Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Waikanae to Peka Peka – and an exhibition of tapestries


Last week we had a run of four fine(-ish) days in a row, yay! – no rain, no wind. So nice to see the sun after several “weather bombs”. We had to make the most of the good weather before the next deluge, so we biked four days in a row. Admittedly, two of these rides were very short – one was a “café run”, a 7 km ride to down to our local café and back, and the other was the 8 km ride on the Wellington Waterfront to test the Bickerton (described in the previous blog post).

The other two rides were 20 km. One of them was a ride to the Gear Homestead Café, during which I reached my 5,000 km milestone on my e-bike.

5,000 km on the e-bike

We rode along Te Ara Tawa. However, this beautiful track, which was only completed just over a year ago, is now again inaccessible between Kenepuru and Porirua because of the impending construction of the Kenepuru on- or off-ramp for the Transmission Gully Highway. So cyclists now have to either ride on the road again, or use the footpath.

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On Tuesday 25 July we drove to Waikanae Beach, where we parked near the Waikanae River estuary. We biked on the Kapiti Coastal Cycle Route to Harrisons at Peka Peka. There we had lunch and a wander around the garden centre at Harrisons, then returned to Waikanae on the new Expressway cycle track.

A colourlful display at Harrisons Garden Centre (photo by John)

The junction of Peka Peka Road with the old SH1 is now all tidied up, including access to the cycle track.

Because of the heavy rain we had in the past week, there were areas beside the track that still had standing water, where they wouldn’t normally have, but the track itself was mostly dry – give or take a puddle or two.

Water around fence lines following heavy rain … (photo by John)

… but the track was mostly dry (photo by John)

Some way down the track, we diverted onto a path leading to Smithfield Road. I had sailed past it but John called me back by furiously ringing his bell. The track eventually led to a very lovely stretch of road which turned out to be Ngarara Road. A narrower road went off it and we would have liked to explore further, but it was a private road, so we desisted.

A lovely spot on Ngarara Road (photo by John)

Sadly, this was a private road so we could not explore further (photo by John)

While we were taking photos of the pretty scenery and the peaceful looking cattle, a farmer appeared on the brow of the hill – probably wondering what we were up to.

The steers stopped their grazing to check us out (photo by John)

Before long, Ngarara Road became a bridge over the Expressway, and we joined the cycle track again. The road sign pointed to Ngā Manu Nature Reserve, which I think we should visit some time, maybe on another ride. We have been there once, but that was years ago when our children were still young.

At the junction with Te Moana Road, we left the Expressway track, and pedalled back to our car. Though there are still roadworks going on near the junction as a result of the Expressway, most of Te Moana Road has a nice cycle lane.

Roadworks on Te Moana Road (photo by John)

We diverted off towards the river and the Waimanu Lagoon, and sat on a bench, enjoying the sun, the view and some chocolate! While we were sitting there, the time-lapse camera on John’s bike took a picture of us, which I am now using as a computer screen saver. I call it “Retirement Bliss”.

Between the river estuary and the Waimanu Lagoon (photo by John)

The Waikanae River Estuary (photo by John)

Retirement bliss (photo by John)

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On the way home, we stopped at the Pataka Gallery in Porirua to view an exhibition of tapestries by multiple award winning Peruvian master weaver Máximo Laura. It is a stunning exhibition. Ten large tapestries are on show, all of which made me “drool”! Máximo has an amazing use of colour and his colour blending is exquisite. I love the vibrant colours and the “clean” lines of his designs.

Fruto de Abundancia del Mar IV (Abundance of the Fruit of the Sea)

Hacia la Amada (Journey to my Beloved)

I love the vibrancy of the colours!

As well as his exhibition in Pataka, Máximo Laura has been conducting workshops for NZ tapestry weavers in Wellington and Hamilton. One of my weaving friends, Trish Armour, herself an award-winning tapestry weaver, spent several weeks studying with Máximo in his Lima studio last year. She alerted me to his works, which I have been following on Facebook.

I would dearly love to own one of his tapestries, but unfortunately they are well beyond my financial reach! So I will just have to make do with the photos on my screen saver.

A Bickerton Portable Folding Bike


On Friday 21 July, Folding Goldies friends Sue and Gottfried called in to see John. Gottfried deposited a bag in our hallway, containing a very old, disassembled, folding bike. “I thought you might be interested in having a look at this”, he said. “I acquired it recently in exchange for a bottle of good whisky”.

It was a Bickerton Portable Folding Bike. Gottfried didn’t actually say “Can you fix it for me?”, but that is what eventuated. John spent the rest of the weekend taking most of it apart, servicing it, and putting it back together. He researched it on the internet and found out that it had been made in 1979 – so it was 38 years old.

The Bickerton Portable Folding Bike – 1979 vintage (photo by John)

He took it for a test ride around the corner on our street, but he found it wasn’t very good on the hill. So, a bit more tweaking, and by Monday, he tried it on Te Ara Tawa, a nice smooth, mostly flat path. He was satisfied that is was a reasonably viable bike on the flat.

Test ride in Tawa

A couple of days later, after a few more tweaks, we went for a ride along the Wellington Waterfront, so that he could test it some more. Having folded it to put it in the car, he found that it took quite a bit of fiddling to unfold and get it ready to ride. The bag that the bike came in was designed to be folded and domed so that it could hang off the handlebars, which was useful for carrying a spanner. If you were a London commuter trying to take this bike on the tube, it would definitely not fold and unfold in a jiffy!

One fold undone …

That spanner came in handy!

Now the handlebars have to be turned out …

… and adjusted

Done! Ready to roll!  (photo by John)

The Bickerton and my Giant parked together at Karaka Café (photo by John)

After the ride, he made an addition to the bike to give the handlebars a bit more rigidity, which would also stop the cover of the bag from lifting and flapping in the breeze.

A bar between the handlebars made them a bit more rigid.

A few days later, Gottfried came to collect his Bickerton. I think – I hope – he was happy with what John had done with it.

Of course John has written up the Bickerton on his website, which you will find here.


Thursday, 13 July 2017

Folding Goldies ride – Pukerua-Whitby-Porirua



On Wednesday 5 July, we went for another Folding Goldies ride. The plan was to take the train to Pukerua, then ride down Te Ara Harakeke to Mana, cross to the Camborne Walkway and head to Pauatahanui’s Ground Up Café for coffee/lunch. Then through Whitby and Bothamley Park to Porirua, and home.

It was a beautiful, frosty day – clear and calm, but very cold. So we wrapped up warm – long trousers instead of short, and I had four layers on under my jacket, plus my neck warmer. My body was toasty warm most of the day, but my hands were very cold in my fingerless biking gloves. They did warm up as the day wore on.

It was the biggest group we’ve had so far. Our neighbour Sue met us at Takapu Road station. Luckily it was a long train with two carriages that could take bikes. Alastair, Nigel and Paul were in the back carriage, so we hopped on the front one. Some poor chap with a bike (not a FG) at Mana station missed out. The guard wouldn't let him on, as each carriage is only allowed to take three bikes. We could have folded up one of our bikes, but the train departed before we could negotiate that with the guard.

Waiting for us at Pukerua were people who had come in from Kapiti: Lynn, Doff and Neil, Frank; Colin, who had biked up, and two new people, Heuchan and Richard. Thirteen people in all.

A big group, about to set off from Pukerua Station (photo by John)

Doff on the Pukerua footbridge over SH1 (photo by John)

Down Te Ara Harakeke (photo by John)

It was very cold coming down the hill – in shady areas there were patches of frost still in the grass alongside the track, but fortunately not on the track itself. The ride went well until the Camborne Walkway. On the unsealed, somewhat slippery track that runs along behind the boat sheds, we had to keep well to the left to make room for a couple of women with pushchairs. While keeping to the left, and looking to the right to make sure I avoided the pushchairs, I slid into the gutter, and then into a hole. The bike stopped, I kept going and went flying. Crash! I’m afraid I let go of some choice expletives.

One of the women came to my aid to lift the bike off me. It is quite heavy, and my right leg was folded underneath me and the bike, so I had trouble getting up. I ended up with a fist-sized bruise above my right knee, and bruising all around my left knee as well. But generally, I was OK, and so we carried on.

On the Camborne track – note muddy knees and shoes from my fall … (photo by John)

When we got to Grays Road, we rode for a short distance on the road, before crossing to a new boardwalk through the wetlands. We had seen the flags marking out the proposed track the last time we were there (in September), but it was now completed, as far as just past the bridge.

The proposed track, in September 2016 (photo by John)

On the new boardwalk, coming up to the bridge (photo by John)

The wetlands at low tide

It was great to be able to divert onto the boardwalk, as that bit of road is quite treacherous – winding, no shoulder, and prone to impatient drivers. However, the fun was short-lived as we had to go back on the road for another short distance before we got to Motukaraka Point.

The end of this stretch of boardwalk – and back onto the road

The peloton riding at Motukaraka Point (photo by John)

Riding at the back of the group, I was struck at one stage by the colourful combination of all the yellow, red and orange jackets as they were riding past a tall clump of red-hot-poker flowers (Kniphofia). It would have made a great photo, but the moment was gone before I could get my camera out.

We got to the Ground Up Café at 11:15. Just a bit too early for lunch, but I had soup anyway, and it was very nice. After lunch we headed towards Whitby.

Ready for take-off after lunch (photo by John)

Taking a breather at the top of the steepest climb of the ride in Whitby (photo by John)

Waiting for the stragglers (us!) in Bothamley Park (photo by John)

I was not the only one in the wars that day. John had a couple of mishaps (slow falls, he called them) on slippery ground. His compromised sense of balance does not help in these situations. Fortunately he was not hurt.

John in on the Bothamley Pathway

At the end of the Bothamley Pathway, there is another track that skirts the Kenepuru Stream through Cannon’s Creek. But this track was closed – I believe one of the bridges had been damaged. Actually, I was relieved to find we had to stay on the road instead. This track is quite narrow and can be muddy, even boggy, and I didn’t want either of us to do any more slip-sliding around.

We were lagging behind a bit, and some of the time the others waited for us to catch up. But at the end, I suppose they must have made a run for it so they could catch the train back to town from Porirua. They got there just in time. We arrived at the station underpass just as it was leaving.

We didn't need the train. We were able to just bike back to Takapu Road on Te Ara Tawa. We did 35 km all up.


Saturday, 1 July 2017

A book launch


On Tuesday 20 June, John and I attended a book launch at Vic Books – the bookshop on the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University. The book to be launched was entitled “You Do Not Travel in China at the Full Moon: Agnes Moncrieff’s Letters From China 1930–1945”, edited by Barbara Francis, and published by Victoria University Press. 

The cover of the book (source: Victoria University Press)

This wonderful book is a collection of letters by a New Zealand woman, who was posted to China by the YWCA during the turbulent years of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The title refers to the fact that whenever there was a full moon, there would always be Japanese air raids.

The editor, Barbara Francis, who knew Nessie well, spent a decade reading, transcribing and researching her friend’s letters which had been lodged with the Alexander Turnbull Library

Six years ago, I was introduced to Barbara by a mutual acquaintance, when she was looking for someone to help with the copy-editing and formatting of the manuscript, in preparation to having the letters formally published.

I was immediately fascinated by this project, as it dealt with China in the mid-1940s, which was a time when my father was passionately interested in China. In fact, he was posted to China as a Netherlands diplomat in 1948 (along with my mother and one-year-old me). However we spent only a couple of years there, before being evacuated ahead of the arrival of the Communists.

It was a real privilege for me to be involved in a small way in Barbara’s long journey towards publication. John got involved too, when some of Nessie’s photos and documents had to be converted to a suitable format. So attending the launch of her book, was pretty special for both of us.

Waiting for the launch (photo by John)

The book was launched by Michael Powles, former NZ Ambassador to China and currently President of the NZ-China Friendship Society. The publisher, Fergus Barrowman, looks on proudly (photo by John)

With Barbara Francis – getting my copy of the book signed (photo by John)

The following Saturday, there was a very interesting interview with Barbara on Kim Hill's radio programme. Well worth a listen.

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On a separate note, I had not been to the new premises of Vic Books, and I was quite gobsmacked about the changes at Victoria University. After the book launch, we had a little wander around the new spaces.

Of course, big changes were to be expected since I was a young student there half a century ago (really? is it really that long?). But even when I went back there for a course in the mid-1990s, the space between the Easterfield and Rankine-Brown (library) Buildings, was still just a windswept uninviting open space. And all this new development has happened since John retired from working at the university in 2009.

Now the quad has been covered in, a new floor built, the library extended to join Easterfield, and there is a café attached to the bookshop. There are pleasant seating areas, and great study desks – all with power for the students’ laptops, and presumably they have wi-fi throughout. I was seriously impressed.

Library space between Easterfield and Rankine-Brown (photo by John)

View over Wellington from Victoria University (photo by John)


Saturday, 24 June 2017

Mana to Pukerua


Last Monday, 19 June, we took a ride from Mana to Pukerua Bay. It was fine but cold, however there was little wind. We parked the car at the Ngati Toa Domain in Mana, and biked along the foreshore to Plimmerton.

The rocky foreshore, looking across to the Whitireia Peninsula and Mana Island beyond (photo by John)

Looking the other way, towards Plimmerton (photo by John)

We biked up Te Ara Harakeke from Plimmerton to Pukerua, where we used the pedestrian overbridge to cross SH1, so we could explore the “other” side of Pukerua. We have lived in Wellington for over 50 years, and have driven through Pukerua a gazillion times, but we had never explored that area.

After crossing the railway line at the station, we headed to the left, towards a track that looked promising. However it was the track leading to the Escarpment Track. This is the steep 10 km track that clings to the side to the Paekakariki Hill. It was opened last year, and is part of the Te Araroa Walking Trail which runs the length of New Zealand, 3,000 km, from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

While I am full of admiration (no, actually, I think they're completely bonkers!) for the many people who are bold and keen enough to walk this track, there is no way at all that I will ever attempt it. Not on foot, and not by bike (which is not possible anyway). I stick to the assertion that I am a “flatlander” – I don’t “do hills” if I can help it.

The sign at the start of the Escarpment Track is full of warnings (click to enlarge), but it doesn’t seem to put off hundreds of people who enjoy walking it – but it’s not for me! (photo by John)

This part of Pukerua Bay is a pleasant suburban area, where some of the streets have gorgeous views out towards Paraparaumu and the Tasman Sea.

Some streets had great views (photo by John)

We came across a house which was a work of art in progress. Three-quarters of the façade had been painted with a view, which I imagine will be like the view they get from the windows on the other side of the house. Or perhaps, as John suggests, it could be the view one gets from Plimmerton. The lower right quadrant is yet to be painted. We will have to come back next summer to see if it has been completed.

The painted house (photo by John)

We biked all around the streets, and arrived at the old, now closed, Muri Station. The Escarpment Track skirts this area. We continued on the path alongside the station, but it petered out at a grassy slope, and we ended up pushing our bikes up it (thank goodness for the “walk assist” on our bikes) to get back to the street above.

After a good explore around the streets, we saw that clouds were gathering, and we didn’t want to get caught in the rain, so we headed back. We stopped at Plimmerton’s Big Salami Café for coffee and one of their delicious pizzas. We’d had a pleasant ride, exploring a "new" area, and John had managed it OK, despite some health concerns a few days earlier. We had done 22 km.

The foreshore track between Plimmerton and Mana (photo by John)


Folding Goldies Ride – Whiteman’s Valley


I’m getting very much behind on my blog posts. I must write up our last Folding Goldies ride, as the invitation for the next ride has already arrived in our inbox. So here goes …

On Wednesday 7 June, the Folding Goldies ride took us to Whiteman’s Valley. Alastair, the organiser, described the ride like this, on Meet Up: “Whiteman's Valley is one of the nicest rides in the Wellington region – the word 'bucolic' was invented for places like this”.

The weather had not looked promising all week, but on the day, it was OK-ish. Still overcast, but at least not raining. As the day wore on, more and more blue sky appeared, and while riding down the valley it was actually sunny. But it was COLD!

We took the train to Wallaceville from Petone. Alastair, Nigel and Colin were on the train already. Doff and Neil met us at Wallaceville. They live in Waikanae, so they drove down to meet us at the station.

Waiting for the train at Petone (photo by John)

We all met up at Wallaceville Station – from left: Nigel, Désirée, Neil, Doff, Colin, Alastair
 (photo by John)

From Wallaceville, it was straight up the hill towards Whiteman’s Valley. On our e-bikes John and I got there well before the others, so we had to wait for them to catch up.

Wallaceville Road is quite steep in places (photo by John)

All caught up (photo by John)

The valley is lovely but I didn't enjoy it as much as I had on previous occasions – mainly because it was so cold. Also, when you are talking with others, and keeping a look-out for them, you don't take quite so much notice of the surroundings, or get as much enjoyment from them.

Doff on Whiteman’s Valley Road. The sky gradually cleared from grey to a more pleasant blue
 (photo by John)

John and Neil. Note John’s two cameras, one on his handlebar, and one underneath his saddle
 (photo by Alastair Smith)

As we rode past, we got a whiff of the distinctive, somewhat sour smell emanating
from the polythene-wrapped bales of silage (photo by John)

Whiteman’s Valley Road comes to an end at the junction with Johnsons Road and Blue Mountains Road. The Short Straw Café on Johnsons Road was not open, so we hurtled down Blue Mountains Road to have lunch at the Silverstream Bakery and Café at the bottom. Riding down the hill – for about 7 km – was great, but very hard on my gammy hands, as I have to bring my thumbs around on the handlebar so I don't loose my grip on the brakes, but I can't keep that position for very long – it hurts!

At the bottom of the hill (photo by John)

Lunch at the bakery was very pleasant – as Alastair said “It’s another place to put on our Folding Goldies’ list of cafés”.

Lunch at the Silverstream Bakery and Café (photo by John)

Afterwards, Alastair and Nigel took the train back to Wellington, Doff and Neil took the train back to Wallaceville (where their car was), and Colin, John and I rode down the Hutt River Trail back to Petone, where we had parked the car. All up, we did about 38 km. Colin, however, decided he would ride home from there, all the way to Titahi Bay. Fortunately he was riding an e-bike.

It was very, very cold coming down the Hutt River Trail, as the southerly had got up. I never warmed up all day, until I had sat by the heater at home for half an hour with a hot cup of coffee in my hand.