Saturday 27 April 2013

Waikanae Riverbank

Yesterday was a beautiful day, and we decided that a trip up to the Kapiti Coast would be a good idea. We once went for a lovely walk from the Otaihanga Domain, near Paraparaumu, along the Waikanae River towards the beach. At that time we didn’t explore the path going back up the river. So the night before our ride, John checked the area around the river on Google Earth, which showed quite clearly that there was a track from near the mouth of the river along the north bank all the way to the road bridge (SH1) and another on the south bank back to the start. 

We parked the car at the dead-end of The Drive, Paraparaumu, and cycled the short distance to the Otaihanga Domain.

There is a nice foot bridge across the river, and at first we turned left, towards the beach. The water level in the river was high, as the tide was in. The track was pretty close to the water, and in some places it was quite muddy. Then we struck long stretch where it was awash, so we gave up on getting to the beach and turned around.

We had to stop a few times for John to minister to my bike, which was making rattling noises. It’s very useful having a husband who can take care of such things. Especially one who never goes anywhere without a set of tools.

The track towards the main road offered quite a varied landscape. It led through a wooded area between the river and farmland. The riding surface was variable in quality – sometimes wide and smooth, but in some places it was narrow and muddy, especially in the shade of the trees. There must have been a lot of rain recently.

At one stage there was a barrier and a notice telling us that the land beyond it was private land, and that people were welcome to go there provided they stayed on the track. Access was either over a three-step stile, or by ducking under a rail. Handy having folding bikes, as we just folded down the handlebars to fit under the barrier.

This land belonged to a pony club, judging from the horses in the paddocks, and a few riders practicing small jumps in a ring. Here the track all but petered out, and it became a very skinny muddy trail through the grass. Not a nice surface to cycle on as we tried to avoid the puddles, quite hard work.

As we got closer to the main road, we went up and down a very narrow, winding, slippery path between closely planted trees. John advice to negotiate this – “go slowly”. Yes, well … I went so slowly I stalled, and slammed my shoulder against a tree as I fell off the bike. Lucky the tree was there, actually, or I would have rolled down the bank, and maybe ended up in the drink.

Once at the main road, we crossed the road bridge – walking our bikes on the footpath. The track on the south bank of the river was very different – nice and wide all the way, and the landscape was much more open. One of the more interesting sights was a paddock of ostriches, peacefully grazing.

We stopped several times to take photos. John tried out his latest adaptation – he used a bracket to mount a small camera on his handlebar. This way he only needs to stop cycling, and can take a picture of the road or landscape ahead, without having to rummage about to get his camera out. Of course, he still had another camera with him to take the “good” photos. Photography is one of his great interests, and he’s very good at it. As you can see on this blog, his photos (always acknowledged) are way better than mine.

Before returning to the car, we also rode the track through the Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve. This is a narrow meandering path – sometimes on solid land, and sometimes on boardwalks across the swampy bits – and in the more twisty parts it was a bit tricky to negotiate without keeling off the edge.

In total we rode 17 kms. I must be getting fitter, as my body did not complain (too much). Yay!

We finished another very enjoyable excursion with lunch at the 180 Degrees Café on Paraparaumu’s Marine Parade, and a walk around the shopping streets with an icecream cone in hand..

Thursday 25 April 2013

Hutt River trail - again

We haven’t cycled for ten days since coming back from our Hawke’s Bay trip because the weather has not been very inviting. We’ve had quite a lot of rain and wind. But today was fine, though still blowing a brisk northerly.

We decided to ride the Hutt River trail again. We parked the car at Seaview. Here the view over the river mouth was very different from the last time we were there. There has been quite heavy rain in the Tararua Ranges in the past couple of weeks, and the water in the river was higher and dirtier than it was a month ago, and it seemed to be flowing more swiftly too.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

First Rides


12 March 2013

My first ride on my lovely brand-new Giant Expressway 2 folding bike was a little baby-steps one in Seatoun, a quiet suburb, with wide flat streets. After John adjusted the seat and the handlebar so I wouldn’t have to lean on my hands too much, I tootled off in his wake. Just as well there was no traffic, as I think I was just a mite wobbly to begin with and not exactly travelling in a straight line.

It is true that if you learned to ride a bike as a child, you never forget how. Isn’t it fascinating that your body just remembers all the moves, even after more than 50 years (I found that with skiing too after 30 years – what a thrill that was!).

Along with the bike, I had bought some cycling gloves which were well padded under the thumb joint and heel of the hand, and they helped a lot in taking some of the pressure off my hands. I also found that if I didn’t grip the handlebar, but instead leaned on the outer padded heel of my hands, with my thumbs on the top, rather than around the bar, the pressure on my thumbs was not quite so bad.

Of course you have to grip the handlebar when you want to use the brakes. This was something I had to re-learn: slowing down before crossing an intersection, without wobbling or having to step off, and letting go of one hand to indicate that I was turning. More wobbles!

We rode around many of the empty streets, and then along the coast road towards Worser Bay and back. We did about 6km in half an hour. That might not sound impressive, but it was enough for me, for a first time. I reckoned I had deserved the coffee we had at the Seatoun Café afterwards ( They serve nice strong flat whites and lovely muffins. Bliss!

15 March 2013

My first big ride. Hutt Valley River Trail – 1st section – Seaview to Avalon.

The Hutt River Trail is a flat walking and cycling track that runs from Hikoikoi Reserve in Petone, along the East bank of the Hutt River to Upper Hutt. As State Highway 2 runs on the other side of the river, there are a number of bridges that the track dips under. These bridges also provide convenient places to break the journey.

We decided that today we would ride for an hour, and see how far we would get, then turn around and return the way we had come. It was a warm sunny day with a light northerly wind, so we would have a head wind on the way out, and a tailwind coming back.

We parked the car at Seaview, across the bridge from Petone. The track skirts the Hutt River and is flat, apart from a few little dips and rises where the track goes under bridges. It is very pretty with open views on the river in places, and in other places there are trees providing shelter from the down-valley wind.

I have more or less got the hang of the gears – crank the number down if you want less resistance, as in going up a slope or against the wind, crank the number up when you want more resistance, as in going down a hill or with a tail wind. John tried to explain it by comparing it with the gears in a car, but I told him not to try to blind me with science, it would only confuse me more. (Oh, I get it now – to go up a steep hill in a car, you need to change down to a lower gear! My “aha” moment!),

The combination of taking Voltaren before biking, using padded gloves, a smooth surface to ride on (no gravel), and having the seat and handlebars at the right height so that I don’t have to lean on them, all meant that I had minimal discomfort in my hands.

We rode as far as Avalon. I didn’t want to overdo things on a first outing, and we still had to ride back. It was nice having a tail wind on the way back.

In all we did 18kms, in about two hours. John said I “did very well”. Yes, I think I did. I was quite pleased with myself. But I was tired. After this I reckoned I was entitled to a nice lunch, so we went to Days Bay and had a very nice lunch at the Chocolate Dayz Café.

20 March 2013

Hutt Valley River Trail – 2nd section – Avalon to Silverstream

Today we rode the next bit of the Hutt River bike trail. We parked the car at Avalon and rode to some distance beyond the Silverstream bridges, just over 10km. Then we turned around, so we did a total of 21km, which took us about two hours.

We started out on the track on top of the stopbank, which was quite smooth to begin with, but after a while the surface deteriorated – it consisted of concrete slabs, but in quite bad repair, with cracks and filled-in potholes. It smoothed out near Naenae. When we got to somewhere near Stokes Valley, the track became a very narrow footpath beside the road with cars whizzing past. I didn’t feel confident that I wouldn’t keel off the edge of the footpath, so I walked it. We could have gone on another track which skirted the river, but that was on gravel so I didn’t want to do that. But then after a while the track we were on petered out and we would have had to ride on the road, so I chose the lesser of two evils and John lifted our bikes over the fence, so that we could join the gravel track. It actually wasn’t as bad as I had feared, reasonably smooth in fact, most of the way, anyway.

On our way back we stayed on the gravel track, which also avoided the bumpy stopbank track, which was good. There was just one bit that I really didn’t like, below the bit of road we had walked on the way up. The track became quite narrow and winding, with bush on the left and a drop on the right. I thought it was rather scary, so I chickened out and walked for a bit. The rest of the gravel track was OK. The last few kilometres, though, I was getting quite a sore tailbone, and my thighs were certainly feeling it.

21 March

Te Ara Harakeke – Plimmerton to Paremata Bridge

This track goes from the Paremata Bridge, along the Taupo swamp, near the motorway, up to Pukerua. Only we got it wrong. We thought it would also go along the Pauatahanui Inlet, but it didn’t, so we rode the “wrong” bit of it.

We parked by the Plimmerton railway station, and set off on the Ara Harakeke Cycle Track, in the direction of Paremata.

The track, part of it smooth, part of it gravel, took us along the water, then through the Ngatitoa Domain and past the Marina. We went under the Paremata Bridge, but then the track petered out. We tried going along the main road (on the footpath) and to where there is a walking track, but it was not rideable, so we turned back. We explored a bit beyond the Domain, but then went back to the car. In all we did only 6.3 kms, about 40 minutes. But that was OK.

While we were having a coffee at the local café, another couple arrived, also on fold-up bikes. We got talking, and spent a pleasant half hour exchanging experiences, and John helped them to sort out a problem with the chain on one of their bikes. They were retired like us, and this was only their second ride out on their new bikes. They had started their ride from the Paremata bridge and had gone along Karehana Bay, as far as the Marae.

Having had a look at a map of the track, I think we should explore in that direction sometime, and also do the Airlie Rd track, which after a gentle rise, is a flat ride to Pukerua Bay.

27 March

Hutt Valley River Trail – 3rd section – Silverstream to Birchville

We left the car under the trees, in a little park by the two Silverstream bridges. It was a gorgeous autumn day, sunny and calm, and the views across the river were quite beautiful. The trees are very subtly changing colour, the leaves are starting to go yellow and a bit of brown. Lovely wide flat trail, but it was mostly on gravel, so well before we got back to the car, I was suffering from severe “coccyx-shudder” – a very sore tailbone. The hands were not too bad. I am mostly leaning on the heels of my hands, which seem to be able to take the pressure OK.

We rode about 11kms out, and got to a place beyond the Totara Park Bridge, near Maoribank, according to the map, where the track suddenly became steep and narrow. A bit scary, I thought. We stopped where the track overlooked a bend in the river to take photos. I didn’t like the look of the path ahead. We’d done 11kms, and my sore tail was telling me I’d had enough, especially as we still had to get back to the car. So we turned around and headed back.

Despite a rather sore butt, it was a very enjoyable ride. As I am more confident now, I am able to look at my surroundings more, and I stopped a few times to take photos.

We did 22 kms in just over two hours. The very nifty bike “computer” that John fixed onto each of our bikes can be zeroed before each ride, but it also has an odometer, which records the total distance you have done overall. So far my total is 72kms. It also has a clock, and it records the maximum speed you’ve done – 21.4 km/hr in my case. That sounds impressive, but actually the only bit that was as fast as that was when the track went down into a hollow, where I freewheeled at speed, only to have to work hard to get up the other side. In fact our average speed is about 10km per hour.

3 April

Te Ara Harakeke – Plimmerton to Pukerua and foreshore Plimmerton to Horoeka Marae.

Having done the lower part of this Ara Harakeke Track two weeks before, we decided we should do the upper part of it. We parked by the Plimmerton station again, went under the station underpass, and up onto the track. It was a nice smooth track, quite flat to begin with, past a sportsground, then on a bit of road through an industrial area, past the truck weigh station on the motorway north. Then the track went between the road and the Taupo swamp. All smooth and plain sailing, except for the headwind.

Until we got to Whenua Tapu. From there the track started to climb, gently in places, steeper in others. I found it hard going, especially with the strong headwind. I really did try to keep going, gritting my teeth and telling myself “I can do this, I can do this”, but eventually it was just too hard, on my legs, and heart, and I had to get off and walk a couple of times. John was very patient, and waited for me while I caught up. Finally, John had got to the top at Pukerua, and I was half-way up the slope to get there, but I just couldn’t do anymore, so I signaled to him to turn around and go back.

The way back was a joyful tootle downhill with a tailwind. "Wheeee!" John said “just be careful and don’t go over 30km/hr” (on my cute little odometer). I didn’t fancy going any faster than that anyway, but I did get to 28km/hr at one point.

By the time we got back to Plimmerton, we had only been going for an hour, and had done only 10kms, so we carried on along the foreshore to Karihana Bay and beyond. We went as far as we could, and turned around when we got to a sign saying “Horoeka Marae – private road. Only walkers allowed”.

4 April

Eastbourne to Pencarrow Lighthouse

It was blowing from the south today, but not very strongly, and John suggested we could try the Eastbourne to Pencarrow road. With a southerly we would have a headwind on the way out, and a tailwind back.

The track from Eastbourne to the Baring Head Lighthouse is a gravel road, but there is no access to cars. Walkers and cyclists are allowed. John had to lift the bikes over the gate, as the little access gap was too small to get the bikes through.

John had fitted my bike with a new padded gel saddle with a groove to avoid pressure on the tailbone. I think it made quite a difference. Though we were riding on gravel all the way, my tail didn’t start to protest until about the 13km mark, when we were on the way back.

It is a simply gorgeous coast, quite wild. The tide was in and the waves were breaking around the rocks off the stony beach. On the other side of the road, the steep, gorse-covered hills of the Orongorongos.

With the lovely weather, the beauty of the scenery and the relatively calm seas, it was hard to believe that this was the same wild coast where, on 8 April 1968, just four days short of 45 years ago, many of the survivors of the sinking ferry Wahine were blown to shore.

The road snakes in and out of little bays. Near the points, the southerly would hit us, then as you came round into the shelter of the hill, it was back to balmy calm.

There were a few sheep that came crashing out of the shrubbery, obviously having been disturbed by these intruders. They galloped down the road ahead of us and disappeared back into the gorse further down. We were overtaken by a gaggle of guys in red fluoro vests on mountain bikes and we saw them again later when they were half-way up a steep track towards the top lighthouse.

At Pencarrow there are two lighthouses - one on top of the hill and one between the road and the water. The wind was pretty strong near there. Today was actually quite a mild day, I wouldn’t like to be there on a stormy day. A bit further round we were in the shade of the hill, and there was a nasty smell – from a sewer outlet, I think – and at the base of the rocky hill, there were two caves. We didn’t check them out.

Around the next bay, there were a couple of lakes – Lake Kohangapiripiri and Lake Kohangatera. We got to the site of the first lake, except that with the very dry summer we’ve been having, there wasn’t much lake to be seen. There was a big sign giving information about Lake Kohangapiripiri Raised Beach Ridge. It is a area of sensitive ecology. On the very wide shingle beach were patches of very low-growing plants, of different types. This is what it says on a DOC (Dept of Conservation) website: “Freshwater lakes so close to the sea are uncommon, particularly in the relatively unmodified state of the Pencarrow Lakes. They were formed in drowned valleys that have been blocked off from the ocean by beach ridges still bearing the evidence of earthquake history in the region”. 

This is as far as we went. We didn’t go to the second lake, or to the Baring Head Lighthouse, which is another four or five kms further along. But we will do that another day – on a windless day.

This was a really enjoyable ride. In total we did 16.5 kms, and it took us just under two hours – because we kept stopping to take photographs.

10-13 April 2013

Cycling holiday in Hawke’s Bay

Last week, John and I packed up our folding bikes into our little Nissan Micra and spent a delightful few days cycling along some of the Hawke's Bay cycle trails. We stayed in a cottage in Clive, with direct access to a cycle trail, through the gate at the bottom of the garden.

Hawke’s Bay has a fantastic network of cycle trails, about 180 kms in all. We rode about 110 of those. The trails are mostly along the top of flood stopbanks, on nice, flat, firm lime sand surfaces. They go through areas that you cannot see from the road. One of these is the beautiful East Clive Wetland, between the beach and the stopbanks running south from the Clive River.

On our first day, we cycled a return trip from Clive through Haumoana to the Clifton Cafe, at the end of the road, from where the tours to Cape Kidnappers leave. We were lucky it was Wednesday, as the café is closed on Monday and Tuesday, and I would have been quite miffed if I hadn’t been able to have a coffee and lunch before tackling the return trip. We rode 35 kms in total that day. Quite a feat, I thought, for someone who’s only been cycling again for a month. But ouch! My poor sore behind and thighs!

The landscape is wonderfully varied – wetlands with lots of black swans, pukekos, white herons, ducks and other birds; orchards, red apples on the trees and wooden crates stacked, ready for harvest; vineyards, that had already been harvested; copses of yellowing poplars, with the rich autumnal fragrance of fallen leaves; the river, and of course, the sea.

The second day, we cycled the Puketapu loop, along stopbanks on both sides of the Tutaekuri River, and going through patches of wooded areas. At Puketapu, our halfway point, we had a well-deserved stop at the Puketapu Pub. It’s supposed to have an award-winning restaurant, but their coffee, I’m afraid to say, was not up to scratch.

Just before we got to the pub, we had to cycle to the top of quite a steep rise, which very nearly killed me – well, that’s a bit of poetic license – but for a “flatlander” like me, it was a big deal. Also rather scary was having to go over a one-lane road bridge, without separate cycle lane. John’s advice: “Take up ALL of the road”, i.e. ride down the middle of it, which meant that cars would HAVE to slow down behind you, and not try to overtake you. All the same, I felt seriously rattled when an impatient driver roared up behind me. I was glad to get to the end of the bridge, and to be able to scuttle off the road.

The next day, our ride through Ahuriri was troubled by moderate head winds. Some of the riding surface was smooth concrete which was a relief, considering the soreness of our muscles and behinds from the previous days’ cycling. We had planned to ride around the estuary, but the cross wind was unpleasant and made it hard work. I was feeling really tired, and was not able to get up much speed, despite the smooth surface. We rode along the Westshore waterfront, a wide beach with fairly featureless scenery, compared to the lovely views we’d had on other days. We stopped at the Snapper Cafe for some lunch before returning the way we came, with the wind now behind us. I was glad that was “only” 20 kms, my legs simply couldn’t have done more.

On our last day we rode from Clive past the wetlands again and then turned inland along the Tukituki River, towards Havelock North. This is part of a much longer, more challenging loop. We only did the short, easy (i.e. flat) first quarter of it, stopped at the Tuki Kitchen for a delicious lunch, then turned around and rode back.

One (minor) irritation was the many gates we had to negotiate. I’d just be getting into a rhythm, when we’d have to stop, get off, go through the narrow gap next to the gate, and then I’d have to get back on (each time you get back into the saddle your tail hurts again, till it “beds in” to become background pain) and find the rhythm again.

As it was a Saturday, we encountered a lot more cyclists than we had on the weekdays. We were delighted to come across a nice refreshment spot at the Bivvy Vineyard Cafe. It was run by the owners of the vineyard, and consisted of a coffee caravan, set in a garden with tables, seats and shade sails. A number of other cyclists had pulled up there too, and we enjoyed chatting, comparing bikes, trails and padded pants!

It was a most enjoyable holiday. Quite an achievement too, for me. But four days of cycling, during which we rode 112 kms, took a bit of a toll on my energies and caused a few aches and pains, making me feel “like a hundred and fifty years old”. I am glad that I won’t have to cycle again for at least a few days.

Sunday 7 April 2013

What this blog is about ...

About me:

I am retired, and the only period in my life when I rode a bike regularly was when I was eight to nine years old, and riding my bike to school in the Netherlands. Since then I have only bicycled once or twice for an hour or so on a rented bike.

I live in Wellington, New Zealand, which is a very hilly city, very different from the lovely flat and bike-friendly Netherlands. I never thought I would ever want to cycle here in Wellington.

My husband John was for many years a keen cyclist, cycling to work, hurtling down steep hills and climbing back up at the end of the day. However, after surgery for a brain tumour which left him with a balance problem, he didn’t cycle for over twelve years. I wouldn’t let him. I was worried he would fall, and/or be hit by a car or truck.

Then, a few months ago, he decided to get back into it. He didn’t fall over, and in fact the cycling has improved his balance. However, the hills were still a bit of a problem, so he bought a folding bike, one that he could stick in the car and drive to where he could ride on the flat, and preferably on dedicated cycle tracks.

One day he came home from riding part of the Hutt Valley River Trail, 30 kilometres of attractive, flat, well-maintained track, and suggested that I could easily do that too. Though I have lived in Wellington for over forty years, when it comes to hills, I staunchly maintain that I am a “flatlander” – I don’t like climbing them, not on foot, and certainly not on a bike. But it seemed to me that if I could ride on the flat, it would be a fun thing to do together. Once we started casting around for flat places to ride, it is surprising how many we found.

Result: we bought another bike, for me. I am now the proud owner of a brand-new Giant Expressway 2 folding bike.

So this is where my blog begins – with my adventure of getting back on a bike as a “senior”. I hope to write about my experiences and about the tracks or trails we have ridden on.

                                   * * * * * * * * * *

I have certain requirements that will limit my capacity – initially at least.

  • I have painful thumb joints, which mean I cannot comfortably lean on my hands, so I insisted I needed a “sit-up-and-beg” bike.
  • I do not like riding on gravel – it is slippery, hard work and it hurts my hands (and my tail!).
  • And I don’t like hills – being a flatlander and all.
These are all good reasons to challenge myself. And over the next few months, with regular rides, I hope to overcome my dislike of gravel and hills, improve my fitness, and find solutions for my sore hands and tail.