Sunday, 28 July 2013

Hutt River Trail and Dowse Art Museum

This is going to be a short blog post because today we did a ride that we have done before, and we didn’t stop too often to take photographs. We’re getting to the point where we have cycled most of the easy flat routes in the Wellington region, so we now start having to repeat some.

Our last ride was ten days ago. Even though the weather has been rather good, we didn’t go riding for a variety of reasons. So today, with a lovely big “high” over the country, we thought we’d better take the opportunity before it packed up again.

We decided to do the middle section of the Hutt River Trail, starting from the little park by the twin bridges at Silverstream. The track is wide and flat, with a mostly easily managed gravel surface. We agreed to not make too many photo stops, but to get some sustained cycling under our belt. All the same, there were some interesting sights.

Twin bridges near Silverstream (photo by John)

Sorry to ramble on about the June storm AGAIN, but quite close to our starting point there was more evidence of storm damage. A row of trees along the river’s edge appear to have fallen victim to the fierce winds. Some were uprooted, and many were severely split and splintered. There was a Council digger nearby – unattended as it was Sunday. John thought that perhaps the trees were being culled by the Council, but it looked far too random for that. A culling operation would have started by cutting the trees down, and then removing the roots. They would never have allowed the trees to be so shattered. Here the roots were just ripped from the soil as the wind pushed the trees over.

Storm-damaged trees

It was lovely just pedalling along in the sunshine. At one stage I caught a whiff of sweet perfume, and thought “I know that smell, what is it? Yes, it’s flowering wattle”. And as I came around the next bend in the path, there it was, a gorgeous flowering wattle. I would have thought it was too early for trees to flower, but perhaps spring is on the way. Yay!

Flowering wattles - such a gorgeous fragrance ...  (photo by John)

Funny how evocative smells are. This fragrance triggers a memory of my childhood, but it’s vague, I can’t pinpoint what it reminds me of exactly. I can’t actually remember any instances of seeing these trees anywhere, but I do remember that my mother used to call the flowers “mimosa”.

There were a lot of people using the track. Quite a few families on bikes – Mum, Dad and the kids – and a lot of people walking their dogs. We even encountered some people riding horses on the grass berm. That too, reminded me of my early teens, when my sister and I used to ride regularly. I felt almost envious of these people. I would love to go horse riding again. Actually, one of my “bucket list” wishes is to canter along a beach. Whether I’ll achieve that, I don’t know. Maybe I can talk my eldest daughter into doing that with me one day. For now, I guess, all the riding I’ll do will be on a bike …

Horse riders - how I wish I could do that too! (photo by John)

After nearly an hour of more or less continuous cycling, we arrived at Harcourt Park, in Upper Hutt. We did a little loop around the park. As well as a playground, park benches and picnic tables, and an (empty) paddling pool, we discovered a practice track for children to learn road rules. There were two-way and one-way “roads”, a roundabout, intersections with appropriate traffic signs, and pedestrian crossings. Brilliant! There were about half a dozen kids using the track, including a gaggle of little girls, leaning on their bikes by the roundabout, deep in some discussion or argument.

Bike track for kids to learn the road rules - Brilliant! (photo by John)

We stopped for a bit at a bench by the pond, to eat our brought snack – apple slices and a Whittaker’s mini slab (the best chocolate!). Then we pointed our bikes back for the return journey. Another hour of sustained cycling – good exercise, but my knees and tail were starting to feel a bit abused by the time we got back to the car. We’d done 24 kms in two hours.

The pond in Harcourt Park (photo by John)

After John had got himself changed out of his cycling shorts and into some decent trousers, we headed to the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt. We had a late lunch in the café before having a look at a few exhibitions.

My sister, Aimée McLeod, who is a professional potter herself, had been quite impressed with the exhibition of Coromandel potter Barry Brickell’s work, so I was looking forward to seeing it. His pots are very large and masculine, but I didn’t know he had also made ceramic murals which were very intricately detailed. I thought they were very beautiful.

These are BIG pots!
Ceramic mural by Barry Brickell (photo by John)

There was a sculpture that looked like a steam engine – Barry is well-known for his love of steam engines and railways – that was astounding in its detail. It also gave me a fright when it suddenly hissed furiously and actually let off some steam!

Ceramic "steam engine" (photo by John)

Along from that exhibition, there was a display of ceramic heads which were very recognisable as the band Split Enz. It was a work by Paul Rayner, from the Dowse permanent collection.

Ceramic "Split Enz" by Paul Rayner

We also had a look at a retrospective exhibition of the work of Kobi Bosshard, a Swiss-born NZ contemporary jeweller, which shows his development as an artist and his experiments with his materials. Very beautiful. I wouldn’t mind having one or two of those pieces.

Silver necklaces by Kobi Bosshard

All together, a very enjoyable afternoon. Some physical activity, sunshine and a bit of culture – what more could you want!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Petone Foreshore

On our way back from our last ride (to Pencarrow), we noted that we should ride the Petone foreshore some time. We had originally thought that it wouldn’t be a very long ride, but it was surprising how far we could actually go. We knew we could get from Petone to Seaview without having to ride on any roads, and on our way to Eastbourne we noticed that there was a cycle path from Seaview to Point Howard. All together that would make a respectable distance.

The beach and foreshore had suffered in the 20 June storm, but we thought that most of the mess would have been cleared up by the time we would ride there. However, last weekend, there was another bad southerly storm, with winds gusting up to 165 km/hr, resulting in a number of flights and ferry sailings being cancelled, and of course more storm damage along the shores and beaches.

The western end of Petone Beach

Last Thursday, 18 July, we parked the car at the furthest end of the Esplanade, near the roundabout, and set off. It is wonderful how you discover places you never knew were there when cycling (or walking, of course). I must have driven around the roundabout and down the Esplanade hundreds of times, and never noticed this park.

Heading off to the right, towards the motorway, there was a path that was well strewn with storm debris. We tried going down it, but I soon gave up, it was just too rough. We met a woman walking a little fox terrier with a large black patch over his right eye, and I said to her “Is his name Patch?” “No”, came the answer, “he’s called Cat, he doesn’t know he’s a dog!”  Huh??

The path was just too rough (photo by John)

Back past the carpark, and onto a gravel path between the beach and the shrubbery that separates the park from the road. It looked like it had recently been cleared, with debris on both sides of it. Soon we came out onto the Esplanade’s foot-and-cycle path.

We rode past the Petone wharf, a lovely sight, with Matiu-Somes Island as a background. An information board, with photos of various dune plants, described the dunes restoration project. It seemed that this part of the beach had not been affected by storm debris. The dune grass looked quite healthy here, though it didn’t further along the beach.

Petone Wharf, with Matiu-Somes in the background
The dune grass looks quite healthy at this end

Before the Petone Rowing Club, a colourful mural illustrates the Māori legend of how a taniwha created Wellington Harbour. The legend tells us that the harbour was once a lake in which two sea taniwha, Whātaitai and Ngake, lived. But Ngake was restless and smashed his way through to nearby Cook Strait. Whātaitai tried to get out a different way and became stranded on dry ground. It is said that his spirit took the form of a bird named Te Keo, which flew to the top of Wellington’s Mt Victoria and mourned (tangi), hence the name of the mountain, Tangi te keo.

Ngake, the taniwha that created Wellington Harbour (photo by John)

In front of the Petone Rowing Club, there is a gap in the seawall, so that rowing boats can be taken from the boat-bay to the water. Apparently after the storm on 20 June, sand, logs and debris had completely blocked the boat-bay doors and footpath. Water entered the boat-bay too, and caused damage to flooring and carpets. On the following Sunday, club volunteers helped to clear all the mess away.

The cleared gap in front of the Petone Rowing Club (photo by John)

Plenty of logs and other debris remained on the beach, and a big yellow digger was sitting idle on the beach. I guess the driver had gone off to have his lunch.

Plenty of logs remained, still to be cleared

Repairs to the damaged seawall

Towards the far end of the Esplanade, there were roadworks going on – the road was being re-sealed. Our three-year-old grandson Oliver would have loved it. There were bulldozers, and trucks and steamrollers, and men in orange hi-viz vests, all things he’s been fascinated with since before he could walk! Being the school holidays, there were quite a few parents and kids about, watching all the activity.

Roadworks (photo by John)

Right at the end was the Hikoikoi Reserve, with a playground and a miniature railway. A circular mosaic community artwork and some quirky sculptures decorate the park leading to the playground.

Community art in the Hikoikoi Reserve

The miniature railway has been run by the Hutt Valley Model Engineering Society for nearly fifty years, and on Sunday afternoons children can have rides on the trains for a mere $2. Oliver would have loved that too, but sadly it was a Saturday when we visited there last summer, and he had to go  back to Auckland on the Sunday. He did enjoy the playground though.

The miniature railway in the Hikoikoi  Reserve (photo by John)

Here the road swings inland, but there is a track through the Hikoikoi Reserve that leads to McEwan Park, around a tongue of land forming the mouth of the Hutt River. The track ends up at the road again just before the bridge across the river.

Once across, we were in Seaview, where we had cycled before. The storm had seriously eroded the water’s edge, and damaged the relatively new foot/cycle path. The council had dumped large chunks of concrete and building rubble to protect the edge from further erosion. It looked as if the latest storm had ripped up a newly laid path, and the resulting broken slabs had been used to shore up the edge.

The council used building rubble to protect the shore from further erosion

Here they used slabs of broken path (photo by John)

The cycle path rounds the point and arrives at the Seaview marina. Here we saw a large yacht that had been knocked off its trailer, and was lying on its side. It’s been like that since the first storm. I guess it must be a bit of a headache to the owner, not to mention an expensive exercise, to try and set it upright again.

Oops! A headache for the owner? (photo by John)

The marina area is very attractive, all the yachts in the water look very photogenic. The dinghies on racks on the tarmac don’t look nearly so pretty, but I suppose that if you own a dinghy, you need to keep it somewhere.

Seaview Marina (photo by John)

From the end of the marina, a cycle/footpath, well protected from the winding road by a barrier, leads around to Point Howard. Here, a long wharf jutting out into the harbour is used by tankers delivering oil and petrol to Wellington. Big pipes along the water’s edge carry the oil to the big storage tanks in Seaview. Not surprisingly, there is no public access to the wharf.

The Point Howard Wharf, where tankers deliver Wellington's oil and petrol (photo by John)
The pipes in the foreground carry the oil and petrol to the storage tanks (photo by John)

We could not go any further than Point Howard, as there is no safe cycle path all the way around the winding road to Eastbourne. There is a narrow shoulder in some places, but it is on the water’s edge, and there is no barrier, so with my luck, I’d probably wobble and end up in the drink. A bit too hazardous to my taste, so we turned around. A brisk nor’west wind was making progress slow along Seaview.

Back along the Petone Esplanade, we stopped briefly at the Settlers Museum. This is a tiny museum celebrating the history of Petone. It was built in 1940 to commemorate the arrival of the first British settlers on Pito-one’s (Petone) shores in 1840.

The Settlers Museum

I had a quick look inside while John stayed with the bikes. There are two display rooms: one featuring dioramas of Petone in the very early days, ship’s models and very early photographs; the other room has an exhibition entitled “Tatou, tatou” which commemorates the historic meeting of Māori Te Atiawa chiefs and the first British settlers. It is years since I visited this museum, and this quick little squizz was not nearly enough time to do it justice. It warrants a return visit some time.

Models and dioramas document early Petone

Near the museum a coffee caravan was a welcome sight. 

Aah, coffee! (photo by John)

While enjoying our coffee, we watched two diggers cleaning up the beach. A small red digger was “combing” the debris out of the dune grasses planted along the edge of the beach. Quite a delicate operation. The large yellow digger was collecting large pieces of driftwood and debris into larger piles a bit further down the beach. We watched as it collected a big tree trunk from the water’s edge and added it to the pile. I wonder what they’ll do with the big piles. Maybe they’ll set fire to them? Or perhaps the driftwood will be used to make Fire Sculptures to be burned at the Petone Winter Carnival, which is due to be held on 3 August – only a couple of weeks away.

The red digger "combs" the debris out of the dune grass, the yellow digger rakes it all into a pile

Picking up a big log (photo by John)

Coffee finished, we headed to the Petone wharf, which is open for people to go down to the end. There were quite a few people there doing a spot of fishing, but as far as I could see, nobody had caught anything yet. I was intrigued with the special fishing rod stands, in the shape of fish heads, sticking up at intervals along the edge of the wharf. How very thoughtful of the council, to provide these for the anglers.

Petone Wharf

Fishing rod holders. Such a thoughtful touch ... (photo by John)

We decided to carry on a little further towards the motorway, past where we’d parked the car. We avoided the very rough path through the park that we had ridden earlier in the day, but followed the narrow road towards the Wellington Water Ski Club building. Of course, being winter, it looked very bleak and deserted, apart from some men who were picking up “things” with long-handled grippers from among the rocks. I asked what they were picking up, and they said “rubbish”. “Oh, good on you”, I said. I think they may have been carrying out a community service sentence.

Keeping NZ clean! (photo by John)

On the way back to the car, John took some nice pictures of the outlet of a stream, looking all tidy and peaceful, and of the strangely scalloped beach edge, looking all messy and debris-strewn.

The outlet of the Korokoro Stream (photo by John)

The storm carved the debris into wonderful shapes (photo by John)

Another enjoyable ride, 18kms in all. And – bonus! – all on the flat!

While we were in Petone, John wanted to quickly check out The Toolbox in Jackson Street. It’s a shop that specialises in secondhand and antique tools, and he loves a good browse in there.  I’m not so enamoured of boys’ toys, so I went across the road and visited the Dutch Shop, where I bought several yummy things that I really didn’t need, but love to have anyway. 


Thursday, 11 July 2013

Pencarrow Lighthouse

Last Monday, 8 July, was another fine calm day with a forecast of deteriorating weather in the next few days, so I skipped my Zumba class, and we went for a ride instead.

Having “documented” the storm damage and its clean-up on the Wellington south coast last Thursday, we thought we would see how the Eastbourne and Pencarrow coast had fared. It turned out to be a much longer excursion than we had originally planned, nearly three and a half hours, but not all of it was cycling. And it wasn't all about storm damage either.

On our way to Eastbourne we drove through Seaview, on the eastern side of the Hutt River mouth. The storm ravaged this area too. Photo number 2 on this news website  shows how much debris was thrown up onto the roadside path and gardens. It had all been cleared away, but the damage done to the foot/cycle path we have ridden on a few times, is considerable. 

The foot/cycle path along Port Road in Seaview

At Eastbourne, we unloaded the bikes near the wharf, and rode along the road and Marine Parade. Already, right at the beginning of the Marine Parade, there was evidence of huge amounts of beach sand having been tossed up onto the road and onto the gardens along here. The centre of the path had been swept clear, but sand was heaped all along the edges. The council had swept much of it into large piles in several places too.

The storm-dumped sand was piled up after the clean-up

The footpath between the end of Marine Parade and the bus terminus was quite ripped up, but I was pleased to see that the Wahine Memorial seemed to be unscathed.

Damaged footpath near the Eastbourne bus terminus (photo by John)

We had to lift our bikes over the gate to the Pencarrow track, because the narrow gap for people and bikes to go through, had suffered – the metal framework had been distorted, so that there was no longer enough room to manoeuvre a bike through the gap.

In every bay that was exposed to the south, the road had been covered in sand, fine gravel and presumably driftwood and other debris. It was obvious that a grader had been through, pushing sand and debris to the edges. The sand was very coarse – quite different from the fine, fly-away stuff that littered Lyall Bay (refer previous post).

Sand and debris had been pushed to the edges of the road by a grader

The sand and gravel made the surface very skiddy, much harder to negotiate. You had to be careful not to get into drifts of it, or you’d lose your grip and go for a serious wobble. John’s advice: “Go slowly, use a low gear. Actually, it’s good for your balance”. The most treacherous bits were the potholes that had been filled with sand, as they were not obvious until you hit them.

The extra sand made the road tricky to ride in some places. This photo was taken on our way back, in the late afternoon, hence the pinky-gold light and strong shadows (photo by John)

The beach that I had described as “wide, smooth and empty” in my post about Eastbourne last month, was now strewn with driftwood and seaweed, and the whole contour of the beach had changed, having been scoured out right at the back, near the road. Not surprising, considering that record wave heights of 15 m, peak to trough, had been were recorded by a buoy offshore from Baring Head (further round from Pencarrow) in Cook Strait. Most of these waves would have crashed right into these bays.

Debris on the beach

Beach sand had been re-arranged by the storm (photo by John)

I wondered where all the huge trunks of driftwood might have come from, because they were not freshly demolished trees. They looked like they had spent a long time being tossed around by the tides. John thinks they may have originally come down the Orongorongo River, having perhaps been washed down in floods long ago. They may well have landed on other beaches, before drifting away again in the next storm. Some showed signs of having had bits sawn off them, for firewood presumably.

Huge chunks of driftwood were everywhere (photo by John)

Looking up at the hill side of the track I marvelled at the way the vegetation had grown into rounded shapes, in response to the prevailing wind. I think this is the NZ native matagouri. If I am wrong, somebody please put me right.  

The vegetation grows in rounded clumps sculptured by the winds

It seemed we arrived at the Pencarrow Lighthouse more quickly than last time. We decided to go beyond it this time and have a look at the Parangarahu Lakes.

The lower Pencarrow Lighthouse, looking South (photo by John)

Both the lower and upper lighthouses, looking North (photo by John)

Round the corner from the lighthouse were a couple of caves. On my photo, they look like the eyes of some huge, half-buried, lurking monster. The caves are actually not very high - not high enough for someone to stand up in. Not that I tried to take a closer look ...

The caves - they look like the eyes of a half-buried monster ...

We had visited this area at the height of the drought last summer and there wasn't much in the way of lakes to be seen from the road. This time, the huge shingle beach in front of the lakes had been so rearranged by the storm, that we could hardly see where the road was that leads around it. No matter, we took the track that led up the hill towards Lake Kohangapiripiri. We lifted the bikes over the gate, climbed over the style, rode a little way up the track and round the corner, and we were in for a fabulous surprise.

Lake Kohangapiripiri was like a mirror, reflecting the hills

There was the lake, with a surface like a mirror, with perfect reflections of the hills. Reeds grew along some of the edges, and in islands and fingers into the lake, its tips glistening in the sunshine. Stunning! And it was so still and quiet – not a sound, apart from the occasional warbling bird.

Perfect reflections on Lake Kohangapiripiri (photo by John)

Reeds growing along the shores of the lake (photo by John)

We rode up the grass track – a gentle slope towards the top of the lake. John took a picture of me, to show that I CAN ride up hills – very gentle ones … Though more seasoned cyclists might scoff that that track was “practically flat!”.

The gently sloping grass track (photo by John)
Here's proof that I CAN ride up (gentle!) slopes ... (photo by John)

In the distance, towards the right, I could see a sign post and a track leading steeply up the hill, and I said to John, “when it gets that steep, I’m quitting”. But that’s not where we went.

We came to a sign that pointed the way to the Old Pencarrow Lighthouse, on top of the hill. Twenty minutes, it said. “Noooo!” I said, “it’s too steep!”. “Aw, come on” said John, “it’s only 20 minutes”. Yeah right, pushing a bike up the hill, it was more like 35 minutes.

Twenty minutes up to the old lighthouse - more like 35!

But it was so worth it! The track wasn’t too bad, really. Too steep to cycle up, but OK to walk, and it was wide and smooth, on grass. On the way, there were several display boards providing information about the Pencarrow Lighthouse – when and why it was built, diagrams of its construction, what life was like for the lighthouse keepers and their families, and when and why it was finally decommissioned, and handed over to the Historic Places Trust.

One of the information display boards

Pencarrow was New Zealand’s first permanent lighthouse. It was officially opened in 1859.

The plaque on the Old Pencarrow Lighthouse

It originally had an oil-burning lamp, which was later converted to cheaper kerosene at first, and then to an incandescent oil vapour lamp in 1908. Because it was often shrouded in fog, a fog signal was added to the station in 1898 (the first of its type in the country) and in 1906 a secondary lighthouse was built at the beach below.
In 1935, the top lighthouse became redundant when NZ’s first automated light was built at Baring Head, further along the coast, as it was a more prominent landmark for shipping. Keepers remained on the Pencarrow site to tend to the fog signal until 1960. The lower lighthouse is still in use today.

After a fair climb we came to a gap in the hill, and there in front of us and below, was the view over the harbour, Cook Strait, and the Pencarrow coast road we had cycled on. What a magnificent sight.

The road that we had come from, and the lighthouse that we were heading for. (photo by John)

According to the information board, this had been the site of the lighthouse keepers’ houses, being the most sheltered part of this frequently wind-battered hillside.

The site of the lighthouse keepers' houses

But it was still a way to the lighthouse itself. From here the track became rough, and very steep. I refused to take the bike any further. I wouldn't be game to ride down it again, so there was no point in taking the bike up there. John worried about leaving the bikes unattended. But there was no one around – we had the place completely to ourselves! So he locked the bikes together with a cable lock – just in case …

This track was longer and steeper than it appears on this photo. John locked our bikes together.

From the hollow, the lighthouse had not seemed terribly far. Very deceptive. We went up, then down, then round and up again, and eventually got there. Just before we got to the top, I could hear a low rumbling, and guessed it might be the Interisland ferry.

When we reached the top - Wow! What a view! Below us was not just the ferry coming into the harbour, but also a cargo ship steaming out.

The interisland ferry Kaitaki entering the harbour, and a cargo ship heading out

We could see the coast road we rode on directly below us. To the north we could see the harbour with its islands Matiu (Somes Island) and Mākaro (Ward Island), and the Tararua Ranges beyond the Hutt Valley; opposite us the city; and to the south we could see the South Island, where we could just detect a small amount of snow still on the Seaward Kaikoura Range. While Wellington was suffering its storm, the Kaikouras received a big dump of snow, but the warm north-west wind of the past week has melted most of it again.

Wellington Harbour (photo by John)

Facing the other way, the hills, and below, Lake Kohangapiripiri with its gorgeous reflections.

Lake Kohangapiripiri seen from the Lighthouse (photo by John)

Of course we took loads of photos, only some of which I can show here. The lighthouse itself is a handsome white tapering octagonal tower with a balcony all around the light, and a weathervane on the top. That weathervane must be really strong, as it will have been battered by some of the worst winds NZ can muster, and survived!

The Old Pencarrow Lighthouse (photo by John)

It was about four o’clock by now, and it was time to get going, as there would only be another hour or so of daylight. Where we left the bikes, there was a stile, and a sign showing another track, to get back to the coast road. It was very steep, very rough and very narrow. John wanted to go down that track, as “it would be quicker”, but this time I put my foot down. No way was I going down that track – just walking it would do my knees in, and it wasn’t even wide enough to be able to walk beside your bike.

The bottom of the track I refused to go down

The grass track back to the lake was relatively easy to ride, though I did keep a good grip on my brakes. When we got to the bottom, the entrance to the lake track was in deep shade, but the water reflected the sky and the fenceline – quite magical.

Magic in the shadows (photo by John)

The way back to Eastbourne seemed like a long haul. A bit of a northerly had sprung up, and that didn’t help. Long before we got back to Burdan’s Gate, I was looking out longingly for the buildings of Eastbourne to appear, but there was always yet another bay to go round. My thigh muscles and my tail were suffering by now too …

The late afternoon sun made the hills glow in a beautiful golden light. By the time we got back to Eastbourne, the sun had just gone behind the hills, and we took our final photos for the day of the orange sky across the harbour.

The last of the setting sun (photo by John)

What a great afternoon we had – we had biked 25 kms, had walked for 45 minutes, and been out for a total of three and a half hours. It was nearly six o’clock when we joined the peak-hour traffic up Ngauranga Gorge, so we picked up some fish and chips on our way through Johnsonville. I didn’t have time to cook dinner, as we were heading out again soon. It was Monday, which meant Scottish Country Dance club night! I did sleep well that night …