As a Wellingtonian, I’ve been up Kaukau countless times, but only recently did it occur to me to go there at dawn.
I switched on my headlamp and strolled peacefully along the trail leading through bush up the south ridge. I thought I was alone but in the pre-dawn tranquillity, I heard that quintessential New Zealand sound of ruru calling – morepork, morepork! They were close. As I tuned in to the forest, the scraping of weta legs became apparent. Then I saw glowworms twinkling in the darkness – sometimes competing with city lights beyond the trees. It really was beautiful; just like being in the hills much further from the city.
The climb to the viewing platform follows a well-maintained trail, but there are plenty of steps between the car park and the top, 250m above. By the time I reached the platform at 425m – also the highest viewpoint over Wellington – I’d raised a sweat, but the predawn wind soon cooled me down.
Dawn unveiled slowly. While the horizon was turning red as I arrived, it took about an hour before the bright orb of the sun poked into view. I guess that’s why it’s called the ‘magic hour’.
And magic it was; panoramic views in all directions. The city, compactly draping twinkling lights all over the folds of the hills to the south, made a rewarding photographic subject. Further out to the east, beyond Wellington Harbour, the lights of Eastbourne underlined the rise of the Remutaka Range. To the north, the lights of Petone, Lower Hutt, Plimmerton and Titahi Bay all glimmered as the sun’s rays gradually dimmed, painting everything in soft warm colour.
I was still alone and the thought occurred to me: why hadn’t I done this before?