Day 78: Colonial Knob and Spicer Forest
Friday, January 26, 2024 9:47 pm
Location: Rifle Range Road / Wellington / Trinity Hotel (1716.5 km)

Today’s hike cut short due to stomach issues, we skipped ahead to our booked hotel in Wellington.

I didn’t sleep well last night, mostly because my stomach was rumbling kind of funny. So I was very slow to get up and get ready to hike today, much to CareFree’s consternation. Problematically for me, I couldn’t manage to eat all of my breakfast. (There’s only so many “Chocotastic” pop-tarts one can eat before they get sick of them, I guess.)

So instead of leaving at 8 am, we left at almost 9. Not a great start to an expected 30 km day.

Leaving Camp Elsdon, the trail headed up the Colonial Knob Walkway, to a viewpoint overlooking Porirua. It did this by way of lots of stairs climbing through a wet, damp forest, usually near a small creek with many small cascades.

The trail builders helpfully counted the stairs, putting markers next to every 100 steps. There were also several benches along the way — people might need a break on the way up, after all.

Somewhat lacking energy, I took the stairs rather slowly. Almost embarrassingly slow, for a long-distance hiker over two months into their hike. CareFree took the lead, but my sluggishness meant she had plenty of time to talk to the other day hikers that were passing us.

50 minutes after we started, we reached step 700, which was conveniently located next to one of the benches. I stopped to sit down. CareFree was a bit worried; I did not look well. (Which made sense: I didn’t feel well.)

Hungry, since I had eaten less for breakfast than I normally did, I tried to eat one of my snack bars. It was unusually unappetizing. I managed to get one bite down. The second bite, I realized was a grave mistake.

I stepped away from the bench and the trail (but unfortunately facing the creek), and a few seconds later, the contents of my stomach ejected (in an impressive fashion, according to CareFree).

I immediately felt much better. I dunno what it was I ate that disagreed with me, but at least it seemed like it was out of my system.

Feeling better (if still tired), I decided we should continue on, rather than go back. But clearly, it wasn’t likely we were going to be hiking all the way to Wellington today. Fortunately, there were roads we could bail out at ahead. But for now, we just kept going.

Finishing the steep part of the climb brought us to a viewpoint at a saddle. We had good views both back towards Porirua, and also out to sea, towards Mana Island.

Mana Island
Mana IslandShort for Te Mana o Kupe. According to Māori tradition, Kupe is the explorer who discovered New Zealand.

We followed a dirt road uphill a little while longer, stopping at a bench marked “Jock’s Bonnie Brae” for a snack break. We hadn’t gone very far, but now, I’d effectively eaten nothing since last night, and I was hungry. (This time I had no problem keeping food down.) we might have stayed there a while longer, but it was a bit windy.

A little further on, we got another glimpse of the South Island, though it was a bit faded out in the haze. Till only be a few more days and then I’ll be there!

South Island
South IslandThe South Island is barely visible through the haze, but I’ll be there soon!

The trail took us up to the summit of Rangituhi / Colonial Knob, and then through a fence onto farmland. A cyclist that had passed us earlier was nowhere to be seen, having clearly gone ignored the large sign on the fence that said (twice), no dogs, and no biking.

A bit past the summit, we had a clear view of Wellington. CareFree commented on how it was sad the area had been deforested for cows. I noted that, if it weren’t for the deforestation, we wouldn’t have any view at all.


After wandering around the mountainside for a bit, we took a little detour over a hill to avoid some cows that were sitting on the trail.

That was near the end of the farm. Continuing over a stile brought us into the Spicer Forest, a pine plantation. It was a little surreal. With very well-formed trail (and switchbacks!) going through a pine forest, it felt like we had stepped out of New Zealand and onto the Pacific Crest Trail.

Spicer Forest
Spicer ForestA pine plantation eerily reminiscent of the Pacific Crest Trail.

We stopped for a break in a tiny flat spot next to the trail in the forest, near a small creek. Quite tired, I took a short nap.

About fifteen minutes later, we reached a paved road, and began a road walk. We maintained a reasonably good pace, though it was rather warm out, and it was still hard going for me. A woman passed us after about 45 minutes and asked if we needed a ride. I declined. (Part of me wanted to accept, but we were kind of in the middle of nowhere on a road; getting back to that point specifically to maintain a continuous path would be awkward.)

Twenty minutes later, we reached an intersection with a bus shelter (probably for school kids), and stopped for a break. The road walk had nearly doubled the distance we’d gone so far today, but I was exhausted. I finished the remainder of my electrolyte mix, but had also been drinking heavily from my pack bladder, so I was probably quite low on water. (Vomiting out a third of a liter of electrolyte mix this morning did not do my water supply any favors.)

We explored bail-out options. Our destination was clear: the hotel we’d booked in Wellington. I briefly considered hiking another 3 km to a junction, and then taking a side-trail to a bus stop in Johnsonville that would take us to Wellington. CareFree convinced me that I’d be quite unhappy to actually walk that, given the uphill and the heat, and I had to agree.

We started trying to hitch, hoping to get a ride to Johnsonville, so we could catch the bus to Wellington. After standing in the wrong place to hitch for ten minutes, we moved back in front of the bus stop. Very shortly after, a woman stopped and asked where we needed to go.

After a bit of back-and-forth, it emerged that Bev, on her way back to Wellington from horseback riding, was taking her on-demand rental car back to literally the next street over from our hotel. What would have been a hitch, a long wait for a bus, and then a long bus ride instead was just a 25 minute car ride directly to where we needed to be. What luck!

After checking in, I got a shower, then took another much-needed nap. Uncertain what I wanted to eat for dinner, other than that it needed to be something “light”, CareFree proposed dumplings. Unfortunately, the dumping restaurant across the street from the hotel in an international food court was closed (which was too bad; we’d gotten dumplings there last year when we were in Wellington before), so we wound up walking ten or fifteen minutes down the road to another Asian restaurant that did dumplings.

They were quite good, exactly what I needed.

Tomorrow, we’ll take the bus out to Johnsonville and try to hitch back to where we left off. The weather forecast doesn’t look the greatest, though.