Archive for January, 2011
Happy New Year!
Wow, did anyone try and write the date today? 01-01-2011. Well, at the time of posting this, it’ll probably be 02-01-2011, as we have no cell phone reception or anything where we are, so treat this as a letter from the past.
We have, at length, arrived in Anysberg Nature Reserve, after spending Old Year’s Eve at Rouxpos farm. Well, we bravely managed to stay up until around 9 before we excused ourselves and went to bed. So, thanks everyone else who stayed up and made sure the New Year turned up as it should’ve! Because if it were left up to us, we probably would’ve just woken up at 4:00AM to find 2011 and everything else, broken.
Well, what we’ve done with our New Year’s day instead is to execute damage-control. For the first time in a couple of days, Donna and I arrived at our rest point before Johnny and Alan, which was an immediate cause for concern – we’d arrived after two in the afternoon, a time of day where we’ve grown accustomed to finding Johnny and Alan lounging around scruffy and shirtless and listless, like feral cats. So, when we arrived at our, ah, rustic lodgings at Anyseberg Nature Reserve, we were lightly concerned at the absence of two yowling unicyclists.
I should backtrack and detail that it had unexpectedly rained heavily as we turned onto the dirt road towards the reserve (as seems to happen whenever we enter an area which boasts a dry, arid climate), and the effect was that the roads turned into little rivers. I ploughed through puddles swelling into rapids, as Donna inconspicuously clipped in her seatbelt and stared out the window, contentedly pretending she was somewhere else. So, we realized that there might’ve been some relevant reason for Johnny and Alan being delayed somewhat. We’ve also had no cell phone reception since we left Oudshoorn (where Donna and I were really puzzled as to why everything seemed to be closed at one in the afternoon, before we realized it was the 31st of December), so calling them to check up wasn’t even possible.
Donna and I had also been slightly delayed in leaving for the day, because we’ve been playing at being cartographic detectives. See, we’ve come as far as we are with around seventy A-4 contour-maps of South Africa, which compliment a series of instructional narratives supplied by the Freedom Challenge, and combined, these sources (sometimes) leads the user through the correct, established off-road route. Thing is, as of tomorrow, we’re kind of on our own. We’re veering off from the Freedom Challenge route and staying in different places in and around Matroosberg, Witsenberg, Tulbagh, Perdeberga and Blaauwberg, before hitting up Mouille Point this Saturday (by the way, you’re invited – we’ll be there at 12:00).
Okay, now, those places I just rattled off up there? Is as much as I or any of us know about where we’re traveling to or staying. I don’t know how far apart they are, or how to get there, or where in Matroosberg we’re supposed to go, because we don’t have maps or narratives for them yet. Well, we have these two screen caps of GoogleEarth images that have helpfully been emailed to us. Have you ever gone into one of those old garage bathrooms where you have to pay R2 to get in and then there’s a cleaning lady who hands you exactly three carefully-counted squares of toilet-paper?
What we do have, though, are a couple of DVDs with official raster maps of South Africa’s Chief Directorate’s National Geo-Spatial Information, which is a fancy way of saying we have a bunch of maps on discs. Unfortunately they are huge image files, and having Johnny and Alan unicycle about with a laptop dangling from one of their necks doesn’t seem to be an option, so Donna and I have had to extricate which of the 20 bazillion maps on these discs are relevant to our supposed routes, separate them into printable A-4 pages, and print them. I might add that we were sitting in Gerard and Ronel Roux’s living-room the entire time, who kindly let us use their printer and dining-room table as our geo-spatial base of operations while they cleaned and pottered around us.
After an exhaustive and frustrating morning’s work, we managed to leave at one o’clock in the afternoon with enough map coverage for… the next day’s navigation. Seriously, a full day ahead of the eight days we have left. We didn’t have the strength for any more after that. I mean, we’ll get to it. Once we figure out, you know, where it is that we’re meant to be headed, anyway.
Anyway, in the comfort of our new lodgings, Donna and I pulled out some chairs and sat on the porch until around 5:30 to drink coffee and tea and stare at some antelope grazing against the mountain backdrop, and started drawing ultimatums; if Johnny and Alan hadn’t arrived by 6, we’d have to start driving to rescue them. The rain had stopped, but the roads were still likely to have aspirations of rampaging rivers, and we didn’t want to get the PeopleWagon stuck in the dark again. We’ve already had a PeopleWagon slumber party. We’re over that, now.
Happily, Johnny and Alan arrived just as we were contemplating whether to begin our search party or get a second cup of coffee. I say “happily” for Donna and I, because it meant we didn’t have to drive anywhere and we could continue comfortable sitting where we were, because the truth is, Johnny and Alan didn’t look too happy at all. They’d covered 85 km, and had been riding since 5 in the morning – a long, 12-hour day. They’d been caught in the rain, of course, and had been significantly more intimate with the upstream journey on the road-cum-river. They’d also somehow been separated when Alan stopped to tie his shoelaces, and spent a considerable amount of time furiously cycling through a valley, trying to re-locate each other by blowing on their emergency whistles – which was made a difficult task from the valley’s echo. This resulted in the two of them riding in exactly the opposite direction whenever one of them heard the other across the valley; their eventual reunion is something that probably happened in a slow-motion unicycle collision across a grassy daisy meadow.
It would’ve been full of acacias, really.
According to Johnny’s mum (hi Tes!), we are three sleeps away from arriving at Mouille Point. We’ve spent the day trying to stay out of the heat in Tulbagh, which is just close enough to Cape Town see a tiny speck of Table Mountain from the hills.
A woman fanning herself in a supermarket told us it’s 40°C today. We believe her. We had ambitions of re-visiting Moniki’s Chocolate factory and playing at being snap-happy tourists in the quaint and historical little streets of Tulbagh, but, you know what? Our guesthouse is air-conditioned. And Johnny and Alan are tired and are nursing injuries. Our achievements have pretty much been breakfast, a large number of phonecalls, emails sent via our cellphones, and a successful power-nap.
Amongst that, however, I got the team to stay awake and alert in the same room long enough for another casual interview. Seeing as we’re so close (oh man, so close) to the end of the tour, we decided that we ought to recap our highs and lows of the trip.
Let’s start with food! Where’s the best meal we’ve had so far?
DONNA: Masakala, without a doubt! Although Joyce’s chocolate pudding from Slaapkranz was amazing.
JOHNNY: For the most part, we’ve been fed a great assortment of food. We’ve been really well fed almost everywhere.
DONNA: Well, not everywhere.
JOHNNY: Haha, well, we’ve had some last-minute booking issues with people who found out about us a few hours before we arrived, so…
KIRBY: I loved the food at Moordenaarspoort! Danie’s wife, Regina, was really nervous because it was her first time making vegetarian food, and it was delicious. That tomato eggplant casserole was amazing. I hope she knows!
JOHNNY: That was a cool couple!
Okay, so what was the worst meal?
JOHNNY: Hahaha, Matroosberg for you, Kirby!
KIRBY: I felt so bad about that! The woman made me special vegetarian food but it was egg-fried rice with soy chicken. I really don’t like egg, or anything that tastes like meat! But she made such a special effort into making me a separate meal!
DONNA: Her breakfast pies were delicious though. What about that place where you didn’t even get a chance to tell the cook you were a vegetarian?
KIRBY: Rondawel! Haha, the woman walked in, talking the entire time, dished up a big lump of macaroni and mince for all of us, without a single chance for me to even let her know I couldn’t eat it. Well, at least she left us to eat alone and I could trade for the salad she’d made! The woman at Matroosberg sat down and watched us eat – she made sure!
JOHNNY: It was lovingly made though.
KIRBY: Her home-made bread was excellent.
DONNA: This one at Tulbagh’s quite good.
JOHNNY: That lodge!
DONNA: What lodge? I don’t think I was there…
JOHNNY: That hunting lodge we stayed at! In Kleinpoort…. It was a big, open shower with no curtain, and a massive showerhead with lovely warm water…
ALAN: Oh, that was a wonderful place to stay at. Luxurious.
KIRBY: My best shower experience was the outdoor thing at Indigo Skate Camp! It was just such a relief to end a horrible day with, hey, whaddya know, a hot shower… outdoors! And it was huge.
JOHNNY: Yes, it was a relief to have a shower, and it was a good outdoor novelty, but it’s definitely not my favourite one. (more…)
It’s TABLE MOUNTAIN.
Guys, we can see Table Mountain! We are a day away!
We’re coming home! It’s finally happening!
Oh boy. Oh boy, oh boy.
It’s been a tremendous journey. And it’s coming to an end.
Now, we have to come out and say that we had some ambitions of trying to get the public to ride the last 5km leg with us. We tried calling the traffic department and got passed on to all the relevant bureaucratic parties on the phone, but, no dice. No event support. So, we can’t give you an official route to follow with a traffic escort. That would be unethical and also sort of breaking the law. See, it’s not safe to have a big cozy mob with us without clearance.
But – and we’re just mentioning this – we’ll be cruising past the Greenpoint Soccer Stadium at around 11:45 AM on Saturday.
That’s 11:45AM: Greenpoint Stadium on Fritz Sonnenberg Road. And we’ll be steadily riding aaall the way down to Beach Road. So, it’s a simple, popular and pretty place for bike-riding. You know, on a warm, summer Saturday morning. And, if you happened to recognize this to be the case, and happened to be in the area, you’d see CounterBalance on their unicycles, too. And if you happened to be riding around the same route as those guys, towards Beach Road, and happened to take a break at Mouille Point Lighthouse, then, you know, that’d just be a thing, wouldn’t it?
So over the weekend CounterBalance unicycled from Durban to Cape Town, no biggie.
Well, it was a bit more than just the weekend. More like 44 days. They finished the distance on Saturday, is what I meant. Sorry for being vague.
They also did the whole thing off-road. Through mountains. And swamps. And rivers. And through a whole lot of Karoo, which as it turns out, isn’t really flat at all. Or as dry as everyone says. They got lost a whole bunch of times, and so did their driver, who in her defense was often left with no more deeper instructions or intuition other than “drive south”.
Sometimes there were snakes. Sometimes there were Zulu chieftains with big sticks sculpted for beatin’. And sometimes, there were acacias. Actually, that should be more like “60% percent of the time, there were alien plants that can talk to each other and become poisonous at will when under attack, aside from being armed with massive thorns everywhere”.
There was bad weather. There were rainstorms which fed river beds that had been dry for so long that people built roads through them. It got so hot that the unicyclists almost leaked all of their wet bits out through their sweat glands. There were mosquitos. There were steep climbs, rugged terrain, and perilous passes for one-wheeled and four-wheeled road users alike. There was at least one incident where coordinated team effort was required to dislodge the PeopleWagon from something like a Jurassic tar pit.
There were injuries. There were aches. There were gastronomic ills. There were some days where showers were skipped and sorely missed.
There were also some places so amazing that no picture could ever relate how panoramic the view was, or how small we felt next to it. Some landscapes that stretched out so far, that no amount of craning backwards with the camera could take in the vastness. There were glimpses of animals that disappeared in a blink, and on some days lighting painted the skies with snaking tendrils for the briefest moments while thunder crackled through the air like hammer. South Africa blossomed under our feet as we walked the beat of the road less-traveled.
Man, what am I waxing on about, here? South Africa is a beautiful country and we were extremely privileged to see the world beyond the N1 and the N2. I’m serious, we went so deep into the Transkei that Google Himself couldn’t find us. We met and were housed by some people who were as beautiful and wonderful as the country, and ran into some people that I’m pretty much going to compare to those acacias I keep going on about, and leave it at that.
This journey was unlike anything any of us have done before. Or anyone else, for that matter. Seriously, this is the first time anyone’s covered Durban to Cape Town, coast-to-coast, off road, on a unicycle, of all things.
On Saturday, we arrived at Mouille Point lighthouse to an amazing, receptive crowd. Friends, family, supporters. Johnny, Alan and Donna were joined by an impressive posse of unicyclists and bicyclists, among them David Waddilove, our crazy master-mind who pioneered the Freedom Challenge, Marcel Sigg from RunRideDive, David Eave who, um, knew the way, and Ron Rutland from Bobs for Good legged out on his very own two as a jogger! It was a positively heartwarming welcome home after 44 days on the road, and to everyone who came – we’re deeply touched.
We at CounterBalance have a tremendous lot of people to thank for making The Freedom Revolution Unicycle Challenge. The planning and execution rode soley on the people involved. Not that we rode on people, but you get what I'm saying, right? We tried our best to include everybody in this list, we did. If we've left you out, we're sorry, so let's agree on this: if you've been following our blog or Twitter account, or have made donations, or have mentioned us to your friends… Put yourself on this list.
David Waddilove (The Freedom Challenge), who deserves, at the minimum, an entire blogpost of idol-worship: For logistical support, advice, guidance, encouragement and motivation. David, we thank you and all the efforts of you and the Freedom Challenge Team for creating and maintaining such a powerful trail.
Meryl Glaser (The Freedom Challenge) who ensured that we had a bed to sleep in, a meal to eat, whether it be vegetarian or not. Constantly awesome!
Ron Rutland (The Bobs for Good Foundation) for running the last 20km’s of the journey with us.
Ben Lewis (The Bobs for Good Foundation) for compiling an impressive document which we could send out with proposals. Nice one!
Claire Alexander, Byron Rode, Loren and Robyn McCormick (The Bobs for Good Foundation) for general support.
Theunis Van Wyk (First Car Rental) your sponsorship was vital to the success of our trip. We can’t express our gratitude enough for your generous donation, the Purple PeopleWagon.
Lance Samuels (Out of Africa) for being a true mench. You wanted to be involved in a unicycle trip of this proportion before this trip was even conceived in Johnny’s brain.
Kris Holm (Kris Holm Unicycles) The king of uni without a doubt! Thanks for all the research and development you’ve put into our sport. You’ve made journey’s like this possible.
Alan Read (OddWheel Unicycles) for purchasing the geared hubs that could make this epic tale realistic, amongst other bits and bobs.
Marlene Marais (Capestorm) you gave us awesome technical cycling gear (and relaxing gear!). You’ve given Team CounterBalance support, punting the tour so diligently to the Capestorm supporters. You were at the Lighthouse to shake our hands and introduce yourself.
Brad “Rad” Jackson (MagicLight) for keeping us out the dark with stupidly bright lights, and keeping us entertained with music from the powerful little Podio Luminaudio mp3 player/speaker.
Jan and Cindy Muller (Gold Restaurant) for donating half of their proceeds from a busy Saturday night in the Restaurant to the CounterBalance Trust.
Nicolas Tucker (Adventure Inc.) for keeping us and our gear warm, dry and happy with Sea to Summit waterproof stuffsacks, travel sheets, towels and Buff multipurpose headgear.
Andre Reynard (UPS Technologies) for the kind loan of the power inverter solution kit, and at such short notice too. A valuable service was done to the tour.
Jacques Van Jaarsveld (KeenCam Imports) you gave us the smallest camera to capture our journey with. Without asking for anything in return, you truly were inspired by what we were doing. You’ve been patient in waiting for footage from the GoPro, Kirby is editing 44 days worth of raw footage. We hope that it expresses the value of your sponsorship.
Marie Van Niekerk, Richard Bowsher and Grant (BOS Ice Tea) for quenching our thirst in the driest parts of the country and being the only small business that donated actual shoes. You guys rock!
Gerhard Greef (ConcenTrace) Thank you for the kind donation, 'no questions asked'. There is no doubt that this product kept me safe from dehydration through its combination with the water taken in per day. I am a firm believer in ConcenTrace.