The festive season is here and there isn’t a hint of snow in New Zealand… The month of December is when the summer sun arrives to warm up this country and a bright red colour begins to adorn the coastline. The native Pohutakawa trees come into bloom – their vibrant red flowers contrast beautifully against the back drop of the restless ocean and vast blue skies.
These crimson flowers twinkle like an array of Xmas tinsel easily attracting insects and birds. They only seem to decorate the Pohutakawa tree around Christmas time, hence we New Zealander’s have adopted them as our native christmas tree.
I wanted to go in search of these fabulous trees beginning to burst out in bloom and my bicycle was eager to go on the hunt. Beginning at the busy Auckland viaduct I pedalled along the waterfront following a bike path that would take me all the way along the coast to Ladies Bay.
I weaved through tourists and locals leisurely enjoying the sudden arrival of summer. The Victorian architecture of the Ferry building glowed in the sunshine looking historic and important. I rode parallel beside another historic relic – the red wrought iron fence decorated with its grand lamps.
The bike path continued past many work buildings, multi-leveled apartments and Auckland city’s oversized container port. Ship containers lay everywhere and most were piled high like lego blocks pieced together to make huge towers. Giving way to a number of noisy trucks coming and going from the port was certainly necessary!
The bike path continued to follow beside a speedy traffic filled road. Vehicles, vehicles and more vehicles…. New Zealander’s are very dependant on their cars. The path then curved as if opening a door and instantly the chaos of the city became invisible.
Instantly I had the radiant ocean on one side and row upon row of branch twisting Pohutakawa trees on the other. They hugged the coast line for a few kilometres and their beloved bright red flowers had begun to show their colourful faces.
Rangitoto island sat in the harbour like a sleeping giant following my route from a distance. The inviting ocean was full of bobbing boats and had become a playground for a class of children all learning how to canoe. Their laughing and giggling floated magically to the shoreline. Okahu bay greeted me with only a couple of people lounging under the shade of the trees.
With a slight breeze cooling my skin I pedalled past the Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium with its fabulous shark bus parked outside its doors. I dismounted my bike to walk along a skinny wharf enjoying the sail boats racing in the breeze and a backdrop of the Auckland city skyline.
Back on my bicycle I cruised into Mission bay. Pohutakawa trees and their flowers were dotted everywhere on my arrival. Mission bay is a busy place with a golden sand beach, a lush green park and plenty of places to eat. It is frequented my many. I slowed my pace as I now shared the path with a handful of walkers and runners exercising in the fresh air.
The next few bays – Kohimarama and St Heliers were very close to each other and I find myself admiring the elegant homes and scenic views that they enjoy daily. The locals are out under the protection of their sun hats eating ice creams and splashing about in the small waves.
In St Heliers the bike trail comes to an end but I continue cycling up the hill to Ladies bay. It is the only climb on this ride and I have to admit – I loved it!!
At the top of the hill Pohutakawa flowers are sprouting like bouquets. They are endless. At the top I stopped at the viewing platform which overlooks the gulf harbour. The scene is one of a true New Zealand christmas – Sunshine, blue skies and thousands of twinkling Pohutakawa flowers!