Wellington walks – The Eastern Walkway

Wellington’s Eastern walkway meanders up and down the windswept cliff tops and through the bush along the edge of Cook Strait. Needless to say it offers spectacular views out across the sea. It also takes in historical landmarks and glimpses of local wildlife.

A glimpse of the  Attaturk Memorial from the Rangitautau Reserve, Tarakena Bay
A glimpse of the Attaturk Memorial from the Rangitautau Reserve, Tarakena Bay

The Eastern Walkway begins at Tarakena Bay, at Rangitautau Reserve, site of the ancient Rangitautau and Toitu Pa. Established by the Ngai Tara people, Rangitautau was the first settlement in the region. On the bush-clad rise, close to and overlooking the ocean, it enjoyed a prime position with easy access to kai whenua (food from the land) and kai moana (seafood) Equally importantly, it allowed clear views of approaching tribes and it was easily defensible against attack. Today’s visitors can enjoy views out across Cook Strait, often, on a clear day, all the way to the Kaikoura Ranges in the South Island.

Just across the road from the Rangitautau reserve, a colony of little blue penguins makes its home. Although you may not spot these shy little birds, you will see their pictures the quaint bi-lingual signs along the roadside.

A caution to commuters on Wellington's southern coast road.
A caution to commuters on Wellington’s southern coast road.

A steep, but invigorating upward climb from Tarakena Bay, with the bush on one side and increasingly fabulous sea views on the other, will take you past the local Tsunami Assembly Point, to the Attaturk Memorial.

The Attaturk Memorial resulted from a 1984 agreement between the Turkish, Australian and New Zealand Governments. Turkey agreed to change the name of Ari Baru, where many Australians and New Zealanders  perished in the Gallipoli catastrophe of 1915, to Anzac Cove. A monument in memory of the fallen was raised on the site. In return Australia and New Zealand agreed to build monuments in Canberra and Wellington to Mustafa Kemil Attaturk, Turkish Commander at Gallipoli and first President of modern Turkey.

The Tarakena Bay site was chosen for its remarkable resemblance to the terrain on the Gallipoli Peninsula.  Designed by Ian Bowman, the Attaturk  Memorial was unveiled by the Turkish Minister of Agriculture in 1990. Inscribed on it are the words written by Mustafa Kemil Attaturk in 1934 and read at Anzac services every year since.

Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.

The Eastern Walkway ends in a steep drop down to the road at the Pass of Branda. Heading south along Breaker Bay Road back to Tarakena Bay, you’ll pass the Wahine Memorial Park, which commemorates the fifty lives lost when the Interisland ferry Wahine struck Barrett’s reef in a violent storm in1968.

The Eastern Walkway is 4.2 kilometres long. It takes about 1.5 to 2 hours walk. I walked it last a few years ago with a long-lost friend and although parts of it left me speechless and breathless, we managed to fill the walk a mutual (detailed) recount of five years separation.