Thursday, 30 January 2014

Waikanae and Peka Peka

At last! The man at the Met Office promised us a week of fine weather. I don’t know if that will come off, but yesterday was glorious! It was beautifully warm, and the breeze kept us from overheating. We went to Waikanae to repeat part of a ride we had done before. We rode 24 kms.

We parked near the start of Rutherford Drive, and biked towards Peka Peka. It is a lovely ride, on the road, but there is hardly any traffic on a weekday. At the cross-roads we turned into the little road that leads to the beach.

We walked our bikes all the way down onto the beach. The beach was deserted, except for an older couple looking for shells. I wondered whether John wanted to ride on the hard sand along the beach. We probably could have, but no, you’d have to go fairly close to the water’s edge, and we didn’t want to risk getting salt water on our bikes (rust!). Although riding on the beach is one of my “bucket list” items, that would be riding a horse, not riding a bike. One day, maybe, I’ll do it on horseback …

Peka Peka Beach and Kapiti Island (photo by John)

I noticed that near some of the houses in this area, there were large watertanks for the rural fire service. There is no water reticulation here, so houses are all on tank water, too.

These tanks were positioned near the houses in Peka Peka

We explored all the side roads off Peka Peka Road. A little distance into the first of these roads, we found a sign, set in a nice little garden, saying “Tasman Lakes”. Then a bit further along we came to a small lake. I thought that it seemed rather an extravagant sign for such a little lake. But as we came round another bend in the road we discovered that the sign was actually the entrance to a new subdivision called “Tasman Lakes”.

The first of the “Tasman Lakes” (photo by John)

It is a very pleasant setting. There are several lakes, some of them providing habitats for many birds – Canada geese, ducks, paradise ducks, and pukekos were some that we saw. The houses are all large and pretty flash, on huge sections or lifestyle blocks. Very nice if you have a spare million or two or three …

The lakes provide habitats for birdlife

Gorgeous houses on huge sections or lifestyle blocks (photo by John)

Another beautiful house in "Tasman Lakes" (photo by John)

Further along, two more roads that we went down, led to subdivisions called “Tasman Hills” and “Coastal Dunes”.

As we were pedalling down Peka Peka Road, I just had to take a photo of a fence line of gorgeous agapanthus flowers. I love the blue flowers, they spell “summer” for me. I know some people consider agapanthus to be weeds and a nuisance, but I think they are stunning when they flower, especially en masse. Unfortunately, these ones were already a bit past their best.

A fence line of agapanthus on Peka Peka Road

Onwards, towards lunch at Harrisons, the excellent café at the garden centre near SH1. Their coffee is always just right, and I really enjoyed the day’s “special” – garden salad with smoked salmon. It was delicious and very good value.

Along the road back to Waikanae, I was impressed with the huge flower stalks of an agave. They towered way above the power lines alongside (as you can see on the photo below). This plant – the agave americana – is a long-lived plant, and it flowers only once at the end of its life, after which it dies. Shoots growing from the base will form new plants to continue the lifecycle.

The “flower” of an agave americana. Note the tui about a quarter of the way down

Back in suburban Waikanae Beach, we rode around some of the streets, and I admired several flowering gum trees by the roadside. Some were covered in blazing orange, others in fiery red.

Buds, flowers and nuts of a flowering gum tree

A closer look at the gum tree flowers

Eventually, we ended up near the beach again. We sat on a seat, and enjoyed the view for a bit. In the distance, beyond Kapiti, we could see the South Island.

Waikanae Beach, with Kapiti Island, and the South Island in the distance

We like this fence alongside a reserve in Waikanae Beach (photo by John)

Back to the car, and while driving back down Moana Road, I was struck again by the blazing colour of the gum trees, so we stopped to take some more pictures. I was glad to see the flowers were fairly buzzing with foraging bees.

The nectar-laden gum flowers were attracting lots of bees

Just as a postscript: A while ago, John adjusted the position of my saddle. I had asked if the handlebar could be raised a bit higher, so that I could sit a bit more upright. That was not possible without jeopardizing the stability of the frame, so instead, he moved the seat forward by about 2 cms. It made quite a difference. I can sit more upright, and I am still able to hold on to the handlebar properly, instead of having to steer with my fingertips.

A dune restoration project near Peka Peka

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Plimmerton to Aotea Lagoon

Saturday was a gorgeous day! Beautifully fine, but windy. I must say, I am getting heartily sick of all this wind! It’s spoiling what little summer we are getting!

This was going to be a short ride, as John has been having a problem with his vision – one eye is causing him double vision. No, it is not a hangover; and yes, he has seen a doctor about it. But he wasn’t going to let it stop him from going for a bike ride, so he taped up one of the lenses of his sunglasses, and that seemed to work reasonably well. He wasn’t safe to drive the car, but surprisingly, he was OK on his bike.

Later, he made himself an eyepatch, and we couldn’t resist taking a picture of “Pirate John”. He wasn’t very good at doing the “Har har, me hearties!” thing though … And Polly is actually a miniature toucan!

"Pirate John"

When deciding where to ride today, John thought I should be made to do some hills, to get in training for the Otago Rail Trail (which is mostly flat, they say!). Yes, we’re in the process of planning to ride the Rail Trail in April – provided health issues don’t throw a spanner in the works!

We went to Plimmerton, to do the Ara Harakeke ride up to Pukerua. But there was quite a strong headwind and I was having a struggle even on the gentle uphill. So when we got to Whenua Tapu, I refused to go up the hill towards Pukerua, as I just knew I would have to walk it and I saw no point in doing that.

John scoffed “Do you want to do the Rail Trail or not?” But I reckon that’s different. I will do the hills – walking, if I have to – to get from A to B, but this would have been just to get to the top of the hill, only to turn around again and come back. Pretty pointless.

So we headed back to Plimmerton. We took no photos, and I thought this was going to be a bit of a “nothing ride”. But in the end, we rode 22 kms, as we kept going a bit further, and then another bit further into “new territory”.

Beyond Plimmerton, we kept going along the waterside track to Paremata. We stopped to have coffee at “Ruby’s Café”. It was just after 3pm, and I think the staff had started to relax, and was getting ready to close (they close at 4pm). Our coffees came reasonably swiftly, but they forgot about the slices of cake I had ordered. I went back inside to check, and the plates were just sitting on the counter – “Oh, are they for you?”. Duh! We were the only customers by this stage …

Ruby’s Café thoughtfully provides hats for its customers on a sunny day (photo by John)

After our coffee, we carried on, through the Ngati Toa Domain, past the marina, and over the Paremata Bridge, along to the railway station by the Paremata roundabout. We were now into “new cycling territory”. From here we rode up onto the overbridge to get to the other side of the motorway.

The Paremata roundabout, from the footbridge over the motorway

Once across, we turned right, to find our way to the Aotea Lagoon. We rode along Paremata Crescent, which soon became Papakowhai Road. Into a side street, which led us up the hill, and past the entrance to the Harbourview Rest Home, from where a narrow path led us back down to the main road.

Looking south, to the Waitangirua intersection, and Porirua beyond

Past the Police College, and into the gate of the Aotea Lagoon Reserve. It is decades since I was last at the Aotea Lagoon. We occasionally visited there when our children were small. It is now rather more extensive, and looks like a great place to bring the kids. There were several large groups of families having a picnic get-together, and kids were swarming everywhere.

The large lake is encircled by a miniature railway track, complete with a train station and ticket office. But the train was not running – apparently it only runs on Sunday afternoons. By the lake is a windmill of an interesting design, with a cladding of wooden shingles.

The windmill by the Aotea Lagoon (photo by John)

To the left of the central gate into the reserve, there is a quiet garden with a small pond, a little bridge, and some ducks. I tried to take a photo of a mother duck and her duckling. It was quite tricky to get the two in the same frame, as Junior kept paddling away from Mum, eager to explore the world, while Mum made little crooning, quacky sounds, calling him back.

Mum and Junior on the duck pond

Beyond the pond is the Rose Garden – a formal circular garden surrounded by brick walls and seats, with a central water feature, and raised rose beds. John noticed that the brickwork on every one of the raised beds was a different pattern from the next one.

The Rose Garden (photo by John)

I was really chuffed that my yellow rose photo turned out quite well. I thought I had taken note of the names of the roses I photographed, but I now don’t remember them. I’m no rose connoisseur, but I do appreciate the beauty of a perfect rose.

Yellow perfection

Coming out of the Rose Garden, the brick insets in the path took my eye. Every square was different.

Creative brick insets in the path

We cycled around the lake, and came to the “duck and wild fowl pond”, which has a small island and a boardwalk, as well as some fountains.

The island in the large duck pond

Overlooking the pond, was this old-fashioned telephone box (but no telephone – everyone has their own cell phone these days …). On the seat in front, a little girl seemed to be unwilling to join in with the other kids that were running around.

“ Nobody wants to play with me …”

We headed back to Paremata, back over the footbridge, and then down the path under the Paremata Bridge to get to Paremata Road which leads around the Pauatahanui Inlet, toward Whitby.

The path goes under the southern end of the Paremata Bridge (photo by John)

We were pleased to see that there was a shared foot-and-cycle path along the edge of Paremata Road, and we rode it for a short distance. But, being a sunny Saturday afternoon, there was a lot of traffic, so we decided that we would come back some other time, on a weekday, when it would be quieter.

Boats and boat houses on the Pauatahanui Inlet (photo by John)

We turned around, rode across the Paremata Bridge, and back past the marina. By the Mana Cruising Club, we discovered a row of colourful boatsheds, and John took a shine to a “modest little” cruiser, with the cheeky name “Liquid Assets”.

Boatsheds by the Mana Cruising Club

John with “Liquid Assets

It was well after 5pm when we returned to our car. As we were coming down the waterside path towards Plimmerton, the beach presented a very different picture from the last time we were here – quiet little waves, and lots of people playing on the beach and in the water. The perfect sunny weekend!

Plimmerton Beach

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Petone to Lowry Bay – and pottery, and music

This past week we had two gorgeous days in a row, so we went cycling on both days. Tuesday’s ride was described in my last blog post. On Wednesday, with our muscles still sore from Tuesday’s effort, we thought we would do an easy, smooth ride on a sealed surface, so we went to Petone, along the foreshore, and we planned to turn around at Point Howard. As it happened, we went a little further, which was a nice bonus. We did just over 14 kms.

Right at the start of the ride, we went onto the Petone Wharf. On such a fine day, in the school holidays, there were a few dads there with their kids, doing a spot of fishing. I was quite taken with the family below, with their little folding chairs, in decreasing sizes, to match the size of the kids. How cute is that!

Dad and the kids – hoping to catch some dinner? (photo by John)

We rode without stopping, along the Petone Esplanade, across the bridge, around Seaview, and past the marina. Looking up at the hillside from there, John commented on the houses clinging to the steep slope, and how foolish people are to build on sites like these. They may have a fabulous view, but, he says, “how do they think the cliff got there in the first place?”. Land crumbles from below and collapses. Is that what will happen to these residences eventually?

One of the houses clinging to the cliff-face above Point Howard (photo by John)

On to Point Howard. There, to my surprise, I found that the gate to the wharf was locked in such a position as to leave a gap for pedestrians and cyclists to go through, and there was a sign prohibiting access to cars. So of course we ventured onto the wharf to take a look. It’s always interesting to see things from a different perspective.

From the end of the Point Howard Wharf

The pipelines coming off the oil terminal wharf (photo by John)

This was how far we had ridden on previous jaunts. This time we decided to keep going around the coast road towards Eastbourne. We hadn’t tried this before because the space for cycling is only demarcated by a broken yellow line, and the space between the line and the water’s edge is not very wide.

On the rocks below the road, I spotted some oyster catchers. That’s the beauty of cycling. You would not be likely to see this kind of detail when you are whizzing past in a car. And even if you did, you wouldn’t be able to stop in a hurry to take a photo.

Oyster catchers

We stopped at a seat under a tree just at the entrance to Lowry Bay. There, John took some good photos of our bikes, for his technical page about the bikes.

We sat in the shade of this tree for a bit

Our bikes, with the Point Howard oil terminal wharf in the background (photo by John)

From here we were able to have a close look at the brightly coloured boatshed that always catches my eye when we drive past here.

The entrance to Lowry Bay

John by the colourful boatshed at Lowry Bay

This brightly dressed angler was fishing off the rocks by the boatshed

A bit further along, in the middle of the sweep of Lowry Bay, was the “iconic” white boatshed (I actually don’t much like the word iconic – it gets used too much but it seems appropriate in this case). This protected historic building is the subject of many a photograph and painting.

It was built in 1906, originally without building consent, and the Wellington Harbour Board warned the owners numerous times to remove it, but they ignored it. Eventually it was listed by the Historic Places Trust as an historic building, and in 1988 the then owner gifted it to the Hutt City Council. It was severely damaged by a storm in 2004, so it was removed, new foundations were built and it was placed back and repaired in 2005. There is more about the building’s history here.

The historic Lowry Bay Boatshed (photo by John)

From here, the road verge reserved for cyclists petered out to just a broken yellow line, mere inches from the water's edge, so we turned around. At Seaview, John spotted a decoration on the wall of one of the storage sheds which made him smile.

The frog seems to be leaping out of the ute! (photo by John)

Near the bridge over the exit of the Waiwhetu Stream into the Hutt River, I looked at some black swans, preening. They are so graceful on the water, but look so awkward on land. I was amazed at how the swan in the foreground was contorting his neck to get at his tail feathers!

Swans preening

We pedalled without stopping till we got back to the far end of Petone. We rode an extra little loop to see if there was anything interesting going on at the Water Ski Club, but all we saw was a jetski being launched. The woman that we had seen water-skiing was just coming ashore, and didn’t look as if she was going to do more.

A jetski is launched, while another is already roaring around in the background

On the way home, we dropped in to my sister’s, as she had suggested we come and take a look at her latest handiwork. We found her in the garden, putting some extra touches to her monumental project: a mosaic couch!

Aimée’s mosaic couch

This project has been a long time in the making. A few years ago, the family couch needed replacing, and so rather than taking the old one to the tip, she had it put in the garden. Then she, a neighbour and I spent a day covering the whole thing in concrete! That was quite a feat.

The mosaic design – consisting of broken bits of her own pottery, pieces of commercial tiles, and bits of mirror – was glued onto netting by Aimée and a potting friend, Jan. They weren’t able to apply it to the couch at the time, so the mosaic netting lay under the bed for several years, gathering dust. Finally, this summer, Jan came to stay again, and together they continued the masterpiece.

The back of the couch is still to be covered in mosaic, and the grouting still has to be done. Hopefully, Aimée and her cat Pixie will be able to lounge on it before the summer is out! The paua shells at the base are part of the design, but the bricks aren’t! They are just holding the paua in place while the glue sets.

After a glass of wine and some nibbles, we went down to her showroom, to see her latest offerings (and for me to select a bowl for my breakfast!). She will be having an open weekend on 22 and 23 February, from 11am to 5pm, at 35 Huntleigh Park Way, Ngaio. All are welcome. Do bring your wallet or chequebook!

Aimee will also have a stall at both Martinborough Fairs, on Saturday 1 February, and Saturday 1 March.

The showroom of potter (and my sister) Aimée McLeod. Come and check out her Open Weekend in February

Finally for this blog post, something completely unrelated to cycling. In the evening, we attended a free concert in the Soundshell of the Wellington Botanic Gardens. The Wellington City Shake Em On Downers, a Dixieland jazz band, was performing New Orleans and Chicago favourites, as part of the Summer City Gardens Magic events. I love Dixieland jazz and I was really glad that it was a fine night for an outdoor concert. The music was great!

The lawn in front of the stage was packed, as were the hillsides overlooking it. It looked like many people had arrived straight after work, with their picnic rugs and baskets, and their bottles of wine. Right by the front of the stage keen people were dancing to the toe-tapping music.

The Wellington City Shake Em On Downers in the Botanic Gardens (photo by John)

The concert was very well attended (photo by John)

Before the end of the concert, when it was almost dark, we wandered through the gardens to enjoy the special lighting. We could still hear the music, by the time we got back to the car.

Plastic flowers, made by children at the Teddy Bears’ Picnic a week ago, decorate a tree in the Louis Braille Garden, below the Treehouse (photo by John) 

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Silverstream to Harcourt Park – and art exhibitions

Last Tuesday afternoon we did a 21 km ride on the Hutt River Trail, from Silverstream, by the twin bridges, to Harcourt Park, in Upper Hutt. This is a straightforward ride, mostly on gravel, which we have now done quite a few times. We hadn’t done a “substantial” ride for several weeks, because of Christmas and then John’s lurgy, so it was nice to get back into it.

As soon as I hit the saddle, I thought “Oh-oh, something feels different!”. I had forgotten to put on my padded bike pants that I wear under my regular trousers! I must say, it made quite a difference by the time we had done 10kms.

I call my padded bike pants my “baboon pants” because, for some reason, the padding on the inside is bright red. I had to laugh the first time I washed them and hung them on the line, inside out. There they were, flapping in the breeze, looking just like a baboon’s bottom!

On the way up, we only stopped a couple of times to take pictures. Quite early on, there is an area where, back in September, we took a photo of willow sticks planted in neat rows, which would eventually grow into a flood defense barrier. Now, I noticed that those sticks had grown into nice little trees. Compare the photo of my 8 September post (here) with the photo below. They were taken from practically the same place - note the cabbage tree on the right (it's a bit hard to see – enlarge the photo by clicking on it to see it properly). 

The sticks of willow, that were planted in the winter, have now grown into nice little trees (photo by John)

Further along, toetoe plumes, those hallmarks of the New Zealand summer, are now much in evidence along the river’s edge. They do look gorgeous, waving in the breeze.

Toetoe plumes (photo by John)

At various places along the river, people were enjoying the sunshine and the water on the river banks. Near Harcourt Park, were there is a bend in the river, and some shallow rapids caused by a rocky ledge in the stream, it looks like there is a good swimming hole. We saw a large group of young people making the best of a summer’s day here.

Young people, enjoying the swimming hole

Near the entrance to Harcourt Park (photo by John)

We rode into Harcourt Park, and stopped by the pond for a breather, and to eat our snack, but before long we were on our way back.

Along the way, I noticed the wild blackberry vines on the edge of the track. In the winter, you hardly notice them, but now with their pretty pink flowers and ripening fruit, they are more obvious. The fruit seems to be plentiful, so I daresay there will be good pickings in a few weeks time.

Wild blackberries

The track runs along the edge of the Wellington Golf Club. Among the shrubs planted alongside the fence, the yarrows are in full bloom too. I marvelled at the large flower heads, some the size of my hand. I just had to take a photo to capture the thousands of tiny flowers that make up a single umbel. With his much better camera and way better photography skills, John would probably have taken a better photo, but I like this anyway. Click on the photo to see the detail.

Thousands of tiny flowers make up this one umbel of yarrow

We rode 21 kms in total, and I was surprised to find that it had been harder than I had expected. My thighs were feeling quite tired – perhaps because of the gym class I had attended in the morning. It was the first since the Christmas break, and we did lots of squats and knee-raises!

We went into Café Reka at the Dowse Museum to have some iced coffees (made with ice, not with icecream, so not as satisfying as they should have been!). We looked out at the Lower Hutt Town Hall, which has been closed for over a year, as it is considered to be an earthquake risk. Debate is still going on as to whether the council will reinforce the building complex, which also houses the Horticultural Hall, or whether it will demolish it and build a new convention centre.

The view from Café Reka towards the Lower Hutt Town Hall, which is closed as it is considered to be an earthquake risk (photo by John)

After our coffees, we had a look at the exhibitions. Some of the downstairs ones struck me as really quite pointless, so we didn’t waste any time there. Upstairs were two exhibitions which were interesting. One was entitled “Menagerie: Exotic Animals in Aotearoa”, a collection of works by NZ artists featuring exotic animals.

Two of the exhibits that I particularly liked were by Reuben Paterson. One was a “glitter” painting of the face of a tiger, called Estrous; the other was a full size sculpture, also covered in glitter, of a bear, called David. I’m not so sure about the use of glitter, but it was very effective in the tiger painting. He just seemed to glower and shimmer.

“Glitter” painting by Reuben Paterson – Estrous (2012)

The other exhibition was titled “Man Made”, and featured textile works by 12 male contemporary artists. Having been a weaver in “a past life”, I was particularly interested in this, but I found it somewhat disappointing. It was all rather more “art” than “textile”. Still, I quite liked a work which spelled out its own name “The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out”, by Elliott Collins. It was inspired by nail and thread art made by his grandfather. Apparently, the making of it had involved some community participation.

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a nail and thread artwork by Elliott Collins

I don’t know if the title of the artwork is a reference to the work of the physicist Richard Feynman. When I tried to find out more about the artist of the above work, I googled “pleasure of finding things out”, and at the top of the list was a video of a 1981 BBC interview with Richard Feynman, entitled “The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out”. John is a fan of Feynman’s books, so we spent an interesting 50 minutes watching this video. What a charming and fascinating man. In 1999 (11 years after Feynman's death), a collection of his short works, including interviews, speeches, lectures, and printed articles, was edited and published by Jeffrey Robbins, under the title “The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman". I might just have to get a copy of it for my Kindle.

Well now, this last paragraph has nothing to do with cycling or even with our museum visit, but I have spent a pleasant evening finding things out. Not as brilliantly as Richard Feynman, obviously, but it was indeed a pleasure.