Tuesday 25 March 2014

Hutt River Trail – Seaview to Upper Hutt

On Sunday, this was going to be our last big ride before going down south for our biking holiday. We planned to ride 20 kms out on the Hutt River Trail and then 20 kms back. We parked the car at Seaview, near the Waione Street Bridge (to Petone), and set off at about midday, on the eastern side of the Hutt River Trail.

We hadn’t gone very far when we heard the roar of engines, and in the distance we could see what we thought were half a dozen jet-skis roaring round and round on a quiet stretch of the river. I muttered something about “irresponsible idiots”, but as we drew closer, we realized the things that were going round were much smaller than jet-skis. They were, in fact, model speed boats. They were probably about a meter long, and made a terrific racket.

On the opposite shore, we could see cars and canopies and a couple of dozen people – mostly men – standing or sitting in camping chairs, watching the race on the water.

The men are watching the model speed boats racing each other (photo by John)

This photo shows three of the racing model boats (photo by John)

When a model boat failed, it was rescued by a couple of people in a row boat, and brought back to shore. The photo below is out of focus, unfortunately, but you can still see the name of the model boat they are rescuing – which made me smile.

Check out the name of the model boat being rescued

After we’d gone under the Melling Bridge, John took us on a detour away from the river through the suburban streets of Lower Hutt and past the Boulcott Golf Course, just for a change of scenery.

We ended up at Avalon Park. I had hoped that the coffee van might have been there again – it was there on our last ride up that way. We hadn’t had lunch, so a coffee would have been welcome. But it wasn't there, so we carried on up the river trail. We stayed on the stopbank until we got to Stokes Valley.

A fairly uninspiring view down the track on the stopbank. Shona McFarlane Retirement Village
is on the right (photo by John)

As we were coming up to Stokes Valley, we saw a mural on the south side of the rail bridge which we hadn’t noticed on previous rides. We took a photo of the other side on our last ride here – although it was unfinished (I think), one could see that it represented kowhai flowers. The mural on this side represented kakabeak flowers. Both are much-loved NZ native flowers. There is also a mural on the bridge support pillar showing a tui, which feasts on the nectar of both flowers when they are in season.

The mural on the south side of the Stokes Valley railway bridge (photo by Jhn)

This was the end of the stopbank, and from here we rode on the gravel track, away from the road. North of Stokes Valley is the bit of track that I mentioned last time, which is winding, and gravelly, and a bit dodgy. Interestingly, I found it more awkward to negotiate when going from south to north than the other way. John felt so too. Perhaps it is to do with the fact that when heading north, the drop is on our left – and as we are both right-handed, we feel more comfortable with the drop on our stronger side.

Along this path there were – quite close to each other – a water-level measuring tower, and a cable way which allows hydrologists to hang in a cage above the river so they can measure the speed of the flow – at several spots across the river – by means of a suspended current meter.

A water-level measuring tower (photo by John)

The cage on the cable way allows hydrologists to hang above the river to take flow measurements

When we had ridden as far as the twin bridges at Silverstream – about 16 kms – I was ready to turn around. We would have done 32 kms by the time we got back to the car, but John thought we should be more staunch, and carry on until we had done at least 20 kms before turning around. So, on we went.

Further along, we rode through Moonshine Park, which is wide and open, with nice lawns and beautiful trees. It is popular with people walking, cycling, and walking the dog. There is a (limited speed) road through the middle of it, which is nice to ride on. It also seems to be perfect for the lazy man’s (or woman's) way of “walking” the dog – the human drives the car, while the dog runs alongside! We saw several cars doing this! So nice to get out and about to get a bit of exercise and some fresh air, isn't it?

The lazy man’s way of “walking” the dog! (photo by John)

We kept going until we were about level with Upper Hutt, where the river changes direction. This is where we turned around to go back. The fickle valley wind, which we were pushing into on the way up, had now turned around as well, so we still had a headwind. But because we were now going downhill, it wasn’t as much of a grind, as it had seemed coming (imperceptibly) uphill on the way up.

We stayed on the track close to the river – no stopbanks this time. It is gravel for much of the way until you get to Avalon. As we were pedaling along, I was thrilled when a man cycling in the opposite direction called out to me “I read your blog this morning!”. Wow! A complete stranger! He didn’t stop, so I couldn’t ask him how or why he had found my blog. But I still felt pretty chuffed.

We didn’t stop on the way back, except for one breather – chocolate break! – and later on for John to take a picture of a shag, which was sitting on a rail quite close to the track, near the Petone bridge.

Time for a chocolate break (photo by John)

A pied shag (cormorant) – Phalacrocorax varius (photo by John)

It was about 4pm when we got back to the car at Seaview. We had done 42.5 kms. I must say my knees, thighs and tail were feeling a bit sore! But we now know we will have no trouble riding our daily 45 kms when we come to do the Otago Rail Trail next week.

We finished off the afternoon with a stop (and an icecream!) at the Hikoikoi Reserve, where the Hutt Valley Model Engineering Society runs the miniature railway. The members build the model trains, locomotives, steam engines and traction engines. As well as enjoying their hobby, they delight lots of children by giving them rides on Sunday afternoons. By the time we got there, late in the afternoon, there were more adults than children, but there probably were lots more children earlier on. 

Members of the Hutt Valley Model Engineering Society run the trains at the Hikoikoi Reserve
 (photo by John)

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