This is a story of one of my days cycling nearly 800km over a week. This day was one that was very taxing but yet rewarding in the end.
My third day’s goal was to get from Knysna to Hartenbos. The most direct route would be about 100km via the highway. However, it was not that close.
I started the morning rather fresh from a good nights sleep as well as a somewhat ‘relaxed’ trip from the day before. I was delighted to find that most of the pain in my legs were gone! After getting breakfast from the nearest petrol station I started heading out of town. It didn’t take long before my sleeping bag and tent came loose and fell off my bicycle completely. It was at that moment I realised my strapping technique lasted a whole 2 days and 5 minutes before becoming a problem. Not bad I thought! In that moment I also had a sense it may be an omen for the things to come.
After leaving Knysna I was greeted with a lovely uphill that lasted me close to 30 minutes if I remember correctly. Fortunately I was still half asleep so I didn’t really feel much pain or exhaustion. I was feeling up for the challenge for whatever lied ahead. The light rain also helped me quite a bit to ignore any agony which I could have received.
In retrospect, planning and organising my trip could have gone a lot better. I left a few too many things left till it was almost too late or simply did not put in enough thought process or research into it. I felt the effect when coming close to my next challenge.
As a cyclist there aren’t many laws (that I’m aware of) besides keeping left of the vehicles and not cycling without a helmet etc. But one very important law is that one is not allowed on any freeway road on a bicycle. Easy to remember, in South Africa, freeways usually have 2 lanes for the converging traffic and two for the oncoming traffic, or more.
Now at certain times on the trip I had the urgency to ‘just wing it’ and when I came close to the freeway I had to make a decision. I can either take the freeway and probably get there quicker, but that would resolve in a lot of traffic in congested areas, or I could take the old road and see beautiful scenery without the interference of too many vehicles but then take nearly 3 hours extra to complete.
At first I was unsure, but while calling my dad I realised there was only one option. I had to take the long road, sparing my life rather than my legs. If you ever get into a situation in which your day is almost turned upside down then I’m sure you can gather that I was not thrilled with my new plan. But I chose it and stuck to it.
Cycling through the old road I was a bit nervous because it was unfamiliar territory. It’s one thing to look on a map and see where to go, but another to actually try it. Either way an intimidating hill awaited me. After climbing up one hill it was just a matter of time before this one gave me a headache. The sharp sun enveloped me up until I reached the summit. Upon reaching the peak I was somewhat joyful to see a slope going downwards but nervous to see what came next. Fortunately I was greeted with luscious foliage and a road that twisted and turned. The slalom-styled road made it all very appealing.
I recorded most of the road on a Go-Pro knock-off and I was anxious to see what it would look like on camera. I was unpleasantly disappointed to see the footage looking completely bland and as if I was pushing a 5 year old down a road on his tricycle. All I can say is the road was beautiful and worth the detour.
The sad thing about exiting that road was realising I still had so much more to do. I was approximately 60% of the way there while still having to actually do a stretch through the freeway (which was not ideal but plan B was not at all enticing after my long stretch so far) and still needing to cover a good chunk of the day.
The next few hours were just grinding through the pain and motions, not thinking too much about anything other than just getting there.
When I was close to the end I had to be aware of where I was going and what turnoff to take (and what not to take). But I wasn’t. At that point I was nearly 12 hours into the cycle and ready for a nap. There were so many smaller towns in the surrounding area and yet I chose to take the turn way too early. I cycled passed a man that appeared to be walking home from work and about 15 minutes later realising I am not where I should be I turned around and went through the right place. I came back onto my route and low and behold, there was the man still walking home. I was overtaken by a man on foot! Words cannot describe the humiliation.
Seeing Hartenbos, my destination for the day was something special. I got to see my dad for the first time in a while which was special but to have that knowledge that I made it was something very special. It shifted my perception that I am capable of completing this journey. I thought to myself if I could go through all this pain and still have some energy left in the tank then something serious would have to stop me.
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. – T.S Elliot.
That theme has been the echo of my escapade and that day made that quote ring truer than any other day.
This was not only a lesson I learned for the trip, but a lesson I learned for life. One of the reasons for doing this was to apply my lessons in life afterwards. Now I look at obstacles with the thought I can do it, it is just a matter of when.