It had been a while since I’d headed up this highly popular track within easy reach of Christchurch’s city centre. Starting from the end of Rapaki Road, off Centaurus Road, the first challenge is finding a place to park. With no car park at the bottom, it is street parking only, and at busy times, the entire length of Rapaki Road can be crammed with cars. Part of the reason I hadn’t been in a while, despite living less than a 10 minute drive away, is that it is a very exposed track that winds its way up the Port Hills to Summit Road, and on hot summer days where temperatures can get above 30oC, it would be foolish to go up at any other time than early morning or into the evening. Even setting off before 10am on this autumn day which eventually reached 31oC was pushing it quite a bit.
The Rapaki Track is a track of thirds: the initial steady climb up the side of one hill, the flattish section along the false ridge line, and the final push up the steepest section of the track towards Summit Road. Taking roughly 1.5hrs return, it is a nice short walk to do whilst still requiring a bit of effort. Don’t let the shortness of the walk fool you though. The footpath is well marked but quite stony so a proper pair of shoes are recommended, not jandals (flip-flops/thongs depending on which part of the world you hail from).
After a brief walk through the shade of some trees, a bike grid denotes the entry onto grazing land. The path snakes steadily up on the side of the hill, which depending on the time of year, can range in colour from a brilliant green to a starchy yellow. On this most recent of walks, it was dry and yellow as Canterbury is currently in a drought. Whilst cattle are across a fence if they are there, sheep can wander more freely and have been known to be on the path side of the fence. The track is shared with bikers too, so it is best to stick to the left at bends to prevent being caught off guard by a bike whizzing down the hillside. Dogs are allowed on this track, but due to the proximity to grazing animals, are allowed only on a lead (although it is exceedingly common to see this flaunted!).
The steepest section is the final section, and depending on recent weather, can occasionally be slippery in places, but the reward at the top, after crossing another bike grid, is the view over the far side of the Port Hills into Lyttelton Harbour with Quail Island directly below and the Banks Peninsula’s highest point, Mt Herbert, directly behind. The view can look quite different dependent on the tide as the innermost aspect of the harbour forms a tidal mud flat at low tide. I will never get sick of the sight of Lyttelton Harbour no matter which part of the Port Hills I go up.
Returning the same way, the view on the steep section is of the blue expanse of Pegasus Bay and the glistening of the Pacific Ocean. This view persists till the flat section where it disappears behind the hill, and from then onwards, Christchurch’s city centre pokes upwards, as the houses get nearer and nearer. It may not be the most distinctive of skylines, but it is still a nice vista to look at on the way back. This is certainly a recommended inclusion to any visit to the Garden City.