Thursday, August 7, 2014

Coasting with the Tern

It was the sort of day that I'd anticipated for my retirement - not a cloud in the sky, no commitments, nothing to stop me going on an expedition. I'd decided to take advantage of the folding bike and my gold card to do a circuit: train to Waterloo, bus to Wainuiomata, ride the coast road to Baring Head, along the coast to Pencarrow and around to Days Bay, then ferry back to Wellington.

Every expedition has a "crux" - a point which if it can't be passed, the expedition fails. Climbing Mt Earnslaw for example, the crux is a gently sloping slab of rock - an easy stroll if it's dry, impossible if ice covered.
Don retreats from Earnslaw after we'd failed to pass the crux slab, 1974
For todays expedition, the crux was a bit more prosaic: the 160 bus to Wainuiomata.Would it take my folding bike? In anticipation, I'd printed out Metlink's bike policy which explicitly allows folding bikes on buses, but drivers have been known to disregard this. So I was a bit nervous waiting at Waterloo Stop C for the 160 to arrive. In the event there was nothing to worry about - "what a cool bike!" was the drivers reaction, I waved my gold card, and in a moment we were roaring up the Wainuiomata Hill faster than I've ever biked it. I was treated to a tour of Wainuiomata back streets, then dropped at the Village to start the coast road.
The great thing about Wellington is how quickly you can be in countryside. A few kilometres down the coast road, it was difficult to believe that I was just down valley from one of Wellington's most populous suburbs - "nappy valley" of the 1950s. The road followed the Wainuiomata River winding across the flats, and horses, sheep and cows populated the lifestyle blocks.
Stables on the Wainuiomata coast road.

A bleat from the roadside posed a ethical dilemma - a kid had its head trapped in the fence. Goats are pest animals, and logically I should have taken the opportunity to remove this one from the live population. But the cuteness factor, the anxious looks of mum back in the scrub, and the remarkably human sounding distress cries overcame my environmentalism, and I bent the wires to release it. I last saw it trotting after mum, heading in the direction of the nearest patch of native forest...
Bridge across Wainuiomata River at Baring Head
Soon I was at the turnoff for Baring Head, now part of GWRC's East Harbour Regional Park, crossed the bridge and pushed the Tern up the steep road to the saddle.
From the saddle I could see across Fitzroy Bay to Wellington, and across Cook Strait to the snowcapped Kaikoura mountains.
I rolled down the hill past the sheep to the coast, where I found a piece of unique Wairarapa coast technology - the tractor boat launcher. Gravelly beaches and pounding surf can make it difficult for fishers to launch and retrieve their boats. So locals use small bulldozers and a long tow bar to maneuver boat trailers into the sea.
I carried on around Fitzroy Bay to the twin lakes Kohangatera and Kohangapiripiri - this section is on private land, and not yet an official route. However the gates were unlocked, and there seemed little to discourage a cyclist from passing.

On the way I passed the SS Paiaka, grounded in 1906 and peacefully rusting away.
Baring Head from Lake Kohangatera outlet
After the Pencarrow lighthouse, the northerly breeze slowed progress, and I was glad to reach Burdan's Gate, and arrange to meet my friend Neil for a coffee in Eastbourne.

Local knowledge advised that the 2:35pm Eastbourne bus, crowded with Wellesley students, wouldn't be a Tern friendly environment. So I had a second leisurely coffee at Chocolate Days, and caught the 3:15pm Ferry back to Wellington, resigning myself to paying a fare, having missed the Gold Card cutoff.