Tuesday 24 January 2017

Paekakariki and Historic Trams

On Saturday 7 January we were debating about where we could go for a bike ride – Te Ara Tawa? Hutt River Trail? No, at the last minute, when we were about to go towards the Hutt, John changed his mind and said “Paekakariki”. Quick change of plan. Yep, OK.

We had a lovely day. We parked on the angle parks in Wellington Road in Paekakariki, and headed first of all to The Perching Parrot for coffee and scones. It was quite busy, and they warned us there would be a bit of a wait for our coffees. That was OK, we weren’t in a hurry.

We admired the large pohutukawa on the corner near where we parked. These magnificent trees, which usually flower around Christmas, have been quite late flowering because of the very changeable weather we have been having this “summer”. In fact, as I am writing this – on 24 January – it seems that summer is passing us by, with far more wet and very windy days than sunny and balmy ones. But we make the most of the few fine days we get by trying to fit in a bike ride.

The pohutukawa on the corner of Beach and Wellington Roads (photo by John)

Instead of biking down Tilley Road to the start of Te Ara o Whareroa, we carried on along Wellington Road and ended up at the Queen Elizabeth Park, across the stream from the camping ground. A bit beyond that we joined the main track.

Access to Te Ara o Whareroa from the entrance to Queen Elizabeth Park (photo by John)

John suggested we go and check out the historic trams at the Wellington Tram Museum and see if perchance our friend Robert was on tram driving duty. We followed the tram line and stopped briefly to take a photo of the US Marine Corps Memorial. This is where, between 1942 and 1944, nearly 5,000 American troops were stationed at what was then called Camp Russell.

Part of the US Marine Corps Memorial (photo by John)

When we got to the Tram Museum, the currently running tram was on its journey, so in the meantime we had a look around the Museum’s large barn. Among the trams we found an early Wellington Cable Car and its trailer. I well remember travelling on a cable car just like this, when I was a student at Victoria University in the 1960s. The best seats were the outside ones, along the side. I don’t suppose that sort of seating would be allowed these days, with the “Nanny State’s” need to protect people from their own stupidity. Actually, I don’t remember anyone ever coming to grief from these seats.

An early Wellington Cable Car, showing the outside seats on the side (photo by John)

When the tram returned from its run, we found that we were in luck – Robert was on driving duty. I think he was as pleased to see us as we were to see him. He was keen for us to come along on the next ride. Two trams were taking turns to run every half hour all day – going from the Tram Museum to Whareroa Beach and back.

Robert and Désirée before the departure of Tram No. 239 (photo by John)

As a Tram Museum volunteer Robert has to combine the tasks of “motorman” – i.e. driving the tram, and “conductor” – i.e. clipping the tickets. I don’t know what he got more of a buzz from – driving or interacting with the passengers – he did both equally well.

Robert has to be both “motorman” … (photo by John)

… and conductor (photo by John)

As he was driving he explained about what he was doing. The very loud “Psshhhh” sound we could hear as we were about to take off, was the compressor which governed the brakes. And the children on board got very excited about the “Ting ting!” every time he pressed the foot-operated bell. When we stopped at the end of the line, they asked to be allowed to ring the bell too, which Robert readily agreed to.

How a tram works (click to enlarge). Diagram taken from the Wellington Tram Museum website

The motorman’s controls

At the Whareroa Beach terminus, the trolley pole that links to the overhead wire which provides power to the tram had to be changed to the opposite end of the tram, so it could go in the other direction. This tram had a pole for each end, with the one at the rear doing the job, while the one at the front was tucked under a hook on the roof of the tram, until it was time to swap them about again.

Robert changes the pole for the return journey (photo by John)

The first tram we rode in was a Single Saloon “Fiducia”, built in 1939. It had a single long compartment with upholstered seats. Our tickets allowed us to ride the trams as many times as we wanted all day, so we also took a ride on the older tram – the no. 151, a Double Saloon tram, built in 1923. This tram had an enclosed compartment, “for the ladies”, and an open section – presumably for the men, smokers and rabble. The seating was all wooden – beautifully restored.

The enclosed compartment … (photo by John)

… and the open section. The backs of the seats can be switched over
 to face in the direction of travel (photo by John)

This tram had a front window that could slide across to open it (photo by John)

This older tram had just a single trolley pole which had to be walked from one end to the other for the return trip. When we alighted, I was surprised at how high the steps were. I wonder how the ladies of the time would have managed in their long skirts, or in the tighter mid-calf skirts of the 1930s.

The trolley pole had to be walked from one end to the other before the return trip (photo by John)

Back at the depot, a pause for a few more photos, before we resumed our bike ride.

Driver and passenger

Two happy passengers (photo by Robert Vale)

We had a very enjoyable visit to these wonderful historic vehicles, thanks to Robert’s attentions. He told us that to become a volunteer tram driver he had to attend a course to learn all the ins and outs, and had to sit an exam before he could be let loose on the general public. Good to know that we passengers are in safe hands!

Wellington’s trams operated from 1904 to 1964. I just missed seeing them, as my family and I arrived in New Zealand at the end of 1964. John, on the other hand, has memories of the trams – some dating back to when he was very young: he remembers riding his tricycle with the front wheel running in the tram track on Darlington Road in Miramar. There can’t have been a lot of other traffic!

Time to get back on the bikes. We biked to the Whareroa terminus, waving at Robert as he drove past.

We waved at Robert from the road, as he drove past (photo by John)

From the Whareroa Beach end, we spotted a narrow track that went across a small stream and up the hill – the coastal track. It got very steep at one stage – with steps to negotiate. I was glad of the “walking assist” of my e-bike. The track down the other side of the hill was a bit scary in places – narrow, gravelly and steep – but it ended up back on Te Ara o Whareroa, where we turned left towards Raumati.

View from the bridge across a small stream (photo by John)

The track became very steep! (photo by John)

Towards the end of Te Ara o Whareroa John spied a sign saying “to Rainbow Court”, which we thought would be a motel or a café, but it turned out to be the name of a street. Eventually, after meandering around the streets, we ended up on Poplar Road, and found the Raumati Social Club Café. It was very busy and noisy inside, but we sat outside (though it had clouded over and become a little cooler) and had iced coffees.

A much more civilised track – Te Ara o Whareroa (photo by John)

Iced coffees at the Raumati Social Club Café (photo by John)

We rode the usual way back to Paekakariki on Te Ara o Whareroa. Along the way, John stopped to take a picture of a “deconstructed” bicycle. Was it meant to be an art statement, or a climbing jungle gym for the kids, or even a wind chime or musical instrument? It looked like fun, anyway!

A "deconstructed" bicycle (photo by John)

By the time we got back to the car, we had done 22 km, not a huge distance, but it was quite varied, and it was so nice to have done something a little different. And mostly in sunshine too!

John and Robert on Tram No. 239

Monday 23 January 2017

Plimmerton and Airlie Road

On 5 January it was a sparkling, sunny day, but cool. We planned to bike from Mana to the top of Pukerua and back. We parked in the Ngati Toa Domain, and when unloading the bikes, we were surprised to find that the southerly was really strong still, and cold! Our house is sheltered from the south, so we often are not aware that it is still blowing.

We had not expected it to be quite so cold (photo by John)

We biked to Plimmerton’s Big Salami café, and had coffee and a small pizza – it was 3pm, a rather late lunch, but no matter. It was very nice, as usual. We were sitting the sun, and the wind wasn't too bad there.

Waiting for our pizza at The Big Salami Café (photo by John)

After that, rather than going down through the underpass below the Plimmerton Station on our way to Te Ara Harakeke, which would take us to the top of Pukerua, we thought we’d explore another road and headed up the hill by the roundabout – The Track, it’s called.

There are some lovely views from up there, overlooking the foreshore and out to the Whitireia Peninsula on one side, and Pukerua on the other side, and Mana Island in the middle.

The view towards the Whitireia Peninsula … (photo by John)

… towards Pukerua (photo by John)

… and out towards Mana Island

3a Roys Road, spelled out in paua shell beside a driveway

We meandered up and over and around, and eventually found ourselves on Airlie Road. We had ridden on this road before, in the other direction. This side of the hill was not quite such a killer as the other side, so we climbed to the top, and over the hill down to Whenua Tapu.

Climbing up the seaward side of the hill on Airlie Road (photo by John)

The view from the top of Airlie Road (photo by John)

From there we continued up Te Ara Harakeke towards Pukerua. But before we got to the top, John was feeling quite tired, and knowing we would have a headwind on the return trip, he suggested that we had done enough, and should turn around. The headwind wasn’t too bad actually. By the time we got back to the car, we had done exactly 15 km.

The track between Plimmerton and Mana (photo by John)

Sunday 22 January 2017

Paekakariki to Paraparaumu

On 20 December, we had a beautiful day, so having done some shopping in Porirua, we drove further north to Paekakariki to bike the Whareroa track. Of course we had to start with coffee at The Perching Parrot in Paekakariki.

The inside of The Perching Parrot has some interesting decorative details (photo by John)

Ready to go (photo by John)

Alongside Te Ara o Whareroa there are masses of yellow lupins (Lupinus arboreus), but unfortunately it was a bit too late to see them all in bloom. John had seen the start of them when he went on the Waikanae to Peka Peka Folding Goldies ride the previous month, but I didn't go on that ride. However there were still quite a few lupin blooms out, enough to get a whiff of their fragrance every so often, very nice. We must make an effort to go there next year at just the right time to get the full glory of them (end of November).

Lots of lupins beside the track, but they had mostly finished flowering (photo by John)

From the end of the track at Poplar Ave, we rode into Raumati and ended up at the beach. Though it was not a weekend, there were quite a few people around, as the school holidays had already started.

Raumati Beach (photo by John)

John had to fix something on his saddle, and while he was doing that, a man sitting in his car alongside, watched him with interest. When we were about to go, he had some questions about the bikes, and we had quite a chat.

John had to fix his saddle

While John was attending to his saddle, he placed the camera that is usually fixed to the back of it, on the ground, where it continued to take photos (it is set on a two-minute-interval time lapse). It took this picture, which he dared me to include here. Not a pretty sight – rather solid calves thanks to lots of Scottish country dancing, and biking, and an SCD 90 degree stance! Oh, cringe!

A pair of sturdy pins obscure the view to Kapiti Island (photo by John)

We carried on to Paraparaumu, where we stopped for an ice-cream. John turned his bike around so the camera would take pictures of us while we were enjoying the sun and the ice cream.

Enjoying an ice cream in the sun at Paraparaumu (photo by John)

We returned by a slightly more inland route to Raumati – not so much traffic – and back to Paekakariki. There we sat on a bench overlooking the beach for a bit, then rode to the end of The Parade, where the surf club is, and back again. All up we did 32 km, very satisfying.

The seafront along The Parade at Paekakariki (photo by John)

Folding Goldies ride to Te Marua

Happy New Year! A bit late in the piece with January three-quarters gone, but oh well, better late than never.

I’ve been very remiss in blogging our rides in the last couple of months. I have four rides to write up – worthwhile ones, that is – and I’ll try to get them written and posted in the next few days. Other short local or repeat rides are not worth writing up.

As I have mentioned before, we’d been limited in our rides by the renovations to our house, and the need for one of us to be around for the tradesmen. I am pleased to be able to say that it was all done, completed, finished with, just over a week before Christmas, and we are very happy with the results. But we are so glad it’s finished at long last, and we have our house back to ourselves.

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On 15 December, we went for a Folding Goldies ride to Te Marua, to sample Kevin Bold’s famous scones at Stonestead Devonshire Teas. The plan was to take the train to Upper Hutt, bike up into the Mangaroa Valley to Tunnel Gully, then over to Te Marua for the scones, and return to Upper (or Lower!) Hutt on the River Trail. Here is the map Alastair provided.

There were only four of us. Since the weather was not looking very promising, several people who had said they would go, piked out. Others were too busy – it was the lead-up to Christmas after all.

I had reservations about the weather too, but we went anyway. To begin with it wasn’t too bad, the rain was just a persistent drizzle, and the wind was not too strong.

So up the hill to the Mangaroa Valley we rode. The road up into the valley is quite a climb, but our e-bikes made it easy. Alastair was also riding his e-bike, but Frank was using just good old-fashioned leg power, and Alastair stayed with him. So when we got to the top, we had to wait for them to catch up.

Waiting for Alastair and Frank (photo by John)

As we pedalled along the valley, I was just starting to think that the weather wasn’t really too terrible, when all of a sudden the rain came down in sheets, and the wind tried to push us sideways. The rain was so bad, I had water streaming into my eyes (not wearing my glasses of course) and I had to keep rubbing my eyes so I could see where I was going.

Grim-faced into the wind … (photo by John)

… and rain (photo by John)

When we got to the crossroads where we would have turned off towards Tunnel Gully, Alastair gave us a choice: “20 minutes, on gravel, through the tunnel to the scones, or stay on the road, skip the tunnel and just 10 minutes to the scones?”. Not a hard decision. Of course we chose to skip the tunnel (John doesn’t like tunnels anyway), and get to shelter from the rain more quickly. By the time we got to Stonestead, we were soaked through.

We had heard from Alastair and other cyclists about this Devonshire Tea House. The scones were a destination in themselves, they said. Kevin, the owner, provides Devonshire teas with scones, jam and cream. No other fare. And he has quite a ritual. Every customer gets their own tray, teapot, cup and saucer, milk jug, a plate with a huge scone and two little dishes for clotted cream and jam.

There was a choice of scones – plain, date, raisin, or cheese – and a selection of home-made jams – strawberry, blackberry or apricot. Or you could choose to have mustard or home-made relish with a cheese scone. Then there was an array of about eight different kinds of tea. When it was my turn, I had to ask what sort of tea he would recommend, as I am not a tea drinker – my usual beverage is coffee – so Kevin said he could make me some plunger coffee. Excellent. The cheese scone and relish went down very nicely too.

Despite the weather, the tearoom was pretty full, so we had to carry our trays upstairs to find a table. What an interesting place! There were several cabinets with displays of fine china tea-sets, as well as, bizarrely, a collection of garden gnomes in two of the wall cabinets.

We each had our own individual trays (photo by John)

Displays of fancy china tea-sets (photo by John)

The wall cabinets had slanted mirrors in them so that you could see the top of the china

A cabinet full of garden gnomes

Having more or less dried out during lunch, we were pleased to find, when we were ready to leave, that the rain had stopped and the sun was making feeble attempts to pierce through the cloud cover.

It had stopped raining when we were ready to resume our ride

We left Te Marua and headed to the River Trail. The section between there and Harcourt Park in Upper Hutt is gravel and quite narrow in places, and it caused John a bit of strife. The track has a drop to the river on the right, and since John now has to wear a patch over his right eye, he has no peripheral vision on that side, which made things a bit more hazardous for him. He had to get off and walk a few times.

Frank and John on the track near Birchville (photo by Alastair Smith)

From Harcourt Park we were on familiar territory, and it was more enjoyable now that the weather was improving.

A dramatic sky, as we cycle towards Silverstream (photo by John)

As we were riding past Riverstone Terraces, John was interested in the slips that had occurred from the terraces above the river. We are not sure if these are the result of the 14 November earthquake, or of the torrential rains the region suffered just two days later. One would hope that houses have not been built too close to the edge of the cliff.

Slips near Riverstone Terraces (photo by John)

We carried on past Upper Hutt to Silverstream to take the train from there. When we got back to our car, parked on the foreshore at Petone, the wind was so strong that I had to hold on to the boot lid with one hand to stop it flapping about, and hold onto one of the bikes with the other hand to stop it blowing over, while John loaded the other bike. Wellington breezes sure pack a punch!

Despite the less than perfect weather, it had been an enjoyable ride. We rode about 28 km.