Today dawned very chilly but with a clear blue sky – Autumn is definitely on its way! Too good a day to spend in the house so after replyng to a couple of e-mails and catching up on some chores I decided to head out on my bike. The Hamilton Balloon festival started this morning at 6.30am – too early for us to get up and look but I thought I would go round to Hamilton Lake to check out what was going on this afternoon and to do a bit of a recce for going out there all together later in the week. Armed with a map, some emergency supplies of fruit, snack bars and a water bottle I set off. Once I was away from the noise and fumes of the main road, the ride through Hamilton Gardens and then along the river was lovely. Just the heat iof the sun on my back, the sound of the cicada (still singing!) and the smells of the flowers. The path along the river is a “share with care” track for pedestrians and cyclists and you would hardly know that you were in the middle of a city. I went through the Memorial Park with its Spitfire and anchor as well as the cenotaph. When the park was created after the First World War there was a tree planted for every soldier from Hamilton who had been killed and each tree had a plaque with the soldier’s name on it. Later on when the trees needed to be thinned the plaques were taken away but the names of the soldiers were put on a wall of remembrance where, by this time, the names of the fallen from WW2 were also placed. A little further on there is a children’s park with a paddling pool and an aviary with budgerigars and other colourful birds on display. All this only a stone’s throw from the city centre though you wouldn’t believe it. I love exploring places for the first time – using the map as a bit of a guide , my nose and a reasonable sense of direction I usually find my way. I suppose I could make it a more exact science by following the map more closely, but it’s much more fun my way! To get to Hamilton Lake I needed to cross the river and go through the city centre – all fairly straightforward, and the great thing about Hamilton is that all sorts of little things are signposted if you keep your eyes open. So I found some little pathways which link the main roads and save a lot of leg work! Approaching the lake is a bit like when you are driving towards the sea – as children when we drove over to the East Coast (England) we always used to have a competition for who saw the sea first. As you get closer to the sea the sky seems to get brighter and you get an impression of space and light until, suddenly, there is the blue/grey of the sea on the horizon. Then we would all sing ” I can see the sea-ea, I can see the sea-ea!”.
Even without the map and the signposts I knew that I was getting to the lake when I got that feeling of openness and space, and sure enough, there it was around the corner. There is a footpath all the way round the lake and as soon as you approach the lake you spot the ducks waddling around, then I saw the Pukekos poking around in the edge of the lake. I have a bit of a soft spot for the Pukekos – I love the dark blue contrasted with the red and black and the way they walk with their heads bobbing back and forth. Realised then that I had forgotten to bring my camera but then remembered that I had my phone – not a great quality camera but enough to record the day. I cycled round to the boat sheds and then on to the boardwalk where I dismounted as cycling is prohibited. The boardwalk goes out slightly into the lake so you are in amongst the plants and birds and quite apart from the city. I found a little spot where a fallen down tree straddled the boardwalk and decided it was time for my emergency rations! I spent a very peaceful half hour there just watching the birds and reading my book. The sun glistened over the lake and the ducks fought for supremacy in the water as the shags hung their wings out to dry on the branches of the dead trees. A trio of nosey moorhens swam up to me but scurried away when they realised there was no food! It’s interesting watching the other users of the path too. I’m sure they found it strange that i was sitting on a tree watching the world go by but I was amazed at the number of pairs and threesomes of women walking round. It seems to be a big thing here in NZ – there are lots of walking tracks and women especially use them to march round – they don’t go for a leisurely stroll, they really stride out gossiping as they go! I guess its a good way of keeping fit and far more sociable than running, (much better for the knees and back too). All too soon, however, I had to leave my little idyll – I wasn’t too sure how long it was going to take me to find my way back to pick Aonghas up from school. Headed back via Hamilton Gardens and realised I had enough time for a coffee in the cafe – another chance to sit in the peace and quiet to soak up the sun and watch the world go by. I must do this more often! I feel quite chilled now!