Rider Profile: Desyree Lotter
Leading on from Henry’s blog First Meetings on Oh Canada featuring some of the male riders of this year’s Oh, Canada Tour, this is the first of a series of rider profiles featuring some of the female cyclists. The following profiles will introduce the diverse & inspiring group of women that have chosen to cycle across Canada!
Desyree Lotter, 36 & hailing from South Africa, is one of five female full tour riders who are completing the journey from Haida Gwaii to St. John’s!
TDA: Have you completed many cycle trips in the past?
Desyree: I haven’t completed any cycle trips before this one…come to think of it, it’s the first time I have been on a bike since I was 10 years old, probably.
TDA: Tell us a bit about your background, and where you live and work.
Desyree: I was born and raised in South Africa. I grew up in the 80s and 90s so that was a super interesting time in South Africa. Half my life was spent in the apartheid era and the other half in our democracy. I come from a family of activist women who did their bit to help people before we achieved our democracy. So no surprise that I ended up working with non-profits. Currently, I live in Johannesburg – not quite a farm, but some call it a zoo :).
I work for myself. I run/own a development consultancy called Metta. Its been going for about 3 years now. Its based in Johannesburg, but we do work throughout Africa. The hope is to expand into other countries/continents one day. We work with donor agencies, international development organizations, universities and non-profits. We provide project management services mostly. I also have my own non-profit project going at the moment as a… I guess hobby…it started at the beginning of 2017. It’s called Revolution Respect.
TDA: What do you like about cycle touring compared to other modes of travel?
Desyree: You see a country in a completely different way. You meet people in places you wouldn’t necessarily be able to, if you were driving for instance. More often than not, in a car, you would stop for food in a town, or you would go to a touristy place and then be on your way. You remain focused on the people you are travelling with. On a bike, you spend a lot of the day by yourself. This opens you up because there isn’t a friend to hide behind. People approach you. The bike is a good conversation starter. You connect with random people and hear about their lives, and their town. You learn that the kindness of strangers is a real thing. You see interesting little places you are more willing to go I to and explore. On this trip there have been a lot of people that have offered a coffee or water or a washroom to us as we cycle through.
I like that you are part of the fabric of the places you cycle through. When you are in nature, you are really in nature. On this trip through Canada, the bears and gophers and deer and birds and trees and grass and ponds and lakes are right there. The glaciers are RIGHT there. The snow capped mountains surround you. The canola fields through the prairies are at your finger tips. You feel the air. You can hear and smell and touch everything. You aren’t flying past it in a car or a bus. When the sun is out you feel it.
When it’s raining you are in it (don’t love that part too much). When the wind blows you know it. You get the idea.
TDA: What if anything were you anxious about leading into the trip? Have these concerns been well founded?
Desyree: Ha ha…I laugh now. Ignorance is bliss… I think my only concern was not having put in the time on an actual bike. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to stay on a bike for 6 to 8, sometimes 10 hours a day over a three-month period, but figured, ‘you are in it now’. I didn’t take into account drastic weather changes. My fears felt like they had come true over the course of the first 2 weeks. It was much more difficult than I imagined. I wasn’t prepared for the cold, windy and wet weather. I almost quit a couple of times…I somehow didn’t think the camping thing through either. I like camping…I just haven’t done it for 3 months straight…
In addition, while I love my bike and it’s comfortable now, it also needed some tweaking…like changing out my tyres. TDA was awesome in this regard though. The crew help you out. They advise you and support you without judgment on how much experience you have. My fears dissipated pretty quickly. I don’t think you can be 100% prepared for this.
TDA: What have been/are the most difficult or challenging parts of the tour? What did you do to deal with these challenges?
Desyree: The most difficult part of the tour for me was feeling inadequate. I knew I was determined so I would get up a hill or 6. I could will myself to keep pedalling for hours. I was excited about what I was going to see along the way, so the trip itself wasn’t scary.
The comparison to others got into my head and I struggled in the beginning. When I arrived and saw all these cyclists with all this great equipment; and I listened to their stories of other cross country trips they have done…gosh…I thought I don’t belong here.
8 weeks into the trip, and now having gotten to know a few people, I have learned that the others also thought that. Ha ha. A few of the cyclists have told me how they looked at the calibre of everyone and thought, wow I don’t know if I belong here, will I keep up? It seems fairly common that at times, we make ourselves the least. We assume someone is better than we are. My way of overcoming this was being vocal about what I thought was my weaknesses. I was upfront about my cycling ability. It seemed to help those who felt the same to open up and feel less afraid, and it allowed those who are stronger to take on a support role.
TDA: Which aspect of this tour do you only realise when you’re on it?
Desyree: The information sent to riders clearly states the outline of the tour. The idea of camping for 3 straight months just didn’t register with me (yes I packed a tent and sleeping bag) but for some reason, it only sank in the first night – when I was cold and exhausted. I thought to myself OH GOD…I am living in this blue bubble (my tent is blue and round) for 3 months WTF, sleeping on the floor, in a sack, wet, dry, warm or cold…FOR 3 MONTHS!!! Talk about reality check. Interestingly, my tent has become something I love to be in. It’s a very cool private space.
TDA: What has been the highlights/most rewarding parts of the trip?
Desyree: On my gosh. Too many things to mention. Thus far, this is in my top 5 most beautiful countries. It’s just stunning. I can’t decide what was more beautiful, the snow capped mountains, the glaciers, the canola fields or the vast amount of lakes. Swimming in Lake Superior was a highlight…I also love how nice Canadians are. People are very helpful and considerate I guess the most rewarding part of the trip is just doing the trip. Some of the cycle days are hard and when you get through the day, you feel good. I think I need to complete the trip to fully answer this!
TDA: What life lessons has cycling taught you?
Desyree: Cycling is indicative of life. Some days you feel awesome, you are cycling at a good pace, the road is good; and for some reason the next day can be completely different. Nothing has changed really but the day just isn’t working out for you. Maybe you aren’t in a good frame of mind, or the day feels long and difficult, pedalling feels like work. Things change randomly, much like life. Each day is its own. You need to take each day as it comes. On this trip I am really learning so much more about myself. There have been so many moments on this trip when I thought, ‘I can’t do this!’…whether it was just keeping up with other cyclists, getting through a day, heading into busy city traffic, taking on the hills…but every time you know there is no other way around it.
I haven’t got much experience in cycle touring, I feel like this is a cool combination of travelling, challenging yourself and doing something unique.
TDA: If you could give one piece of advice to someone going on their first tour with TDA what would it be?
Desyree: My advice is, don’t over think it. If its your first trip, you wont have anything to compare this to. You will be presented with things you can’t plan for. Just go with it, you will be fine. You will figure it out. Make sure you have a bike you are comfortable on. Try and get in as much saddle time as you can before the trip (highly recommend this). Double your spending budget :). The rest will sort itself out…just don’t over think it.
TDA: Do you have plans for future trips?
Desyree: For sure. Now that I know I can do it, why not do more. It will probably be another spontaneous trip. So I can’t say when or where at the moment. Europe and West Africa stands out for me at the moment. I guess its all about when the money/time stars align.