When I was a child, my family and I lived for a couple of years in a pine forest. Not because we were Beatrix Potter style charming woodland creatures, but because my mother was scared of the wind. You see, we had arrived from England in the mid 1970’s and my parents had chosen the Marlborough Sounds as the ideal place to live. We hadn’t been there long when it became clear that the wind which periodically howled through The Sounds was slowly driving my mother crazy. At first she resisted – when the wind started up at night, she would get my sister and I out of our beds in the upper storey of our A-frame house, tell us to put our mattresses up against the visibly buckling ranch slider windows and sleep downstairs.
But eventually she realised that this level of anxiety was untenable, and when our goat tragically hung itself, she decided that it was time to move house. My mother confronted my father and demanded that he find the town in New Zealand that was furthest from the sea, and therefore the wind. Fortunately he is a Master Mariner and consequently entirely qualified to find such a place. After consulting various maps, charts and taking sightings on his sextant, he determined that we should move to the teeming metropolis known as Minginui. Not only was it way the hell inland, in the middle of the Ureweras, but it was surrounded by a Radiata Pine shelter belt. Surely my mother would be safe from the wind there.
And so it was that we moved to Minginui, and lived there for a couple of years amongst the trees. This formative childhood experience left me with an unfashionable fondness for pine forests, as well as the conviction that as soon as it gets windy, everyone should be putting mattresses up against their windows.
I was thinking about Minginui on a rainy Tuesday morning in the Woodhill Forest Mountain Bike Park. It’s years since I’ve done any proper mountain biking. In my early twenties I owned a flourescent-orange Diamondback Ascent and my friends & I would frequently thrash our bikes and ourselves around the Riverhead & Woodhill forests. Before there was a park and before bicycles had suspension. I had gotten the urge to reacquaint myself with Woodhill but I didn’t want to drive up there. So the Off-Roadrat and I caught the train from Auckland city out to the Waitakere station and rode the remaining 25km. Most of the way it was pleasantly quiet backroads, but there was a stretch of about 5km on the main highway to traverse.
I rode around the park for a couple of hours, got lost a couple of times and then cycled back to the Waitakere station just in time to catch the 2:30pm train back in to town. Although it was a nice day out, I’m not in a big hurry to take up mountain biking again. But I am tempted to explore some more of the Woodhill forest area – I wonder if there’s an overnight trip to be had somewhere up there…