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December 2017 Issue
Home / Trips / Wellington

Te Au and Parata tracks, Hemi Matenga Memorial Park Scenic Reserve

The view from the grassy lookout takes in Kapiti Island. Photo: Tobias Wehr-Candler
Total Ascent
From Tui Crescent or Huia Street, Waikanae, 60km north of Wellington. Tui Crescent is five minutes walk from Waikanae Railway Station
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Te Au Track (gpx, yo 20 KB)
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Birdsong on Te Au

The Te Au Track starts in the aptly named Tui Crescent – where we were serenaded by tui swooping, diving and chortling.

It involves some road walking between track ends and this initial 20-minute walk was remarkable for the extraordinary amount of bird life in the gardens that back the reserve.

From Huia Street, a narrow right-of-way leads between two private properties to the Te Au Track. Once in the reserve, orange triangles direct walkers to the beginning of the climb. The steep track leads up rugged root staircases, the kind of terrain that those with dodgy knees find easier to climb up than down. It was slow work and we paused occasionally in the green shade of the kohekohe forest that arched over us.

Where the track levels off, it veers to the right. A left turn leads to trap lines, private property and, somewhere deeper in the reserve, the remains of a crashed plane. But we stuck to the clearly marked track.

Although no longer so steep, there was more climbing to get to Pt521. The terrain is more varied now, a few fallen trees need to be negotiated and there are some twists and turns on the track. There is less bird song up here, but we still heard the occasional riroriro/grey warbler.

I’d warned my companions of the mud that we’d be wading through, remembering a boggy trip some years ago and I had been adamant that gaiters would be required. But the ground was mostly dry, despite the wet winter.

After an hour or so from the top of the  climb, a lookout point, surrounded by a ‘hedge’ of shrubby trees, is reached. There’s a wooden bench here – a good spot to have lunch. The tall people in our group got a great view, looking straight out at Kapiti Island.

Back into the bush and heading along the ridge, we soon found we were walking on the edge of the reserve alongside a farm fence at the top of a steep paddock. The track passes two other lookouts, one offering views to the south and the other to Waikanae. At the second of these lookouts, the track joins the popular Parata Track. Walkers and runners have worn down the track in places to hard smooth furrows of clay.

We wound our way down into a cathedral of nikau and kohekohe until reaching a rushing stream, which signalled almost the end. Despite the noise of the stream, the bush rang with tui chimes, the whirr of kereru wings, and the trill of riroriro. The bird song was as strong as in any sanctuary we’d visited.

Rather reluctantly, we emerged from the bush to our waiting vehicle.

– Gillian Candler