Saturday, 16 November 2013

Wairarapa Weekend

We had a great couple of days in the Wairarapa last weekend (9 and 10 November). The trigger for going there was a dance organised by the Carterton Scottish Country Dance Club, entitled “Spring into Summer”, on the Saturday night. And spring into summer we sure did, as the weather was perfect. Summer is definitely on its way! But as well as dancing, we managed some cycling on both days – a total of 37 kms.

Before heading “over the hill”, we spent a couple of hours at the Highland Gathering in Harcourt Park, Upper Hutt. Here all sorts of Scottish activities were going on. Dancing competitions; piping and drumming competitions; about half a dozen “clan tents” displaying charts, tartans, books and paraphernalia to do with specific Scottish clans; a tug of war; a pipe band performance; a demonstration of Scottish Country dancing; even the opportunity to try shooting a "medieval" bow and arrow or a cross-bow (though I don’t know how that would be peculiarly Scottish). And of course, the usual coffee and food caravans, and a sausage sizzle.

On the stage, children and young people were competing in Highland and Irish dancing. They compete in their age groups and some of the girls are quite young. They look so cute in their formal kilt outfits, with matching socks, velvet vests and feather-topped hats. I’m sure these hats must have a special name, but I can’t find out anything about them.

Young Highland dancers’ competition

It is obvious that for the families of the children who compete, this is a whole way of life. Parents or support teams bring along their gazebos, folding chairs, picnic and all the costumes and trappings for the competitions. They settle themselves for the day at strategic points on the hillside facing the stage. It must be a great activity for families to be involved in.

Supporting families settle down to watch the competitions (photo by John)

Away from the main stage, under the trees, was the skirl of bagpipes and the sound of snare drums being practised, in preparation for facing the judges. You’d have to be good at ignoring all the other tunes being played while practising or performing your own piece. Impressive. The musicians perform individually in front of a judge, or in a pair consisting of a piper and a drummer. Interestingly, the competing tunes did not seem to clash or interfere with each other – not too much anyway.

Piping and drumming competitors

Some of the young people have multiple skills, competing in several categories. I watched one young woman in Irish dancing costume playing the bagpipes for a judge, having just been placed 2nd in Irish Dancing. Later I saw the same girl dancing in another Irish item, which required the most amazing stamina, calf muscle strength, and memory. And later again, I saw her performing a Highland dance, having changed her costume to a kilt and velvet jacket.

A gifted, multi-talented young woman plays the bagpipes before a judge

At midday, competitions stopped for the lunch break. To entertain the crowds, there was a performance by the Kapiti Coast Pipes and Drums Band. They marched onto the lawn in front of the stage, and formed a circle to play number of stirring tunes. I noticed that only the pipers had feathers in their caps, the drummers just had little red pompoms on top. I wonder why? I also noticed that the drummers had to wear their sporrans pushed to the back, because they would otherwise get in the way of their drums.

The Kapiti Coast Pipes and Drums (photo by John)

The drummers are twirling their drumsticks aloft

After the band had marched off into the distance, it was the turn of six members of the Upper Hutt Scottish Country Dance Club to demonstrate some dances. They performed four dances, on the grass. In between dances the leader (and teacher of the club) spoke about the dances, and about SCD in general, inviting anyone who would be interested in finding out more, to join them for their classes on Wednesday nights.

Members of the Upper Hutt SCD club dance a strathspey called “The Minister on the Loch”

We stayed to watch a little bit of the tug of war, then headed off, over the hill to Greytown and some lunch.

The tug of war (photo by John)

After lunch we cycled the Greytown to Woodside Rail Trail. Parts of the trail looked quite different from when we rode here in August. Back then, being winter, all the trees were bare, but now they were all wonderfully green. The young trees near the beginning of the trail, which in August were mere sticks, and which I thought were cherry trees, turned out in fact to be poplars, and they had grown considerably in the past few months.

The beautiful oak trees were in full leaf

I like this view of the path skirting the paddocks (photo by John)

It didn’t take us very long to get to the Woodside Station. This time, instead of going up to the new station, we took the track on the other side of the railway line, towards the old derelict station. When the new station was built, the old one was used as a storage shed for some years. But now it's been abandoned to the elements.

Vegetation tries to overwhelm the derelict old station building (photo by John)

Inside the old building, nature has tried to take over, with grass growing in gaps in the concrete floor, and the aerial roots of the creeper that is growing up to and into the roof, hanging from the rafters.

Inside the old building, grass grows in the gaps in the concrete (photo by John)

Aerial roots of a creeper hang from the rafters (photo by John)

The old and the new stations – basically the same design

On the way back I spotted some alpacas (or are they llamas?) in a paddock near a house. I had to peer through the trees to be able to take a picture of them.

Alpacas – or are they llamas?

These trees don’t look anything like “whomping trees” anymore now that they are in full leaf (refer to my Greytown post of 18 August) (photo by John)

It was a nice short ride, only 10kms, done in less than an hour, but just enough to keep us occupied before we checked into the motel we had booked in Carterton. The motel wasn’t anything to write home about – plain, very 1970s décor, fake Spanish hacienda. But it was clean, and the host was very pleasant.

It was still sunny so we found a place to sit by the motel’s pool. The area had obviously not yet been prepared for summer, as the water in the pool was a murky green and there was all sorts of debris floating on the top. But no matter, there were some chairs there and we sat in the sun with our orange juice, chippies and books for a while.

Before heading to the dance, we had dinner at the Carterton pub, Buckhorn Bar and Grill, where we had a very generously sized and reasonably priced meal. The interior of the pub had a Wild West theme, with photos of Indians and cowboys, posters of rifles and handguns of the era, and photos of Western movie stars.

Inside the “Buckhorn Bar and Grill” (photo by John)

Carterton’s Memorial Square in the late afternoon sun (photo by John)

The dance was very well attended, with more than 50 people there, many of them visitors from Wellington, Hawke’s Bay, Rangitikei and even Wanganui.

The dance was well attended and everyone had a great time (photo by John)

On Sunday morning we parked the car in a side street and rode all around the side and back streets of Greytown. It is such a pretty township with lovely houses and gardens in tree-lined streets.

A delightful rose-covered cottage

Beautiful tree-lined streets (photo by John)

Riding on the roads was not a problem, as there was virtually no traffic, and it was all on the flat. I would think that for people like me, who don't like to risk having to compete with fast-moving traffic, the back streets of many NZ country towns would be a good alternative to dedicated cycling trails. And it is a good way to get to know a town, too.

Another gorgeous street (photo by John)

The township is not very large, and soon we were riding around the rural perimeter of the town. Here the new houses were set well back from the roadside, on rather large sections. If you were wanting a semi-rural lifestyle, this would be ideal – provided you had the funds, of course.

Along this road on the edge of town, large modern houses on huge sections are hidden from view behind the trees (photo by John)

At the end of Udy Street, we came to a gate and a sign saying Walkway/ Cycleway/ Nature Trail. So of course we wanted to try it out. But first we said hello to a horse by the fence. While we were doing so, I was amused to see a rooster come rushing over to us. He must have been thinking that if the horse was going to be given something nice to eat, he wanted some too! He was in such a hurry, he kept tripping himself up in the long grass! Quite comical.

A beautiful rooster rushed over to see if we had anything to offer

The cycleway really wasn’t very good to ride on. It was very rough and bumpy, and in places the gravel was deep and skiddy. It didn’t go very far though, because we soon got to the Waiohine River. I believe there are plans – long-term plans, perhaps – to join up this track with the Woodside trail to create a full loop. That would make a really lovely ride, especially if it would run beside the river some of the way.

Cycleway leading to the Waiohine River

The Waiohine River (photo by John)

The way back into the town led down some lovely lanes. Through a gap in a hedge, I spotted some sheep resting in the shade of some trees. I thought that would make a lovely peaceful picture, but as I pulled up and carefully approached the fence, one lot looked at me in alarm and got up, ready to run. Silly things. Fortunately, the ones under another tree, a bit further away stayed put, so I did get my peaceful, bucolic photo.

Sheep resting in the shade of a tree

I love the regularity of these trees and fence posts

We cycled pretty much all of the back streets on both sides of the main road, and clocked up 22 kms. We were intrigued by signs pointing this way or that, saying “Rug Sale”. The signs were everywhere, but we never actually came across the place where the rug sale was.

By about 1:30 pm, we thought it was time to stop for lunch, so we headed towards Martinborough to look for a winery with a café. We found what we wanted at the Margrain Vineyard Café. A lovely setting with tables scattered on the lawn overlooking the vines. We chose a table in the semi-shade of some large trees, as it was getting quite warm in the sun.

Lunch at the Margrain Vineyard Café (photo by John)

The vines

Lunch was very satisfying, and the glass of Riesling was so delicious that we stopped at the winery shop afterwards to buy a couple of bottles to take home.

After a leisurely lunch and yummy dessert, we went for a bike ride around the vines, circumnavigating Martinborough and finally through the square. We rode about five kilometres, which was enough, because by now a brisk breeze had sprung up and made the going a little harder.

Finally we walked around the Martinborough town centre, browsing the shops. Parked outside one of the shops was a magnificent motorbike, which had several admiring males around it – practically salivating … Of course John had to take a picture of it. It was a beautiful looking machine, I must say, but I’m happy with my bike, thank you.

This beautiful motorcycle stopped several men in their tracks (photo by John)

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