Aaron

Sometimes you get so caught up in something that you forget that there is more to what you are doing if only you gave it a chance. I’ve been riding for a few days now, clocking up the hours trying to get as many hills into my rides, working on my cadence trying to listen to how my body is feeling, feeling frustrated that I seem to be making no progress “If I am riding like this now, how will I ever manage in the Epic?”

I play these games, not looking at the time until I’ve climbed a certain hill in the ride, or reached a certain point so that it won’t seem so long. Hopefully it will then be three and a half hours down which seems better than counting down every fifteen minutes, making it seem everlasting. And, yes, I do see the surroundings but not nearly as much as I should. I almost have to ride over a kudu or a zebra to know that it is there. More often than not it is when the animal explodes out of bush just ahead of me that I hear and see it. The other day I did have a great sighting of eight giraffe. But then it is difficult to miss a giraffe, even when you are encouraging yourself to get to the end of this last ascent before it’s downhill, homewards.

It was almost with a feeling of duty that, as I had promised Aaron I would go for a ride with him, I headed off to his home to pick him up and head for Bluegum Gate and so keep my promise. Aaron is a great twelve year old kid who lives on the farm. He goes to school in town and can always be seen riding around in the truck with his granddad who is a manager here. He is a superb fisherman and is down at the dams in the Wetlands whenever he can, with Grandad, on his own or with his cousins over weekends. And he catches fish where one would swear there is nothing to catch. He is polite, always greats me “Hello, Uncle Jack” and puts out his hand to shake mine. He has shown an interest in my riding and when he got a nice new bike for Christmas, I said I would take him on a ride with me one day.

He was all ready and waiting for me, a back pack on his back which looked way to heavy for him. He had his helmet on, knowing no doubt that there would be no ride if he did not wear it. I wondered what we would talk about. I am not used to conversing with youngsters.

“Did you see that snake, Uncle Jack?”

“No, where?” And I turned back so see a snake lying on the road. I had almost ridden over it.

“Have you been to Hippo Pools on your bike, Uncle Jack?” Hippo Pools is at the far end and also the lowest point of the farm. It is a there and back ride, fast 10km descent and then a 400m climb back out. It is on one of my long routes and a good training ride but the “there and back” plays with your mind, and I had thought about finding a way down to Hippo Pools from Pulpit Rock which would probably require walking down most of those 400metres.

“But you can just ride along the fence, Uncle Jack. There’s a road there where we go to look for birdbaths.”

So we rode, for me at a slow pace easily turning over the pedals. I tried to assess how he was doing. He rode alongside me, on the other side of the jeep track we were on, refusing not to keep up. I looked out from the Old Transport Road over the hills to the horizon, far away. I saw the zebra Aaron pointed out in a clearing down below, and the wildebeest. Some kudu bounded across the road just in front of us. I wondered that they didn’t fall and roll down the hill, it was so steep.

At Bluegum Gate we stopped and Aaron gave me some jelly babies he had brought along and I gave him an energy bar. We took some photographs and I showed him some of the rides I do in the Wilderness area and he showed me the way to the top of the hill which must have the most magnificent views.

We decided to do the whole descent from the Old Transport Road to Zebra Crossing which is a wild, wind in your face kilometre or two and then pay for it with the climb back to Aaron’s home. We stopped only for Aaron to point to a tortoise slowly crossing the road.

And so young Aaron showed me, what I had been forgetting. That it is okay to just ride your bike and have fun, be out in nature. Four hours passed very quickly and I will definitely ride with Aaron again.

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