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Cycling Excursion to Makara Beach Wellington

The year 2010 Christmas holiday was my first major holiday season abroad. I had thought that there would be festivities and huge crowds in the streets of Wellington city as we are habitual of seeing in India on Diwali or Holi or Dusshera. So I went for a stroll in the city, the evening before Christmas. To my utter shock I could not find anyone on the streets. Even the parking slots on the roads were empty. It looked like I was on the sets of a post apocalyptic movie such as 'I am legend' or '28 days later' etc.

Karori suburb, Wellington.
Later I would learn from friends living there that it was how the atmosphere on Christmas was supposed to be as everyone goes out to see their family and have a get together. Quite contrary of what I had earlier thought it to be in Indian context where people visit each others friends and relatives on festivities. Hence there was a noticeable and expected lull around in Wellington.

I was alone at home and thought that it was the best opportunity to see the surroundings of the city. I borrowed a bicycle from one of our friends who was planning to go to Australia for a week's holiday. So after picking up the cycle from his house, I started looking for options which could be explored. As usual there were many unseen beautiful places and I had to chose one of them.

Uphill road to the Makara peak.
After this peak the road would become downhill.
There's a beautiful rocky beach on the west coast of outer Wellington area named Makara Beach. I thought that I should go there. I had seen the location on the maps and I figured out the route to that place. It came out to be 20-21 kms from our house. I knew that it would be difficult to travel such a long distance as I had never cycled here in New Zealand before.

Anyway, the motivation to see the Tasman Sea and the nearby wind-farms drove me and I decided to go there on the Boxing day, the day after Christmas day. It is necessary as per traffic rules to wear a helmet even while riding a cycle. So I geared up with all the required things including a helmet and a full sleeved vest for keeping me warm.

View from the uphill Makara peak.
Tasman Sea can be seen in distance.
I started after having breakfast at around 10 am in the morning. It was windy as usual in Wellington and cloudy too. When I started riding the cycle it was a bit jittery as I was riding a bicycle after almost 4-5 years. At one moment, I lost my balance and had to stop for 2-3 minutes. The interesting thing was this was the first time I was riding a geared bicycle.

As a kid I had always longed for a bicycle with gears but could not get it as it used to be quite expensive at that time. Who knew that I would drive a geared bicycle after coming so far away from India. It didn't take me long to get attuned to the gear changes as per the terrain required while riding it. In fact I enjoyed it as it made the cycling relaxed and less effort was required to climb up the inclines.

The Wind-farm.
Wellington is hilly in terrain and the winding roads give a good range of driving conditions including inclines, declines and sharp turns etc. The favorable thing for me was that there was very less traffic on the roads and I was going freely and easily. Mid way I realized that I had forgotten to keep a water bottle with me, may be because of being a rookie.

I drove comfortably and reached the last suburb Karori in Wellington till where the local bus services operated. From there the road to Makara was a narrow one but still well marked and maintained. I climbed the road slowly and had to get down a lot of times as I was getting tired and had very low stamina to cycle for long durations. 

Slowly I reached the topmost point of the Makara road and I could see the Tasman sea from the road in the distance behind the small hills. Also I could see the huge windmills in the distance. I was instantly charged up on seeing it and saw that the drive ahead was a downhill one. I sat on the bicycle and gave it a single throttle. The bicycle started rolling down quickly.

Cemetery on the way to beach.
I was enjoying it and started singing as I had not to pedal again for almost next 3-4 kms. Even the downhill track helped me gain speed and over distance quickly. Then I reached the plain road again and thought that it should have been completely downhill. The landscape was very beautiful, the typical New Zealand small hills and large cattle and lamb farms on the hills. Small wired fences were erected to distinguish between farms and keep the cattle and lambs from going astray.

On the way I saw Makara Golf club and a local cemetery. I was pedaling slowly to the beach and suddenly the wind grew in speed. It became so brisk that I couldn't even pedal effortlessly into the wind. That moment I realized why there were huge wind-farms nearby. The wind was so intense that I had to stop by the side of the road for some time.

Makara Beach.
After a few minutes the wind slowed down and I continued ahead. The scenery became even more beautiful with a small rivulet coming down from the hill forest and keeping on the side of the road. Because of being a rural area, there were some small animal carcasses lying on the road who would try to cross the road only to find a speeding vehicle hit them.

As I moved ahead the rivulet became wider and I could sense that the beach was nearby. I reached the beach in another 5 minutes and was relieved to see it. Also I was quite happy that I had accomplished the goal of reaching the beach and seeing the Tasman sea. I was feeling very thirsty and asked for water from the local cafe. The lady at the cafe asked me if I drove down here on bicycle. She might have noticed the helmet on my head which I had forgot to remove.

Makara Beach.
I had a small chat with her and learned that it was a famous route for the cyclists who did strength training. I would realize it later when I would face the uphill climb while going back. I parked the bicycle and took a carefree stroll on the beach. There were high hills and walkways which I dared not to take as I was exhausted and had to cover the same distance back home.

The wind had gained speed again and in spite of being summer, people were wearing warm jackets on the beach. It was a rocky beach and not the usual sunny sandy one. Some people were flying kites on the beach, utilizing the wind. After taking a stroll and resting for some time, I decided to start back to home. The good thing was it hadn't rained the whole time and hopefully would not on my way back.

This was a strange kite with 2 strings.
I started slowly back towards home and saw the way to wind-farm but it had restricted access and public wasn't allowed to go there. I thought that I would see the windmills later some time. I continued driving and after some time I faced the tough climb. I was getting exhausted and had to get down and slowly drag the bicycle with me. Every 5-6 minutes I had to repeat the same thing as the climb was tough and my energy levels were low.

At one moment I expected some one to come and give me and my cycle a lift to home. But no one came. I remember I saw only 4-5 vehicles cross me while my way back on to home. I was getting more and more exhausted as the climb steepened. But I kept on driving and dragging the bicycle as and when I could. Meanwhile I was laughing on my confidence too.

Makara Peak mountain bike track.
Finally after an hour or so, I reached that top most point of the climb from where I could see the Karori suburb and the way was downhill. I took a deep sigh of relief and rode the bicycle down hill to reach the nearby bus stop. There I saw that the next bus was after 15 minutes. As it was the last station of the incoming bus, there was already a bus waiting for its time and start back.

I went to the driver and asked him if I could take my bicycle with me in the bus. He refused. I was disappointed instantly and started to walk back. The next moment the driver called me back and asked me to jump in. I thanked him cheerfully and got into the the bus. He might have seen the exhaustion and despair on my face when he had earlier refused to take me home.

Route followed.
He asked me to park the bicycle in the disabled seat by folding up the seat and tie it up with a belt provided to fasten up the wheelchairs. I did so quickly and after some time the bus started to move. I was so relieved that I felt a bit of sleepy in the bus after such a long bicycle drive. Being a holiday, there was not much traffic and also very few passengers boarded the bus.

I reached home in about 25 minutes of boarding the bus and thanked the driver from the bottom of my heart while getting out. He also acknowledged and laughed too, as if advising me not to try such insane act again. The moment I entered home, I pounced on the bread kept in the fridge. After having a hearty meal, I went to rest and fell asleep in seconds.

Later I calculated that I had cycled almost 34 kms in a single day and that too without any prior training. The thing which made the whole trip even more interesting was that it was the first time I had cycled in New Zealand.

This was a different excursion as I had pushed my limits and was very satisfied that I had accomplished it. I liked the place so much that I told my friends when they came back after the holidays. Then on a weekend we would again plan to go there and also have a look at the nearby wind-farms and the Makara walkway. Below are some pics which I clicked on my second visit to the beach.

View from the top of the hill at Makara Beach Walkway.
Majestic view from the top.
Makara Walkway map.

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