The Tales of
The beginning of my quad-biking career.
Looking at waterfalls from the zip-line.
July 8, 2006
Today brought out a new side in me. The adventurous side…
We started our day early this morning from Swellingham en route to Knysna (pronounced ‘nice-nuh’). The drive was beautiful
as we watched the morning fog lift from the landscape. Approximately three hours later, we arrived at our destination. We
even got to experience the Knysna Oyster Festival. Okay…’experience’ is a strong word. We saw a ceremony complete with a
brigade of sea cadets…but we never quite saw any oysters. Minor details.
But now it was time for the real reason we were in Knysna…to carry out the activities we had booked for the day.
Stop #1: Knysna Lagoon
Angela and I buddied up to canoe across the lagoon. Funny how the other side can look so close yet feel so far (once you’re
trying to get to it by oaring over). We decided since there is a team building element that comes along with this day, we would
do our part for the team and make them all feel better about themselves and their athletic abilities by coming in last of the four
canoes. What can we say…we are just selfless like that.
Stop #2: Up the mountain
We ended up doing the quad-bikes next. We all put our bandanas on over our nose and mouths (feeling a bit like bandits),
followed by our helmets and then our glasses/goggles. We each got our quick fifteen second tutorial on how to ride these things
and now all I had to do was remember the following:
- Put in neutral.
- Push start button and rev the engine to get it going.
- Shift gear from neutral to forward.
- Don’t forget about the brake handles (while this sounds obvious, it was easy for me to forget about the brakes during
- If car stops, repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 (this would prove to be the most important step for me).
I opted to go towards the end of the line knowing what my potential quad-bike capabilities might be. Sadly, this was the one
time when I was actually correct about something.
We could have been more than five minutes into the course before I crashed into a tree. While there are times that people
might say this and be entirely exaggerating (as they might have just made a bit of contact with a tree), this is not one of them.
I literally crashed right into a tree. This taught me my lesson of keeping my eyes on the road. On the dirt road, in this case. I
must have looked at something else for a split second and that was all the time it took for me to miss the semi-sharp turn. The
only reaction time I had was used for noticing my inevitable collision with the tree and screaming “Oh, sh*t!” There was
nowhere I could go and nothing I could do. Erika (our Garden Route guide) was luckily the last one in our line of quad-bikers.
She came to the rescue as I would have literally been stuck there. Especially because I zoned out when Ricky (our quad-bike
guide) talked about Step #5. I know this all sounds so obvious but it really wasn’t. Since Ricky was the person who did Steps 1,
2 and 3 for me in the beginning, I technically never did them nor thought there would be a need for me to do them once we had
started riding. I could not have been more wrong. Since Ricky was long gone in the front of the pack, Erika proved to be
invaluable as I would have had no idea how to separate my bike from the tree. I came away unscratched with only a stiff/sore
pinky. My bike was not as lucky as it now sported a nice big dent smack in the front of it. Oops.
It was now time to get back on course…
It sure was quite a ride…maneuvering our bikes around the curves and through the rocks in the middle of the ‘road’. In
addition, there were also a number of overhead branches to avoid – even for someone as short as myself. This entire course
almost felt like one big roller coaster ride that we had to control. Okay, not the most scary roller coaster…but definitely a ride
at an amusement park. We went up rather big hills. We looped around curve after curve after curve going downhill. The main
problem for me was that my bike was acting a bit temperamental. Maybe it was betting back at me for bashing it into a tree.
In any case, it must have stalled at least eight times on the course. For example, one time I was on a curve and it just stopped
mid-turn. I had to coast the rest of the way down…all while trying to alert Sean (who was directly behind me) so he wouldn’t
smash into the back of my bike. He was now well-aware of my biking capabilities and always left a safe distance in between
both of us (smart guy). After a challenging finish to the course, our ride had concluded. Now it was the time for the activity that
we were really pumped up for.
Stop #3: Area for abseiling (i.e. repelling)
We got to the chain that separated the abseilers from the non-abseilers. We crossed that chain. Fear set into some while I
remained surprisingly calm. I knew that the panic just had yet to set in. Ricky (who was also our abseiling guide) had already
adorned us in the straps that went between our legs after we got out of our canoes but now it was time to get the tutorial. This
time I was going to pay full attention. By the time he was done, I was well aware of what I needed to do. Yet I was not going to
be volunteering to go first…that was for sure. We went to the viewing deck while Erika started it off. While it looked insane, I
still didn’t experience any nerves. I went fourth out of the six of us who were doing this. I got prepared and put my gear on. All
of a sudden people are looking at me and started laughing. They started asking if I 'meant to do that'. I had no idea what they
were talking about. Of course I meant to put my helmet on. What is so odd about that? Finally Angela chimed in and notified
me that my helmet was on backwards. I swore that the clear plastic part should go on my forehead. Apparently I was wrong.
This is supposed to be where the back of my head is. They insisted on taking a picture before I put it on in the way that it is
meant to be worn. How was I supposed to know? I am only an adventure rookie. Soon my rookie-self would be heading toward
the cliff. When it was my turn to repel, I knew that I could go about this one of two ways.
Way #1: Get nervous. Delay for about fifteen minutes while telling myself that I could do it. Eventually end up doing it.
Way #2: Just do it and not waste the fifteen minutes of worrying about it.
It’s easy to want to opt for the latter but there is no way of being able to predict what your body and mind are going to choose.
It was amazing that even as I was on the edge of the cliff, I still did not even have so much as a butterfly in my stomach.
I stepped over the rope and was now at the edge of the 70-meter (about 210 foot) cliff. I kept my legs straight and leaned back
while feeding a bit of the rope through. And within seconds, I was on the cliff and on my way down. There was nothing scary
about it to me—not even when I saw the crashing waves far below. I had so much fun and was actually laughing most of the
way down. It wasn’t until it was all over that I had adrenalin pumping.
The sun was close to setting and we had to canoe back across the lagoon before the sky had lost all of its light. Team Angela and
Jen had other things on our minds while we were in the middle of the lagoon other than getting to the other side before it was
pitch black. There was literally was of the most spectacular sunsets I had ever seen in my life at that moment. The sky was a
bright pink and the color reflected in the water. I could not shut up about how beautiful it was. I finally had to pay attention to
the task at hand…and after working some arm muscles, we oared to the beach. I was still in amazement at the scenery I was
seeing. I announced to everybody that I now have all intentions of buying a second home (as if I even have a ‘first home’…but
that’s beside the point) on the water in Leisure Island in Knysna so that I can watch a pretty sunset every night. Thinking I
have become much more simple in my ways, I quickly proved myself wrong. I was going to say that I would even be okay with
having my second home in one of the complexes in Leisure Island and that it didn’t necessarily have to be on the water. What
was I thinking? How could I drink wine on my terrace while watching the sunset on the lagoon if my house wasn’t on the
lagoon? Silly me.
July 9, 2006
Today we ended our day by heading out to Tsitsisikamma National Park just outside of Stormsriver Village. One of our last
activities before starting our volunteer work was going on a zip-line canopy tour. I knew this was going to be nothing but fun.
So many people have done this in Costa Rica and come back with nothing but good reports. It wasn’t only fun…it was also
beautiful. We did about eight different zip-lines that took us over three different waterfalls and other great scenery.
For the most part, things are going to be pretty tame and mellow from this point on. I am, however, more excited to check out
crazy things to do in Victoria Falls. I think the thing that I am hoping they have is hang-gliding. Slightly crazy…but I think it
would be awesome. I would feel like Superman. Make that ‘Superjen’ flying over Zambia. I already like the sound of that…
I'm abseiling down the cliff.