Friday, 28 February 2014

Train, ferry and Pencarrow

On Wednesday we planned a ride with a difference. We took the bikes into town on the Johnsonville train, and then across to Days Bay on the East by West Ferry.

With our SuperGold Cards (thank you Mr Peters!) we were able to use both for free, provided we travelled between 9am and 3pm. The ferry left at 10am, and we would have to return on the 12:40pm sailing, as the next one was after 3pm. So we planned to take the 9:04 train from Johnsonville, which meant we had to get up earlier than usual (we are both late-night owls – very late to bed and quite late to rise).

We were at the station before 9:00 and the train was late, so it was just as well that we had decided on the earlier train, or we might have missed the ferry.

The train pulls into Johnsonville station (photo by John)

I had not travelled on the “new” Matangi trains, which were introduced on the Johnsonville line in March 2012 (we would normally go into town by bus, which goes past our house). I was quite impressed we could wheel the bikes straight on – no steps to climb – and that in each carriage there were special places for up to three bikes to be secured during the trip.

Up to three bikes can be secured with specially provided straps on the new Matangi units
(photo by John)

Johnsonville is 150 m above sea level, and the 10 km railway track has to go through some quite steep and rugged terrain to get down to the Wellington Railway Station at sea level. Some of the time the train goes past suburban backyards, but the line also has seven tunnels – all of which have names: Tui Tunnel, Kaka, Ngaio, Lizard, Gorge, Kaiwarra and Outlet Tunnel.

John was ready with his camera to capture the view over Wellington Harbour as we emerged from the last one, the Outlet Tunnel. I was very pleased to see that the harbour was as flat as a mill pond.

As the train emerges from the Outlet Tunnel, you get this view over the motorway and the harbour (photo by John)

We alighted on Platform 9, and biked along the waterfront to the East by West Ferry. Having hurried out in the morning without our morning cup of coffee, it was nice to have time to stop at Mojo’s for some take-away flat-whites.

Waiting to board the ferry (photo by John)

There were quite a lot of passengers, most of whom immediately climbed up to the top deck. We were last on, with our bikes, and parked them in the downstairs lounge. John stayed with them, while I found a spot on the top deck.

We had to wheel our bikes down the ramp and onto the lower deck of the ferry

A view into the ferry’s wheelhouse (photo by John)

As we pulled away from the wharf, all the cameras and smart phones were put to good use, to capture the views of the receding city.

I just love the red Harbour Board tugs

These cranes are really gi-normous!

A different view of the Wellington Waterfront

It was a perfect day for a trip on the ferry – not a breath of wind, and the harbour was completely flat. That suited me nicely, as my stomach doesn’t take very kindly to being tossed around on rough water.

The harbour was flat calm. Looking towards the Hutt Valley, with Matiu-Somes Island in front

After a while I persuaded John to come up to the top deck, so he could enjoy the views too, but he only took one photo from there (which is better than my equivalent of the same view).

For some reason the ferry seemed to have a slight list to the left – or should that be “port”?
(photo by John)

This sailing made a stop at Matiu/Somes Island.  Quite a lot of the passengers got off here, and were picked up again by the 12:40pm ferry on which we too returned. The island makes for a very interesting and varied outing. We did this once, with our youngest daughter, many years ago.

Matiu/Somes is both an Historic Reserve and a Scientific Reserve, and is administered by DOC (Dept of Conservation). There is a surprising number of things to do, and it is well worth taking a close look at the DOC website.

Approaching Matiu/Somes Island

The Matiu/Somes Island lighthouse, built in 1865, was the first inner harbour lighthouse in New Zealand

As part of the conservation efforts on the island, rats and mice were eradicated from the late 1980s. Since then, native plants, birds, reptiles and invertebrates have thrived. Because of this, there are strict requirements for all visitors to the island to have their bags inspected, to ensure that no inadvertent re-introduction of any pests could occur.

Visitors disembarking at Matiu/Somes Island must have their bag checked at the “Whare Kiore” – the “Rat House” (kiore is the Pacific rat Rattus exulans)

Boats arriving at Matiu/Somes must also be checked for pests

The ferry didn’t linger at Matiu/Somes, and it wasn’t long before we arrived at Days Bay. As you can see in the photo below, the tide was low and the wharf high, so we had to disembark from the top deck. This meant that we had to carry our bikes up the rather steep stairs onto the top deck.

The wharf at Days Bay

While we were waiting for everyone else to get off before us, we got talking to a charming couple from Auckland – Tony and Kate – who were very interested in our nifty folding bikes. I told them about this blog, and gave them a little card printed with its address. They promised to look it up when they got home. So, hello Tony and Kate, why not leave me a comment at the bottom of this blog post, when you’ve read this!

Tony asked me to take a photo of them – with his camera – so I asked him to take one of John and me – with my camera.

Ready to bike off to Pencarrow. The ferry behind us takes on the next load of passengers

John told them that we were going to bike to Pencarrow and back, before taking the 12:40pm ferry back to Wellington. They said they would be heading back on the same ferry, so they hoped to see us when we got back. They wished us a good ride, and we tootled off.

I wasn’t altogether sure that we would be able to get as far as Pencarrow in the time available. It was 10:40am when we started out from Days Bay, so I estimated that we would have to turn around by 11:20 in order to get back in time, especially as a breeze had now sprung up, and we would be heading into the northerly on our way back.

It was a solid ride, with only one stop for pictures. Because the tide was low, I noticed that Barrett Reef was now exposed, and I could see the waves crashing over the top of it. This was the reef that the inter-island ferry Wahine struck in a terrific southerly storm on 8 April 1968, with the disastrous result that the ship sank in the harbour, with the loss of 51 lives.

At the top of the picture is Barrett Reef, at the entrance to the harbour (click on the photo to enlarge it)

We made surprisingly good time, and made it to the Pencarrow Lighthouse by 11:25 – only five minutes later than the time at which we had figured we should turn around. It was very satisfying to have achieved that.

Proof that we made it to the Pencarrow Lighthouse! (photo by John)

The way back, as expected, was rather slower than the way there, because of the headwind we were now biking against. So John had the opportunity to stop for a photo while he waited for me to catch up.

In the last hour or so, the sky had become cloudier and the sea rougher (photo by John)

We got back to Eastbourne in good time, and we stopped to have a brief chat with a couple enjoying lunch on a bench overlooking the beach. What made me stop to talk to them was seeing the bikes on a rack at the back of their campervan. Obviously kindred spirits! They had travelled from Auckland and had been on the road for two weeks. They were still debating as to whether they would go further south. They told us that they had biked the Otago Rail Trail a few years back and had a wonderful time.

This couple were enjoying life on the road, in a campervan and with bikes (photo by John)

It is just a short ride from Eastbourne to Days Bay, and we got there with a whole twenty minutes to spare. So we sat in the shade of one of the Norfolk pines by the beach, and had a snack of sliced apple and some chocolate.

Time for a snack (photo by John)

Well before the ferry was due, we wandered onto the wharf to await its arrival. There was a glass shelter near where the ferry docks, for the use of commuters, when the wind gets up. Of course, when the wind becomes too strong and makes a crossing too hazardous, ferry sailings are cancelled, and commuters have to travel into town by bus.

Days Bay seen from the end of the wharf (photo by John)

Awaiting the arrival of the ferry (photo by John)

When Tony and Kate walked onto the wharf, they were surprised to see us there. They’d been looking down the road to see if we were coming yet, and they thought we were going to miss the ferry. “Not a chance”, we said, “we got here with 20 minutes to spare, and we made it to the Lighthouse!”

Pulling away from Days Bay (photo by John)

With all the high-rise apartment buildings, it is sad to see that Oriental Bay is starting to look like any other harbour city foreshore (photo by John)
John thinks that these huge concrete cylinders are the bases for power-generating windmills
(Postscript: he was right, check out this report)

Stacks of containers at the port

While chatting to Kate and Tony during the ferry trip, I suggested they might like to join us for lunch at the Karaka Café, which they readily agreed to.

Arriving at Wellington. Up at the front I am pointing out the Karaka Café to Kate and Tony, as we would be meeting there for lunch (photo by John)

Having boarded onto the top deck with our bikes at Days Bay, we now had to disembark from the lower deck in Wellington. So we had to carry our bikes down the very steep stairs. I was concerned about John, because his balance is a bit iffy, and he would have to carry his bike with only one hand, so that he could hold on to the rail with his other hand. I don’t know how he did it, but he managed it brilliantly. As for me, one of the friendly crew took my bike down the stairs for me, which was much appreciated.

We pedalled off towards the Karaka Café, while Tony and Kate had to do an errand in the city before they could join us. It was busy at the café, but we managed to find a table, where we had to park our bikes just outside the waka displays.

We managed to score a table by the waka displays (photo by John)

Before long, Tony and Kate arrived, and we spent a pleasant half hour chatting over lunch. We found we had several things in common, including having been students at Victoria University at about the same time in the 1960s.

It was a shame we had to break up the party, but we had a train to catch. We could have stayed longer, but that would have meant taking a later train, with all the school kids, and perhaps no room for the bikes.

Before wheeling the bikes to our train, John took some pictures in the great hall of the Wellington Railway Station, which has a rather stylish ceiling.

No getting lost in Wellington’s Railway Station (photo by John)

The stylish ceiling of the Railway Station main hall (photo by John)

We were back in Johnsonville by 3pm. What a lovely day it had been. New experiences of taking the bikes on the train and ferry, as well as a 26 km challenge to get to Pencarrow and back between ferry sailings. We were tired, but very satisfied with our day.

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