Less than three hours of sleep for me after nightshift and Bobet rings me.
“Do you want to come out on the bike for half an hour?”
“I thought you’d already been on the bike?”
“I’ve come back to see if you want to come out.”
Hard to say no to that dedication. Even without sleep.
“Okay, I’ll come – on my mountain bike.”
And because we both have our rougher bikes, we take the gravel road towards the Ida Valley station. Here the road is badly damaged – rutted, deep with mud, and water still across the road in places. As I navigate a track as best I can I think how it must have been for cyclists in Christchurch after the earthquakes – the roads buckled and fractured. How much for granted I have taken smooth roads.
Bobet leads me further and further from the tarseal road.
“Remember the bridge is taken out on Hills Creek Road,” I call out.
“We’ll get across. The stream’s gone down now.”
“How do you know? There’s a big hole in the road.”
“Do you want to risk it?” he asks. And then because it’s my favourite ride, round the back block, and I don’t like turning back, I say yep, let’s do it.
Way past the ‘half hour’ stage, there’s a sharp hill in the distance. I’m already dreading it.
“Are you there?” Bobet calls.
“Yes I’m coming,” I call back, and push myself to catch up again.
“Make sure your bike is in the lowest gear before you start going up,” Bobet tells me. And after that its pure grinding. In my lowly state I picture George Bennett on the Tour de France. Dig in, dig in. And when I crest the hill and finally look up, there’s a long line of fog creeping in across the low hills and above them the Hawkduns are luminous and lovely with snow.
I think of how far we have come, how cold it is, how close the fog is, and how far we will have to bike back if the road is impassable.
This side of the valley is where all the stock must be for now. There’s a herd of black and white cattle grazing one paddock, another herd of shaggy, stumpy-legged Highland cattle across the road, and sheep as far as the eye can see. On Hamish’s lake there are so many birds. Bobet and I don’t have our glasses and can’t tell what they are – paradise ducks for sure, and maybe Canadian geese, and even swans. The long surface of the water speckled with them.
The road tilts down and now we’re flying. The gravel road sogged and dimpled with water. At speed and without glasses, it’s more guess work picking out the line. And in front is the bridge with the road taken out.
It’s not till we get up close we can see the Ida Burn is back within its banks, though high and muddy. And the hole in the road is just passable. Bobet lifts our bikes up above his head onto the bridge.
Made it onto the bridge – it’s a one-way bike trip home from here.