Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Kapiti Arts Trail

Our excuse for a ride on the Kapiti Coast last Sunday (3 November) was the Kapiti Arts Trail. Not that we need an excuse to go for a ride, of course, but this seemed as good a reason as any to go there to ride. We enjoy art exhibitions, and it is good to support local artists.

We parked at the northern end of Waikanae Beach, near the start of Rutherford Drive and headed north, towards Peka Peka. Our first port of call on the Arts Trail was Michelle Retimana’s Studio Garden and Gallery. She’s a potter who makes wonderful pots and garden sculptures, many with a Māori theme. Her work is quite recognizable for the kind of clay she uses, as it is very textured, with gritty bits embedded in it (probably not a potter’s technical description).

I do like Michelle’s work, but didn’t buy anything – somehow it makes me feel as if I am being disloyal to my potter sister if I buy another potter’s work. I also liked the large piece of art in her garden, not pottery, but made from large glass electrical insulators, called, I think, “Asset sales”.

Michelle Retimana’s garden art (photo by John)

We’ve driven along this road between Peka Peka and Waikanae many a time, but never noticed the Pharazyn Reserve. On a bike there is so much more to see and notice. We went into the reserve for a look. It is a wetland area which apparently used to be the sewerage ponds, but is now being rehabilitated. There is a children’s playground by the entrance, and there is a track that goes some distance around the pond, and it heads up a sand dune, but peters out after a hundred meters or so. The development of the reserve is a work in progress, I think. There is a jetty but no boating activity. Perhaps it is a left-over from the sewerage pond days.

Pharazyn Reserve (photo by John)

Riding a longish distance on the road – as opposed to a cycle track – was new for me, but I felt OK about it as there was not much traffic. We called in at another couple of artists’ studios, and then made our way to “Harrisons”, the garden centre at Peka Peka. It has a very nice café, which is often our morning tea stop if we are driving North.

We parked our bikes in the bike rack next to the terrace. While we were waiting for our lunch, a group of cyclists arrived, who looked over our bikes while parking theirs. With their much smaller wheels, our bikes do look very small next to their “grown-up bikes”. We noticed, when we were about to leave, that two of their bikes were also folding bikes (Dahon), but with rather larger wheels than ours.

Our little folding bikes look so small next to their "grown-up" bikes! (photo by John)

After a satisfying lunch we returned to Waikanae, but first we called in at a studio where four artists were displaying their work. Two painters, and two potters. One of the potters, Wendy Masters, also had some delightful small bronzes.

One of these really took my fancy, so I decided to buy it. It is quite small – the bronze part of it is only 8cm high, sitting on a heavy pottery base 5 cm tall. The shape of a horse on it was inspired by early man’s cave paintings, Wendy told us. The back of it also has a horse on it. I’m feeling very chuffed with my purchase.

My purchase: a small bronze by Wendy Masters (photo by John)

The terrain we were riding through was undulating – basically sand hills – but because the surface was smooth, I didn’t find it too hard.

The road went up and down a few rises (photo by John)

The track to Peka Peka Beach (photo by John)

Back at the car, we loaded the bikes back in, and drove to the carpark by the Waikanae River estuary. Then we rode around the Waimanu lagoon, where we rode a month ago, but didn’t do the whole loop.

The lagoon is home to a large number of species of water birds. A gaggle of geese were in pretty much the same place as the last time we saw them, and their goslings, which were tiny then, are now quite a lot bigger. We also saw some black swans with their fluffy grey cygnets.

The goslings (in the foreground) are a lot bigger than a month ago (photo by John)

A pair of black swans and their cygnets

Other birdlife we saw were the pied shags, nesting in the a tree near the lagoon. They have a toxic effect on the trees they nest in, as the photo below shows. Their droppings eventually kill the tree. Apparently this colony of birds has been growing over the last few years, and the residents of the houses nearby have had to put up with the resulting noise and smells.

The nesting shags’ droppings eventually kill the tree (photo by John)

A close-up of the nests shows several nests that have what looks like two adults and one nearly grown chick in them.

Nesting pied shags with chicks

We saw several juveniles sitting at the water’s edge. I noticed that the skin under their beaks was quivering as if they were calling out, but we could not hear anything. Perhaps it is so high-pitched that human hearing cannot detect it?

A juvenile pied shag (photo by John)

After riding a loop around the lagoon, we headed up the track along the river. It is a really lovely track, very enjoyable to ride on. It goes through bushy areas and more open areas near a pony club. A white horse in a paddock full of white daisies looked so idyllic, it reminded me of a unicorn; it ought to have had a horn on its forehead.

The track on the north bank of the Waikanae River (photo by John)

A unicorn without its horn?

At the Te Arawai footbridge, we crossed to the other side of the river and rode back to the Otaihanga Domain, where we found a caravan selling ice-creams. Yay! Just what we needed.

Te Arawai footbridge (photo by John)

After we had enjoyed our icecream, John suggested I try his bike for a bit. After the punctures he had a few rides ago, he had upgraded his tyres to slightly wider ones with more tread on them. He found they gave a better ride on the gravel, but were still good to use on the sealed road surface. So he wanted me to try them out before he upgraded the tyres on my bike.

He had to lower the saddle, before I could ride his bike. I like the handlebar higher than he does, but for this little try-out, we left it as it was. I only rode a few hundred meters out and back on the gravel track, but did find that these tyres seemed to smooth out some of the bumps. John has since been to see Francis at the Johnsonville Bike Shop and ordered a pair for me.

On our way back to the estuary carpark to get the Arts Trail map – so that we could go and look at a few more studios – we rode past a family feeding the ducks and swans, surrounded by a very avid audience.

Black swans galore

A couple enjoying the sun on a bench nearby came over to ask us about our bikes. They had only recently moved to this area, having come from Central Otago. They had cycled the Otago Rail Trail, and heartily recommended it. It is on our “to do“ list – one day.

The Waikanae River Estuary. The posts are to stop cars driving onto the sand and wetland areas
(photo by John)

We rode into the Waikanae streets to visit a few more artists’ studios. Some of the streets were quite steep, and I had to get off and walk, but because they were signposted for the Arts Trail, we persisted. The most interesting studio belonged to potter and artist Pamella Annsouth and her late husband, potter Mirek Smisek. The setting was charming. One enters through a display area, looking rustic and artistic, and as you go up some steps into the workshop space, there is a glimpse through an open door into the living area, which looks very inviting. Pamella’s work is very diverse, many items featuring nudes and people’s faces.

As we were looking around at the work on display, Pamella offered us a glass of orange juice – very welcome, as we had just struggled up a hill to get there – and we chatted. John and Pamella got to discussing the electrics of her kiln.

John is very knowledgeable in electronics, and knows quite a bit about kilns too. He has a small electric kiln that he acquired a couple of years ago to do some consulting work. And he has also been able to help my potter sister with the electrical sensors on her gas-fired kiln.

As they were engrossed in their discussion, I wandered out onto the veranda, where more pots were displayed. The wide sill of the living room window looking out onto the veranda was covered in a multitude of interesting objects – possibly mementoes or items providing inspiration. One of these was a very large piece of turquoise-coloured glass, which really caught my eye – and the sunlight.

The end of the veranda opened out to the view over the estuary and the lagoon, and Kapiti Island in the distance. Absolutely beautiful!

Pamella Annsouth’s work displayed on the veranda

The view from Pamella’s veranda is stunning!

By the time we left this studio, it was nearly four o’clock, the “finishing” time of the Arts Trail. So we had a look at one more, and then we pedalled back to the car. To fill in time before it was “fish and chips time”, we took a walk around the Waikanae town centre and looked in the shop windows. The place was absolutely dead as all the shops were closed.

I peered into the windows of “Fibre Flair” on the main road. In my weaving “yarn-a-holic” days, this shop was one of my favourite haunts, as they stocked lots of interesting yarns. These days, I think the shop caters more for quilters and embroiderers than for spinners and weavers, but I’m pleased to see it’s still in business.

To finish off a most enjoyable day, we had fish and chips overlooking the beach at Paraparaumu. Luckily, the one seagull who spotted us stayed sitting on his fence post, and did not call his mates, so our dinner was quite peaceful.

All up, we rode 31 kms. I was very pleased that I had found it easy. My gel saddle means minimum discomfort in the rear end, and my being able to manage the gears more effectively means that I didn’t have any trouble with the undulating terrain, except for the few steep Waikanae streets at the end. And the gravel track no longer presents any problems for me either.

I’m making good progress. With new tyres, we will continue to do longer distances and more challenging terrain – in preparation for riding the Otago Rail Trail. Maybe some time soon-ish?


  1. Pamella Annsouth & Mirek Smisek gallery is wonderful. They were/are so welcoming and the view is stunning. The track up beside the river goes all the way to the town and is an easy and pleasant walk. I took a photo from Waikanae beach that day of the southern tip of Kapiti and beyond. Both our photos caught Aeroplane /Brown's Island. Deborah

  2. Hi Deborah, thanks for your comment. Yes, Pamella was very welcoming, and lovely to talk to. We've biked both sides of the river track, from the beach to SH1 and back on a previous ride.