Saturday 30 May 2015

Miramar Peninsula and Ataturk Memorial

Brrr, it’s been cold in the last few days! A fierce southerly storm dropped a pack of snow on Otago and Southland, and here in Wellington, it’s just been darn cold! Tuesday 26 May was a very chilly, but beautiful clear, calm day. The sort of day Wellington often gets after a southerly. Perfect for a bike ride, so long as you wear plenty of layers.

We had been trying to think of a different place to explore – we’re getting a bit bored with the “same old, same old” – and in the middle of the night, John had a brain wave. We could bike up through the streets of Miramar, and go to the Ataturk Memorial, which looks out over Cook Strait.

On the way into town, I commented to John on how calm the harbour looked, considering there had been reports on TV the previous night of very rough seas. There certainly didn’t seem to be any evidence of it.

We parked at Greta Point, and biked around Evans Bay. At the corner with Cobham Drive, we were pleased to see that the Zephyrometer has been re-installed in its rightful place, after having undergone repairs. Last year, during a sudden thunder storm, the beautiful kinetic sculpture was zapped by bolt of lightning, which effectively fried it. I wrote about it in my blog post of 6 September 2014.

The Zephyrometer - seen from below (photo by John)

We wended our way into Miramar and up the hill, up Strathmore Avenue and Sidlaw Street. Having the e-bikes made the hills considerably easier to climb. We had a few wrong turns, then pulled up at a small reserve between houses, from where we had a grand view over Reef Bay and Pencarrow. Barrett Reef, in the foreground, is the notorious reef struck by the Interisland ferry Wahine during Wellington’s worst ever storm in 1968, which caused her to sink in Wellington Harbour several hours later.

The entrance to Wellington Harbour, with Barrett Reef in the foreground, and Pencarrow Head opposite (photo by John)

We turned around and should have gone into Bowers Crescent, but didn’t because it said “no exit”. We carried on up Ahuriri Street. We could see the road that we wanted to go up to get to the Ataturk Memorial, but frustratingly, a locked gate blocked the way.

However, luck was with us. Just then, an official vehicle (Airport? Wellington Electricity? Don’t remember) pulled up on the other side of the gate. The man who got out to unlock the gate thought that public access to the Memorial was from the Moa Point Road below, but John was sure there had to be a way across the top. He’d seen it on the map. Then the man said we could go through the gate, as that road would eventually take us there. “But you may not be able to ride your bike on some of it”, he added. Having ascertained that it was not illegal for us to go there, we decided to take the chance that we might have to walk some of it.

The route we should have taken (North is on the right of the photo)

As we climbed to the top of that little road (the top left loop on the photo above), we could hear the sea before we could see it. Then we were at the crest of the hill, and we were looking over the airport to the right, and out over Cook Strait to the left. It was an amazing sight: the waves were huge, no wonder we could hear them, even though they were a long way down below us. Here were the rough seas that we had heard about on the TV news.

Huge waves rolling into Lyall Bay (photo by John)

The waves were pounding the breakwater by the airport and crashing onto the beach (photo by John)

Boiling seas at the entrance to Lyall Bay (photo by John)

Later, the media reported on these massive waves at Lyall Bay, and about a foolish young man taking risks by getting too close.

Turning the other way we could see the Ataturk Memorial below (photo by John)

The Ataturk Memorial is set in a large reserve, and a gravel road leads to it from the end of Bowers Crescent. From here we looked across to Pencarrow and Baring Head. Further to the left, we could see a sprinkling of snow on the top of the Orongorongo Ranges.

Pencarrow and Baring Head (photo by John)

Looking out to Cook Strait, with the faint outline of the South Island in the distance (photo by John)

Moa Point Road below, and the South Island with the snowy Kaikouras (photo by John)

The Ataturk Memorial stands on a ridge overlooking Cook Strait. As I was writing this up, I wondered why this memorial was built. It seems appropriate to learn something about this, since NZ has recently – on Anzac Day – commemorated 100 years since the WWI Gallipoli campaign.

The memorial was built as a reciprocal gesture in 1990, after the Turkish Government renamed as “Anzac Cove”, the place where so many Australian and New Zealand troops died during that battle. The Wellington site was chosen for its remarkable likeness to the landscape of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The Ataturk Memorial

The words of Kemal Ataturk are read by the Turkish Ambassador during
the wreath laying ceremony on Anzac Day, each year (photo by John)

The view from the memorial was stunning. The waves breaking over the offshore rocks seemed to create a chevron pattern around the obstruction.

A chevron of waves around off-shore rocks (photo by John)

Having taken a gazillion photos from the top of the ridge, we rode down the nice smooth path to the bottom to take more photos from the Moa Point Road. We rode around the next corner and stopped by the side of the road, near another outcrop of rocks, around which the waves were heaving and crashing.

Huge waves crashing around the rocks (photo by John)

We decided not to go any further round, so we pedalled back towards the city. At Breaker Bay, we could see how appropriate that name is, as the breakers had broken over the road, leaving behind rocks and other debris. Further up the road, before the Pass of Branda, I had never seen the tide up this high on the beach.

Breaker Bay Road (photo by John)

The road is covered in debris left behind by the breakers

The tide is way up on Breaker Bay beach (photo by John)

Even Scorching Bay, which is a, normally well-frequented, safe swimming beach on the harbour side of the Miramar Peninsula, had impressive waves rolling in.

Scorching Bay – the waves are more sedate, but still impressive (photo by John)

We stopped at the Scorch-O-Rama Café, for some late lunch. For once, there were no cars parked in the car pad next to the café, so we were able to take some photos of the wonderfully whimsical decorations there.

The paua courtyard next to the Scorch-O-Rama Café (photo by John)

And lots more paua

Now that we were on the harbour side of the peninsula, the water was a lot more peaceful. In one little bay, we spotted some shags (cormorants) and an oystercatcher companionably sitting on a rock.

Shags and an oystercatcher (photo by John)

As we rode into Shelly Bay, we could not resist taking some photos of the sadly rotting jetty. I wonder what will happen to this pretty former air force base if and when it becomes a new housing area, as some property developers would like to think it could be.

The remains of the old jetty at Shelly Bay

Jetties at Shelly Bay (photo by John)

And so, back to the car, and home. We rode 30 km on this glorious, winter Wellington day.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Local suburb ride

Today we went for another quick ride around our local suburb. Up the hill, down, along, and down some more, to the bottom of the suburb to our local café, a leisurely lunch, and back up the hill home. Nothing spectacular, just 10 km, and no photos this time.

What made it special was being approached by some people when we stopped at the local supermarket. They were interested in our e-bikes. “That’s the cheating way to go, isn’t it?”, said he, but not unkindly. Our standard response is “Oh no, you still have to do the pedalling! It just takes the edge off those hills”, with a sweep of the hand at the hills all around us.

Jim told us that he had a folding bike too, and that he thought that an e-bike would probably be in his near future too. Anne, on the other hand, prefers to walk.

John is always ready to hand out a little card with his website and my blog address on it. We talked a bit about our rides, and I suggested that if he was interested in a “convivial ride”, he might like to join the next Folding Goldies ride, which will be on 4 June. It will be taking the train to Trentham, biking down the Hutt River trail, and continuing on to Days Bay for lunch, then taking a ferry ride back to Wellington. 

I love it when we get to talk to people about our bikes and our rides, and our blog and website. So if you see us on one of our bike rides, do come and talk to us.

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

I was thrilled last week, when I received a comment on one of my blog posts from someone in the Philippines, who had discovered my blog, and who, on the strength of our adventures and John’s technical write-up, was inspired to buy folding Giant Expressways like ours for himself and his wife. So inspired were they, that they are planning to take their bikes to Taiwan for a cycling tour later this year. 

I was especially interested in furthering contact with this couple because I spent two years in Manila during my late teens, and my invitation for him to contact me by email resulted in a great response. I wish them all the best, and look forward to hearing all about their cycling in the Philippines, and in Taiwan later on.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

After the floods – Seaview to Stokes Valley

On Monday we went for another relatively easy ride up the Hutt River Trail, from Seaview to Stokes Valley and back. There was a strong nor’westerly wind, so we took the e-bikes, which helped with the headwind.

It was over a week since we were last able to go for a bike ride, as the weather has not been particularly inviting. In fact last Thursday, the Wellington region, including Kapiti and the Hutt Valley, was hit by a one-in-fifty-years deluge which caused a lot of flooding and mayhem around the area. It was reported that 143 mm of rain fell in a 24-hour period, nearly double the monthly average for May.

It was rather horrifying to see photos online of many places where we like to bike being swamped by rivers and streams breaking their banks, and roads being flooded because the stormwater drainage systems simply couldn’t cope.

It seems, however, that the flooding dissipated reasonably rapidly the next day, and we had no trouble biking the Hutt River trail.

We did see a few reminders of the deluge, such as a “re-arranged” riverbed and silt build-up in places.

The flooding has left behind a bank of built up silt (photo by John)

In several places, the riverbank was scoured out. Orange netting surrounded the areas to stop people straying near the edge. The scouring laid bare the roots of some of the willows. It was interesting to see how deep the willow poles, from which these trees have grown, are embedded in the soil. Interesting too, to see how high the bank is above the river, and yet the water rose to cover the whole bank.

The flooded river has scoured out the bank, leaving some willows high and dry, and carried others away

Mostly the track was clear, but some muddy patches remained (photo by John)

The Hutt Riverbank car park was flooded on that day too. The cycle track runs between the car park and the river, and on the river side, we could see how the grass had been flattened by the fast-running water. Debris and broken branches had been carried along and got caught behind trees. It was sad to see how much rubbish – especially plastic bags – had been left behind.

Grass flattened by the rush of water (photo by John)

The ride to Stokes Valley was quite uneventful. It was nice to have the e-bikes to ride into the brisk headwind. On the way back, we had lunch at Janus Bakkerij (yes, again!). During lunch John reminded me that my mileage on the e-bike would be just about up to a thousand kilometres.

So naturally, I kept a close eye on my odometer, and stopped the moment the dial turned from 999.9 to 1000.0 – just about half a kilometre before we got back to the car – because of course, I had to record this for the blog. 

One thousand kilometres on the e-bike odometer!

Taking my milestone photo (photo by John)

We rode a total of 28 km.

Monday 11 May 2015

Seaview to Avalon

It was fine yesterday, sort of, but there was a brisk nor’wester blowing. Originally we thought of taking the train to Upper Hutt and biking back to Petone, which would have given us a tailwind all the way. However, for various reasons we didn’t, and we went for a shorter “there and back” ride. We parked the car at Seaview and rode up the Hutt River trail.

On our regular folding bikes (no e-assist), it was a bit of a work-out against the wind, and the sun kept playing hide-and-seek behind the clouds. The bottom end of the Hutt River is quite tidal, and when we set out, the tide was in. John liked the shimmer of light on the water, in the photo below. When we came back, the tide was out and the side arm on the right of the photo was empty.

Shimmering light on the Hutt River (photo by John)

At the Ava Rail Bridge, we usually just ride underneath and carry on up the valley, but this time we went across, using the attached foot/cycle path. It is quite narrow and it gave John some worrisome moments as the narrowness affects his balance. He stopped in the “passing bay” in the middle to take some photos.

The cycle path on the Ava Rail Bridge (photo by John)

View from the bridge - note the different coloured ends on the sleepers (photo by John)

We rode up the western side of the river as far as the Avalon Bridge, where we crossed and headed south again, and diverted to our favourite Lower Hutt café, the Janus Bakkerij, for lunch.

The café was rather busy with lots of families out for Mothers’ Day lunch. When I was at the counter, I was asked how many mothers would be at our table. “Just the one” – as sadly, our daughters are all too far away for such a family outing. But, being a Mum, I was presented with a heart-shaped shortbread biscuit. What a nice touch.

Earlier, I had received a phone call from one of our daughters, and I sat on a bench beside the trail to talk to her. She too is a Mum, so we wished each other a happy Mothers’ Day. We didn’t talk for too long, as the sandflies were trying to make a meal of me!

Taking a Mothers’ Day call – while the sandflies feast on my legs (photo by John) 

Our “regular spot” outside Janus Bakkerij (photo by John)

By the time we got back to the car, we had done just 16 km, but it was nice to have been out and about, as the weather forecast for the coming week looks pretty grim.

On our way home, we stopped at Mitre 10 in Petone, and as we were coming out of the store, we were stopped by a couple who said that they had just been looking at our bikes, folded up in our car. “They are your bikes, aren’t they?” Yes, how did you guess it was us?” “Your biking attire”. Oh, yes, of course.

We had quite a chat: they also own folding bikes – electric ones, just like ours – and they recognised us from this blog. “So, are you Dizzy?”. Yes, guilty as charged … Apparently they have been following my blog for a while. I asked where they go for their rides, and they said “All over, except not on the road”. We talked about our latest ride on the road – to Makara – and that it wasn’t too scary, as there is not much traffic on weekdays. We wouldn’t do that sort of ride on a weekend.

I was really delighted that they recognised us and are following my blog. It occurred to me after we got home, that we should have invited them to come along on the next Folding Goldies ride on 4 June.

So, Bill and Sherry, if you read this, do check out the details about that ride here. By the way, a ferry ride with e-bikes is not recommended, as you have to carry the bike down some steep stairs to disembark, but you can always just ride back to Petone from Seaview, and not go on to Days Bay. We intend to go on that ride, so we hope to see you there too. We could do with a few more people in the group!

Saturday 9 May 2015

Ice creams and lunches

Today we just went for a “quickie” 9 km ride. Down to the local café to have lunch and a meander around the suburb. Nothing worth mentioning really, but as the weather has been less than bike-worthy (i.e. wet and windy), we’ve not been biking for over a week. Today it was fine but with a strong northerly, so we just went for an easy local ride, and lunch was the excuse.

Today’s heading refers to a ribbing I received from a friend a few days ago. She’s apparently an avid reader of my blog, but she loves to pull my leg about the fact that we often have an ice cream during or after our rides. Words to the effect that “you’re undoing all the good that the exercise does by having ice cream!”.

But to our way of thinking, the ice creams – or coffee and cake, or lunch ­– are all part of the enjoyable experience. We don’t bike to commute, or because there’s no other way to get from A to B. We bike because it is fun, enjoyable, it gets us into the fresh air, and it’s better than sitting at home watching the box. It’s exercise, and a small, single-scoop ice cream does us no harm. Little does she know, that we always have some chocolate on board as well. You never know when you might need it, when there’s no café or dairy in sight! Whittaker’s mini slabs are the perfect size for an on-road snack.

A well-deserved ice cream after biking over the Wangamoa Saddle in March
(photo by John)

And while I’m into philosophising about the whys and wherefores of biking …

When we decided to go out on the bikes today, I changed into my biking trousers (no, not lycra, heaven forbid!), and as we were putting on our helmets and bike gloves, it occurred to me, that if this was the Netherlands, we wouldn’t go to all that fuss. We’d just jump on our bikes and go. No getting changed, no helmets, no gloves. Biking – to work, to the supermarket, to the café, to the theatre – is so much part of just what you do in Holland. You would never write a blog about it!

Here in NZ, although cycling is becoming more common, we are still a bit unusual, being so keen on getting out there on our bikes.

I take an interest in the Facebook page of Cycle Aware Wellington, which is the group advocating for better biking conditions in Wellington. It makes for interesting reading. Many of the members have grumbles about the behaviour of some motorists, and about the slowness of the City Council to improve cycling conditions. But they also highlight some of the good things about biking, good motorists, innovations on the cycling front, and new cycle paths.

Most of the members appear to be bicycle commuters, and so are interested in safe riding through the city. They need to get to work and home again in the fastest and safest possible way. We are lucky in that we can choose when and where to ride, to ensure the least amount of risk.

Saturday 2 May 2015

Ohariu – Makara Beach – Karori

Yesterday was fine, but windy, and fairly cool. We took the e-bikes on a ride into Ohariu Valley and out to Makara Beach, returning through Karori. Before we went on our Nelson trip, we did this ride as a “try-out” for a longer distance ride with hill climbs. That time, we didn’t make it to Makara Beach, but today we included those extra few kilometres.

As Ohariu Valley is practically the next valley over from where we live, we didn’t need to load the bikes into the car, but biked straight from home. It is a bit of a climb to get over the hill, and then it's a nice long descent into Ohariu Valley.

The descent into Ohariu Valley (photo by John)

I do like the last kilometre before the crossroads – it is such a pretty valley, and the lifestyle blocks look so attractive, with wonderful looking homes on them. But would I want to live there? No, I don't think so. Though I love biking out in the countryside, I’m really a city person. I wouldn’t know what to do with several acres of land, or even a very large garden …

As we came round a bend in the road, we surprised a hawk, feeding off a road-kill possum. It took off immediately, but no sooner had we passed, than it wheeled around and headed back to finish its lunch.

At the crossroads we carried on up the hill, on Takarau Gorge Road, at the end of which we turned right to ride to Makara Beach. We had quite a headwind, with the northerly blowing in from the Tasman. But it is such a lovely landscape, and besides, we had our e-assist!

Makara Stream (photo by John)

Who can resist taking a photo of a delapidated old shed in a lovely landscape? (photo by John)

It was just on midday when we got to Makara Beach. It’s a funny little settlement – a mixture of new, fairly flash looking houses, and rather run-down, untidy baches. There is a café too, which is open from Thursday to Sunday, but we didn’t stop there for lunch. Instead we sat on a large rock, and ate some apple slices, while looking out to sea.

Makara Beach settlement is an interesting mixture of new and run-down houses/baches (photo by John)

Looking out to sea from Makara (photo by John)

After a short break, we headed back up the road towards Makara Village. Then came the hard grind to get over the hill into Karori. I found it harder than the last time we did this ride – probably because of the wind. As we were riding past Karori Park, we found that there was a nice café, overlooking the sports field – a cricket pavilion, in fact – where we stopped for lunch. The food was very good, but the coffee was only so-so.

This pavilion houses the Karori Park Café (photo by John)

During this ride, we were surprised at how much traffic there was. I counted over 40 cars between Johnsonville and Karori. Maybe Friday is the day “everyone” goes into town. When we rode here last time, on a Monday, we met fewer than half a dozen cars.

Interestingly, out in the country, cars were giving us plenty of space, but once we got into the suburbs, they were much less generous. Near the Karori cemetery, a car coming from the opposite direction, cut the corner so badly that he was well into my side of the road. Less than a metre between me and him! I must admit that I let fly an expletive!

We rode home along Wilton Road, Churchill Drive, through Ngaio and Khandallah. We did 45 km, and though I enjoyed the ride, it had felt rather harder than the last time we did this. I was glad to get home.