Without doubt, the most irritating, pointless and ignorant question ever faced by those of us who know the true treat of multisport in all its shapes and forms, is “Why do you want to do that to yourself?”
It’s got to the point where I’m thinking of lying when asked about my personal interests. “I watch TV – Cake Boss is my favourite because my idea of fun is a desperate American wannabe Italian Mafioso permanently set on OTT while he produces gaudy culinary kitsch primarily out of polystyrene.”
I’m a bit irritated because I had to face the dumb question too often while on a lovely road trip into the Klein Karoo over the festive season.
If people want to ask why other people do what they do, they should pick on something obvious, like caravanning. That, unlike frequent and extreme multisporting activities, is a comprehensively crazy cocktail of self sabotage. The ugly brown thing (there’s always an unhealthy volume of brown in caravans – it helps to hide the stains) dumps there the whole year as a declaration of unfulfilled fantasies of escaping to remote places.
While it stands there everything seizes up, except the insurance payments which tick over nicely, so that before they head off for their two weeks of manual labour and sharing bathrooms with large farmer-types, caravanners can pay to have the thing repaired and serviced.
Then the caravanning crazies trundle at half the pace in double the time using three times the fuel in the huge guzzlers they drive all year long so that they can drag the brown box on its one trip a year. As they do so their stress levels rise because they know they’re irritating normal people as they block up the road and use six parking bays at the Ultra City.
Finally they arrive and maneuver their cubby-holes cheek by jowl with the caravan club laagered there. But it’s an apparently amicable affair because the trailer tourers help each other set up multiple tented shacks, unblock tiny chemical toilets and pop over unannounced to see how complete strangers have arranged the wardrobes under their three-quarter size beds. They also conduct caravan church (“Whose axle needs greasing today, Brothers and Sisters?”). That’s how the average caravanner saw in the new year. Why would anyone do that? It’s a good question.
We multisporters, on the other hand, we did sensible things involving the elegance of a fine bicycle, the challenge of a hard run, the grace of a swim or paddle. Things like that. No doubt some of us did more than one. I, for one, preferred to soak up the secluded splendour of Sederkloof Lodge, deep in the Baviaanskloof where people like us go to take in an extreme run and cycle. It costs a fraction of the price a caravaner sacrifices for showering in his slops so that he doesn’t get any number of foot diseases.
There I dined at sunset in a red Khoisan cave, taking pleasure in deboned lamb, and top South African wines, in the company of a delightful Danish dame. In such a place, wearing only shorts and a comfy old white cap, an ordinary oke can head out for a quiet few hours of running and cycling in the mountains, cooling off in streams and listening to himself.
Why does he do it? Because he knows the pure joy of feeling his body work, his mind contemplate and his soul float along trails unvisited by most people. He feels at home in this exercise eccentricity. Deep down he has discovered that when he sweats like this he is closer to his own authentic self’s essence than at any other time. He exercises outdoors in as many ways as possible because when he does, he is more fully alive and connected to transcendent truth than in any other way.
Anyway, I’m preaching to the choir. If you were the type of sorry conformist who asked, “Why do it?” you wouldn’t be reading this in the first place.
You would be mothballing your brown caravan for its annual hibernation and wishing you could have a real holiday. Like that guy you saw running lightly off into the mountains, or the woman you saw cycling early this morning as you drank your coffee on the stoep, or that daft group who swims every morning, even in winter.
You might even admit to yourself that, strangely, they look so free…
Originally published in the March/April 2013 issue.