Monday, 22 January 2018

Ohariu Valley to Porirua

On Friday 19 January, John suggested going for a ride through Ohariu Valley, down to the end of the public road, up to the ridge on the access road that was constructed for transporting the wind turbines of Mill Creek Wind Farm, then behind Spicers landfill to Porirua and to Gear Café for lunch, and then home.

On the whole it was a pretty successful ride. We weren’t sure if the access road was open for use other than for servicing the windmills, but we gave it a go. We left from home, biking up the hill and onto Ohariu Road.

From the junction where Ohariu Road becomes Ohariu Valley Road, it was a long, winding downhill into the bottom of the valley.

Ohariu Valley Road winds down into the valley (photo by John)

Before we got to the intersection with Rifle Range Road and Takarau Gorge Road, we met Alastair Smith (of Folding Goldies fame) going the other way. We stopped to talk. It was good to see him, as he had not been able to make it to our last Folding Goldies ride in November, because he wasn’t well. Today he had come into Ohariu from the Karori end, and was biking to Johnsonville, and planning to go down the Ngauranga Gorge.

The camera (on time-lapse) on John’s bike took this photo of us talking to Alastair

At the crossroads, we turned right, and followed the valley road till the end. The valley is really pretty. The road undulates up and down, and is really quiet – only two cars passed us.

Ohariu Valley Road (photo by John)

We stopped for John to swap his time-lapse camera from the front to the back of his bike
because of the angle of the light (photo by John)

John’s T-shirt blends perfectly with the colour of the road.
He should have worn a hi-viz vest

We rode past the riding school – unfortunately the Saddleback Café is only open on weekends now – and at the end of the road, we found a big gate across the Mill Creek access road, but there was a gate designed to let cyclists and walkers through.

The Mill Creek access road

It is a very wide road which was constructed especially to transport the components of the wind turbines of the Mill Creek Wind Farm from the Porirua end. The wind farm became fully operational in November 2014. There are 26 windmills on the hills, but they are not visible from here. There is an interesting video about Mill Creek on this website

The access road is very steep to begin with till you get to the top of the ridge. It is sealed for the first 100 meters (presumably to stop heavy loads skidding down the hill), and then it turns to gravel, but it wasn’t too bad to ride on.

The start of the access road was very steep (photo by John)

Once we got to the top of the ridge, the road was more or less flat, winding through forest and scrub. We got views across to Granada at one point.

Once on the ridge, the road wound along more or less on the flat (photo by John)
A view towards Granada (photo by John)

“The long and winding road …” (photo by John)

As we got closer to the Spicers landfill, we got the occasional whiff of it on the breeze. We checked out a flat area and found that there was a narrow track coming up from below, marked with a Te Araroa signpost. (Te Araroa is the walking track that stretches the length of New Zealand, from the top of the North to the tip of the South.) 

Close to the landfill, a gate prevented access through to Trash Palace on Broken Hill Road, and we had to divert around it on a narrow grassy track, that went for quite a long way.

From here we had to divert onto the narrow grassy track on the right

The dirt track was narrow and in places could have been bikeable – if we had been mountain bikers – but mindful of a couple of recent spills on dodgy tracks, we decided on the cautious approach, and walked most of the way.

We took the careful approach and walked (photo by John)

This short stretch was wider, and we were able to bike here … (photo by John)

… but this was definitely not bikeable – not in our book anyway …

A surprise encounter with Gandalf on the crest of a hill. We don’t know what this structure was for
(photo by John)

The track didn't come out where we expected it to. Eventually we had the choice of right or left – I think left would have taken us to Elsdon, but on the right we could see houses, so we knew there would be a road there. It was Chastudon Place, at the top of Tawa/Linden. When we got to the bottom of the hill, we ended up near the roundabout to Collins Ave.

Heading back to civilisation

From there we biked to the Gear Homestead Café. Te Ara Tawa, which had been partially closed off for several months because of the construction of a bridge for the Transmission Gully highway, was now open again.

The section of a Transmission Gully bridge has been installed,
allowing Te Ara Tawa to be opened again

It’s obviously not finished, but the main beams are in place

Looking impressive (photo by John)

From Te Ara Tawa, we went under the Porirua station and the motorway, and found that there is a new track into Aotea from there, so we rode up it, and rode around new streets – as yet unbuilt up – and then down to Gear Homestead.

There are some great murals in the Porirua station underpass (photo by John)

The newest streets in the Aotea subdivision (photo by John)

We had a pleasant lunch at the Gear Café, under a brolly on the path side of the building.

Lunch under the umbrella (photo by John)

We watched a wedding party taking photos in the grounds. They all looked gorgeous, the attendants in long deep red dresses, the groomsmen in smart suits. When they got ready to leave, four fancy big American classic cars, with bridal ribbons on, drove up. Very nice.

A wedding party was moving around the gardens to take photos (photo by John)

The wedding party prepares to leave in classic American cars (photo by John)

For the ride home, to get from Tawa to Churton Park, we had to bike down Middleton Road. Normally, when we bike Te Ara Tawa, we park at Takapu Road station, to avoid having to bike on Middleton Road. But it was OK, as going south, that side has a shoulder of sorts most of the way. It did add an extra 5.5 km to our ride.

There is a reasonable shoulder heading south on Middleton Road (photo by John)

Our total for the day was 35.5 km. It was a good ride, and it was nice to explore somewhere new.

E-bike group ride – Paekakariki to Peka Peka

On Sunday 14 January, we went on an e-bike group ride, organised by our next door neighbour, Sue Fish. She invited her neighbours on the other side of her, Laurie and Shirlene to come along, and put out a call on Meet-Up, which yielded two more people, Bridget and Gordon, so there were seven of us all up.

We met at Paekakariki, and biked to Peka Peka for lunch at Harrisons and back. This is a ride John and I have done quite a few times now, so it was nothing new to us, but it was fun to go in a group. In fact, John and Sue, and Laurie and Shirlene, had actually biked the same route on New Year’s day, when I was away in Masterton at a Scottish country dance Summer School. That was a successful ride, hence the repeat.

Laurie, Shirlene and Sue take a breather in the shade on New Year’s Day (photo by John)

When they biked back along the waterfront, they found an artwork on the beach – a great spiral, raked into the sand. Quite impressive.

An artwork on the beach (photo by John)

On the day of our group ride, we drove up in time to have coffee and scones at the Perching Parrot Café before the meet-up time of 11 am.

Meeting up at Paekakariki (photo by Sue)

Coming up to the Makarini Street bridge, on the Kapiti Expressway cycle track (photo by John)

It took us about an hour and three-quarters to bike the 26 km to Peka Peka, where we enjoyed a nice long stop for lunch, as it was very busy at the café, and food took a long while to arrive.

Arriving at Peka Peka. It was a very, very hot day, hence the shorts and sleeveless top …
(photo by John)

A pleasant long lunch at Harrisons (photo by Sue)

About to depart after lunch. Sue's SmartMotion is a "grown-up" version of ours
(i.e. full size, non folding)  (photo by Bridget)

On the return trip, Sue and the others put on a big spurt. I had to crank the assist up to level 4, and at times even level 5, to keep up. I think Sue believes in making the most of her e-bike capacity, whereas John and I like to take our time. I was quite tired at the end of the day’s 52 km.

Gordon and Sue take the lead (photo by John)

On the way back into Paekakariki along the waterfront, the beach looked very inviting. Lots of families were making the most of a hot Sunday afternoon at the beach.

Coming back into Paekakariki along The Parade (photo by John)

Sunday, 21 January 2018


On Monday 8 January, we went for a short-ish ride from Mana to Plimmerton and back. We parked at Ngatitoa Domain, and biked to Plimmerton, where we had a delicious pizza lunch at The Big Salami. It's a tiny place, but it serves good coffee and great pizzas.

Lunch at The Big Salami (photo by John)

After lunch I escaped a long conversation on meteorology with a man at a neighbouring table, by leaving first. I waited for John a short distance away, at the beachfront, while he extricated himself. 

The tide was in, and a couple of dozen screeching and squabbling seagulls were on the beach, hoping for tidbits from some people enjoying their fish and chips on a nearby seat. We were amused at one very aggressive seagull patrolling the space in front of the seats to prevent any other gulls coming near.

Seagulls hoping for fish and chips offerings (photo by John)

Enjoying fish and chips in the sun. Note the bossy seagull patrolling the edge,
while another gull is trying the stealth approach from the rear (photo by John)

We biked along the waterfront, to the end of the road, then decided to explore some of the hillside streets. We climbed up Gordon Road and Ogilvie Terrace. These were seriously steep roads. But the views were worth it.

This was a seriously steep road. Thank goodness for electrical assistance! (photo by John)

I don’t remember if this was Gordon Road or Ogilvie Terrace,
but it was more fun going down, than up (photo by John)

The view over Hongoeka Bay (photo by John)

Looking towards Titahi Bay in the distance (photo by John)

Though we had originally thought of going up Airlie Road and coming back down Te Ara Harakeke, the effort of the steep climbs was enough for us that day, so we decided to leave that for another day, and headed home the way we had come.

A Christmas Day city ride

Here we are in 2018. Happy New Year, folks! Nearly a whole month gone already, and I am still catching up on last year’s blogs. But only one more for 2017. While we did quite a few rides after our Taranaki holiday, they were all repeats of previous local rides, so not really worth writing up as blog posts.

But we did one local ride that was a little different. On Christmas Day, we biked in the city, which was practically deserted. We did this two Christmases ago, on a gloriously beautiful day, and we had been looking forward to this day being equally brilliant. But perversely, after all the weeks of wonderful weather, Christmas Day 2017 turned out to be disappointing – it was overcast and very windy. But we decided to go on our city bike ride anyway.

We set off at midday, and parked the car at the bottom of Hobson Street. First of all, we took photos of the Ministry of Defence building, in Aitken Street, which was being pulled down or – as the word now goes – “deconstructed”. It was damaged and declared unsafe after the Kaikoura earthquake in November 2016. A scandal really, as it was only ten years old. It was too expensive to repair, apparently. It seems it is more “cost effective” to demolish than to repair. A sign of our wasteful times? Still, would I have felt safe, working in an earthquake-damaged building, even though it had been repaired? No, probably not.

The “deconstruction” of Defence House (photo by John)

A mess of mangled metal and broken concrete (photo by John)

We wanted to go and look at the big pohutukawa tree in the middle of Parliament grounds, but there was a large group of people there, either a rally or a group picnic, so we exited again. Anyway, the big tree had already more or less finished flowering, which was disappointing, but not surprising. With all the warm weather we’d had, everything flowered earlier than usual. Even our own pohutukawa trees, which normally don't flower until New Year, or the first week of January, were flowering by Christmas.

But pohutukawas are interesting trees, as there seems to be no consistency in their flowering times, even among neighbouring trees, as was evident from the trees lining the edge of Parliament grounds. Some had nearly finished, one was in the best flush of flowering, and others hadn’t even started.

Pohutukawa trees in various stages of flowering (photo by John)

The downtown area was not as deserted as it had been that first time we did this. That was a bit disappointing too. There were quite a few small family groups walking through town. We biked down Lambton Quay, Willis Street, Manners Street, Courtenay Place, Cambridge Terrace, and doglegged through Chaffers Street (by the New World) to Oriental Parade.

We biked down Lambton Quay … (photo by John)

… along Courtenay Place … (photo by John)

… and through Chaffers Street to Oriental Parade (photo by John)

In contrast to our equivalent ride two years ago, when the beach had been packed with families enjoying the fine weather, today Oriental Bay was deserted, except for a dutiful trio of surf life saving patrol guys, and one lily-white bloke sitting on a towel who seemed determined to get a tan on Christmas day, even though the sun wasn't out and he was being sandblasted by the wind.

The lonely beach patrol … (photo by John)

… keeping a close watch on an empty beach

We were copping the sandblasting too, so we did not stop to get an ice cream. We didn't fancy hokey-pokey ice cream laced with sand. On our way back I noticed that the surf patrol had retired into the raised cabin, to shelter from the wind and flying sand. After that we decided to head for home, as it just wasn't very nice out there.

We decided to head home (photo by John)

To cap it off, it started to rain, enough for me to have to take my glasses off. The rain set in when we were loading the bikes into the car, and by the time we got home, it was pouring.

Home to cook Christmas dinner – of sorts – for just the two of us. A good movie on TV – "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" – and that was Christmas Day done and dusted for another year.