Mākara Peak, Wellington’s premier mountain bike park, has been drawing crowds for over thirty years. Not only called top-notch by the hardcore riders, this park is popular with bikers of all ages and abilities.
Set in 250 hectares of regenerating native bush and boasting 40 kilometres of world-class tracks and a 72-metre-long suspension bridge, this attraction is well worth the trip out to the edge of the city. Located in Karori, Wellington’s largest suburb, it gets the location moniker of South Karori. More commonly associated with mud and trees than North Karori’s white picket fences and architecturally designed houses, South Karori is hillbilly compared to its highbrow northern cousin.
I discovered the hardcore nature of the tracks when I decided to hike The Peak (as it’s known to locals) one hot, dry summer’s day. I had decided that if I was going to do this hiking thing, I was going to do it properly. I would ascend the mountain.
I started walking and kept doing so at various grades for nearly three hours. While I had decided to do the hardest climb (The Peak), I did not take the most difficult route up. That vertical route is reserved for down-hill only mountain bike traffic. The hardcore of the hardcore. I was glad I was banned from this track. I was definitely not hardcore.
Despite considering myself fit (with the abs to match), I found myself sweating and breathless as I slowly climbed upwards. I soon came to realise that there is gym fitness and then there is outdoors fitness. I had one but needed more of the other. I swore to myself there would be more mountain climbing as well as weights workouts in my exercise future.
To walk the track in a park classed for mountain bikers is to also be on high alert to jump off into the bush at any moment in case of bikers on the route. While the trip up was certainly challenging in more ways than one (they don’t call it a mountain for nothing) the views from the top were worth it.
On reaching the top I made a very necessary stop to one, catch my breath, two, admire the fabulous panoramic views and three, eat Scroggin because that’s what kiwi’s do when we go out walking in nature.
I looked out across my city in one direction in its lovely blue haze and to the mainland in the other. I could see snow on the seaward Kaikoura peaks. A good spot for a picnic I thought, popping an almond into my mouth and wishing I’d splashed out for the tasty tamari roasted ones. I’d hell as earned it!
Later, I found myself collapsed in Karori Park café, a neat little family-run joint housed in an old cricket pavilion in a park at the bottom of The Peak. This café is located in what I call Middle Karori, the site of supermarkets, hospitality ventures and the kind of green parks perfect for families.
The guy making coffee and taking orders always seemed to be smiling. I ordered a soy chai latte which turned out to be an excellent life choice. I also treated myself to a huge piece of fudge slice, which, on reflection, is something I think this café might become famous for. This is cake that is not for the faint-hearted. I looked up at the heights to which I had climbed. I looked back down at my cake. Smiling myself now, I took an extra big bite.
By Stella Peg Carruthers