Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Day 6

Tulbach – Dwarskersbos

It happened again at Tulbach, that thing that struck terror and shame into my heart. My heart folded itself inside out, and then hid under itself. At Tulbach, once again tables and shares were moved aside to make a dancefloor. As the girls and boys made themselves available, I crawled as far inside my sleeping back, and then wormed my way into the darkness of the stage behind the curtains. Unfortunately, nature called at one point, so I had to skulk from the stage to the toilet. I saw 5 of the prettiest girls wheeling around, while everyone else appeared to be doing what I was doing (under the guise of being tired/sick etc.) Finally, romantic hearts singing, while others choked and sputtered, the lights were killed and we all drifted off to sleep.

I don’t know what it is about dancing. I’ve had a lot of fun in the past, I mean I can count it on…one…half of one hand. Dances seem to me elaborate setups designed to inflict magical pain, shame and embarrassment. Truth be told, it’s probably my main motive for never getting married (I’d be expected to dance at my own wedding, in front of everyone, wouldn’t I?). I can’t even say I can’t dance, although technically I’m sure I can’t, since I been known to dance adequately enough (when sozzled on red wine). I’ve been to the occasional sokkie (nose involuntarily shoots forward). I remember one informeel with Sharon Heath.

So I think avoidance of reality was why, when we headed out that morning, I was taken by complete surprise when PJ bellowed “AAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGHH.” Everyone started yelling, and then the guys pulled away, and then it clicked: “AArrgghh” was thje suffic for: “STAAAAK” (which means strike). Oh yes,we’d been told the previous evening we were striking, but until now, about to head up a steep incline out of Tulbach, I’d forgotten.

I rode back with mixed emotion. I was fully kitted out, since 5:30 am and now it meant undressing again and loading bikes. Somehow it seemed worth it. I could do with a bit of sleep on the bus.

Once the bus got going I ended up chatting, and some chick on the bus who was really tired kept giving me black looks for talking a lot (and keeping her awake). After about 30km we encountered a big troop of baboons on the side of the road, and shortly after that we caught up to the girls. The bus driver did a really stupid thing at this point: he wanted to make a big show of overtaking the girls (with us guys on board), and so, even with a car approaching ahead, he used the speed and momentum and just kept going. It drove the oncoming car, whose tires tore a smoky smear on the tar, into the veld, and the bus then pushed hard left, forcing the girls to abandon the road as well. Crazy!
I was one of the first to disembark and run alongside the approaching ladies, pushing them, taking the odd photo and so on.

At Porterville we got off the bus and ate omelets. While waiting for the girls I took some more pictures, and then had the brilliant idea to load all my memory stick pictures onto a CD (at a local Link Pharmacy).

I followed all the instructions, and finally the disk popped out and the screen said: Transfer Complete. It was only when arrived at the office that I discovered the disk was blank. But from that point on, one by one, I deleted the pictures on the memory stick.

We left Porterville through an attractive avenue of tall bluegums on a hill.

The girls then suddenly peeled away, just as we had, and then I put on the gas a little bit. Before long I had a gap on everyone, and I was enjoying the rampy road: it would climb in small half egg climbs and then drop down again. I noticed that behind me the guys were definitely working together, so I employed an old trick. I found a very long, hard climb, and took it very easy on it. As I got to the top, Danie caught me, having obviously expended a lot of energy to close the gap. I took a turn behind him, and then kicked again. Pretty quickly we were back to the original gap, and I managed to hold it until Porterville. PJ said to me afterwards, “Why did you ride like that?”
“I just felt like it,” I said.

The maximum temperature was 33 C, with 310m of ascending (in just 25km).
We sat on the pavement beside a church at the top of a very steep hill and ate sandwiched and squeezy-packet-cooldrinks. The next stage would take us to the sea again.

For Dwarskersbos, I started off last, and after cruising down the steep descents, kicked again, in the first 5km, up a steep curving incline. From there it was a very interesting ride, in terms of the riders – the landscape was very dull, and the roasts terrible, and the wind even worse. Andre was riding hard to reach me, and I went very hard to test his resolve. But once we were together, we worked together. I felt much stronger than that first day, which was also windy, when it was just the two of us. Quite far into the stage, probably after 20km, PJ joined us. He did so shortly after the bakkies his girlfriend was driving passed us, so I couldn’t help thinking they’d provided him with a slipstream.
Having said that, JP also caught us at a certain point while we were taking in fluids and eating some chips. He stayed with us for about a minute before falling off again.

At one point PJ starting weakening, but I think from not drinking enough water. I also told him to empty one of his water bottles: he was just pushing unnecessary weight into a headwind, and if one got thirsty there was always a water point no more than 15km away. And then he felt better.
I did another kick on a steep downhill at around 69km. Andre called me from behind to say PJ was in trouble – apparently his short bars had slipped and he’d almost fallen. And then suddenly we were in Veldrif.

We rode together, past Joan’s house, and then went to the bridge at an intersection and left our bikes against a jetty. I bought myself a beer, the others got cokes. We sipped them while standing with the icy turquoise water soothing our hot toes and weatherbeaten legs. That was one of the highlights of the trip. Still hungry, and noticing that no one had arrived yet, we went to a nearby restaurant and ordered some chips.

We sat there eating, watching the boats floating on their moors on the Berg river.

Later on we joined the bus and cycled towards a church, and then there was one more piece to do, from Veldrif to Dwarskersbos. Now since all the cyclists were together, and it was just a 10km stretch, the guys started testing each other. I think Annetjie started it, and then some other riders, and then I shot to the front with Andre. We quickly made a gap, but Danie and another guy hauled us in. I kept up a very hard pace, but they still hung on. Then I waved them through, and after giving them time to do some work, kicked hard. Andre came along too, and that was it. They didn’t catch us again. Was a lot of fun.
Maximum temperature: 34 C
Kcal: 2479 (+876 of previous stage)
Average speed (against the wind): 29.1km/h
Ascent: 250m over 78km

Dwarskersbos was interesting. A place I’ve never been before. It was a wonderful way to end the day, walking on the beach in a low key area where you can be yourself.

At about sunset Sally and I went to Joan to discuss what we’d be doing the next day. That, in itself, was also a charming experience. Sally also loved Joan’s garden, the view over the Berg and the house. I couldn’t help seeing another Sally from then onwards.

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