When you decide to take your new wife on an eight-day bike tour for your honeymoon… there are risks. And more than a few rewards. One cycling newlywed did just that.
Taking your new wife on an eight-day bike tour is risky. Ask SA endurance rider Kevin Benkenstein.
With multiple long-distance challenges to his name, including the ABSA Cape Epic and numerous ‘Everesting’ successes, endurance rider Kevin ‘Benky’ Benkenstein is used to long hours on the bike. You could say that it’s been his life… until, two years ago, he met Mikayla Webb.
So when the two got married late last year, it made sense that the best way to seal their new union was to embark on an eight-day cycling tour around Lesotho and the Drakensberg.
Why do your honeymoon on a bike?
KEVIN: It’s just who we are, really. Our first date was two long days of riding in The Karkloof; and we’ve spent so much time together, exploring, that it felt natural for that to be how we celebrated our marriage… to me, at least! Neither of us are big fans of lying around doing nothing anyway, so wherever we were we would probably just end up going riding all day. I figured we might as well see a bit more of where we live than just going to one place and seeing much of the same, day after day.
Weren’t you too tired to… erm, well…
KEVIN: No! Well, maybe on that day across Lesotho. Haha!
Wasn’t it bit risky, taking your new wife on a long bike trip?
KEVIN: My friends who have been married a while said that laying down the ground rules
early is important… hahaha! Really, though, I
was a little nervous about how Mikayla would feel about it all, and for the most part I kept it a secret as much as I could ahead of the trip. I felt like it would be a good idea; but at the end of the day, I’m normal enough to know that an 800km/16 000m honeymoon is quite a push – no matter how much you love riding. I was nervous.
Would you advise other people do this? Or is this just a Benky thing?
KEVIN: I think it’s a Benky thing, sadly. But it was an awesome experience to take on this challenge with my wife, and both of us loved it in the end.
So maybe it’s a Benky thing to do this for your honeymoon; but I think every couple could benefit from doing something similar, in their own way, as a couple. We are definitely closer and stronger after it.
It can’t have been all sunshine and roses, though? Any tough times, when you thought Yikes, maybe we should have taken that holiday on the beach in Mauritius! KEVIN: There were definitely tough moments, and sense-of-humour failures. The ride from Sani Pass to Afriski was testing over the second half, with the last 50km including a 20km climb up to 3 200m, and then another 30km at over 3 000m altitude.
At that point Mikayla was less than pleased with my route choice, and I was trying to work out how to fix the situation… but there was no fix. Right then, I might have taken that beach holiday, just to see her not scowl at me for five minutes.
What did you learn about each other on the ride?
KEVIN: That eventually, Mikayla will just shut up and pedal!
Really, what we learnt is that we are happiest exploring together. For eight days we were essentially alone, with limited interaction with others – especially during
…at the end of the day, I’m normal enough to know that an 800km/16 000m honeymoon is quite a push – no matter how much you love riding.
the rides; and that was perfect for us. It sounds soppy, but we are both really lucky to have found our other half, and our honeymoon was just another experience that confirmed that for us. It was truly special being in the middle of nowhere, seeing these amazing views and places as just the two of us. There were a million moments that really did feel ‘once in a lifetime’.
Riding seems so much part of your life. Do you ever take a break?
KEVIN: On Mondays I rest, yes. Haha! No, but really, I do take a couple of weeks off here and there – for example, after The Munga – but otherwise, I ride all year round. I think I take care of myself more than it appears; and at the very least, I manage my intensity to ensure that I can always ride – I would rather ride easy than not ride. That’s probably the most important part of riding.
My only rule is never to ride in Zone 3 – that’s how form and strength die.
I know that my volume of riding is not what’s recommended, but it’s what I like to do; so it’s what I do. My favourite thing to do is ride my bike, to explore, to find and see things, and to learn more about myself and the places that I see while doing so.
I have got better at riding easy when I need to, and at looking after my body and not exhausting it unnecessarily. Which helps me be able to do that all year.
What future trips do the two of you have planned?
KEVIN: A lot. We’re even starting a biketouring business, to take people with us! There’s still a lot of South Africa that we need to see and ride together, so there are a few trips here that we want to do. First up, in my mind, is to take Mikayla to see Mpumalanga – maybe we’ll ride there from Durban.
Overseas trips hold some allure for any rider, I think, and we are no different. Mikayla’s planned trip for us is across Italy, seeing the Dolomites and Tuscany. And I’d like to plan trips in the USA and South America – very different places, but both to experience their cultures. We want to go back to Australia, too; we have great friends there, and I think we would have a pretty cool trip going to visit them.
The world is full of places to see, though – we come up with new ideas constantly. So who knows where we’ll end up going next.
Tell us some of the most interesting experiences you had on this trip.
KEVIN: I think the favourite memory for both of us is all of the times we met people along the road – especially the Basotho in Lesotho, who were really friendly, and so, so happy to see us. We were constantly met with big smiles and loud greetings. I remember the women being fascinated by Mikayla, calling each other to see this woman riding with a bag on her bike, up these huge mountains. That was awesome to witness.
Another great memory was buying a Coke and some sweets from a roadside vendor near Clarens. She had no change for a R20 note as it was still early in the day, so we didn’t ask for change. It was just R5, but to her it meant so much to have made more than normal.
That was humbling, and a reminder of just how much we have, and how lucky we are to live the life that we do. That has really stuck with us both ever since.