I don’t do enough coastal walks — or so I now realise. I love the mountains but there is something particularly magic about walking the coast on a sunny day.
It was my first time on the Paekakariki Escarpment Track, a trail that takes you from Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay. I’d heard a lot about it — the stairs, the views, and the great cafes at the end — and have been meaning to walk the trail for a while. I needed to get in some training for an upcoming climb. The thought of wading through waist-deep snow a day after the recent southerly dump was unappealing so I decided it was the perfect opportunity to walk the track.
But I wanted to walk it with someone. I’ve been trying to regain the fitness I lost after my trip to Nepal. When I exercise on my own, I find it easy to loose a sense of how I am progressing. Perhaps I’m too quick to adopt an overly negative view of my fitness, but I often find myself feeling anxious about tramping or climbing with others, for fear that I will hold them back or be too slow. This leaves me feeling isolated. Training with others offers a concrete reference point that can reassure and motivate me.
I gave Nina, my friend and climbing buddy, and a quick message and invited her along. I was pleased that she was free for a Saturday jaunt down the coast, as we are heading down south for a bit of climbing in September.
Saturday rolled around and there could not have been a more prefect day for the walk. It was sunny and still, with views of the South Island, including the Inland Kaikoura Range. The sea sparkled and rolled beneath. It was blissful.
Nina and I chatted our way up and down the endless flights of stairs, which were almost as brutal as I had been told. The view exceeded my expectations: it was stunning. And thrilling. I often felt like we were walking on the edge of a precipice falling into the ocean. The shaded groves of bush provided delightful albeit intermittent moments of shade.
We arrived at Pukerua Bay. Our phones informed us we’d walked 10kms or 11,000 steps, and climbed a bit over 100 stories. Rather than catch the train back to Paekakariki and our parked cars, we decided to walk back and do it all over again. We kept reminding ourselves of the training benefits — a thought that didn’t really do anything to mitigate the burning in my quads.
Nina and I got back to the car at Paekakariki, completing our 20km mission 4.5hrs after we departed. I was pretty proud of that — it was a confidence booster for me. That’s why it’s great training with friends. We then proceeded to walk down to a local cafe, for a quick celebratory cup of tea.
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