I can’t believe I went five months without sitting on a single bicycle since I’ve been in Mauritius until last week. I cycled for years in Vancouver, Canada and almost every day in Cambodia so I was getting antsy to ride.
My family’s not really into outdoor activities until finally I discovered one of my cousin’s husband Joseph used to hike every week in Mauritius for decades and cycles to work every day. For the last month, he’s introduced me to his friend Mukesh who knows all of the hiking and cycling routes in Mauritius like the back of his hand.
The 70 km ride in the West
Last Saturday I thought Joseph was just free to ride for an hour or two but we ended up doing a 70 km ride from the centre of Mauritius in Curepipe to Bambous in the west then all the way back up the big hill to get back to Curepipe. We rode for six hours.
I haven’t pushed my body physically in such a long time. When you’re not exercising consistently, it can be a big jump. But in my head, I was determined to stay on the bike and push through and not walk the bike up. I discovered that when I look down when I’m pushing up a big hill, my body gets tired much more quickly than when I look up the sky. I forgot how much people can push their bodies to their full potential and the ride reminded me that when we put ourselves in challenging situations in life, it’s an opportunity for us to learn and grow.
Bicycling focuses my mind and puts things more in perspective. I reflect a lot while I’m riding and concentrate on breathing slowly. It is a unique meditation that makes me refocus on the bigger picture that is nature. It’s so easy for our minds to fixate on negative things going on in our lives or negative moments. But when you’re outdoors, you are reminded than those problems are small dots in the big picture and that there are many more positive things to focus on.
While I was pushing through the ride, I kept thinking of what our friend Pi Nan on Mindful Farm told us in Thailand, “We feel sad when we think of negative things on the past. Just focus on your breath and be present. When you are meditating just focus on the present. And remember to smile while you meditate.” Pi Nan was a monk for 20 years before starting his self-sufficient organic farm in northern Thailand.
I’m fascinated by how little food I need to eat while I’m doing full day hikes or bike rides. All we ate was a local roti, a type of Indian bread, with curry and a pineapple on the road.
Mentally I didn’t give myself the option of stopping, I just kept looking up the sky and didn’t focus on how many more kilometres we had to go. I just kept pedaling towards the sky. My body kept magically gained energy from somewhere. I see how if people don’t have the mental willpower, their bodies will not push through to achieve what they want. Our bodies respond to our minds so if people don’t believe something can be done, then they won’t act.
By the time we finally reached home, I was proud that I managed to bike the whole route without getting off the bike.
The 80+ km ride in the east
I call Joseph’s friend Mukesh Santa Claus because he has a long white beard. But he’s ok with that, I asked him permission.
We did a fantastic ride going from Montagne Blanche in the east of Mauritius then riding along the coast to the south of the island then back up to where we started. There were surprisingly not that many hills on this route, especially compared to the route we did the week before.
It was nice to pass through very small villages and the weather was perfect. It wasn’t too hot and we had a beautiful breeze by the water.
One highlight of the day for me was when a woman we bought snacks from came up to our table 10 minutes after we bought food and she genuinely said, “I’m so sorry sir, I owe you 30 rupees from what you bought.” In a country where many people are trying to scam you, it was really beautiful to see this lovely woman acting so honestly. But every country I’ve been to in Asia where scams are common, there are just as many, if not more, good people who are honest and genuine whether they are rich or poor.
Within minutes after we came back after riding for 7 hours, rain began pouring heavily. We had perfect timing. Even if it rained, we would have gone out somewhere. Life doesn’t stop just because it rains.
When we finally arrived back, Santa Claus’ wife was so kind to prepare farata (an Indian pancake bread) with a curry and soup for us.
Another day, another beautiful ride.