For the last few months, commuters and travellers have been intrigued by the appearance of swingbridges and the Paekakariki Escarpment Track reaches a major milestone on Thursday 28 March when the first section is opened by the Te Araroa Trust.
A section from Paekakariki village to the highest point of the route opens in time for Easter as an “up and back” loop, as work continues on completing the track through to Pukerua Bay.
The eight kilometre track has been under construction since January 2012 and is on schedule to be completed in 2013 – provided the Te Araroa Trust can overcome its last funding hurdle, needing an estimated $350,000 more to complete the project.
The track is being constructed on steep terrain above the Main Trunk Line between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki, will include two spectacular swingbridges and offers walkers expansive views over the Kapiti Coast and to the South Island. With railway stations at either end the track is expected to be a popular regional activity when complete.
“The Paekakariki Escarpment Track will be one of the more breathtaking stretches of the Te Araroa route and will be very accessible for locals and tourists alike”, said Te Araroa CEO Rob Wakelin when on-site before the initial stage opened.
Wakelin, who grew up in Paekakariki, adds “We are grateful to landowners Kiwirail, who have been supportive every step of the way and to Pub Charity, the New Zealand Community Trust and the Government who have contributed financially to our work to date.”
“We are currently seeking the remaining portion of funds to allow us to complete the track”.
Not only will the track be a significant local asset, it will be much safer than the existing route along the Centennial Highway that affords walkers no physical protection from the heavy traffic.
Te Araroa is “New Zealand’s Trail” that runs from Cape Reinga to Bluff, which this summer has seen scores of people attempt to complete the entire length, including two international ultra-runners, and many more walk sections of the trail.
Te Araroa Trust invites people to walk the open section of track but warns strongly to stick to the marked route only, as the terrain off the formed track is steep and has a number of bluffs and ravines. Private property bordering the track should also be respected.
Accessing the Paekakariki Escarpment Track
The safest way to access the track is from the SH1 end of Ames St. There is a footpath from the SH1/Beach Rd intersection, but this involves a 700m walk alongside SH1 and is not recommended.
At the end of Ames St, turn left/north onto SH1 and cross the rail overbridge. On the north side of the rail overbridge a small set of stairs takes you underneath SH1 and onto the escarpment.
Under no circumstances should entry/exit be attempted across the railway lines.