Atene Skyline Track, June 17, 2023

Posted by Patrick Lam on Wednesday, June 28, 2023

This would be our first chance to get out on a longer trip since my return to New Zealand. Looking at nearby hikes, I found the Atene Skyline track in Whanganui National Park, which was reasonable driving distance from Wellington. I picked up a rental car on Friday night from Apex (now on Dixon near Courtney Place and colocated with Budget/Avis) and we drove to our booked holiday park in Whanganui. With a stop in Paraparaumu to get some boots. Someone forgot their boots. We got to the Kathmandu just before closing time at 6.

The holiday park is right on the river, but that’s not obvious when arriving after dark. Except by the name: Whanganui River Top 10 Holiday Park. There were a bunch of teens staying at the holiday park and I was worried, but they were quiet when it was quiet time. Anyway, we had a good stay there and didn’t use the facilities, but they looked great.

Whanganui River Top 10 Holiday Park.

It was almost winter solstice and the walk is advertised as 6 to 8 hours. Typically we land right in the middle of the predicted times. Sunset was around 5pm, so I figured it would be best to be on the move by 10am. Wanganui East Bakery & Cafe was open starting at 5am and we managed to get there by 8:15. I had a tasty seafood pie and we got to the northern trailhead by 9am to start our clockwise walk.

Start, middle, and end.

I think the most scenic part was the first part up to the Atene Viewpoint and just a bit beyond, especially in the morning with the undercast. About halfway through there is a shelter/toilet/water tank with a logbook, where we could read about quite fast times. Just under six hours after starting (elapsed time including lunch) we were at the southern trailhead, 2.2km road walk away from the start. I was quite happy to beat the published time. We had 14.3km on the track with 750m of elevation gain/loss, plus the road walk. The track was steep but well-formed, and serves as a local trail running benchmark, with a book of times at the trailhead.

The only bird I really saw was fantails. I brought the 55-210 lens and did manage a few good pictures of one. The 55-210 is viable to carry around. The 100-400 would be harder to justify.

Atene Skyline: Fantail. Bushy Park: Robin/toutouwai, kereru, coming at me.

Overall, a good first visit to Whanganui National Park, one of the last ones on the list for me to visit. I hope we can do the Whanganui River Journey this summer.

We then stayed at airbnb in town run by Karen. Her dog was after cuddles and didn’t quite respect personal space; he got right in there. The cat was also surprisingly affectionate. I really don’t have any problems with the spare room model of airbnb, think it’s a good use of spare space, and is helpful for travellers. It’s the ghost hotel airbnb that is problematic.

We had dinner at Kebabholik in Whanganui and it was good. They were playing YouTube videos. What was weird was that I clued in that there was someone talking about programming language design. It was Chris Lattner (of LLVM fame) on the Lex Fridman podcast, talking about Mojo. Then I went back to the airbnb and finished the words on the May summary.

The next day, we went to Bushy Park. It’s also near Whanganui, but in a different direction. We had breakfast again at the Wanganui East Breakfast & Cafe and headed out to the fenced sanctuary. We heard a lot of birds (maybe even a rosella) and saw saddlebacks (no pictures), fantails, lots of robins, tui, and I had a kereru dive bomb me. Vague flash of a hihi.

Red hot pokers, wetlands at Bushy Park.

Then it was back to Wellington with a grocery stop. I actually bought 20L of water for emergency preparedness reasons. Not a fan of lugging 20kg up the hill, and we had a car. Though the cable car isn’t that bad for bringing water up the hill, come to think of it. Returned the car, walked back to Kelburn, and that was our weekend.