This summer, whilst visiting family & friends, Anna & I went on a mini-tour of upper North-Island bike trails. One of my uncles lives in Opotiki, so this seemed a good excuse to visit the Motu Trails.
We didn’t have time to complete the whole 90km of the trail, so we parked at the shop by Tirohanga Motor Camp, and rode East along the Dunes Trail, before heading inland up the Motu Road.
The Dunes Trail is all easy going, cruising along close to the ocean. The only annoying bit is the “cyclist-juicers” you have to squeeze through.
After a bit of cruising along the Dunes, we headed inland, up one of those New Zealand roads that gets about 4 vehicles a day. There was a feeling of stepping back in time as we headed up the valley.
After a few kilometres of quiet sealed road, it turns to gravel. New Zealand roads aren’t very good. But even this is bad by our standards – 48km of narrow, winding roads. You don’t want to go too fast around the blind corners.
You’ve been warned:
Not a posed shot, or some country club where rich kids ride ponies. Just locals going for a ride
We meandered up the valley for a while, then stopped for lunch at a nice spot overlooking the river. Then a gentle cruise back down to where we started, for an ice-cream at the shop. Not a highly technical ride, just a nice gentle cruise through beautiful countryside. Perfect.
We’re hoping to return soon, to ride the Pakihi Trail. This is a more technical, challenging, mostly downhill trail. We’ve got a local contact (Thanks Uncle Barry!) who can drive us to the top of the Pakihi Trail. Hopefully we’ll find a few others to join us. Looking forward to it.
While up north this weekend, we took the bikes out to Glenbervie Forest, near Whangarei. I’ve been here many times over the years, but not recently. Turns out things have changed a little.
Arriving at the carpark, I wondered why there were no other bikers there. Normally there’s one or two. We headed out into the forest, noting the signs that showed some areas were closed due to logging. No problem though, we should be able to find some other trails, right?
Not so much. Signs pointed to trails, but they ended like this:
This wasn’t just a one-off either. Everything was turning into dead-ends.
All my attempts of find good trails were going nowhere. We just seemed to have miles of uphill in the hot sun, with trails non-existent or overgrown. Well, maybe there’s one left – Bluff. That’s one of my favourite trails at Glenbervie. It’s been there a long time, and was always reliable. Let’s head down there.
It started beautifully, with a nice path through pine trees. Didn’t last though – we came up to this:There is a trail through that gorse, if you look closely. The old trail is still underneath it all. There’s a smooth patch of dirt, and it’s a trail I know well from past rides. I thought that it might have just been a short patch of gorse, and we could push through it, but it got worse. Now we had cutty grass to contend with.
I pushed on past Anna, trying to see if it ever opened up. I kept thinking we’d reach the older forest, and the path would open up. It just got worse.
But after 150m of bashing downhill through it, I had to admit defeat. The problem is…there was only one way out. Back through the gorse. Uphill. Sigh.
I hauled my bike back up first, then came back and grabbed Anna’s bike. Eventually we made it back up to the forest road. Anna wouldn’t let me try going down any more tracks though. We had to head back down the main gravel road.
I guess the results were inevitable – we both ended up with shredded legs. Over the next few days I pulled at least 20 small thorns out of my fingers. Ouch. I’m not quite sure Ann’s forgiven me.
For the last day of my summer holidays, we went mountain biking at Waitawa, about 50km south-east of Auckland. This is a new regional park in the Auckland area, that only opened in 2014.
For the last 50 years Waitawa operated as an explosives manufacturing facility. Obviously it was off-limits, even though it occupies a remarkable position overlooking the Hauraki Gulf. But the council purchased the land in 2004, and Orica finished operations in September 2013. Since then the council has been hard at work, re-shaping the park.
Normally regional parks are a lot of bush, with a few walking tracks and campsites. All very sedate. But here they’ve taken a different approach, planning a range of recreational activities within the park. So they’ve built walking tracks, MTB tracks, horse riding trails, disc golf, etc. There’s fishing & BBQ areas, and there’s even a campsite for sea kayaks.
It was a stunning day, and the park & surroundings were looking amazing:
This was our first trip to Waitawa, so it was a bit of an exploratory mission. There’s plenty of maps and signposts, but it was still a little tricky figuring out our bearings. The maps don’t always quite match up with what’s on the ground either.
They’ve had some problems with slips recently, which was limiting vehicle access. Some of the mountain bike tracks were impassable due to slips too, although this didn’t cause any major problems for us. Lack of bikes was a bigger problem – the gorse is encroaching on some trails, because they just haven’t had enough riders through there recently. I’m sure that will change.
Getting started was a bit tricky – we could see trails, but it was a bit unclear which trails were going where, and we had a bit of looping around near the carpark, before we got under way. Once we got onto a nice downhill to Mataitai Bay, we were away!
Down at the bay, we cruised over to the wharf, to watch someone catch a hammerhead shark. Only a foot long though, so it went back in.
Being summer, it was of course fine and sunny in Auckland, as it always is. Makes for hot and sweaty riding back up the hill. Trying to get around one of the old magazines, we hit blocked off trails and gorse, so had to backtrack and head up the road.
We then went up and over, and down to Waitawa Bay. This track is not marked on the maps as a mountain biking track, but it was signposted. It really shouldn’t be a biking track though – the corners are too tight, and it’s very steep in places, with many steps in the steep sections. A walking track, not a biking track. Still, it got us down to the campsite.
Lunch was the old mountain biking staple:
Easier to haul up the farm track away from it:
Well, maybe a little bit easier. Anna’s face was about the same shade as her top by this time.
From here we headed back toward the main entrance, then picked up ‘Oyster Shell’ and ‘Valley Loop’ to take us back towards the MTB carpark. These trails were nice easy going, smoother than the trails we’d started out on. Some of the tracks are far too tight & steep, but these were perfect – only problem was getting too hot and sweaty on the uphill climb back to the car!
I’m not sure how well it will ride in the wet, but I look forward to getting back there again before the end of summer, to explore more of the trails to the Western side of the park.
It’s great to see more mountain biking options in the Auckland area. With Fourforty now opening, there’s plenty of choices in the South/East area.
When I married Anna, I also married Samson, her Bernese Mountain Dog. It didn’t take long before he decided that he was actually my dog. It’s just as well Samson liked me. I don’t think Anna would have married me otherwise. Samson was a unique dog, and much-loved. Sadly now he is gone.
A Unique Dog
At first glance, Sammy seemed like a big goofy ball of fluff. 45kg, and he loved to run up to people, sit on their feet, and lean further and further into your legs until you just about fall over. There was something about the set of his mouth that made him look like he was happy and smiling. Single men take note: Bernese Mountain Dogs are good for attracting women.
He was a happy dog too, with an easy-going, calm nature. People assume that big dogs need a lot of exercise, but it’s not the case. Every morning he would come bustling into the bedroom, expecting his morning walk. But he didn’t need hours of exercise, and was chilled out. He would be happy to spend the day just hanging around the house, sitting at your feet. He might also give you a swipe with a big paw, if he thought you weren’t giving him enough attention.
He had a tremendous bark, and often put it to good effect, lying in wait behind the fence, terrorising passers-by. But if someone opened the gate, he would either run away, or run up for a cuddle. We joked that the only way he would stop burglars would be by tripping them up.
Samson was a very relaxed, biddable dog. Easy to take for a walk, he would never get far away from you, and would come when called. He did not like being on the lead, but knew that we had to put him on it when near main roads (just in case Dog Control came along). If you needed to go into a shop, you could just tell him to Stay, and he would. Never needed to tie him up. Simple hand actions could make him Sit & Stay, no commands needed.
He never cared much for food, grazing, only eating what he needed, at odd times throughout the day. He wasn’t hand-fed, so never begged at the table. He was too big a dog to allow that.
We joked that he was at the bottom of the pack, below everyone else. But he had his role in the pack – keeping the pack together. He hated it if we were out walking, and Anna & I got too far apart. If we were out mountain biking, I would ride ahead on the trail, and Samson would be in the middle. If Anna got too far behind, he would turn back down the trail and go and find her.
He never seemed to think he was a dog. If we met a dog and owner out walking, he was usually more interested in the owner. He didn’t like small dogs – they barked at him. There’s something odd about watching a 45kg dog walk out onto the road to get around a 3kg barking rat.
I don’t know if he had his routines, and we adapted to those, or if it was the other way around. But he was an important part of our family, and we loved him as much as he loved us.
We’ve known for a while he was dying. 10 weeks ago we noticed some lumps on his throat, which were quickly diagnosed as lymphoma. Big dogs don’t live long lives, but he’d been fit & healthy, and we thought he would live for 10–12 years. It was a shock to find, at 8 years old, that he only had 2 months to live.
So for the last two months of his life, he was spoiled rotten. Walked at least once a day, often twice. Previously only one of us would walk him on weekdays, and we would go out together at the weekend. But for the last few weeks we both walked with him. This was when he was happiest, just hanging out with us.
We put rugs on the bed, and encouraged him to hop on whenever he liked. He was fed whatever he wanted: large handfuls of liver treats, dog chews, frozen tripe, cheese, whatever he liked. Extra cuddles, extra trips to the beach, anything he enjoyed.
He was always obsessed with cows, so it was a particular highlight one day when we took him to Cornwall Park, and a cow stuck its head through the fence and licked him.
Sadly he never managed to catch the neighbour’s black cat. I don’t know what he would have done with it if he had actually caught it.
He will be missed
Now he’s gone. The house is empty. For a while, our lives will be a bit emptier too. It will take time to adjust.
Goodbye Sammy. You were loved, and you will be missed.
We headed up the East Coast of the South Island for our last week. From Central Otago we went to Christchurch via Timaru, then on to Hanmer Springs, Blenheim, and back to Picton for the ferry home.
I had been to Christchurch a couple of times since the big earthquakes of 2010/2011, but both times had just been day trips, and I had not gone into the centre of town. This time we did, and I was somewhat shocked at how torn up much of the city still is, and how much there is to do. There are a huge number of levelled off areas, and still too many buildings that have not been torn down (although they should be). I understand that it takes time, but if I was living there, I would be pretty upset about the rate of progress.
Certainly things are under way, and there’s some pretty cool “temporary” food/shopping/entertainment areas, but I wonder what the long-term impact to the city will be. Businesses have re-established elsewhere – either on the outskirts or outside Christchurch – and I wonder how many of them will return to the CBD. What will that do to the city if it no longer has a strong “heart”? Does it become a soulless sprawl of a place? The current trend, particularly amongst younger people, is to want to live in central areas – what happens if they don’t want to live in Christchurch because it has no well-defined centre? I hope they can get over their inertia, and re-build the city into a place with a strong identity and style, in the way Napier rebuilt.
One of the nice things we did was to catch up with Karen & Hamish, who live in Christchurch these days with their two young kids. Had to have a glass of Lindauer, for old times sake.
Slightly back inland, and up in altitude to Hanmer Springs, an old thermal resort town. It doesn’t just have hot springs though – they’ve been building a network of mountain bike tracks to go with the walking trails. This was a nice town to stop in for a few days, and take it easy. A nice bit of relatively easy riding, and then a soak in the hot pools. I have to say that Anna and I are not made for sitting around doing nothing. We looked at the people sitting for hours in one pool, and thought “Not for us” – we had more fun spending a bit of time in each pool, working our way around all the pools, then getting out after a couple of hours. Don’t know how you’d spend a whole day there.
The interesting thing about Hanmer is the altitude, and the difference this makes to the weather. It can go from baking hot one day, and then drop down to only 8° the next day. You definitely want to be carrying decent clothing when you’re out on the trails.
We had a few hours to spare in Blenheim, so headed over to the Wither Hills bike park – Anna was most upset that there wasn’t any wine at the top of hill
I’m not really sure what was going on here. I think maybe we’d spent too much time with each other over the last few weeks?
And as for this, I think I’m stuck in a giant mousewheel:
The next stage for our summer trip was Central Otago. From the West Coast we had a long day of driving via the Haast Pass. Luckily this was the only day of serious rain for our whole trip. There’s a lot of isolated, rugged terrain down the West Coast, dense bush, and steep mountains. Cross over the alps, and suddenly the terrain becomes a lot drier, and opens right out.
We established a base camp in Ranfurly, right on the Otago Rail Trail. This gave us easy access to the Rail Trail, with Naseby Forest nearby for mountain biking. The Otago Rail Trail was the first multi-day off-road cycle trail established in New Zealand, and it has become a combination blueprint/showpiece for the other trails that want to establish themselves. I had ridden part of it a few years ago, and was looking forward to getting on the trail again.
Getting settled into our cabin at the Ranfurly Motor Camp, we saw that our neighbours were on bikes too. Their bikes were left unlocked outside their cabin, and they appeared to have passed out on their bed, still in their biking gear. Later we saw that him carrying her around the campground, too tired to walk. Hmmm…it’s just not that hard a trail, what’s going on? They’d only ridden around 35km that day, but it seemed the headwind and slight uphill gradient had gotten to them. It’s a very easy trail, and very accessible to a wide range of fitness levels – I have to assume that she was unwell – most non-cyclists will have no trouble riding 35km a day, especially if you’ve got 8+ hours to travel that distance.
Having Lew with us made planning much easier – the Otago Rail Trail is effectively a point-to-point ride, and we didn’t really want to have to go out and back. Lew was able to drop us off at Omakau, and we could spend the day riding back to Ranfurly. On the second day on the Rail Trail we were able to ride out from Ranfurly, and meet Lew at Hyde.
The trail itself is an interesting mix. It’s a mainly gravel trail, following an old railway line. This means the trail is quite flat, but it also means there’s a few old bridges and tunnels where the line passes through gorges. This is very nice, but the flip side is that sometimes the trail is very long, straight, flat and…dull. It’s definitely still a trip worth doing, but just be aware that it’s not ALWAYS amazing biking and scenery. Overall highly recommended, particularly for those who haven’t done much cycling.
We did have one break-down – our only mechanical issue of the whole trip. I was riding along when I had a blow-out, with all the air quickly rushing out of my rear tyre. Looking at the wheel, I saw a spoke nipple had broken off. I assumed it had broken off and driven up into the tube, but it turned out that I had a separate gash in my tyre. At least it was a pleasant spot to stop and make some repairs.
Replaced the tube, couldn’t fix the spoke on the trail, so just rode gingerly down to our meeting point – luckily we only had a few kilometres to go!
Of course, it wasn’t just about the cycling:
We were in Ranfurly for New Years Eve, and were asking at the bar what might be happening that night. “Oh hopefully it will all be over by 10:30.” We went over to Naseby for a drink, to see what was happening there – it was a little busier, but if you really wanted a big party, heading over to Rhythm & Alps near Wanaka was probably a better option. No matter, none of us were into a big night out.
You might also be wondering what Lew was doing while we were out riding. While he did get out and about, sometimes he just took advantage of the peace and quiet:
The most anticipated ride of our summer trip was the West Coast Wilderness Trail. The trail runs from Greymouth to Ross along the West Coast of South Island of New Zealand. It only officially “opened” in late 2013, but it still has parts under construction, and some areas with alternative routes in place. For practical purposes, it’s open right now from Greymouth to Hokitika, and our plan was to ride that section.
Our plan was to spend two days riding on the trail – the first leg would be from Greymouth to Kumara, and then the following day from Kumara as far as we could go. Luckily we had our support crew (Lew) with us, so we could get dropped off at one point, and then picked up somewhere else. This dramatically simplifies the riding. For those without support crew, I’m sure that shuttle services are available – it’s worth spending a bit on this, and not having to do “out and back” rides, or trying to make it into a loop.
“This fabulous cycling adventure guarantees an outstanding landscape ride through dense rainforest, past glacial rivers and lakes and through wetlands, all the way from the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps to the ocean.”
Greymouth to Kumara
We were driving down from Nelson, so arrived in Greymouth in mid-afternoon, for the first leg. We found a park in town, and started getting organised. Now where exactly does the trail start? Oh right. We managed to park RIGHT NEXT to the official start point! Nice parking there. Gear up, say goodbye to Lew, and plan to meet up again in a couple of hours in Kumara. It’s around 35km from Greymouth to Kumara, and it’s all flat. We wind our way out past the small port, and settle onto a mostly gravel trail that runs parallel to the shoreline. This means no traffic, but at times it does make for slightly dull riding. But it’s all very easy going.
At times the trail moves closer to the road, but it’s all traffic-free, until we get to this bridge:
Yes, that’s right folks. This is the main highway down the West Coast, and it has a one-lane bridge, that also has a railway line running down the middle of it. Currently the bike trail also goes across this bridge. It makes for an entertaining crossing – luckily there’s some friendly drivers around, and they put us in front of them, and shield us somewhat from the other traffic. Phew. It looks like they’re building a “clip on” lane for pedestrians/cyclists – the sooner it goes up the better. Later we spoke to a couple who were carrying their young children with them. Not only did they have to negotiate the cars, they’d also had the misfortune to arrive exactly when the one train that day came through.
Up until this point, the trail was reasonably well-signposted. But after the railway bridge, the signs seemed to stop. The only option was to follow the main road until Kumara Junction, then turn off and follow the road to Kumara. Hunting around online seemed to give some contradictory answers – some sites said the trail went via the old Kumara Tramway, others showed a road alternative. We ended up following the road, which had no shoulder, and feeling somewhat miffed, like we were missing out. We could see a couple of spots where the trail seemed to be built, but it was deliberately fenced off. I was annoyed about it, and worried I’d missed some signposts. But later I spoke with other cyclists, and found out that it was the only option available at present. It will be finished off soon hopefully.
We had a quick look around in Kumara, a historic gold-mining town. The Theatre Royal Hotel has had a massive amount of money spent on it, and looks to be well set up for the hoped-for influx of cashed-up bicycle tourists. It looks like a great place to have a beer, but I don’t think I could afford to stay there. Out of our budget. Instead, Lew drove us through to Hokitika, where we were staying.
Hokitika was packed with people, and cars with bikes on board. It seemed that we weren’t the only ones who decided to ride the new trails, and I’m not sure that the locals were ready for it. Almost every bed in town was taken, and we were lucky to get into the local pizzeria – they had to close the doors at 7:30pm because they’d run out of food!
Kumara to Milltown
The following day Lew dropped us off back at Kumara, for what turned out to be the best single day of riding for the whole trip. It starts out gently enough, with a mix of single track and gravel roads, before things get a bit more interesting with a diversion through an old gold-mining area.
But then you start working your way around TrustPower‘s Kumara/Dillmans Hydro scheme. Now things step up a gear as you look out over mirror-like lakes, with snow-capped mountains in the background. You start thinking “This is what I signed up for!”…but push on. You go deeper and deeper into the country, and suddenly you’re feeling quite isolated. Bush all around you, steep mountains, very little sign of human habitation.
Later in the day the trails go through more bush, and you hit glorious switchbacks, rolling on and on downhill, with the odd scary swingbridge:
Racing down through the bush, and suddenly you pop out at “Cowboy Paradise.” Huh? This is a rather odd place – it’s set up like a one-street cowboy town, where you can pretend to be a cowboy, and start shooting things. There’s a bar, and the accommodation should be ready by now. But when we were passing through, the main saloon was being completely rebuilt, with huge piles of timber sitting around. No matter, the bar was open, and we were ready for a drink. A very relaxed sort of affair, you drink what you like, then at the end the total gets totted up, and the cash is just strewn across the bar. Bring cash, I’m not sure if Eftpos was available. Absolutely sensational views of a Arahura valley, where my wife’s grandfather ran a huge farm:
From here we went back into the bush for more nice trails, before glorious switchbacks down through open fields:
We then had a bit of a grind along a gravel road down a glorious river valley, before being picked up by Lew. Fit riders who start early in the day could make it through to Hokitika, but we were happy to be picked up.
Overall Impressions: Do It
I highly recommend this ride – it was an amazing view of this country, seen from a very different angle. Stunning scenery, a feeling of isolation, and riding surfaces & gradients that were achievable to most. There weren’t many riders out there younger than us. This will be a fantastic ride when it is completed, and will become a major attraction in the area, providing for much more sustained income than the Wild Foods festival.
One local we were chatting to had been involved in much of the planning and preparation for this trail. The long-term plan is to extend it from Karamea all the way to Haast, almost entirely off-road. This would probably be 10 years away, but if they can achieve that, this will become one of the greatest bike trails in the world.
A Note on Hokitika
My wife still has some relatives in Hokitika, and we had a nice time meeting some of them. It is a somewhat isolated town, and it’s not very large. One particular comment struck me when we were there, chatting to the locals:
“Sure, of course I remember when XXXX died, what was it, at least 10 years ago? He was a good sort. But as I said, I’m still fairly new to the area”
New Zealand has been building many kilometres of bike trails over the last few years, and some of them look pretty spectacular. So rather than travel to an exotic foreign destination, we decided to stay in New Zealand this summer, and spend our holidays checking out some of the new trails.
I had originally wanted to do a full bike tour, carrying all our luggage, but the logistics of that were proving difficult. My normal travel style on the bike is to have a rough idea of direction, and then each day go as far as I like, stopping wherever is convenient. But this is tricky to do around Christmas/New Years in provincial New Zealand, as places tend to get booked out.
Instead we took a different approach – put the mountain bikes on the car, head down to the South Island, then spend three weeks travelling around, stopping in towns for a few days, and exploring the bike trails in that area. Using mountain bikes gave us complete flexibility to tackle any sort of trail surface – from fast downhill trails to gentle family-friendly rail trails.
On the Road to Wellington
Samson got dropped off at rural farmstay retreat (i.e. my brother’s kiwifruit orchard), then we started the long drive down to Wellington, to catch the ferry across to the South Island. On the way, we took the Akatarawa Road from Waikanae to the Upper Hutt. This is an amazingly beautiful drive, but I hope that tourists don’t get directed down here by their GPS – this is a VERY narrow, twisty road. It’s a bit stressful constantly going around blind corners on a road that is only a bit wider than a single car.
We then had a short ride on the Rail Trail part of the Rimutaka Cycle Trail. I wish we could have spent more time on this trail, but we had to get down to the wharf to check in.
Nelson – Mountain Biking Mecca
Our plan was to do a rough anti-clockwise loop around the South Island, with our first main stop in Nelson. I have family here, so we could spend Christmas with them. On the way from Picton to Nelson we stopped near Tennyson Inlet for a little warmup on quiet roads and bush tracks. Amazing views, lots of isolated places, but pretty tough going slogging uphill in the heat.
The amazing thing about Nelson is that you can ride out your front door, ride through a few city blocks, and then you’re suddenly on fantastic mountain bike trails. My brother-in-law had been a fantastic help with map and suggested route around the Codgers Mountain Bike Park. We were having a great time, but really starting to sweat, and feel the steepness of the slopes…only to be somewhat embarrassed to find a couple of gentlemen at least 30 years older than us had already made it up the top…
Another day we went out with Dave up into the Sharlands Creek area – a long slog up a gravel road, followed by a bit of bush-bashing to find the trail, and then the downhill single track just seemed to keep on rolling. This was a lot of fun, and I’m glad I was on the bike – not running along beside us like Simba!
The Great Taste Trail – Nelson to Mapua
Nelson isn’t just mountain biking though – they already have a large network of bike paths around the city, and now they’re adding a new touring route around the region. We checked out a part of the “Great Taste Trail“, which will form a 3-4 day loop out from Nelson. We rode from Central Nelson to Mapua, via Richmond and Rabbit Island.
This was a nice day out, but we were getting a bit tired by the end. Breaking it up with Mapua at lunch was very nice, but it was a long day out – it’s just a bit too long for families with small children, who should only plan on tackling small parts of it. Special mention to the ferry operator – I thought I had completely messed up our timing, and we were going to have to wait, but nope – the ferry was doing a few extra runs, and pulled in just as we arrived.
You’ve got two options going from Nelson to Richmond – you can either go more inland, via an old railway line, or you can go along the coast. It might sound odd, but I actually preferred the inland route on the old railway line – it was very peaceful, whereas the coastal route is quite close to a busy road. It’s still a bike lane, but it can be very noisy, and you’re a bit exposed if it’s windy.
Its Easter Sunday and one asks themselves “what shall we do when all the stores in Auckland are closed and half the city has left town for a relaxing four day weekend?” We’d already agreed to head out for a Sunday morning cycle, and after seeing the lights of amusement rides somewhere in Auckland City as we drove over the harbour bridge yesterday evening, we decided thats where we would head.
So after Lindsay hauled my butt out of bed at the unreasonable time of 8.00am on a Sunday morning in the midst of a four day public holiday, I got our gear and myself together and Lindsay took the dog out for a quick walk. Then with Lindsay the navigator in the lead we wound our way through the back streets of the burbs checking out the latest properties to jostle for the real estate buyers prepared to pay top dollar. Onto the main roads noting the latest polished concrete cafes with the coolest hipsters who seem to have been purposefully placed in the window front to show how contemporary their establishment is.
We tooled through the backstreets of Auckland city, in the areas that once upon a time you wouldn’t go down in the clear light of day. Now the streets that ten years ago courted prostitutes have pedestrianised roads, stylish bars and shop fronts inviting in locals and tourists alike.
Over the last five years my nights out on the town have most certainly come to a grinding halt, and since finishing with my corporate job Ive lost touched with the city landscape. And it appears things have changed quickly, so as we wound ourselves through Britomart I marvelled at the new Britomart Pavilions which have now been added to the ever improving Central Auckland Transport Hub. They seem to have developed so quickly and contain all manner of high quality fashion stores, eating establishments and cool out door areas to relax in.
From there wI followed Lindsay as we headed north west along the city’s waterfront. We cycled up and down the various piers which are now home to a variety of establishments which today included amusement park rides and side shows beside the Cloud Pavilion, a temporary establishment where Aucklanders gathered to celebrate the Rugby World Cup. Unfortunately the huge, brightly lit super cruise ship that we’d seen from the harbour bridge the night before had sailed, but it was a pleasant ride with the sun peeking through and the odd tourist ambling about.
We rode through the viaduct and across the draw bridge that now connects the separate sides of the viaduct harbour where tourists and locals alike gather to wine, dine and watch the array of super boats that moor in this ever changing part of the city. On the other side of the draw bridge we rode through the recently established Wynyard quarter which used to be a short walk from our old home. Even this landscape has vastly changed in the eighteen months since we lived her. The dirty old silo’s and crumbling empty blocks are now being filled with buildings designed to breath a fresh air into the area, and the Silo’s are being decorated in all manor of styles with the area now representing a boho kind of cool in the inner city.
From there we found the second half of the Easter amusement park, and Lindsay reminisced about the fair ground ride pictured that he seems to think might be the same ride he took some twenty years ago. My memories of it aren’t to pleasant as Lindsay likes to tell people that I get sick on a Merry Go Round!!!
On this rediscovery of the inner city, we finally cycled over to the Victoria Park Markets which are currently in the middle of an overhaul. They are starting to sparkle again and there’s a bit of hope that this precinct will pick up once development is completed. There’s now a mixture of contemporary cafes amidst the old stores that still sell all types of smoking paraphernalia, hair braiding and hippy fashions.
Across the road the historic Birdcage pub is now back in place after it was shifted back about twenty meters to allow building of an underground motorway tunnel. It was placed back on its new foundations where it has stood for 100 plus years, and it has now been stylishly redecorated and is open for business.
So then all that was required was to cycle the long slow ride up franklin road and along Ponsonby road which is once again a forever changing landscape with hip new furniture and clothing stores, and eateries opening all the time.
Lindsay talked of a time when he lived in the city as a student and was starting out his career, when there was barely a store to pick up even the lightest of refreshments. A city on the edge of an amazing harbour that had for a time lost itself. Now we both feel proud that our city is an exciting and interesting place to visit and there is such a variety of places to visit and things to do. I think we might leave the city cycle for another year or so and see whats popped up then.
We finally tooled back through the suburbs, to discover our favourite coffee shop ‘Urania’ was closed. Instead we picked up some hot cross buns at the little french bakery around the corner from home, and headed back to a very excited Samson who’s always happy when we get back home.
“I’m never drinking again” usually follows this statement, but this year was different much to the surprise of my beloved. You see, he’s now been around for a few events that I’ve put together, and they usually take a lot of energy and anxiety, climaxing in a great night. This is usually followed by what many would consider a rather messy house…and that’s without mentioning that cleaning up with a hangover is no better in my late 30’s than it was when I was just a young thing!
But this year was different. This year the theme was the 90’s, an era in which both Lindsay and I experienced out youth. It had been our time to experiment with bad fashion, alcohol and to push the boundaries of our age. And because it was the 90’s, we decided to reminisce by throwing the party in the garage.
Much to Lindsay chagrin I once again hired a mirror ball. An eager friend offered to put together a ‘best of the 90’s’ play list. And in the final week we could be found madly dashing about picking up quality plastic cups (Id usually hire good glasses but not for this bash), costumes and purchasing the tipples of our youth – Southern Comfort, Double Brown beer and medium white wine in a box, aka ‘vin du cardboard’.
Lindsay had decided that we needed to go as a famous couple of the 90’s and in the end we settled on Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Okay, so not in the best taste, but it sure had people in fits of laughter. One group of male friends decided to join us as the Golden Girls and of course that caused a bit of an uproar on the dance/garage floor. We were also graced with the presence of characters such as Britney Spears, Peter Pan and Wendy, and those who had dug deep into their wardrobe to find a delightful display of 90’s regalia. A giant sized penguin that apparently wasn’t Pengu also joined us. He’d been drinking at the cricket all day so it seemed a sensible choice.
The night went off with a bang. The weather was perfect, the music rocked and the array of tacky nibbles that everyone had bought along did its best to line the tummies of those over indulgers.
The night came to an end without to many issues and only one neighbour asking us old timers to turn the music down (Hint: always invite the neighbours). With friends staying over, the clean up in the morning was easy and no sticky floors to contend with, just a sweep out of the garage. And it turns out that drinking all those cheap sweet tacky tipples has less of an effect than it did in my youth. When all was done, and we sat down to a cup of coffee and a big breakfast at a local café I could say ”Yeah, maybe we will do it again”!