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Archive for December, 2010

Sunday Morning Picture Update

Hullo! We are… I guess we're in the Eastern Cape! We've been treated so very kindly by our hosts this week – and what a week we've had. Man.

This PeopleWagon has SEEN things.

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Slightly Smaller Amount of Mountains, Lately

Hello, happy Monday, everyone!

Since the last time we updated from Rhodes, our rest day, we’ve gone downhill for the most part (what with there not being an awful lot of places higher than where we were) and have been staying at a succession of farmhouses with extremely kind hosts. Sure, we’ve been made welcome in people’s houses before, and met chatty, interested caretakers (as the unicycles will always generate interest), but the past three or four days have introduced us to extremely sincere farming families. Families who live some 80 km away from their nearest big supermarkets or doctors, who buy in bulk, make their own butter and harvest their own milk. And cook delicious meals. Johnny pointed out that a likely reason for the delicious variety of food we’ve received may have something to do with there being a token vegetarian in the group, as we’ve, well, been fed a ridiculously delicious wealth of dinners, while our hosts nervously ask us if there’s enough for everyone and if the food’s okay and please have some more. To the charming credit of our hostesses, some imaginative recipes for vegetable casseroles and platters were sourced and prepared, with no need for any of the nervous presentation – we have gone to bed every night just a little too full, and wondering if we could’ve snuck more in.

So, we’ve been eating well.

Since Rhodes, everybody’s merrily told us that the road from there’d be much, much easier. In fact, on the first Thursday back on the road, the roads were so easy that Johnny and Alan arrived at our guest farmhouse, Chesney Wold, at about two in the afternoon – having easily cycled some 68 kilometers in only about seven hours.

They almost missed it, though, because the PeopleWagon was nowhere in sight.

This was because, at that exact same moment, the PeopleWagon was slowly being rocked back and forth as it was navigated around an extremely narrow path carved into the side of an undulating mountain, with a road built of loose, cragged rocks. The full scale of how out-of-place we were, was, I guess, like a hippopotamus trying to climb a spiral staircase. That narrow pass was the single most terrifying strip of road I have ever traveled on, and it is difficult for me to describe exactly how horrific it was. Donna and I found ourselves remembering what a great time we had back at Minerva when the car got stuck in the mud, in the dark. I guess being able to see the cliff you might fall off in broad daylight as opposed to an assumed sheer drop in the dark puts things into perspective. Nor am I completely sure what’s worse – being in the driver’s seat or sitting as a terrified passenger. For my part, I was the latter, and I’d attached myself to whatever holds I could latch onto like a spider-monkey, while Donna navigated the car through the debris like a champ. There was nowhere to turn around – and every time we’d appear around a bend, we’d see another ridiculous loop winding out and up, ahead – and all we could do was keep driving.

We eventually realized that a white bakkie was patiently driving behind us, and we were informed that we were driving up towards the end of the road – his farm cottage on the top of the mountain, which was definitely not Chesney Wold. Somewhere along the road, Donna and I had taken a very serious wrong turn.

It made sense, too, because none of the land-marks we described when phoning for directions seemed to resonate with anyone; see, the road we were on was narrow, over-grown with trees, and had a farm plot on both sides. There were gates we had to drive through, and a river ran on our left with a blue-green bottom – all pretty distinctive clues which people should’ve recognized instantly when we described them. Despite this, we went against our womanly intuition and ended up amongst some confused gentlemen innocently inoculating some cattle on the top of a mountain. The farmer who’d driven behind us on the way up, sent his son to guide us back down the mountain.

 

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Some Pictures For the Weekend

We're so totally in the Karoo. We spend a rest day in the delectable little Hofmeyr, and stayed with our tremendously funny host family, the Moolmans, who had us in stitches the whole evening. Partly from being funny, and partly because they fed us so, so much.

Here are a few pictures of our week, update to follow soon!

 

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We are Karoo-ral!

Hello!

 

So, whoever said the Karoo was flat, lied.

Well, it’s flatter than the Drakensburg. A lot, actually. And we’ve definitely had fewer problems with rain and getting stuck in mud. The PeopleWagon really appreciates that.

Although there are a lot of acacias around. And those plants have like the most unfair natural advantage ever. Apart from having ridiculously huge, white thorns everywhere, these plants actually communicate with each other chemically and become poisonous when they sense an attack (i.e something chewing on the tree). Ever notice how giraffes never seem to just eat the whole tree of whatever kind of leaf they’re nibbling on? Acacias talk to each other. So, there is absolutely no winning against these things, ever. Johnny and Alan (mostly Johnny) got like million punctures a few days ago, and ran out of tire slime to fix it until a quad-biking farmer came to their rescue. From acacia thorns. So, just a heads-up, Human Race. A new contestant has slowly and quietly entered the ring.

 

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What Happened to Neil Cronje

Thank you to everyone who has been sending thoughts and regards to Neil, me and the Cronje family. The support has kept us going. I guess that it is time to give some more details about what happened, now that things are finally looking up. I’ll try to summarize a very difficult 2 weeks.

Neil was knocked over by a large truck (the 16 wheeler kind of truck) whilst on his motorbike, coming home from work, on Frans Conradie Drive (Northern Suburbs) around lunchtime on December 7 . He is uncertain as to what actually happened, and there were no witnesses. It seems that the truck knocked him over to the side, pushed the bike onto his leg, and the truck then drove over the bike. The truck did not stop. Thankfully, a doctor noticed the bike and then my dad on the side of the road and stopped to help. He was in a critical condition. There was extensive damage to his left leg, with multiple injuries elsewhere: broken leg bones, shoulder blade and pelvis. For the medics out there, his hemoglobin was 4 when he went to casualty at N1 City hospital – that is critical. He was in severe shock from blood loss, his leg was bleeding, and more injuries were being discovered.

Initially it was thought that his leg would need to be amputated. The surgeons have so far managed to save the leg, but will need to reassess in 5 weeks time. Most of the muscle in the calf was lost. By some wonder, there was no head, brain, neck or spinal injury. The next few days in ICU were very serious. Several surgeries took place to stabilize and clean up various wounds and injuries. It was thought at one point that it would be best to anaesthetize him and mechanically ventilate him as he was struggling with pain control. The doctors also had concerns with his heart and lung functions. Thankfully, this action was not necessary.

For 10-odd days, this was the news that I was receiving. The support from within the family for each other, and from friends has been incredible. Neil had a bumpy few days, with the general trend being that of a slow improvement. He was recently transferred from the ICU to the ward. It is thought that he will spend around 6 weeks in hospital before being able to go home. However, there is really no knowing exactly how long it will take. What is known is that he has a long recovery ahead. His leg is severely damaged and might still need to be amputated, although this is looking less likely as days go by. His appetite is slowly returning, but fluctuates on a daily basis. Flashbacks to the accident have been a problem, but are now settling down. He is constantly tired, but working incredibly hard at his recovery. He has had a lot of visitors which have lifted his spirits in spite of making him tired with the effort from conversing. The past few days in the ward have been really positive. Physio has started, dressings have been changed, skin grafts inspected. Strength is returning, and his sense of humor is back. He is causing trouble for the nursing staff, which is a great sign! Things are on the mend.

When I was first told about the accident in Rhodes, details were sketchy. The story continually evolved. “Facts” changed as more was learnt. He was fine, then ill. Stable, then critical. I was ready to go home on the next bus, train or plane. However, my dad convinced me to stay. He told me that he wanted me to continue riding. This was a constant message from him, through all the ups and downs, in spite of how sick he was. The family also discussed it at length, and we all spoke about the possible outcomes of the accident. The difficulty was in knowing how serious things really were – the story kept changing as new details emerged. Throughout it, I was told by my dad to ride. It was very difficult. I still don’t know if I did the right thing by staying, even though things have turned out okay.

I was inspired to ride the Freedom Revolution Unicycle Tour by children who do not have shoes. In spite of all the things that could be stopping them from receiving an education, they persevered in getting to their schools. My Father, Neil, is now a stronger inspiration. The bravery, courage, dedication and strength of mind that he requires to sit in a chair for 1 hour per day, through physical exertion and pain of the mind and body, is humbling when I consider the trials of this Tour. My journey of 44 days to Cape Town is childish compared to his journey of months to learn to walk again. If I stop, I hitch a lift back to Cape Town. If he stops, he stays exactly where he is. He can choose to give up as many people would. But he hasn’t, and I know that he won’t.

I hope that this synopsis gives those who have followed the trip some insight into the accident, and some insight into what’s been going on in my head. This tour was always going to be challenging journey, in ways that I knew I would not be able to anticipate. This accident was one of them.

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