Friday, 8 December 2017

Folding Goldies Ride – Akatarawa

On the 1st of November, the Folding Goldies group went for a long ride over the Akatarawas. The plan was for us to meet at the Waikanae Station for the uphill ride.

The leader, Alastair Smith, described the ride thus: “The Akatarawa Road leads through farms and bush, making for a ride with a really remote feel. From Waikanae, the road winds steadily to the summit then it's downhill for a café stop at Staglands. [On the way down] we'll turn off at the newly reconstructed Birchville Bridge to come down the (now motor free) road that was built on the west side of the Hutt river after the 2015 flood. We'll probably catch a train back from Upper Hutt, though keen folk can carry on down the Hutt River Trail”.

He ended with a bit of a warning: “40km, 800m of climbing – if you're using electric assistance, make sure your battery is fully charged”.

We have done the Akatarawa Road once before with the Folding Goldies, but on that occasion we approached it from the Upper Hutt side. That was a hard enough slog (we did not have our e-bikes at the time), but I remembered the downhill into Waikanae as being incredibly steep. So I had a few misgivings about going up from the steep side.

On the appointed day, Alastair was not able to come along on the ride, as he was not well, so Lyn took the lead for this ride. We had a good number there - 11 people all up. We even had to fold our bikes on the train because there were already three bikes in that carriage.

Lyn, in the orange vest, was waiting for us at Waikanae station (photo by John)

Actually, the climb up to Staglands wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. In fact, I used level 3 assist most of the way, and even level 2 some of the time, as John had said not to use too much battery in case it wasn’t going to last the whole trip. But it was fine.

The road between Waikanae and Reikorangi was not very steep (photo by John)

Outside Reikorangi Church (photo by John)

Still outside Reikorangi Church (photo by John)

The road became a bit steeper … (photo by John)

Waiting for the stragglers after a pretty steep bit (photo by John)

When we got to the highest point, we found that the view was pretty disappointing. A bit of a dump, actually. I think the council should do something about this. But perhaps neither Upper Hutt City nor the Kapiti District think it is their problem, since it’s sort of in between the two.

When we got to the top, the view was less than inspiring (photo by John)

From here it was a nice descent to Staglands, where we stopped for lunch. A very pleasant interlude, with the conversation revolving around bikes and bike trips – of course. All punctuated by the calls of peacocks, the squabbles of geese, and the funny squeaky sounds of the guinea fowl as they strutted along in the dell below the café’s terrace.

Lunch at Staglands (photo by John)

Then we had another 20 km ride down (and up and down again) to Upper Hutt. At Birchville we crossed a new bridge, which led onto a narrow, but tarsealed road without any car traffic, winding along above the Akatarawa River – much nicer than having to ride on the Akatarawa Road itself. We got to Upper Hutt Station in time to catch the 2:30 train back to Wellington.

Simple for those who had boarded the Kapiti train in Wellington. But we had boarded at Takapu Road which is on the Kapiti Line, so that was where our car was parked. And we were now coming into Wellington on the Hutt Valley Line. I was thinking we would take the Kapiti train back to Tawa from Wellington.

However, Colin, who had to get back to Titahi Bay, said he was getting off at Ngauranga, and would bike up the Gorge and go home that way. John reckoned we should do that too. I balked at the thought of biking up Ngauranga Gorge. I really didn't want to, but John and Colin “ganged up” on me, telling me I was a wuss, and what was I worried about since I had an e-bike. So of course, I gave in.

So we biked up the Gorge. It wasn't as bad as I feared either, although it was not very pleasant with all the traffic rushing past. We biked through Johnsonville, and into Churton Park. From there I went home, and John went down to Middleton Road to bike to Tawa to fetch the car. I had done 47 km. John another 3 km more.

It had been a pretty good ride, despite my initial misgivings. And I had conquered my fear of biking up Ngauranga Gorge.

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