Tuesday 30 June 2015

Folding Goldies and a midwinter dinner

On Thursday 25 June, we finally did the Folding Goldies ride that had originally been scheduled for 4 June but was postponed because Alastair, the instigator of the group, had been unwell.

The original plan had been to take the 9:05 am train to Trentham, then bike down the Hutt River Trail, continue from Petone to Days Bay, and then to take the harbour ferry back to town. Things changed a bit when Paraparaumu resident John B suggested a later train, as he had to get himself into Wellington first. So the 10:05 train it was.

We boarded at Petone (it is easier to park there than in town), and met the others on the train. A very small group we turned out to be – just us plus Alastair and John B. The others on the mailing list were either unable to come or forgot.

From Trentham station we rode down Totara Street to Trentham Park. A good path led across the park, and through an area of bush, and delivered us onto the Hutt River Trail.

On the Trentham Park bush track. From left: John B, Désirée, Alastair (photo by John)

It was a very leisurely ride down to Lower Hutt, where it was decided that there would not be enough time to get to the last “Gold Card” sailing of the ferry at 12:40, so we diverted to Janus Bakkerij for lunch. A pleasant hour or so was spent chatting. Since we last saw Alastair, he and his wife had been to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, which sounded like quite an adventure. His blog about the trip makes for an interesting read. He also told us he had upgraded to a new electric bike (a Scott with a Bosch mid-drive) with an easier step-through than his old one.

We flagged the idea of going to Days Bay, and rode back to the Petone foreshore, for us to go back to our car, and the others to take the train back to town.

View to Somes Island and Wellington beyond – from the Hikoikoi Reserve (photo by John)

In the Hikoikoi Reserve (photo by Alastair with John’s camera)

We were happily pedalling along Petone foreshore, when John sensed something wrong with his bike. Yep, a 5 cm nail, right through his rear tyre. Darn! and we only had another kilometer and a bit to go! I suggested I could bike on, get the car, and pick him up, but John decided to fix the problem right there and then. The inner tube was punctured right through, and he had to take the rear wheel off to replace it. As a sensible cyclist, he always carries a spare.

Yet another photo of John fixing a flat tyre!

Fortunately it was fine and calm, so I sat on the wall, while John effected the repair. John B had carried on to catch the train, Alastair came back and gave John a hand. I watched a man and his dog playing on the beach.

A man and his “Staffie”

The young Staffordshire bull terrier was very keen and hyperactive, and seemed to have an incredibly strong grip on the stick they were playing with. He hung on while his master twirled him around hanging off the stick! After a short burst of activity, the man came back to his vehicle and when I commented on the strength of his dog’s jaws, he said he thought he’d better get his dog off the beach before “that fluffy little dog” came by, as it wouldn’t stand chance if his dog got a hold of it. Good call, I think.

Before long, John’s tyre was fixed, and we pedalled back to the car, and Alastair to the station. We had biked 27 km.

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In the evening, we went to a midwinter dinner at The Pines, in Houghton Bay. This is a yearly event, organised by the Ngaio Scottish Country Dance Club, and the dinner is followed – of course – by some dancing. It is great to catch up with dancing friends and have time to talk over drinks and dinner, as there is usually not much time for chat between dances at club nights.

It was a most enjoyable evening. A roaring open fire on a cold winter's night, an excellent buffet meal, scrumptious desserts, good company and dancing – what more could one want!

Tables ready for dinner at The Pines (photo by John)
Dancing after dinner (photo by John)

Friday 19 June 2015

Mangaroa Valley

We’ve been wanting to repeat our ride in Whitemans Valley for a while, but somehow something always got in the way. On Wednesday, we finally did go in that direction, but instead of riding Whitemans Valley, we rode the Mangaroa Valley loop, a bit further north.

We killed two birds with one stone, as it were, as we had to take the battery of my e-bike up to Daryl’s Wellington Electric Bikes shop in Upper Hutt. It had developed a fault and wouldn’t charge up. Hopefully Daryl will be able to get us a replacement.

We decided to bike to the Mangaroa Valley, because – John thought – the hill up to the valley was not as steep as the one into Whiteman’s Valley, and he would be riding his regular bike, while he let me use his battery so that I could ride my electric bike. Isn’t he a gentleman?

As it turned out, the Mangaroa Valley Road was not easier to climb than the Wallaceville Road into Whitemans Valley, and John had to get off a couple of times to walk on the worst bits. Meanwhile, I zoomed forth on my e-bike. Yeehaa! But I did stop to wait for him when he had to walk, needing to make sure he was OK.

While waiting, I took this photo, looking towards (probably) Maymorn.

Nearly at the top – looking towards Maymorn (I think)

It was a crisp winter’s day, and it had been very cold the night before. I was glad to see that the horses and Shetland ponies we came across were wearing blankets.

Horses and ponies wore blankets against the cold ...

… but these Suffolk sheep had their own woolly protection

I like the pattern of the rusty corrugated iron sheets on the roof of this old woolshed

Whereas Whitemans Valley was mainly flat and the road straight, the terrain in the Mangaroa Valley was gently undulating and the road more sinuous. Very enjoyable biking.

Winding road ahead

Looking across the valley (photo by John)

A tumbledown shed, with more beautiful rusty iron cladding (photo by John)

Same shed, different angle. A serious infestation of old man’s beard, I think (photo by John)

Soon after these photos, the road started to wind towards the Whitemans Valley junction, and down Wallaceville Road, taking us back to Upper Hutt. It had been quite a short ride – only 16 km – but it was nice to be out in the sunshine, as the forecast was promising more horrible weather for the next week or so.

Back in Upper Hutt, we went to the Expressions Gallery to look at the exhibition of 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic. A stunning exhibition, and well worth taking a drive to Upper Hutt for. Entry is free and the exhibition is on until 26 July.

Display for the National Geographic exhibition in the lobby of Expressions Gallery

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Wellington South Coast and a Ceilidh

It’s been a sparse fortnight when it comes to biking. The weather has been wintry – cold, wet and windy. On a couple of days when the weather was OK, we had a bit of a pedal around the suburb, but nothing worth writing about. The Folding Goldies ride we were supposed to have done on 4 June was postponed twice because Alastair (the “leading light” of the group) has been unwell.

Meanwhile, I was given the “hurry-up” last week by one of my regular readers. “No bike blog this week!” she said. My reply “No biking, the weather has been awful” was met with “But I need my blog fix – I like to have my cup of coffee and read your blog!”. Well, it’s nice to know that someone is looking forward to my ramblings. Well then, here we go. We managed a ride this past weekend.

On Saturday, it finally was a beautiful day, though windy, and it would have been quite good for a ride, but John wasn’t feeling up to it. So we were delighted when the weather gods smiled on us with another gorgeous calm day on Sunday.

The plan was to bike along the South Coast, always an interesting place to bike, with wonderful views as you wind in and out of all the bays. On such a beautiful day – relatively warm and windless – most of Wellington’s population seemed to have come out of the woodwork. Progress along Oriental Parade was very slow, as cars were desperate for somewhere to park, with families keen to join the throng walking, biking or simply sitting in the sunshine.

At Lyall Bay, we parked near the entrance to the Wellington Aero Club, and through the wire fence, we watched a man preparing to take off in what looked like a small vintage aircraft. Thanks to Wikipedia, John tracked it down to be a Chinese-built Nanchang CJ6 Basic Trainer, dating back to 1958.

Going through pre-flight checks (photo by John)

Looking down Cochrane Street towards Lyall Bay, we saw sea spray flying up, and we realised that there was a big swell with wild waves. With the weather in Wellington being so calm – even to the extent of yachts on the harbour being becalmed, apparently – this was quite a surprise. The swell had been caused by an atmospheric low on the east of the South Island.

It was pretty spectacular. Three- or four-metre high waves were crashing into the bay. Quite a tourist attraction. I’ve never seen so many people on Lyall Parade.

Three- or four-metre waves come crashing into Lyall Bay. That speck in front of the wave is a surfer.
(photo by John)

We first turned left onto Moa Point Road, towards the airport underpass. There were cars parked all along the seaward side of the road, many of them, it appeared, belonging to keen surfers. Intrepid young guys were entering the water from here – save having to paddle out first, I suppose. Wow, rather them than me!

Looking for a good jumping-off place (photo by John)

There they go!

We talked to a pair of cyclists who had come from the other side of the airport underpass, and they said that there was water in the tunnel and that the power of the waves was pushing up the storm water drain covers. By the time we finished our ride, and came back to this end of Lyall Bay, the road to Moa Point had been closed, and waves were washing over the carpark as the tide was nearing its peak.

We made our way along Lyall Parade, riding on the road rather than on the shared cycling/footpath, as there were so many people just standing there watching the waves.

One of many surfers heading out to catch the big one (photo by John)

That’s what it looked like when it broke (photo by John)

The steps down to the beach had been destroyed by the waves – perhaps in the last big swell
 a few weeks ago? (photo by John)

Near Waitaha Cove we spotted two colonies of sea birds: white seagulls on one side, and only a few metres further along, a group of black oyster catchers. I love their red beaks and eyes (click on the photo to enlarge it).

Seagulls at Waitaha Cove … (photo by John)

… and the oyster catchers

The rocks before Houghton Bay (photo by John)

The fury of the waves

Around the point towards Houghton Bay, where the waves rolling in looked somewhat more disciplined. But it was deceptive, because, a little further on, past the beach carpark, the road was covered in wave-tossed debris. Sightseeing cars were driving past very carefully, and we had to get off and walk, all the while watching out for that next swamping wave.

“Disciplined” waves rolling into Houghton Bay (photo by John)

Wave-tossed debris on the road at Houghton Bay (photo by John)

At the next bay – Island Bay – the normally placid waters of the bay were considerably churned up. Taputeranga Island, after which Island Bay is named, looked an even more likely prospect for an exciting "Five on a Treasure Island" adventure (I have this fantasy that this island would be a perfect Famous Five setting).

The pointy end of Taputeranga Island and the churned-up waters in the bay (photo by John)

All along the road, people were enjoying the spectacle. Some were staying safe, others took silly risks by getting too close to the waves. We took some photos near a rocky outcrop, where a father and his three young boys were watching the waves. “You should never get too close to the waves, or you might get swept off” I heard one of them say. “Yes” said the other “a tsunami would be fifty times as big as that!”.

Father and sons, learning about big waves

Close to Owhiro Bay, the waves were splashing onto the road, and we crossed to the other side to avoid a dousing.

Water, rocks and other debris on the road near Owhiro Bay and sea spray fills the air

A small “art installation” on the end of a tree trunk-sized piece of driftwood

This shed looks like it will be able to withstand the elements

By 3 pm we were on our way back to Lyall Bay. The clear skies were starting to show a few clouds over the hills and the city. Somewhere along here I watched a Qantas plane coming in for landing, right above a huge wave rolling into Lyall Bay. It was as if the plane was riding the wave. Quite clever. Too bad I wasn’t quick enough with my camera.

Looking towards Lyall Bay (photo by John)

From Lyall Parade we went up Onepu Road to the Elements Café, for coffee. A much better proposition than trying to get into the Spruce Goose, where the view would have been better, but the wait to be served much longer. On the way back to the car, we discovered the newly opened Leonie Gill Pathway, which runs between Lyall Bay and Kilbirnie. We rode along just some of it, as we were conscious of the time (we were expecting a guest for dinner).

The Leonie Gill Pathway (photo by John)

The ride was only 16 km, but it was a good one!

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A Ceilidh

On the Saturday night before this ride, we attended the 16th Annual Celtic Family Dance, organised by Mary and Duncan McDonald.

Duncan and Mary are Scottish country dancers, and Mary is a Scottish fiddler (violinist) and a primary school teacher, who teaches her kids Scottish country dances. They started organising these family dances to encourage people – families, children and friends – who are not Scottish country dancers to come along and try some dancing with a Scottish flavour. Anyone can join in – you don't need to know any of the dances beforehand.

A ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) is a great fun event, with dances that are much less “disciplined” than Scottish country dancing, and kids especially love it. Every year Mary organises her friends from the Scottish country dance band “Schiehallion” to play for the ceilidh, and she teaches the dances as the evening goes along.

Schiehallion Scottish Country Dance Band (photo by John)

People are lined up, listening to Mary’s instructions (photo by John)

As Mary advises all the local SCD clubs of this dance, there were quite a few of us SC dancers there. And in the middle of the evening, three sets (a set consists of eight people) of Scottish Country dancers did a demonstration of “Mairi’s Wedding”, a very popular dance – hopefully to entice non-SC dancers to want to take up SC dancing.

A “round-the-room” dance, later in the evening, when a lot of people had already gone home
 (photo by John)

We have attended this annual event for the last five years, and we always have a wonderful time.

Thursday 4 June 2015

Pauatahanui and a Rainbow Night

Last Thursday 28 May, we went for a bike ride along the Pauatahanui Inlet. The weather was not as fine as the forecast had promised – mainly lumpy clouds, with a few spots of blue sky – but it was absolutely calm, not a breath of wind.

We parked at the Ngati Toa Domain in Mana, and rode along the Camborne Walkway. The inlet was absolutely flat, not the merest ripple. It looked like a gigantic mirror. The whole landscape all around the inlet was reflected in the water – stunning!

The walkway first runs behind a row of colourful boatsheds. The view of these, with their small boats in front and their reflections in the water, was simply beautiful. I love the photo that John took. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, it looks even better.

The boatsheds on the Camborne Walkway (photo by John)

As we emerged from behind the boatsheds (oh dear, that’s sounds a bit naughty!), we were delighted with the perfect reflections all around the inlet. Not only the hills, but also the clouds were beautifully mirrored. We took quite a few photos, it was hard to decide which ones to use here.

Magic reflections

A lovely view to look out on while enjoying a rest (photo by John)

A stream running into the inlet isn’t moving either (photo by John)

As usual, when we come out this way, we stopped at the Ground Up Café for lunch. It is a popular café, and it was quite busy, but the food was worth waiting for. And their coffee is always excellent.

Our bikes contrast with the green wall of the café (photo by John)

Hard to believe all this area was under water just a couple of weeks ago (photo by John)

It’s difficult to tell what is land and what is reflection (photo by John)

When we got back to the car, we had done just 14.5 km, so we did an extra loop towards the Mana boat harbour to make our mileage up to a round 15 km. It was longer than that, we ended up with 17 km for the day.

At the boat harbour too, the reflections were perfect (photo by John)

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Rainbow Theme Night

In the evening that same day, we attended the special Theme Night of our Tawa Scottish country dancing club. The theme was “Rainbows”, and the hall was suitably decorated with colourful kites, balloons, and of course a rainbow and a pot of gold. Members and guests had been asked to wear their most colourful outfits, and everyone made a great effort to look as bright and gaudy as possible.

The night started with a warm-up and stretches. The music for the stretches was "I can sing a Rainbow".
 Our tutor Maureen is in the foreground (photo by John)

John and I wore our “folding bike” T-shirts (a Christmas gift from our daughter) and I decided a rainbow-coloured wig was a must-have, and John had a rainbow bow tie. In the photo below, John looks as if he has a black eye, but it is just a shadow, as he is just below the ceiling light. That’s what happens when you get someone else to take a photo of you. John would never have let that happen, he would have noticed it before pressing the shutter.

Do you like my wig? (photo by another dancer with John’s camera)

Mary and Duncan sported wigs too (photo by John)

The dances all had names containing a colour, and our tutor, Maureen, had devised a quiz with ten instrumental clips (not SCD music), of which teams had to guess the colour in the title or lyrics of the songs.

Colourfully clad dancers listen to the briefing for the next dance (photo by John)
Hilary and Désirée launch into a reel (photo by John)

The event was a huge success. Everyone went home thoroughly satisfied with a great evening’s dancing. All credit goes to our tutor who came up with the idea of the rainbow theme, and planned the dance programme to match.