Thursday, 18 December 2014

Summer – at last?

Everyone in Wellington has been complaining about the appalling lack of summer weather we are having. It’s been blowing gales for what seems like months on end, and then we had bucketing rain for days. But we finally had two whole fine days in a row – sunny and above all, calm! Yay! Mind you – it was a case of “don’t blink, or you’ll miss it”, because the next day it was back to heavy rain.

Anyway, complaints aside – we managed to go for a short-ish bike ride on Tuesday. My overseas sister-in-law, who is staying with us at the moment, went off into town with a cousin, so we had a free afternoon. We went to Pauatahanui and Whitby.

As the holidays seem to have started for many schools, we wanted to avoid riding on Grays Road, between the Camborne Walkway and Motukaraka. We thought there might be more car traffic than is usually the case during the week. It is a winding road, there is virtually no shoulder, and motorists are inclined to drive too fast along that stretch.

So we parked the car at Motukaraka Point, and pedalled off onto Te Ara Piko. From Pauatahanui, we rode along the underpass under the main road, and into Whitby. We had enjoyed the walkways through this suburb when we rode there with the Folding Goldies, so we wanted to explore them again.

It's uphill into Whitby to get to the walkway, but with the electric bikes, it is so easy to ride up the hills. Wonderful!

Whitby Walkways sign post (photo by John)

The walkway meanders between stream and back gardens …

… and through leafy glades (photo by John)

We didn’t go all the way through Whitby, but turned around after a few kilometres.

We got back to Pauatahanui, just as the local school was emptying out. It must have been the last day and prize giving, judging from the many parents that came streaming across the pedestrian crossing along with their children. All were loaded down with bags of exercise books, artworks, and other paraphernalia, and some were clutching certificates.

School’s out for summer! – isn’t that the title of a 70s pop song? (yes, Alice Cooper, in 1972).

The stream of children and parents across the pedestrian crossing seemed to be never-ending (photo by John)

Riding past the wetlands, we were struck by the unusually bright green patches of algae, where the tide had gone out. It was hard to capture that colour, but our photos also showed up the wonderful russet colours of the reeds in the foreground.

Bright green patches of algae at the water’s edge and rusty reds of the reeds in the foreground

Bright yellow-green algae

Back at Motukaraka, we noticed the scum that had been left behind by the receding tide. I wonder if that was related to the growth of the algae too. It did look very pretty along the scalloped edge of the water …

Frothy scum has been left behind by the receding tide (photo by John)

More frothy scalloped edges (photo by John)

John’s birthday present was an i-Phone 6 which has a pretty good camera on it, and he's enjoying experimenting with it. It is capable of taking panoramas, which of course, had to be tried out.

A panorama of the Pauatahanui inlet, from Motukaraka Point (photo by John)

It was not a long ride – just 14 kms – but it was so lovely to be out in the sunshine, and without the infernal wind!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Hawke’s Bay Trip – Day 3

It’s over a week since I wrote up Day 2 of our Hawke’s Bay trip, but I still have to post Day 3. I’ve been a bit busy, with visitors staying, a big birthday to celebrate (John’s), and a quarterly journal to edit. Now we’ve got time to breathe, and tomorrow looks like it will be fine – at last! We may go for a ride, so I’d better get Hawke's Bay Day 3 written up. (I started writing this on Monday, and we've already had that ride yesterday.)

On Monday 1 December, the forecast was for changeable weather, and possibly showers from late morning, so we made an early-ish start. We planned to do the Wineries Ride. We’re not particularly interested in wineries or wine tasting, which is just as well, because everything was closed on a Monday morning. But the scenery is lovely.

We drove out to the Hastings Golf Course, and parked the car opposite the Bridge Pa Aerodrome. The track is basically a big square around the wine growing area, and we rode it clockwise.

Somewhere on Ngatarawa Road (photo by John)

Near the Ngatarawa Winery we came upon a little family of ducks, waddling across the cycle path. We were worried that they would run onto the road and get hit by a car, so we rode past them v-e-r-y slowly. In fact, John stopped and waved at an approaching car to slow down. It actually stopped, and the ducks safely crossed the road. They are so cute to watch – funny how they all change direction and move at the same time.

Ducks about to cross the road (photo by John)

The track turned right at the base of the hills. The sky was darkening to the north. (photo by John)

From Ngatarawa Road, the track turned right to run alongside SH50 – a long very straight stretch. We were able to get a close-up look at the vines. Behind us, we could see the rain advancing towards us over the hills.

A long straight stretch between the vines and SH50 (photo by John)

The vines, seen from up close

The rain is coming … (photo by John)

Somewhere along this road, we spotted the Roys Hill Restoration Reserve, across the road. We powered up the steep drive to take a look. There wasn’t much there apart from a look-out shelter, and we couldn't see what the reserve was supposed to be restoring, but the view over the vineyards was beautiful.

Roys Hill Restoration Reserve – the look-out shelter (photo by John)

View over the vineyards (photo by John)

We diverted off the highway onto a path that took us along the Ngaruroro River – according to the map, that is, because we couldn’t actually see the river.

Diverting off the highway (photo by John)

On top of the stopbank, after the turn-off

This is where the rain caught up with us. So on went the parkas. We could see the clouds scudding along in patches, and we decided to try and outrun this patch of rain. We cranked our e-bikes up to level 5 assist, and belted along at about 30 km/hr. Wheee! We have no photos of this, as John put his camera away. We got quite wet quite quickly.

We came to a junction and followed the instructions on the sign post, continuing on top of the stopbank. But part-way along, we felt we might have got it wrong. We met a man going in the opposite direction and asked where this bit of track was leading. It turned out it went to Clive. So yes, we were on the wrong track. We turned around back to the junction. We think that the fierce winds of recent weeks had probably twisted the whole lot of arrows around, so they were all pointing in the wrong direction.

Some cattle sheltering under a tree below the stopbank

Luckily the rain had almost stopped by now – down to a few spits …

We headed off towards Oak Avenue. We rode along the road for some distance, then John had to stop to take his camera out again. Oak Avenue is a mile-long avenue of oaks that were planted in 1874. The road is actually called Ormond Road, after a Mr Ormond who planted the oaks, but it is locally known as Oak Avenue – deservedly so. It was the driveway to the Ormond homestead, back in the day. It is beautiful, the trees are magnificent and very impressive.

The start of Oak Avenue (photo by John)

Oak Avenue (photo by John)

The oak trees are most impressive (photo by John)

Near the end of Oak Avenue, I was intrigued by some agricultural implements by the side of an apple orchard. They look like jet-powered space-age machines. Upon looking for the brand name "Cropliner" on Google, I found out that these are machines for spraying crops. Thank goodness for the Internet. How did we ever use to find out anything before Google?

Crop spraying machinery

As we were making our way back to the car from there, the rain threatened again, so we cranked up the e-assist level, and made it back just as the large drops were starting to fall.

We headed to Havelock North for lunch, and pondered whether to stay for another day or go home. We had originally planned to go back to Wellington the next day, but as the weather was starting to pack up, and the forecast did not look too hopeful, we figured that more cycling was not on the cards. We had done 35 km that morning, which was enough, so we decided to call it a day, and head back to Wellington. We were home by 6:30 pm.

We had the prospect of visitors arriving from overseas and from up north too, and I had a zillion things to do before they came. Visitors are always a good catalyst for doing some extra tidying and cleaning around the place, aren’t they? But we were glad to have been able to fit in a few days’ cycling before things got really busy.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Hawke’s Bay trip – Day 2

On our second day in Hawke’s Bay, Sunday 30 November, we decided to drive to Tarradale, and planned to bike the “Water Ride” from there to the Snapper Café, via the estuary wetlands, then come back and have lunch at the Mission Estate. And if we still had energy after that, we could perhaps do the Puketapu Loop. But it didn’t quite work out like that.

We parked by the EIT Sports Centre, on Gloucester Street, and rode up the road towards Church Road.

Church Road (photo by John)

When we rode past the Mission Estate driveway, I thought we should go in and book a table for lunch, as I would expect it to be quite busy on a Sunday. So we powered up the steep drive – yay! for level 5 assist! – and booked a table for 12:30 pm.

I think this is where our problems started. We should have either booked for a later time, or not have booked at all, because we weren’t able to do what we planned in the time available before 12:30.

With a bit of confusion (there is no sign posting), we found our way to the estuary ride. This part of the ride is really lovely. It took us along a small waterway – a stream or just wetland – and eventually we arrived at the estuary itself, but the track dipped down below the stopbank. It meant we were a bit more sheltered from the horrendous wind, but it also meant we couldn’t actually see the estuary.

The start of the estuary ride (photo by John)

Near the bend in the track, there was a look-out tower. I went up to take a photo of the view, and found three young people there, sitting on the floor – one of them moaning in a odd sort of way. I was surprised to find them there. I wondered if they were high on something, so I beat a quick retreat, and we continued on our ride.

The look-out tower – with hidden occupants … (photo by John)

View from the look-out

After a while we were able to see the larger waterway, and a bit further along there was a bird viewing area. It was protected by a fence, but it had an attractive information board on it, providing details about the types of birds that could be seen from there, and viewing holes to see what was beyond.

The estuary (photo by John)

Peering at the wetlands (photo by John)

The other end of the information board

We rode across a little bridge over what appeared to be a sluice gate. The track beyond that was quite narrow, and very close to the water’s edge. It went around a point under a road bridge. And then we ended up on another bridge alongside.

John crosses the bridge over a sluice gate. The two road bridges are in the distance on the left
(click to enlarge)

The track across the old road bridge (photo by John)

The track went across the old road bridge – now no longer carrying motorised traffic – and a railway line ran alongside it. The new road bridge was further over to the left of us. It was a nice smooth, straight road on which we – with childish delight – cranked up our e-bikes to level 5, and raced each other to the end. Yeehaaa!

After this, we weren't sure as to where we should go from here. We knew we wanted to go to the left, on the loop that would take us past the airport, but there seemed to be nowhere to turn left. We came to a built-up area, with a sign pointing towards Westshore, and so we ended up taking a sharp right turn instead.

Here I’d like to do a bit of a grizzle about the lack of sign posting. The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council puts out a great map of all the cycling tracks of the area and an excellent brochure with this map and further information. So why don’t they provide signs that relate to the map? It would be great if at “confusion points” there were signs pointing the way to, say, the “Water Ride” or the “Orange Trail”. That would make life so much easier for out-of-towners.

Time was marching on and we were mindful of the fact that we had booked lunch for 12:30. We decided we probably didn’t have time to do the loop to Snapper Café and back by then, so we headed to Westshore and a coffee break there instead.

A sailing school about to take off from Westshore

How the other half lives … John was rather taken with this limousine (photo by John)

After our coffee we had to find our way back to Church Road. We looked for the quickest way to get across to Prebensen Drive and Church Road, but what a hassle to find our way! I suggested that according to the map, we should be able to go in a direct line from the i-Site to Prebensen Drive. But I misinterpreted the map, and we ended up having to go through the Napier shopping area, and then zig and zag our way through various streets to get to Church Road. I reminded John to never again trust my map reading skills! In the end, we had to rely on his innate sense of direction (which is something I totally lack!).

The Christmas tree decorators obligingly waved when I pointed my camera at them ...

... and she was waving too! This lovely Art Deco lady is in the middle of the Napier shopping area
(photo by John)

We made it to the Mission Estate at just the right time. Phew! I had been right to book, as it was very busy, with most of the tables occupied. We enjoyed a delicious lunch with a nice glass of wine, of course.

Mission Estate Restaurant. There were no tables or umbrellas on the lawn because of the strong wind (photo by John)
The Mission Estate vines

Our bikes parked outside the Mission (photo by John)

After lunch we decided not to ride the Puketapu Loop as that would add another 20 odd kilometres to today’s tally, and we’d had a long enough ride the day before (62 km). Rather than returning to our car by the main roads, we found a lovely track that meandered between the road and a stream. It didn’t take us all the way back, but we got there eventually.

A nice meandering track to get back to the car (photo by John)

Our distance for the day was 37.5 km. It had been a nice ride, though somewhat frustrating – partly because of the lack of time, and partly because of the lack of sign posting. Mental note: take along a Napier/Hastings city map next time!

And the wind was quite tiresome. We were glad of the electric assistance of our bikes. Note that e-bikes don't do all the work for us. We still have to do the pedalling. If your legs stop moving the pedals, the electric motor stops too. But being able to boost the output against the wind is great!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Hawke's Bay trip – Day 1

We went to Hawke’s Bay for a few days’ cycling the trails from Friday 28 November to Monday 1 December. It was a bit of a last minute decision to go, as there were other things happening around us that made forward planning awkward. But the forecast looked good, and so off we went on the Friday.

The kind people at Arbor Vitae in Hastings were able to have us stay in their self-contained cottage again. We stayed there around this time last year, and found it to be perfectly placed for a cycling holiday.

We arrived in Hastings in the mid afternoon, and after settling our stuff in the cottage, we took a drive. John wanted to check out the road of the Tukutuki Loop, thinking we would perhaps ride it the next day. But is was so long, and so convoluted and up and down, that I decided I did not particularly want to ride that after all, not even with the help of an electric bike. We did ride it last year, and found it to be quite hard work.

The weather has been quite unpredictable and a bit unusual this spring. We are having lots of very high winds, which are rather frustrating. A surprise, that Friday night, was a sudden tremendous downpour accompanied by thunder and lightening. Fortunately it didn’t go on for too long, and the next day was fine.

The view from the lounge of the cottage during the deluge

On Saturday morning, we set out from the cottage on our bikes and headed towards Havelock North. The wind was fairly strong already, and it got worse as the day wore on.

Along the Havelock Road, there is a great cycle track, where there used to be bollards in the middle of the track, on either side of driveways, as a warning to both cyclists and motorists. These have been removed. I read a report that the wife of a Hastings Councillor had come to grief against one of them while riding her bike, and consequently they were deemed to be “dangerous” and have been replaced by green lines and bike symbols painted on the track at each driveway.

I wanted to visit the Black Barn Vineyards Growers’ Market, which is supposed to happen every Saturday morning in the summer. But when we got there, there was no-one around. No market. It turned out it wasn’t starting till the next weekend. I had wondered why there were so few cars about (they belonged to workers in the vineyards). Of course, “summer” officially starts on 1 December, and today was only 29 November! Duh!

Coming down the Black Barn Vineyards drive (photo by John)

The circular market place under the trees looks lovely – but there was no market! (photo by John)

The amphitheatre where concerts and events are sometimes held during summer

We had planned to have coffee at the market, but since that wasn't an option, we stopped at the Tandem Café instead, only a little bit further down the road.

Coffee at the Tandem Café (photo by John)

We carried on to do the Landscape ride, on the southern bank of the Tukituki River, towards Clive. A short distance in, we noticed a large collection of campervans. It piqued our curiosity as it was not an actual camping ground. It turned out that it was the annual Christmas rally of the Hawkes Bay Motorhome Club.

The Motorhome Club’s Christmas rally (photo by John)

Well established vines contrast with newly planted ones (photo by John)

I like the perfectly straight lines of the new vines (photo by John)

It was lovely riding on the stopbank, despite the wind. The electric assist was wonderful. It didn’t feel as if we were struggling into a headwind. One wee problem was having to negotiate the many gates. The back of the bike is quite heavy because that is where the electric motor and battery reside, and it makes it tricky to manoeuvre around the corner. I also found that I had to be very careful not to accidentally tweak the throttle while holding the handlebar with my left hand, while my right hand was lifting the back of the bike. In a stationary position, the throttle makes the bike rear up, which is very disconcerting!

Negotiating one of the many gates (photo by John)

At Black Bridge we crossed to the other side of the river. We were pleased to see that there was now a much safer path for pedestrians and cyclists, protected from car traffic by a substantial barrier. When we rode here last year, John found it so bad – narrow, unprotected and poor surface – that he didn’t feel safe cycling across because of his balance problem, and had to walk.

The much-improved pedestrian and cycle path on Black Bridge (photo by John)

From here we rode through a wetlands area, to get to the road that would take us from Haumoana to Clifton.

People fishing off a spit of gravel near the estuary (photo by John)

The wind ripples the water in the wetlands (photo by John)

The nor’westerly wind was pretty severe. Certainly the electric assist made quite a difference. It meant that battling against the wind was not such a hard slog. We pedalled along, with the assist level at 3 most of the time, which worked out well.

As we drew near the Elephant Hill Winery we debated – very briefly – whether we should have lunch there, but decided against it, as it is rather expensive. Instead we pushed on to the Clifton Café, where we had a much more reasonably priced lunch.

Waiting for our lunch at the Clifton Café, and having to hold onto the number to stop it blowing over (photo by John)

Cape Kidnappers seen from Clifton (photo by John)

On the way back, we stopped at a side track, from where there was access to the beach. John decided to go down to the beach to try to fly the little kite he always carries in his pannier “just in case”. But it was too windy for it to fly properly. It kept spinning around on itself on the string, and John made me hold the line while he untangled it. I snapped a shot of him just as he was releasing the kite again.

It was too windy for the kite to fly properly

Time for a rest and a mini-slab of chocolate (photo by John)

Wonderful textures of water and reeds (photo by John)

After enjoying an icecream from a dairy in Clive, we continued on the cycle track along the Clive River. When the track left the river near Whakatu, it followed a railway line between orchards on one side and cold stores and fruit packing sheds on the other.

Beside the Clive River (photo by John)

The track ran between orchards and the railway line (photo by John)

Stacks of fruit crates ready for the packing season (photo by John)

As we were turning into a road to get back to Hastings, John spotted in the distance a game of polo being played in a sportsground. Being keen on horses, I wanted to have a closer look, so we pedalled down Ellwood Road to get as close to the action as we could, and leaned on the fence for a while to watch them playing.

A polo game in progress (photo by John)

From here it was suburban roads to get back to our cottage. It had been a long ride – 62 km – much longer than we had planned. The e-bikes had done us proud, but still our legs did feel the effects of a long ride.

We finished the day by driving into Ahuriri to have dinner at a Thai restaurant with some friends. They claimed that this place served the best Thai food in New Zealand. It was very nice indeed, and we had a very pleasant evening. On the way home, we stopped at the supermarket to get some icecream to go with the freshly picked raspberries our hostess had given us when we got back from our ride. A delicious dessert and a perfect end to the day!

Dinner at a Thai restaurant in Ahuriri (photo by John)