Fox River Bridge
Yesterday Em Miazga (AKA Powergirl) and her mate Mitch toured me around the Charming Creek walkway…a mellow 3 hour loop right out the door of their Granity house. Almost immediately a miscommunication occured, and while Mitch showed me “the land” (their hilly 32 acre block overlooking the sea, as yet unbuilt), Em waited at the trailhead eight km away…
“Let me tell you how Charlie and I do it…” I advised Mitch. “Be very precise, and then have one another paraphrase what you understand “the route” is”.
Last night they got separated riding the 1 kilometer over to Adam’s place to meet me for dinner. Yeah, verily, even on the West Coast’s sole road, one can find alternate routes and short cuts.
After a pleasant tour (free of the pamn danniers) I got a little headstart toward points south (gonna ride to Queenstown for a queen convention) , skipping the Boring Section Of Coast. Under clear (all day!) skies and light wind I crawled toward Charlestown. The Breezer “Lightening” tracks pretty well under load. I pray all the little zip ties hold. Ahem.
Milk trucks went by, four or five of them. At 100 kph, they make a dreadful wind, and one has to brace hard because they’re double-tankers, and that back one can really veer on the roads not intended for speeding 40-ton machines. I pray I’ll survive…last night I stayed at Pyramid Farm–backpacker farmhouse that wasnt open but a very kind proprietor (thanks Don!) opened it for chilly biker with a pleading look.
At breakfast, he admonished me to look out for those trucks (what about all those ‘no traffic’ rumors I’d heard on the North Island?).
“Can’t they look out for me??”
“Motorists get killed too”.
This morning: out by nine, and by eleven, after several prolonged stops sitting on any stretch of beach in the Paharoa National Forest that suits me (nice flax plants? Check. Scenic rocks poking out of bright blue sea? Check. No milk trucks within earshot? Check.
Then I’d cross the road. Hang out. Think about pulling out the journal, drawing something.
Allow phelan to pass.
And then, yet another Fortuitous Kiwi Experience. I saw a big footbridge veering off at the Fox River’s mouth. A gentleman was speaking with a woman carrying a can of paint. As he was about to shove off, I asked if I could photograph his excellent pounamu necklace, a lively, elongated Koru shape.
“An image is almost as good as having it” I said innocently.
“A friend made it for me” he smiled. “The old way. No diamond cutters..”
I wondered if it was Robert Long (author of A Life On Gorge River).
“You might wonder what we’re doing here” he went on. “We’re painting the bridge, which we all own…”
Shrugging off my violent allergy to work, I carefully propped the burdened bike on a boulder, and took up a brush.
400 more miles to get to Qtown, but no reason to rush. Don had stressed that: take your time, don’t just blast on through in this good weather. Nothing beats taking it easy, and then slowing down even more.
Then I got to talking with the woman (Kathryn) whose American accent gave her away. “I was traveling around the world…and I got stuck in New Zealand!” was her explanation for her 15 year’s sojourn.
Obviously, it was a good fit.
When I told her I was a bike racer once, her face changed and she mentioned that a good friend had just died on her bike two days earlier, when she lost control of the bike and slid into a concrete barrier.
I got goosebumps.
The gentleman returned, brandishing a teardrop-shaped greenstone on a cord.
”For you. An’ it’s Ahaware river, local stuff, not imported.”
Oh, man…oh man, I…I…am I worthy? Do I deserve gifts? Don’ t I give them?
Reader, I worked on that bridge at least an hour, and then Les (the giver, a local artist, teacher and know of much Maori heritage) gave me a tour of a cave that’s even better than Cathedral Cove in Whitianga, where food was preserved (‘it’s nature’s refrigerator in here), stored, and much shell-banging and good living took place before the swarm of white people.
Kathryn invited me to stay at her very comfortable sheep farm, and now I’m staring at slightly more ruffled blue ocean than I saw this morning, my clean clothes writhing on the line and a fine Australian red (Wynn’s Coonawarra) cab in the glass.
Roger and Kathryn have been together 12 years, and look to be as content a pair of complementary people could be…Over stories (and good music) I got to hear how they met (‘she said she had a chain saw’) and bonded.
Now it’s bedtime. Banjo on the CD. I can’t say who it is (what a drag–I thought I was a connoisseuse). Tom Adams. Never heard of him!