Sunday 24 November 2019

Depends on the backyard, I guess...

With thanks to Goldie Estate and Bikes & Barbers for this famil
We all know that chestnut about seeing your own backyard first before heading away on your travels - and it is true, if only so you can talk knowledgeably to curious strangers about your home. So embarrassing to be caught out on gaps and mistakes, believe me. What you don't always think about though is that that backyard can be almost literal. It is if you live on Waiheke Island, anyway. 
I've lived here permanently for five years now, and was a frequent visitor long before that, so I assumed I was pretty familiar with the place. Turns out, not. It's so easy to get into a routine, following the same routes, going to the same places when, just off your regular road, there are all sorts of little pleasures that you are passing by.
So I was very pleased to be offered a famil today that involved picking up an e-bike just up the hill from the ferry, and skimming on it along roads familiar and not, to places familiar and not, the highlight of which was a picnic at Goldie Estate. This vineyard is the oldest on the island (this is New Zealand, not France - we're talking 1978 - but much learning, experimenting and developing has taken place over those forty years) so they know how to turn out a very nice drop.
Bikes and Barbers, on the other hand, is a quite new business on the island, but already doing really well - today they had about 100 people buzzing around the island on their bikes and electric motor scooters. Regular 😃 readers will remember that I've e-biked before, in Auckland and Wellington, and loved it. I maintain that one single e-bike ride will convert absolutely anybody. Today was no different, even if there was a bit of a hiccup in Franco not sending us off with the bikes that boss Chris had set aside for us, so one of them ran out of battery just before the picnic (no matter: it was replaced while we lounged on the grass with our glasses of sparkling rosĂ©).
It's so much fun, to whizz up a hill with no effort! And Waiheke has serious hills, believe me. So we (Firstborn and partner) skimmed along, remarkably fast for a bicycle but still slow enough, and exposed enough, to notice things like neat gardens, bird song, beach views, roosters and enviable houses. We took side roads, knowing that it would cost us nothing but time; we whizzed excitingly downhill - my record, people, was a thrilling 43km/h (26mph for you ark-dwellers) - and we stopped wherever anything caught our eye, which was often.
Though we really hadn't earned it, we got to Goldie ready for our picnic, which was given to us in a traditional wicker basket along with our wine and a couple of rugs. We set off up the hill through the vines to sit on the grass underneath a big old pohutukawa just coming into bloom. Tui were busy with the red flowers, the sea in Putiki Bay below was turquoise, all around were neat rows of vines, the picnic (vegetarian - salads, cheeses, crunchy bread, chocolate balls) was just lovely, and the only bad thing about it all was that it was hard to find somewhere secure to plonk our glasses on the sloping grass, and my glass tipped over once and I'm still regretting the loss of that crisp, sparkling rosĂ©. 
Afterwards, we wound our way slowly back towards Oneroa around the bays, on tracks sometimes, along quiet suburban roads, past lovely houses, the marae, an old shipwreck, a bit of beach where dotterels are nesting, and met other cyclists and walkers, all of them in the same good mood that we were. We explored roads I'd never been down before, with spectacular views over the Gulf to the  city and other islands, the sea sparkled, the boats bobbed, the sun roasted us a bit, and we took brief shelter from it at Cable Bay vineyard for another glass before - pretty reluctantly, I can tell you - heading back to surrender the bikes.
It was a perfect way to spend a day on Waiheke and I feel very satisfied that I now know the island better than I did before. Why, it was so pleasant, I think even an off-islander might enjoy it!

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