Tuesday, 10 June 2014


Sunday 1 June was officially the first day of the NZ winter, and it was a simply stunning day. Crisp, not a cloud in the sky, and not a breath of wind. A perfect day to take a ride to Pencarrow.

Obviously about a gazillion other Wellingtonians thought so too, as the carpark near Burdan’s gate was full and cars were parked along the road all the way to the Wahine Memorial. So we parked in a gravel parking area nearby.

Before we could set off on our ride, we had a couple of false starts. My bike was making very dire rattling noises, and it turned out that the chain had dropped off the sprocket. When John tried to put it back, he found that the bolt that attached the baggage carrier to the bike had fallen out, which caused the carrier to interfere with the sprocket.

We looked for the bolt among the gravel of the carpark, but we didn’t find it. Normally John puts his toolbox in the car – just in case – but of course today was the one day he hadn’t brought it along. Always resourceful, he tried to hold things together with a piece of wire that he’d found on the ground. But it didn’t work. It snapped with the first couple of turns of the pedals.

So, back to the car again, and just as I was thinking that he could perhaps borrow a bolt from the unused bottle cage on his bike, he had the same idea. So that fixed it. Off we set again, third time lucky? Oh no, now I discovered that my bike computer was missing. I had re-set it after we took the bikes out of the car, so I knew it must have come off right here somewhere. Another search of the carpark, and yay! we found it.

Phew! We could finally go. At Burdan’s Gate we had to lift the bikes over the barrier, because the little gate for pedestrians to go through, is too narrow and awkward for bikes. It is a right nuisance, actually. I think the Council should put in a proper gate that is bike-friendly, since the road to Pencarrow is so popular with cyclists.

As we were cycling around a wide sweeping bay, we saw the rail ferry Arahura coming into the harbour. I always find the ferries quite a thrilling sight, even though I’ve seen them coming in or going out lots of times.

The rail ferry Arahura steaming towards Wellington. The South Island, with the snow-topped peak of Mt Tapuaenuku, can be seen in the distance (photo by John)

It being such a lovely day, there were literally hundreds of people either walking or biking the track to Pencarrow. We saw quite a few families, with all the kids on bikes, and sometimes the youngest sitting in a child seat with Mum or Dad. People were stopping off to admire the lighthouse, to play on the beach, or to have a picnic.

A large group of people left their bikes leaning against the fence, while they were picnicking on the beach by the lighthouse

Every time we ride to Pencarrow, it seems to get easier. Probably because we’re getting fitter. We got to the lighthouse in practically “no time”, so we just kept going. Past the lakes, and as far as the rusting hulk of the Paiaka.

At least 40 ships have been wrecked along this wild part of the coast, though that seems hard to believe on a lovely calm day like today. The Paiaka was a small steamer that was wrecked in 1906. Its hull lay buried in the deep shingle of the beach at Fitzroy Bay until 1987 when the Eastbourne Historical Society arranged for it to be excavated.

The plaque alongside the remains of the SS Pakaia

The remains of SS Paiaka (photo by John)

Internal workings of the Paiaka (photo by John)

From a previous ride, when we went all the way to Baring Head, we knew that the track deteriorates severely beyond the Paiaka, so we turned around here. We sat on a rock on the beach for a while, enjoying the sun and the sound of the waves, and eating a snack.

The way back (photo by John)

Patterns in the sand … (photo by John)

… and in the rocks (photo by John)

The Pencarrow Lighthouse (photo by John)

Pure magic! (photo by John)

It really was a very nice ride – 22 km in 2.5 hours. When we got back to Burdan’s Gate, we got an icecream from the bike hire shed. They did a roaring trade that day, both in the way of hiring out bikes, and in the way of selling icecreams and other snacks.

La vita è bella! Isn’t life beautiful!

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