When I received the itinerary for the travel bloggers’ trip to Catalonia last December, the first thing that caught my eye was the Segway tour of Barcelona. I’d heard of the Segway, a two-wheeled electric vehicle; I’d seen groups of Segway riders in the streets of Amsterdam and Hamburg before but I was rather apprehensive about giving it a try. I’d read that the Segway balances itself so there’s almost no way its rider could fall off but I wasn’t convinced. The many bicycle and skateboard mishaps I’d had in the past kept me on guard.
It was a gorgeous Sunday morning in Barcelona. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and though it was freezing, the sun’s rays warmed us up sufficiently. I felt rather nervous as we made our way to the Gothic Quarter (El Gotic) to pick up our Segways. As we approached the Segway Cat office in a narrow alley in the Gothic Quarter, I could feel my heart pounding heavily. There they were: those two-wheeled, 40 kilo machines, lined up neatly against a wall. We were instructed to pick one and pull them by the handlebar to the Plaça San Just around the corner. They were indeed heavy but wheeling them around on foot was surprisingly easy. I stood in a corner of the small square and listened intently as the two instructors gave us a ten minute crash course in handling a Segway. We were then helped onto the Segway, one after the other. I watched in horror as one of my travel mates smashed into a wall whilst another ran into a post – fortunately, no one was hurt.
This thing was made for me!
I was one of the last to step onto the Segway. By this time, my breathing had been reduced to short gasps – fear had me tightly in its grip. I hesitated for several moments before putting my foot on the Segway’s little platform. My mind was racing. What if I stepped on and fell right over, crushed by this 40 kilo contraption? You see, I’ve always been prone to accidents from the time I was a child. Through the years, I’ve had my fair share of ‘freak’ accidents, so I was right to be cautious, I thought. I took several deep breaths and instructed myself to think about my shark encounter in Malaysia and how that had helped me get over my Jaws complex. “You know how to handle fear”, I assured myself. I snapped back into the present and heard the instructor say that I should get onto the Segway, one foot at a time, with my hands gently on the handlebar and stand straight. I did precisely as he instructed…. and hey, I wasn’t falling over! The Segway’s sensors were indeed keeping me balanced. In a split second, my fear was overcome and replaced by excitement and curiosity. I leaned forward by a few degrees and wow…I moved forward. I could brake by simply leaning back slightly. It took a minute to get used to the balance mechanism and how to make turns. After several minutes, I was convinced: this thing was made for me!
After ten minutes of practice on one of Barcelona’s oldest squares, we embarked on the tour through the narrow alleys of the Gothic Quarter in single file. I was glad that it was a quiet Sunday morning. There were few pedestrians and traffic was still light. The uneven, sometimes, sloping pavements and blind corners were a challenge though. We made our way around some of the Quarter’s oldest spots, passing elderly folk on their way to church. The bewildered look on their faces as we zoomed by made me chuckle. The contrast between the centuries-old Quarter and the futuristic-looking Segways couldn’t have been greater.
I was a bit relieved as we exited the narrow lanes of the Gothic Quarter and hit the wide boulevard that curls its way around the harbour. My confidence grew out here in the open. I was soon testing the limits of this machine, hitting the maximum speed of eight kilometers per hour. I felt like I had grown a new set of wings as we zoomed past the yacht harbour towards the beaches of Barcelonetta. We stopped at the very edge of the boulevard, in the shadow of the brand-new, Burj Dubai-like, W Hotel, where we were treated to fabulous views of the city and the coast. The Mediterranean Sea sparkled before us. The sun shone and there wasn’t a single cloud in the bright blue sky. Barcelona spread out behind us up to the Tibidado hills and the Montjuïc castle.
I enjoyed each and every second I was on the Segway. After a while, I was confident enough to take both hands off the handlebar as I took pictures. I spun around columns and benches, and revved up the engine on open stretches. I absolutely loved it.
And to think that an hour before, I was almost choked by the fear of falling over! Fear is indeed a peculiar thing.
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Read more about my visit to Catalonia: