Sunday, 24 November 2013

Pencarrow and Baring Head

Wow, what a day! Today we rode to Pencarrow, and beyond to Baring Head. It is a ride that we’ve been promising ourselves to do for a while now, and it was glorious.

The start wasn’t too promising, actually, because despite the weatherman’s promise of “light winds”, there was a fairly brisk breeze from the south as we set out from Burdan’s Gate, near Eastbourne. My knees were still aching from Wednesday’s 31km ride, and pushing against a headwind, on gravel, I thought “this isn’t going to be much fun (grump, grump)”. But I soon got myself into a rhythm, and then I was fine.

With the wind in my face, I could understand why many cyclists wear these über-cool, yellow wrap-around sunglasses. I don't know about the yellow (or orange!), but the wrap-around would keep the wind out of their eyes. I have regular glasses, with clip-on sunnies (but not the flip-up ones!), and the wind manages to get around them and make my eyes water. I had tears streaming down my face!

The gravel road had been topped up with new gravel, relatively recently by the look of it. The many potholes had been filled, which was good, but the extra gravel made riding a little more skiddy, so you really had to watch where you were riding.

The gravel had been newly topped up (photo by John)

As we have cycled to Pencarrow a few times before, we didn’t stop for photos until we got to the  lighthouse. It is always a thrill to get there, it is such a beautiful building and such a beautiful coast. And nearly 10kms under our belt!

The Pencarrow Lighthouse. The haze in Cook Strait cleared later in the day (photo by John)

Somewhere along the road there is a cattlestop, and because our wheels are smaller than most, we got off our bikes and walked across. Just then, a woman jogger passed us with her dog, and I wondered how the dog would cope with the big gaps between the bars of the cattlestop. We were amazed to see how deftly the dog put his paws on the bars, and didn’t miss a beat! He’d obviously done that before!

We kept going, past the lighthouse, past Lake Kohangapiripiri, round to the next bay and to the second of the Parangarahu Lakes, Lake Kohangatera. A large information board by the gate giving access to this lake had a sign tacked onto it, advising that the Lake Kohangatera /Gollans Stream boardwalk has been removed. Apparently, this was because flooding from storms had pushed a large mat of vegetation against the boardwalk which could cause more flooding. The sign also said “ Due to severe drowning hazards do not attempt to cross Gollans Stream Wetland”.

Lake Kohangatera (photo by John)

This lake is larger than Lake Kohangapiripiri, and equally beautiful. I spotted some shags sitting on the water’s edge. Apparently there is a large colony of black shags on the northern shores of the lake.

Large shags resting by the water’s edge

Soon after the lakes, there was a sign saying “Pencarrow Station” and warning us that this was now private land.

A little way down, we came across the rusting hulk of a ship, on the edge of the road. On this wild coast, there have been more than 40 recorded shipwrecks over the last couple of centuries. Most of these have long since disappeared, but this one was the remains of the small steamer Paiaka which was wrecked in July 1906, fortunately with no loss of life. It lay buried in deep sand until 1987, when it was excavated by the Eastbourne Historical Society, and placed by the side of the road.

The rusting hull of the Paiaka, which was wrecked on this coast in 1906 (photo By John)

The remains of the Paiaka (photo by John)

After the “Private Land” sign, the road surface deteriorated. It was very rough and stony. I guess the farmer is not likely to want to ride a bike down this road, and it is fine for 4WD farm vehicles.

Once on private land, the road surface deteriorated (photo by John)

The road surface gradually got worse, until we got to the end of the road, where the “track” became a deep bed of coarse sand on which a four-wheel-drive vehicle, powered by a big engine would have trouble making progress, let alone a two-wheeled contraption, powered by two mere human legs!

Just before we gave up biking, we rode past a huge rock, where a bunch of people were practicing their rock climbing skills. That's something that would scare the bejeezus out of me – I don’t much like heights – but it looked impressive.

The perfect rock for a spot of climbing! (photo by John)
Is he hanging off, or climbing up, the overhang? (photo by John)

We parked the bikes at the edge of the track – we had to find a rocky spot for them, as the bike stands were sinking into the sand – and walked the 200 or so meters to some spectacular rocks.

Spectacular rocks at Baring Head

We scrambled up them (no need for ropes here!), and from the top we had a grand view of Cook Strait, and a walking track that is part of a network of tracks leading eventually to Wainuiomata.

The view from the top of the rocks (photo by John)

It's not hard to see why these rocks are popular with rock climbers (photo by John)

The walking track on the other side of the rocks (photo by John)

Above us, but hidden by the brow of the hill, was the Baring Head Lighthouse. We could just see the automated air sampling station, where atmospheric carbon dioxide monitoring is carried out. The huge trunk of driftwood in the foreground of the photo below, is testimony to the fierce storms that this coast is subject to, judging from how large it is and how far it is from the water’s edge.

The Baring Head Lighthouse is up there, just out of view behind the brow of the hill (photo by John)

It was after midday, and the wind had dropped to a gentle breeze. It was pretty hot out there, so we headed back, and looked for some shade for a rest. With the sun straight overhead, there wasn’t much shade to be had anywhere until we came to the only clump of trees we had seen along this coast. They were clustered by a small stream. We had a grateful rest in their shade for a little while, and ate our snack.

A few trees by a small steam provided welcome shade for a rest (photo by John)

On the way we had to go through several farm gates. At one of them, I was amused to see the bit of Kiwi ingenuity used to make one of the posts stay upright – with rocks behind it, bits of wire, some string, and a lump of driftwood!

A bit of Kiwi ingenuity keeps the gatepost upright (photo by John)

Between here and Lake Kohangatera, there were patches of deep gravel, one of which caused me to come a cropper. I was just thinking it was getting too dodgy, and I should get off, when I skidded and landed in a heap. One bruised knee and a skinned elbow. Ah, the joys of cycling!

Near Lake Kohangatera there is a woolshed, presumably belonging to Pencarrow Station. It looked quite deserted, and as if it hadn’t been used for a long time, though the fences of the yards were in good condition. John walked a little way up the very steep track alongside it, which perhaps leads to the homestead. From there he had a great view over the area.

The Pencarrow Station woolshed, with Lake Kohangatera in the background (photo by John)

The view towards Baring Head (photo by John)

From here we rode with only a couple of quick stops for photos, until we got back to Burdan’s Gate.

I like these vertical slabs of rock …

… and the curve of the road, just around the corner from the Pencarrow Lighthouse

When we got to Burdan’s Gate, the booth hiring out bikes and selling icecreams, Burdans Gate Bikes, had obviously been doing a brisk trade. We met a lot of cyclists on the road from Pencarrow, including whole families with kids, many of them apparently on hired bikes.

We loaded our bikes into the car, then spread out a picnic rug under the trees, and enjoyed a well-earned icecream. We were very satisfied with our 28km ride. My fitness must be improving, because, apart from the fall I had, I did not have too much trouble with the gravel road. And the padded bike pants work a treat!

We decided to flag lunch, as it was likely that the cafés in Days Bay would be very busy, since it was such a glorious day, and on a weekend too. In fact, when we drove through Days Bay on our way home, we saw that there wasn’t a carpark to be had, all the cafés seemed to be bursting at the seams, and there were masses of people enjoying the beach.

Instead we stopped at the Mojo coffee caravan on the Petone foreshore, for coffee and a biscuit. We sat on a bench and looked out at the beach and the gorgeous sparkling harbour, where it looked like a yacht race was in progress.

A yacht race on Wellington Harbour (photo by John)

While we were sitting there, a young couple arrived, with a twin buggy, in which were two cute little girls wearing identical hot pink sunhats with big pink daisies on them. They had a young puppy on a lead with them. While they were waiting for their coffee, the puppy hopped into the tray under the buggy to get out of the hot sun. Then when they continued on their walk, he stayed in the tray, and enjoyed the ride. He’d got it all sussed!

The beach at Petone was not as busy as the one in Days Bay

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