We ride for a variety of reasons; convenience, health, sense of freedom, cost savings, environmental concerns and fitness, to name but a few. But the thing that keeps me riding to work every single day come rain or shine is the sheer joy I get out of my particular journey – Te Atatu Peninsula to Henderson.
Each day I leave my home and my daughter waves me off at the window with a smile and a “have a lovely ride”. On my road I get to wave and greet neighbours; they seem to be finally recognising that “Ay oop” in a Lancastrian accent is friendly and no cause for concern. Occasionally, to show willing, I try a “G’day’ but still don’t think, even after 15 years, I am convincing.
Soon, I am entering Te Atatu village, where the blue lights of the library shine onto those waiting for the bus. I join the cycle path as a view of the city opens up that makes it appear both near and far. The fishing boats bobbing in the water are one of my favourite scenes – an old blue vessel in particular has me thinking of distant shores.
Sunrise, rain, all-enveloping mist, clear blue skies or rainbows transform the city and have me imagining they reflect the mood of the city workers. I pass along the line of pohutakawas; in flowering season I imagine the trees “lighting up” as I pedal past, as if they are on remote sensors. I guess cycling allows you these flights of fancy!
I’m gliding along whilst a line of cars waits and waits to join the motorway. Occasionally I wave as I recognise someone but always I wonder: do any of them enjoy their journey as much as I do? A smile, not smug I hope, is on my face as my sense of freedom goes up a notch. Every pedal turn takes me to a new perspective and I feel part of the landscape I pass through.
“White horse, white horse, bring me good luck…” is a refrain that automatically springs into my mind as I pass the ponies in the field, bringing a touch of the country to the city and connecting me with my Grandmother who imparted this superstition to me. The ponies munch on the grass as they do their best to disguise the construction yard that is part of the ever-widening, widening of our roading network.
Now I am leaving the Peninsula, I weave my way through the students heading to Rutherford College and the many cycling to Te Atatu Intermediate – we always say hi as we pass. Waiting for the lights I often get to share a chat with fellow riders and reflect on how many more of us there are now enjoying our journeys.
It is my “outrageous fortune” that I only have a very short section to ride on the road, and as I ride past that house that is such an icon of Kiwi TV, I ponder, is it the West Auckland equivalent of Downton Abbey?
Now I am on the path alongside Henderson Creek, part of the Project Twin Streams pathways that make this such a wonderful place to spend time.
As I ride the twists and turns alongside the creek, I ring my bell (it’s an audible smile) and call out, “morning, coming through please” to the mum and her three children who walk everyday, whatever the weather, to school – it pleases me to know there are still some children having this adventure each day. The children are always a delight responding with “you’re welcome” as I thank them for stepping to one side as I pass.
We are a little moving community here – those walking or riding to school or work, the dog walkers, the Chinese exercise group (“Ni Hao, xiexie,” as I pass), even the camper-vanners at Tui Glen, all sharing the space and the joy of place.
I love the creek at high or low tide – it presents as Amazonia in Henderson. I am always at grin factor 10 when a kingfisher darts across my path. Riding alongside the creek allows me to imagine I am in the deepest wilderness, and as I pass Swan Arch Reserve I am reminded that once this truly was the back of beyond. Now surrounded by houses and cut from the creek by a busy road, the reserve is a reminder of earlier adventurers in Auckland’s past.
Riding this route has given me the inspiration to find out more about the history of the area, and every stretch of the path holds elements of Auckland’s past close to the surface.
Now, though, I am rounding West Wave Recreation Centre, into Henderson, and into work. As I sit at my desk, I greet my colleagues with a “good morning” – and I mean it. Thank you, bike ride, you’ve made my day again.