Sunday, 24 November 2019

Kapiti Coast ride

On Wednesday last week (20 November), we went on a ride we have done many times before, but John took some interesting photos, so here we are with another blog. It promised to be a lovely warm day – or so the Met Office said – but it was still cool enough to need a jacket. This spring, Wellington has been several degrees cooler than elsewhere in NZ, making us feel hard done by …

We parked in Paekakariki, had coffee and a scone, and set off down the Parade, along the waterfront, to make our way to the entrance of Te Ara O Whareroa, through Queen Elizabeth II Park.

Along the Parade at Paekakariki (photo by John)

We were surprised at how very brown the waves were, as they were rolling onto the beach. On other days when we’ve been here, the sea has looked a pristine bluish green.

The waves were unusually brown (photo by John)

On Te Ara O Whareroa, I was delighted to see, and smell, the flowering lupins. At this stage of their flowering, they exude a gorgeous sweet fragrance that you get whiffs of when you ride past large patches of it.

The lupins were in full bloom … (photo by John)

… punctuated by the occasional drift of purple daisies (photo by John)

Over the past year, many areas have been cleared of blackberry and bracken, and have been planted with natives. It looks a bit barren for now, but I am sure it will look very different in a year or two.

Some areas were cleared of weeds, and planted with natives (photo by John)

Riding through the lupins – to the tune of “Tiptoe through the Tulips” … (photo by John)

We biked all the way to Pekapeka. Near Paraparaumu, we stopped to look at the activities of the “world's most famous” Moscow Circus. Four big poles, which were to support the big top, had been erected with the tent still lying on the ground.

The centre cone of the big top is being attached to the cables to raise it (photo by John)

The caravans of the circus people are lined up along the edge of the site (photo by John)

By the lagoon just before the Expressway turn-off to Waikanae, we came across this goose, on the edge of the path, doing a lot of head nodding – stretching and contracting his neck – at another goose hidden in the grass. He looked quite threatening when we biked past, hissing at us. On our way back, we found out why …
Goosey, goosey, gander … (photo by John)

We made our way to Pekapeka, where we had a very satisfying lunch at Harrison’s Garden Centre café – chocolate waffles with ice-cream for John, and sautéed mushrooms for me.

At the corner of Pekapeka Road, there is a cyclepath with a sign post pointing towards Otaki, and before our return trip, we thought we would see how far it would take us. We biked up about 100 metres, but then decided we should do that on another day, setting off from perhaps Waikanae or Paraparaumu, so as not to add too many more kilometres to today’s 52 km.

On our way back past the geese, we saw why the one we saw earlier was acting threateningly: he was there with his mate and a couple of downy goslings, which he was obviously wanting to protect. John took a series of photos of them, slowly moving a little closer each time, without panicking them.

The geese were still at the same spot as we saw them before … (photo by John)

… but now we saw something else – they were protective parents … (photo by John)

… of two fluffy goslings (photo by John)

When we got back to the circus, the big top was in the process of being raised. We stuck around to watch proceedings until the four corners of the tent were fully at the top. While the whole canvas was probably being hoisted by some motorised means under the tent, there were men stationed at intervals around the outside of the tent, hand-winching the guy ropes.

The big top is making its way up (photo by John)

Halfway there. Note the chap in the orange vest in the bottom left of the photo and two men in front of the tent, who are hand-winching some of the guy-ropes (photo by John)

All done! (photo by John)

An advertisement for the circus, on a truck at Raumati (photo by John)

Finally we rode back to Paekakariki. The wetlands along Te Ara O Whareroa seem to be changing in size and shape every time we go past. The hills are still wonderfully green and lush. Towards the end of summer, they will probably be all brown (hoping we will get a nice warm summer …).

Wetlands below Te Ara O Whareroa (photo by John)

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Alastair Smith

This afternoon I received the sad news that Alastair Smith, the leader of the Folding Goldies Group, and staunch Wellington cycling advocate, had passed away today, 20 November 2019.

I first “met” Alastair online, in August 2013 when I found a website called Great Harbour Way, on which he was one of the main contributors.  On this website he was advocating for a continuous cycleway to go all the way around Wellington Harbour, from Eastbourne, around the Miramar Peninsula and as far as Sinclair Head.

We had recently got our folding bikes, and started this blog, and I was trying to find more areas to cycle. I contacted him and sent him a link to my blog post about a recent ride along the Wellington Waterfront. He replied, saying he was interested in folding bikes too, and he sent me a link to his blog about a trip in Europe, during which he and his partner had used folding bikes, because they were easy to take on the train. 

We met Alastair in person during the Cyclovia in February 2014, where he was one of the organisers, and I recognised his folding bike. I introduced myself, and he actually remembered my name and my email. 

A few months later again, we met him and a cycling friend on the cycletrack along Cobham Drive, where we had a brief chat. This must have triggered something in his mind, for a week or so later, I got an email from him proposing a group called "The Folding Goldies”. The idea was that people who were in possession of both a Gold Card (entitling them to free public transport) and a folding bike, would be able to take the folded bikes on the train to a more distant destination than one would normally bike, and bike back to another station along the line.

The inaugural ride of the Folding Goldies took place on 18 July 2014, on a very cold and somewhat damp day. Five of us took the train to Upper Hutt and biked back to Lower Hutt. It was the start of nearly four years of mostly monthly Folding Goldies rides, organised by Alastair. We got to meet a good number of other folding bike owners, as well as some of Alastair’s longtime cycling buddies (who came along on regular bikes).

Alastair on that first Folding Goldies ride (photo by John)

Lunch at Janus Bakkerij at the end of our inaugural FG ride. (photo by John)
From left: Desiree, John Baldwin, Alastair, Russell Tregonning 

By May 2018, the group had grown to more than a dozen participants, when we took the train to Waikanae, and rode back to Paekakariki to catch the train back to Wellington.

Alastair on our last Folding Goldies ride – 10 May 2018

Sadly, that was our last Folding Goldies ride, because soon after that Alastair’s health started to deteriorate, and he was no longer able to take on the responsibility of organising further rides.

During the time we knew him, he was a real inspiration to us. He introduced us to not only many local rides, but also inspired us to travel around New Zealand and bike in many wonderful places.

Many thanks for the good times, Alastair. You will be missed by many.

Monday, 11 November 2019

A Wairarapa weekend

It’s been a busy year for me with lots of Scottish country dance activities, but not quite so many bike outings. We have been biking, but only short local rides – not worth blogging about. Also the weather has not been very conducive to getting out on the bikes.

But this week I got a nudge from a friend, who complained that she hadn’t had any interesting blog reading to go with her morning cup of coffee. So since we had an interesting couple of days in the Wairarapa last weekend, here we are with another blog!

The prime reason we went to the Wairarapa was that we wanted to attend a dance in Carterton, at which special Scottish musicians were going to be providing the music, on the Saturday night. Also happening in Carterton that weekend was the Wairarapa A&P Show,  and I love an A&P show. And we had never yet biked around Masterton, so we decided to stay overnight and bike on the Sunday.

We set off nice and early on Saturday 2 November, to get to the A&P show by 10 am. For readers outside of New Zealand – an A&P show is a region’s Agricultural and Pastoral (and nowadays Industrial as well) show, where the farming communities get to show off their skills in various fields, and related industries show their wares.

Right near the entrance to the large Clareville showgrounds were the miniature horses and their little carriages. Delightful, dapper little horses were being driven around the field and being judged on their driver’s skills, the appearance of horse and rig, speed, behaviour and the like. I watched as a carriage pulled up near their supporters, and used baby wipes to clean down the harness, reins and the horse’s shoulders, ears and face. It was obviously very important to look perfect!

Beautiful miniature horses and their drivers compete for skills and looks (photo by John)

Then it was off to see the dog trials. Farmers and their special sheep dogs compete to manoeuvre three often very willful and obstreperous sheep around a course involving gates, a bridge and finishing being herded into a pen – all within a timeframe of nine minutes. The teamwork between man and dog is wonderful, and watching the dog anticipating the sheep’s break-outs and the man’s commands is supreme entertainment.

There’s always one that tries to escape! (photo by John)

The next stop was the “Strong Man” and “Strong Woman” competition. They had to lift a big dumbbell-type object, into which extra weights could be threaded in the ends. They had to lift it up onto their shoulder using both hands – an enormous effort in itself – and then had to lift it above their head with one hand until the arm was at full stretch. Some had to have several goes at this last effort, not all of them successful. We watched some women lifting unimaginable weights, cheered on by their coach, co-competitors and supporters on the sidelines. Impressive!

Yesss! (photo by John)

Shearing is always a favourite with the crowd. There are two simultaneous competitions going on: one for the shearers, who have to shear five sheep in a minimum of time, ensuring they do a clean job, with no skin cuts, of course; the other is for the woolhandlers who take the fleece, fling it onto the sorting table, clear all the mucky bits off it, roll it up and place it in the right basket while racing against the clock. There is lots to look at and it's really exciting to watch.

The shearers and their time-keepers (photo by John)

Always a magical moment, when the fleece is thrown onto the sorting table (photo by John)

The woolhandlers remove the ‘daggy’ bits in record time

All that walking around and watching people work so hard makes one hungry, and it was a long time since breakfast, so we stopped for a French crêpe – with lemon curd for me, and sugar and cinnamon for John – yum!

The skill of the crêpe maker (photo by John)

With crêpes in hand we wandered around the agricultural machinery on display – huge tractors, even bigger tractors, farm-bikes, both adult-size and child-size (well explored by the kids!), electric farm-bikes and more.

One of the huge tractors

Other delights to be had were a children’s ‘train’ ride, show jumping competitions, ride-on lawnmower races (very noisy and smelly!), and livestock in pens – ponies, Clydesdales, Highland cattle, alpacas, coloured ewes with lambs, pigs with piglets, and fancy chooks.

Train ride (photo by John)

You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours … (photo by John)

Coloured sheep - mum and her offspring

This little girl won a ribbon for her handling and presentation skills in showing off her beautiful Highland calf (photo by John)

By 2 pm, we’d seen all we wanted to see, and we headed to Masterton for some lunch and a wander around the town centre. Eventually we made our way to the motel where all the other units were also occupied by Scottish country dancers, so we met up with lots of people we knew.

In the evening, we all headed off to the dance, which was being held in the Carterton Event Centre – a very nice venue. The dance had been dubbed “The Scarecrow Caper”, because another Wairarapa event that happens in early November is the Scarecrows’ Big Day Out in and around Gladstone, a short distance away from Carterton. 

In keeping with the theme, the stage had been decorated with small scarecrows, which had been named after dances.

Scottish duo Marian Anderson and Max Ketchin share the stage with a bunch of scarecrows (photo by John)

The venue had plenty of room for the 80 or 90 dancers (photo by John)

It was an excellent dancing night, with a great programme of dances and wonderful music. We got back to our motel tired but satisfied.

The next day, Sunday, we planned to bike around Henley Lake in Masterton in the morning, and in the afternoon, we thought we would ride the Woodside Trail in Greytown. We drove to Queen Elizabeth II Park, where we started our ride.

After having suffered the coldest and wettest October for several years in Wellington, this was the first time we were able to ride in short sleeves, and without jackets. It turned out very warm indeed.

We parked near Queen Elizabeth II Park to begin our ride (photo by John)

We had a vague idea of which direction Henley Lake was – through QEII Park and out – but were not sure how to get there. Anyway, we rode off into the park, past a children’s playground and a bowling club, and ended up riding on wide paths through a cemetery. We were obviously not going in the right direction, so we asked a gentleman walking his dog, and he told us to go across a large field to Colombo Street, and across the road and bridge to the Henley Lake track.

The track to Henley Lake (photo by John)

We arrived at Henley Lake just in time to see three dragon boats arriving to line up for the start of a race. What luck!

A dragon boat crew receive instructions to paddle backwards into place

Three crews line up for the start of the race

We watched the start of the race, then pedalled as fast as we could around the lake (which is not very big) to see them arriving at the end, then turning around to go back to the launching place.

We rode around the lake to the other end (photo by John)

At the launching place we found several crews awaiting their turn – all kitted out in team t-shirts and matching life jackets. There was also a coffee cart, so we got ourselves a coffee and stayed for a while to watch proceedings.

The bow of one of the dragon boats, adorned with the head of a dragon … (photo by John)

… and the rear, the tail of the dragon (photo by John)

Enjoying a cup of coffee in the sun (photo by John)

The next lot of competitors arrive back (photo by John)

Back on the bikes, leaving the excitement of the dragon boat racing behind us (photo by John)

A final look at Henley Lake (photo by John)

On our way back to the car, we found another track alongside the Waipoua River, and we ended up on Opaki Road, and back to the entrance to QE II Park, on Dixon Street. We had biked just 10 km.

The Waipoua River

By the time we got back to the car, it was very hot. Although we had originally thought we would do more biking on the Woodside Trail in Greytown, we decided that it was too hot for that. So we had lunch in Greytown and headed off home.

It had been a lovely weekend, with lots of variety. And it was so good to have fine and warm weather – but we're now back to the less than wonderful Wellington climate. While the rest of New Zealand had been basking in temperatures in the mid-to-high 20s during that weekend, Wellington had barely made it to 16 degrees!