For the first time in exactly eleven months, today I saw the city from the top of Rapaki track.
I became a regular walker there in 2010, and it was on Boxing Day that year as I stood in my driveway listening to my car alarm go off during one of our early rounds of aftershocks that I decided the time was right to push it up a notch. By the time the next jolt rolled around I was in a shop on Moorhouse Ave buying a mountain bike. As the salesman was adjusting my seat I was watching the Harvey Norman centre across the road empty as the ground shook.
My resolution for 2011 was simple. My goal was to be able to ride up Rapaki without stopping.
Early attempts were dismal. Nineteen or twenty dismounts later and I’d arrive, red faced and gasping. It’s amazing though how quickly your fitness lifts and to my surprise my goal had been achieved by the middle of January 2011. It then became a question of speed and how fast I could make it from home to the top.
I would scoot up there on my bike a couple of times a week, and usually run up there at least once more. There was a brief hiatus after the “Bike to Work Day” debacle on the 16th of February when I not only biked to work, I crash landed on my face directly in front of it. (Walking into a board meeting with a full on Norman Gunston do was not my best moment ever.)
It wasn’t until February 21st that I could more or less bend my knee, and once you’ve got the Rapaki itch it doesn’t leave you alone.
Strange grinding sounds and slipping accompanied gear changes on the way up the hill. A large clunking stopped me in my tracks in short order at the start of the descent. The rear dérailleur fell off. It had been an unnoticed casualty of the fall on the 16th. As the brakes still worked, I used my poor bike as a scooter to get down the hill in time to deposit the wounded object back into the shop it came from and make it back to work.
And then at lunchtime the next day, exactly 24 hours after I’d been up Rapaki, the earth moved again and I didn’t see my bike for weeks – it ended up inside the initial cordon.
That’s the last time I’d been up Rapaki, until this morning. I didn’t bike today, just went for a gentle walk with Pepper to see how it felt and get the legs back in hill mode again.
It felt strange.
The bottom section has big signs warning of rockfall danger. The odd substantial chunk of fresh rock (same height as the seated Pepper but maybe four times her girth) sits at the hillside edge of the track. There are frames where seats were but the boards in them have gone. The tracks into Mt Vernon remain closed due to rockfall hazard. Weeds are long and the dust is everywhere. A cocky with a trailer load of barking farm dogs attending to a full pen of sheep completed the picture.
Halfway up the signs advise that rockfall danger is now behind you and it’s a quick push to the Summit Road. What Harry Ell would think of the large orange sign from CERA warning of potential imprisonment should you proceed past the barricade I can only imagine. Still, the rockfall up there is clearly evident and not a little intimidating. You can walk across the Summit Road and gaze out over beautiful Quail Island and then you turn around and head on down, watching the cranes towering over the city’s poor damaged skyline come into view.
Next week I shall leave Pepper at home and try the bike up there again. I suspect it will be back to the twenty dismounts for a while before I manage to summit without a pause. I just hope the track stays open this year long enough for me to reprise last year’s resolution.