Friday, 7 March 2014

Petone to Days Bay

Question: How do the weather gods know that 28 February is the official end of summer in New Zealand?

Here we were, getting to 28 February, and thinking that summer had arrived at last, then wham! late in the day we were hit with a sudden drop in temperature and cold rain! A couple of days respite, and then a southerly storm! Rain, thunder and lightning, and cold! Two days ago it was so cold that it warranted having the heater on in the evening, and an extra blanket on the bed. And it’s only March! It felt like we’d skipped autumn and gone straight into winter.

We in Wellington came off relatively lightly, though the winds gusted to more than 100km/hr, disrupting flights and ferry sailings, and rough seas dumped piles of debris on southern coasts.

However, that was nothing compared to what Christchurch had to endure. Huge winds during the first southerly blast caused devastation with toppled and broken trees and widespread power cuts. The second onslaught brought relentless rain and heartbreaking floods – for the third time! – in low-lying areas. Especially in an area which “dropped” up to half a metre as a result of the Christchurch earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, and which just fills up with water every time it rains. I do feel for the people of Christchurch – they have had to deal with so much in the last three-and-a-half years, since the September 2010 earthquake.

And then today, it was all over – for now – and we had a beautiful day (as did Christchurch). So lovely, in fact, that we thought we’d better go for a ride before the next autumnal weather bomb.

We rode from Petone to Days Bay. We parked, as usual, at the motorway end of Petone’s Esplanade. The south-facing beach showed the effects of the latest storm, with piles of seaweed and the odd trunk of driftwood scattered about.

Petone beach with the evidence of this week’s storm (photo by John)

We rode without stopping to the end of the Esplanade, through the Hikoikoi Reserve, and across the bridge towards Seaview. As we were riding along, we noticed quite a few seagulls squatting disconsolately on the seawall. Just plain exhausted from trying to survive the storm, we thought. None were worried about our riding past at quite close quarters, none flew away. At the end of Seaview, John took a photo of a seagull sitting on a picnic table. He was able to get fairly close to the bird, and it did not budge.

A tired seagull, resting at Seaview (photo by John)

After Seaview we carried on towards Pt Howard and Lowry Bay. This was as far as we had biked on another occasion. We thought then, that the shoulder was too narrow for us to attempt riding there. But hey, we (I mean, I) have made progress, and I'm becoming a little bolder with every ride. And it was fine. We had to cross the road a couple of times, as the shoulder became zilch.

I was not too comfortable when the road was reduced to a single lane at the roadworks that are in progress on that road. Added to that was the fact that it was just after 3pm, so the road was full of cars and buses collecting kids from Wellesley College. We were glad of our rear-view mirrors!

They are resurfacing the road, and it looks as if they might be adding a wider shoulder, for the benefit of cyclists and walkers - I hope. Great, if that is the case. Some stretches of the road had reasonable space for cyclists, others didn't and could do with improving.

In a few places the shoulder for cyclists is quite wide and smooth. Let’s hope that, eventually, it will become like this all the way to Eastbourne (photo by John)

At Days Bay, we stopped for a coffee at the Chocolate Dayz Café (photo by John)

At the entrance to Days Bay, on the seaward side of the road, there is a boardwalk for a footpath. When we arrived at Days Bay, we were riding on the other side of the road so we didn't notice it. Now, on our way back, John stopped on the boardwalk to take a photo of the debris that had been tossed onto it by the recent storm.

Storm debris on and beside the boardwalk at the entrance to Days Bay (photo by John)

Meanwhile I rode ahead of him, on the road, and took a picture of him riding along the boardwalk, and of the sign warning pedestrians of possible wave hazard in storm conditions. I would think that no one in their right mind would walk along here in the midst of a storm. I did not notice the symbol prohibiting bicycles on the boardwalk until I downloaded my photos. Oh oops! Ah well, no harm done, I’m sure … Or maybe it's just that the boardwalk can only be biked in one direction, as there was no such sign at the other end. We will check next time we go there.

No danger of wave hazards today

The return trip to Petone was uneventful, and we didn’t stop until we got back to the car. We had ridden 23 kms. Very satisfying for what was going to be “just a short ride”.

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