Sunday, 16 March 2014

Upper Hutt to Seaview and Petone

Having tried out, and enjoyed, taking the bikes on public transport, we thought we should take the train from Petone to Upper Hutt, and ride back to do all of the Hutt River Trail in one go.

We have ridden every part of the Hutt River Trail, but always in sections of about 10 kms in one direction and 10 kms back. So this time, it wasn’t so much a matter of exploring new territory, but an exercise in sustained cycling for 30 kms or more. We need to practice longer rides, as we will be riding the Otago Rail Trail in just over two weeks’ time. We will be doing 160 kms in four days, riding about 45 kms on each of the first three days.

So on Wednesday 12 March, we parked the car at the usual place in Petone, at the motorway end of the Esplanade, and cycled the short distance to the Petone railway station.

Petone railway station - we had to wait about 15 minutes for the next train (photo by John)

I had never taken this trip by train before, so it was interesting to see the areas we went through. We saw mostly suburban backyards and industrial areas, but also the motorway and the Manor Park golf course. We crossed the Hutt River three times and saw the cycle trail from a different perspective. The trip took about 35 minutes.

Having arrived at Upper Hutt, we dawdled for a moment while deciding which way to go towards the river. We were getting our helmets and gloves on, when a police officer came striding over from the Police Station across the road. Isn’t it funny how, when you see a policeman coming towards you, you do a quick mental check that you haven’t done anything wrong?

But he was very friendly and asked “Do you have a website?” I didn’t know what he was getting at, at first. Then, “Do you write a blog?” When I said “ah, yes, I do”, he continued “I’ve read your blog, I recognised you from your photos”. How amazing! He had recognised us by our folding bikes. He said he had found my blog when he was searching the web for information about folding bikes, as he had one himself.

Of course we were tickled pink! We had a really nice chat, and he told us his name was Louis – Constable Louis Diamond. He is one of the Upper Hutt Community Constables.

I asked him if he knew that a group of Wellington cyclists from the Cycling Advocates Network (CAN) was planning a Folding Bike Fun Ride on 29 March. He didn’t know, so here is the info. In fact they will be doing exactly what we were doing today – take the train from Petone to Upper Hutt and ride the Hutt River Trail back to Petone. But we thought of doing this before reading about them! It is a pity that we will miss out on this event – we would have joined them – but we will be on our way south by then.

Constable Louis Diamond recognised our folding bikes from reading my blog! (photo by John)

We rode off along Fergusson Drive. Before leaving home, we had looked at the map and figured out the best way to get to the River Trail. But of course we didn’t take the route that I had in my head. John just follows his gut-instinct – and I just follow John! We got there – and his way was probably a bit shorter …

We crossed River Road at the Totara Park Bridge traffic lights, from where we could ride down to the Hutt River Trail. But first we crossed the bridge into Totara Park, for a bit of a reconnoitre, as we hadn’t been there before. We thought we might find a café, but the local shopping centre was fairly unexciting, so we turned around and headed back.

The Hutt River and Trail seen from the Totara Park Bridge, looking north (photo by John)

No water was flowing under this little stone bridge (photo by John)

We didn’t make very many stops for photos, mainly because we had photographed much of it on other rides. But when we heard the sound of a bulldozer in the riverbed, we turned down a little track to the river’s edge to take a look. It was pushing the gravel out of the central channel, onto the edge.

The bulldozer is digging out the central channel of the river (photo by John)

All along the river there are signs that summer has segued into autumn, with the trees starting to change to gold and orange. Near the trees, there was also the distinctive fragrance of fallen leaves.

The trees are taking on the colours of autumn

There is a stretch north of Stokes Valley, that we have been avoiding because the choices are either riding on a very narrow foot/cycle path along the quite busy Eastern Hutt Road, or using the gravel track closer to the river. We first rode this section when I had only just started biking, and I didn’t like either of the options very much. I especially found the gravel track quite horrible, as it was narrow and winding and had a drop on one side. This time, when we rode the gravel track, I really couldn’t see what I had been so worried about back then. Much of the track was actually quite pretty.

A little stream ran across the gravel track near Stokes Valley (photo by John)

South of Stokes Valley there is a rail bridge that John had taken a photo of during the summer, when some contractors were in the process of painting a mural on it. From face-on it doesn’t appear to be quite finished yet, but looking along the length of it from the top of the stopbank, it looks pretty good.

The railway bridge into Stokes Valley (photo by John)

We stayed on top of the stopbank between Stokes Valley and Avalon. Perhaps not such a good idea, as the concrete slabs of the track are quite uneven and patched. The gravel track below might have been nicer. But we did make faster progress than we would have done on the gravel despite the bumpiness.

Coming up to Avalon, we saw some teams playing baseball. It’s not a sport you see a lot of in NZ (I suppose – I’m no sports expert) and all I know about it is that it involves a “diamond”, a pitcher, a batsman and a catcher, and people run around the field madly. I was impressed with the speed of the ball as it was being pitched, though. Lethal!

John managed to catch the catcher catching the ball … (photo by John)

At Avalon Park there was the welcome sight of a coffee van. We stopped to get some flat-whites, which came with a free cookie. The park was pretty quiet, and I asked the woman making the coffee if she was getting many customers in that spot. She said that a lot of truck drivers liked to stop there, as there is a substantial carpark, where they can pull up for a break.

“Smiling Windmills”, a sculpture by Leon van den Eijkel near Avalon Park (photo by John)

The silvery undersides of the leaves on these trees show up dramatically against the dark hills
 (photo by John)

Just upstream from the Petone Bridge, we spotted a large group of Canada geese (photo by John)

When we reached the Petone Bridge, we had ridden 32 kms, so I suggested we carry on towards Point Howard, just so we could make it a 35 km ride.

We actually only went as far as the Seaview Marina. Surprisingly, despite the breeze, the water in the marina was flat calm, producing perfect reflections.

The Seaview Marina (photo by John)


By the time we returned to our car in Petone, we had ridden 37 kms. Quite a pleasing distance. But ouch, my knees! When we were walking down Jackson Street in Petone, I swear I could hear them squeaking!

We were headed for a rather late lunch at Café Figg, but first we dropped in on the Scott Outlet next door. This is where I had bought my padded cycling pants six months ago, and I thought I would let the helpful lady in the shop know that I was very pleased with them, and that they had been an excellent purchase. She was delighted. She mentioned that she had a whole new stock in of Tineli cycling clothes, in both men’s and women’s sizes. So any of you people out there are looking for some padded cycle pants, head on out to 194 Jackson Street.

An interesting cloud formation over the Western Hutt hills (photo by John)

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