I moved for single track.
Rika Olivier abandoned a thriving social, racing and professional life in the big city for the peace and quiet of self-sufficient single tracking on the garden route. Essentially, she is living our dream…
This could be titled ‘Leaving the Rat Race’. Except, I was never really in the rat race. Due to a combination of luck, rampant stubbornness and refusing to settle, I only briefly experienced the joys of working for others. Just long enough to teach me that formal employment is best avoided – for my sake as well as my employer’s. Anyhow, running a business with your life partner has troubles all of its own.
Leaving the city (any city) is inconceivable to some. When asked why, responses vary from lack good schools, medical facilities and culture. Well, the first two aside, be honest with yourself; when last did you visit the theatre? Or an art gallery.
The Country is somewhere you visit on holiday, while observing the quaint habits of the locals. And relaxing. Then straight back to the burbs, facing the daily grind and braving hours of traffic jams. And not relaxing, because the wheels of industry have to keep on turning. Often to the detriment of all involved, until feeling stressed and angry more often than not might begin to feel normal.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Being a cyclist is, of course, a tremendous aid to sanity. Wherever you live. But lots of people in one place mean lots of rules and on many public access trails, the dumbing down of trails for safety’s sake. And grumpy non-riders using the same trails. And litter. And opportunistic crime.
Because of the above and many other reasons, Al and I decided a good while ago to look for a little place of our own somewhere outside Cape Town. After scouring the property ads for almost two years and going to see numerous places from north of Clanwilliam, to the Koue Bokkeveld, Montagu and Ladismith, I realised that what we (well, I) thought we wanted and what we actually wanted is not the same thing.
What was lacking in all the amazing out in the boonies farms* was reliable, good riding. Snaking ribbons of singletrack entirely failed to span as far as the eye could see. Since our budget didn’t stretch to me acquiring a bobcat to remedy the situation, I changed the focus of my search. Singletrack was now top of the list. With Al’s requirement for relatively easy access back to the White Tablecloth also factored in – we still have a business to run there, you see. So. Singletrack. Close-ish to Cape Town. Garden Route Trail Park! Witfontein! Lots and lots of other good riding.
It was in fact my first visit to the Garden Route Trail Park last year in May that caused the search light to focus on the stretch between Mossel Bay and Plett. Witfontein in George is also an old favourite from all the DH races we used to have there. There are so many trails and connecting jeeptracks in the area, it is a real hidden gem.
Speaking of hidden gems, that is the exact description of the property we found. Or maybe diamond in the rough fits better. It helps having slightly unconventional tastes. A one-bedroom house and 180-square-metere shed on four scruffy hectares isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it happens to be our favourite brew. Add in a view, and location halfway between the Trail Park and George trails. Heaven on Earth.
There is life outside the city, hard as it may be to believe. I’m not talking Country Life picture-perfect with vegetable patches, soulful dogs and non-sticky toddlers. Real life with busted water pumps on occasion and wrestling paradise from the clutches of weeds and mole hills. And riding. Pod racer style**, dodging branches or flowing along on a ribbon of narrow singletrack directly above clear water, rocks if you’re in the mood, loam, pine needles. But what about the schools, you say. And the medical facilities. These, too, are plentiful. Not to mention, you’ll probably do junior more good than harm by getting him/her away from the concept of hanging out at the mall.
We’ve been here six months now and I don’t miss Cape Town at all. I do miss all my riding friends, but having great stuff up here means that there are almost always some of them up for a weekend or longer. I’ve also been making new friends and broadening my riding horizons – there is a group of largely retired riders from Wilderness I ride with some mornings. Mostly gravel grinding, but very enjoyable and good training for me. I was seriously schooled by a lady in pink on one particular ride. Not to mention the regular Monday Montagu Madness evening ride to the top of Montagu Pass. As for my brand of gravity fuelled hard -hitting trail riding, I’ve convinced a few local riders here to sample the dark side. And they like it.
I still travel to Cape Town regularly for races to get a good DH fix. And to keep an eye on our business. But I just can’t stay more than a few days. People in large numbers, especially drivers in large numbers, just don’t agree with me anymore.
Friends and family think we’re lucky to have found what we did as well as to be able to take the plunge and move. (The more unkind among them just think we’re odd.) Luck has absolutely nothing to do with it, if you look long and hard enough, you will find. Our budget wasn’t huge by any means, but the inflated property prices in Cape Town worked to our advantage. Allowing us to swop a two-bedroom investment apartment in Observatory for wide open spaces. I’m not claiming for one minute there were no sleepless nights leading up to the move. Or a light bout of depression on facing the reality of the weeds and molehills after first arriving. Or ongoing worries about running the business at a distance. Wherever there is a problem, there is a solution, a work-around or change of mindset to fix it.
I moved for singletrack.
I almost don’t want to admit just how much we are both enjoying life after the move – I wouldn’t want to cause a stampede now. It is tremendously satisfying to just get stuck in and do some good hard physical labour with visible evidence of progress at the end of every day. I love gardening now. Who knew? Having no idea how to do a job is no reason not to start doing it. You’ll learn soon enough.
Where is it written everything has to be perfect first time round? I’m going for a ride.
*not to mention that “Lifestyle Farm” is code for the farmer selling off a piece of land he has absolutely no use for. And for good reason too.
** it’s Star Wars month on Netflix…