Miles of Smiles at Berg & Bush - Independent on Saturday - Tim Whitfield
Miles of Smiles at Berg and Bush
NIRVANA is defined as “a place of perfect peace and happiness, like heaven”...
Miles of Smiles at Berg and Bush
NIRVANA is defined as “a place of perfect peace and happiness, like heaven”. According to that, I may have found nirvana. It is situated in the Winterton area of KwaZulu-Natal, and can be found three days a year when the Berg and Bush Great Trek takes place.
My belief that I found perfect peace and happiness was backed up by my partner for this week’s Berg and Bush who wore the biggest and most consistent smile I have ever seen on anybody for three days.
Unfortunately, the Berg and Bush may not be the true source of nirvana. Most Buddhist definitions also add that the state also requires a “release from all forms of suffering” – and there was more than a little suffering in my wonderful three-day journey around the Winterton battlefields. It was mostly caused by my partner who exploited my lack of fitness in the most brutal fashion.
Let me give you a little background. My original partner for the Berg and Bush was forced to pull out, so I asked a couple of people until somebody said he knew “the perfect partner for me”.
And so, after one brief phone call, I substituted my original partner with Jeanette. There was no chance for us to ride together, so we literally met for the first time when we picked her up on the way to the race – a perfect recipe for a disaster.
Thankfully Jeanette proved to be a near-perfect partner. The only negative about her was the fact that she was much fitter than I am ... and that meant loads of pain and suffering as my male ego refused to beg her to slow down until it was too late – as on day one when cramps in the 38 degree heat forced me to whimper that it was time we eased off the pace a bit (well, for her it was a lot actually).
Luckily I started the race a bit more confident than her on the descents – and the Berg and Bush is route that is littered with stunning single-track descents. That meant I could get a bit of rest for the first day and a half, but midway through stage two I realised I was not waiting at the bottom of the hills any more.
I think it is safe to say we both had a great time, but as you speak to people at the finish of the B&B Great Trek you realise that is not unusual.
Last week I wrote in this column: “The Berg and Bush has become arguably the premier mountain biking event in the province, and possibly the country.”
Sorry, loyal readers, I was wrong. The Berg and Bush IS the premier mountain biking event in the country. Obviously that is my opinion and some deluded people may not agree, but the laid-back, yet efficient, organisation, combined with the relatively small field for the Great Trek, and the sublime route, mean this race offers exactly what I want from a stage race:
There is beautiful riding on trails that are not overcrowded, great overnight stops with superb food, and a fun, relaxed vibe at the camps.
I believe this race epitomises what mountain biking should be, and has a place as the first item on every mountain biker’s bucket list.
Written by Tim Whitfield - Independent on Saturday