Thursday, 9 May 2013

Upper end of the Hutt River Trail

On Sunday night a big southerly descended on Wellington, bringing thunder and lightening (very unusual for this part of the country) and torrential rain overnight and on most of Monday, accompanied by howling gales. It also became quite cold, and Monday was definitely a “huddle-by-the-heater” kind of day, the first really wintry day of the year.

The bonus is that such a southerly is usually followed by a couple of gloriously fine days. The sort of days that makes dedicated Wellingtonians say “You can’t beat Wellington on a day like this!”.

That was the sort of day we had today. So of course we had to make the most of it by going for a ride.

A crisp, sparkling day (photo by John)

We did another section of the Hutt Valley River Trail – from the Silverstream Bridges, past the kink in the river at Maoribank, across the river on a footbridge at Harcourt Park, down the other side of the river, across the Totara Park road bridge, and back to where we’d started from. We took about two and a half hours to do 23 kms.

It was a crisp, sparkling day, cloudless and calm, but COLD! At 10 am, when we set out, the heavy dew on the grass was glistening in the sunshine, and looked as if it might have been a bit frosty overnight – the upper part of the Hutt Valley gets more frosts than Wellington.

This was the first time we’d gone out when it was really quite cold. We dressed in layers, four in my case. Though there was no wind, it was still pretty chilly at first, especially in the shade of the trees, so we donned our windproofs and put on our woolly beanies under our helmets. We must have looked pretty silly, but there was nobody about to see us anyway.

There was a lot more water in the river than when we last rode here, six weeks ago. Some of the river channels that had been quite dry back then, were now full of swiftly flowing water, and small, previously dry, side streams burbled merrily along. Yep, the water shortage Wellington suffered in February and March is definitely a thing of the past.

A lot more water in the river (photo by John)

Despite the recent rain, the track was in good condition. We found out why when we came across a grader smoothing out the gravel surface. Even so, I found the gravel rather heavy going. My legs just did not seem to have any strength. Too much dancing in the past week, I thought (Scottish Country dancing is one of my passions. I regularly dance two evenings a week, but the last week has been bit excessive – six nights dancing in eight days). However, John thought that perhaps my saddle should be a bit higher, as I was not extending my legs fully on the down strokes. Once adjusted, it actually made quite a difference.

Evidence of the grader having been through (photo by John)

Last time we were up this way, we turned around near Maoribank, when we got to a bit of the track I didn’t like the look of because it was narrow and steep and winding. This time we carried on beyond there. In fact, the “scary” bit of track, which I walked, was actually only about 20 metres. Not worth fussing about, as John said. It led to a nice sealed path into Harcourt Park.

We stopped for a little rest beside a pond, and as soon as we sat down, a whole lot of solicitous ducks came paddling furiously towards us, thinking they were in for some yummy treats – only to drift away again, disappointed, as the only thing we had brought along was some of Whittaker’s delicious chocolate. Wellington's famous chocolate company Whittaker's makes individually wrapped mini slabs, which are perfect for taking along on bike trips. Peanut slabs for me, hokey-pokey slabs for John.

A little further on, we crossed a footbridge to explore the track on the other side of the river. It was a grass track on top of a stopbank, not the most comfortable surface to ride on, but it didn’t go on for too long. It soon became a gravel path again. We didn’t explore beyond the next bridge, as we were not sure whether the track would go as far as the next bridge again. And as we had to get home by 1pm, we did not want to risk having to backtrack. It will keep for another day. So we crossed the Totara Park road bridge, back to the track that we had come up on, and got home in time for my afternoon appointment.

The grass track on the stopbank (photo by John)

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