My happy place

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My earliest memory is on the back of my Mum’s step-through, 3-speed light blue Healing. I was not old enough to talk but I was able to sit in a seat on the back of her Healing with a duck on it. My duck seat. I recall Mum cycling my sister and I up Masters to the top of the hill to the shops, where the library was. It felt like such an adventure, a long way but really it was only about 1-2 kilometres. Rochelle would get books and as I couldn’t read yet, I would get big wooden block puzzles in cloth bags. I still remember where they were in the library.

I couldn’t wait to get home and do these puzzles, to see what picture they would create. It was my initiation in to problem solving and project management and another world the bicycle could give me.

We grew up on our bikes, my Dad biking to work and my sister and I exploring Silverdale, especially the shops, for our 1-cent lolly expeditions. It was a right of passage to get a new bike when we out grew ours. And a frequent occurrence to attach ice-cream container lids to our wheels to make our bikes sound like motocross bikes, and double the fun by laying wood cut-offs looping completely around the house, to ride over.

This grounding gave me a passion; a love for all things bicycle. The freedom to explore, the views, the friendships created through kilometres and sometimes through suffering. A bike ride is an adventure, an exploration in to your community, nature and in to your own mind and body. I feel very privileged to be able to enjoy this simple pleasure, of riding a bike.

“Sandwiched between the Louis Vuitton bag and my bike”

For a few months Emma, Megan and I have been planning to do some transfer rides. These are rides where you either train somewhere and ride, or ride somewhere and train back. We had a few dinners and explored some possibilities, tentatively booking in a date for December to ride about 200kms south and catching the train back. With spring passing rapidly a 200km ride seemed as possible as surfing during a Tsunami so we decided on a convoluted ride to Ōtorohanga, a small South Waikato town that is on the Northern Explorer train line.

With train tickets in hand and the calendar telling us it was indeed summer, we left home in epic wind and rain. Our plans for roads less ridden were changed slightly, but those we did ride on provided enough entertainment to be an adventure. Especially the one with a current of water flowing down it – we were actually riding upstream.

We rolled down some beautiful descents into Ōtorohanga with smiles on our faces. Aside from the wind and rain, this was the constant of the day: big grins and slushy hands and feet. Ronnie’s cafe provided much needed hot tea and pies, along with a toilet to change into dry clothes, before we had a history lesson at the train station from the ticket man.

“Do you know what Ōtorohanga is named after?” We hadn’t asked, but the old fella well into his eighties wanted to tell us, and we wanted to hear. “To last a long way, after a Māori chief who chanted on his way to Taupomoana for his meagre food supplies to last the journey.” It summed up our ride perfectly.

The Northern Explorer train was just glorious. I wanted to move in, take residence and never get off. It rolled through the countryside, giving us views we don’t normally see of the great rolling green pastures of the Waikato. One of the staff on the train had been working on it for 24 years. She was amazing, and somewhat delighted by how light our bikes were when loading them into the luggage carriage. Later she told me “don’t worry love I put some luggage around your bikes so they won’t move.” Relaying this to Emma later in the day, she replied with “did you see the luggage? She sandwiched Megan’s bike between a Louis Vuitton bag and my bike. The bag was hard up against her big chain ring.”

We rolled into Frankton station in Hamilton and while it had stopped raining on the train, it started again, but it wouldn’t wash away the grins as we rolled the few kilometres from the station to home. The following week I noticed my bike was not dirty. This wasn’t a surprise really. The rain was so hard and consistent no dirt had a chance in trying to catch a free ride on my frame.

On this day we all fell for transfer rides. The adventure, the unknown challenges along the way and the different terrain means we will be doing more, this is guaranteed.

Train ride

Train ride

Train ride

Train ride

Train ride

Train ride

Train ride

Kãwhia

Kawhia

Kawhia

Kawhia

Kawhia

Kawhia

Kawhia

Kawhia

It was Emma’s birthday late last month. We both love exploring. Whether it is in our city, or a plane ride away. Really the location doesn’t matter. It is the act of discovering that gives us both immense joy. So, for Emma’s birthday we went for a day out to Kãwhia, a small sea-side town of only 650 people on the North Island’s wild west coast.

I’ve never had a good nosy around Kãwhia. The only other time I had been there was during Stephen Cox’s 5-day women’s tour. We rode out and back in one day, two stages. I was fighting Elizabeth Campbell for the lantern rouge. On this day we took the car. It was Emma’s birthday after all.

The township is very cute and has some historic buildings such as the harbour, water-side intact, museum. “Perhaps the most precarious location for a museum,” Emma said. We trotted around the town and waters edge, dodging the rain drops and then settled into a restaurant, come lounge room, come fish and chip shop for lunch. It was so incredibly cosy with pictures of the owners granddaughters netball team, a book shelf with old paper backs, and the Rugby playing in the background. We had an extremely expensive lunch, at $13 for two, before heading out to roam the streets and see what else we could find. We went out to the beach and saw why no swimming was allowed with rip tides and swells bigger than houses, and found abandoned camper vans with the most beautiful view of the Harbour. We were tempted to jump the fence to have a nosy inside of them, but our curiosity was less than the unnerving feeling that someone might actually be living in them.

We found one of the many Marae’s in the area and just down the road a woman was on a horse with a young child and bouncing her Poi, entertaining the child. The family across the road said hello, probably wondering what the hell we were doing there. In Mãori legend the waka Tainui was buried at Kãwhia, behind the sea side Marae, at Ahurei.

We stopped by the old cemetery heading out of town. We both have a fascination with cemetery’s and actively seek them out. Every time they remind me not to waste a day. Do what you love, now, don’t wait. In this one, someone had quite recently bought a plot and buried their dog, with a wee statue of the dog, and flowers.  Cemetery’s can tell you a lot about a town.