On our Bicycles at Shongweni Dam
“Your bike is discovery; your bike is freedom. It doesn’t matter where you are, when you’re on the saddle, you’re taken away.”
I’ve said it before. I am no cyclist. I have respect and balance-envy for those who have mastered the art of 2 wheeled freedom. My husband Graham is one of those and he fleetingly, confidently wheelies and navigates around rocks and takes on obstacles on the trail that seem like a cruel practical joke nature has mischievously placed in our path. I’m constantly amazed at the finesse, sure footedness and trusting relationship shared between the man and his bike, and the enjoyment they have in each other’s company.
I see in them a sense of giddy abandon.
I’ve recently begun to understand the appeal. Maybe it’s because each time I ride with him and our bikes, I get a little sturdier, more relaxed and give in to that wind-in-your-face, intoxicated feeling of being outdoors, in nature on a mode of transport that yearns for exploration…just like we do. I like what a bike ride represents and offers. Doug Donaldson got it spot on. A bike is discovery and freedom. When you’re in the saddle you’re taken away.
Each time we ride, I get it a little more. I like my bicycle a little more too. I curse it and myself a little less often and afterwards, I look forward a little more than before to the next time we can be carefree on a bike, somewhere natural and pretty.
A Bike Ride kind of day at Shongweni Nature Reserve
On a recent Sunday morning, our bicycles called to us for an outing. I’ve wanted to get out to Shongweni Nature Reserve for a while now and this was a good excuse to do so and see it for ourselves.
The Shongweni Nature Reserve and Dam is about half an hour inland from Durbs and turned out to be a lovely escape from the city. The dam is the main feature with a pretty cool dam wall and a tower that hints at the medieval. The water attracts canoeists and fishermen as well as picnickers and the resident wildlife. We watched a herd of zebra come down for their morning thirst-quenching on our visit.
I love the idea that there is a protected natural place where wild animals wander free, so close to Durban. It feels like an easy getaway destination. On our bike ride we kept our eyes on game-viewing setting to try and spot some of the wildlife. We hoped to see the giraffe and rhinos on our meanderings through their environment but only found their droppings as proof of their existence this time. We did see some gorgeous birdlife and Graham saw a bushbuck or two, but I missed those as my concentration was drawn to navigating my dusty route and flicking gears aimlessly to test the results at the time. I’m trying to get better at that.
Avoid the walking trail
We started our ride along the only marked walking trail in the reserve; however this turned out to insist on a lot of bike pushing and carrying over tree trunks and tricky terrain. It’s ideal for trail-shoed-feet, but not quite for two-tyres. It was lush and beautiful though under a canopy of leaves and hopping over fern-guarded streams. Just not quite bike-friendly. Not for us anyway.
We soon found the main gravel road which moves around and about the reserve. This discovery marked the start of our enjoyable bicycle route. We rode happily along the sandy path, stopping to check out the views and appreciate the opportunity of being out together in the fresh air, sunshine and natal bushveld setting. We didn’t pass another soul on our ride that day. We had our bike ride day in the great outdoors all to ourselves.
I get it. A bicycle is freedom.
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”
― Ernest Hemingway
More info about Shongweni Dam and Nature Reserve:
If not it costs R37 per person for a day visit.
There is a campsite and other dam-view accommodation available too.