Wednesday 25 February 2015

Ohariu - Makara - Karori loop

We’ve had a week without biking, but yesterday we went on a 39 km loop ride to Makara. John has done this loop a number of times, on each of his four (!) bikes, so he’s reasonably familiar with it. It is an area that is quite lovely, and we have been there by car quite a few times. But because it involves a fair bit of hill climbing, I’ve never been game to bike it. Until now.

Ohariu Valley is practically on our backdoor step, and we’re almost at the highest point of the Johnsonville end of this ride. From our house we have to climb up a short stretch to the start of Ohariu Road, and from there it is a lovely long downhill on Ohariu Valley Road, to the valley floor.

Ohariu Valley Road, coming up to the crossroads (photo by John)

At the crossroads, we headed up the Takarau Gorge Road. Up the hill for a bit, then more downhill. We would not bike this route on a weekend, as it is quite popular with people heading for the beach at Makara, or just going for a drive. But on a weekday, there was not a lot of traffic.

One or two cars passed us, and we kept well to the left. Then a car followed us for some distance, around several twists and turns of the road. We thought the driver was just being extra cautious in not overtaking. But when we were able to pull off the road, we found that following us were, not just three cars, but a panicked sheep. Behind the cars were a farmer on his motorbike and his sheepdog, on a mission to reunite the escaped sheep with the rest of the mob patiently waiting in the yards a little way up the road.

The cars passed, and we waited back so as not to spook the sheep any further. Once the farmer got his renegade sheep back into the yards, we stopped for a chat.

The woolshed and the waiting mob

A little further up the road we went past the entrance to Ohariu Farm, which, as well as being a working farm, is also a wedding venue and conference centre.

The entrance to Ohariu Farm

Another farm’s idyllic setting (photo by John)

Close to the turn-off towards Makara Beach, when I stopped to take a photo, a horse came to the fence, obviously hoping that I had brought him a tasty titbit. He investigated my hands, chomping expectantly, but I had nothing to offer. Soon his white friend came along as well and he was adamant he was going to get something off me. He licked my hand, but when he found nothing there, he got a bit stroppy. His flattened-back ears warned me not to push my luck. I was bitten in the face by a horse when I was 13. I love horses, but as they say, "once bitten, twice shy". 

Snowy's flattened ears were a warning for me to back off (photo by John)

We did not detour to the beach. “Let's leave that for another time” said John. He wanted to get me home in one piece, and we still had to tackle the hill to get out of the valley and into Karori.

At Makara Village, we stopped at the little church on the hill to have a rest and take a wander around the churchyard.

St Matthias’ Church in Makara Village

The church yard (photo by John)

Now we had to bike to the top of the Makara Saddle – a climb of 180 metres over a distance of two-and-a half kilometres. Did I mention we were using our e-bikes? Yes, of course we were, otherwise I wouldn’t have suggested doing this ride. I could not have done this climb with my other bike. But with my e-bike set at level 2 assist for most of the way, and at level 3 for some bits of it, and in a low gear, I managed to get to the top without feeling completely knackered.

Then it was a lovely downhill into Karori. We avoided the main road by going along the edge of Karori Park and using the streets one block back from the main road. We backtracked a little to get to Marsden Village, where we had lunch.

Lunch at the Marsden Village Café (photo by John)

We made our way back to Johnsonville via Wilton and Ngaio – another hill to climb up Churchill Drive. We gave Box Hill a miss by deviating into Simla Crescent. And from Onslow College we avoided busy Moorefield and Middleton Roads, by using the back roads to get home.

The 39 km ride had taken us just over three hours, including a stop for lunch. As well as an enjoyable ride, this had also been an experiment to see how well the e-bike and its battery – and I – would cope with a longer distance and a couple of substantial hill climbs. The bike came through with flying colours, and I did OK too. This, in preparation for a planned trip to Nelson without the car, that we are hoping to do in the next few weeks.

This adventure will involve several stretches of more than 50 km, including hill climbs. Before we go, we will also have to experiment with carrying our luggage, as we will have to carry whatever we will need for a week. No friendly van to transport our stuff this time. It will be an interesting challenge. Watch this space!

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