Monday, 17 February 2014

Miramar Peninsula Ciclovía

What a great day we had today, taking part in the Miramar Peninsula Ciclovía. This was a community event, organised by the Great Harbour Way Trust – Te Aranui o Pōneke, along with Cycle Aware Wellington, and Rotary. For this special event a section of the road around the Miramar Peninsula – from Shelly Bay to Scorching Bay – was closed off to motor traffic for the afternoon, so that it could be safely used by cyclists, walkers and joggers, rollerbladers and skateboarders, mobility scooters and wheelchairs.

The name “ciclovía” is Spanish for cycle path. The ciclovía movement was started in Bogotá, Columbia, in the late 1970s, whereby sections of city roads were regularly closed to cars and opened for people to enjoy. The idea has since spread around the world, and has finally been taken up in New Zealand.

They couldn’t have had a more perfect day for it. It was gloriously fine, with just a light southerly breeze to keep people from overheating.

Since the closed-off section of road was only 3.5 kms long, we started cycling quite a long way before getting anywhere near Miramar. We parked at Point Jerningham, at the first opportunity after Oriental Parade, which was extremely busy, as one might expect on such a lovely summer’s Sunday.

We ended up riding from the point at the top left of the map below, past Evans Bay and right round Miramar to Seatoun at the bottom right of the map, and back, a total of 32 kms.

We rode (almost) all of the Great Harbour Way section (yellow line) shown on this map
taken from the Ciclovía website

Near Point Jerningham. Shelly Bay is across the other side of the water (photo by John)

All along the waterfront, there are little stony beaches, many of which you cannot see when driving past in the car. Today, many were well used by sun seekers and people swimming or just paddling. I was surprised at all the little places that people found to enjoy the water.

Hataitai Beach was much busier than this when we returned in the afternoon

When we reached the Miramar Cutting, there were signs on the road warning motorists to slow down. We were there before the official start of the event, but when we came back later in the day, there were wardens stopping cars to tell them that the road was closed up ahead, at Shelly Bay. A few cars made U-turns here.

A rocky beach on the Miramar side (photo by John)

Approaching Shelly Bay (photo by John)

Before long we arrived at Shelly Bay This area was owned by the NZ Defence Force, and was used to accommodate 300 NZ Air Force staff until the base was closed in 1995. In 2009, the land was transferred to the Taranaki Iwi as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement. Since then the area seems to have been neglected for lack of investment.

Apparently Peter Jackson’s proposal in 2012 to build a world-class film museum there fell through. There have been several reports of property developers expressing interest in the area. I do hope greed will not cause this wonderful area to be sold to build more (flash and expensive!) housing on it.

We’ve driven through here quite a few times over the years, but we do not often stop to browse around. This time we had time to take photos from the side of the road.

The old Shelly Bay wharves (photo by John)

Sadly the jetties at Shelly Bay have been left to deteriorate

The Chocolate Fish Café was doing a booming trade. As well as their regular tables and chairs, the café had thoughtfully provided deckchairs and beanbags on the lawn.

The Chocolate Fish Café was having a very busy day (photo by John)

This man seems to have the wrong kind of conveyance for the day …

The official start of the Ciclovía was at the end of the Shelly Bay area. Volunteers in bright yellow vests were handing out maps with information, and a van full of bikes for rent was in attendance. We talked briefly to a lady about her folding bike, which was emblazoned with its name “Lucie”. Now there’s an idea – giving your bike a name … (We had a car with a name once – an old VW Beetle called “Betsy Flower Power” because of the flower decals on the doors.)

Wardens were handing out maps. A "Rent a Green Bike" van was in attendance too

A beautiful little bay, just beyond Shelly Bay (photo by John)

It was great to see so many people enjoying biking on the road, without having to stick closely to the edge for fear of cars. Lots of families with young children riding their own bikes; or little tots sitting in bike trailers – I saw one that was fast asleep in his trailer; or youngsters riding trailer bikes, which are safely attached to an adult’s bike, but the child does his/her own pedalling.

There were lots of walkers too, many families with pushchairs, and small children on little scooters, one family pushing a wheelchair. People on skateboards and rollerblades, and people walking dogs too. Of course there were also quite a few lycra-clad cyclists going much faster than the rest of us.

This looks like a Scottie dog walking club (photo by John)

Along the way we met Alastair Smith, who seems to be one of the leading lights of the Great Harbour Way Trust. I recognised him by the fact that he was riding a “Tern” folding bike (the “twin”, in fact, of “Lucie” which I mentioned earlier, and which belongs to his wife Marg). I had read his blog about their biking adventures in France and Austria. It sounded like just the sort of thing I would love to do, if only I could get John to want to do it too …

Back in August, I emailed The Great Harbour Way website, with a link to my blogpost about the Wellington Waterfront, and Alastair replied with a link to his blog about riding folding bikes. He was also kind enough to add a “news” item on the Great Harbour Way website with a link to my blog. As a result of that I have had lots of “hits” to that particular post. So thank you Alastair. And it was lovely to meet you in person this time.

At the Scorching Bay end there were more yellow-vested volunteers, and a large banner celebrating the Ciclovía. The woman on the bike in the photo below seemed to be one of the organisers, as we saw her biking back and forth several times and talking to volunteers along the way.

Scorching Bay

This was the end of the no-go section for cars. But we kept going. There was quite a bit of traffic – cars trying to get to the parking area – but fortunately they were “cyclist aware”, driving slowly and giving us a wide berth when overtaking. We made good use of our rear-view mirrors to see cars coming up behind us.

At Karaka Bay we took photos of two houses we particularly like. One huge modern one, with a dramatic curved roofline, that seems to occupy two or three regular-sized sections. The other, an older traditional house, with a turret. I love turrets! (I guess I’m basically a romantic at heart …)

A magnificent house at Karaka Bay (photo by John)

I love this house with its finials and turret!

There is a lovely small beach at Karaka Bay (photo by John)

A bit further on, we rode past Worser Bay Beach. This is a beach that John and his sister used to be taken down to by their parents, when they were quite young. They went to Worser Bay Primary School, and lived in Miramar, on the other side of the hill.

Worser Bay Beach (photo by John)

When we got to Seatoun, we debated where to go next. Should we go through the Seatoun Tunnel and back to Miramar? Or should we keep going over the Pass of Branda and around Breaker Bay to complete the loop around the peninsula? But in the end we decided just to go back the way we came, as it was such a lovely ride.

We stopped at the Seatoun Dairy for an icecream (photo by John) 

On the way back we saw this catamaran, anchored just offshore in one of the bays, where up to a dozen people were having a wonderful time, diving off the boat and enjoying the water.

A perfect day for spending time on and off the boat 

As we were riding along, I noticed that there was writing on the road every so often. When I paid closer attention, it turned out that the writings were native plant names and arrows pointed at these plants growing along the edge of the road. Plants such as coprosma, ngaio, taupata and NZ flax.

And at one of the easily accessible rocky beaches, there was a display of creatures to look for in the rockpools. One of them was a kina – the NZ sea urchin. I daresay that it is more attractive than this when it is alive, and in its own environment.

A kina was part of a small display of creatures to look for among the rockpools

Back at Shelly Bay, we stopped for an iced coffee at the Chocolate Fish Café. The coffees arrived with a mini chocolate fish stuck in the top of the lid, and John’s piece of chocolate cake also had a chocolate fish on the icing. Of course the café’s name “Chocolate Fish” refers to the very New Zealand confectionery of fish-shaped marshmallow covered in chocolate. It is much used as a minor or fun “reward” for a job well done.

John’s “The Beat Goes On” T-shirt was bought post-heart attack a few years ago. I guess the cake
and iced coffees are not a good look, but we had spent quite a few calories cycling 32 kms!

By this time – about 3pm – the café was absolutely pumping, and I was most impressed with how quickly and efficiently our coffees arrived. When I placed my order at the counter, I was asked my name, so they could find us, and I was delighted when it was delivered by a young French woman, who said her name was also Désirée. I don’t often come across people with the same name, and to have it pronounced correctly was lovely.

There were excellent bike racks in front of the café

After the iced coffees, we had a look at the art studios/galleries next door. The one that particularly took my fancy was the Whirlwind studio, which features whimsical creatures made from assorted “junk” or collected articles. One of the owners, Michelle, showed me her workshop, which was full of interesting items, waiting to be transformed.

Whimsical creations by “Whirlwind”

Michelle has an attentive audience while she talks about her “robots”

On the way back along Cobham Drive, we were surprised to find that there was a nice little beach below the level of the road, sheltered from the southerly breeze, just along from where the airport runway starts. From driving along the road, you would never guess it was there. There were about half a dozen cars parked there, and people were enjoying the beach. While John was waiting for just the right moment to snap a water-skier, I was able to take a photo of an aircraft as it was coming in to land.

A water-skier on Evans Bay (photo by John)

The passengers on this aircraft would have been treated to fabulous views over the harbour as it was coming in to land

It was after 4pm when we got back to the car, having had a wonderful day, and biked 32 kms.

John loads the bikes back into the car

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