Through lack of choice I’m a believer in fate. I’m a planner, rarely doing anything spontaneous (I know, boring) but sometimes the grubby hand of fate grasps hold of my feeble plans and squeezes the life from them even as I stand, a la Romeo, screaming and cursing at its machinations. This was particularly apparent in the year or so leading up to our migration, when fate gripped us so often it must have suffered cramped fingers. At least I hope it did.

We were recipients of, for us, an unusual twist of fate last month, the serendipitous kind. Having thought to ride the Hauraki Rail Trail in the same way we did the Otago version a couple of years ago, we decided against it and instead booked a few nights in a couple of places along the route. Then Covid arrived at our door. Four weeks after my positive, when we were due to leave, I still hadn’t even lifted a leg over the bike, let alone ridden it. I’d just managed a flight of stairs without having to pause halfway up. Had we signed up to ride five days straight, up to forty km per day, we’d have been staring a cancellation fee dead in the eyes.

As we packed the car and drove away a depression of the meteorological variety parked itself over New Zealand, settled in with a few cans of craft beer and some fine wine, and refused to budge. We drove north through sharp showers with raindrops so large they hit the windscreen with the sound of hail and exploded onto it in spiked circles 10cm wide. If we’d been on the way to a multi-day ride I’d have, as they say in these parts, packed a serious sad.

The forecast was for heavy rain for the following week, not just where we were but for the whole of the country. Thankfully Metservice, the organisation responsible for weather forecasting on these islands, have a great little online tool called Rain Radar. I gave it a serious workout, pinpointing our location on the map and watching ranks of large blue blobs move towards it, calculating how long it would take to reach us and weather (deliberate spelling, pun intended) we could get out for a ride or walk without the risk of drowning.

‘Right, I think we’ve got three hours,’ I’d say, and we’d grab rucksacks packed with rain gear and hotfoot (or wheel) it onto the trail. A couple of times light showers caught us, advance parties for the downpours that arrived within minutes of our returning to the cabin we were staying in. Drinking tea, we’d congratulate ourselves on our timing, watching from the deck as the deluge flattened the garden, obliterating small plants and turning the lawn into a swimming pool. The rain appeared from nowhere and in literal seconds was a wall of water that would have made it impossible to see our way if cycling. One day Neil went to the car for something and got trapped for ten minutes waiting for the torrent to ease and cursing that he hadn’t thought to spray cleaning fluid over the car so the rain could clean it.

It was the sort of rain that turns small streams into raging floods and trickles of falling water into glorious white waterfalls; the sort that rips riverbanks away and tears deep gouges into paths and tracks, creating all sorts of hazards for walkers and cyclists who aren’t paying attention. It was the sort of rain that is fascinating to watch from under cover whilst being glad you aren’t out in it. It was the sort of rain that makes you glad you hadn’t booked a local operator to transfer your luggage to your next destination, leaving you no option but to follow it.

Although we spent a lot more time inside than we usually do on holiday, we were lucky. We managed to do something every day and got totally soaked only once. Mind you, it was total, our shorts wet through within minutes, clinging to our legs and sharing the water with our underwear. At least it wasn’t cold. Well, not during the day anyway – I could have done with a big woolly in the evenings when we had to light the fire against the chill.

Serendipity? Good luck? Fate working in our favour (for a change)? I’ll let you decide. Whatever it was, I was damn well happy about it.

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