Do you know that stretch of East Coast Park where, once you've entered it, the rest of the world seems to slip away behind you in an instant and you find yourself in a place that is at once wondrous and surreal?
Large tracts of lush green grass flank the bike path. Sea almonds with buttress roots stand in majestic elegance, their large leaves playing with shafts of warm sunlight. To the right, the grassland gives way to a narrow beach of soft, white sand, that spills into the sea, which on a good day like today bears a milky green hue mirroring the skies in a dulcet turquoise garb. Even the ships that are usually docked so as to block out the horizon seem to maintain a deferential distance from the shores here.
The bike path unfolds in gentle curves, its route defined by the trees. But a few minutes into the ride, the path usually veers to the left, trailing away from the beach. On a bad day, when the skies don the grey colour of a mourning widow, and tumultuous seawaves, foaming with fury, hurl themselves on the beach as if in grief of bereavement, the path quickly curves away and leads you to the safety of your home.
But on a good day like today, the trail meanders gently like a lullaby and the landscape around you transforms itself as if you were slipping into a dream. The tame grassland gives way to a thick forest. The bike trail shrinks as tall trees demand to close in on you from both sides. Leaves on the low-hanging branches kiss your cheeks; it is their way of capturing your scent and leaving their mark on you, that is how they remember you on your next visit. The crisp, salty breeze of the seaside is replaced with cool, sweet-scented air, freshly churned out by the wilderness. You hear the gentle rise and fall of waves on the shore, but it is a distant music drowned by the urgent calls of wild birds and the persistent trills of crickets and katydids.
When the path has had its fill of the forest, it plunges down into a shallow pool of muddy water. As you splash through the puddle, you emerge on to the end of a pier overlooking waters bluer and greener than you have ever known. You skid to a halt, pausing for breath, overwhelmed by the infinite expanse of water and skies.
When you resume, the path leads you along the pier, away from the waters, and onto a narrow bridge of concrete slabs that go all clickety-clack when you cycle over them, with the soothing rhythm of train wheels running over the joints of rail tracks.
On the other side of the bridge, you exit on to reality. First, you hit a pavement cruising along a mostly deserted road that converges with a larger road a little ahead. You pause at the traffic light. Trucks and cars race past, drenching you in a cloud of dust. The light turns red, and you cross over to the other side.
More bridges, more roads, and soon you are cycling on the edges of the city. Straight asphalt roads, straighter than a crow can fly, no twists, no turns, no surprises here. When the time is right, you get off the road and push your bike over to the pavement. And then you wait, looking intently across the road.
The aircrafts are lined up, each patiently biding its time. The one at the head of the line drifts noiselessly into position. The pilot revs up the engines. Then like a bull at the gate, the aircraft charges straight ahead with a mighty roar. Before you know it, it leaps into the skies, flying farther and faster until it disappears from your view.
You return home the way you came, only it's faster this time. Every time.