Monday, 27 June 2011

Day 14 – Stop to smell the roses

The FNB Home Loans Team had more time today to report back with their progress and feelings about the race. This is their reflections so far

FNB Home Loans Team at sunrise
Today's trip from Van de Venter's kraal to Toekomst farm was the shortest and most pleasant day of the race to date. It took a mere 6 hours and left us with a whole afternoon to relax and fix bikes. Brake pads for needed changing after a thousand odd kilometers and some big technical downhill riding.

"Coming from Stuttgard the morning is very cold. Climbing the Skuifteberg mountain in the snow"
"The 4 of us puching our bikes up the mountain. Note the road leading down to the right where we just came from"
"Gorillas in the mist? Or perhaps riders who just came down the mountain in the back"

If one has some weak point in your body the freedom challenge will find it. John never had achilles tendon trouble until this race, while Albert's ankles have been playing up. None of this seems to have anything to do with cycling. Rather, it is the walking over mountains carrying bikes and rucksacks that really hurt. So if you cycle because you can't run due to weak joints, think carefully about doing this one.
"Fence climbing has become an official sport."
Lots of good people in this country. Everyone is overly happy to help us with directions when we get lost (which was often in KZN and Transkei), and the hospitality at the support stations has been superb. In the town of Vuvu, we were farmed out for the night to the local residents of what is a very poor town. The sleepover was as good as any, and the pride in the homes was good to see. Then came the traditional guest houses of the Transkei, and as we move west it reverts to staying with farmers, where one has to avoid the temptation of being too sociable.

"We like our bikes so much that we sometimes bath with them"

Through the Eastern Cape, one goes past many abandoned farm homesteads, reflective of how many country areas have depopulated partially over decades as urbanization takes root. Sadly, farm murders are topical in parts. But also noticeable is a smaller group of farmers really excelling, and we've passed through some impressive game farming outfits.

Apartheid era borders still appear to determine infrastructure disparities to a great extent. The Freedom Challenge sticks to dirt roads and tracks. But the condition of the public dirt roads deteriorated noticeably as we moved towards the former Transkei region and away from KZN. Thereafter, the improvement in the roads as we headed to the Karoo was also noticeable.

"Sun rises on a beautiful Karoo morning. Who said the Karoo was flat?"
"Flat road across half the world. Now that's civilised cycling."

Some platteland towns are in a sorry state, none more so than Hofmeyr, where the established town appears almost dead, while the main life seems to be in the newer part where RDP homes have been built en masse. I always wonder what the occupants of new RDP homes in these small platteland towns will do for a living in years to come as economic activity moves increasingly to bigger cities. More and more government grants to people in these places?

"One of many derelict Karoo farmhouses. A sign of a few decades of urbanisation."
And of course, every so often we pass a (now derelict) railway station. The scaling down of the railways had a massive impact on the platteland. Small economies built around rural stations have collapsed. The old railways we knew was unsustainable, but its demise was painful for the platteland.

"Joan Louwrens, our new team doctor"
Finally, in this race the biggest need for most of us is people. There are a few individuals that race it alone. John and Albert agree that we would have dropped out on about the second day if we had been alone and bumbling around in the dark looking for our support station. That's life. Most of us need other people for support. But the middle and upper class sections of our society seem to think they can go it alone and outsource everything. No wonder stress and depression are out of control in suburbia.

1 comment:

  1. One gets the impression it's somewhat chilly chaps