Auckland can be a moody city. My recent forays into west Auckland on a bicycle have revealed some of its more dynamic moods. I have realised that a bicycle isn’t just a handy way to get around, or a nice way to get fit, a bicycle allows me to experience Mother Nature in all her pure beauty and majesty. Riding up through the hills of West Auckland, the Waitakere Ranges, is always a treat. The distances can be long and the hills sometimes seem to go on and on without end, but each moment of the journey reveals something new.
It begins in suburbia in the tiny village of Titirangi, where coffee drinkers huddle together to chat and enjoy a cuppa. From here the road becomes the aptly named, Scenic Drive, winding up through pockets of native forest interspersed with hideaway homes. Further on the road passes the Waitakere Ranges Visitor Centre and at this point one leaves behind suburbia for a while and enters into beautiful native forest.
Huge trees – Kauri, Rimu and Kahikatea – cloak the road creating a sylvan avenue worthy of a great kingdom. This is always my most enjoyable part of the ride. Somehow the raw purity of the landscape enthrals me. On some days the trees are astir with the ferocious roar of westerly gales, while on quieter days, one can hear the clear sweet warble of a Tui melodiously resonate through the tranquil silence. Eventually the road reaches its highest point at the top of the ridge, some 400 metres above sea level. The view from here is panoramic. Far below the city stretches out with the Harbour Bridge and CBD neatly silhouetted against the silvery waters of the island clad Hauraki Gulf. The return trip, nearly all downhill, is brief. The thrill of speed envelopes me and the tranquillity of the forest is soon lost in the rush of the wind whistling past my ears.
Instead of experiencing the world through a pane of glass like a passive passenger in a car, these trips give me a chance to experience what it means to be alive first-hand. How similar this is to embarking on the journey of meditation where I often leave behind all the troubles and challenges of my outer life and enter into a world of childlike purity where everything seems to vibrate with joy and light. It gives me a sense of how precious each day of my life is and how fortunate I was to stumble upon meditation all those years ago.
Sri Chinmoy wrote a very beautiful song on cycling (click the link for the musical score):
I bicycle with my heavenly friend: speed!
Earthly cries before me die,
Heavenly smiles within me fly.
Supreme God-Joy our only need.”