Category Archives: family

Wombling in Wimbledon

With Mum and Dad having come to stay for a ten days or so mid-winter, it was decided that we should go away for a few days together. Often I’d driven the highway south of home and looked east towards the coast and wondered at the long line of big hills and what might be there. This was as good a reason as any to choose north-eastern Manawatu for a quiet few days in the countryside. A house was duly booked on a big sheep farm.

Taking a couple of days off work, my birthday got off to a wonderful start – I even had presents to unwrap, most unusual. A leisurely morning of sorting bikes, strolling in the sun and packing over – we were off south on rural roads I’d not been on before. Lovely countryside, many hills and turns – we arrived at Spring Creek, just past Wimbledon (which seems to be pretty much a pub and little else).

We had this lovely old, spacious farmhouse for a few days.

The house was great to poke around and find all sorts of old things – just the general day-to-day items were interesting enough.

Birthday dinner was down the road at the Wimbledon pub – the seafood basket is huge and delicious. So big, that I found out two days later that a half serving satisfies even my hunger. I’ve long wanted to bikepack along Route 52 (a road that lost its state highway designation) – I may have to make that a priority just so I can have the seafood basket again.

1886 counts for a pretty old pub in NZ.

We were enjoying learning of the pioneering history of the area, how it was cleared of native forest (unfortunate as the hills are so steep, erosion and slips are now quite a problem), supplied from the coast (there was no road to Dannevirke, or anywhere for that matter). Our hosts, Shaun and Sue, were fifth generation farmers – so there were plenty of stories to hear.

With enough bikes for the three of us, we were keen to go for a ride to the coast. With only a couple of small hills and a stunning day on Friday, the thirteen kilometres was achievable for Mum & Dad – who hadn’t done a lot of riding recently.

I had plenty of time to stop for photos, admire the scenery.

Heading for Herbertville – we turned right at the foot of those hills.

I carried on a bit past Herbertville, just because – gravel!

Looking back towards the wonderfully named Cape Turnagain – where Captain Cook decided he’d gone far enough south, and turned back north.

South towards Castle Point – another place I’m yet to make it to.

Back to the house for a late lunch, we were all well pleased with our rides. Sue and Shaun had said we could drive to the top and back of the farm, passing some old buildings on the way. The Corolla somehow made its way up the steep hill and we found a old woolshed and some ruined houses.

Circling the woolshed trying to find a way in.

Mum made it in.

Said disused woolshed.

Carrying on up the hill – a bit of fun for the little car.

South over Manawatu.

Back north over the farm which reaches across the valley to the hills in the middle distance.

We went hunting for old farm houses – instead Dad got dwarfed by old pine trees.

The living room could do with a bit of a touch up.

I was determined to ride around the farm, so dragged the mountain-bike out Saturday morning and was rather chilled riding back up the same steep road we’d driven up the previous afternoon. Crossing a muddy ford opposite the abandoned woolshed, I finally discovered the elusive tumble-down house and laden lemon tree we’d been looking for yesterday.

Most of the remaining structure seemed to be supported by ivy.

Ivy did at least frame the windows nicely.

This may be a part of why we initially struggled to find the ruined house – yes, there is a house in there. Somewhere.

I ground my way to the top, huzzah for single chainrings up steep hills, and was rewarded with clearer views over eastern Manawatu.

The Ruahines in the distance.

I had a blast following rugged farm tracks along the ridge line before a steep, steep plummet back to the house.

The afternoon’s outing was to head back to the beach for a walk to Cape Turnagain, or thereabouts. We drove there this time. Wide, flat and with the cape rising out of the sea it was a very nice walk in the afternoon sun. Two hardy surfers followed and passed us, before heading into the Pacific. There were a few others out on quad bikes, but the crashing of the waves easily drowned out any potentially annoying motors.

We found dozens of seals enjoying the sun at the cape, so turned around and returned with the wind at our backs.

The tiki-touring continued – we drove past where I’d ridden south the day before to see how far the road went. Not much further was the answer. Back to the pub that night for dinner – Dad managed to find somewhere to watch the Bledisloe Cup test. Mum and I had one of our occasional close-fought Scrabble battles, I was particularly average.

I was determined to find some gravel roads and thought I’d planned a good loop around Birch Rd. Dad joined me on the Route 52 section getting up a couple of decent hills. Turning off the tarseal, it got much steeper and I bade farewell to Dad. As expected, it was all very hilly. The land use alternated between sheep pasture and pine forest; forestry dominated. Every section of pasture gave a different view. At times I could look right back across the farm and spy the route I’d ridden around the farm previously.

There was clearly some logging operations going on somewhere up the road. The gravel varied from nice smooth, old road to big chunky gravel that had recently been laid. Areas of perpetual winter shade were quite damp and the surface up the last big climb was hard going – almost muddy gravel that hadn’t packed down. I was keen to get to Weber, mainly just to explore more back roads and see what was in the village. But aware that that would be cutting short even more the time spent with Mum & Dad, I opted for the short loop and hurtled down the hill to Route 52.

I was surprised not to lose even half the altitude that would take me back to the house. The short section of Route 52 that remained really must be steep. Certainly, it was. Mum was also out riding when I returned. The rest of our wonderful break away from it all was spent lunching, packing and loading bikes. What a great stay – so much to do in a place that seems to have little of the trappings one is used to.

With plenty of time up our sleeves, we could stop and read off the longest place name in the world. Yes, it’s quite easily pronounceable – it’s not Welsh after all.

The even-more scenic (roundabout) route was taken as we didn’t have to be at friends of Mum & Dad’s until five-thirty for a very informative walk around their vineyard, sampling of their wine and a fantastic “simple” dinner. A late return home after a very relaxing weekend.

Wet Waikouaiti Week

The first week of the new year was spent in and around Mum and Dad’s place in Waikouaiti. It was nice to sit still for a week (Adele had gone back to work) and spend time hanging out at home, sorting through various family things, doing odd jobs and going on little day trips. It was not at all summery, however, with a whole lot of wind, rain and cold keeping us mostly to inside activities.

Quiet New Year’s was in Dunedin with Adele and some of her friends – we spent New Year’s Day at the “beach” which was very relaxing and not at all hypothermic in shorts and a T-shirt.

South Dunedin a couple of days later was even less inviting – but Dad, Mum & I had a nice lunch – inside.

Wet weather is good for museum visiting – this time the Otago Settlers Museum, which is worth the visit and has this impressive art deco entrance way to the old bus station.

We went home via Port Chalmers to check out the largest cruise ship to visit NZ – I can confirm it was in fact, large.

Things started to clear a little.

To try and find some slightly summery weather, I made an overnight break for Central Otago for a spot of mountain-biking with James, Dan & Jacqui.

On the way I stopped to visit friends on their lifestyle block at Goodwood. It was unbelievably windy and cold up there.

I looked out across some of the many hills I was rather missing not to be riding around and between.

The drive over the Pigroot was lovely – until I discovered fresh snow around Naseby. Snow, in the first week of January!

Back in East Otago, we took a family outing for lunch and a walk. Here looking over Karitane to Waikouaiti Beach – it was nice not to bike up that rather steep hill from Karitane.

Behind Waitati, the view is down to Blueskin Bay.

The clouds at Carey’s Bay could most charitably be labelled atmospheric – but only when they weren’t dumping rain.

We had a wonderful family lunch at the historic Carey’s Bay Hotel.

Driving towards the mouth of Otago Harbour, it was my first visit to the sleepy seaside settlement of Aramoana. Infamous for the 1990 massacre, it would form one of my earliest memories/impressions of big NZ national news. We went for a nice walk on the beach and promptly got caught in a downpour. Funny times (the latter, not the former).

It was a lovely lazy week at home with plenty of chat, reminiscing and thoughts of the future.

But gosh I was glad to be back in Hawke’s Bay, where it had really dried out and was actual, proper summer!

Alexandra Rocky Ride

In a desperate attempt to escape the New Year cold in East Otago, I headed towards Central for a spot of mountain-biking with James, Jacqui and Dan.

It wasn’t that summery heading over the Pigroot.

I arrived earlier than the others in Ranfurly, where we were to stay the night. It was cold – six degrees! Some Central Otago summer. I managed to keep myself usefully occupied, thinking the others would turn up any moment.

Apparently Ranfurly is an art deco town. I found this building to support that claim.

And perhaps this building. Not overly impressed, I may be a little spoilt by living in Napier.

The others arrived at pretty much the right time and we headed into the hotel for dinner. It wasn’t just my turn to be unimpressed, the food is best not mentioned. Except to say that I was reintroduced to mine in the early hours of the morning – somehow I managed not to wake everyone up in Don’s small hospital flat. With suitable care, I was pleased to declare myself fit to ride in the morning. We headed off to Alexandra eventually, stopping at Omakau for ginormous venison pies. I was still full from a large breakfast (apparently I was sick in the night), so stashed mine in the car.

We parked at this little bridge, it was a pleasant day – but not so warm I need take more than a bottle of water.

But my, it looked rocky and completely different to most of the riding I’ve done in NZ.

Finally ready to ride, I managed to scoff my pie – which was just as well as we were out for three hours. After a little time on a road, we headed up a rocky gully for quite some time – a gentle gradient, it climbed and climbed. The air was heavy with the prolific scent of wild thyme – apparently early miners/settlers planted it to flavour their rather plain meals, it seemed to take hold. There were plenty of interesting features in the rocks on the trail – the return leg looked like it would be fun. We eventually reached a gravel road, James doing a very good job of remembering where this unmarked trail leads in a landscape with many options.

A brief spell on the shingle over, we turned off again and climbed some more. The landscape opened up around us. Views of rocks and ranges in all directions. It was a great day to be out in the Central Otago sun – it wasn’t hot.

Still some fresh snow around.

Those rocks up there are where the first downhill section started.

The downhills were such fun all day. Small dirt tracks through the brown pasture linking sections on big slabs of rock. Large grippy rocks. There were plenty of steep features to test one’s mettle on; following someone who had ridden the trail before and has more confidence than I do was great as I gained confidence of my own riding all sorts of things.

We climbed again from the road, more steeply this time.

A fast open stretch started off the second downhill, before it got extraordinarily rocky again. Great fun, so much traction too.

There are two riders in there somewhere.

Back to and then off the gravel road again, we climbed for the final time of the day. Subsequently we hit the biggest and steepest rock drops/chutes of the day. After a bit of deliberation, and watching James show how it was done, I was pleased to ride some things I don’t normally get the opportunity to do. I was also pleased not to hurt myself! Things were very technical for a while, they went well for me. Half way down I was a bit out of sorts and that confidence disappeared for some steep downhill corners. Never mind, I’d had a great day and was happy to be out in the sun, improving my riding in steps. The gully ride out was as fast and fun as it looked it would be on the way up.

An excellent break from the poor weather, and fine rock riding (fond memories of Moab slickrock adventures and such things were at the forefront of my mind most of the day) culminated when we refueled at the fine French eatery next to where we parked the cars. We headed back east – I think I was quite tired after being awake for a lot of the night rather poorly; so tired in fact, it was best James drove.

The Naseby Royal for dinner? Why not – it was sure to be better than the previous night. We all ordered lamb shanks, they were excellent – when they arrived over an hour later. Strangely busy day in normally sleepy Naseby it would seem.

I hit the road for Waikouaiti, looking forward to a comfortable bed.

Alps2Ocean – Day Three – Kurow to Oamaru

Our third and final day on Alps2Ocean dawned clear and with much less wind than the previous day. I’d barely slept as the room was hot and also above the noisy bar; but that mattered little as there were plenty of distractions on an easy day’s riding. After a full-English breakfast (or close to) we set off for the flat riding down the Waitaki valley to Duntroon, all on cycle trail – some down by the river, some alongside the road, and parts joining the two.

Dad joined us for the first twenty-two kilometres of the day. He and Adele chatted while I tried to ride slowly taking photos and otherwise distracted.


Until the previous night, I’d not known there was local wine (very good it was too). The trail had been cunningly routed through a vineyard, past the shop.

Dad rejoined Mum in the car just before Duntroon as Adele and I wound our way back to the riverside and then up to the town. From here on in, we were on a more familiar route – Adele and I having ridden from Duntroon down the trail for a couple hours and back some two years before. Not much had changed from what I wrote then.

We made the small climb up to Elephant Rocks, where Mum and Dad met us for a picnic lunch in amongst the limestone looking at the sunny view. Very pleasant it was too. As I had my mountain bike (as an aside, it was much more comfortable to do long days on than I imagined) I amused myself riding over and off various rocks that my ability could cope with.

A destination for boulderers and such people that like to climb things, there weren’t many around that day unfortunately.

The lunch stop was about halfway up the first of the day’s only two climbs worth mentioning. The trail departed the roadside and we had about a hundred metres to climb below pleasant limestone outcrops.

The trail summited that climb, opening up big views south.

Descending quickly to more farm buildings I do remember a significant water bar in the trail that I flew off of. Good fun. We rejoined the quiet backroads to start the only other climb of the day – this one only slightly higher.

Back into farmland we followed the route of the old railway (Tokorahi branch line) before starting the climb.

The clouds were light that day and with the wispy patterns, quite interesting to gaze at as the wheels rolled easily on.

It seemed less onerous than two years before.

Back on gravel roads the ascent carried on until we reached the point where it was pretty much down all the way to the ocean for thirty kilometres. Tunnel Road was the point we’d turned around the previous time – and also the point I got to from the following day having ridden from Oamaru on another out and back ride. We whizzed down the gravel and rejoined the rail route and were upon said tunnel.

It was suitably dark and dripping wet – but we found our way just fine to the light at the other end.

Reaching the road again, Dad had driven back from Oamaru (having dropped Mum off in town) to ride the section through all the diary farms he’d been so heavily involved with. We coasted down to Windsor and through many farms that all of us feel some connection (of varying degrees) to. Pleasingly, since I rode this section two years before, the trail has been routed off the roads and mostly through the farms. At the appropriate place, we got a little explanation of how excess irrigation water is discharged to the Waiareka Creek before winding past the old buildings on Elderslie. I was able to spot particular fields and other areas I’d worked on during early university holidays.

Enfield Church

Dad left us at Enfield, Adele and I left to complete the final twelve kilometres into and through Oamaru to the Pacific coast. Following the little A2O signs, the route seemed to go all over the place through the public gardens. Finally we were gazing up at the large Victorian era stone buildings Oamaru is somewhat known for. Enjoying the last metres and the sunshine, the stiffening sea breeze didn’t seem to matter much.

Just like that, 290 km of riding in two and a half days was done. A great, easy trail with tremendous views; great riding buddy too.

Celebratory photos taken and with dolphins viewed in the Pacific, we made haste to the nearby Scotties for beer and pizza.