Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cycle Queensland 2010 - A few thoughts

I thought I'd do a day-by-day account of my experiences on the Cycle Queensland 2010 tour although it is going to have to be from memory. We had delusions of grandeur that we might blog or even make notes while on the tour but that just didn't happen. We only had time to set up camp, eat, sleep and cycle and that was it.

Looking back at it I think I can say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I'm very glad I did it. The whole thing was hard work, incredibly exhausting and at times painful and emotional but, like all difficult endeavours, worth the effort in the end.

I enjoyed the strange "thoughtlessness" of it all. By that I mean that I was completely removed from my everyday life and I rarely thought about work or any of the other things I tend to worry about. For 9 days I could only pay attention to very immediate things: getting up the next hill, not crashing while hurtling down that hill, making sure I drank enough water, finding places to fill up my water bottle, setting up the tent, staying warm and dry, washing my clothes, queuing for food, eating, washing the dishes, getting to sleep early enough... Life became extremely physical and focused on necessities. For someone who makes a living online, that's quite the change. It was difficult but weirdly refreshing. It was a nice reminder that I am not a sook! I can do anything if I just put my mind to it.

I loved the scenery and the idea that I had no idea what was around the next corner, or where we'd be that night. It became a little addictive, wondering what was going to happen next.

And the hardship created by the huge amount of rain and mud (not to mention the leaking tent) was an exercise in cheerful forebearance, making do and simply working through it. To be honest there's a part of me that loved the mud and riding in the pouring rain. It's strangely pleasant and carefree.

At times we said that being on Cycle Queensland is like being some kind of weird cycling refugee. Certainly the experience of living in a catered camp with 1500 other people, sharing toilets, showers and food was a little bit like a refugee camp, albeit a very luxurious one. On the days of mud and floods I was mindful of the difficulties faced by those in Pakistan and glad that we were at least trying to raise a bit of money for Oxfam.

We met a lot of lovely people and I'm hard pressed to remember most of their names. The funny thing was that we very rarely talked about anything except cycling. The most we got off topic was location - where are you from? Ah yes, there's some good rides around there - or the campsite. The fact that Luke and I were on recumbents meant that that was often the main source of conversation. Everyone wanted to know how they worked, why we rode them, whether they were fast. It often got rather technical and I'd wander off, letting Luke go into all the nasty details.

We got to know one group of people well. We started to call them the "Back Peloton". They were the ones always at the back of the field, being followed by the SAG bus, like us. We'd tag team each other, meeting up at rest stops, helping out with repairs, chatting over morning tea and lunch. We were the ones who always got the crap campsites at the end of the day. It was quite a fun comraderie, knowing that we weren't super fit, but we were getting there anyway.

Coming home was a huge relief - it was nice to get back to privacy, hot water and a roof over our head. And yet I was hankering to be out on the road again within a day. The idea of simply staying where we live seems a little dull, now. If there'd been another tour heading off a week later I think we'd both have signed up for it.

For someone new to cycling, this is all very strange. I didn't expect to become some kind of bike junkie, lusting after more hot days pedalling up endless hills. But, suddenly, I am.

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