Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Day 8
Malmesbury – Darling – Langebaan

I have good memories of Malmesbury. The food was great, we slept late, and my partner Lizaan and I had a fun time running through suburbia raising money. Sally had decided to skip the stage to Darling (based on bad roads) and use the time to raise money in Malmesbury instead. Since we’d already skipped a stage, I was determined to ride this stage, and so I tried to get a small bunch of riders to ride with me. Danie volunteered, but then we were told that the road was in a horrendous condition etc etc. What could I do?

With the whole sunny morning at our disposal, Lizaan and I walked from house to house. I had my camera with me, so was able to take some photos of a very cute three year old.

At our last stop we were invited in and given cooldrink which meant we missed our ride back to the Rendezvous Point. Lizaan was fun to hang out with too, strong opinions and not afraid to express them. I called Sally to tell her why we’d missed the bus and she said we should meet her at the Bokomo Factory. I said fine, until I realized it would involve another 45 minutes of walking. I called her to try to get her to meet us somewhere closer but got no answer.

We caught a quite ride in an old yellow pickup to the tall white church, and from there we walked towards the distant Bokomo factory. As we got around the church an old woman waved at us. She was in tears, and told us a story of how she found her husband with another man, and then he beat her. Lizaan hugged her and then went to buy her some food. I sat awkwardly with her, asking her what she was going to do and where she was going to go. I was quite relieved when Lizaan returned, and then we each took turns saying a prayer. Part of me felt good about what was happening, but another part felt like we were being conned.

Sure enough, at the KFC, while Lizaan was in the loo, I saw the same old lady walk to her mates under a tree. She seemed okay from where I was standing. She said she needed the money urgently to get home, but she seemed in no hurry now. And since a swarm of us had raked through Malmesbury, and our mission was clear, I felt she had traded on using God’s name to get some extra money. Her tears though, did seem real, so I can’t say for sure.

We ate KFC burgers while we walked on towards the Bokomo factory, and once we were almost there I glanced at my phone again: 5 missed calls from Sally. Damn! My phone had been on silent. Hers had probably been on silent too.

The roads were no worse than the road into Veldrif, and such a scenic road too, lined with what looked like Rhododendrons in places. We did hit some potholes head on, and several times I expected the wagon we were hauling to come flying alongside us like an overenthusiastic skier, before shattering in an explosion ofg dust and debris. Somehow it hung on, bouncing behind us.
When Lizaan, Sally and I arrived at Darling, everyone was eating. The weather was so hot it was stinging. I ate a nice curry lamb, and swallowed massive amounts of water.

Then, finally, we got on our bikes for the last 60-something kilometre stage. But now the wind pushed us firmly back.

Lizaan and I rode nicely to start off with, but as I grew tired, I sought out other riders to shelter behind, and then noticed that she was unwilling to ride closer than 1.5-2metres behind the back wheels of riders in front. Given the strength of the wind, this became really frustrating. When we turned onto a main highway, we had the company of two other riders, and we worked well together for at least 20km.

There were some painful long drags, into the wind. At one watering point the news filtered through that one of the riders had been hit a glancing blow. Of course, we had no idea how serious it was, but judging from how one of the cars tore away to provide assistance, we were worried.

Now we were part of a big train of around 14 riders, 7 on each side, and my strength was slowly but surely being sapped because Lizaan was riding just out of the slipstream, and with her body catching the wind like a sail. I kept trying to goad her just another half metre so we could cruise with the rest, but then she would pull on her brakes, and so I was forced to push her hard into the wind, with this train tantalizingly just ahead of us.
In a moment of maddened exhaustion, we even decided to overtake them, and finally arrived at the garage on the turn off to Langebaan. We had 10km to go. I saw San Marie at one point and then felt my ire rising. I had been riding the whole day with no puncture kit, thanks to her, despite her assurances that she would replace what she had used.

When we arrived I realized we were in the middle third. Someone bought 2 litre Cokes for us, and we all bombarded our systems with excess sugar for this last section. We finally got going, into a very strong headwind. Now I really pushed to stay in touch. The road was really narrow, and cars were zipping by us all the time. Then suddenly, just behind us, there was a pile-up. It seemed like half of our entire group went down, and they stayed where they were until they were out of sight. Once again I felt like I was being tested to my very limit, on this last day. I couldn’t keep in touch with the others on the blind rises, so we had to slow down to Lizaan’s pace, but once over we drove hard and in the final drag pulled up beside PJ and Dot. PJ wasn’t impressed. He said something about: “You should know by now…” The idea was just to reunite, not to pass them, and I didn’t want to reunite at the back and then fall off again – all that hard work for nothing.

Next moment we saw Sally standing with a red flag on the back of the bakkie and pulled off. She looked really flustered. We’d wait here.

Sally said a rider had been hit, but very lightly. A car had stopped though, and then been hit by an approaching car, coming from the opposite direction.
We could see the sea, and had, we guessed, not far to go at all now. It was a long wait. At one point San Marie stood next to me and I said: “I’m glad I didn’t get a puncture today, because if I did, I would have had to wait for help. You said you were going to replace what I gave you yesterday, why can’t you just do what you say? It’s seems like you just expect people to give give give and all you do is take take take. You don’t even say thank you.” I didn’t like being at the end and feeling irritated, but she was standing right next to me…so I moved a bit further along.
I was even more irritated when first Lizaan and then Sally came to me, asking why I was ‘fighting’ with SM!

We finally got going again, climbing, climbing, and then stopping again, until a big vista, filled with the soothing sea, spread out below us. When I got to the bottom I didn’t hang around (they wanted a photo with the bus in the background), I went straight to the beach. Just felt like my own space. It was a lovely view, very unexpected. Reminded me of ‘The Gray Havens’ in Lord of the Rings. The far off gray hillside, a mist moving over, the pale white sand, and the lolling of seawaves on the shore. More a lakeshore, it seemed, than a seashore.

Time: 2:41
Distance: 61km
Average speed: 22.6km/h
Kcal: 1930
HR 123/150
Temperature: 22/30/38

I was huddling on a blanket, chewing on something when they others arrived. I snapped off a few pictures (the first of which I used in my Exhibition, and sold it), soaked up the celebrations, and then tried to outrun the cold mist that was rolling in, and softening the sun into cold cotton.

Lizaan got herself ready fairly quickly, and it just so happened that Andre, PJ and I pushed Lizaan up that terrible climb. It was during this piece that I realized how little Lizaan was actually working. Like the harder we pushed, the less she pedaled. Andre said afterwards, on his last pedalstroke he felt one of his muscles pull. I was also at my limit (though I’d turned my HRM off at this point).

We sailed down to our lodgings for the night. Jean, JP and a few others and myself quickly found a nearby house to shower in. Was nice to sit in the lounge and chill. I reflected suddenly that all those hours sleeping late and collecting money in Malmesbury ought to have been invested here. We really neededto have arrived earlier in Langebaan, to soak it all up, especially since we were leaving well before the crack of dawn. Our time to celebrate – in daylight on the beach – couldn’t have been much more than half an hour.

After some singing, and eating, and finding a room, I went for a walk on the beach. For a moment I thought I was walking with someone, but it must have been my imagination. It was spooky on the beach. The yellow sulfur lights lit up large ghost ships, and tall pieces of timber poked vertically out of the water, perhaps to guide the Ferryman through the fog. I sat down for some wine, and then walked back.
The waters around my feet suddenly glowed blue, and splashed in pale or bright blue arcs about my feet. I played alone in the light of this shallow water, in the gloom of the fog. Once again I imagined someone beside me, but there was no one there.

Total Time: 36H35
Total Distance: 845km*
Average Speed: 23.1km/h

*(I have only ridden one Fietstoer so far – BFN – Hartenbos, where we rode the full 1000km)

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