One on One with Patrick Haberland – Catherine Cunningham

Catherine gets a helping hand from a Commonwealth Athlete

I love Mauritius for holidays because we can mix our favourite activities with sea and sun,  good food and lovely people. I like to cycle but my husband doesn’t and the cycle trips organised by the hotels are quite tame so I was pleased to find a company who specialised in cycling tours.

I decided I would do a one-to-one tour, rather than in a group so I arranged this by email in advance of my trip. After booking, I thought I better check out the company a bit more, only to discover it was run by Patrick Haberland, a former commonwealth cyclist and he was going to be my guide.  I started to panic because although I love cycling, I’m not the fastest! I emailed him, writing: ‘I did tell you I was in my fifties, didn’t I? Are you sure you are all right with this? It might feel like cycling with your granny!’ He was quite happy and I had the most fantastic time. He was so knowledgeable about his island, the flora and fauna and he kept me entertained with his tales of being a professional cyclist. I subsequently did three more cycling trips with him on later visits.

My most recent trip with Patrick was a bit different. It was on foot. I decided I wanted to climb up Black River Peak, the highest point in Mauritius. He was happy to be my guide along with his co-worker so I met him by a deserted car park, early in the morning, with instructions to the taxi driver to wait for me, I would only be a few hours and we set off.

The trail was extremely muddy due to heavy rainfall the week before. The going was hard but not too taxing, a steady incline. Until we got within 100 metre of the top… It was a mixture of rocks and muddy earth and I could hardly get a grip. Several times I wanted to call it a day but the guys wouldn’t let me. ‘You’ll regret it,’ they chided. Then out came the climbing ropes and once I was attached, I felt more confident to give it a go. With a haul from the one in front of me and a push from the one behind, I made that final effort and the view was unbelievable. While not quite on top of the world, I was certainly on top of Mauritius! I was on a high as I descended back to my deserted car park covered in mud only to find the car park had become a market place filled with stalls and one look on the taxi drivers face told me I wouldn’t be getting in his car covered in mud. I had to head off into the trees and do a quick change before looking more respectable.

I was buzzing from that trip for days and I had a huge bruise the shape of fingers on my arm as a reminder of the helping hand I needed for that last push to the summit.

Catherine Cunningham