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come to grief against one of them while riding her bike, and consequently they were deemed to be “dangerous” and have been replaced by green lines and bike symbols painted on the track at each driveway.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)

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