The Ida Burn is bank to bank again, snow melt and the rain that fell last night. We take our mountain bikes for a change, interested to check the state of the creeks, and head down the rail trail. Just out of the village there’s a pear tree in full white blossom. Its fragrance perfumes the air.
The wind is strong at our backs and we hurtle along the gravel trail, blimping over bridges so fast my vision is blurred. The water, opaque with sediment, rushes below. This is how it would feel to be fit, riding the bike like there’s no pain. Two grey herons lift off from the track ahead of us, and at the dam there’s almost a dozen young Australian Coots out for a swim on the ruffled water. Small black ducks with white faces.
We ride to Auripo Rd. it’s another four km to the stunning viaduct, but a headwind to face going home. We turn back. On the way we’d passed two women on the rail trail, and we pass them again as we return. They’ve got off their bikes in the wind, and are reading an information board.
“Do you want to hop on behind us?” Bartali asks. “We can give you shelter.”
“There’s no way we can keep up with you,” one of the women say, “But thanks anyway.”
The trail stretches a flat four kilometres in front of us. Th wind is straight on, strong and cold. It’s a long, grinding ride, slightly uphill. I tuck in behind Bartali but his slight frame does little to deflect the buffeting wind. I think of all the railtrailers over the years facing this same struggle. One of my least favourite days out riding. Closer to the village there are bridges again, anything to take the mind of the numbing, straight track and the wind.
What a week though. A new government. The possibility of change, and of hope for our rivers, and the most vulnerable among us. A yellow chaffinch bobs above us, flitting ahead to the roadside then swirling up above our heads again. Its cheerful passage leads us home.