Monday, 17 April 2017

Paekakariki to Peka Peka

On Saturday 8 April, we biked from Paekakariki to Peka Peka – on dedicated cycle paths all the way – a distance of 25.5 km. It is great that cycling facilities are improving all the time – though perhaps not fast enough in the opinion of some.

John had had surgery to his lower eyelid a couple of weeks earlier, which meant that airflows and wind no longer bother him so much, as the eye can now (nearly) close. He is also feeling a bit more energetic.

Again, we drove to Paekakariki, and cycled on Te Ara o Whareroa through the sandhills of Queen Elizabeth II Park. Heading north, the scrub-covered sandhills are on the left, while on the right is a valley of lovely green pastures, dotted with sheep. During a “normal” summer, these pastures get to look quite dry and brown, but with the huge amount of rain we’ve had lately, it is now looking wonderfully lush.

Lush pasture dotted with sheep and wetlands

From the end of Te Ara o Whareroa at Raumati, there is a short distance to ride on a shared foot/cycle path along Poplar Avenue to the start of Te Ara Kapiti (the “unofficial” name, coined by Alastair Smith, for the cycle path alongside the Kapiti Expressway, which I will be using in this blog, until the track gets a proper name). This shared foot/cycle path comes to an abrupt end, where there is no sloping kerb to allow one to smoothly cross Leinster Road to the start of Te Ara Kapiti. That is a tad annoying, and possibly hazardous. It is something that the council – or NZTA, or whoever does these things – should attend to, we think.

Along the way on Te Ara Kapiti, we took photos of the wetlands and their vegetation. The planting is quite mature already, and very attractive.

I liked the reflections of the flaxes on the water

Reeds in the foreground and toetoe in the back ground

Amazing seedpods of a different variety of reed

A small flock of alpacas (photo by John)

Alpacas are farmed for their fibre, which is soft, durable and luxuriously silky

We came to the retaining wall with the stylised Māori patterns on it, and I took some more photos of it. The wall consists of two parts, one below the cycle track, and one alongside it. The two parts have different styles of decoration on them.

The lower part of the wall, with the cycle path running on top of it

The upper part of the wall, alongside the cycle track

Just before we got to Peka Peka, John reached his 5,000 km milestone. Of course that warranted a photo.

Five thousand kilometres since November 2014 (photo by John)

We stopped at Peka Peka to have a late lunch at Harrisons. There were two other SmartMotion electric bikes in the bike rack. John later talked to the owners, who said they had had theirs for a couple of years. We see quite a few of these bikes around the place now. E-bikes are definitely becoming more popular.

A gaggle of SmartMotion e-bikes at Harrisons (photo by John)

After lunch we took the same route back. From the corner of SH1 and Peka Peka Road, there seems to be a cycle track continuing along SH1, but time was getting on so we didn’t explore to see how far it went. We’ll have to do that another time.

The corner of SH1 and Peka Peka Road, where road alterations are still going on – (photo by John)

A pretty view off a bridge close to the Te Moana Road crossing

The Te Moana Road crossing (photo by John)

Special traffic lights for cyclists

Back on Te Ara o Whareroa – at 4:30 pm, the shadows are lengthening (photo by John)

The late afternoon sun on the water at Paekakariki (photo by John)

It was quite a long day, but very satisfying. It was not a hard ride, but we did cover a total distance of 51 km.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Petone to Eastbourne

We hadn’t biked to Days Bay and Eastbourne for quite a while, so on Tuesday 21 March, we decided to ride from Petone to Days Bay for lunch. We parked in Petone, in the carpark at the western end of the Esplanade. A few weeks earlier, the short gravel track between the parking reserve and the Petone Wharf had been sealed, and made wider, which makes it much nicer to ride on.

The beach-side track has been widened and sealed (photo by John)

I had hoped that the narrow, gravel track in the Hikoikoi Reserve, that runs along the Hutt River estuary, might also have been improved, but it hadn’t.

Crossing the bridge over the Hutt River is always a little hazardous. It is narrow, and often there are people fishing, who leave their paraphernalia on the path, and sometimes they leave their fishing rods propped up half-way across the path. I always worry that one day a fishhook will either give us a puncture, or worse, may be flicked back and hit one of us in the face.

The path across the bridge is narrow, and often clogged with people fishing (photo by John)

We continued on the track alongside Seaview Road, and past the marina, where we didn’t take any pictures this time – just for a change. Onto a stretch of cycle path between the boat launching ramp and the Point Howard Wharf.

A cycle path heading towards Point Howard (photo by John)

For the first few kilometres around the eastern bays, there is a sort-of protected shoulder on the seaward side of the road, but from Lowry Bay, this disappears and we had to cycle on the road.

There is a protected shoulder of sorts for some of the way … (photo by John)

… but from Lowry Bay we had to ride on the road (photo by John)

At Days Bay, we stopped for lunch at the Chocolate Dayz Café. Directly behind the café is the Southlight Studio, where photographer Simon Hoyle specialises in family portraits. We had some wonderful family photos taken by Simon about 17 years ago. He took us to the Eastbourne Wharf, where he took some lovely relaxed photos of us all. They are much treasured.

John liked the contrast of the orange chairs with the blue of the view beyond (photo by John)

The Chocolate Dayz Café, with the Southlight Studio at the back (photo by John)

After lunch we continued the ride towards Eastbourne, as far as Burdan’s Gate, which is the start of the track to Pencarrow. We didn’t carry on to do the Pencarrow ride, as I was still a bit reluctant to tackle loose gravel (after my fall on Ocean Beach Road several weeks earlier). But we sat in the sun and took pictures.

The Eastbourne Domain (photo by John)

We noted that they had changed the gate for pedestrians and cyclists since the last time we were there. It was a very awkward narrow zig-zaggy gate. Now the gate is somewhat easier, but I think it would still be a bit of a mission to get the e-bikes through. We watched a couple of cyclists coming back from a ride, and they had to raise their bikes onto the back wheel to be able to walk them through the narrow gap.

The gate (with the chain attached) is still very narrow and tricky to negotiate with a bike (photo by John)

Looking north ... (photo by John)

... and south, towards Cook Strait (photo by John)

By the time we got back to Petone, we had done a very relaxed 28 km.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Paekakariki to Paraparaumu, and Kapiti Aeromodellers Club

I’m a few blogs behind. I’ll catch up in the next day or so.

Thursday 16 March was a glorious day, fine and calm, so we drove up to Paekakariki for another ride on Te Ara o Whareroa and on part of Te Ara Kapiti (the track next to the new Kapiti Expressway).

Getting the bikes ready (photo by John)

An idyllic scene from Paekakariki’s waterfront (photo by John)

Though there wasn’t much wind, John had to attend to his eye, which must be protected from airflows to stop it drying out.

John had to stop to attend to his eye

Much of the time, the cycle track runs parallel to the Kapiti Expressway, but some distance removed from it. However, there are several bridges on the Expressway where the cycle track runs right next to it. I noticed signs before these bridges saying that horses were not allowed “beyond this point”, and I wondered why that was. Then I figured that because you are so close to traffic rushing past, a horse could easily be spooked by a passing truck, which could result in a pretty nasty accident.

Most of the time the cycle track is well away from the Expressway … (photo by John)

… but on the bridges, it runs right next to the rushing traffic (photo by John)

At the bridge over the Wharemauku Stream, we diverted from the Expressway and headed on the track towards Paraparaumu Beach.

The bridge over the Wharemauku Stream – looking towards Coastlands shopping centre
 (photo by John)

The track goes past the back of the airport, and just before getting to the beach it becomes a quite unpleasant, bumpy and narrow rut through a paddock. I don’t enjoy this bit, but fortunately it is not very long.

The track runs past the back of the airport … (photo by John)

… and then becomes a narrow rut as it goes through a paddock (photo by John)

We made our way safely to Paraparaumu Beach, where we had lunch at the 180 Degrees Café. On our way back, we stopped near the beach for a few photos.

Kapiti Island (photo by John)

The tide was in (photo by John)

Back on Te Ara Kapiti, we diverted temporarily to follow a sign pointing to Kiwi Road. Here the track went around a substantial area of wetland, and we saw that lots of waterfowl had already made it their home. We saw geese, ducks, paradise ducks, pukeko and stilts.

The track around the wetland at Kiwi Road (photo by John)

Some of the birdlife in this wetland (photo by John)
Click to enlarge

Thoughtfully provided seating ovelooks the wetland (photo by John)

In Queen Elizabeth II Park, we turned off the cycle track towards the beach. John wandered off to take some photos, while I sat on a bench and chatted to a campervan owner who had come from Upper Hutt, just to sit in the sun and enjoy the day.

The Whareroa Stream exit to the beach (photo by John)

We heard the sound of small planes buzzing overhead, so we went to have a look at the Kapiti Aeromodellers Club, which has its clubrooms and airfield nearby. We parked our bikes by the entrance, and asked one of the men if it was OK for us to come and have a look. “Yes sure”, was the answer. There was a lot of activity going on. There were more than a dozen vans and cars with large trailers, and a lot of men – mostly older, probably retired, since it was a weekday – assembling or tweaking their planes, and indulging in their hobby.

Kapiti Aeromodellers enjoying their passion on a fine calm day (photo by John)

I was amazed at the size of some of the planes – large enough and realistic enough to have a figure in the pilot’s seat. We chatted to some of the men there, and watched as people took turns in using the runway to fly their planes. One of them explained that when there is more than one plane in the air, each plane has to have two people – one piloting (i.e. working the radio controls), and the other spotting (i.e. keeping a watch that it is not on a collision course with another plane).

A Piper Pawnee (one-third scale) is readied to tow a glider (photo by John)

Getting the tow-plane and glider ready to fly. Two pilots: one for the tow-plane, the other for the glider.
(photo by John)

John was loving all this

John revelled in all this, and it brought back a few memories for him. His father was an aircraft engineer, working at one stage at Paraparaumu Airport. He remembers as a young boy being allowed to go with Dad to “put the planes to bed” when they had to be tethered to ground cables to stop them being blown about by the wind. He tells of how he sat in the co-pilot’s seat, while his Dad fired up the engines to taxi the DC3 or Lodestar to its tethering point. Once tethered, he would help his Dad to put newspapers over the wires “for the plane’s bedtime reading” (actually to stop anyone tripping over the wires).

A collection of war planes under a camouflage canopy (photo by John)

Before a plane can be launched, it is positioned behind two posts while the engine is started up. Then it is carefully manoeuvred and backed up by hand before being directed towards the runway by radio control. 

This model is a Rumpler Taube dating from 1909  (photo by John)

We spent nearly an hour at the Aeromodellers Club, before heading back to Paekakariki. A quick stop for a photo of a newly installed seat overlooking Te Ara o Whareroa, but we didn’t linger. It had been a good ride (34 km), nicely side-tracked to do some mini plane spotting.

A new and very sturdy-looking seat overlooking the track (photo by John)

Friday, 14 April 2017

Fourth Anniversary Blog

Last month was the fourth anniversary of the start of our biking adventures. We bought our Giant folding bikes in March 2013, followed, in November 2014, by the purchase of our SmartMotion electric folding bikes.

As of our last ride, on 9 April, I had clocked up just on 4,500 km on my e-bike (just one kilometre short), which means that I did 1,500 km over the past year. That’s not too bad, considering we have had a somewhat frustrating year. John reached just over 5,000 km on that last ride, having done a few more rides than me at various times.

We had hoped to go away on an extended cycling trip to ride the West Coast Wilderness trail in March or April 2016. However, we were stymied by the fact that we were waiting for our builder to give us a start date to replace our roof and do other renovations to our house. We waited, and waited, but before he could start, the bad weather set in, and the trip was no longer a sensible option.

Then, in September, John had a serious health setback, which meant that we did not do as much cycling as we would have liked to.

We only had one trip away, to the Waikato, in June. While I attended a Scottish country dancing weekend school in Cambridge, John explored the area by bike. And after that we had a few more days’ cycling the Te Awa River Ride, along the Waikato River.

Despite these limitations, we have managed some good rides around the Wellington region.

In April, the Kenepuru to Porirua section of Te Ara Tawa was completed, and also a nice café opened in the Gear Homestead near Aotea. So this has become a frequent ride for us, from Takapu Road to the Gear Café. Not too taxing, just 20 km all up, there and back, with coffee or lunch in the middle, this is a good ride on days when energy levels are low.

We biked around the Miramar Peninsula a couple of times. Always a great ride, providing the wind is not too strong.

We did several trips in the Hutt Valley – the Hutt River trail, and the Mangaroa Valley, and the Rimutaka Rail Trail.

In January 2016, Te Ara o Whareroa was opened. This track links Paekakariki with Raumati, meandering through the sand dunes of Queen Elizabeth II Park. We did this a number of times, especially when the weather was better on the Kapiti Coast than in Wellington. Then in March this year, the cycle track alongside the new Kapiti Expressway was opened. It starts in Raumati, where Te Ara o Whareroa leaves off, and goes as far as Peka Peka. So our last ride was from Paekakariki to Peka Peka and back, a distance of 51km all up (still to be written up as a blog post – I am a few posts behind). It was an excellent ride.

Now that John is feeling a bit better, we would like to go away to Hawke’s Bay or New Plymouth for a few days’ cycling. However, we’ll have to wait for a fine spell. New Zealand has been plagued by a couple of cyclones in the last few weeks, which left the country rather waterlogged and disrupted with flood damage and slips.

Let’s hope that our fifth year of cycling will bring more cycling opportunities than this past year did, and that we will eventually get to ride the West Coast Wilderness Trail.

Enjoying an icecream at Paraparaumu Beach
Photo taken by the camera on time-lapse on the back of John's bike