsight would have been the best and easiest plan but instead we chose to take the circular route back down the hill and along the river. We also could have taken a detour up to the bunkers and trig but decided that little legs would have enough walking just getting back to the car. You can see the route we to below - starting at the P (carpark) and walking on the grey track to get there but coming back along the red line that skirts river (source: Greater Wellington Regional Council).

As it turns out the walk back along the river is HARD work. A very steep downhill gravel track (I'd fallen over earlier in the day and my ITB muscle in my left knee suddenly started screaming blue murder at me the whole way down the hill and for the rest of the journey back and was incredibly painful) to begin with and then skirting along the river over some challenging scree slopes. It made for a very tiring, slow journey back to the car so if we went another time we would definitely stick to the 4WD track as Mark did end up having to carry Mylo a little way towards the very end just to get him over the finish line - it ended up being a 7km return trip which was at the very limit of his stamina!

All in all, another famously interesting and adventurous day out for the MNM's, and a place I'm hoping to come back to one day soon to capture the sunset - on the right night I imagine it would be incredible!

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