Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Wellington South Coast and a Ceilidh

It’s been a sparse fortnight when it comes to biking. The weather has been wintry – cold, wet and windy. On a couple of days when the weather was OK, we had a bit of a pedal around the suburb, but nothing worth writing about. The Folding Goldies ride we were supposed to have done on 4 June was postponed twice because Alastair (the “leading light” of the group) has been unwell.

Meanwhile, I was given the “hurry-up” last week by one of my regular readers. “No bike blog this week!” she said. My reply “No biking, the weather has been awful” was met with “But I need my blog fix – I like to have my cup of coffee and read your blog!”. Well, it’s nice to know that someone is looking forward to my ramblings. Well then, here we go. We managed a ride this past weekend.

On Saturday, it finally was a beautiful day, though windy, and it would have been quite good for a ride, but John wasn’t feeling up to it. So we were delighted when the weather gods smiled on us with another gorgeous calm day on Sunday.

The plan was to bike along the South Coast, always an interesting place to bike, with wonderful views as you wind in and out of all the bays. On such a beautiful day – relatively warm and windless – most of Wellington’s population seemed to have come out of the woodwork. Progress along Oriental Parade was very slow, as cars were desperate for somewhere to park, with families keen to join the throng walking, biking or simply sitting in the sunshine.

At Lyall Bay, we parked near the entrance to the Wellington Aero Club, and through the wire fence, we watched a man preparing to take off in what looked like a small vintage aircraft. Thanks to Wikipedia, John tracked it down to be a Chinese-built Nanchang CJ6 Basic Trainer, dating back to 1958.

Going through pre-flight checks (photo by John)

Looking down Cochrane Street towards Lyall Bay, we saw sea spray flying up, and we realised that there was a big swell with wild waves. With the weather in Wellington being so calm – even to the extent of yachts on the harbour being becalmed, apparently – this was quite a surprise. The swell had been caused by an atmospheric low on the east of the South Island.

It was pretty spectacular. Three- or four-metre high waves were crashing into the bay. Quite a tourist attraction. I’ve never seen so many people on Lyall Parade.

Three- or four-metre waves come crashing into Lyall Bay. That speck in front of the wave is a surfer.
(photo by John)

We first turned left onto Moa Point Road, towards the airport underpass. There were cars parked all along the seaward side of the road, many of them, it appeared, belonging to keen surfers. Intrepid young guys were entering the water from here – save having to paddle out first, I suppose. Wow, rather them than me!

Looking for a good jumping-off place (photo by John)

There they go!

We talked to a pair of cyclists who had come from the other side of the airport underpass, and they said that there was water in the tunnel and that the power of the waves was pushing up the storm water drain covers. By the time we finished our ride, and came back to this end of Lyall Bay, the road to Moa Point had been closed, and waves were washing over the carpark as the tide was nearing its peak.

We made our way along Lyall Parade, riding on the road rather than on the shared cycling/footpath, as there were so many people just standing there watching the waves.

One of many surfers heading out to catch the big one (photo by John)

That’s what it looked like when it broke (photo by John)

The steps down to the beach had been destroyed by the waves – perhaps in the last big swell
 a few weeks ago? (photo by John)

Near Waitaha Cove we spotted two colonies of sea birds: white seagulls on one side, and only a few metres further along, a group of black oyster catchers. I love their red beaks and eyes (click on the photo to enlarge it).

Seagulls at Waitaha Cove … (photo by John)

… and the oyster catchers

The rocks before Houghton Bay (photo by John)

The fury of the waves

Around the point towards Houghton Bay, where the waves rolling in looked somewhat more disciplined. But it was deceptive, because, a little further on, past the beach carpark, the road was covered in wave-tossed debris. Sightseeing cars were driving past very carefully, and we had to get off and walk, all the while watching out for that next swamping wave.

“Disciplined” waves rolling into Houghton Bay (photo by John)

Wave-tossed debris on the road at Houghton Bay (photo by John)

At the next bay – Island Bay – the normally placid waters of the bay were considerably churned up. Taputeranga Island, after which Island Bay is named, looked an even more likely prospect for an exciting "Five on a Treasure Island" adventure (I have this fantasy that this island would be a perfect Famous Five setting).

The pointy end of Taputeranga Island and the churned-up waters in the bay (photo by John)

All along the road, people were enjoying the spectacle. Some were staying safe, others took silly risks by getting too close to the waves. We took some photos near a rocky outcrop, where a father and his three young boys were watching the waves. “You should never get too close to the waves, or you might get swept off” I heard one of them say. “Yes” said the other “a tsunami would be fifty times as big as that!”.

Father and sons, learning about big waves

Close to Owhiro Bay, the waves were splashing onto the road, and we crossed to the other side to avoid a dousing.

Water, rocks and other debris on the road near Owhiro Bay and sea spray fills the air

A small “art installation” on the end of a tree trunk-sized piece of driftwood

This shed looks like it will be able to withstand the elements

By 3 pm we were on our way back to Lyall Bay. The clear skies were starting to show a few clouds over the hills and the city. Somewhere along here I watched a Qantas plane coming in for landing, right above a huge wave rolling into Lyall Bay. It was as if the plane was riding the wave. Quite clever. Too bad I wasn’t quick enough with my camera.

Looking towards Lyall Bay (photo by John)

From Lyall Parade we went up Onepu Road to the Elements Café, for coffee. A much better proposition than trying to get into the Spruce Goose, where the view would have been better, but the wait to be served much longer. On the way back to the car, we discovered the newly opened Leonie Gill Pathway, which runs between Lyall Bay and Kilbirnie. We rode along just some of it, as we were conscious of the time (we were expecting a guest for dinner).

The Leonie Gill Pathway (photo by John)

The ride was only 16 km, but it was a good one!

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A Ceilidh

On the Saturday night before this ride, we attended the 16th Annual Celtic Family Dance, organised by Mary and Duncan McDonald.

Duncan and Mary are Scottish country dancers, and Mary is a Scottish fiddler (violinist) and a primary school teacher, who teaches her kids Scottish country dances. They started organising these family dances to encourage people – families, children and friends – who are not Scottish country dancers to come along and try some dancing with a Scottish flavour. Anyone can join in – you don't need to know any of the dances beforehand.

A ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) is a great fun event, with dances that are much less “disciplined” than Scottish country dancing, and kids especially love it. Every year Mary organises her friends from the Scottish country dance band “Schiehallion” to play for the ceilidh, and she teaches the dances as the evening goes along.

Schiehallion Scottish Country Dance Band (photo by John)

People are lined up, listening to Mary’s instructions (photo by John)

As Mary advises all the local SCD clubs of this dance, there were quite a few of us SC dancers there. And in the middle of the evening, three sets (a set consists of eight people) of Scottish Country dancers did a demonstration of “Mairi’s Wedding”, a very popular dance – hopefully to entice non-SC dancers to want to take up SC dancing.

A “round-the-room” dance, later in the evening, when a lot of people had already gone home
 (photo by John)

We have attended this annual event for the last five years, and we always have a wonderful time.

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