Wednesday 7 April 2021

A trip to Hawke’s Bay

Before I start on my story about our Hawke’s Bay trip, please note my updated distances biked (in red, on the left side of this page) – over 10,200 km! Since the last update, in November 2019, I have biked about 1,500 km on my e-bike, so we haven’t been completely slacking.

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On Saturday 7 November 2020, we planned to attend a Scottish country dance evening in Carterton, and we decided to follow it with a few days in Hawke’s Bay, since we would already be halfway there, and we hadn’t been anywhere to bike since seemingly forever! At least since the lockdown.

We left Wellington in the morning, and once over ‘the hill’, we had a great browse in the second-hand bookshops in Featherston, which is becoming a destination for book-a-holics, it seems. We scored a couple of books each – which came in handy later in the weekend, as it turned out …

We had a very leisurely lunch in Greytown, and then headed for our accommodation. I had managed to book what I think may have been the last available room in the Wairarapa. There was a Garden Tour on that weekend, which obviously had attracted a lot of out-of-towners.

I had planned for us to bike the Woodside Trail in the afternoon, but John wasn’t feeling the best and didn’t really want to bike, so I went on my own. Our motel was only a few streets away from the entrance to the trail, so off I set – map in hand. We had been there before, so I knew more or less where I had to go. But my sense of direction is hopeless – I still managed to overshoot the turn-off, and arrived at a dead-end, that was obviously not the right place. I back-tracked, and found my way to the start of the trail.


Entrance to the Woodside Trail

We biked this trail when we first started biking again in 2013, and it had only recently been opened. At that time, an early part of the trail had just been planted, and what looked like mere sticks on each side of the path, are now beautiful trees. 


This is what it looked like in August 2013 …

… and this is how the trees look now

Part of the trail is lined with magnificent old oak trees, which apparently were planted when this trail was a railway track. Their timber was to have been used for the sleepers. Fortunately it didn’t come to that, as the line was closed in 1953.  


Some of the track meanders between rows of old oak trees

I am not as prolific a photographer as John, so I didn’t take too many pictures, but I did take this photo of a gnarly old tree trunk.


What a gorgeous old tree

The track ends at the Woodside railway station. I noticed that the old goods shed, that had been abandoned and was in quite a sorry state with weeds growing inside and creepers climbing over it when we saw it in 2013, had now been restored and looked quite respectable – though not nearly as photogenic. 


The old goods shed in 2013 (photo by John)

I wanted to know when this restoration had been done, and looked for information online. I found an article in the NZ Herald, reporting its official opening in November 2015. 

Interestingly, during my search, I found this websitewritten in 2020, which, in some places, uses the exact same sentences that I wrote in my 2013 blog post. Well, it’s good to know that someone has found my blog interesting enough to quote me (or plagiarise my words), even if it’s not acknowledged …

Having biked to the end of the trail and back, I enjoyed riding through some of Greytown’s quiet back streets with their beautiful gardens. It was spring, the sun was shining, and the fragrance of jasmine and honeysuckle was everywhere. I would have liked to explore some more, but I thought John might get worried if I stayed out too long.

That evening, I went to the dance without John, who was still not feeling up to anything strenuous. But I had a great time anyway, as there were lots of people there that I knew.

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The next day, Sunday, we woke to torrential rain. We watched as a bunch of middle-aged ladies, who were obviously there for the Garden Tour, started to pack up their van, ready for a day of traipsing through soggy gardens. I felt sorry for them – a Garden Tour that they had probably looked forward to for weeks, and then it had to rain!

We set off towards Hastings, and the rain had eased when we got to Woodville. We stopped for coffee and a wander around a most amazing “2nd hand Antiques” shop. Huge, and incredible ‘collections’ of stuff – innumerable salt and pepper sets, old glass bottles, fancy glassware, tools, doorknobs, and odds and sods, all very neatly displayed and categorised and labelled.


An incredible place to browse through

John admires the neatly organised hardware bits and bobs

By the time we got to Hastings, the sun was shining again, and we found our way to the cottage we were staying in, on an orchard property, at Tukituki Flat. 


The cottage at Tukituki Flat

The view from the cottage

The owner welcomed us and told us that the riverside cycle trail ran just past their gate. Being aware that it would be raining again some time later that day, we thought we might go for a bike ride that afternoon. But while we were still having our coffee, we heard rumbling thunder in the distance, and before long, it started to rain. In fact, it was quite a thunder storm – flashes of lightning, thunder and heavy rain.

The rain did not last too long, and at 6:30 we set out towards Havelock North in search of some dinner. Our cottage, at Tukituki, was about half-way between Black Bridge (near Clive) and Red Bridge (near Havelock North). Havelock was more or less across the Tukituki River from us, but we had to drive to one of the bridges to get across – quite a distance. At the end of Moore Road, we turned right, towards Red Bridge. We had biked here on our very first cycling trip, with the original (non-electric) folders. That was a 50 km ride, up and down hills. Now, driving that route, I was amazed that I had actually biked that on a non-e bike back then. It went on for miles, and it was up and down, and up and down! Very pretty countryside, but wow!

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Monday - It rained all night, and it was still raining when we got up. So we drove to Napier and went to the Museum. We enjoyed looking at some very interesting exhibitions – one about the 1931 earthquake, a good Māori section, some art collections, and a quirky exhibit about the Māori alphabet, which I really enjoyed.

After the Museum, we had planned to go into town to browse the shops and have lunch, but it was still hosing down, and we didn’t want to wander around town getting wet, so we headed back to the cottage, where we spent a pleasant afternoon reading the books we’d got in Featherston, while the rain kept on coming down.

We thought we might cut our losses and head home the next day. If it was still going to be raining, there would be no biking, so no point in hanging around.

In the evening we saw on TV that the relentless rain had caused serious flooding in parts of Napier. Floods, slips, cars floating around in the streets, power cuts, flooded houses, leaking roofs, and people having to be evacuated out of their homes. Napier had more than more than four times the November average rainfall in one day – 237 mm! A good thing we didn’t stay in town! 

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Tuesday – Surprise, surprise! We woke to a beautiful day, not a cloud in sight. So we did not pack up and go home. Instead, we went for a bike ride, leaving at 8:30 am! We took our parkas in a panier – just in case it decided to rain again, but they were not needed. We got onto the trail at the end of the driveway. Through orchards, past vineyards, and fields planted in beautiful rows with something I could not identify – pumpkins perhaps? 


Beautiful rows of vegetables (photo by John)

The track took us through several gates, where there were puddles – John put his foot in the middle of one, without even noticing it, until I mentioned it! The track itself seemed not to have suffered from the deluge of the previous day. The lime sand seems to drain well. As we got closer to the coast, and the wetlands, there were flooded paddocks.


There were puddles near the gates, but not many on the tracks (photo by John)

Flooded paddocks (photo by John)

We came to the wetlands leading to Haumoana, and rode along the foreshore, through Te Awanga, and ended up at Clifton, at the start of the Cape Kidnappers beach track – which is now not useable because of some serious cliff collapses onto the beach a few years ago.


Cape Kidnappers (photo by John)

The view towards Napier (photo by John)

We stopped for coffee and scones at the café. It was lovely, sunny and warm, though John chose to sit in the shade of a brolly.    


Coffee and scones at Café Hygge
The view from the café (photo by John)

After a pleasant break, we returned to the cottage the way we had come. We were back at the cottage by midday, having biked 34 km.


John liked these drifts of purple weeds – Viper’s bugloss, I think (photo by John)

The driveway to the cottage (photo by John) 

Back at the cottage, the view of the Tukituki River was quite changed from two days ago – the water level was much higher, and came further up the banks, and it ran much more swiftly, as a result of all that rain.


Impressive clouds were building up again in the afternoon (photo by John)

We spent the afternoon reading, and the next day, we headed home. It had been a nice break, despite all the rain.

Monday 5 April 2021

2020 – The year of Covid-19

The last time I posted a story on this blog was in November 2019 – 16 months ago. Much of that time has been rather uninteresting with regard to cycling. Of course, there was COVID-19 in 2020 and the resulting lockdown, during which nobody got to go anywhere.

We had planned a trip to Central Otago, and booked an “Around the Mountains” tour with Pure Trails for April 2020, but of course, sadly, that was cancelled because of the lockdown. It was a tour I had really wanted to do for some time, and we were hugely disappointed when it didn’t eventuate. We thought of booking the same tour again for April this year (because I love the autumn colours in Central Otago), but for various reasons, we decided against it, and it turns out that was the right call.

Since then, we have had two trips away which involved some cycling, one to Hawke’s Bay in November 2020, and one to Whanganui in February 2021, and I will write up those trips separately.

But apart from these, we’ve only done local rides, which are not worth reporting on separately.

However, some rides have resulted in interesting photos, so this post is a bit of a summary of the last 16 months.

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In December 2019, I attended the annual Scottish Country Dancing Summer School (yes, I am still heavily involved in SCD), which was held in Cambridge. Our accommodation was at St Peter’s School, which is right by the Avantidrome and the cycle trail alongside the Waikato River – part of Te Awa cycle trail. Our daily classes were in the Cambridge township, a 5 km ride from the school.

A great opportunity to do some cycling, as well as dancing, so a friend and I took along our folding bikes (she borrowed John’s), and biked to class each day. On the first day, we had a bit of trouble finding the entrance to the cycle track, which turned out to be tucked in behind the Velodrome. The start of it is a glorious descent down to almost river level. 


Overlooking the Waikato River, from the Te Awa cycle trail

It was quite exhilarating to zoom down the winding track, which flattened out after a long downhill. Little ups and downs along the way went through farmland, with some cattle and lots of pukekos. But at the back of my mind was the thought “we went down such a long way, we will have to start climbing soon”. And so it was.  

I usually ride an e-bike because I am not good at climbing hills. But we had brought the non-electric bikes, so I would have to rely on my own internal motor and leg-power to get me up the hill. As we approached the town, I could see that it was a long way above us, and that I would definitely have trouble getting up the hill.

The road up to town level was relatively short, but steep! I think I managed to pedal up for about three metres, before I stalled and had to walk the rest of the way. But even walking and pushing my bike was a mission. I maintain that I am a Dutchie, and was never designed to climb up hills! My friend managed fine, and patiently waited for me to come huffing and puffing up the hill.

After a physical, hard-working class, we had the prospect of biking back. Knowing that the lovely long downhill at the St Peter’s end would translate into a horribly long uphill slog going back, we were not keen to go back the way we came. So we found our way to the main road, and biked home along the flat! (you can read more about it here, as I was asked to write about it for our club website.)

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In February 2020, we biked from Mana to Pauatahanui, along the Camborne Walkway and Te Ara Piko, which skirts the Pauatahanui Inlet. There is/was a section between the end of the Camborne Walkway and Motukaraka Point where one has to ride on the road – Grays Road – which can be reasonably busy with cars going quite fast. We were delighted on this ride to find that a new section of the track had been completed. The 400 m section before Motukaraka meant that cyclists could avoid the narrowest and most hazardous part of riding on the road. 


The new part of Te Ara Piko  (photo by John)

Te Ara Piko – looking towards Motukaraka Point (photo by John)

There is a lovely section that takes riders on a boardwalk through the wetlands, and avoids the narrow road bridge, which was always a bit dodgy to negotiate if there was a lot of traffic.


A new boardwalk section of Te Ara Piko (photo by John)

This is an ongoing joint project between Porirua City and Plimmerton Rotary. A year later, in February 2021, we again rode this track, and found that yet another section had been completed, from the end of the Camborne walkway, alongside Grays Road. There is now only another 500 metres to complete the whole track.  


Te Ara Piko – much better than biking on the road!   

The latest part of Te Ara Piko – Camborne Walkway end (photo by John)

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7 March 2020 – A bike ride we do quite frequently is Te Ara Tawa, which goes from the Takapu Road train station to Porirua. On this occasion we found a pipe band practising their bagpipes on the lawn below the Bucket Tree Lodge. As this was around the time that people were becoming aware of a nasty virus looming, John thought that playing bagpipes was a good means of keeping ‘social distance’.


Practising bagpipes in the park (photo by John)

On 18 March, we did what turned out to be our last bike ride before NZ went into Covid Alert Level 4 – total lockdown. We biked from Oriental Parade to Shelly Bay, for lunch at the Chocolate Fish, then carried on around the peninsula to Seatoun.

It was a gorgeous day, and while biking along, I was thinking that even if we were all going to have to self-isolate, we would still be able to go for bike rides so long as we didn’t go close to others, and though we might not be able to go to a café, we could just take a thermos of coffee and something to eat instead. How different things turned out to be. 


I was thinking we would still be able to bike, even if it came to having to ‘self-isolate’ (photo by John)

At that time, a new cycle track was being built from Oriental Bay to Evans Bay. It was looking good, though some sections were not yet completed (and at the time of writing, it is still not completely done). 


The first bit after Oriental Parade had been completed … (photo by John)

… but the next bit was still a work in progress (photo by John)

Improvements were also being made to the cycle track along Cobham Drive. The existing shared walking and cycling track was being widened, and a separate walking path installed, with gardens to separate the two. As a project, it has taken a long time to complete, as it was only officially opened a few weeks ago.


The improved track along Cobham Drive (photo by John)

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And so, on 25 March 2020, NZ went into lockdown. At Alert Level 4, we were expected to stay home, and only go out for essential shopping, and for ‘exercise’ – walking or cycling – but we were expected to stay in our immediate neighbourhood. Amazingly, most of NZ complied – later being called “the team of five million” by our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, when she thanked NZ for pulling together during the lockdown. 

One of the many government posters

We only cycled a few times during this time – just around our suburb, of course. We could not do our usual suburb ride – going down to Thyme Café on Middleton Road – since it was closed, so we rode into the new part of Churton Park, which is ever expanding.


New areas being developed on Melksham Drive (photo by John)

The hillside has been carved up for more future roads and housing (photo by John

Stopping at the supermarket on the way home was different. They were restricting numbers, so John had to wait outside while I shopped. Fortunately, unlike at other supermarkets, there were no queues to get into our local. 


The barrage of warning posters outside our local supermarket (photo by John)

Instead of biking, we mostly opted for walking around the neighbourhood. I am not naturally a walker – I would much rather bike, which is easier on arthritic feet – but it was a good way to discover parts of the suburb I had never been to. And, like many other families, we counted teddy bears, displayed in windows, cars and on fences.   


One of the ‘bears’ (koala bear) tacked to a lamppost

Bears on a fence

We had no teddy bears in the house, but we displayed what we had in our window (photo by John)
Schools and playgrounds were closed

After five weeks of full lockdown, the alert was dropped to Level 3, which meant we were able to go a little bit further afield, while still keeping to our ‘bubble’. So on 28 April, we biked from Tawa to Porirua, stopping to sit on the steps of the still closed Get Fixed Bicycle Café to eat some chocolate we had brought along. 


The Get Fixed Café was still closed during Level 3 (photo by John)


This lovely little café by the water’s edge of Porirua harbour, was housed in a shipping container, with a nice outside area provided with seats and beanbags on the lawn and lots of children’s ride-on toys to keep family groups happy. Of course during lockdown it was quiet, but still a nice place to stop.


Get Fixed Café in September 2020 (photo by John)

Since then, the Porirua Council has made the café move about 100 meters further up the track, where it is now an expanded café, made up of several containers, with a larger kitchen, somewhere to sit inside as well as a larger deck, and heaps more space outside. We enjoy going there for a coffee and something to eat. They have an interesting menu, but we usually just go for something like a muffin or brownie.


By January 2021, the expanded Get Fixed Café had moved to a new spot (photo by John)
View from the deck of the Get Fixed Café (photo by John)

On 14 May, the country moved down to Alert Level 2, meaning that we could now go for a much longer ride, and cafés were allowed to open again. Yay!

I had read that the Chocolate Fish Café in Shelly Bay was open for business, so we drove to Oriental Pde, and biked to the café and back.

At the café, we had to check in first – someone took down our names and phone number, then took us to a table inside. They had spread out the tables, and had a limited menu. It wasn’t as busy as I thought it might have been, which was good. The woman serving us, who seemed to be the owner, said that they had been able to use the lockdown period to paint the place inside and out, and deep clean and paint the kitchen. They don’t often get such an opportunity to do that when the place is open seven days a week. We had coffee and scones, which were very nice. 


We had to sign in first … (photo by John)

… before we could have our first post-lockdown proper coffee. Bliss!  (photo by John)

On 8 June, NZ moved down to alert level 1, effectively ending the lockdown period, but we still had to remain vigilant, by keeping up with the ‘health hygiene measures’ and keeping track of where we had been, using a “Tracer App”. I got a new phone for my birthday so that I could scan the tracer app code on it, as my old phone couldn’t do that.

Since then, life has pretty much returned to normal, or as normal as possible with the threat of covid still ever present. But as a country, we are exceptionally lucky, when we compare ourselves to other countries around the world, where they are battling second and third waves of the virus and facing further lockdowns.

On a ride on the Hutt River trail in August, while we were having lunch at Janus Bakery, we were reminded that things are not completely back to the pre-covid days, when we noticed that there was a Covid testing clinic at the medical centre across the road from the café.    

Covid testing clinic on Lower Hutt’s High Street (photo by John)

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The final entry for this blog post is nothing to do with rides, or with covid lockdown, but it is sort of related to cycling …

My sister and I went to see an exhibition at Te Papa, called “Up Close”, of fabulous entries from the World of Wearable Art. All of the entries were amazing in their designs and imaginative use of unexpected materials.


The UP CLOSE exhibition at Te Papa

The exhibit that I want to feature here was made entirely of bicycle inner tubes! Incredible. 

The designer, Grace DuVal, was the Supreme Award runner-up in 2017, with her entry entitled “Refuse Refuge”. She had used inner tubes rescued from bike shop trash in her home city Chicago. 


“Refuse Refuge” by Grace DuVal


Back view

Such ingenious use of the tyre valves and wheel spokes 

Hard to believe that is made from bicycle inner tubes!

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