As I may have mentioned before, I’m not really a summer person. Hot weather makes me whiny and listless. Occasionally I venture out on my bike, but such outings often end in humiliation thanks to my tendency to sweat a lot. Witness a recent ride out to The Trusts Stadium in Henderson on a sunny afternoon – upon my arrival an acquaintance asked if it was raining outside (because I was all wet). It wasn’t. But when autumn was rumored to have begun, it seemed like a good time to go for a long ride. Somewhere new perhaps – how about Papakura to Miranda & back?
I duly caught the train to Papakura early on a Saturday morning and rode off in the direction of the Hunua Ranges. It was a beautiful morning. The sun slowly rising in to a clear blue sky, mist nestling in the valley, magpies were quardle oodle ardle wardle doodling all around. All this peace was regularly shattered by trucks bellowing their way up to the Hunua Quarry. Once I got past the quarry the road was quieter, and it was a pleasant ride up to the top of the Hunuas and down though the Paparimu valley.
There was some confusion and riding in circles when I reached Lyons Rd, because the route I had planned on Ride with GPS told me to go straight ahead. But in the real world there’s no actual road there. It wasn’t a huge deal, but although I’ve heard of theses GPS-type issues, I’d never come across one before.
The old highway from Mangatawhiri had more traffic on, but it also had a wider shoulder. From Rawiri to Miranda the road was fairly quiet, although at least half the cars I saw were on some kind of rally. I think it was a rally for cars from the 70s & 80s that had been fitted loud exhausts and lots of stickers. I finally made it to the coast and the Shore Bird Centre about 11:30am. I spent a few minutes wandering around looking at stuffed birds (those Caspian Terns are big aren’t they?) before embarking on the return journey.
By this stage I had realised that all this had been a huge mistake. This wasn’t autumn, it was still summer and I was like a snowball in hell. Or like a person who was too hot and far from home in the midday sun. Also I was quite tired. So I pulled in to the Miranda Farm Stop for a rest and some things to eat & drink. It seemed like a good strategy would be to take the return journey in stages – ride for a bit, sit down in the shade drinking for a bit. Repeat. I discovered that schools are handy places when you’re out on the road. They have shade, shelter and drinking fountains.
In this way I rode back to Mangatawhiri and up the Paparimu valley, all the way to the top of the Hunuas. I stopped there to drink ginger beer and talk to the woman who runs the shop, who told me that she also breeds goats. I also chatted to a woman from Kaiaua outside the shop. She corrected me when I said I had cycled out to the Miranda Shore Bird Centre – “It’s now called The Pokorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre” she said. And so it is. She also the listed the attractions that Kaiaua has to offer the passing cyclist. A campground, dairy, garage, and a fish & chip shop. I remembered visiting that fish & chip shop about 25 years ago. The food was good, but parked outside was a ute loaded with a couple of dead and bloody wild pigs.
Coasting down the Papakura side of the Hunuas in the late afternoon was a pleasant relief from all the uphill, and I had a little rest at the railway station before catching the 6pm train home. On the whole, I thought the roads were ok – not too much traffic and with some nice scenery. The only unpleasant incident on the ride was when a white cabbage butterfly smacked me right in the face on the ride back. Fortunately I was wearing a proctective beard which saved me from serious injury. Imagine if it had been monarch (butterfly)!