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Who needs the world when you can pedal your way to paradise?

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Who wants the world when you’ll be able to pedal your solution to paradise?

After the second lockdown got here to Auckland, Nick Atkinson dusted off and spruced up his bicycle, touring from Pukekohe to Otorohanga.

Two bikes slowly rusted within the again yard. One seized up fully, the opposite probably salvageable. The site visitors had dried up for intervals this yr and plenty of Aucklanders took to their pedals on the quiet streets, but my trusty machines had been deserted out within the climate. The second lockdown got here and I believed: I’ve acquired to get amongst it. I as soon as liked driving. It had change into an obsession at occasions. Two and half bum-tenderising months have been spent biking throughout Patagonia on a second-hand mountain bike within the 90s. That bike abruptly stopped rolling throughout a spectacular collision with a hatchback turning off Karangahape Highway. Different bikes had been stolen. One fell aside proper on the finish of a panting scorching cycle throughout Greece, just like the police automobile collapsing in bits on the finish of The Blues Brothers.

I combed the web searching for a model new bike to fireplace my passions, however as I searched it grew to become clear the lockdowns had triggered a run on new bikes. Whereas I wished a selected sort of bicycle, all of them appeared offered out in my dimension with no hope of a re-stock for months. I broadened my scope to soak up differing kinds and fashions, however once more the cabinets have been naked. I shut the laptop computer and opened the backdoor. In our pokey courtyard my two previous bikes have been shrouded in cobwebs on previous leaves. I cleaned up the crimson bike, bought in Norway 12 years earlier than, for a frigid three week undergo fest gasping towards the Arctic Circle. Its tyres and tubes have been perished past restore. I felt sheepish carrying the body and bare wheels into T White’s Bikes on Symonds Avenue, however the form fellow on the counter was encouraging, suggesting a full service and a whole recabling and padding in addition to new tyres and tubes. I additionally acquired some spanking crimson tape on the deal with bars. For somewhat over $300 my crimson bike was refurbished. However I had one other shock in retailer.

Driving the great distance residence to soak up the waterfront I observed all the brand new bike paths with the contemporary eyes of a rider reborn. Much more astonishing, different cyclists have been in all places. I did get known as a faggot whereas ready at one Nelson Avenue intersection which took me again to my former days being abused and shouted at from passing utes, however I’d hoped attitudes in direction of cyclists would had softened now that extra drivers may additionally cycle occasionally.

The bike itself had by no means gone so properly. Ryan at T White’s had rejuvenated the brakes past expectations and the gear shifts have been easy, nearly silent. I acquired residence beaming like a child. For the subsequent week I pedalled additional and additional: Mt Eden someday, Okahu Bay the subsequent, taking small steps again to health. Gigs had been cancelled by the dozen, giving me a free week beginning the day we went right down to degree two. Let’s get the hell out of this city!

A good good friend gave me a flying begin with a carry to Pukekohe and from there it was the work of some minutes to cycle by means of Tuakau and over the good-looking arched concrete bridge throughout the Waikato the place the roads have been nearly as quiet because the burbling eddies within the river. It was a gray day with flat mild, however I might barely comprise my pleasure.

Nikau Caves Cafe. Photograph: Nick Atkinson

Port Waikato wore a spooky shroud of sea spray and mist as I rattled in. The river and waves appeared to swallow the sounds of the land. The solar set with none color and I used to be quick asleep by 9pm. Subsequent morning I packed my meagre baggage into modest panniers and set off for the unsealed roads that wound south. My street bike was jittery on the rougher floor, however I used to be quickly accustomed to a extra cautious tempo. The previous reflexes and instincts from biking throughout the pampa and the Andes returned as a brand new panorama unfurled round every nook. Pale yellow and blue-grey limestone escarpments overhung vivid inexperienced pasture peppered with cabbage bushes and the odd kahikatea grove. Two vehicles handed me throughout the whole morning. I didn’t have far to go to search out the Nikau Cave Cafe, alone within the Waikaretu Valley. Anne and Phil put me up and couldn’t have been extra welcoming. I gave the impression to be their solely buyer, but it surely’s a favorite cease for motorcyclists searching for empty roads close to Auckland.

That afternoon it began to blow and rain. I learn previous sea tales and drank espresso. These first two phases had been brief to ease me again into pedalling, however tomorrow promised to be an endurance take a look at driving properly over 100km nearly half on winding gravel roads south to Kawhia Harbour. Phil teased me about my proposed begin time and casually dropped into dialog that he routinely woke round 5am. It was good encouragement and I used to be rolling somewhat after dawn. Abandoned moist roads, gentle yellow sunshine, steaming fields.

At first the gravel was contemporary and deep and it was robust protecting my skinny tyres on the street. Quickly the contemporary steel ceased and I sped by means of gloomy pine forests masking my bike in a superb spray of clay and filth. The cool of a winter’s morning persevered properly into the day and I didn’t begin to peel off layers till I used to be nearing the higher reaches of Raglan harbour 4 hours later. A brief stretch alongside the primary freeway heading into Raglan jogged my memory how briskly the vehicles velocity round corners on the open street. I used to be glad to show off in direction of Te Mata. I rested and ate nuts in a sunny college bus shelter.

Kawhia. Photograph: Nick Atkinson

The tide was ebbing by the point I discovered the coarse and twisting route that winds across the fringe of Aotea Harbour, a brown expanse of shallow sea bereft of boats. Gnarly cypress and macrocarpa leant over the water. Kowhai bloomed. Jasmine and birdsong crammed the air. I might really feel the grit of salt and dirt increase on my cheeks and neck. My nostril ran and my eyes watered. I used to be biking into the wind throughout the grain of the nation, a ceaseless succession of hills and valleys that grew with every fold southward. My halts grew to become extra frequent till my final ailing chosen cease discovered me slumped in opposition to an overgrown fence gulping my final water. A ache like a scorching needle in my again made me bounce up. I’d been bitten by a spider and the impact was instantaneous, like a pointy dose of smelling salts. I used to be again in my saddle peddling once more powered by buzzing adrenalin.

The Kawhia Resort is an unremarkable constructing on a nook in the course of the village. Brilliant mid-afternoon solar streamed into the general public bar. I’d made it earlier than 3pm after nearly eight hours on the bike. I felt somewhat dopey and I couldn’t cease smiling. I fielded a barrage of questions from the various merry patrons having fun with a Wednesday afternoon session with acquainted associates. I stated I’d come from Port Waikato, which wasn’t strictly true, however they’d by no means heard of Waikaretu Valley or the Nikau Caves. I’d left there that morning it already felt an age away.

Aotea Harbour. Photograph: Nick Atkinson

I drank chilly handles of Waikato Draft accompanied by tales of iron sand mining and harrowing harbour bar crossings. The speak at all times appeared to come back again to music and one woman particularly liked Bunny Walters. I seemed ahead to getting residence if solely to hunt out his recordings once more. I took a stroll at sundown on legs that remarkably nonetheless appeared to be working. I’d began to really feel fairly off form this yr and I used to be genuinely shocked {that a} tendon or a joint hadn’t gone “ping” in the course of the journey. A chilly southerly blew throughout the mudflats and the muscular hills of Maniapoto rose ever larger to the south. Tomorrow can be an excellent longer journey following the fantastic tarseal that weaves across the fringe of Kawhia Harbour then south to Te Anga and inland to Waitomo and Otorohanga. I dreaded the thought, however quickly sufficient I’d be on the bus again to Auckland. For now it was sufficient to drink within the superb scene on the finish of the day in one other stunning nook of this generally secretive land.


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