The first day I tackled the Gorge I just did the Tawa Loop (4km and 200m altitude) and yesterday I walked as far as Te Apiti Lookout (8km and 400m altitude). So I am on the way for getting ready for Assisi walking!
Interestingly, I've always found the walking 'easier' after the first section- thought it was just because my body was 'warmed up'- but as you can see from the Strava altitude trace, after about 2km you keep climbing, but the gradient is a little bit gentler.
This is a view of the Manawatu River as it emerges from the Gorge, taken from the carpark at the Ashhurst end. There's not been much rain in recent months, and the water level is quite low.
Taking the Tawa Loop up, you come to Tom's Lookout, which looks back down over the floodplains and the river. To the far left, just out of shot, is Palmerston North city, which you get a glimpse of if you stand up on the seats! Both days I've passed here recently I have sat on the seats, and had interesting convos with others doing the same.
I love the forest. There are many ponga tree ferns, and also nikau palms, and also many tall thin trunks of tawa trees.
A nikau frond in the sunlight.
Parataniwha plant. I have always loved the reddish tinge in these leaves. Once had to dig under them to find giant snails for relocation. Never knew they were in the nettle family.
The endpoint of today's walk- Te Apiti lookout, looking out over windmills on the opposite hillside.
And here is the view looking down into the Gorge at the same viewpoint.
Returning downhill- and another nikau frond catching the sunlight...
Back in town, I drove alongside this magnificent avenue of flowering pohutukawa trees on Napier Rd. Christmas Joy.