Monday, 11 November 2019

A Wairarapa weekend

It’s been a busy year for me with lots of Scottish country dance activities, but not quite so many bike outings. We have been biking, but only short local rides – not worth blogging about. Also the weather has not been very conducive to getting out on the bikes.

But this week I got a nudge from a friend, who complained that she hadn’t had any interesting blog reading to go with her morning cup of coffee. So since we had an interesting couple of days in the Wairarapa last weekend, here we are with another blog!

The prime reason we went to the Wairarapa was that we wanted to attend a dance in Carterton, at which special Scottish musicians were going to be providing the music, on the Saturday night. Also happening in Carterton that weekend was the Wairarapa A&P Show,  and I love an A&P show. And we had never yet biked around Masterton, so we decided to stay overnight and bike on the Sunday.

We set off nice and early on Saturday 2 November, to get to the A&P show by 10 am. For readers outside of New Zealand – an A&P show is a region’s Agricultural and Pastoral (and nowadays Industrial as well) show, where the farming communities get to show off their skills in various fields, and related industries show their wares.

Right near the entrance to the large Clareville showgrounds were the miniature horses and their little carriages. Delightful, dapper little horses were being driven around the field and being judged on their driver’s skills, the appearance of horse and rig, speed, behaviour and the like. I watched as a carriage pulled up near their supporters, and used baby wipes to clean down the harness, reins and the horse’s shoulders, ears and face. It was obviously very important to look perfect!

Beautiful miniature horses and their drivers compete for skills and looks (photo by John)

Then it was off to see the dog trials. Farmers and their special sheep dogs compete to manoeuvre three often very willful and obstreperous sheep around a course involving gates, a bridge and finishing being herded into a pen – all within a timeframe of nine minutes. The teamwork between man and dog is wonderful, and watching the dog anticipating the sheep’s break-outs and the man’s commands is supreme entertainment.

There’s always one that tries to escape! (photo by John)

The next stop was the “Strong Man” and “Strong Woman” competition. They had to lift a big dumbbell-type object, into which extra weights could be threaded in the ends. They had to lift it up onto their shoulder using both hands – an enormous effort in itself – and then had to lift it above their head with one hand until the arm was at full stretch. Some had to have several goes at this last effort, not all of them successful. We watched some women lifting unimaginable weights, cheered on by their coach, co-competitors and supporters on the sidelines. Impressive!

Yesss! (photo by John)

Shearing is always a favourite with the crowd. There are two simultaneous competitions going on: one for the shearers, who have to shear five sheep in a minimum of time, ensuring they do a clean job, with no skin cuts, of course; the other is for the woolhandlers who take the fleece, fling it onto the sorting table, clear all the mucky bits off it, roll it up and place it in the right basket while racing against the clock. There is lots to look at and it's really exciting to watch.

The shearers and their time-keepers (photo by John)

Always a magical moment, when the fleece is thrown onto the sorting table (photo by John)

The woolhandlers remove the ‘daggy’ bits in record time

All that walking around and watching people work so hard makes one hungry, and it was a long time since breakfast, so we stopped for a French crêpe – with lemon curd for me, and sugar and cinnamon for John – yum!

The skill of the crêpe maker (photo by John)

With crêpes in hand we wandered around the agricultural machinery on display – huge tractors, even bigger tractors, farm-bikes, both adult-size and child-size (well explored by the kids!), electric farm-bikes and more.

One of the huge tractors

Other delights to be had were a children’s ‘train’ ride, show jumping competitions, ride-on lawnmower races (very noisy and smelly!), and livestock in pens – ponies, Clydesdales, Highland cattle, alpacas, coloured ewes with lambs, pigs with piglets, and fancy chooks.

Train ride (photo by John)

You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours … (photo by John)

Coloured sheep - mum and her offspring

This little girl won a ribbon for her handling and presentation skills in showing off her beautiful Highland calf (photo by John)

By 2 pm, we’d seen all we wanted to see, and we headed to Masterton for some lunch and a wander around the town centre. Eventually we made our way to the motel where all the other units were also occupied by Scottish country dancers, so we met up with lots of people we knew.

In the evening, we all headed off to the dance, which was being held in the Carterton Event Centre – a very nice venue. The dance had been dubbed “The Scarecrow Caper”, because another Wairarapa event that happens in early November is the Scarecrows’ Big Day Out in and around Gladstone, a short distance away from Carterton. 

In keeping with the theme, the stage had been decorated with small scarecrows, which had been named after dances.

Scottish duo Marian Anderson and Max Ketchin share the stage with a bunch of scarecrows (photo by John)

The venue had plenty of room for the 80 or 90 dancers (photo by John)

It was an excellent dancing night, with a great programme of dances and wonderful music. We got back to our motel tired but satisfied.


The next day, Sunday, we planned to bike around Henley Lake in Masterton in the morning, and in the afternoon, we thought we would ride the Woodside Trail in Greytown. We drove to Queen Elizabeth II Park, where we started our ride.

After having suffered the coldest and wettest October for several years in Wellington, this was the first time we were able to ride in short sleeves, and without jackets. It turned out very warm indeed.

We parked near Queen Elizabeth II Park to begin our ride (photo by John)

We had a vague idea of which direction Henley Lake was – through QEII Park and out – but were not sure how to get there. Anyway, we rode off into the park, past a children’s playground and a bowling club, and ended up riding on wide paths through a cemetery. We were obviously not going in the right direction, so we asked a gentleman walking his dog, and he told us to go across a large field to Colombo Street, and across the road and bridge to the Henley Lake track.

The track to Henley Lake (photo by John)

We arrived at Henley Lake just in time to see three dragon boats arriving to line up for the start of a race. What luck!

A dragon boat crew receive instructions to paddle backwards into place

Three crews line up for the start of the race

We watched the start of the race, then pedalled as fast as we could around the lake (which is not very big) to see them arriving at the end, then turning around to go back to the launching place.

We rode around the lake to the other end (photo by John)

At the launching place we found several crews awaiting their turn – all kitted out in team t-shirts and matching life jackets. There was also a coffee cart, so we got ourselves a coffee and stayed for a while to watch proceedings.

The bow of one of the dragon boats, adorned with the head of a dragon … (photo by John)

… and the rear, the tail of the dragon (photo by John)

Enjoying a cup of coffee in the sun (photo by John)

The next lot of competitors arrive back (photo by John)

Back on the bikes, leaving the excitement of the dragon boat racing behind us (photo by John)

A final look at Henley Lake (photo by John)

On our way back to the car, we found another track alongside the Waipoua River, and we ended up on Opaki Road, and back to the entrance to QE II Park, on Dixon Street. We had biked just 10 km.

The Waipoua River

By the time we got back to the car, it was very hot. Although we had originally thought we would do more biking on the Woodside Trail in Greytown, we decided that it was too hot for that. So we had lunch in Greytown and headed off home.

It had been a lovely weekend, with lots of variety. And it was so good to have fine and warm weather – but we're now back to the less than wonderful Wellington climate. While the rest of New Zealand had been basking in temperatures in the mid-to-high 20s during that weekend, Wellington had barely made it to 16 degrees!

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