Saturday 26 March 2016

Wellington Waterfront – Dragon boat races and other delights

It’s a while since I last wrote up any rides, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been biking. I’ve been a bit under the weather, but we’ve still managed to do some undemanding cycling.

After our exhausting ride to the Makara Wind Farm, described in my last blog, I vowed I would not go anywhere the next day (Sunday 6 March), but it was a fine, warm, breezy day, and there were things going on at the Wellington waterfront that would be fun to take pictures of, so we went for a short ride on the Giants (non-e bikes). This blog post is more about the activities we took photos of, than about the ride.

We parked in Hobson Street (Thorndon) and biked down to Queen’s Wharf, where we saw the Spirit of New Zealand pulling out into the harbour. Owned by the Spirit of Adventure Trust, this tall sailing ship – a three-masted barquentine, to be exact – offers young NZers the opportunity to learn to sail in a 10-day character development programme. But on this afternoon she was doing a public sailing, which the Trust offers in between Youth Development voyages. 

The Spirit of New Zealand (photo by John)

Also on Queen’s Wharf is a bright yellow historic straddle crane. It is a Series 520 Straddle Carrier, which was in use during the early years of container shipping. It is one of four historic cranes on the Wellington waterfront. 

Riding through the straddle crane (photo by John)

The Queen’s Wharf and Frank Kitts Park areas were very busy with spectators watching the Wellington Dragon Boat Festival races. On this day the secondary schools were competing.

I was glad we were riding the Giants, as they are much easier to manoeuvre between all the people milling about on the wharf than the e-bikes. We made our way to the Frank Kitts Lagoon, where dragon boat crews were coming back from their race, while other crews were getting ready to take part in theirs.

Some dragon boat crews get ready to depart, while other crews are coming back from racing

Welcoming the crews back after their race (photo by John)

Crews disembark after their race (photo by John)

Further along the waterfront were marquees, provided for crews as headquarters and changing areas. There was quite a buzz of excitement.

Crew headquarters

Group hug before the race

Racing! (photo by John)

Crew returning to the lagoon after racing

Along the waterfront were lots of stalls, and various displays. We stopped briefly to watch some young dancers perform some Irish jigs.

Young Irish dancers perform a jig

The joy of dancing – starting them young on Irish dancing

One of the stalls near Waitangi Park market was a “Water Bar”, which purported to have a menu of more than a dozen different kinds of water, available free for people to taste. In this article, creator Kane Laing said that “while the bar was a bit of a joke in a sense that it's taking off the culture of fine dining and the science of beverages and hospitality, it was actually a functioning water bar”. 

The Water Bar

On the large grassy area of Waitangi Park was the striped big top of the Zirka Circus. There’s always something a bit romantic and magical about circuses and circus tents, isn’t there?

When I lived in Switzerland as a child, the Swiss National Circus Knie used to come to Bern around the time of my birthday, and attendance was a yearly ritual. I have such wonderful memories of these events. The circus was especially renowned for its horses and dressage performances (which I loved, being very keen on horses at the time), and for its trained elephants, but we loved the acrobats and the clowns too. Even though we could understand only part of the clowns’ dialogues in Swiss German (which does not sound like ‘regular’ German at all!), their antics were side-splitting and memorable.

Zirka Circus – a mere tiddler compared to the Circus Knie of my childhood

Circus folk travel in style these days – check out that trailer!

Back in Frank Kitts Park, there was a display of Arquitectura de Feria, a fanciful fairground made from re-purposed materials and scrap iron, and driven by human power – mainly Mums and Dads. This was part of the Festival of the Arts, that was on in Wellington during February and March.

Fanciful fairground ride of Arquitectura de Feria (photo by John)

The merry-go-round is powered by the Mum on the bike (photo by John)

The Ferris wheel – note what the kids are sitting on!

The roles are reversed: parents relax on swings operated by the children (photo by John)

Finally at the top of the park was a wonderful, colourful display of flags, gaily flapping in the breeze. Also part of the Festival of Arts, it was an installation of 14,000 flags, drawn by primary school children from low-decile schools, expressing “their hearts’ desires”. 

14,000 children’s hearts’ desires (photo by John)

Beyond the art installation fly the NZ flag and the proposed “new” flag (centre left).
The referendum for the people to choose whether to keep the old or go for the new
has since decided to keep the existing flag (photo by John)

Joyful colours

We biked to the end of Oriental Parade and back. We thoroughly enjoyed our easy bike ride, and finished, of course, with coffee and cake at Karaka Café.

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