Rimutaka Rail Trail, Day 1 – Wellington to Wallaceville – Wellington, New Zealand

We flew to Wellington from Napier on Wednesday afternoon after farewelling our English friends who were flying back to Auckland to depart the land of the long white cloud the next day. We had a great few days showing them around the beautiful Hawkes Bay.

It was another sunny day and the flight to Wellington was calm and clear but you always get the obligatory sway when you land into Wellington. We were greeted by Andy from Natural High at the Victoria Court Motel – always good to see this guy : ) He had an assistant guide with him for this tour, Leona, who is here from the UK on a two year work visa. We were also reunited with all our cycling buddies, some of which were already sampling grape juice of the alcoholic variety!

While in Wellington we took the opportunity to have dinner with Sooz and Darryl, our friends who live in Wellington. We had a delicious dinner at Dragonfly which is a modern Asian restaurant in Courtney Place. It was very nice and it was so good to catch up with Sooz and Darryl after a couple of years.

After dinner it was back to the motel for an early night – let the cycling begin.

Nothing beats an early morning lycra debrief. We all gathered in Andy’s room so he could issue us with maps and instructions. Day one was going to involve a bit of navigation which I was a bit worried about given my directional challenges. I was going to be sticking close to someone that looked like they knew where they were going. This too could prove a challenge given the misguided confident nature of our group!

Armed with our maps we walked down to Queens Wharf to catch the Eastbourne ferry across to Days Bay. It was a clear day although a bit chilly -some of us decided to brave the cold to enjoy the Wellington Harbour views from the top of the ferry.

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Andy, Leona and the bikes were waiting for us at Days Bay. After a bit of tweaking of bike seat heights, pedals and helmets we set off along the waterfront. This ride is not strictly part of the cycle trail but it is a very scenic road lined with Pohutakawa trees which weaves in and out of the small bays.

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First stop was the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt. A few of the group overshot the mark so had to be phoned and told to turn around. Steve was part of this group and was not happy to know that he had done more cycling than was required!

The Dowse Art Museum is a free public gallery for people to enjoy contemporary art and culture. There is not a lot there but what was there was very interesting.

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I enjoyed The Age of Aquarius: A 1970s Revolution in Fashion exhibition being a child of the 70’s.

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They also have a permanent exhibition showcasing Nuku Tewhatewha. This nationally significant Pataka (Māori store house, usually for food) was commissioned by paramount chief Wi Tako Ngatata of Te Atiawa and carved in the 1850s as a sign of support for Kīngitanga, or the Māori King Movement. It is one of only seven Pataka built around the North Island as ‘Pillars of the Kingdom’, and the only one to survive.

Nuku Tewhatewha has been on display at The Dowse since 1982 when it was returned to Wellington after a 70 year absence. It is no ordinary food store but has a long symbolic history linked to the history of Maori leadership throughout Aotearoa.

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We had a nice lunch at the Dowse Art Gallery cafe and then it was back on the bikes and back to the trail. The trail meanders alongside the Hutt River and is easy riding. Our next navigational point was at Moonshine Bridge – again some of us were too busy talking so we overshot the mark but all was not lost, we just back tracked along State Highway 2 and followed the instructions to Wallaceville House, our accommodation for the night.

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Wallaceville House was built early last century by celebrated architect, Mr Charlesworth. During WWII Mr Dick Jepsen purchased the property and made substantial alterations, such as the majestic staircase and elegant upstairs ballroom. In 1993 the property was further developed with the addition of a 16 room motor lodge. Proudly set in 4 acres of immaculate gardens, luscious lawns and surrounded by an amphitheatre of native bush it lent itself well to an afternoon sitting in the sunshine enjoying some liquid refreshments.

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Julie, Cheryl, Karen and I biked down to Upper Hutt to purchase some supplies. I managed to get told off by the local constabulary for supposedly not riding single file but he really needed his eyes tested – of course I was riding single file. We then met up with Leona along the way who was walking her bike – she had forgotten her helmet (it is not compulsory in the UK to wear a helmet). Walking with her bike was probably a wise move given our track record with the local constabulary : )

We enjoyed a lovely meal that evening in the dining room. Andy had to go back to Wellington Airport to pick Sue up who had got her dates all wrong and had to work on the first day of the bike trip which was a shame. She was fined accordingly. Our normal court session was deferred until breakfast the next morning.

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About SUNGRL

This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
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