In the vastness and incessant heat of the Kalahari Desert, Lani Schultz discovered a life lesson.
She came across it while riding her mountain bike down a rugged road surrounded by sand, rock and lizards.
That day Schultz, 59, was riding alone in the 900,000-square kilometer desert. She finished climbing a hill and was rewarded by a leg-resting downhill stretch. As she gathered speed, a pair of zebras appeared at the side of the road and began galloping alongside her.
Schultz thought the zebras were playing a game, as if to prove her fast-moving bike was no match for their raw speed and strength. They would leap over the roadside fence, sprint ahead and then quickly dart in front of her. Twice they crossed just feet in front of her.
After five kilometers they tired of the game and galloped off, leaving her once again alone in the boundless desert.
“I was so in awe. I could not believe my eyes, seeing them running so free in the desert in Namibia. And I was all alone to watch it,” said Schultz, who returned to Canada yesterday (Thursday).
The experience left her feeling strangely different.
“I felt how small and insignificant I was riding in this huge desert. And watching the zebras, they were not afraid of me,” she said.
“That was the most unforgettable moment of my entire life.”
Over the last eight months Schultz has lived many unforgettable moments.
The former owner of Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe on 12th Street in New Westminster has spent the last eight months riding her bike more than 18,000 kilometers through 24 countries in Africa, Europe and Asia.
Schultz got the “bug” for long distance cycling two years earlier after she sold her store and cycle toured across Canada.
Now her love for two-wheeled travel seems to have no limits.
Originally she had planned to just take part in the Tour d’Afrique, which started Jan. 15. The guided tour took her through 10 countries, starting in Cairo, Egypt and ending in Cape Town, South Africa on May 15.
Then a week after finishing the 10,000-kilometre odyssey, where she rode through rugged terrain, harsh climate and three flat tires, the former New West businesswoman embarked on the Silk Road Tour from Istanbul, Turkey to Samarqand in Uzbekistan. That trip put another 4,200 kilometers on her mountain bike tires and took six weeks.
But Schultz hadn’t finished yet. Next she joined the 3,900-kilometer Amber tour from St. Petersburg, Russia to Venice, Italy.
The hours, days and months of cycling gave her lots of time to think and reminisce. For example, while spinning through Slovenia she thought about a Slovenian family in New Westminster who would visit her sweet shop on a regular basis.
“Slovenia is so beautiful. It’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been,” said Schultz. “When I saw Slovenia I thought I wanted to see them again and tell them how beautiful their country is.”
During the eight months she learned first-hand about the countries she was traveling through. As Schultz and her follow riders passed through each region they were joined by local riders hired by the cycle touring company. They would ride along side them and tell them about their homeland.
“Some of the riders were interested in me because I was as old as their parents and their parents were no longer active,” she said. “I was an inspiration for them.”
Despite being older than most cycle tourists, Schultz would never dream of seeing the world on a train or tour bus. Cycling gets you closer to country you’re traveling through and gives you a chance to explore more, she said.
“Those ways are too fast. That’s why I enjoy the bike,” said Schultz.
“This way I can control the speed, stop any time I want for coffee or to meet local people. You can experience so much more.”