‘Badass’ women

At last we were gifted a few hours of sun and we headed towards the bikers’ must-do route – Highway 4 to Tofino. The conversation amongst bikers a few nights ago had been weather proof gear. We had been shopping for heated vests and were discussing the importance of having the right clothing for the insane weather conditions in Canada.  Every conversation with a Canadian includes “this has been the worst winter in decades…it’s never been this severe… spring’s never been this late…” and ”you should see how amazing Canada is in summer!” Claire had just got back from a freezing (and treacherous!) 250km ride from Tofino in the pouring rain. She laughed at us and said: “My footwear is weather proof. I wear two pairs of socks, then put plastic shopping bags over my feet and duct tape them at the ankles before putting on my boots!” Claire then offered to ride with us along Highway 4 to Tofino…

Highway 4, also known as the Pacific Rim Highway,  traverses Vancouver Island from East to West Coast, snaking around lakes and across the spine of the Vancouver Island Mountains. We stopped for a walk at Cathedral Grove, a magnificent stroll amongst giant Douglas Fir and Red Cedar. The oldest tree is over 800 years old and the biggest Fir 75 metres tall. As we walked I chatted to Claire about her solo motorcycle trip through parts of the US, in awe of her bravery. I asked her how she dealt with the challenge of completing such an adventure alone, saying that it would scare me. “One kilometre at a time…” she replied and we were soon discussing how that philosophy is such a metaphor for tackling any of life’s challenges or indeed, any of life’s dreams. In Africa we have a similar saying, which comes to mind: ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…’ It’s not about tackling the whole thing at once, it’s about simply ‘getting going’.

There are no words to adequately describe the majesty and beauty we experienced on our ride to Tofino. Claire and Paul rode ahead and I described to them how they looked like motorised fleas riding a ribbon of road, compared to the sheer size of the snow covered mountains and vast lakes. The road was windy, bumpy, steep, narrow and with sheer drop offs in many places. There was so much rain and melting snow that water literally ‘smashed’ in frothing white torrents through the granite canyon. I felt quite overwhelmed and emotional, actually teary, at the majestic beauty all around me and at realising just how small and insignificant we really are as human beings.

A dear friend (Ken) has ‘famously’ said: “Driving a car, is like watching a movie. Riding a bike is like being in the movie.” You physically feel every thing, every change in weather conditions, smell every scent in the air. You’re vulnerable and super alert to everything around you. It’s exhilarating, exhausting and an insane sense of freedom. Add to that the gift of majestic terrain and you’re starring in movie heaven…

We were discussing how amazing the ride was and I said how grateful I am for the experience. “You’re so badass!” Claire told me, saying she was amazed at how I’d had the courage to pack up my life to come on this journey. In reality I’m a fearful cautious woman, who simply knows how to get going.

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