Monday, March 30, 2009

The View from an EPIC Bicycle [COLUMN + PICTURES]

Jealousy. And Envy. That's what I felt seeing the guys in action at this year's Cape Epic. It wasn't only the inspiring natural surrounds that stirred up these 'green' feelings, it was also the realisation that the event was probably beyond my budget, with the price tag to enter due to go up even further. Apparently next year's Epic will cost R25 000 for a team, and there is a long list of Europeans who cannot wait to throw that kind of money at the organisers.

It was while I was lying on the grass that a strange kind of resignation fell over me. I felt a very real sense that these people who had taken a week or two off, some who had travelled around the world for this extraordinary race (from places like Denmark, Switzerland, Croatia, Brazil and Germany) lived a particularly fulfilling life - willing to work hard, play hard. Intelligent people who appreciated nature and effort and the hard work and grease and dirt that life throws at you in pursuit of sheer adventure.

Appreciation - it's an important lesson. It's an easy lesson that comes over you, unsolicited, when you're in a pristine environment. It's difficult to rationalise when you're in a man made construct. When I flew back to Johannesburg after 9pm on Friday I was feeling irritable and had time to reflect on some of my bad behaviour over the past two days, including -

- snapping at a waiter who bought me all the toppings to a pizza I'd ordered but not the pizza itself [he got his own back on me, since I reeked of garlic for the whole day!]
- throwing my toys at the airport when, in a fugue of exhaustion, I was asked to show my boarding pass and as I opened my diary, the bottle in the same hand poured water out onto the floor. One lady nearby cackled, I tried to abandon the now empty bottle but was called back and frogmarched to a litter bin.
- in an attempt to photograph a cyclist who'd ridden Cycle4Kids last year [Vanderbijl - Durban] his mates started heckling me, asking me if I'd removed the lense cap, if I'd bought the camera that day etc. I thought of doing a David and Goliath manoeuvre, using my camera strap as the sling and smacking the guy in the face with the camera body, but instead just waved goodbye and left.

All of these impolite impasses are easily forgiven [well, by me anyway] when I consider to what extent I found myself standing in nature [whether a field of dew covered grass, or a forest floor strewn with pine needles, and whispering with the feathery voices of tall trees] and really awed by all this. It makes one realise how much time we waste in front of computers or surgically attached to our phones, when something as simple and stunning as The Outdoors can be so compelling, so therapeutic, so life enhancing.

So there I found myself, in the aircraft, two little brats mewling and kicking my seat and screetching, trying to appreciate this human construct. Well, think about it. To be able to sit in a chair, travelling at 850km/h in the sky, 10km above the Earth, and you can idly read through a magazine or chat to the person next to you about the house he is building next to that lake down there...or have someone serve you in a perfectly transparent container sparkling water [water with bubbles inside it] and a slice of lemon and a few chinkling ice cubes... It was difficult to appreciate this incredible privilege because one's thoughts are focused on those really inconsequential details that interfered with the journey. For example a slight delay because a few people turned up late.

Jeepers, you're getting home several hours, perhaps a dozen hours earlier than going any other way. That's a day of your life, saved.

I do find myself thinking though that while we will miss a great deal of the current choices; the veritable smorgasbord of choice we have on the menu, one thing we will have more than we do now is an attachment to nature. A closeness. We are all the poorer for it each day we spend in the city, our retinas flowing and flashing with the next TV film or commercial. Beyond the noise is a beautiful silence. Let me encourage you to find it at every conceivable opportunity. Each time you do you slip back into who you are, and the world begins to recognise you as a part of itself once more.

No comments: