Saturday, 1 June 2013

Te Ara Harakeke Track

Yesterday, Thursday, was fine, but breezy. We set out to ride the Te Ara Harakeke track, starting from the Paremata Bridge this time. We left the car in a carpark overlooking the Pauatahanui inlet, just past the bridge.

The path ducked first under the Paremata road bridge, then under the rail bridge. A smooth sealed track took us past the marina, then followed the railway line past the Ngatitoa Domain.

The track ran right by the railway line (photo by John)

We took a little detour into the domain, just for the fun of it, and to take a look at the view. Just across the harbour, not very wide at this point, we could see the track we rode on our last outing, the Whitireia Park track. I still have a few mementoes of that track – in the form of some colourful bruises and scratches that I copped when I keeled off the edge of the track.

View from the Ngatitoa Domain

A gravel path between the railway and the rocky shore afforded great views towards Plimmerton beach. The tide was out, and waves gently rolled onto the wide beach. We rode down Plimmerton’s main road, then along the foreshore to Karehana Bay. At this end of the beach, we saw a small group of “pirates”, complete with skull-and-crossbones headgear, on an outing from the Kindergarten across the road.

Karehana Bay has a rocky shore to which generations of Wellington’s pre-school and primary school children have made excursions to look for limpets, little crabs, mussel shells, and generally investigate life in the many rock pools left behind at low tide. It is noticeable that these rocks are the same as the upturned sedimentary rock we saw on the other side of Porirua Harbour last week. 

Rocky shore (photo by John)

At the end of the public road, there is a sign warning people that the rest of it is a private road, and that only walkers and legitimate visitors to the Hongoeka Marae are allowed. In fact, if you continue along this road – on foot, of course – it will take you on a coastal track which ends up at Pukerua Bay (according to the map – I haven’t actually walked this). So being good and obedient citizens, we turned around at the sign, though I would have loved to carry on till the road petered out.

You'd need to be skillful to take this dinghy out for a spot of fishing! (photo by John)

Back to Plimmerton, where we stopped at “The Big Salami Café” for a coffee and a chocolate croissant. We sat outside so we could keep an eye on our bikes, and as soon as our order was brought to us, a whole lot of fat sparrows came to investigate, hoping for dropped crumbs. They sat patiently on the pavement waiting for any offerings, which, sadly for them, were not forthcoming. They were not at all concerned about the large Labrador belonging to the people at the next table. Nor did he pay any attention to them either.

Having only done nine kilometres so far, we also planned to ride the main part of the Ara Harakeke track. To get to it, we had to go through the underpass at the Plimmerton railway station.

The Taupo Swamp

After a sports ground and a light industrial area, a sealed path skirts along SH1. Near the Taupo Swamp, the track begins to climb, very gently at first, towards Pukerua. The Taupo Swamp is an extensive area covered in NZ flax, or “harakeke”, after which this track is named. We had a brisk headwind, and my progress was fairly slow. The vegetation here has a lean on it to show that the prevailing wind must rip through here rather a lot.

The lean on the vegetation shows the effect of the wind

We have done this track before, and I knew that after Whenua Tapu Cemetery, the track would climb more steeply, so I had warned John I would not go any further than that. Being a “flatlander” and all, and disliking hill climbing with a passion.

But rather than turning around and going back the way we had come, John suggested returning to Plimmerton on Airlie Road. I was not keen to ride on the road, but John assured me that there was hardly any traffic here. He’d not seen any cars in the five minutes or so that he had to wait for me while I struggled up the (pathetic) incline against the headwind. Gosh, don’t I sound like a feeble wuss? Ah, but wait, there is more!

Well, Airlie Road seemed to be heading downhill, so I agreed. Wrong! So, so wrong! Of course, just around the bend in the road, it began to climb. Much more steeply than I was able to manage on the bike. So again, I ended up walking my bike up a hill. “I hate this! I hate this!” I grumbled between huffs and puffs and heavy breathing. Even walking was almost too much for me. I had to stop periodically, and wait for the panting to ease. Isn't that frustrating - all this Scottish dancing and cycling and gym attendance and Zumba, and I'm still not fit enough to climb a hill!

Getting ready for the descent - John waits for me to catch up

Looking around me at these moments, I did notice that we were in a beautiful bushy area, and that the sun was still shining. Finally we got to the crest of the hill, and we were on our way down. Great! But rather hard on my hands. Because it was quite steep, my weight was being pushed forward onto my hands on the handlebar, and gripping onto the brakes for dear life was quite uncomfortable. Still, going down was a lot more fun than going up!

In no time we were back at the far end of Karehana Bay, so we rode back to Plimmerton for the second time. More time to admire rocks, and the view towards Mana Island, and the South Island in the distance.

Mana Island at the top right, and the South Island in the distance (photo by John)

As we were skirting the Porirua Harbour, I looked across to where we had ridden last week, and there, along the brow of the hill, I could have sworn I saw a procession of giant moa. Of course, it was actually just a row of trees bent into these shapes by the force of the prevailing winds. But I liked the idea of moa, and just had to take a photo.

Can you see the giant moa marching along the top of the hill?
On the way back to the car we lingered a bit near the Paremata marina, just so John could take a few more pictures. All those yachts and boats look so attractive in the sunshine. I had not realised how extensive the boat harbour is, there must be hundreds of vessels moored there, with dozens more on trailers parked on the shore.

The Paremata Marina (photo by John)

Apart from the hill climb, which I absolutely hated, it had been another satisfying ride. We did just under 20 kms. And John, who has been keeping a tally of our mileage (is there such a word as kilometerage?), tells me I have now biked more than 300 kms since mid March – 313.1 kms, to be precise. Note the ".1" – John is a scientist after all …

The end of the ride - overlooking the Pauatahanui Inlet (photo by John)

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