In a land with a small span there seems to always be a front looming. It will blow from any which direction. It’s with respect you must cross this tough country, as its land, sea and sky (and hills) give no mercy. To traverse the whenua by push bike brings you directly into these elements. Without them, the earth has no pulse; it doesn’t ask but demands your utmost attention. Each time you tackle Mother Nature’s force, you must be willing to play by her rules.
Speckled across our land, ghosts linger from a bygone era; a time when someone had a cunning idea to make something from this fragile and hostile environment. It’s often economic times that crush these ideals and, as I pedal past many of these old haunts, I wonder what it was like back then and what could have been. Derelict buildings, empty train tracks and rusting hunks of metal litter this divine countryside. It’s the desire turned to despair over time that seems so devastating. But, in these parts, community seems to run strong no matter the economic climate.
The morning’s blackened sky, heavy with thundery clouds, showered the valley floor which was hemmed in by thickly forested hills. The warm humid drizzle hung in the air, smothering us and glistening on the road as it twisted down to the few small houses in the village below. The crack of the tree branches echoed as the wind swirled. Momentum wasn’t easy to come by, as the shingle lanes diced their way through the unrelenting terrain. I drew strength from my riding partner but, ultimately, I needed to find my own strength to pull me through.
In what felt like just a moment, hours passed. The bleak horizon gave way to the sun’s rays and they peeked through the thick cloud layer and dotted the ground beneath our tread. The dense forest hung low over the river that ran beside us. The heavy brooding atmosphere in the bush was stifling but swift, strong gusts from the sea to the coastline and across land carolled us forward. We had endured the harsh environment and savoured the moment with a crisp ale.
I was proud to have made it through; often, excuses get between riding and reality.
Produced in partnership with NS Carbon
Words: Liam Friary
Photography: Cameron Mackenzie