Cycling in Sydney Australia
He's an architect, but not the architect.
Climate change is yesterday's news, yesterday's easily escapable truth, yesterday's easily escapable future but now sadly, today's inescapable reality.
Today being Sydney's hottest day. Ever.
The people on Sydney Cyclist discuss the Heat and debate whether they should ride home or take the (air-conditioned) train home or wait in their (air-conditioned) office until it cools down. One person says that he will fill up a second water bottle. An inkling of an idea there. But is it for him? Or someone else? Or something else.
It's 3pm and time to swap the office desk for the desk at home. The architect says, "You're not going ride in this, are you?" I pause to think of a suitable response. Used to my tardy response time, he continues anyway, "You are aren't you". I manage "Well I wouldn't want to miss my hottest ever bike ride." And then the encouragement comes to take lots of pictures.
Outside it was hot. And quiet. Most of the motorists, cyclists, pedestrians were still lingering in their air-conditioned offices and shops.
I have a full water bottle. I filled it at lunch time, as soon as I thought of it, rather than risk forgetting to do it on the way out past the kitchenette. I also ignored my colleague's helpful suggestion to place it in the fridge lest I forget it.
In Artarmon Reserve I hear a rustle in the bushes. A bit louder than what you would expect for a lizard. I backtrack. I take some pictures. A brush turkey, as nonchalant as ever. It walks through the bush alongside the path, then crosses the path and disappears into the bush on the east side.
I continue but not far. Under the freeway I spy a bird on a pile of rocks. At first I think it might be kookaburra. But it’s not. It is a magpie resting with eerie stillness on the man-made Martian landscape. Three metres above people race past in their air-conditioned glass and black metal boxes, fearful that they should have a breakdown and be forced to confront the world outside.
I ride on, turning left to enter the tunnel under Willoughby Rd. There are birds in the tunnel behaving strangely. I stop. There is a row of myna birds on the railing which separates the expanded metal path from the culvert which shares the tunnel. They are silhouetted against the tunnel exit. More pictures. I think they are noisy mynas. I ride on unavoidably shooing them out of the humid - relative coolness of the tunnel to make way for less aggressive refugees.
Through Flat Rock Reserve. No birds. No walkers. No other riders. And then as I come around the bend before the steel culvert decorated with Aboriginal art, there is a bird on the other side of the path. I stop some distance away, in case it should fly away before I get my pictures. I haven't seen one those before. Medium height, long thin legs. Pictures. It hardly moves.
I go a little closer, a lot closer, but still it barely moves. It doesn't seem all that well. As an experiment, I squirt some water on the path below my bike, now only a metre from the bird. I roll the bike a little further on. And wait.
After a while the bird steps over to the fast disappearing puddle and into it and pecks at it. How do you drink through a beak?
A longer lasting solution seems to be in order. I remove my empty plastic lunch container, still dirty, from my pannier and rinse the lid with some precious water. I fill it and place it on the path where the bird was originally standing hoping that it will be comfortable returning to the same spot. I retreat and wait. Nothing for a while and then the bird steps over towards the lid, but turns back to stand again on the little puddle.
Is the bird scared of the lid, or just not realizing that this bizarre object contains water? I return to the lid and squirt some water on the path right beside the lid and retreat again. And wait.
The bird steps toward the new puddle and sips the water, and then it sips the water in the lid. Success. I think if I was a bird and dry and thirsty, I could smell the sweet smell of water spilt on hot concrete. The bird alternates between sipping the water and watching me.
After I while I ride on. At home thankfully the windows and doors have been kept closed and it is still only 26°C. I work for a while.
On facebook Fiona has shared a post from Sydney Wildlife, based at Lindfield, not far from my air-conditioned office, asking for people to place water outside for the animals. Very-satisfied feeling. I post a picture of the bird and the lid. Some kind people notice it amongst the puppies and kittens and respond. I check the SMH. Photos of people getting wet. No mention of the animals. Seems like being skinny, and not afraid of lycra, and being able to ride a bike gives one a bit of leeway in these extreme heat events. Some leeway to help the animals. Next time perhaps I'll be a little more prepared, more containers and clean containers. A rider of the apocalypse.