The Lowdown on the Monday Walking Group
‘Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained’ – Geoffrey Chaucer
This apt quote is my personal mantra when I’m stubbornly struggling up ZEALANDIAs super steep Eastern Firebreak Track! Sometimes it’s hand-over-sweaty-hand clutching onto conveniently available broom branches along the Perimeter Track (I must carefully avoid grabbing prickly gorse, as I already feel worse for wear - despite my smart tramping boots). Other times while slogging up the near vertical Western Firebreak Track, I must lever myself up using walking poles like a tenacious traction engine!
At times, it truly helps my flagging spirits to get up and away into the hills of ZEALANDIA. Being amongst the multi-coloured, beautiful bush, and also amongst the many birds with their various birdsongs, lifts my spirits. This has been much needed recently after endlessly hot, sleepless nights due to Climate Change and then the raging winds and pounding rain of Cyclone Gita!
Another apt quote comes from ‘The Little Engine That Could,’ by Watty Piper: 'I think I can' (Faultline Track), 'I think I can' (Rain Gauge Spur Track), ' I think I can ' (Turbine Track), ' I know I can' (Pylon Track).
Luckily for me, Pam Fuller ably organises a fortnightly ‘Monday Walking Group.’ This group for ZEALANDIA’s Members is nondenominational and all are welcome. It’s as much a social group as a group in which knowledge of flora and fauna is shared.
Although Pam plans each walk’s route in general for the year, the leader(s) decide the specific tracks to be taken. Different Walking Group members volunteer to lead each walk and do a reconnoitre first. This is to judge the track conditions and the ETA back to Rātā Cafe.
Usually, a pair of members are leaders, so one is The Leader for the fast walkers while the Tail Ender shepherds the slow walkers along. Often someone else handles the radio for Health & Safety. Fortunately, someone in the group is knowledgeable about finding the flora and fauna’s seasonal changes along the way. Inevitably, the so-called fast group lingers, looks and loses ground to the slow group (Ah well, what’s the hurry anyway?).
Walks may change on the day depending on the weather and track conditions. Mostly walks go ahead regardless of the weather, as good use is made of the protective tree canopy. Although we’re mostly seniors, we’re a staunch and hardy lot! Kia kaha - Be strong!
The Leaders forewarn if walking poles are advised for some tracks. Spare walking poles can be borrowed from the generous Visitors Centre's Admission Desk. It’s also advisable to bring warm, wet weather gear, sunhat, suntan lotion, water, good walking shoes or boots and a hearty snack, such as chocolate (yum!).
Each walk starts at The Visitors Centre with the Leaders giving a pep talk and 'the lowdown' about the tracks. Short walks start at 10am and longer walks start at 9:30am. They alternate, but all end back at the Visitors Centre, where heads are counted, and all are accounted for.
Many stay on for a 1pm delicious, reviving lunch at Rātā Cafe and are joined by independent walkers or Non-Walkers. Non-Walkers may have health problems but want to be sociable while they recuperate. The more, the merrier.
Whatever your age and stage of fitness, every ZEALANDIA Member is most welcome. If you want to join the fortnightly Monday Walking Group, please contact Pam Fuller via ZEALANDIA by emailing Visitors.Centre@visitzealandia.com.
Photos by Eeva-Katri Kumpula
Left top: View over Wellington Harbour; junction of Pylon and Perimeter Tracks.
Right top: View over the Tasman Sea and Makara wind farm; Rain Gauge Spur Track.
Middle: Ethereal mist covers the gorse-clad hills; Rain Gauge Spur Track.
Bottom from left to right:
• Female hihi / stitchbird (Notiomystis cincta); Round-the-Lake Track.
• Kānuka (Kunzea ericoides) flowers; Eastern Firebreak Track.
• White basket fungus (Ileodictyon cibarium); Tūī Glen Track.
• Kākā (Nestor meridionalis) peeling bark on the search for grubs and sap; Faultline Track.
• Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus); Turbine Track.