Sunday, 31 August 2014

Folding Goldies ride – Waikanae to Paekakariki

On Thursday 28 August, we went on our second “Folding Goldies” ride. This time we took the train to Waikanae and biked the Kapiti Coastal Cycle Route – via Paraparaumu, Raumati and Queen Elizabeth II Park – to Paekakariki, from where we caught the train back to Wellington.

We were very lucky with the weather – it was a perfect, calm, spring day. John and I boarded the train at the Takapu Road Station in Tawa because it is not far from where we live.

Waiting for the train at Takapu Road Station (photo by John)

And here it comes! (photo by John)

Alastair was already on the train. Of the four other people who had said they would go on this ride, three ended up not being able to, and the fourth met us at Waikanae. Alastair had folded up his bike, as there was already another bike strapped up in the official bike spot, and only three bikes can be carried in this way. When another man with a bike came on board at Porirua, John folded up his bike to make room for him.

It is years since I travelled along the Kapiti Coast by train – a trip on the (then called) Northerner to Auckland – and that was not a brilliant day like today. The views from the railway line are gorgeous. Porirua Harbour was like a mirror, and the view to Kapiti Island is better from the train, than from the road.

View to Kapiti Island, from the train (photo by John)

We were met at Waikanae Station by Lynn Sleath, who is involved with the Cycling Advocates Network and Kapiti Cycling Inc. As a local resident, he is obviously very knowledgeable about the area, and he was our guide for much of the ride. We rode through the town centre, across Te Moana Road, and into Karu Crescent, to get to the track on the northern bank of the Waikanae River. Halfway along, we crossed the new-ish Te Arawai Bridge to the southern bank.

We had biked both sides of the river before. What was different this time was the progress made on the construction of the Waikanae Bridge – part of the new Kapiti Expressway. The walking/cycling track has been preserved across the works site. We stopped to take a few pictures. Right next to the track were cages for two of the huge concrete piles that will support the bridge. An information board nearby told us that these will reach depths of 40 metres below ground level!

The cages for the bridge piles, which will go down to a depth of 40 metres!

At the Otaihanga Domain, we ducked under the bridge and rode on a path along the river that was new to us, and which eventually ended up on Manly Street in Paraparaumu.

Near the mouth of the Waikanae River. Kapiti Island is in the background (photo by John)

Muesli bar stop at Paraparaumu Beach. From left, Alastair, John, Lynn

There is a nice, smooth concrete, shared path along Marine Parade, with picnic tables and other seating nearby. When it ended, we rode on up the hill towards Raumati, then diverted onto a track that led us past an open area near the airport.

The shared walking/cycle path along Marine Parade

Somewhere near the airport

We stopped in Raumati for a leisurely lunch (photo by John)

After a leisurely lunch in Raumati, Lynn showed us the way to the start of Queen Elizabeth II Park, and then left us. The three of us carried on along the Coastal Track in the sand dunes to Paekakariki.

I had a few reservations about this track, as I knew it would go up and down a lot. But, as John said, the “ups” were only short, and he was sure I would manage them fine. Well, I did – sort of. I did have to get off quite a few times and walk, but I was heartened to see that John and Alastair also had to do that a few times, though not as often as me.

Some of the “ups” of the Coastal Track were quite steep … (photo by John)

… but the views were lovely (photo by John)

Along the way, the track crossed two streams, both fortunately spanned by bridges. After the Wainui Stream, we had to walk on the beach for a short distance as the track was all sanded up and overgrown.

The bridge across the Wainui Stream (photo by John)

Looking back at the Wainui Stream

When we arrived at the township of Paekakariki, Alastair led us up a steepish road, which he said was a more direct route to the station, so that we might catch the 2:15pm train back to Wellington. Unfortunately we didn’t quite make it – as we got to the top of the hill, we were in time to see the train pulling out. Not to worry, there would be another one in half an hour, which would still allow us to use our Gold Cards. That gave us time for another cup of coffee at the Perching Parrot Café.

Coffee and cake at the Perching Parrot (photo by John)

Three folding bikes – Alastair’s “Tern” on the left, our “Giant Expressways” on the right (photo by John)

The Paekakariki Station building is now a museum, established in the 1990s, when the buildings were threatened with demolition. The museum is only open during weekends, so perhaps we should make a special trip some time to check it out.

The historic Signal Box at Paekakariki Station

The beautifully restored historic station building

It was a very enjoyable “Folding Goldies” ride, though it was disappointing that the other three people had to pull out. Alastair has really been trying to publicise the group, and hopefully we will get a few more takers next time. The plan will be to ride from Waikanae to Peka Peka and back. Alastair has posted his photos on Flickr here.

It seemed like cycling from Waikanae to Paekakariki would be rather a long ride, but in fact it was only 25 km. When I was reflecting upon this, I realised that it shows my progress over the past year’s cycling, now that I can think of 25 km as “only” 25 km. A year ago, I would have thought that anything over 15 km was a major ride! As for those ups and downs on the sand dunes …

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A busy weekend

We haven’t been out for a bike ride this week, we’ve been too busy with other things. Apart from going to Scottish Country Dancing on Sunday afternoon (last week) and on three evenings during the week, this last weekend was also very busy.

On Friday night we attended a “Wellington on a Plate” event, at the Boomrock Lodge. This is a convention and wedding venue, right at the end of the Ohariu Valley Road, and up the hill for several kilometres to the edge of the world, it seems.

As part of the event, participants were picked up from the city – or in our case, from Johnsonville – and taken in two full-size buses to the Boomrock Lodge. On the way through the Ohariu Valley, we could see, though dusk was setting in, that this would be quite a nice place to bike. We must investigate that some time soon. It is practically on our back doorstep, but we haven’t been there for a long while.

We were treated to a beautiful sunset as we were being driven up to the lodge, but unfortunately by the time we got there it was nearly dark.

The idea for this event was that it would simulate an après-ski ambiance, and participants were encouraged to don their best “après-ski” outfits. It was a very cold evening, with a bitter southerly, and when we emerged from the bus, it seemed to be snowing! But no, it wasn’t actually snow, just a machine on the roof blowing very fine clusters of bubbles which looked quite realistically like big snow flakes. It all added to the illusion.

“Snow” on the ground at the Boomrock Lodge entrance (photo by John)

There was a roaring open fire in the dining room, and we were immediately offered glasses of bubbly as we entered. Then everyone trooped out onto the lawn in front of the Lodge, to catch the last of the fabulous view before dark. Beyond the lawn, the hill dropped away sharply and the stunning view over Cook Strait stretched from the South Island to Mana Island.

John and I warm our hands on cups of Glühwein in front of the Lodge.
The South Island is in the background

It was jolly cold out there, so we went back inside and found our table. A group of people in natty ski jumpers was hovering in front of the open fire.

The warm pre-dinner atmosphere (photo by John)

The table settings were beautifully done (photo taken from the Boomrock Facebook page)

The dinner was excellent. It started with an entrée of French bread slices with melting Camembert and fig chutney. When the young man in a David Bain ski jersey came to clear the empty plates away, I said to him that the fig chutney was delicious. “Would you like some to take home?”, he asked. Yes, of course I would. And within seconds a waitress came over and gave me a beautiful little jar of it. Then, to my surprise, the young man came back with another jar! How wonderful – that meant that my sister, who was there too, was able to take a jar home as well!

A jar of Boomrock Fig Chutney

The main course was Thar mountain goat with a braised leek concoction and potato Mornay (I think). I hadn’t been too sure about the mountain goat (as I hate the taste of goat’s milk or cheese), but it was actually delicious – rather like venison, in fact. The meal finished with apple strudel and ice-cream, and finally hot chocolate with marshmallows. Yum!

The Thar mountain goat steak was delicious (photo by John)

At about 9 pm, we were advised that the buses were ready to take us back into town. It was a good thing that guests didn’t have to drive back, along that very winding, steep gravel road in the pitch dark, as many people had imbibed a fair bit of alcohol. It had been a fun evening, and excellent meal.

                                                        * * * * * * * * * * *

On Saturday night, John and I went to our (Johnsonville) Scottish Country Dance Club’s Annual Dance, where we had a wonderful time. It was very well attended, with over 70 people there. I think I rather overdid the dancing – I danced every one of the 20 dances, with the result that I was feeling somewhat sore the next day – pretty much "crippled", actually! But I do love the dancing, despite the pain afterwards.

The band, and the Johnsonville Club teacher, Rod Downey (photo by John)

The dance was very well attended (photo by Pat Reesby)

Great to see all the men in kilts! (photo by Loralee Hyde)

Supper waiting to be served. Every Johnsonville member brought two plates each!
 (photo by John)

                                                       * * * * * * * * * * * * 

On Sunday night, we attended a performance of “Der Rosenkavalier”, an opera by Richard Strauss. It was performed by the Days Bay Opera which usually perform small opera events in a garden in summer. This time, the opera was performed in the newly built hall at Wellesley College in Days Bay. Before the performance, it was possible to enjoy a special dinner at the Days Bay Pavillion – supposedly an Austrian-style opera supper.

One of the choices for the main course was Bratwurst (Austrian sausage) in a crisp breadroll with sauerkraut and mustard, and a side salad. All four of us (we were with my sister and her husband) chose that. It was very tasty, but we were a bit mystified by the wasabi dressing on the side salad – that did not seem very Austrian! The dessert of Sachertorte however was suitably Austrian, and very yummy.

There is a path that leads directly from the Pavillion into the grounds of Wellesley College. It is a very attractive old (I think) building, and the new hall next to it seems to blend into it very nicely, with a large bay window at the front.

Wellesley College façade (photo by John)

The large bay window of the new hall (photo by John)

The hall was set up with seating on three sides, the orchestra in the bay window, and the “stage” in the middle. The only “setting” was a painting of the period (mid-18th century) projected onto a large screen overhead.

I am afraid that the opera was a bit of a disappointment. I suppose my musical tastes are not very sophisticated and Richard Strauss’ music is not terribly easy on the ear – at least not to me. Composed in 1910, it is not in the late 18th century classical music mould. And though it was all sung in English, we could not actually hear the words, so much of the time we were in the dark as to what was being said (sung). The acting was a bit dreary too - there wasn't a lot happening, especially in the first act. During the intermission we debated whether we should cut our losses and sneak out, or hang in there and hope it would improve. We stayed, and fortunately the pace picked up a bit during the second and third act. The singing was very good, but I think I shall think twice before attending a Strauss opera again.

The cast of “Der Rosenkavalier” take their bows (photo by John)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A short Hutt Valley ride

Yesterday, we had a short-ish, late-start ride. We rode from Seaview up the Hutt River Trail, as far as Avalon. The weather was fine but there was a cold wind and I was glad of my windproof parka.

When we rode past the Hutt Riverbank carpark, we caught the end of the weekly market. We were just a bit too late to buy anything, as most of the traders were in the process of packing up, and the clean-up crew was waiting to move in. By the time we rode past there on our way back, the carpark was empty, except for a truck driving around, sweeping up all the vegetable left-overs. A large group of scavenging seagulls was squabbling over the remaining debris ahead of the truck.

The track towards the far end of the Riverbank Carpark (photo by John)

At Avalon, we turned off the River Trail, and headed into the High Street to have coffee at the Janus Bakkerij. We enjoyed their excellent coffee and lemon cake (me) and apple crumble (John) in the sun. Then we pedalled along into Lower Hutt for John to make a brief stop at Jaycar.

While I was waiting outside with the bikes, an elderly gentleman stopped to ask whether the small size of the wheels affected the bikes' speed. He said he had a folding bike with larger wheels than ours, that he had been riding for a decade. But, he said, he also had an electric mobility scooter. Then he climbed into his aggressive-looking 4WD, and drove away. What a dude! Obviously covering all his options ...

From here we made our way back to the River Trail, and headed back to our car at Seaview. It was just a short, undemanding ride – just 14 km – but enjoyable.

Today, Sunday, would have been a much better day for a long ride, but I had something else on. While I was out with the car, John took the opportunity to line up all three (!) of his bikes in the garage, and take a photo to show how similar the riding positions are for all three. In other words, nothing is compromised when riding a folding bike.

Then he went for an 11 km ride around our hilly suburb by himself. I won't join him on these escapades. Having to struggle up a hill to get home is not my idea of fun – I’m a flatlander, after all!

John’s three bikes – The folder in the front, his old Tarini mountain bike in the middle, and at the back, the Jamis Allegro Sport he gave himself when he had reached his 1000 km milestone (photo by John)

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Kilbirnie, Hataitai and Roseneath – and a new milestone

The weather has been less than exciting in the last couple of weeks. John was getting a bit stir-crazy, so when the skies started to clear on Saturday, he said he was going to take the bike on the train into town and ride along the waterfront. Although I had plans to go to an SCD dance in the late afternoon, I decided I would quite like to go biking as well.

I had a vague feeling that John thought I was crashing his one-man party, but anyway, we drove to Oriental Parade, and biked to Kilbirnie, where he wanted to have a browse around Burke’s Cycles. It was cold with a brisk southerly, especially around some of the points approaching Evans Bay, but we were dressed for the conditions, with umpteen layers of clothing.

At Burke’s we looked at the latest in folding bikes, including an electric folder, the Flying-Cat Wynd. In bright red, it looked like my kind of bike, but with a pricetag of over $2000, and a hefty weight of 21 kg (compared with 13 kg for our bikes, including bag carrier and bag), it is probably a “no-no” – for now, at least. As John says, maybe in a few years’ time, when the technology is better and our bodies are crappier …

Actually, on the return journey, I would have welcomed the kind of assistance you get from an e-bike. John decided we would go up into Haitaitai Village. I balked – I didn’t want to go uphill! He tried to entice me with coffee at a café at the top of Moxham Avenue. I knew it wasn’t a very good café, but I figured I wouldn’t grizzle since this was his ride (that I had crashed). As expected, we didn’t like the look of the café enough to stop there, and I thought we would ride back down the hill and return along the waterfront.

Wrong! “We’ll just go along here a bit further” said John. “No, I’m not going up that hill!” It was a steep one. “No, not there, we’ll go round the corner, it’s not far.” Well, it was not far – to get to a stretch that was steeper than I could manage! – and I ended up having to get off and push. Grumble, grumble. No sympathy from John. “Serves you right for hi-jacking my ride”. Ooh, ouch!

We got to where it looked like we might be starting to go downhill, and I stopped to take a photo of the airport, just to show how high up we were.

Wellington Airport

We tootled down a short downhill stretch, and then went uphill some more! Too steep for me, so more walking. “It’s not far” and “Come on, it’s not that steep” were John’s encouraging comments. But look at the photos, and see how high above Evans Bay we were. It must be said, though – the views were gorgeous!

Above Evans Bay, looking at the Miramar Peninsula

Above Balaena Bay, looking towards the Hutt Valley

Eventually we made it to Roseneath, where we started going steeply downhill back to Oriental Parade. Here is a map of where we rode, and there is a profile at the bottom, which shows the gradients of the road. I worked out the uphill bit to average about 1:38.

It was well past lunchtime by now, and we continued along Oriental Bay to Karaka Café for coffee and a bite to eat. The cafe was very busy and we enjoyed sitting in the sun, waiting for our food to arrive. We watched a couple of rowing crews returning from their training session, and getting their craft (coxed four?) out of the water, and hoisted up onto a trailer.

Karaka Café was busy
Rowing crews return from their training session

Before returning to the car, we rode along to Queen’s Wharf, as I needed to have a mileage of 15 km today, so that I could reach my 2000 km milestone. There was a market on in the Frank Kitts parking garage, and there were a lot of people about enjoying the lovely day. We stopped to listen to a man playing some boogie-woogie jazz on the community piano. He was very good.

A cyclist plays on the community piano near Frank Kitts Park

We had another look at the new Clyde Quay Wharf, and rode right round it. There are no retail businesses on the ground floor yet, but it looks like two food places – Mojo's and The White House –  and a Day Spa/Beauty Parlour will be opening there soon. It is all pretty stylish, and would be an interesting place to live – though eye-wateringly expensive.

The far end of the Clyde Quay Wharf

Then, just as we were coming back off the wharf, my bike computer showed 15 km, so I had reached my 2000 km milestone. Which warranted a photo, of course!

2000 km! (photo by John)

Back at the car, John said he wanted to stop at Bicycle Junction, the bike shop in Newtown, as he wanted to take a look at the Brompton folding bike  which they now import. John has been fascinated by these incredibly nifty – but expensive – folding bikes, and wanted to see a “live” one (as opposed to online).

The man in the shop – Dan Mikkelson, I think – was very helpful and showed us how quickly you can fold and unfold this lovely bike, and what a neat small package it folds down to. The back wheel folds underneath the frame, and has a little stand with rollers so that it is really easy to wheel the bike around in its folded state – useful if you have to drag it around a railway station, for instance. Or if you have to take it on the Tube and park it under your desk at work – as a London-based friend of mine does.

We have been following the blog of the Cyclopolitans, a NZ couple who are travelling around Europe on their Bromptons – with trailers!  Very interesting and inspiring. I would love to do something like that, but without the camping. I like my creature comforts!