Sunday, 15 June 2014

Rimutaka Rail Trail (3)

With another fine, windless day promised by the weather forecast, we planned to set off early-ish to ride the Rimutaka Rail Trail yesterday. We wanted to be there when the sun was at its highest, in the middle of the day.

When we set off from home, the bright blue sky that the weatherman had promised had yet to materialise; there was high cloud over the Hutt Valley. But by the time we got to the start of the track, it had cleared up. All the same, as we found when we started biking, it was quite cold in the shade. I was glad I was wearing an extra layer, and John went back to the car to get his.

It was cold in the shady cuttings (photo by John)

We had only done this track in summer, on warm sunny days. Now, with only a week to go to the shortest day, the low angle of the sun meant that its rays did not get over the highest hills. So quite a large part of the track was in the shade. The two substantial bridges – the Pakuratahi Bridge (truss bridge), and the Ladle Bend Bridge – were both in the shade. Of course, the sun shone brightly where there were gaps in the hills.

The track climbs through a nice wooded area (photo by John)

We pedalled along quite steadily. Again, I was surprised at how much easier the ride up had been, compared to last time. I had used my lowest gears for the steeper bits, but John said that he had done it all in top gear. “Oh, stink”, I said, but it was a challenge for me to try using a higher gear, and it was OK. I felt quite pleased with myself.

It is 10 km to the Summit, and it really didn’t take us very long. The last couple of times we went up there, we rued the fact that we had not brought a picnic, so this time we did. As John was about to take a photo of me tucking into lunch, a young woman cycling past stopped and offered to take a picture of us both.

Picnic lunch at the Summit (photo by Elisabeth with John’s camera)

She was riding the full rail trail, going over the hill and down towards Cross Creek and Featherston, where she had arranged to be picked up. While we were talking she excused herself as she had to switch off her tracker while she was stationary. She was able to track her ride and her time by GPS on her smart phone. A much more scientific way to do things than our “where shall we go today” method. She was interested to hear about our rides, and we exchanged websites/blogsites. As she went on her way she said “I love offering to take people’s photo, you can meet such interesting people”.

I have since looked up her website, and read some of her blog posts with great interest. She is a very busy person by the look of it.

We enjoyed our lunch in the sun, and then John took a few photos of the rusting remains of the train engines that used to ride on the Rimutaka Railway. There is something very aesthetically pleasing about large rusty machinery.

The rusting remains of the Rimutaka train engines (photo by John)

I wonder what all these pipes were for? (photo by John)

While I was waiting for John to take his photos, I marveled at the peace of the place. “Listen”, I said, when he’d finished. “What? I don’t hear anything”. “That’s right, there isn’t anything. Listen to the silence”. The only sounds were the occasional bird calls, and the distant rushing of the river in the valley below.

On the way up I had been looking at the huge variety of ferns that grow along the side of the track, especially in those dark and damp cuttings, and I told John I wanted to linger and take some photos of them on the way back.

I’m no botanist, and not even much of a gardener, but I do like looking at plants: admiring the shapes and patterns of leaves, trying to recognise them and name them – in a very limited way, I hasten to add. Ferns are practically synonymous with New Zealand, and rightly so. I looked up NZ ferns on Wikipedia, and there are no less than 16 ‘familes’ of ferns, each of which have many ‘genera’ (plural of ‘genus’ – as I dig up my Latin declensions from the depths of my subconscious), which in turn had many ‘species’.

I took 12 photos of ferns and mosses, and John took a further six, all different, in just one short stretch of a cutting. I won’t subject you to all of them, but here are a few of my favourites.

There were dozens of different kinds of ferns in just this bit of a cutting

Three types of ferns with very differently shaped fronds

Love the texture of the pustules that hide the spores

Completely different again

So delicate – I think this one is the ‘kiwikiwi’ or Blechnum fluviatile

I had especially noticed the fern in this last shot, and thought “I must take a picture of it when we go back”. Then of course, I had trouble finding it again, as it is not as common as the other varieties. Mental note to self: take the photo when you first notice it, don’t count on seeing it on the way back. Things always look different on on the return trip - different angle, different light ... There's something to be said for “there and back” rides.

Mosses and liverworts were plentiful too

Near the Ladle Bend Bridge is a sign pointing the way to a picnic and camping area by the river. On Elisabeth’s recommendation (“it is gorgeous”, she said) we took a look. We rode down a steep grassy track which, when it flattened out, became quite wet and boggy. There was a large flat area which would be quite nice for camping in the summer – if camping is your thing (which it isn't for us). Several fireplaces made with river stones dotted the place, and there was a picnic table on a concrete pad.

The camping area near Ladle Bend (photo by John)

The track carried on a little way down to the river, but there seemed to be no track alongside it. Perhaps in the summer, when the river has less water in it, it would be a great place to mess around in the shallow stream.

The Pakuratahi River at Ladle Bend (photo by John)

After that little interlude, it was a lovely downhill run back to the car.

On the way home, we stopped at the Expressions Gallery in Upper Hutt. There was an interesting exhibition, called “Deep in the Woods”, of whimsical paintings, marionettes and other ‘creations’ by a trio of Wellington artists.

These delightful marionettes by Jon Coddington are called “Hopepa, Tony Chang & Chopper Reedz

A bicycle with a difference – “The Box of Curious Delights” by Stephen Templer had a peep-show
 inside the box

This painting by Rieko Woodford-Robinson is called "Mana Whenua (Bird of the Land - Kakapo)”.
I really like it, it is whimsical, and yet has a serious meaning

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