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Cycling Highway 38

Robert Stratford


For Kate Robins
When I first started cycling places for days at a time, my Dad,
who knew enough of my romantic ways, smiled smugly, dryly, proudly to me
and said: ‘it won’t broaden your mind,
but it will broaden your arse.’ I think about those words
heading up Rāwhiti Road, following the forestry trucks, before my
down-hill to Murupara’s four
or five generations of something still to be found.
I can’t help thinking that the mad woman at the café is wrong
about those babies, and that there is
a happy ending. On my way out I watch the kids dancing at the kura
then ride off towards the unknown at Te Whaiti – one big metaphor of life –
leaving behind insecure success
and moving to an uncertain future. The road’s now sealed to
the Minginui turn-off and there are apples and blackberries growing by
the river at Garry’s place, venison
and potatoes for tea, they fire us into the March mist
next morning as a kid yells out ‘he makariri waewae’
‘ae, he makariri ringaringa hoki’ I grin back, as we burn off
the cloud towards Ruatahuna, and a Princess at the shop selling only
cooking oil and jam ‘til the truck comes in – maybe next week ­–
she’s worried the Germans will follow me, a chainsaw gang or two,
stop her speaking Tūhoe with her grandad, because everything is fine
like this – ‘it’s all I’ve known’ she says – so we leave without our lunch, up
Taupeupe Saddle, gravel-hungry
climbing and climbing, breaking wheels around the metal lake road,
and I imagine flying off Panekiri Bluff, flying home –
thinking about your next adventure and
where you’ll find home. I think about my Dad, then imagine
me and you as lost travellers or soldiers, from an unknown war
nobody wants to talk about.


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