“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
― Ferris Bueller
Why would anyone take on a 2300km ride across Southern Africa on a bicycle with only a map and a compass to guide them? Why would anyone want to ride for more than 12 hours a day for 2 weeks or more. Why would a person want to carry their bike up a Maluti mountain, Western Cape Kloof or through 11 cactus filled river crossings? These are questions that are difficult to answer.
Perhaps folks enjoy the adventure. Adventure is guaranteed after all. There arent many opportunities in the modern world to amble through the bush, 100s of kms from civilization, climbing 3m high fences with a bike and backpack strapped on. Potentially being chased by Buffalo and spending unexpected nights sleeping in fields.
Perhaps people like the challenge and after ticking off the usual multi day bike events are keen on testing themselves over a longer distance with more challenging terrain. The fitness required and process to get oneself there may be other attractions.
Seeing and being immersed in parts of the country one never dreamt of is also likely a driver for many. The draw of the landscapes and Flora and Fauna are certainly profound.
Perhaps its the people one meets along the way that bring people to the race. Spending time with fellow strangers who enjoy riding their bikes in challenging environments is certainly attractive. Meeting the hosts from all facets of South Africa whose stories are as varied as the countryside is likely to draw one in. Becoming part of the “Freedom family.”
Maybe its about exploring the limits of an athletes psychological and physical boundaries that are an attraction. No doubt one will have an opportunity during the race to find these and often exceed them. Hopefully one can surprise oneself. Becoming comfortable with discomfort and pushing the boundaries of personal fears and phobias all fall into this.
Whatever the reason, the motivation to head on down the freedom trail is a deeply personal one.
What is interesting is that so many folks who have done the Freedom trail, or parts of it, return year after year. Many after swearing they would never take it on again. This would suggest that there is something more driving them.
The internal journey on the Freedom trail is profound. After one has left the “plugged in” distractions of modern life behind, after a few days one cannot help but start to appreciate the world around you through a different lens.
Somewhere along the trail, things will become challenging, both physically and mentally and this has a way of stripping what is left of the modern world away from ones psyche. At that point life becomes simple and one is rewarded with finding the “flow” of the trail. Nothing else matters other than the environment, keeping oneself safe and moving down the trail.
For many this is a spiritual experience.
For many,this deeply personal nature of the challenge, the length and difficulty of the event, as well as the periods of solitude means that there is time for self reflection. The challenge will push us to our limits and deepen these thoughts.
For the lucky few, we find ourselves somewhere on the road to Diemersfontein. Maybe thats what draws us back…