We leave the winding road of the Akatarawa Valley Hill road and join State Highway slightly north of Upper Hutt.
In 1855 New Zealand’s biggest (recorded) earthquake occurred here and some 5000 square kilometres of land was lifted out of the sea, especially along the coast line.
It’s hard to believe that before the quake the quickest and easiest way to travel between the Hutt Valley and Wellington was by sea and that the river was deep enough for tall masted sailing ships to navigate a good distance up the valley.
The quake lifted the land so high that it reduced the depth of the river dramatically, putting an abrupt end to transport by sea, but on the positive side there was now space for a road around the western edge of the harbour, which today has evolved into a busy motorway and railway link that connects to the rest of the North Island. In the meantime Upper Hutt and surrounding communities became commuter towns that serviced Wellington so there are many commuter trains on these rails too.
Much to our children’s delight we spy one such commuter train going down the valley alongside us. The kids urge us to “catch it” and Himself in their eyes, heroically managed the task but we didn’t let them in on the secret that the train had a slower speed limit on the rails than we did on the highway and that even driving well within our limit, that with clear road in front of us it was inevitable that we would catch it anyway.
Gotta keep the mystery of childhood alive don’t you think? Why spoil the adventure and the thrill of the “chase” ?
We are heading back to our friends house in Wainuiomata for a few days and so later as we take a short-cut through Petone we are treated to the dazzling sight of one of the biggest Pōhutukawa trees I have ever seen. In full flower it stood like a fiery beacon and made a stunning neighbourhood landmark. We spent one night with our friends here on the way northwards in December, now it’s time for a proper visit.
(Here’s a link to more information about the 1855 quake: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/historic-earthquakes/3 )