Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Flying On Two Wheels And Skinny Dipping
The water was clear, blue and inviting. The sun, which only put in an occasional appearance was hot when it did, lighting up the landscape, transforming it, giving it life and a glow. At a bend in the river, the water slowed and deepened and there were smooth, rounded, polished rocks that made a natural set of steps down to the edge. This was the place, I knew it would be, I felt it inside. It was now or never. To take the plunge or to let the chance pass me by forever...
Today, I finally set off from Taupo, after spending two full days there. That had never been the plan. The plan was for one rest day but yesterday, when I awoke, I could scarcely find the energy to move, let alone pack up the bike and head off down the road. I knew that I would not make it, I knew that I did not want to make it, perhaps that was more the thing, so I planned for another day in Taupo.
It is the Waikato River that crashes and tumbles its way through the narrow gorge of the Huka Falls, a most spectacular sight, where I had spent a couple of hours the previous day. I had seen the falls on my first visit to New Zealand ten years ago, but I did not remember them being quite as impressive as I found it to be now. Perhaps that has much to do with my rebirth, by the discovery of my true self and the subsequent way in which I now see the world around me. I stood mesmerised by the water and the natural power that was on show, and by the constant roar of fury, almost as if the water was angered by the constriction set upon it by the hard rock of the narrow gorge, through which it must flow. Once through, the river broadens and slows and returns to peaceful tranquility, as if the tumultousness of what had just occurred had never been. Now that I recall it, as I had stood on the bridge across Huka Falls, I could feel myself drawn to the water below. Despite the obvious danger and risk to life, I wanted to be in that water, to be part of it, perhaps forever.
My road today was again State Highway 1 (SH1), that ran alongside the lake, affording me considerable views across the great expanse of water. I was under the misguided impression that there would be ample places to stop for a coffee break once underway, on that I was utterly wrong. As it happened, it did not matter. My legs felt strong and I pushed along at a great rate. Even the one big hill of the day, coming at 12km, was no problem and I went up and over with barely a second thought about it. On the other side, with the wind behind me, I maintained speeds in excess of 50km/h for a few kilometres. I could not contain myself and I screamed out and punched the air as I rocketed down hill. My two wheels may have been on the road but my heart and soul were flying, my spirit had been set free. This truly was freedom, this was exultation, this was love. I thought once about stopping and at 35km, I pulled in to a gas station and cafe, but I reasoned that by then, I was only a further 15km from Turangi itself and at the rate I was cycling and the way I was feeling, this was no problem at all.
I made it to Turangi within two hours of setting off from Taupo. 50km in two hours with a fully loaded touring bike. That showed me exactly what could be done when the wind was not in your face all day. I had been tempted to make a lunch stop then push on through fro Turangi and continue along the Desert Road south, as I felt as if I could cycle all day this day. But as I had entered Turangi, a cold drizzle had begun to fall and the thought of going past, knowing that the road ahead held little in the way of stopping points, I quickly went off the idea. Instead, I booked into a backpackers (even the thought of pitching the tent had lost all appeal in the grey dampness) and I decided to stay in Turangi as I had originally planned.
With an afternoon free, I took advantage of a walk along the Tongariro River and as I did, the sun broke through the cloud, bringing light and warmth. The thought of taking a dip in the river came to my mind, all I needed to do was to find the right place. I had no togs (bathing suit) with me, so it would need to be a skinny dip, in underwear at the very least. I found the perfect spot and for a minute I contemplated whether I should take the plunge. I knew it was a now or never moment, a once in a lifetime moment that decides your fate and alters the course of the future. I stared at the water with a longing, I could feel the urging of my heart. I remembered a similar time, a long time ago in South Africa, when, after a day hike with a friend, a plunge pool presented itself. Then, as now, it was hard to resist temptation. Before I knew it, I was stripping off my t-shirt, Converse, socks and jeans and taking the plunge. I always thought it would be cold and it was, but I was glad of the refreshment. I didn't stay in the water more than perhaps a minute, the cold was already seeping down into my bones. It really was too cold and the current downstream quite swift, so I swam back to the rocks and exited promptly, drying and warming again under the rays of the afternoon sun.
This morning I grew wings and flew and in the afternoon I plunged into the cold, clear water of a river. How many other days can offer opportunities such as these? This is why it is necessary to walk the path and to stay true to yourself and your dreams. There will come a time when I remember such a day and the memory of it will burn bright and bring a smile to my lips. I will know that when I had the chance, I chose to live my life in a way that was deliberate and in the way that suited me. I will know that I followed my heart and for that, I will be forever grateful for the chances I have been given. But more than that, I will be forever grateful for my heart.