Sunday, 22 January 2017

Folding Goldies ride to Te Marua

Happy New Year! A bit late in the piece with January three-quarters gone, but oh well, better late than never.

I’ve been very remiss in blogging our rides in the last couple of months. I have four rides to write up – worthwhile ones, that is – and I’ll try to get them written and posted in the next few days. Other short local or repeat rides are not worth writing up.

As I have mentioned before, we’d been limited in our rides by the renovations to our house, and the need for one of us to be around for the tradesmen. I am pleased to be able to say that it was all done, completed, finished with, just over a week before Christmas, and we are very happy with the results. But we are so glad it’s finished at long last, and we have our house back to ourselves.

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On 15 December, we went for a Folding Goldies ride to Te Marua, to sample Kevin Bold’s famous scones at Stonestead Devonshire Teas. The plan was to take the train to Upper Hutt, bike up into the Mangaroa Valley to Tunnel Gully, then over to Te Marua for the scones, and return to Upper (or Lower!) Hutt on the River Trail. Here is the map Alastair provided.

There were only four of us. Since the weather was not looking very promising, several people who had said they would go, piked out. Others were too busy – it was the lead-up to Christmas after all.

I had reservations about the weather too, but we went anyway. To begin with it wasn’t too bad, the rain was just a persistent drizzle, and the wind was not too strong.

So up the hill to the Mangaroa Valley we rode. The road up into the valley is quite a climb, but our e-bikes made it easy. Alastair was also riding his e-bike, but Frank was using just good old-fashioned leg power, and Alastair stayed with him. So when we got to the top, we had to wait for them to catch up.

Waiting for Alastair and Frank (photo by John)

As we pedalled along the valley, I was just starting to think that the weather wasn’t really too terrible, when all of a sudden the rain came down in sheets, and the wind tried to push us sideways. The rain was so bad, I had water streaming into my eyes (not wearing my glasses of course) and I had to keep rubbing my eyes so I could see where I was going.

Grim-faced into the wind … (photo by John)

… and rain (photo by John)

When we got to the crossroads where we would have turned off towards Tunnel Gully, Alastair gave us a choice: “20 minutes, on gravel, through the tunnel to the scones, or stay on the road, skip the tunnel and just 10 minutes to the scones?”. Not a hard decision. Of course we chose to skip the tunnel (John doesn’t like tunnels anyway), and get to shelter from the rain more quickly. By the time we got to Stonestead, we were soaked through.

We had heard from Alastair and other cyclists about this Devonshire Tea House. The scones were a destination in themselves, they said. Kevin, the owner, provides Devonshire teas with scones, jam and cream. No other fare. And he has quite a ritual. Every customer gets their own tray, teapot, cup and saucer, milk jug, a plate with a huge scone and two little dishes for clotted cream and jam.

There was a choice of scones – plain, date, raisin, or cheese – and a selection of home-made jams – strawberry, blackberry or apricot. Or you could choose to have mustard or home-made relish with a cheese scone. Then there was an array of about eight different kinds of tea. When it was my turn, I had to ask what sort of tea he would recommend, as I am not a tea drinker – my usual beverage is coffee – so Kevin said he could make me some plunger coffee. Excellent. The cheese scone and relish went down very nicely too.

Despite the weather, the tearoom was pretty full, so we had to carry our trays upstairs to find a table. What an interesting place! There were several cabinets with displays of fine china tea-sets, as well as, bizarrely, a collection of garden gnomes in two of the wall cabinets.

We each had our own individual trays (photo by John)

Displays of fancy china tea-sets (photo by John)

The wall cabinets had slanted mirrors in them so that you could see the top of the china

A cabinet full of garden gnomes

Having more or less dried out during lunch, we were pleased to find, when we were ready to leave, that the rain had stopped and the sun was making feeble attempts to pierce through the cloud cover.

It had stopped raining when we were ready to resume our ride

We left Te Marua and headed to the River Trail. The section between there and Harcourt Park in Upper Hutt is gravel and quite narrow in places, and it caused John a bit of strife. The track has a drop to the river on the right, and since John now has to wear a patch over his right eye, he has no peripheral vision on that side, which made things a bit more hazardous for him. He had to get off and walk a few times.

Frank and John on the track near Birchville (photo by Alastair Smith)

From Harcourt Park we were on familiar territory, and it was more enjoyable now that the weather was improving.

A dramatic sky, as we cycle towards Silverstream (photo by John)

As we were riding past Riverstone Terraces, John was interested in the slips that had occurred from the terraces above the river. We are not sure if these are the result of the 14 November earthquake, or of the torrential rains the region suffered just two days later. One would hope that houses have not been built too close to the edge of the cliff.

Slips near Riverstone Terraces (photo by John)

We carried on past Upper Hutt to Silverstream to take the train from there. When we got back to our car, parked on the foreshore at Petone, the wind was so strong that I had to hold on to the boot lid with one hand to stop it flapping about, and hold onto one of the bikes with the other hand to stop it blowing over, while John loaded the other bike. Wellington breezes sure pack a punch!

Despite the less than perfect weather, it had been an enjoyable ride. We rode about 28 km.

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