Tuesday, 1 May 2018


Sunday 18 March was a perfect day – fine and calm – to bike to Pencarrow. We parked near the Eastbourne Wharf and biked the three kilometres to Burdan’s Gate, which is the start of the road to Pencarrow.

Since it was such a beautiful day, the Burdan’s Gate Bike Shed was doing brisk business, with many people hiring bikes. This even caused a bit of a queue at the gate itself.

There is a gate across the road entrance, but it is kept locked for ordinary mortals. You need special permission to be able to drive on the Pencarrow Road. So walkers and cyclists have to gain access through a narrow gate at the side.

It really is a silly gate – very narrow, with a springloaded mechanism that keeps wanting to shut on you. It is so narrow, that you have to raise your bike on its rear wheel to get the handle bars over, rather than through, the gate. People with lightweight bikes did the smart thing by lifting their bikes over the main gate, but with the electric bikes (at 25 kg) this is not practical.

It was a lovely ride. All along I kept thinking that we Wellingtonians are so lucky to have such a lot of different environments for biking, right on our doorstep, as it were. It is such a beautiful part of the coast — in fine weather, of course!

As the road winds in and out of the many bays, we enjoyed the views of the different beaches. Some strewn with driftwood, some with just lots of seaweed, and some with beautiful but dangerous rocks.

Beaches strewn with driftwood (photo by John)

Nature’s sculpture

Rocks and seaweed (photo by John)

The two Pencarrow lighthouses and the incoming ferry (photo by John)

We rode beyond the lower lighthouse, and found that there was a new information panel that we hadn’t seen before. It provides details about some of the birds in the area – the dotterel and the oyster catcher – and warns visitors not to disturb these birds’ habitats on the sandy beaches along this part of the coast.

A new information panel (photo by John)

We went as far as the entry to the Porangahau Lakes. The gate was locked, and there was no way to go up there unless you lifted the bikes over the gate. And the road ahead was very sandy, which makes it very skiddy, so we didn’t carry on any further.

We’re not sure what the black framework is or was for, but it makes for a dramatic photo
(photo by John)

When we were on our way back and looked around, back at the lighthouse, we noticed that there was a big tourist bus pulling up at the lighthouse. We think it must have been a tour for people off the enormous cruise ship in port that day, The Ovation of the Seas.

I felt slightly offended at the idea of a tour bus bringing hordes of tourists here

The Ovation of the Seas at the cruise ship terminal in Wellington, on the other side of the harbour
(photo by John)

Such a beautiful coast! (photo by John)

I thought that if we timed it right, we could waltz through the gate behind the bus instead of having to use the stupid bike gate. Then I thought, we should get to the Chocolate Dayz café before the bus disgorged all its passengers for lunch. But they took a long while at the lighthouse – perhaps they had a picnic lunch or something as part of the tour – and when the bus eventually sailed past us as we rode into Days Bay, it didn't even stop there. So we were able to score a table at the café.

After lunch we biked back to Eastbourne, where we had parked, and stopped at the dairy for an ice cream. While we were eating it in the sun, Gordon, a member of the Folding Goldies, stopped by us, and said he had just biked Pencarrow, right up to the end where the big rocks are, using my blog from November 2013 as a guide. It made me feel quite chuffed!

We got home at 2pm, having done 24 km, and I reached well over my 6,500 km on my bike. Yay!

Monday, 30 April 2018

E-bike group ride to Te Marua

It’s a long time since I wrote up any blogs. Apart from two rides in March, which I have yet to write up, we haven’t done any substantial rides. We have had our grandchildren to stay during the school holidays, and John has been under the weather. I have had other activities to deal with, so now that’s done, I am at a bit of a loose end, so I will write up the two March rides.

On Sunday 11 March, our neighbour Sue had suggested an e-bike group ride to Te Marua. The plan was to bike from the Seaview end of the Hutt River trail, all the way to Te Marua for Devonshire tea and scones at Stonestead. Along the way we would stop for lunch in Heretaunga. Sixty kilometres all up.

When Sue first suggested this ride, two weeks earlier, I didn’t feel like doing all that as I wasn’t feeling very well. I thought that 60 km was too far. I was saved by the weather, as on the day it was planned for, the forecast was for gale-force winds, so it was postponed.

This time round, I felt OK, but still thought that 60 km was a bit much and I suggested to John that we could take the train back from Upper Hutt, but he didn’t agree.

As it was a beautiful day, we ended up with quite a big group of ten.

The group before departing from Seaview, one more person turned up a bit later (photo by John)

Near Avalon, we had a bit of a mishap. Gordon and Kathryn had collided and Kathryn came off her bike, leaving a bit of skin on the tarmac. After patching her up, we resumed the ride.

All patched up and ready to resume the ride (photo by John)

The lunch stop at the Fig Leaf Café in Heretaunga was very pleasant, but it was very busy and the food took a long time to arrive.

Lunch at The Fig Leaf Café in Heretaunga (photo by John)

On our way towards Te Marua, after Harcourt Park, we went on a couple of scary narrow winding tracks down to the river, that neither John nor I were very happy with. So before the next track we decided to take to the road.

We didn’t like the narrow, winding tracks by the river … (photo by John)

… so we took the road for the last bit (photo by John)

The road got us to Stonestead more quickly than the track would have, so we got there before the others. We ordered our tea/coffee and scones, but it took quite a while, because there were three people ahead of us. Kevin’s kitchen is quite inefficient as he has to walk back and forth between oven, fridge, hot water dispenser, and counter. And he is very relaxed and in no hurry at all.

By the time the others arrived, none of them could be bothered with the tea and scones, and some of them went back right away. Sue, Gordon and Kathryn sat with us while we had our scones, which was quite pleasant, but we really hadn't needed the scones. I could easily have done without the Stonestead stop.

On our way back we avoided the hairy track and stayed on the road, and met up with the others a bit further along. Then we rode back from Harcourt Park, by going across the footbridge, and continuing on top of the stopbank on the other side of the Hutt River, till the Totora Park bridge.

On the footbridge at Harcourt Park (photo by John)

Along the Hutt River (photo by John)

It was a very long ride, and a very long day. It was 5:45 by the time we got back to our car, having done 65 km. My feeling was that the whole trip had been rather too ambitious. Though with e-bikes we can go further, this was just a bit too much. It might have been better to turn around after lunch, or even at Harcourt Park.

Still, it was an enjoyable ride – apart from the hairy bits of track.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Folding Goldies ride – “Spice up your ride through Spicer Forest”

When we did our ride from Ohariu Valley to Porirua in January, we met Alastair, the leading light of the Folding Goldies group, going from Karori to Johnsonville. That reminded him of this ride, and so he suggested it as the next FG ride in March.

His plan was for people to take the train from town to Johnsonville, and to bike up Cortina Avenue from the top of which we would descend into Ohariu Valley. He provided a map, which is here

Originally the ride was set for Wednesday 7 March, but as the forecast was for heavy rain and gale-force southerlies, it was postponed till the next day. Things were a little better on the Thursday – there was still a strong cold southerly, but the rain held off, and we even saw a bit of blue sky at one point. And, as Alastair pointed out, the southerly would be mostly behind us – a tailwind is always good.

We met the group at Johnsonville station, having biked over from home (about 2.5 km). Some arrived by train from town, others had driven there, and Colin had biked there from his home in Titahi Bay. Quite a feat apparently, as he was struggling right into that brisk southerly. Some people who had said they would come along piked on account of the weather.

We met up at Johnsonville Station (photo by John)

We headed up Cortina Avenue, which was quite a gentle gradient. Somewhere along that road we saw a van with my name on it “Désirée Clothing” or some such. A couple of people commented on it, and asked if it had the accents in the right place (it did). But John didn’t see it, or he would have taken a photo of it.

Heading up Cortina Avenue (photo by John)

Down into Ohariu Valley, and at the crossroad with Takarau Gorge, we were joined by Steve, who had biked over from Karori.

Ohariu Valley Road (photo by John)

As we were getting close to the Spicer Forest Road, John sped ahead to take photos of the group arriving.

The sign at the bottom of the Mill Creek Road (photo by John)

The photographer photographed (by Alastair Smith)

As described in my earlier blog, the road along the ridge was wide and gently undulating. Fortunately the southerly meant that we were not subjected to any smells coming from the landfill as we approached it.

The road on the ridge was wide and gently undulating (photo by John)

Just before the landfill end (photo by John)

When we arrived at the narrow track that circumvented the landfill, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the grass on either side of the narrow rut had been mown. Whereas on our last trip, we had found the rut too hazardous to bike and decided to walk, this time we were able to bike down it, by riding on the mown bits and avoiding the narrow rut. Putting my seat down an inch or two also helped to make me feel safer, as I could put my foot on the ground without having to get off.

Before heading down the “easy single track” (photo by John)

At the end of this track, where we had to choose between left and right, we had chosen right last time. This time we went left. Alastair had said that this would be “an easy single track” down to Broken Hill Road. Someone who commented on my blog wrote “left would have taken you on to a well-formed cycle track, that zigzags very gently down the side of the hill […] it would be great on a bike - definitely not single track and very rideable downhill or up.”

It may well have been an “easy track” to people used to throwing themselves down a hillside on a mountainbike, but it certainly didn’t seem easy to John and me. Obviously we were the exception in this group, as we lagged some distance behind the others. I found the sharp switchbacks on the zigzags quite uncomfortable, and the narrowness of the track caused John serious problems with his balance.

One of the switchbacks (photo by Alastair Smith)

But eventually we made it to the bottom of the track, to end up on Broken Hill Road. As I got to the end of the track I could see the rest of the group waiting a little distance down the road. I did notice that the track continued across the road, but I ignored that and just beetled down the road to join them, only for Alastair to take a photo of me, riding past a sign prohibiting cyclists from riding on that road. Oops!

Oops! (photo by Alastair Smith)

From there it was an easy downhill towards Kenepuru, where we crossed the main road to end up on Te Ara Tawa. Another few kilometres, and we made it to the Gear Café for a leisurely lunch.

Lunch at the Gear Café (photo by John)

Several of the group biked to Paremata because there was time before the next train back into town; the others, who had parked in Johnsonville, biked back on Te Ara Tawa and Middleton Road. And so did we.

Apart from the zigzaggy track, it had been a good ride. We did 38 km all up.

Miscellaneous local rides

It’s been a while since I last wrote up a blog post. We have been biking, but it’s been mostly just local rides that we’ve done and written up before, and there is no point in repeating myself. Still, John took a few interesting photos that are worth sharing.

On 9 February, we biked Te Ara o Whareroa, between Paekakariki and Raumati, and along the way we found that several new seats had been installed alongside the track.

Two seats just before the track climbs (photo by John)

At the top of the rise, near the tram track crossing, there is now a picnic table
as well as a seat (photo by John)

A little way past the Aeromodellers’ airstrip there are a further two seats (photo by John)

And two more closer to the Raumati end of the track (photo by John)

A few days later, on 23 February, we biked along the Wellington waterfront, from Oriental Parade to the cruise ship terminal. We rode past the site of the Statistics NZ building, where I worked on a short-term contract in 2008. However, the building was a victim of the November 2016 earthquake, and had to be demolished. It stood empty for a year, but now it's gone.

The site where the Statistics NZ building once stood (photo by John)

The etched glass panels of the walkway opposite the Stadium create interesting shadows
 (photo by John)

When we had coffee at Karaka Café, we watched a class of paddle boarders
 on the Frank Kitts Lagoon (photo by John)

On 1 March, we biked from Mana to Plimmerton. After lunch at the Big Salami in Plimmerton, we rode to the end of Moana Road. The last house usually displays a mannequin in the upstairs window, which is clad in some interesting outfit – often related to a topical event. A couple of years ago, John took a photo of her in a 1930s outfit, to celebrate Napier’s Art Deco weekend.

The Mannequin in an “Art Deco” outfit, February 2016 (photo by John)

This time the lady who owns the house was out mowing her lawn, and we stopped to chat. She told us “My name is Liz Quinn, and that – as she pointed at the mannequin in the window – is Manny Quinn. Get it?” She said that she and Manny Quinn shared her wardrobe, and that she liked to dress her appropriately. On this day Manny was wearing a summery outfit of beach shorts and bikini top, to celebrate our lovely hot summer.

Diz and Liz discuss “Manny” in the window (photo by John)

On the way back along the Plimmerton beach front, I spotted this charming letterbox

On 3 March we again biked Te Ara o Whareroa, and this time we were amused at the behaviour of some cattle, which were standing in a wetland. First they were in a cluster, but gradually, they formed themselves into a line and advanced together. When we came back 20 minutes later, they were still standing in the water.

First they were in a cluster … (photo by John)

… then they formed themselves into a neat line (photo by John)

In the last couple of weeks we have done some serious rides. These blog posts are coming up shortly!

Monday, 22 January 2018

Ohariu Valley to Porirua

On Friday 19 January, John suggested going for a ride through Ohariu Valley, down to the end of the public road, up to the ridge on the access road that was constructed for transporting the wind turbines of Mill Creek Wind Farm, then behind Spicers landfill to Porirua and to Gear Café for lunch, and then home.

On the whole it was a pretty successful ride. We weren’t sure if the access road was open for use other than for servicing the windmills, but we gave it a go. We left from home, biking up the hill and onto Ohariu Road.

From the junction where Ohariu Road becomes Ohariu Valley Road, it was a long, winding downhill into the bottom of the valley.

Ohariu Valley Road winds down into the valley (photo by John)

Before we got to the intersection with Rifle Range Road and Takarau Gorge Road, we met Alastair Smith (of Folding Goldies fame) going the other way. We stopped to talk. It was good to see him, as he had not been able to make it to our last Folding Goldies ride in November, because he wasn’t well. Today he had come into Ohariu from the Karori end, and was biking to Johnsonville, and planning to go down the Ngauranga Gorge.

The camera (on time-lapse) on John’s bike took this photo of us talking to Alastair

At the crossroads, we turned right, and followed the valley road till the end. The valley is really pretty. The road undulates up and down, and is really quiet – only two cars passed us.

Ohariu Valley Road (photo by John)

We stopped for John to swap his time-lapse camera from the front to the back of his bike
because of the angle of the light (photo by John)

John’s T-shirt blends perfectly with the colour of the road.
He should have worn a hi-viz vest

We rode past the riding school – unfortunately the Saddleback Café is only open on weekends now – and at the end of the road, we found a big gate across the Mill Creek access road, but there was a gate designed to let cyclists and walkers through.

The Mill Creek access road

It is a very wide road which was constructed especially to transport the components of the wind turbines of the Mill Creek Wind Farm from the Porirua end. The wind farm became fully operational in November 2014. There are 26 windmills on the hills, but they are not visible from here. There is an interesting video about Mill Creek on this website

The access road is very steep to begin with till you get to the top of the ridge. It is sealed for the first 100 meters (presumably to stop heavy loads skidding down the hill), and then it turns to gravel, but it wasn’t too bad to ride on.

The start of the access road was very steep (photo by John)

Once we got to the top of the ridge, the road was more or less flat, winding through forest and scrub. We got views across to Granada at one point.

Once on the ridge, the road wound along more or less on the flat (photo by John)
A view towards Granada (photo by John)

“The long and winding road …” (photo by John)

As we got closer to the Spicers landfill, we got the occasional whiff of it on the breeze. We checked out a flat area and found that there was a narrow track coming up from below, marked with a Te Araroa signpost. (Te Araroa is the walking track that stretches the length of New Zealand, from the top of the North to the tip of the South.) 

Close to the landfill, a gate prevented access through to Trash Palace on Broken Hill Road, and we had to divert around it on a narrow grassy track, that went for quite a long way.

From here we had to divert onto the narrow grassy track on the right

The dirt track was narrow and in places could have been bikeable – if we had been mountain bikers – but mindful of a couple of recent spills on dodgy tracks, we decided on the cautious approach, and walked most of the way.

We took the careful approach and walked (photo by John)

This short stretch was wider, and we were able to bike here … (photo by John)

… but this was definitely not bikeable – not in our book anyway …

A surprise encounter with Gandalf on the crest of a hill. We don’t know what this structure was for
(photo by John)

The track didn't come out where we expected it to. Eventually we had the choice of right or left – I think left would have taken us to Elsdon, but on the right we could see houses, so we knew there would be a road there. It was Chastudon Place, at the top of Tawa/Linden. When we got to the bottom of the hill, we ended up near the roundabout to Collins Ave.

Heading back to civilisation

From there we biked to the Gear Homestead Café. Te Ara Tawa, which had been partially closed off for several months because of the construction of a bridge for the Transmission Gully highway, was now open again.

The section of a Transmission Gully bridge has been installed,
allowing Te Ara Tawa to be opened again

It’s obviously not finished, but the main beams are in place

Looking impressive (photo by John)

From Te Ara Tawa, we went under the Porirua station and the motorway, and found that there is a new track into Aotea from there, so we rode up it, and rode around new streets – as yet unbuilt up – and then down to Gear Homestead.

There are some great murals in the Porirua station underpass (photo by John)

The newest streets in the Aotea subdivision (photo by John)

We had a pleasant lunch at the Gear Café, under a brolly on the path side of the building.

Lunch under the umbrella (photo by John)

We watched a wedding party taking photos in the grounds. They all looked gorgeous, the attendants in long deep red dresses, the groomsmen in smart suits. When they got ready to leave, four fancy big American classic cars, with bridal ribbons on, drove up. Very nice.

A wedding party was moving around the gardens to take photos (photo by John)

The wedding party prepares to leave in classic American cars (photo by John)

For the ride home, to get from Tawa to Churton Park, we had to bike down Middleton Road. Normally, when we bike Te Ara Tawa, we park at Takapu Road station, to avoid having to bike on Middleton Road. But it was OK, as going south, that side has a shoulder of sorts most of the way. It did add an extra 5.5 km to our ride.

There is a reasonable shoulder heading south on Middleton Road (photo by John)

Our total for the day was 35.5 km. It was a good ride, and it was nice to explore somewhere new.