Our Wellington

News | 8 January 2021

Welly Walks: Guardian of our special wild places

Wildlife and adventure have been at the heart of Kiri Andrews’ life since the start, but she didn’t always appreciate her parent’s enthusiasm for the outdoors.

Kiri Andrews in her bright orange work top looking up at a giant tree from a viewing platform in a forest in Otari Wilton's bush.

“I hated tramping as a kid, but my parents would make me do it. Then I turned 14 and just switched.”

Ever since her teenage lightbulb moment, the 25-year-old hasn’t been able to get enough of what nature has to offer.

Having travelled to many remote locations around the globe, Kiri now works two conservation jobs – she’s an ecological restoration worker at Kaitiaki o Ngahere, and a Night Tour guide at Zealandia.

She’s often carrying out ecological restoration works in the area surrounding Otari-Wilton’s Bush, which is where her favourite Welly Walk is.

Otari-Wilton's Bush features about 11km of walking tracks and is Aotearoa's only public botanic garden dedicated solely to native plants.

Of the seven main tracks within the reserve, the Blue Trail takes the prize for Kiri. It’s a 60-minute loop walk, mainly through dense old growth native forest, and features some steps and steep places to navigate. It connects up with the Otari Skyline Loop for a more scenic adventure.  

But the highlight of the trail is a tree – and not just any tree – an 800-year-old rimu to be exact.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to see something that old and big. You don’t really get the chance to see trees like that because everything was cut down.”

And that’s what makes Otari-Wilton’s Bush so special.

“I really love the native bush that’s here because it’s one of the very few remnant forests that wasn’t taken out during colonisation,” says Kiri.

She says she first discovered the majestic tree when visiting the reserve while working with a Zealandia school holiday programme.

“I think it’s really cool and it’s definitely worth seeing. It reminds me of Tāne Mahuta.”

In Northland, Tāne Mahuta is Aotearoa’s largest known living kauri tree, thought to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old.

Kiri has made up for her tramping reluctance in childhood, having completed most of the tracks and tramps in and around the Wellington region.

She’s also covered tramps further afield, including Lake Waikaremoana, and this summer she aims to complete the Heaphy Track and celebrate a night in her 100th hut.

“I just love being outside. My favourite part of tramping is staying in the hut. I love being off the grid for the night and being surrounded by the bush.”

When it come to Otari-Wilton’s Bush and the ancient rimu, Kiri visits often.

“I definitely try and get here every couple of weeks. I usually walk from home listening to music, and then take my headphones off when I get here and just chill. It’s so peaceful!

“When you get to the rimu there’s a viewing platform, and you just see people sitting there in silence – in awe of this tree.”

All tracks at Otari-Wilton’s Bush are signposted. Forest trails can be slippery when wet so sturdy footwear is recommended.

Born and raised in Nelson, Kiri says she’s embracing Wellington life.

“It’s such a cool city. It’s so compact you can walk around and there’s so many reserves. We’re so lucky to have the green belt and so much to explore in our own backyard.”

Four jars of Fix and Fogg nut butter sitting on top of the yellow and green plastic Welly Walks box, on a wooden path in amongst bush.

This is the fourth story of six in our #WellyWalks series. Hit the Blue Trail at Otari-Wilton’s Bush from 9am on Saturday 9 January to find the #WellyWalks treats!

Happy walking!