Sunday, 21 January 2018

A Christmas Day city ride

Here we are in 2018. Happy New Year, folks! Nearly a whole month gone already, and I am still catching up on last year’s blogs. But only one more for 2017. While we did quite a few rides after our Taranaki holiday, they were all repeats of previous local rides, so not really worth writing up as blog posts.

But we did one local ride that was a little different. On Christmas Day, we biked in the city, which was practically deserted. We did this two Christmases ago, on a gloriously beautiful day, and we had been looking forward to this day being equally brilliant. But perversely, after all the weeks of wonderful weather, Christmas Day 2017 turned out to be disappointing – it was overcast and very windy. But we decided to go on our city bike ride anyway.

We set off at midday, and parked the car at the bottom of Hobson Street. First of all, we took photos of the Ministry of Defence building, in Aitken Street, which was being pulled down or – as the word now goes – “deconstructed”. It was damaged and declared unsafe after the Kaikoura earthquake in November 2016. A scandal really, as it was only ten years old. It was too expensive to repair, apparently. It seems it is more “cost effective” to demolish than to repair. A sign of our wasteful times? Still, would I have felt safe, working in an earthquake-damaged building, even though it had been repaired? No, probably not.

The “deconstruction” of Defence House (photo by John)

A mess of mangled metal and broken concrete (photo by John)

We wanted to go and look at the big pohutukawa tree in the middle of Parliament grounds, but there was a large group of people there, either a rally or a group picnic, so we exited again. Anyway, the big tree had already more or less finished flowering, which was disappointing, but not surprising. With all the warm weather we’d had, everything flowered earlier than usual. Even our own pohutukawa trees, which normally don't flower until New Year, or the first week of January, were flowering by Christmas.

But pohutukawas are interesting trees, as there seems to be no consistency in their flowering times, even among neighbouring trees, as was evident from the trees lining the edge of Parliament grounds. Some had nearly finished, one was in the best flush of flowering, and others hadn’t even started.

Pohutukawa trees in various stages of flowering (photo by John)

The downtown area was not as deserted as it had been that first time we did this. That was a bit disappointing too. There were quite a few small family groups walking through town. We biked down Lambton Quay, Willis Street, Manners Street, Courtenay Place, Cambridge Terrace, and doglegged through Chaffers Street (by the New World) to Oriental Parade.

We biked down Lambton Quay … (photo by John)

… along Courtenay Place … (photo by John)

… and through Chaffers Street to Oriental Parade (photo by John)

In contrast to our equivalent ride two years ago, when the beach had been packed with families enjoying the fine weather, today Oriental Bay was deserted, except for a dutiful trio of surf life saving patrol guys, and one lily-white bloke sitting on a towel who seemed determined to get a tan on Christmas day, even though the sun wasn't out and he was being sandblasted by the wind.

The lonely beach patrol … (photo by John)

… keeping a close watch on an empty beach

We were copping the sandblasting too, so we did not stop to get an ice cream. We didn't fancy hokey-pokey ice cream laced with sand. On our way back I noticed that the surf patrol had retired into the raised cabin, to shelter from the wind and flying sand. After that we decided to head for home, as it just wasn't very nice out there.

We decided to head home (photo by John)

To cap it off, it started to rain, enough for me to have to take my glasses off. The rain set in when we were loading the bikes into the car, and by the time we got home, it was pouring.

Home to cook Christmas dinner – of sorts – for just the two of us. A good movie on TV – "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" – and that was Christmas Day done and dusted for another year.

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