It took us a day and a half to get to new. That’s always the challenge when you set out from the same trailhead time after time, it takes a while to branch onto uncharted terrain, to find the new. For us the new was just east of Tirau at a place somewhere, yet nowhere called Okoroire. A place of good grub, tall tales and even better, a steaming thermal hot pool.
Night was descending quickly as we slipped below the surface, I watched the stall and swoop of fantails through the punga and mist, as it gradually clawed its way up from the Waihou river falls below. Eventually arriving, greeting my chin with its chill fingers as I dove lower into the earthy warmth of the waters. It was definitely autumn and this was a definitely a very New Zealand kind of place.
Following a good meal I lay back thinking of months past. Well planned intentions and destinations not visited. Now feeling wearysome, fat and unfit, I drifted off to the roar of white water. It’s tumble, foam and swirl forcing fading memories into the deeper fissures of my mind. Ride tomorrow.
It wasn’t the first time we’d seen that sign that particular day, ‘Private road, no entry!’
Horse and I had made good from Okoroire, passing through Tirau and the back roads, sliding slippery in the cool fog over the rolling green south through Putaruru and onward to Tokaroa. Taking shelter from the cold drizzle under a slender canopy of the local two dollar shop where we silently squaffed down our pies.
Then passing Kinleith and the long decent to the Kopakorahi stream to that damned sign – ‘ye shall not pass’. We pulled up as the road continued on into the deep of the forest ahead. It was a wide road, a paved and beautiful road, a lost road, lost forever as just another national chattel surrendered in the sale of now private forest ownership.
Surly, I straddled my bike scouring sites for solutions when Horse quietly muttered a Lebowski under his breath: “oh fuck it!” and pushed on down the road and into the Wawa. I watched him disappear into the deep, soon following.
I missed this. Where the only sensible barriers are the natural not the human. I’ve missed the silence that comes with travelling in company and the trust that comes with it. And I’ve missed the paths untravelled, I’ve missed the new.
So as we rode on we considered our excuses if caught. Horse suggested I swear in broken Spanish, I responded that he may want to invoke tino rangatiratanga and claim his sovereign rights over the Wawa. We eventually settled on sensibility and pressed on through the endless even formation of plantation forest. With its creeping suffocating silence that lays dormant in its still.
We slowly weaved our way up the ravine the top of the Wawa, which then gently fell away in a seamless decent down Flavell Road to the Waikato river. Away up river was raw tooth of rock that is the ‘Pohaturoa’ rising near vertically from the river valley.
Horse took point and led the way through the remaining hill country to Mokai. My legs were tiring as was my mood. I was spent and Horse knew it. Encouragement from Horse is a bit like getting encouragement from a fist full of warm gravel, its blunt, brief and raw. But it had its effect, as I climbed the last wall prior to Oruanui, then on into the fading glow of twilights passing to Taupo.
“Pub?” said Horse. And the man abides.