I’ve been planning to share the #allthethings behind the scenes of our Epic Everyday project in South Africa since we returned in March, but each time I sat down to write about the experience and unpack it, I got stuck.
I’ve traveled the world extensively now, and I’ve had some fantastic eye opening experiences; the kind where you stumble off the plane, shuffle yourself back home, fall into bed and when you wake up in the morning, and have to pinch yourself because you’re certain that all the things you just experienced had to be an alter-reality, a dream, (or a nightmare. And sometimes, some combination of both…because, drivers in Rome.) South Africa was some sort of dream where you wake up knowing you just experienced something remarkable, but its difficult to describe the sensation of where you’ve just been.
Last week, the culminating video of our Cape Epic adventure -shot by the incredible team from Trek Bicycles – was released and all of a sudden, massive pieces of South Africa came rushing back to me and I started to feel the dream come rushing back, as if I’d forgotten I’d dreamt it at all…and then I started to remember all of the little pieces that colored the places between the bikes and the racing and the filming and in lots of ways, for me now, these are some of the most important souvenirs I brought back.
In some way, shape or form, you’ve likely heard or read about our Epic Everyday project (if you haven’t and if you’re interested, you can read more about all of that here, here, here, here and here.) In a nutshell, my dear friend Elizabeth + I got this crazy idea to race Absa Cape Epic, but not just to race for ourselves. We wanted to race to make a big statement about the amazing things women can do with bicycles as a tool; we wanted to tell that story, and moreover, to be part of the story. So, we wrote to Trek. We started chatting long distance with Qhubeka. We raised enough funds to donate 50 bicycles to young women in South Africa, and Trek send a film crew to document our experience because somehow they felt we had become the story. They liked our idea so much in fact, that they implemented it verbatim. And their believing in our idea got us deeper into this beautiful place than I ever could have imagined.
And that was how I came to discover that South Africa (and specifically the Western Cape) is an incredible place both with and without a bicycle, both with and without a “virtuous” mission on two wheels. In truth, we didn’t spend that much time in the country without focusing on one of these two things. But between the lines, behind the bikes, it was easy to see that this country is vibrant, complex, beautiful, wild, challenged and charmed and it shifted my perspective on where I am in the world; it made me consider my creativity, my resourcefulness, my awareness, and my values. It made me consider how I treat myself, how I treat others, and how I treat each and every day.
On other travels I’ve experienced, the place sticks with me -by my side – for weeks (and sometimes years) after returning home. Each and every little thing I do in my life back at home will evoke a memory of “how it was over there.” South Africa has been different for me, and it keeps returning to me at more random moments to remind me that – on the other side of the world – there’s a Willy-Wonka-esque wonderland waiting. There were flavors I tasted in Cape Town and its surrounds that I never could have imagined, plants that I saw, gardens that I walked that were beyond my wildest dreams. There were realities I couldn’t comprehend – both in their beauty and their human horror. There were scenes I soaked up that were more rugged and wild than I could fathom, even living here in the Rocky Mountains, and while sometimes I wish that I’d been able to catch it all in photographs, there are lots of little moments and feelings that are much too large for that; seeing a pig being slaughtered on the pavement with machetes in Kayamandi. Riding to the top of that mountain outside of Stellenbosch and encountering a protea grove filled with giant, white spikey blooms. Watching gourds as large as my body dangling from their vines grow before my very eyes.
I’m not sure that the images I did bring back do much photographic justice to the collisions of the expected and the unexpected, the archaic and the innovative, the colorful and the resident darkness, the magic and the seemingly mundane. South Africa is a place pieced together by both cutting-edge modern sprouts and deep-seeded rotting roots, but its a place whose glimmers I hope continue to inspire my days, changing the way I cook, and reminding me that -against all odds and a myriad of natural obstacles- a people have created a web of smells, inspirations, shapes and colors on the furthest tip of the darkest continent in the world. If they can spring vibrantly forward there, so too can I in my little place in the world here. Enjoy – xo L