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12 Mar, 2015

What Happened To Holidays?

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I remember a time we went on holiday to the beach to relax, paddle in the sea and get sunburnt. We would get up slowly after a late night of braaiing around the fire and drinking copious amounts of red wine.

The day would be spent moving cooler boxes, towels, umbrellas, Frisbees and all our other beach paraphernalia to a perfect spot on the sandy beach and haul it all back later full of sand. And then of course, a soft serve ice cream 'with flake' in the car park while burning our feet on the tarmac.

Not anymore ... Now we rise before the sun, don our graceful cycling gear, grab energy drinks and snacks, put the bikes on the car and go find a mountain bike trail. Or if we’re lucky, just jump on our bikes and ride in the area.

We have been holidaying in Sedgefield on the Swartvlei for about 20 years. So not only do we have the beach but we have the vlei for boating, and skiing is the family's favourite pastime here. But now to fit it in. For years we have had to drag the kids out of bed, they are not early risers at the best of times, to get the flat water before the wind comes up or the other boats churn up the 'good' water.

Now they are miffed because mom and dad are gone long before they rise.  Dad, the marathon man, has gone running to train for his many marathons and ultra-marathons, and mom now too has gone out to ride before the heat of the day. And then they get home hot, sweaty, dirty (mom anyway) and tired, the wind is up and the water churned ...

The typical holiday breakfast of bacon and eggs, French toast, etc has also changed. If ya want it, make it yourself, we’re on a health kick, only the whites of poached eggs will do!

But what a wonderful place to mountain bike in! So we have been quite busy. Jean and family also come down here so there were a few of us. We 'shredded' the Harkerville red route again, such a stunning ride, forest, fynbos, cliffs, plantations, it has it all (and some big scary roots zigzagging across the track!). We did a few rides along the vlei's, gravel trail but quite corrugated (Jean and I wondered if it would help our 'bat wings).

On the 21 December we got brave and decided to enter the Garden Route Trail Run Series. This event takes place at Garden Route Trail Park, Barrington, at the very foot of the Outeniqua Mountains.

"Trail Info:

Our carefully designed routes have been laid out to provide participants of all levels with a year’s supply of adrenalin, excitement, scenery and amazing views.

Our hand built single-track in the infamous farmer tradition snakes its way through ancient forests where wooded giants stand guard as you flow through streams, shady fern glades and forest tunnels. Flowing turns, berms, rollers and river crossings. Water points will be an experience not to be missed. With farmer hospitality, homemade treats and good humour to refresh tired legs.

Twenty kilometres of trail track: A different format this year. We have taken out all the jeep track and gravel road and replaced it with singletrack. Don’t let the distance fool you, this is the equivalent of a 40 kilometre ride. We start with a little hill and then it is straight into the Garden Route Trail Park for the most fun you can have on a bike. The trails are fast and flowing, we advise taking it easy and enjoying the ride."  Or so says the Garden Route Trail’s website.

Who can resist that? So Jean, The Boss, the Colonel and myself went off to take up the challenge. And what a ride, absolutely fabulous!  Very, very challenging, totally exhausting but exhilarating. And to top it all, our Jeanie came third in the women’s race and got a bottle of champagne and a seat on the tractor! And we all got medals! We didn't do the second one as it was pouring and we are fair weather riders.

Another ride that has been on my bucket list is the ride around the Swartvlei. This was the holiday to do it. First we went round clockwise, but yes, we had to push up 'T-shirt hill'. That hill is so steep the bike feels like it wants to fall over backwards! There was no way I was riding up that and my legs ached the next day from mountain climbing up it!  But it is a 50 kilometre loop and a really nice ride. We then did it the other way round too, with the river flowing over the low bridge, which added an element of excitement!

Sedgefield Cycleworx organizes rides during the holiday season and one morning, three of us joined Eugene and his group. (Jean decided she needed a lie in). I'm always worried about these sort of rides in case I hold everybody up. But it was great. It was a flat ride along the lakes but of course there was a hill thrown in for good measure.

So this holiday has certainly been full of exercise and, for once, even Christmas lunch didn't leave any extra kilograms on me.

Marie-Anne Meijers

Marie-Anne Meijers

50 Shades Contributor |

Marie-Anne Meijers is one of the original 50 Shades of ... Mud riders and is also a keen photographer.