Lockdown Tales: Hard Men, Captain COVID & Perspective
Doug Percival has worked with TDA Global Cycling as a Mechanic, Assistant Tour Director & Tour Leader and was scheduled to lead the 2020 to the East Cycling Tour before it was rescheduled due to COVID-19. He previously tockholm, Sweden.
Well…. We are now exactly about 365 days deep into this World Wide Storm that caught us all off guard.
A year ago the emails and murmurs of bike tours being cancelled were emerging. In the following weeks of March last year, the majority of the World’s populous got thrown back inside their own homes, and told this will end shortly. I guess history is telling us differently, and here we are in Early 2021…in pretty much the same situation.
Life as a bike guide changed considerably. I went from being on the road for over 200 days a year, to being at home 200 days in a year. You could say it was a reality check, a rather brutal one if I’m honest. Ten years of Being involved in this Travel and Bicycle industry, and it ended over night. “So what now?”. My feeling is I was not the only one asking that question. Tourism is most Definitely an Apex industry, it came to a earth shattering stop, and Nobody saw it coming. How could we?
By late Spring, I turned my hand to Working on a construction site, as a Roof Tiling Labourer in Stockholm. I surrounded myself with 6 Ukrainian Work colleagues. None of us spoke Swedish, i certainly don’t speak Ukrainian or Russian, and they Didn’t speak English…so the days were not about conversation, but more about how much work you can fit onto a 12 hour day work schedule. These men were made of Steel. They stopped only to drink water, and pull through two Cigarettes in record time. They knew only one speed, and that was 5th gear. I was most definitely the laughing stock of the work force. This African guy who had been playing on bicycles for 15 years, travelling the world, seeing the Beauty of every corner of the Globe, being paid to pedal and travel with clients… Was now having to carry roof tiles. Quite a contrast to the 6 of them, whom had grown up in The Soviet Union, and since 18 years old, had been building railway lines. Hard Men.
Perspective i guess. Thats what Covid has delivered me. You could argue for the better, or for the worse. Taking what we had for granted…. The tours, the flights, the people of foreign lands, the sceneries, the ease of which we moved. I then got ‘lucky’. I got offered some bicycle related work in Europe and Turkey… I jumped at it. Leaped at it. However one thing was different… I needed a mask. What is this? (Sweden still has not enforced a mask, only in certain places like public transport) Now there is a new dimension to travel. My hands have never been so clean in my life, i constantly smell of alcohol cleaner, and i breath through a cotton sheet all day. Travel suddenly wasn’t ‘easy’. Check in lines take 2 hours, face shields and social distancing.. Quite the joke it became when jam packed in the back of an A380! But regardless of the ‘hassles’… I have continued. The need to be back doing what ‘i do’ was there.
I escaped the Scandinavian Winter for a bit, and returned to my mother land of South Africa. Bask in the sun and the good spirits of CapeTown. Oh…. Government restrictions came into effect as i landed. No beaches, no alcohol, and a curfew of 6am to 9pm. 9 months in, and life is still uncontrolled. The unpredictability just keeps coming! HEY!….But thats something working on TDA taught me! I don’t recall a single day on Ten TDA tours that was predictable! I’d like to think I’m a bit thick skinned about unpredictable conditions by now. I think I’m about ten brain pokes too, Captain Covid knows the inside of my skull well with that Pipe Cleaning wand of his. (that feeling will never be forgotten!) But, if thats what it takes to be able to move about, so those around me know i’m healthy… Then so be it.
All of us in the Industry are affected, but i have enjoyed chatting to similar folk in similar positions, and hearing the optimism… We need Optimism! Hope. When the day comes, that the sun rises and the rumours spread, that we Can All move about, and resume this glorious thing called Travel….. Be rest assured… There are many of us who are in 5th gear, ready to go. Ready to absolutely enjoy what we do, where we left off, as its what we know! Stay Safe… Dream of where Next… It’s going to happen soon!
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