Meeting someone totally unrelated to sport was the ultimate adrenaline rush

2014-02-21 00:00

MENTION to most people that you are a sports writer and their eyes light up. It conjures up images of travelling, attending matches, functions, chatting to players — the ultimate Utopia — as other mere mortals contemplate their dreary working environments, a nine-to-five job, same people, same office, no aircon … ho hum.

Someone has to do it and, like any job, it has its pros and cons — good days, bad days, irritating people, deadlines, headaches. As it’s said in the classics, it’s all in a day’s work.

But, there are some unique opportunities that come your way, those rare moments when an invitation is extended to participate in something not too many people experience.

Different scenarios get the adrenaline going. For some, travelling the world covering soccer, cricket, rugby and the like keeps the juices flowing, but it’s having a go at something, that first-hand experience that adds a different dimension to how we look at things and write about them.

There have been some memorable highlights that will always live in the memory and keep any talk around the braai lively.

Speeding around Idube Raceway, just outside Pietermaritzburg, in a 125 cc gearbox go-kart, sitting inches above the tarmac … that was an adrenaline rush.

A local driver hitched up his kart and we headed off on a Friday morning to tame the track. We were the only people at the track and after slipping into some leathers and strapping on the helmet, it was time to go. Oh yes, there was the matter of a quick crash course in how to keep the machine moving, a gear down, a few up. Reassurance was given that it wouldn’t take long to get the hang of it.

The track belonged to us, to one particular journalist and an extra container of fuel had been brought along just in case a speed junkie was created as the day wore on.

After a stuttering start and the odd stall, it clicked into place. The laps got faster, the right foot got heavier on the accelerator and there were moments when the tyres screeched as we went into a corner.

At one stage, the kart started misbehaving and a closer look revealed one of the break pads had flown off. A feather in the cap as the question was asked — was I going that fast?

There were no land speed records or record-breaking laps on the day, but the sun set far too quickly and thoughts of even taking up the sport were harboured.

Staying with motorsport, knocking off an eight-kilometre stage in the canefields near Mid Illovo tightly strapped into a Toyota Conquest in the capable hands of then KZN rally champion Chris de Wit, was simply magnificent. Not being able to navigate, it was a treat in itself to watch a master driver in action.

Dust was everywhere, stones rattled the undercarriage and my destiny was in his hands. We approached hairpin bends at breakneck speed to suddenly, at the last minute, gear down, hit the breaks, turn sharp left or right — all in one fluid movement. A sight to behold and enjoy.

The yumps (as the humps in rallying are called) had our helmets hitting the roof inside the car but it added to the occasion. Human nature dictated we wanted more and when the dust did settle, even a cold beer failed to extinguish the nerves, the rush and the trembling hands.

Zorbing. Now there’s an interesting one. Rolling around in a huge plastic, reinforced ball, at the mercy of gravity, just letting yourself go and roaring with raucous laughter.

It was in the Valley of a 1 000 Hills, on a stinking hot day. These balls are huge and like a sauna inside. Never fear though, a few buckets of water were thrown in for good measure, the big plastic plug secured and it was time to roll.

For a brief moment, it was like being a child again. While the world worked, here I was rolling and sloshing around in a big ball. Thanks for the invite.

Taking the big swing 80 metres above Moses Mabhida Stadium could be considered more stupidity than anything else. This was more like Fear Factor but, having seen Mike Sutcliffe, then eThekwini city manager take the leap of faith, it looked easy. That is until it’s your turn. Standing on a small platform with the wind howling and the rope that’s keeping you alive vibrating in the wind, your life tends to flash before you. Suddenly the stadium looks small, people become ants and the horror is realised … there is no turning back.

Been there, done that, got the certificate to prove it and possibly won’t be back on the platform any time soon.

Surfski paddling with some of the big names in the sport, plus a Sharks media day that was similar to The Amazing Race, hustling and bustling around Durban and beyond with AJ Venter as team leader also stick in the memory bank.

But, looking back, it’s meeting someone totally unrelated to sport that takes first spot on the podium.

This was a nun from Mariannhill Monastery, who was celebrating 60 years since taking her vows. It was a beautiful, sunny day and talking to her was a humble experience.

There was nothing fancy, yet she made a person realise how precious every day is. When asked the highlight of her day, she said: “Look at the beautiful sun, hear the birds singing and the breeze whispering. God has blessed me with an amazing day and to make it more special, I am having ice-cream for lunch.”

Those are the things that count. Stop and appreciate them. It’s the ultimate adrenaline rush.

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