My first full day back on the bike. I feel strong enough, but my mind is still on skateboard pace, so I’m taking it easy. Which is very nice indeed.
Cycling through Auckland into South Auckland and finally into the rural Waikato region was a blur of good old New Zealand culture. I was well and truely re-discovering my homeland.
A local dairy provided some interesting signs that I would never have noticed had I not just spent the last five years overseas. The L&P and pie sign above, and the billboard below screamed New Zealand. Tents, Simply Red…
I had the occasional rain shower throughout the day. Typical Auckland weather, I hear. When the clouds are overhead, you are shivering, and when the sun is out, you’re roasting.
I enjoyed the blue sky intervals immensely. I’m quite sure I do not recall such brilliant blues since Texas, more than 9 months ago.
Needless to say, I did not feel as though I was ‘home’. I felt like I was in New Zealand, but this is the North Island. So many subtle things make it an entirely new experience. Not to mention the fact I’ve never spent any decent amount of time in the North Island.
I ate Burgen bread sandwiches with avocados ($1.50 for a bag of four) and cheese and tomatoes for lunch at a small park in South Auckland. The park was full of Saturday afternoon playing children. After so long in ove-protective societies in Europe, Japan and the US, I was happy to see children running across bark-chip covered playgrounds in bare feet. Clambering on play equipment, interracting joyfully with complete strangers after only a few moments of hesitant glances.
Parents would throw a half-hearted word of warning here and there, but laugh and shout “I told you so” when their or another’s kid got clobbered on the head with a fast-moving tyre.
Rain showers sent kids scampering for the shelter of trees, only to rush out again as soon as the rain passed. I recalled how I used to view rain showers as a kid. As I’m sure those kids viewed them. The rain started and it stopped. There was nothing you could do to pre-empt its arrival or forecast its departure. Now I know better. A quick look at the sky in the distance and I was able to plan my departure from the park to have at least half an hour of sunshine before the next shower. Knowledge diminishes mystery, I thought as I biked away, a little envious of the kids’ ignorance, and pondering how my attitude towards adventure may have diminished over the years.
I was surprised to see Asian-looking temples as I cycled. I later learned that they were Sikh Temples. Another thing to look up at some stage, as I know nothing about the faith.
Pedalling on south, I finally shook off most of the traffic as I made my way through Pukekohe on Highway 22. Things started to quieten down, and despite it being only 5pm, I was ready to stop and camp for the night. Just past the small town of Tuakau, the road dropped down to the banks of the mighty Waikato river. I found a secluded spot off the road a few meters from the water, and set up camp. I relished in the evening quiet and calm. This is what I started the journey for. Quiet campsites surrounded by nature. Around me were lush green New Zealand plants, the sounds of native New Zealand birds, and a gentle giant river flowing on beside me.