Sunday, September 26, 2010
I spent the last few days with a group of like-minded riders touring a section of a new route along the eastern escarpment. They all started at the beginning up in Haenertsberg (near Tzaneen) but I only joined up with them in Kaapsehoop and rode the last 2 days through to Bulembu in Swaziland. I'd scouted this section of the route for them as it's close to where I live. The riding was varied, with sections through open grasslands, through forests and along wetlands. (We even had some tar right at the end to get to the Josefsdal border post.) There were 2 back-up vehicles for medical support, to carry our baggage and meet us along the way for lunch and refreshments. The trip was the first recce of a proposed new route and there will most likely be tweaks to the route for the future, all in the name of improving the riding. (For more info on the route and the rest of the trip, check out Fiona's site here )
The main thing about this trip was that it was a tour and not a race. Of all the stats that were being recorded like distance, altitude, ascent and descent, time was shifted to the back of the queue - taking time out seems to have made the biggest difference - the lack of a clock ticking meant no pressure to get to the end as soon as possible. There was also no marked route to follow and getting there took a combination of map reading and following GPS tracks. The riders often stuck together to figure out the navigation. Snack breaks or picnic lunches were savoured, not rushed through in order to keep racing along. We also tended to be more observant of our surroundings and the terrain we were riding through, stopping to take photos of the incredible views or when animals, birds or interesting trees were spotted along the way. At the end of the day everyone shared the day's experiences over dinner and the comeraderie built up as the tour went on. By the time we got to Swaziland, it seemed no-one wanted to go home and everyone was already talking about when the next time would be.
Touring is the patient approach to riding, where the journey is more important than the destination. It may require a slightly different mindset or a more relaxed attitude but it's something everyone should try because it's a whole new way to have fun on your bike.