When we were kids in Auckland, we got the keys to the city on the day we got bikes.
Our home range of a couple of blocks became anywhere we could reasonably get back from by dark. The entire city and beyond became fair game, and some of our all-day expeditions took us to places far away from our neighbourhoods and into all sorts of adventures.
I mused on that when I popped out of a trail a few weeks ago and met up with a small band of youngsters on their mountain bikes.
They were very interested in the bike I was on, so we had a quick discussion about that and I got a chance to take in some details. There were four of them, all on basic but well set-up little mountain bikes. My guess would put them at about eleven or twelve years old, about the same age as we were when we were out exploring Auckland.
They were excitable, and obviously very happy to be out in the woods on a spring evening, with a good half hour of light in front of them and a selection of trails they could drop to get home by dinner.
I wonder if they realise how incredibly lucky they are to be in that situation.
They are fortunate to be in a household that can offer them a bit of gear to use, and that their carers have faith that besides the obvious risks to life and limb the forest is a safe place to go and play.
Like pretty much anywhere, our little town definitely has its challenges. But for a posse of kids to be able to go off the leash into hundreds of kilometres of trails, unsupervised, must be one of its shining glories.
And I am proud to admit that this freedom to go and play in the trees doesn’t get old when the rider does.