With it being my most favourite time of year, I am getting out to embrace the gentle warmth of the autumn sun as much as possible. And if I cannot be out in it, I am chasing it on the verandah as I write. Mornings are at the table. Afternoons are around the corner on the lounge. In summer it is in reverse, as I move to avoid the extreme heat.
It is also a glorious time of year for exercise. Having noticed a dirt track in a national park recently, we decided to check it out last week. So with push bikes in the back of the van, we drove to the start of the track, unloaded, and rode on.
Despite it being thirty kilometres of a bumpy, dirt track, and despite us both mentioning our backsides were getting sore after about three kilometres, we rode on. It wasn’t until we were so far into the bushland that we truly gauged just how far we would have to ride back too.
The scenery however was amazing and enticed us on. We stopped once for a mandarin break. They are in season here and absolutely divine at the moment. As the autumn breeze blew gently through my long hair, I rode on, marvelling at the natural beauty around me (whilst of course, trying to ignore my increasingly aching buttocks).
The Angophora tree is a new discovery to my world, one that I had only started noticing about two years ago. They have not been so prominent in other places I’ve lived. Trying to install their name permanently into my memory, when I first saw them, I was looking for words to associate with the name. A wise man suggested Anne, Go For It. Angophora, Angoforit! Perfect…except that I couldn’t initially remember his suggestion so was trying to remember the name from Anna Got It! Anyway, I eventually did get it. Angophora, Bronnie (not Anna) got it!
I love their gnarly branches that wobble higher and higher, and the reddish brown, smooth bark. Some of them grow to enormous heights and they were dotted throughout the bushland we cycled through.
As the ride wore on, the bushland cleared more to coastal heath and the full autumn sun warmed our, perhaps by now, somewhat red and puffed (but joyous) faces. The roar of the ocean could be heard over the distant hill. But we headed inland, following the track, deciding that as we had come this far, we would see it through until the end.
Every bump became torture on our bums. Our weary legs starting to protest, beyond the point of us being able to ignore them. Yet pedal on we did. Then suddenly the track ended. And before us stood the most beautiful lake, crystal clear, and lined with paperbark trees (another of my favourite trees).
Not only was there not another human in sight, there was not even sign of human life. All sides of the lake were national park, and covered in bushland, without even a house to be seen. (You can glimpse the bushland in the distance of the photo). It was the most magnificent setting. And our hearts rejoiced that the pain had been worth it.
Native berries hung from bushes. A small black snake went about its day. Water lapped oh-so-gently on the pristine white sand, and the autumn sunshine continued its gift of nurturing warmth.
As we sat and ate lunch, we spoke of how abundant the area was in natural foods and felt reverence for past people who would have once called this bushland home. Those tribes have long gone, wiped out centuries ago by white settlement and the direct or indirect consequences of that. Yet it was not difficult to feel their presence and to be able to imagine the rich life they would have lived in the area for thousands of years.
But like anything, all things pass, and we had to head back. The days are getting shorter and we had a long ride ahead. It had been worth it, we decided as we very reluctantly took one last look at this piece of paradise.
The rest had been beautiful, but our bodies now resisted the renewed effort. So we covered the whole distance equally on the pushies as we did on foot. We both ended up so raw and sore, that in the end we decided that even level stretches of the track were to be walked, as level stretches still meant you had to pedal! For the last eight or nine kilometres though, we were back in amongst the Anne Go For Its and the hills were pretty consistent.
So we would push our bikes up, walking and talking, still enjoying the journey immensely. Then we’d hop on the pushies and fly down the hills at full speed. It was beautiful and so freeing. Then the moment our legs felt the slightest bit of effort or our bums felt raw on the seat, we’d hop off and walk the next hill, then ride down the next, and so on, for kilometre after kilometre. Amazingly, the trip back took almost the exact time as the trip there.
(A pair of black cockatoos have just flown over, calling to me as they went by, flying high in the perfect blue, autumn sky).
It’s interesting (I guess that’s the word I’ll use to not beat myself up), how quickly fitness can pass. I remember years ago, being able to ride up one heck of a hill several times a day and thinking nothing of it. But my bike riding muscles have definitely been out of practice lately.
Loading the bikes back into the van, we were weary but exhilarated, as one can be after accomplishment and exertion. We decided that we would definitely go back to visit that special place. It was such a magical discovery. But laughing and at the same time, we both said “But next time we’ll hire a boat!”
I hope there are beautiful places to discover within access of your own areas too. It is such a beautiful planet we live on. We truly are so blessed. And if you haven’t been on a push bike for years, do yourself a favour and feel the wind in your hair again. But when your backside and legs are aching like crazy at the end of the day, don’t you dare blame me!
Happy autumn to you, friends.