(This was written in Dec 2006)
James’ bike began to sway to and fro across the uneven dirt; those behind him could sense something was amiss, but were helpless as tragedy struck oh so quickly. Seconds before, our dirt path had shifted into dirt road – a long, roomy straight, flanked by vines….that allowed us to hit a little gas, taste a little dust and feel the beige wind through our hair.
Given that the terrain was ‘wine farm’, my immediate impression was of a watered-down driving experience with more tour than track, more PG 13 than a 2 – 21, more Kenny G than Chariots of Fire. To add to this, the pre-ride briefing, given by Johan – our young and well-to-do, trainee guide – preached no racing, no manual change of gears (as he conduct this on our behalf at the relevant stops), and above all else, safety.
The quad bike is easily controlled: Like any bike, the quad steers with a handlebar.
Your left hand controls the break, an age old device, used the world-over, for preventing an array of potential gravity and force related mishaps. And more importantly, your right controls the throttle, allowing you to accelerate and decelerate at will…integral for getting you from point A to point B. If one is merely sitting on the quad bike for show, with no intension of moving from point A to B, then this individual may be referred to as a Gaylord – thus illustrating the importance of the throttle.
It was just before lunch that we set out one by one in a linear fashion – led by our guide Johan and Quad Rides co-founder, Alexander. Thankfully, the 30% chance of rain, predicated by the previous day’s weather broadcast, was made void by a bright, warm sun. Although, let it be said, there is no shame in a bit of mud. It was either 1.5 hours of quad biking or a 20 minute helicopter flight. After the first 15 minutes, the MVI SA camp seemed satisfied with their decision.
James, also affectionately known as Steed for his love of horses, had decided to bring with him his digital camera; as self appointed photographer, he was keen on catching a few snaps of the beautiful and seductive landscapes of the centuries-old Dellrust wine estate – and of course, recording the days events in a visual manner for later perusal. Unfortunately James would have to exchange one of his functional limbs for camera duty. Now, a dilemma that most one-handed quad bikers face is: ‘which hand do I sacrifice?’ A fear of wanting to not seem Gaylord by choosing to forgo the throttle, the break is often a popular choice.
After a 15 minute warm-up across the meandering quad biking route, set in and amongst the vineyards, we hit a dusty, straight and wide path of a good couple of 100 meters. Riding in linear, here we fortunately got to burn a little gas – without having to race each other. But to the great shock and terror of those behind him, in rodeo fashion, we saw James begin to shift from the left of the road to right, and seconds later, the bike, ever so gracefully, tipping, and James doing a bungee without the bungee off into the dirt ahead – losing a handsome chunk of his skin in the process – but miraculously, keeping his R 4,500.00 camera in perfect tact. Unfortunately, James was taken back to depot to get patched up. Cameraman down, we felt obliged to continue in his honour.
The remainder of our quad biking adventure included three obstacle courses. The first was through was forest terrain where we overcame some gradual ditches and soil mounds and branches. The second obstacle course included a serious of steep hills, which we had to hit at some speed to ensure there was no rolling back – unfortunately no clutch control on these babies! The third, and final, obstacle course was a bit of an anti-climax after the former but incredible nonetheless. It saw us going down a ditchy hill, very slowly, at times balancing on two wheels – where, no matter how quad-savvy you are, it does feel as if you are going to topple. Contrary to popular belief and for the record, the MVI SA team did not stop and have a cup of tea with the forest people at any point throughout our quad biking experience. All in all, quad biking gets serious thumbs up from the brave, handsome team of MVI SA.
Contrary to popular belief and for the record, the Dellrust Wine Estate is not only all about quad biking, but wine too. And food. And moonlit walks, basked in the farm fresh air with your loved one at your side (okay need to confirm that one before sending this off). Meeting up with James, who had meanwhile been chatting with Alexander on the grass, in what can only be referred to as a Top Billing moment, we decided to have lunch outdoors from the local restaurant. Beer, wine, and coffee – and a healthy dose of nicotine – were enjoyed by all as we ordered our starters which consisted of the two platters: the Country and the Vine, which consisted of rabbit food, little biscuits, cheese, dips, and small portions of pretty much anything else you would find on a deli menu. The little biscuits were the bomb.
Then it was onto the Wine Tasting, which lucky for us was included free in our quad biking package – and lucky for James, so were his bandages. In true style, we tasted each of the wines…you know, just to get the holistic view – so accurate comparisons can be made. We learnt that it doesn’t matter if you swallow the wine or not because the alcohol gets absorbed by your tongue regardless. Much wine was bought by many; a popular choice being the R15 bottles of Rose (that tasted like strawberries) and the dumpy sized Jerepico dessert wine.
We returned to our table for lunch. Janine, the boss, made it clear that the company was paying but that we should not go overboard. Immediately, Brett’s head fell to his hands as he shed a tear – having to anesthetize his penchant for JC le Roux and Lobster Thermador and settle for a mushroom burger that was on special that day. James had one too – apparently it was delicious. Janine and Alison each had the recommended warm chicken salad which, unlike the ratios of most chicken salads, included generous helpings of chicken.