Riding pillion

2020-02-24 10:02
A file image of a motorbike.

A file image of a motorbike.

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It had been a rough week. You know the kind.

Work had been busy, full of unscheduled meetings and lots of interruptions. Then there were worries about family stuff and niggles and annoyances.

Then the weekend had been hot as hell which made us grumpy because we’d been busy running around with shopping, chores, cooking and gardening and by Sunday afternoon we were tuckered out and felt we deserved a break.

So, at 2.30 pm, we put our helmets on, lathered on the sunscreen jumped on the bike and headed for the hills. We rode out on the old road and through Hilton’s hills, green and lush. The going was easy and as the kilometres clocked by, it felt like the week’s worries were starting to be loosened, some already falling behind me on the hot tar.

“Br hann nkasdib?” the guy asked me, turning his head back towards me. I nodded and gave him a thumbs up. He patted my leg.

I still have no idea what he said. His words were muffled by the full-face helmet he wore, the wind whipping them out of his mouth as he spoke.

Experience has taught me that when the bike is this loud and the wind so fast then it’s pointless trying to communicate. We used to have a nifty helmet-to-helmet microphone set that allowed us to talk to each other, but we haven’t really used it much. Anyway, we quite like being together, but alone with our thoughts on a ride. I was thinking about the past week’s worries and the worries of the week to come, then mentally trying to decide what to have for another load-shedding  supper, musing that I should phone this family member or that friend and how I really owed so-and-so a visit.

You know how sometimes it all gets a bit much and your brain goes into overdrive?

As we climbed out of the city, the air started cooling. I watched the temperature indicator on the bike slowly reduce and the faster we went the cooler the breeze. Not that we speed or anything.

We had made our way past Midmar — a tiny trickle escaping down the wall — promises of a 100% full dam level reading to come. I touched his shoulder and pointed, and he saw and gave me a thumbs up.

We turned off onto the Petrus Stroom Road and going over the bridge past Midmar saw that the Umgeni River feeding into the dam was pumping. What a wonderful sight! We drank in the cool breeze the river imparted.

As the road wound through farmland, we saw the bountiful breadbasket that this country can be. Mielies grow proudly, standing straight as arrows, with potatoes bushing beautifully. We admired homesteads sitting comfortably on gentle hills above the road with their resplendent views over fields, forests and Midmar’s brilliant blue.

We drove unhurriedly there, taking in the scenery and braked for a herd of cattle that roadblocked us. We passed only when the biggest bull, a magnificent light-cream chap, snorted his assent.  I saluted him as we passed by.

Bikers’ etiquette for those who don’t know, is that you greet people. I don’t know why it is so on bikes, and not in cars so much. You greet anyone walking on the road, standing nearby and if there are children about you wave even harder.

I always use both hands in doing so.

You also exchange friendly signals with anyone else on a bike. You just do. And then I also greet cattle.

I can’t help myself. I love them. So, we’d already done a lot of waving, thumbs ups and general friendliness.

We drove on and came to a place where the road narrowed. There was a choice of directions and he took one. As we headed up the hill we saw a group of about eight excited children running down the road at full tilt. Big smiles and happy chatter accompanied their hurtling frames. I wondered where they were going and did my two-handed waving thing as they whizzed by on the other side of the road. Maybe they were going for a swim in the river nearby.

Then we realised we’d hit a dead end, so we turned around, passing what must have been their home. A few adults were gathered in the yard and we waved as we passed.

As we went back, getting to a point where the children heard the bike approach from behind, they turned back to look at us.

They were still running down the hill.

We drew up near them, slowing down further to make our way past the group. As we did so, a girl of about seven years old turned around to look at us. She stopped running, and leant out towards the approaching bike, her arm outstretched and her hand wide open. Then I saw the look that said: “Will you, or won’t you?”.

I needed no further invitation. I leant out as far as I could reach, for a moment my bottom hanging precariously off the bike seat and in the moment that our hands touched her face broke out into a huge grin. It was second only to mine, which sadly she couldn’t see because of my helmet. I hope she saw the smile in my eyes. Waving back at her with both my arms held aloft, we sped off and just like that, the last worry had ebbed away and my week was made.

Full of wonder at my luck at connecting with that girl in what for me was a profoundly beautiful moment, I asked the guy, “Did you see that?”

“Hrg jka noomdable,” he said, giving me a thumbs up.

For the rest of the journey home, I wondered if he did.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  opinion and analysis

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