Sunday, 19 January 2014

It Was Never Meant To Rain

When I came up with the idea of cycle touring New Zealand, I painted a perfect, idyllic picture in my mind.  It was one where I cycled easily and with carefree abandon, along flat roads, lined with beautiful and stunning scenery.  I would meet other cyclists, swap stories and snippets of information.  We'd share some of the road, a coffee or beer, and all the while, overhead, a blue sky and a golden sun.  It was never meant to rain.

Yesterday had been a free day.  I had decided that I wanted to give myself the chance to recover from day one on the road and also to allow my head cold an improved chance of leaving me.  The cold is not heavy by any means, but as I toil up hill, becoming short of breath, I can feel its energy sapping affect.  If I have the next three months on the road, taking one extra day to shift this annoying ailment was surely worthwhile.  I used the day to my advantage, visiting the i-Site (official New Zealand tourist information) and clarifying that the coastal route that I had planned to take was actually not possible, due to the long sections of unsealed road.  The woman at the desk advised me against it.  That means that for now at least, I am stuck with the state highway (SH1N) and the heavy and fast traffic that uses it.  Not ideal at all, but there is no other option, at least not on the section from Warkworth to Wellsford.  At Wellsford, I have an option to take a right turn off the highway and head onto the quieter sealed back roads through to Waipu and beyond to Whangarei, and it is an option I will happily take.

Boats nestled at Sandspit
I spent a few hours in the morning making the short ride out to Matakana, a small village a few kilometres from Warkworth, where I stopped off at the Black Dog Cafe, which was doing a great trade on all of the Sunday day trippers out for a ride.  One coffee later and I headed on over to check out Sandspit, on my loop back to Warkworth.  Sandspit was stunning.  My jaw dropped open on rounding the bend and seeing it for the first time.  Crystal clear water, lined with golden sand beaches and dense, lush, green bush all around.  This moment defined perfectly the reason I chose to come back to New Zealand.  I cycled out onto the spit and marvelled at my surroundings.  I felt alive, at peace, and I felt a giddy sense of happiness that plainly showed, as a beaming smile spread across my face.

900 year old Kauri tree
In the afternoon, I took a short bike ride out to the Warkworth and District Museum, so that I could go and check out the 900 year old Kauri tree that grows there.  Kauri trees are the largest native tree that grow in New Zealand and they were once found in great abundance.  Unfortunately, since the arrival of European settlers in the 19th century, they were felled in great numbers for use as timber in building and ship construction.  Not as large as its North American cousin, the Giant Sequioa, the sight of a Kauri tree still makes an impressive sight in its own right.  I laid a hand on the bark of the trunk and I attempted to listen to its pulse of life, to what it might have to say.  I offered my own thanks to the tree, and gave a thank you to nature also.

There is a free bush walk through the native bush at the museum and I took the opportunity to submerge myself under the canopy of the foliage and into the gloom of cool, dense forest, emerging after some thirty minutes of strolling, back into the bright late afternoon sun.

And so to this morning.  Rising with the alarm, I made good my preparations for departure.  Shower, breakfast, coffee, surf the web, and dress.  I looked out the window to grey skies and they pleased me.  My forearms are still a little sore from the sunburn incurred on my first day on the road, and I was grateful for some cooler temperatures and respite from the blazing sun.  I packed everything away into my panniers before opening the front door of my unit, so that I could wheel out the bike and load it outside.  But what was that I could hear on the corrugated roof of the veranda?  Pitter-patter, pitter-patter.  Much to my horror, I discovered that a light rain was falling.  This was not in the plan.  Certainly not on the day when I was determined to pitch my tent and make camp for the first time.

I went to find Carol and Dave, the British ex-pat couple that managed the motel.  "She's set in for the day", said Dave, "it's the cyclone that been affecting the islands (Pacific islands) and it's coming down from the north.  Supposed to get worse before it gets better."  This was not good.  I looked at the surface of the swimming pool as droplets of rain dive bombed into it, making hundreds of tiny splashes and sending rings racing outwards.  I did not want to spend another day in Warkworth.  Yesterday had already been a luxury and I had only managed one day of cycling, and now here I was, confronted with taking two days off from the road.  This was hardly the glorious start I had imagined.  But I am also a pragmatic person and I knew that to head north from Warkworth would take me into a rural area before I arrived at Whangarei.  Whangarei itself was too far to try, my aim had been to head for the coastal settlement of Waipu, and if I felt up to it, then on as far a Ruakaka.  Each of these places had a campsite I could try for the night.  Away from there, there would be very little in the way of motels and guesthouses, and I was also aware that this was peak holiday season.  Did I want to try to pitch my tent outside for the first time with the threat of a cyclonic weather system on top of me?  Did I want to cycle wet all day, this early in my journey?  No.  No way, no chance, no how.

Perhaps what I discovered today is that I am a comfort adventurer.  I prefer to think of it in those terms, rather than to think that I am a coward, that I don't have the backbone for this adventurous larking about.  I'm here after all, I'm already in an adventure, which ever way I look at it.  Why make it any harder or more difficult than it needs to be, especially so early on?  I figured that there was still plenty of time for hardships on the road, it was just that today did not need to be one.  So, one day of cycling, two days off.  That's a luxury I cannot afford.  Tomorrow, I'm determined to be on the road, I'm going to make that happen.  For now though, I'll take a short stroll down town and find me a nice cafe, where I can sit and read Treasure Island and dream of adventure from the comfort of a snug armchair.

1 comment:

  1. You are not racing, you are not breaking guinness records, neither in a hurry to get back to your dayjob on time. Completely, utterly reasonable decision not to soak yourself if not needed. Although a night in a tent during a cyclone would have made an excellent camp-fire story later on ;)