Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Greta Point to Seatoun

Woah, I’m on a roll! Five posts in one day. When I have finished writing up this post, I shall finally be up to date. Just as well, as the next Folding Goldies ride is only a week away.

Last Friday 20 October was one of those perfect days that make Wellingtonians say “You can’t beat Wellington on a day like this”. As it was the day before Labour Weekend, we figured SH1 would be getting clogged with cars wanting to get out of the city for the long weekend. So we didn’t go up the coast, but went into town instead. To Greta Point to be precise. We parked outside NIWA and headed towards Miramar.

Between the end of Cobham Drive and the Miramar Cutting, a new footpath and separated cycleway are being built. I can’t quite understand why this is being done. The shared foot/cycle path that was there was quite adequate – from what we could see. There are other places that could do with a cycle track more than here. But perhaps cyclists commuting between Miramar and the city need this improvement.

A new footpath and separated cycle path in progress (photo by John)

We carried on towards Shelley Bay. There are lots of little stony beaches along the way. We saw a few people enjoying the sunshine, and some people diving for shellfish.

One of the many little stony beaches (photo by John)

We stopped for lunch at the Chocolate Frog Café in Shelley Bay. We sat outside, and watched small children riding trikes and other ride-on toys around the large sealed area. I think it is great that the café provides these trikes for their littlest customers.

Children ride the bikes and trikes provided by the café (photo by John)

Lunch in the sun (photo by John)

The café is continually improving – with the sealed riding area for the children, a lawn out the front with beanbags and other seating, new sturdy fixed tables and benches, more seating and umbrellas alongside the sealed area, and a new outside bar.

I wonder what will become of this delightful area once they let the developers in. The Council is about to embark upon the Shelley Bay development, which will build housing, hotels and retail on the site. It will completely spoil a beautiful, serene area of the city that is a wonderful asset, just the way it is. Not only that, but the increased traffic will ruin a great cycling route.

Said the (now former) deputy-mayor Paul Eagle: “Millions of dollars will flow into our economy during and after construction, with more than 100 full time jobs created when the development is complete.” Why, oh why, do we have to pander to the almighty dollar?

Meanwhile, let’s enjoy the area while we still can. After lunch, we continued around the Miramar Peninsula towards Seatoun. We met a tractor mowing the grass on the steep banks, dislodging bits of the bank in the process, as I noticed when we returned on that side of the road. Little piles of rocky debris lined the road wherever the mower had been.

Mowing the grass on the bank (photo by John)

At Seatoun we sat on a bench overlooking the beach and the wharf, and watched the squabbling and screeching seagulls chasing one another. After a while John decided he wanted “dessert” so we found our way to the local dairy for an ice cream.

Seatoun Beach and Wharf (photo by John)

“Dessert” (photo by John)

After this we decided not to carry on around the peninsula, but to go back the way we had come. Along the way, we saw a bizarre sight – a car that had come off the road and nose-dived onto the beach below. It had not been there when we went past earlier.

What happened? What a strange place to park a car …

There was nobody around. John checked that there was no-one in the car needing help. He thinks that the car must have been parked across the road, but the driver forgot to put the handbrake on before wandering off, and the car rolled across the road and fell over the edge. If there had been any speed involved, there would have been more damage, and the car would have been flung further onto the beach. I dare say the driver would have had a bit of a surprise when he returned …

This lone pinetree on a rock gives the impression of a Japanese landscape (photo by John)

It had been a lovely ride. When we got back to the car we had biked 28 km. It was quite late, and rush hour traffic had started to build up, so it was 5:30 before we got home.

Tawa to Pukerua

Sunday 15 October started out with heavy rain, but by afternoon it cleared up to a fine blue sky. So it was after 2pm when we took off for a ride. We parked at Takapu Road Station (much easier on the weekend in the park-and-ride carpark), and set off along Te Ara Tawa. Initially we planned to go as far as Gear Homestead or perhaps Plimmerton, but then John suggested we go and explore the other half of Pukerua Bay that we had not yet covered when we biked there last June.

As we came off Te Ara Tawa near Kenepuru, we met our friend Colin (both a biking and a dancing buddy of ours) going in the opposite direction. We stopped briefly to chat and continued on our way. Then I noticed in my rear-view mirror that we were being followed. Colin had decided to turn around and come along with us.

We stopped at Gear Homestead Café for coffee and cake, and enjoyed the sunshine and pleasant chat.

A swathe of purple daisies below the Aotea subdivision (photo by John)

With Colin at Gear Homestead (photo by John)

We rode to Plimmerton, and then on Te Ara Harakeke to Pukerua, where we crossed SH1 via the pedestrian overbridge.

The southern part of this suburb was quite small and some of it looked quite new. There wasn’t a lot to explore however, as there were only three or four streets, all of which were dead-ends. There were some lovely houses though.

On Te Ara Harakeke (photo by John)

I covet this house on Gray Street (photo by John)

John made me go back to look at the logo on this red Mazda (photo by John)

The railway crossing near the Tawa Pool (photo by John)

Colin accompanied us all the way back to our car. We had done 47 km by then. Colin however still had to bike back to his home in Titahi Bay, so he must have done quite an impressive distance that day. It was very nice to have his company.

Paekakariki to Peka Peka – again …

Another sunny day, another ride on the Kapiti Coast. On Tuesday 10 October, we again took ourselves to Paekakariki for a ride to Peka Peka. It is one of our favourite rides, when we want to do a good long one. As per usual, we rode on Te Ara O Whareroa towards the Kapiti Expressway track.

Finally, spring is springing out all over. The hills are green, and the woody dead-looking shrubs of winter are now clothed in green, a few trees with white flowers that I do not know the name of line the track, and the broom has started to flower. And to my relief, the first of the lupins are flowering too. During the winter, I had thought that the council had eradicated all the lupins. They did clear a lot of shrubbery, and put in new plantings of natives, but luckily they have left some lupins, which will be showing off their golden glory in the next few weeks.

The hills are green … (photo by John)

… and trees with white flowers and yellow broom line the track (photo by John)

Early flowering lupins

As we were riding up the Kapiti Expressway track, I noticed that the many wetlands seemed to have less water in them than the last time we were here. It surprised me as we had had heavy rain not too many days before, and it had not been particularly hot.

Somewhere between Mazengarb and Otaihanga Roads, we saw a pair of huge yellow gantries and a couple of large cranes on the other side of the Expressway. We couldn’t figure out what they were about. But when we returned that way after lunch, one of the cranes was gone.

We wondered what these gantries and cranes were for (photo by John)

There is a piece of land with a small lake or wetland before the Waikanae River bridge, that I think is particularly appealing. I believe this is part of the land that Patricia Grace’s whānau refused to give up for the Expressway – and who can blame them …

A particularly pleasing piece of land (photo by John)

Just before we got to Peka Peka, where we were heading for lunch, John suddenly stopped and said “I’ve reached my 6,000 km milestone!” So of course I had to record that moment. He’s about 500 km ahead of me, because not long after that I reached 5,500 km on my odometer.

John’s 6,000 km milestone

On the way back after lunch, I spotted some goats in the paddock just next to the track. I had not seen these here before. They were not particularly worried when I stopped to take a photo.

Goats enjoying the sun beside the track

Lots of these yellow daisies grew alongside the track

When we got back to our car, we had biked 51 km. Just then, I received a text from my sister inviting us to come and look at her mosaic work in progress, so we dropped by on our way home.

She has a concrete wall next to her pottery workshop which she decided to decorate with pieces of her own pots – “seconds” that she had deliberately broken up for the purpose. We were most impressed and we look forward to seeing the final result.

My sister’s mosaic wall (photo by John)

Monday, 23 October 2017

Whiteman’s Valley

On Tuesday 3 October, it was a lovely day, so we decided to take the train to Upper Hutt, and ride down Whiteman’s Valley. We missed the 10:45 train by a couple of minutes, so since we had at least 25 minutes in hand before the next train, we went to explore for a bit. We used the footbridge to cross over SH2, and ended up at the bottom of Korokoro Road.

A track led of towards the north, and about a kilometre on, we arrived at a very pleasant park. After a bit, I figured that this must be Percy’s Reserve, which was confirmed by a passing gentleman walking his dog. It was decades since we had been here with our children. I seem to remember there was a pond here, and my main memory of the place was “too much duck poo!”. But we didn’t see any evidence of that this time. It did seem like a nice place to explore further, but we had to get back to catch our train. It will keep for another day.

On the boardwalk at Percy’s Reserve (photo by Jo

We duly made our way to Upper Hutt, from where we headed up Wallaceville Road and into Whiteman’s Valley. Soon after the turn-off into Whiteman’s Valley Road there is a pretty little church in a lovely setting – Wallaceville Church. From the notice by the gate, it looks like regular services are no longer held, but it is available for weddings and other special occasions.

Wallaceville Church (photo by John)

Only a few gates further down the road we found this quirky arrangement of creatures by the letterbox. Of course that warranted a photo stop.

A colourful menagerie guards the gate of a Whiteman’s Valley property (photo by John)

The road is nice and flat, and very quiet. Only a few cars passed us. Very different from the impression given on social media of angry residents complaining about cyclists riding in bunches and obstructing traffic. What traffic? However, I believe the road is very popular with road cycling training squads on weekends. But this was a weekday.

For the first time this spring, it was warm enough to ride in short sleeves (photo by John)

We have biked in this valley with the Folding Goldies a couple of times, but in a way, I prefer riding with just the two of us. The solitude of rural quiet allows me to observe and hear what is around me – cattle in their paddocks following us with their stares, the towering sound of a skylark somewhere high above us, the high pitched bleats of lambs, and the deep-throated ba-a-a’s of their mums, the blossoming trees alongside the road, a paddock full of alpacas, the rumble of a ride-on mower and the smell of freshly-mown grass. And the pungent fragrance of onion weed which always reminds me of times when spring and the first of the warm weather meant having to swot for university exams – way back when …

Cattle could be crossing here

Flowering cherry trees by the road side (photo by John)

Lambs and their mums

The alpacas were not interested in checking us out

Old sheds are always very photo-worthy (photo by John)

After a lovely flat ride, we turned into Blue Mountains Road for the descent back down to Silverstream. We stopped at a corner to take a photo of the valley below. I wondered what the large complex of buildings below us was. It turns out it was Rimutaka Prison.

Upper Hutt, with Rimutaka Prison in the foreground (photo by John)

We stopped at the Silverstream Bakery for lunch, then biked down the road for a short distance, before crossing Fergusson Drive to get to the Hutt River Trail.

The willows alongside the Hutt River are all greened up (photo by John)

The Hutt River near Stokes Valley (photo by John)

By the time we got back to Petone, where we had parked the car before taking the train, we had biked 48 km. It had been a most enjoyable day.

A last photo on the Petone foreshore (photo by John)

Folding Goldies ride – Seeking Sakura in Whitby

On Thursday 28 September, we went on a Folding Goldies ride to take a look at the flowering cherry trees in Whitby. Alastair, the leader of the FG group had been in Japan at the peak of the cherry blossom season, hence the name of the ride – Seeking Sakura in Whitby

We were to meet at the Porirua train station at 9:35, and ride the Whitby Traverse, to see the cherry blossoms, then to Pauatahanui for coffee, and return to Mana, via Te Ara Piko. The map is here. 

John and I took the train from Takapu Road – we could have biked to Porirua, but I suggested we ride that stretch after the main event, rather than before.

On the motorway side of Porirua Station (photo by John)

Ten of us set off from Porirua Station, and after ducking under the motorway, we had to bike up Champion Road for some distance, because the track alongside the Kenepuru Stream was not usable. There were repairs going on after it had been damaged by flooding. We joined the Bothamley Park track a bit further along. This is a pleasant, wide track through a bushy area, where it is easy to ride side by side and have a conversation.

Bothamley Park (photo by John)

Coming off the Bothamley Park track onto Warspite Ave (photo by John)

At Ascot Park, the “track” leads alongside a sportsfield. It is basically a concrete drain, but in several places the concrete is cracked and very uneven. On a previous ride I had a spill along here, so I was quite careful. No spill this time.

The “track” alongside the Ascot Park sportsfield (photo by John)

Whitby has a great network of walking/cycling tracks, but you’ve got to know your way around them, as they are not very well signposted. We have got lost a couple of times on previous rides.

The cherry blossom trees in Nishio Garden were donated by Porirua’s sister city Nishio in Japan. I think we got there just about a week too late to see them at their best. There were plenty of blossoms, but the leaves had already started coming out. And sadly the swathe of daffodils under the trees had all but finished.

Plenty of blossoms, but also lots of leaves, and not many daffodils left (photo by John)

Gordon checks out the information panel about Nishio Garden (photo by John)

From this angle, the blossoms appear swamped by greenery (photo by John)

By 10:30, we were at the Ground Up Café in Pauatahanui, where we enjoyed coffee and scones. Always a very pleasant interlude – the chance to chat and get to know each other a bit better.

Coffee and scones at the Ground Up Café in Pauatahanui (photo by John)

After our coffee stop, we rode along Grays Road, Te Ara Piko and the Camborne Walkway to Mana. From there, most of the group headed for the station to take the train back to Wellington or Pukerua, while we decided to bike back to Takapu Road, in Tawa. We rode a total of 32 km.

Riding on the protected lane on Grays Road (photo by John)

A brief stop at Motukaraka Point (photo by John)

The Camborne Walkway took us back to Mana (photo by John)

Some headed off to Mana Station, we biked back to Tawa (photo by John)

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Paekakariki, Peka Peka, Waikanae River

On Tuesday 12 September we had a lovely day, biking 55 km on the Kapiti Coast. We started out from Paekakariki, having had coffee and a scone at the local café – of course. We rode up Te Ara o Whareroa, as we have done a number of times now. Along the way I stopped to take a photo of the scenery – I thought the gorgeous hills, the line of the fence, the blue sky and the cabbage tree would make a pretty shot. Then John came back to see what I was up to, and having him in the shot just completed the picture.

Te Ara o Whareroa on a perfect day

We biked on the Expressway cycle track, all the way to Peka Peka, where we had lunch at Harrisons Garden Centre Café. 

Coming up to the Makarini Street overbridge (photo by John)

Just before the Waikanae River Bridge (photo by John)

Waiting for our lunch at Harrisons (photo by John)

On the way back I stopped to take a photo of a crew of gardeners putting in more plants alongside the track. I had noticed earlier that crates of plants had been placed at intervals along the track, ready for planting. Spring time means planting time!

Lots of new plants are being put in

I like the starkness of the still bare trees against the blue sky (photo by John)

When we got back to the Waikanae River Bridge, we took the track down to the river, and rode along to the Otaihanga Domain.

Near the mouth of the Waikanae River, with Kapiti Island in the distance (photo by John)

We took the Estuary track, which meanders through the wetlands – sometimes on gravel and sometimes on boardwalks over water. John had to get off and walk several times on the boardwalks, as they are too narrow for his balance.

Taking a breather at the end of the Estuary Track

From Paraparaumu, we took the track that runs along the back of the airport, and along the way we stopped to say hello to a horse which came to the fence, apparently expecting some treat. He banged his front hoof on the bottom rung of the gate, as if to say “well, where is my treat?”.

The track along the back of the airport (photo by John)

“Where’s my treat?” (photo by John)

The last 10 km back to Paekakariki were a bit of a slog, as I was getting quite tired. I have to confess that I cranked the assist up to level 4 every so often to keep up with John. I felt pretty bushed by the time we got home. Still, it had been a very nice ride – all 55 km of it!