Saturday, 4 March 2017

Folding Goldies Ride – Te Whiti Riser

Last Wednesday, 1 March, we went on another Folding Goldies ride. This time, the organiser Alastair Smith suggested exploring the relatively newly completed Te Whiti Riser track. This is a 3.3 km track that meanders from Te Whiti Park in Lower Hutt up the Eastern Hills to connect with the ridge track that runs along the top of the Wainuiomata Hill. It is not very steep – no more than a 7% gradient – and according to Alastair’s email, “comfortably wide”.

The plan was to take the train to Woburn Station, ride the track to the top (about 230m of climbing), admire the views, and ride back down the same way. Then bike to Petone for lunch somewhere, and take the train back into town. As an added interest, Simon Morton of RNZ's This Way Up had asked to come along on the ride, and would probably want to do some interviews with FG members.

We had heard about this track, and were keen to try it, so this was a good opportunity. But unfortunately, for John and me, this turned out to be one of our less successful rides.

Instead of taking the train to Woburn, we parked the car on the Petone foreshore, and biked up to Woburn station, to meet the others. It was a large group, 11 including Simon – we are growing! Though not all ride "foldies", we are mostly all “goldies”.

Nigel emerges from the train with his bike (photo by John)

Unfolding the folding bikes on the platform – with so many bikes on the train at once,
the folding bikes had to be folded to be allowed on (photo by John)

Simon had already started interviewing people on the train, and he lost no time in talking to those of us waiting on the platform as well.

Simon Morton interviews Colin on the train (photo by Alastair Smith)

Simon talks to Frank at Woburn Station (photo by John)

Introductions – Désirée, Nigel, Colin, Frank (photo by John)

A group photo taken by Simon Morton

Introductions over, we biked along Whites Line to Te Whiti Park, from where the track starts.

Negotiating the gate at the bottom of the track ... (photo by John)

... and off they go (photo by John)

Though the track was not steep, it was gravel, and it did meander up a steep hillside, with likely steep drops beside the track. Because of his balance limitations John decided to ride his non-electric Giant. It is lighter and easier to manoeuvre than the e-bike.

The track was not particularly steep (photo by John)

John and I negotiate a corner (photo by Simon Morton)

Under normal circumstances, the gradient should not have presented any difficulties, even with a non-electric bike. But John was having trouble. After only a fairly short distance, he had to stop and catch his breath. Determined to keep going, he waited a few minutes and carried on. But standing astride his bike, leaning over his handlebars, panting and out of breath, he worried me.

Alastair waited for us to catch up (photo by John)

Alastair, concerned not to lose anyone, waited for us to catch up. “How are you going?” John wasn’t going too well, as for me, my response was “I’m hating it!”.

I was riding my e-bike – being such a sook when it comes to hills. But I found the track hard to negotiate because of its narrowness (only 1.2m wide) and the tight corners at times. And the drop to the side of the track freaked me out big time. I have mentioned in other blog posts how I have a fear of ditches and drops (going back to childhood days), which sets up a panic response. On this track, I was getting plenty of adrenalin surges. 

John had several stop/start goes, each time having to wait to recover before being able to go on. I was really concerned, and reminded him not to be a hero. It would be better to stop before things got even worse. We had a slightly longer stop at a bridge spanning a bush-clad gully. It was shady there, and a bit cooler than the brilliantly sunny and hot hillside we had just come up.

Another breather – in the shade – with Alastair keeping an eye on us

We carried on for another short distance, but finally John gave in, and agreed to stop. We didn’t want this to develop into a major emergency with a chopper having to medevac him out. We returned to the shade of the bridge, and told Alastair that we would wait there while the rest of the group rode to the top and came back. 

It was a good place to sit and wait. A bit of a cut-out on the bank made a useful seat, and after a while we amused ourselves taking photos. And the rear-facing camera on time-lapse on John’s bike took several pictures of us as well.

Recovering in the shade (photo by John’s time-lapse camera)

The sound of the cicadas was deafening! (photo by John)

The bridge clings to the edge of the gully, following its contours (photo by John)

John takes a photo of the gully below (photo by John)

Several large trees had been cut down to make room for the bridge (photo by John)

Supplejack vines hang from the trees (photo by John)

I wandered down the track to take some pictures of the view, which looks out over Lower Hutt.

A glimpse of the Hutt Valley down the track

Lower Hutt and the Western Hills

The track goes somewhere in amongst the trees and scrub to the top

It is a real pity we didn’t make it to the top, because the view is wonderful, looking out over the Hutt Valley, and out towards the harbour on one side, and down into the Wainuiomata Valley on the other – or so one of them told us.

The view from the top (photo by Alastair Smith)

Before long, the group returned, having made it to the top and back. Simon was among the first to get back. He is quite a seasoned cyclist and mountain bike rider. We really enjoyed his TV series “Along for the Ride”, a couple of years ago. 

Simon was among the first to get back. Note all the recording gear
hanging around his neck (photo by John)

Simon enquires how John is feeling now

A satisfied bunch of riders returns from the top (photo by John)

We gingerly made our way back down to the bottom of the track. Simon had a very useful tip for me. If I lowered my seat, I would have more control and I would be able to put a foot on the ground if I felt “unsafe” on tight corners. I did as he suggested, and the way down felt much less panicky. It really is a lovely track – barring any health or panic issues …

It really is a lovely track (photo by John)

Nearly there …

When everyone had got to the bottom of the track, and Alastair had counted us to make sure all were present and correct, Simon left the group. This was “work” for him after all, and he had to get back to the office. He promised to let us know when the programme would be aired on Radio NZ – probably in three or four weeks.

Note (added 5 April): The programme was aired on Radio NZ's "This Way Up" on 1 April, with the title "The bike gang with gold cards". It can still be accessed online here. (If you can't see the photos in this link, "refresh" the link, and the photos should appear.)

Dayll and Steven left the group along the way as well, so there were only eight of us left to have lunch at the Esplanade Cabaret on the Petone foreshore. This place was a revelation to us. We had biked past it numerous times, but didn’t know it was a café. The name Cabaret suggested a night time venue, so we never investigated.

It turned out to be a large and very busy café, upstairs, featuring a deck with a wonderful view out to the harbour. And they make the best iced coffee we have had anywhere in a long time …

Lunch at the Esplanade Cabaret in Petone (photo by John)

The view from the deck

After lunch, some took the train back to Wellington, and some decided to bike back. For John and me it was just a very short distance back to where we had parked the car.

By the time we got back to the car, John was feeling so awful, that I thought I should take him into A&E to have his heart checked out.

I think it was the right thing to do. They did the usual tests to see if he had suffered a heart attack. Negative, fortunately. But obviously something had happened that was not right. His heart suffers from the occasional “go-slow” (bigeminy), where effectively his heart rate goes down to about half of what it should be. We think that this is what caused him to not be able to cope with what normally would have been a relatively easy ride.

The hospital kept him in overnight and he did a treadmill test the next morning, which he managed OK. He came home later that day, but he is not quite back to his usual self yet. Let’s hope he comes right soon.

Note: Thank you to Simon and Alastair for sharing their photos.

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