Thursday, 21 November 2013

Petone and Hutt River Trail x2

I’m getting a bit behind with the write-ups of our rides. I have two rides to write up, and as they were pretty similar, I shall write them up in the same post.

On Wednesday 13 November, we rode along the Petone foreshore, and up onto the Hutt River Trail, up to a little way beyond the Avalon Bridge. When we looked at the weather forecast, it said the southerly would die down. So we thought we could ride to Pencarrow, which is beautiful, especially after a southerly.

However, as our house is sheltered from the southerly, we never know what it’s doing “out there”. When we got onto the motorway going towards Eastbourne, and saw how choppy the harbour was, we changed our minds. We didn’t fancy heading into a stiff southerly.

We parked at the motorway end of the Petone foreshore and rode along, crossed the bridge over the Hutt River at the other end, and headed up the Hutt River Trail. We stopped on the bridge to take a photo of some dredging that was going on downstream of the bridge.

Interestingly, it was not done by a dedicated dredge, but by a digger working from a flat barge, tethered to a small tugboat. Perhaps it was removing silt that had been brought down the river by the last flood, a couple of weeks earlier. I suppose this part of the river must be fairly shallow so they may be deepening it to reduce flooding upstream.

The digger dredging silt from the lower reaches of the Hutt River (photo by John)

Having ridden along here a few times now, we didn’t make many photo stops, but we did go down one of the rough tracks that leads down to the river’s edge at one stage.

A nice shot of the stony river’s edge (photo by John)

Surprisingly, the river was fairly low. A stark contrast with the flooding that occurred only a fortnight before. There had been very heavy rain and winds on 31 October, and the river rose to flood the riverbank carpark in Lower Hutt. The cycle track runs between the river and the carpark, and it must be a good 20 or 30 meters from the track to the normal water’s edge, and a drop of several metres from the track to the water. It seems incredible that this usually placid river could have risen so far, so quickly. The video on this Dominion Post report shows the river at its worst.

Trees on the opposite bank were knocked over by the force of the flood (photo by John)

In several other places along the cycle trail, patches of dried-up silt were evidence of the water having been over the top of the track.

We rode as far as a few kilometres beyond the Kennedy-Good Bridge, where we turned around. On the way back I wanted to take some pictures of the flowering cabbage trees that I had seen in the Hikoikoi Reserve near Petone. But we didn’t come back through the reserve. Oh, well, another time maybe. In the meantime I took a photo of the flaxes that are now flowering alongside the foreshore track.

Flowering flaxes

When we got back to the car, the harbour was still pretty choppy, so we were pleased we hadn’t gone to Pencarrow.

The harbour was still pretty choppy (photo by John)

After the ride, we went into Petone, and while John went to browse in his favourite hardware store, I paid a visit to the Dutch Shop, and was glad to see they had a plentiful supply of chocolate letters. This is a Dutch St Nicholas (Sinterklaas) tradition, whereby people are given their name’s initial in chocolate for the feast of Sinterklaas on 5 December.

I have not kept up the Dutch tradition of celebrating St Nicholas with my family, but I have tried to give my children chocolate letters for Christmas, when I have been able to get them. Of course, my kids are now grown up, but everyone still likes chocolate for Christmas, right?

When we went to have a coffee in Café Figg, we found that next door was a new shop called Scott Outlet, which sold cycling (and running and ski) clothing. I had been looking to buy a pair of padded bike pants that I could wear under my regular pedal-pusher trousers. I haven’t got the figure to ride around in lycra! I was heartened to see that the lady in the shop was similarly proportioned to me, and I felt much more comfortable asking her for what I needed, than I had been in proper bike shops, which are mostly geared to mountain bikers, full of testosterone! She was very helpful, and found me exactly what I wanted. Yay!

Scott Outlet, 194 Jackson Street, Petone (photo by John)

My new padded bike pants! (photo by John)

Now, for ride number two: Yesterday, 20 November, was a gloriously beautiful day, very summery. Wellington reached a 23 degree maximum, which I think is just about the ideal temperature. We went for a similar ride to last week’s, but this time skipping Petone, and starting from Seaview. We parked at the far end of Seaview, near the marina, and rode up the Hutt River trail.

John took this photo because he liked the curve and undulations of the track. This area was under water in the last flood, shown by the remains of silt at the edges of the track.

We stayed on the track closest to the river on the way up the valley. There was a bit of a headwind, and the gravel was making progress somewhat slow. But I was glad of my padded pants when riding on gravel!

We rode as far as the Stokes Valley roundabout, then turned around and came back on the sealed track, much of it on top of the stopbank.

Near here, across the river, is the quarry at the bottom of the Haywards Hill Road. This quarry was the site of some of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings sets, “Helm’s Deep” and “Minas Tirith”. Sadly the very elaborate sets have all been removed, and all that can be seen now is the scarred hillside of the quarry. Other places along the Hutt River have been used for these films too. For more information about the LOTR locations, check out Ian Brodie’s book “The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook”.

The Haywards Hill Quarry was used as a set location for the Lord of the Rings films (photo by John)

The track on the stopbank consists of concrete slabs, but it is not in the best of conditions – the slabs don’t join up smoothly, so it is pretty bumpy. There are also quite a few potholes, some mended, others not.

The track on top of the stopbank, near Avalon (photo by John)

When we got to Avalon Park, near the Kennedy-Good Bridge, we rode down the bank off the stopbank, to ride in the park. We thought we would take a rest on a seat under a tree, but the seat was surrounded by ducks sitting on the grass, with their heads tucked under their wings, and we didn’t want to disturb them. Besides, the seat had too many bird droppings on it, and the grass was probably covered in duck mess as well. So we gave that a miss, and carried on.

The duck pond at Avalon Park. No ducks to be seen – they were all resting in the shade of the trees (photo by John)

On our way back to the car, John took a picture of the track along Seaview Road, for the record. We took pictures of this track when it had been severely damaged by the southerly storm in June. The photo shows the new track, now that it has been repaired, and the eroded edge has been rebuilt.

The repaired foot/ cyclepath at Seaview (photo by John)

When we got back to the car we had done 28 kms. John suggested we ride past the marina to Point Howard “to make it a round 30kms”. It actually brought our total up to 31 kms.

The Seaview Marina

I was pretty chuffed that we had done 31 kms. We sure had worked up a good appetite – it seemed like a long time since breakfast – so we went to Days Bay to have lunch at the Chocolate Dayz Café.

Across the harbour, we could see that there were two very large cruise ships visiting Wellington. We suspected that some of the large number of people drifting in and out of the café while we were having lunch, may have been tourists off these ships, who had come across on the Days Bay ferry.

The beach at Days Bay. If you enlarge this photo by clicking on it, you can just make out the two large cruise ships in Wellington (photo by John)

On last week’s ride we did 22 kms, and on this last one 31 kms. That now brings my total to 827 kms since mid-March – say about 100kms a month? Quite pleasing, I think.

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