Saturday 21 June 2014

Petone to Point Howard

Today we rode along the Petone Foreshore and to Point Howard – again. We hadn’t intended to go biking today, as I had been feeling a bit under the weather. But it was such a beautiful day – sun, and no wind – that it seemed a waste if we didn’t go out. A nice gentle pedal on the flat was just the tonic I needed. Just over 14 km, in an hour and a quarter. Much better than a vigorous Zumba class, which is my usual Friday activity.

As I have written about this ride several times before, there isn’t a lot to be said that’s new, but we did take some quite nice photos.

The Petone Wharf
Catching dinner. That's Matiu-Somes Island in the middle of the harbour

We were intrigued by the pale blue streak on the water in the distance, almost as if there was a haze. I think it was a result of the sea being flat calm. Rather like a mirage. It shows in the above photo, and in the one below, where a yacht at the entrance to the harbour seems to be suspended above the water …

The yacht seems to be floating above the water (click to enlarge) (photo by John)

Near the Hikoikoi Reserve, we watched a digger dredging out the entrance to the Hutt River. It is not a proper dredge, but a digger working from a barge, which is being moved around by the little yellow tug. (Sounds like a topic for a children's story!)

Dredging the Hutt River (photo by John)

We crossed the Waione Bridge between Petone and Seaview, and for once there were no anglers trying their luck off the bridge. We were able to ride straight across, without having to dodge around bodies, buckets and fishing rods.

The water at the Seaview Marina was flat calm and mirror-like, yielding some nice photos of reflections.

Reflections at the Seaview Marina

A shimmering ‘abstract’ of masts and forestays (is that the right term?) (photo by John)

More yachts and their reflections (photo by John)

Sunday 15 June 2014

Rimutaka Rail Trail (3)

With another fine, windless day promised by the weather forecast, we planned to set off early-ish to ride the Rimutaka Rail Trail yesterday. We wanted to be there when the sun was at its highest, in the middle of the day.

When we set off from home, the bright blue sky that the weatherman had promised had yet to materialise; there was high cloud over the Hutt Valley. But by the time we got to the start of the track, it had cleared up. All the same, as we found when we started biking, it was quite cold in the shade. I was glad I was wearing an extra layer, and John went back to the car to get his.

It was cold in the shady cuttings (photo by John)

We had only done this track in summer, on warm sunny days. Now, with only a week to go to the shortest day, the low angle of the sun meant that its rays did not get over the highest hills. So quite a large part of the track was in the shade. The two substantial bridges – the Pakuratahi Bridge (truss bridge), and the Ladle Bend Bridge – were both in the shade. Of course, the sun shone brightly where there were gaps in the hills.

The track climbs through a nice wooded area (photo by John)

We pedalled along quite steadily. Again, I was surprised at how much easier the ride up had been, compared to last time. I had used my lowest gears for the steeper bits, but John said that he had done it all in top gear. “Oh, stink”, I said, but it was a challenge for me to try using a higher gear, and it was OK. I felt quite pleased with myself.

It is 10 km to the Summit, and it really didn’t take us very long. The last couple of times we went up there, we rued the fact that we had not brought a picnic, so this time we did. As John was about to take a photo of me tucking into lunch, a young woman cycling past stopped and offered to take a picture of us both.

Picnic lunch at the Summit (photo by Elisabeth with John’s camera)

She was riding the full rail trail, going over the hill and down towards Cross Creek and Featherston, where she had arranged to be picked up. While we were talking she excused herself as she had to switch off her tracker while she was stationary. She was able to track her ride and her time by GPS on her smart phone. A much more scientific way to do things than our “where shall we go today” method. She was interested to hear about our rides, and we exchanged websites/blogsites. As she went on her way she said “I love offering to take people’s photo, you can meet such interesting people”.

I have since looked up her website, and read some of her blog posts with great interest. She is a very busy person by the look of it.

We enjoyed our lunch in the sun, and then John took a few photos of the rusting remains of the train engines that used to ride on the Rimutaka Railway. There is something very aesthetically pleasing about large rusty machinery.

The rusting remains of the Rimutaka train engines (photo by John)

I wonder what all these pipes were for? (photo by John)

While I was waiting for John to take his photos, I marveled at the peace of the place. “Listen”, I said, when he’d finished. “What? I don’t hear anything”. “That’s right, there isn’t anything. Listen to the silence”. The only sounds were the occasional bird calls, and the distant rushing of the river in the valley below.

On the way up I had been looking at the huge variety of ferns that grow along the side of the track, especially in those dark and damp cuttings, and I told John I wanted to linger and take some photos of them on the way back.

I’m no botanist, and not even much of a gardener, but I do like looking at plants: admiring the shapes and patterns of leaves, trying to recognise them and name them – in a very limited way, I hasten to add. Ferns are practically synonymous with New Zealand, and rightly so. I looked up NZ ferns on Wikipedia, and there are no less than 16 ‘familes’ of ferns, each of which have many ‘genera’ (plural of ‘genus’ – as I dig up my Latin declensions from the depths of my subconscious), which in turn had many ‘species’.

I took 12 photos of ferns and mosses, and John took a further six, all different, in just one short stretch of a cutting. I won’t subject you to all of them, but here are a few of my favourites.

There were dozens of different kinds of ferns in just this bit of a cutting

Three types of ferns with very differently shaped fronds

Love the texture of the pustules that hide the spores

Completely different again

So delicate – I think this one is the ‘kiwikiwi’ or Blechnum fluviatile

I had especially noticed the fern in this last shot, and thought “I must take a picture of it when we go back”. Then of course, I had trouble finding it again, as it is not as common as the other varieties. Mental note to self: take the photo when you first notice it, don’t count on seeing it on the way back. Things always look different on on the return trip - different angle, different light ... There's something to be said for “there and back” rides.

Mosses and liverworts were plentiful too

Near the Ladle Bend Bridge is a sign pointing the way to a picnic and camping area by the river. On Elisabeth’s recommendation (“it is gorgeous”, she said) we took a look. We rode down a steep grassy track which, when it flattened out, became quite wet and boggy. There was a large flat area which would be quite nice for camping in the summer – if camping is your thing (which it isn't for us). Several fireplaces made with river stones dotted the place, and there was a picnic table on a concrete pad.

The camping area near Ladle Bend (photo by John)

The track carried on a little way down to the river, but there seemed to be no track alongside it. Perhaps in the summer, when the river has less water in it, it would be a great place to mess around in the shallow stream.

The Pakuratahi River at Ladle Bend (photo by John)

After that little interlude, it was a lovely downhill run back to the car.

On the way home, we stopped at the Expressions Gallery in Upper Hutt. There was an interesting exhibition, called “Deep in the Woods”, of whimsical paintings, marionettes and other ‘creations’ by a trio of Wellington artists.

These delightful marionettes by Jon Coddington are called “Hopepa, Tony Chang & Chopper Reedz

A bicycle with a difference – “The Box of Curious Delights” by Stephen Templer had a peep-show
 inside the box

This painting by Rieko Woodford-Robinson is called "Mana Whenua (Bird of the Land - Kakapo)”.
I really like it, it is whimsical, and yet has a serious meaning

Waikanae to Peka Peka

Wednesday 4 June was the fifth perfect weather day in a row, and we made the most of it by going up to Waikanae for a ride. We parked at the Otaihanga Domain by the bridge and set off on the track on the south side of the Waikanae River.

We hadn’t gone very far when we came across some “roadworks”. I think it must be ground preparations for a new bridge across the river, as part of the MacKays to Peka Peka Expressway, which in turn is part of the Wellington Northern Corridor. Fortunately the cycling track was not interrupted, just deviated a bit.

The cycle track had to deviate around the ground preparations for the MacKays
 to Peka Peka Expressway (photo by John)

Protecting a stream near the ground works site

Along the river-side track there had been a bit of felling going on. In another blogpost about this trail, I mentioned the Waikanae River Corridor Restoration Project, which aims to restore native forest by planting thousands of native trees. The trees that had been felled all appeared to be deciduous trees, so it seems that they have to make way for natives.

A lot of deciduous trees had been felled
This is so pretty, I hope they don’t cut down all the deciduous trees on this part of the track.
 (photo by John)

The track ends at the SH1 bridge over the river, which we crossed. We then rode a short distance on the footpath before turning into Te Moana Road.

The Waikanae River from the SH1 bridge

Te Moana Road is a lovely wide road, with a good cycling lane on each side, and it goes all the way to the beach. Near the end, we turned right to head towards Rutherford Drive, which would take us to Peka Peka. A brief stop at the Waimeha Stream for a photograph, and then it was a non-stop ride until we got to Harrisons Garden Centre, where we stopped for lunch.

The Waimeha Stream (photo by John)

The umbrellas protect customers from the “fall-out” from birdlife in the tree branches above them
(photo by John)

After a pleasant hour (well, nearly an hour) of lunch and browsing around the garden centre, we pedalled back to Waikanae. I was surprised at how much easier this ride seemed than it had been when we rode it in January. Back then, I noticed the undulations of the Peka Peka Road as being “uphill”; this time it didn’t bother me at all, and we made quite rapid progress.

We went back to Otaihanga via the Waimanu Lagoons. We rode a total of 28 km, it took us an hour and a quarter to get to Harrisons (the long way round), and only 45 minutes to get back to the car.

Pied shags drying their feathers on a log in the river (photo by John)

Tuesday 10 June 2014


Sunday 1 June was officially the first day of the NZ winter, and it was a simply stunning day. Crisp, not a cloud in the sky, and not a breath of wind. A perfect day to take a ride to Pencarrow.

Obviously about a gazillion other Wellingtonians thought so too, as the carpark near Burdan’s gate was full and cars were parked along the road all the way to the Wahine Memorial. So we parked in a gravel parking area nearby.

Before we could set off on our ride, we had a couple of false starts. My bike was making very dire rattling noises, and it turned out that the chain had dropped off the sprocket. When John tried to put it back, he found that the bolt that attached the baggage carrier to the bike had fallen out, which caused the carrier to interfere with the sprocket.

We looked for the bolt among the gravel of the carpark, but we didn’t find it. Normally John puts his toolbox in the car – just in case – but of course today was the one day he hadn’t brought it along. Always resourceful, he tried to hold things together with a piece of wire that he’d found on the ground. But it didn’t work. It snapped with the first couple of turns of the pedals.

So, back to the car again, and just as I was thinking that he could perhaps borrow a bolt from the unused bottle cage on his bike, he had the same idea. So that fixed it. Off we set again, third time lucky? Oh no, now I discovered that my bike computer was missing. I had re-set it after we took the bikes out of the car, so I knew it must have come off right here somewhere. Another search of the carpark, and yay! we found it.

Phew! We could finally go. At Burdan’s Gate we had to lift the bikes over the barrier, because the little gate for pedestrians to go through, is too narrow and awkward for bikes. It is a right nuisance, actually. I think the Council should put in a proper gate that is bike-friendly, since the road to Pencarrow is so popular with cyclists.

As we were cycling around a wide sweeping bay, we saw the rail ferry Arahura coming into the harbour. I always find the ferries quite a thrilling sight, even though I’ve seen them coming in or going out lots of times.

The rail ferry Arahura steaming towards Wellington. The South Island, with the snow-topped peak of Mt Tapuaenuku, can be seen in the distance (photo by John)

It being such a lovely day, there were literally hundreds of people either walking or biking the track to Pencarrow. We saw quite a few families, with all the kids on bikes, and sometimes the youngest sitting in a child seat with Mum or Dad. People were stopping off to admire the lighthouse, to play on the beach, or to have a picnic.

A large group of people left their bikes leaning against the fence, while they were picnicking on the beach by the lighthouse

Every time we ride to Pencarrow, it seems to get easier. Probably because we’re getting fitter. We got to the lighthouse in practically “no time”, so we just kept going. Past the lakes, and as far as the rusting hulk of the Paiaka.

At least 40 ships have been wrecked along this wild part of the coast, though that seems hard to believe on a lovely calm day like today. The Paiaka was a small steamer that was wrecked in 1906. Its hull lay buried in the deep shingle of the beach at Fitzroy Bay until 1987 when the Eastbourne Historical Society arranged for it to be excavated.

The plaque alongside the remains of the SS Pakaia

The remains of SS Paiaka (photo by John)

Internal workings of the Paiaka (photo by John)

From a previous ride, when we went all the way to Baring Head, we knew that the track deteriorates severely beyond the Paiaka, so we turned around here. We sat on a rock on the beach for a while, enjoying the sun and the sound of the waves, and eating a snack.

The way back (photo by John)

Patterns in the sand … (photo by John)

… and in the rocks (photo by John)

The Pencarrow Lighthouse (photo by John)

Pure magic! (photo by John)

It really was a very nice ride – 22 km in 2.5 hours. When we got back to Burdan’s Gate, we got an icecream from the bike hire shed. They did a roaring trade that day, both in the way of hiring out bikes, and in the way of selling icecreams and other snacks.

La vita è bella! Isn’t life beautiful!

Wellington South Coast

During Queen’s Birthday Weekend we had glorious weather which lasted until the following Wednesday. We managed to go for three rides in four days. The first one, on Saturday 31 May, was along Wellington’s south coast.

We parked at the airport end of Lyall Bay. It was just about lunchtime when we got there, so we decided to check out the new-ish café “The Spruce Goose” first. The situation of this large café is perfect, as it overlooks both the beach and the airport runway. The building was once the home of the Wellington Aero Club, and it was moved to the present site last year. It has since been done up and the café opened for business in early December.

It was extremely busy, and the downstairs was pretty well packed, as were the terraces at each end of the building. But one of the staff showed us upstairs, where there is another large airy room with a deck and a fabulous view.

The view from the Spruce Goose’s deck towards the airport runway …

… and towards Lyall Bay Beach (photo by John)

The upstairs room at the Spruce Goose (photo by John)

The coffee was good, but the service quite slow as it was very busy. It was nearly 1pm by the time we left the café and set off on our ride along Lyall Bay, in the direction of Owhiro Bay.

On such a clear day the South Island can be seen from all along the south coast. Following a recent cold snap, there was snow on the top of Mt Tapuaenuku (or Tapuae-o-Uenuku) which dominates the Inward Kaikouras. At 2885 m, this mountain is the highest peak in NZ outside the Southern Alps. NZ's most famous mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hilary, reminisced that, in 1944, this was the first mountain he ever climbed. He referred to it as “Tappy”.

The South Island with Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku, seen from Island Bay. Taputeranga Island is in the foreground (photo by John)

At Houghton Bay, the road climbs a bit above the coastline, and there is a lovely view over the beach. This is a popular surfing spot, but there were no surfers today. John took several photos of the waves rolling onto the beach to try and capture that perfect curve of froth.

The surf rolls onto the beach at Houghton Bay (photo by John)

The road comes down to almost beach level again, and by the carpark, we found a new memorial. It is one of the propellers of the Royal NZ Navy frigate HMNZS Wellington, which was decommissioned in 1999, and scuttled off Houghton Bay in 2005. The wreck sits at a depth of about 21m, so that it is accessible to scuba divers. The propeller was installed in this position in December 2013.

The propeller of HMNZS Wellington at Houghton Bay (photo by John)

It didn’t take us long to get to Owhiro Bay. The carpark at the entrance of the Red Rocks track was quite full, and there were lots of people driving, walking and riding trail bikes on the track. It is not a track I would like to bike on, so we turned around and went back to Lyall Bay. It had been a pleasant 16 km ride, which took less than 1.5 hours.

The rocks off Island Bay at low tide. The headland in the distance on the left is Baring Head, on top of which you can just make out the lighthouse (click to enlarge) (photo by John)

Seagulls on the Island Bay seawall

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Four short rides

I have a bit of catching up to do with these blogs, I’m six rides behind. Here are details of four of them.

After we came back from our biking holiday in the South Island, we didn’t go for any bike rides for nearly two weeks because the weather was awful. But on Saturday 26 April, it was fine enough to get out. I was still feeling quite physically tired, so I didn’t feel like anything too strenuous.

Petone Foreshore to Point Howard

We decided on the Petone Foreshore, to the Seaview Marina and to Point Howard and back – about 10km. We’ve done this a few times now, so we only took one photo. The only exciting thing that happened was that John got a flat tyre at the end of the foreshore.

Would you believe it? We rode 300 km on gravel tracks in the South Island without a hitch, no flat tyres or any other mishaps. And now, here we were, riding on a perfectly smooth sealed foot/cycle path, and bingo! he gets a flat! The culprit was a small aluminium off-cut with very sharp corners. I actually heard the bit of metal land with a ringing sound after he had hit it, and I thought something had fallen off John's bike. We stopped, and the next thing we knew, his back tyre was flat! Bummer. Luckily it happened right near the Hikoikoi Park, so John was able to kneel on grass rather than concrete to fix the tyre.

Fixing a flat tyre in Petone

Plimmerton to Pauatahanui

It was another couple of weeks before we did another bike ride, to Pauatahanui this time. We parked at Plimmerton, and rode along Te Ara Harakeke to Paremata, and from there onto the Camborne Walkway.

After the walkway, you have to ride on the road for some distance until you get to Motukaraka, and then onto Te Ara Piko. This lovely track, which meanders around the wetlands of the ecologically significant Pauatahanui Inlet, is a Plimmerton Rotary project. There are plans for a safe walking and cycling track to eventually go right round the Inlet. However I think it will be a few years yet before it is all completed.

On this ride, we found that the bridge at the end of the boardwalk was just about finished – there was still someone putting the final touches to the railing, but we were able to ride across it. And a nice wide path continued along the edge of the road as far as the Pauatahanui Village – not completely protected from traffic, but much better than it was before.

Near the village we met an elderly gentleman riding his electric bike. We stopped for a chat. He was very keen to tell us his life story: he was in his 80s, was Dutch and had been in NZ for 55 years. He loved his electric bike as it allowed him to still cycle despite his age-related limitations.

Ruud with his electric bike (photo by John)

We carried on towards the village, and stopped for coffee and a scone at the Ground Up Café. On the way back John took some photos of the newly completed cycle path and bridge.

The wide cycle path makes cycling along this stretch of road safer (photo by John)

The newly completed bridge at Ration Point (photo by John)

A view across the wetlands, with a bird-watching hide at centre left (click to enlarge)
 (photo by John)

I liked all the textures of the hills, the toetoe and the grasses in the foreground

Hutt River Trail – Silverstream to Upper Hutt

Another week and a bit went by with unkind weather – gale force nor’westers and rain. But on Saturday 17 May, we had a fine, reasonably mild day, and we were able to go cycling again.

We rode the Hutt River Trail, from Silverstream to Upper Hutt and back – 22 km. Again, because we’ve done this track quite a few times now, we didn’t take too many photos. But with the high level of the river after the rains, and the low angle of the sun, the glistening river was very attractive.

The rapids in the bend of the Hutt River near Maoribank (photo by John)

We rode as far as Harcourt Park. We had hoped we would find a café nearby, but no such luck. So we just turned around and went back.

Autumn colours in Harcourt Park

Hutt River meanders (photo by John)

Ara Tawa

On Tuesday 27 May, we went for just a little ride on the Tawa Valley Pathway, Ara Tawa. I had read in the local suburban paper that the bridge across the Porirua Stream at Willowbank Park had been completed, so we went to check it out.

The pathway runs from Willowbank Park, along the railway line through Tawa, then through the Grasslees Reserve, down some Linden streets and eventually along the Porirua Stream, to end up at the Kenepuru Railway Station. I believe there are plans to continue the path all the way to Porirua eventually, but for now, the smooth concrete path becomes a dirt track beyond Kenepuru.

It was not a very exciting ride, only 9 km, but that was OK, as I had done a vigorous cardio class at the gym earlier in the day, so an easy ride was fine by me. We took no photos at all.