When walking the Rapaki Track for the first time, its fair to say I wasn't at peak fitness. As I trudged up the track the Council website describes as an "easy path" and "gradual incline" (I myself prefer the term "relentless incline") I had visions of two cinematic moments. The first was the scene where the horse in The Never Ending Story sinks into the quicksand - because I too wanted to give up and sink to the bottom of the Swamp of Sadness.
The other was when we were nearly at the peak of what I had hoped was the ultimate summit of the walk. The track keeps its secrets, slowly winding so you don't get a glimpse of where you need to get to, until you have gone so far you may as well press on. I reached the corner I had pinned my hopes on, and waited for a few steps to confirm that I was basically done - when a vision stretched out before me, showing the end point to be roughly the same distance as when Frodo and the Gang look out towards Mordor (spoiler: not a short journey).
However, the track is wildly popular and the view at the top is spectacular (if you like sweeping panoramic views) but it reveals itself only when you reach the summit. Its like a reward. You don’t get the trail of breadcrumbs drip fed along the way of some of the other walks - so the exertion to view ratio is not as in favour of scenicness as others. Hey, its a very nice looking stretch of land along the way but all I’m saying if if you are doing this walk, you are probably after a workout, not the scenic route.
Also, I don't think its a permanent location but there is often a saint with a coffee cart at the top, which more importantly has cold water and Mars Bars. (Sorry for the blasphemy coffee drinkers). There was also a radio station van giving out fruity beer which was not what I needed in that moment (or perhaps any moment).
Our Rapaki experience was basically a mistake, albeit a worthwhile one. We meant to park at the top carpark and stroll up Witch Hill. Instead we parked at the bottom carpark, walked to the top carpark and skipped Witch Hill. I honestly don't know how this happened - parking on Rapaki Road was a subtle clue. If not for this error, its unlikely I would ever have braved it because people seem to describe it as a slightly smaller Mount Everest, minus the snow and equipment needed. But that would have been a shame because the views are amazing, the livestock is friendly and you'll feel like you've earned a pat on the back.
Park in the correct carpark, which is on Rapaki Road. Proceed. If you get to the right carpark you pretty much can't go wrong from there unless you start climbing fences.
Despite the earlier dramatic statements, in fairness, a moderate level of fitness will get you up there with some well timed pitstops and determination. It is perhaps not entry level, but is very doable, particularly if you take more of the tortoise approach than the hare. But its no stroll and if your fitness lends itself more to a netflix marathon than an ultra marathon then this may sting more than some of the other walks about. But its worth a shot if you want more of an expedition.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, its steep. It doesn't have the acutely steep sections you find in other areas, but its consistently uphill and its uphill in a fairly prolonged way. On the flipside the payoff is the return journey is downhill.
Sitting down at the top and getting back into the car at the end. Just kidding, the cows are pretty great too. And Hello Sunday is probably on your way home.
Maybe two hours depending on how many coffees (or Mars Bars) you have at the top.
Not speaking from experience here but you could add on Witch Hill for some additional elevation.
Sun protection, H20 and a Mars Bar just in case the little truck isn't at the top.
The target audience is your more serious recreational walker and the track is wider which leaves less scope for accidental encounters and friendly banter, but I did exchange a few sympathetic looks with a few people who looked like they enjoyed that last hill about as much as I did.
Parking wardens - apparently they patrol residential streets on a Sunday.