I mean, when a dog looks at me, I know exactly what it’s on about. “I want to go outside.” “I want to go inside.” “I want to go to the beach.” “I want you to throw the ball for me.” I want you to feed me.” “I want the rest of that lamb chop you are guzzling with relish while I’m just left to sit here and salivate.”
Nice and simple. I know where I stand with dogs. And they know where they stand with me. I eat the lamb chop. They get the bone. And then we get on with life.
Not so cats. Take this one that’s sitting on this verandah, looking at me. I have totally no idea of what’s it trying to tell me. Probably something like “I know you’re writing some rubbish about cats, using the way I’m looking at you right now as some feeble excuse to cat-bash and I want you to know that you’re getting it completely wrong. Just so you know.”
Pure evil: The house cat glares at me in disgust after pulling its bum-in-face manoeuvre Pic: Hatman
But I don’t know. Cats are like, um, women. Men like to think that they know about women. But they, er, we don’t. Perhaps that’s why most women love cats. Because they have some secret language to which men and dogs aren’t privy. Wait. I think I can develop this thread of thought. Yes. That’s it. Women are like cats. Men are like dogs. I could be politically correct – or gender-sensitive or whatever it’s called – and put the word “most” before “women” and “men”. Or even before “cats” and “dogs”. But I won’t. Because you know what I’m trying to get at here. Men because they will agree with me. Women because they are thinking “They (men) just don’t get it. And they just don’t get us (women and cats).”
No, we don’t. I mean, take this cat right here on the verandah. I want to say “my verandah” – because I’m paying the rent here. But I can’t. Because I’ve just moved in and the cat, well the cat has been around forever. It comes with the house. Hah. There’s a difference between cats and women. Women seldom come with a house. They usually leave with it. But I’m not going there.
Back to the cat. After realising that it was dealing with quite a stubborn sort of male blogger writing absolute dross about not understanding – or taking the trouble to stop to really understand – her (yup, this cat is both female and a cat), it slinked towards me, blinked alluringly, purred loudly and, as I started to smile, jumped on to the table and swung it’s ass around and into my face.
Nice. Are you getting my drift? No? Well, bear with me, ladies.
Aah, sweet: Dogs truly are a man's best friend and super-willing to plug into some fun and games Pic courtesy of McGugan & Walne
While in the early stages of recovering from having my line of vision sullied by a furry black bum, I sought solace in putting on the kettle and then checking my Twitter account. In no time at all, two tweets about cats minced through cyberspace. Both from women. Of course. Let us analyse these two tweets, which are surprisingly different in tone.
Tweet One (from “laurasomethingorother”): “Oh, sorry. And kitten. PsychoKitty reminded me that I also need to extend my greeting to all feline inhabitants of Earth. So…meow meow.”
Let us pause for a deep breath here. Right. Now, I don’t know about you – and I really don’t want to read too much into this, probably because it scares the hell out of me – but I would say that somebody has woken up somewhere in the world and feels bad because she said good morning to all of her cyber-friends (known to her or otherwise) without extending the same greeting to all of the cats (known to her or otherwise) of the world. That are united only in their penchant to sit around and stare at us. And, once they have concluded that what they are staring at is male and not taking the trouble to understand what it is trying to communicate, stick their asses in our faces. Before sliding off to try to kill a bird.
What is that all about? Why did “laurasomethingorother” feel moved to purr out a “have a good day” tweet to the planet’s cat population? You tell me. Somebody who knows a lot more about these things (undoubtedly a woman, or perhaps a psychotherapist in San Francisco or Green Point) might place this firmly in the category of phenomena which encompasses why females feel the need to own 96 pairs of shoes or why, at age 47, a woman neatly props up a small army of cuddly toys on her pillows before heading off to her high-powered office.
I don’t know. Because, I am all too slowly realising, I am not meant to know. It’s like why one never sees baby pigeons. Or why Julius Malema hasn’t spent some of his hard-earned dosh on hiring a PR spinperson. Or why mosquitoes exist. Simply inexplicable. Like this frigging cat that, after licking the same bum that it just shoved into my face, has resumed the “Sitting In The Same Place On My Verandah While Staring At The Silly Old Blogger Who Just Moved In And Thinks That This Is His House” position.
Tweet Two (from “amandasomeoneorother”): “Why do cats wash themselves, loudly and right next to your head at 3am?” Ah, I’m more confident about this one. Because you didn’t kick it out of the front door, close all of the windows, block up the chimney and fortify your bed with steel mesh before going to bed? Duh.
Right. I’m now feeling better about everything. Well, almost everything. And you’ll know why I added that caveat. Yes. This bloody cat.
I am suddenly reminded of a hilarious skit produced by Eddie Izzard live at the Palace Theatre in London back in the day. Yes, the one to which the now-very-famous cross-dressing funnyman turned up dressed as neither a woman or a man. Or as both. Well, he had put on full make-up but clearly hadn’t had the time to choose a frock so he was wearing guy’s clobber. This wasn’t nearly as confusing to me as cats. Or women. Anyway, Eddie did this really funny number where he compared the reactions of both a cat and a dog to a new model of car which had whizzed by.
You might know it? The cat sits back, paw on chin, and ponders over the torque capability of the new Renault Clio 1.6l SRX while the dog, tongue lolling out of one side of its slobbery gob, runs wildly after the car, shouting “Wait. Wait! Take me to the park!”
Hang on. I’ve just had an epiphany. A revelation of sorts. Which is quite unnerving. Especially as this infernal cat is now sitting on the table, its back to me, flicking its bushy tail around the screen of my laptop.
Doesn’t Eddie’s gag precisely illustrate the difference between women and men?
As I wrote here yesterday, Stanford is a village of humungous charm and character. And so are its people.
People make the place, yes? Yes.
And among many people dedicated to making Stanford an even better place than it already is is Paul Chew.
Did I say charm and character? Paul has aircraft carrier-loads of both. And guts.
And a yearning for adventure which has taken him all over the world, attempting the weirdest challenges… and overcoming them.
Paul Chew... adventurer extaordinaire and a man who wants to make a difference
Climbing icebergs, free-diving with sharks, crossing India in a ricksha, swimming the English Channel… these are just some of Paul’s gut-wrenching pursuits.
His most recent exploit was to take part in the Mongol Derby, a very demanding horse-ride across a vast tranch of China’s most inhospitable territory. He finished third, despite being the oldest person in the race.
Pure guts. But that’s not all. Paul’s thirst for adventure is matched by his hunger for positive change in the world.
His challenges have helped to raise more than R500 000 for the Mercy Corps which provides funds to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.
He’s relatively new to Stanford but, once “chosen” by this crazy village to take up residency, he looked around him and saw that all was not sweetness and light for the the people of Die Skemers, a “coloured township” up on the hill above Stanford village.
So when he heard that Inspector Mpanda of the South African Police Services was running a boxing club to give the kids something other to do than get into trouble, Paul wanted to help.
Insp Mpanda needs help. His pugilistic prodigies are enthusiastically running the roads around Stanford to get fit but they don’t have a venue. Nowhere to actually box, nowhere with a ring, nowhere with a punchbag, nowhere with gloves, nowhere with anything. Nowhere to keep warm and dry while they try to become boxers. And Insp Mpanda’s kids have potential. At a recent Western Cape tournament, 20 of his charges scooped 13 medals, gold and silver, between them.
It would be really cool, don’t you think, if they had a building in which to train. Paul thinks so.
So he’s riding the Cape Epic next week. Eight hundred kilometres of of monstrously hard mountain bike racing from Wellington through Ceres, Worcester and Elgin to Lourensford Estate. Paul has shaken off a bout of flu to complete his training for his first-ever bike race and will start on Sunday.
Paul in training for the Cape Epic, eight days and 800km of extremely testing mountain bike riding
He would love for his efforts in the world’s toughest off-road bike race to benefit the little boxers of Stanford. For whom a boxing training venue would mean the world.
So, how can you help? I’m glad you asked. Because you can. You can sponsor Paul Chew, kilometre by tortuous kilometre, and the money you pledge will go towards enabling the good inspector to buy the materials to build a venue for the boxing club. This club will help to bring the quite separate communities of Stanford together and give the kids hope. Hope that they can become better boxers. And better people. Nothing wrong with that, hey?
* You can read much more about Paul’s deeds of derring-do by hurrying straight over to here. Please contact Janet Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 082 456 8091/028 341 0216 to make your pledge to support Paul Chew in his gut-busting effort to help the children of Stanford
I’ve always said that I would blog about anything as long as it didn’t involve cute kids or pets. Too obvious. Too easy. OK, so forget that… and meet Bella…
Bella... in classic pose. You should see what her tongue has to do to make way for three tennis balls in her gob
Right. What comes to mind? “The lights are on but no one’s at home”? “Not the sharpest tool in the shed”? It’s OK. You’re spot-on.
I chose Bella (or “Golden Glow” as she was known 12 years ago because of the shade of nail polish painted on to her claws to differentiate her from the other eight of the cutest Lab puppies you ever did see) because of the way she looked at me. She was trying to make a connection of sorts. She seemed to be saying… “You are quite smartly dressed. You look fairly responsible. You’ve probably got a good job. Take me. I fancy some top-quality grub and a swimming pool in the back garden and you look the type who could give me both.”
I couldn’t argue with that. I paid my money and put her in a box on the passenger seat. She squealed and cried and yelped all the way home. She had clearly been possessed by a premonition of what was to come. But, at first, all was well. She joined another new arrival, Benson the swarthy-black Staffie, at Coz Cottage and, indeed, was well fed and watered, walked and swum. In fact, the “cuddle puddle” at the back of my Victorian cottage was claimed as her own by Bella and I often had to drag her out so that I could swim on a hot day.
I got married and life got even better for Bel. We moved to a bigger house with a far bigger swimming pool. She discovered a party trick. She would slide into the pool at the deep end, barely making a splash, and dive to the bottom – at least 2 metres below the surface – locate her ball and bring it triumphantly to the top. Our guests would marvel at this feat, especially as it was produced by a dog so somnambulant that she would sleep in the middle of the lawn through the most electric and deafening of Durban thunderstorms.
All three dogs – Jo and I had added the feistiest of Jack Russells to the mix – loved having the ball thrown for them. I tried to ensure that all three had a fair crack at getting to the ball first. But Trouncer, the Jack Russell and the most competitive dog I have known, invariably won the race. Bensie would feign disinterest and find a spot under a tree to chill and look disarmingly handsome.
Bella would compete in the nicest, politest way, never once being tempted to attack the pesky little terrier which continually ran away with her ball. That’s how she was. And is. The sweetest, gentlest, most patient dog. My late mum’s favourite dog.
Then Jo and I got divorced. I was forced to close down my arts and entertainment free sheet paper. My life spiralled. It was automatic that I should be given custody of the dogs. I loved them. I flew to Cape Town to start a new life, all three dogs panting in anxiety in the hold beneath me. It was very cavalier of me. Things didn’t work as planned and I was forced into finding good homes for the two big dogs. It was best for them, traumatising for me.
Dear old Bel fell with her great, blonde, furry bum firmly in the butter. Friends Helen Walne and Brandon McGugan took pity on her (and me) and offered to take her on. Brave. She was now 10 years old and, typical of Labradors, was being slowed down by her wonky hindquarters. Bella had always been ungainly, clumsy… and permanently itchy. She scratched, she rubbed herself against walls. Large clumps of fur would fall from her flanks. Put kindly, she was no contender for Crufts Dog of the Year.
But Helen and Brandon took excellent care of the old girl, kept her active… and gave her a new lease on life. She responded with gusto. And, as her physical facilities, such as they were, slowed to a pace at which the nicknames of “Heffalump” and “Pachyderm” were fondly delivered, she decided to fight back. In her quiet yet determined, even pugnacious, way.
She found an excellent china in Joey, Helen and Brandon’s athletic and razor-sharp Africanus. Balls were thrown in the park each evening, Joey greyhounding after them with almost effortless efficiency, The Pachyderm sloping in a very distant second.
Ag shame. But our girl felt no shame, nor displayed it. She simply continued to enjoy every second of her new lease on life.
Joey and Bel
Last Sunday, perhaps the hottest day of the year in Cape Town, Helen and a friend took the dogs for a walk in shady Newlands Forest. It was inevitable that Bella would find water. And when she did, the old Pachyderm pointed herself towards it and galloped like a pensioned-off carthorse. She had to negotiate a steep descent to get her swim. Fail. She slipped and tumbled like a ball of granite down a mountainside. a leg was ensnared in a root and she hung there in pain until Helen could find help to have her removed and carted off to the 24-hour animal hospital.
It didn’t look good. In fact, it looked terrible. A hip had been dislocated and, despite not complaining at all, Bel was clearly in pain. An operation would carry no certainty of success and would be expensive. Many vets would have urged that the old girl, at her age and in her condition, be “put down”.
But Rooies Dorland of Twin Oaks Veterinary Clinic in Claremont had previous experience of Bella’s physical woes. And knew that there was something special about this old Labby, her steely determination to continue living. Rooies had already removed tumours from Bella’s belly and knew that she had somehow survived the malignant cells that had threatened to eat her. Cancer had not killed her, so why should a dislocated leg?
After a discussion with surgeon Leone de Klerk, a decision was made to operate. It was highly unlikely that Bella’s hip bone, once returned to its socket, would remain there. The bone would be cut, fixed next to the socket and allowed to slowly knit. Surgery would take place this morning.
But the Old Pachyderm had other ideas. Last night, while the old girl lay untidily in her basket, Helen awoke to hear her give out a little yelp of pain. She checked on her. Bella seemed OK.
This morning, while preparing to go to Twin Oaks for the big op, Bella seemed to be able to put pressure on her dodgy leg. Once our Bel was presented to the vets, both Rooies and Leone were amazed. They had never experienced anything like this in their combined 55 years of treating animals. Bella had somehow popped her hip bone back into its socket!
The operation cancelled, Helen and Brandon were told to allow Bella to rest for six weeks and that she should be given only “light exercise”.
She is back home and looking rather pleased with herself. Everybody is gobsmacked by her will to live. By her bloodyminded refusal to let a few setbacks drag her down.
I am so proud of The Pachyderm, my Heffalump, the dog which refuses to roll over and die. Bel is an inspiration to us all. I suspect she will continue for some time to determinedly chase that ball. And it won’t really matter all that much to her if she doesn’t get to it first.
It appears that, for Bel, it’s the chase that really matters.
Only now am I able to deliver the Last Post on The Heart and Sole Tour saga.
And it is delivered in pretty much the same key as Peter Sellers used to such diabolical effect in the opening scenes of The Party.
I hope that you, dear Hatpeople, will find this as funny. But I doubt it.
Because it’s not. It has taken me damn nigh a week to even begin to drain the porridge from my stultified brain and start to order some thought process about the rather epic two-month unicycle ride from Durban to Cape Town, which ended in dramatic fashion at The V&A Waterfront last Friday.
In the case of our phenomenally gutsy unicyclist, Geoff Brink, it was utter physical exhaustion which enveloped him once the adrenaline began to ebb from his body at the end of his record 2,000km one-wheeled feat. But it was the mental pressure required of us to focus on finishing our cavalier mission, amid some distracting sideshows, which led to us spectacularly falling out at the finish line.
Kim, Geoff's fiancee, joins the Heart and Sole Tour at Peregrine's Farm Stall near Grabouw on the penultimate day of the crazy ride
And only now can this story be told.
Please know that we were always mindful of the fact that the Heart and Sole Tour was about raising awareness of the awful devastation that landmines continue to wreak on the lives of innocent civilians around the world. And, of course, it should always have been about that alone. But Geoff Brink and I are only human. And very fallible humans at that. So it was that, early in the tour, when pressure was brought to bear on us from back home, that the ugly spectre of the male ego leapt to the fore. The jostling for position in the Heart & Sole roadside pod of the alpha male instinct began to permeate the high-spirited vibe of our beautiful roadtrip.
Don’t get me wrong. There were bucketfuls of banter, a chuckling stream of laughs and a camaraderie that one comes to expect of two friends combining to achieve something both mad and magnificent. In fact, many of you might question whether the flipside of our tour should be told at all. The Heart & Sole Tour undoubtedly achieved its objective and what purpose is there in hanging out the stinky unwashed laundry for all to sniff at? What goes on tour stays on tour and all that crap.
Geoff "Heartman" Brink negotiates the downhill treachery of Sir Lowry's Pass. A moment of respectfulness, please!
I’ll answer that. I have mulled over this for nearly a week. I am fascinated by the human condition. That is why I chose journalism as a career. I am equally captivated by the human spirit. And this piece of introspection – should that be “retrospection”? – is about wanting to understand how Geoff and I managed to complete our trip despite our differences as much as because of the unity we displayed when it really mattered.
I have talked with people about this since I emerged blinking into the bright Cape Town sunlight from the highly buffered bubble that was our “hard shoulder crawl” across our great country. Some have drawn comparisons with “The Long Way Down”, Ewan McGregor’s and Charlie Boorman’s motorcycle jaunt from Britain through Europe and down to the foot of Africa.
I must confess that I have yet to watch the whole movie. Geoff and I began to watch it as an entertaining aside to our minimal preparation for the Heart and Sole Tour but, dismayed by the showiness, grandstanding and, quite frankly, over-indulgence displayed over what amounted to a pretty easy ride, fell asleep.
I don’t see the similarities. Yes, Geoff’s fiancee, Kim Millar joined us towards the end of our ride, a development that, for me, was both unexpected and temporarily gripped me with trepidation… but, such was my determined hyperfocus on getting our unicyclist safely to the Mother City that her presence in the back-up truck proved to matter not a jot. And I know that Geoff was greatly motivated by his sweetheart to bravely finish what he had started.
Mmmm. "Cape Town, 40km"? Take that!
What caused our “Skirmish at The Clock Tower” was the result of two very tired minds and one exhausted body melting down after 58 days of intense concentration and unbelievable strain. So what happened, you may ask? OK. Fair question. But I’m not saying. I have too much respect for what Geoff achieved and, yes, for what we as a team did for people who deserve a better life than to tarnish in detail the magnificent outcome of the Heart and Sole Tour.
Never mind the bollards which prohibited myself and the back-up truck from following our unicyclist – and our final-day amaonetya.co.za escort of unicyclists Alan van Heerden and Johnny Cronje down to the Clock Tower. After watching Geoff’s back for 58 days and nigh on 2,000km, a row of concrete bollards stopped me from seeing the boys home. Emotions spilled over. There were harsh words. It was unsavoury. It was, after what we had been through, almost inevitable. It happened. It is over. It’s gone. Gone, gone, gone. No regrets. We move on. We have learned lessons.
Johnny (left) and Alan (right) of amaonetya.co.za and OddWheel Unicycles escort Geoff into Cape Town and safely down to the V & A Waterfront. Awesomeness, guys!
Before we set out on December 28, 2009 on a mission which many called impossible, both Geoff and I knew that there would be challenges for which we could not prepare, that lessons would be taught that might make better people of us. And so it proved. And I am massively thankful for this gift. I remain privileged to have had the experience of supporting Geoff Brink on his incredible journey.
Crikey, what a ripper, Nige! You are a total mensch.
All pix (apart from this one): Hatman
* I will be working with Kai von Pannier of The Sole of Africa to draw up a full list of individuals, companies and establishments which should be acknowledged for the part they played in helping The Heart and Sole Tour to achieve its objective.
In the meantime, I would like to thank these people for the enormous help – and inspiration – they gave Geoff and I: John Fogarty, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Kim Millar, Olivia “OJ” Symcox, Rox-ann Govender, Kai and Cindy von Pannier, Mike Kendrick, Toni Rowland, Dilana, Sir Richard Branson, John L. Evans, Alan van Heerden, Johnny Cronje, Sharon Heger Basel, Steve Connor, Jimmy Reynolds, Andre Cronje, Rob Gower, Rich and Sarah McLennan, Neil and Hayley Millar, Kathy Reay, Dennis Theron, Pierre and Elise Brink, Jonny and Jane Roberts, Keith Chapman, Vaughan Raw, Warren Bartram, Donatella Pontesilli, Doc and Maggie Mears, Mama Cordelia, Martin Schroder, Toni Brodelle, Emily Shayler, Paul Chew, Janet Marshall, Marc Forrest, Mike Adams, Mandy Morgan, Fred and Yolandi Roed, Mike Perk, Clayton and Paula Whitaker, Father Matthias, Mama Zondeka, Nic Nel, Marcelle Delew-Kappen, Andreas Kappen, Brett Horner, Julie Davies, Seth Rotherham, Mike Kuttner, Jacqui Daniels, Riaan Manser, Bob Skinstad, Claire Alexander, Dave Duarte, Chris Rawlinson, Mike Saxby, Ken Taytasac, Penny Sandham, Carol-Anne Stephenson, Craig Bettridge, Vicky Nardell, Annette Oberholster, Helen Walne, Brandon McGugan, Martina Gilli, Michelle Solomon, Krista (New York), Neal Collins, Chris Whitfield, Lesley Byram, Marilyn Bernard, Wendy Landau, Dhashen Moodley. If anybody feels left out, it’s because you will be thanked in the full list to appear on both The Sole Of Africa website and this blog.
* One last thing. Both Geoff and I exhausted our savings on The Heart & Sole Tour. He’s a freelance photographer and a very good one at that. We both need to find paid work, he to finance his forthcoming wedding, I to pay the rent for a ramshackle dwelling down near the river. Should you have some paid work to slide our way, that would be completely cool. Ta!
OK. I need to be like Speedy Gonzalez, my babies. As a 15kph back-up driver on the Heart & Sole unicycle tour, my name and “speedy” don’t ever feature together – but today is the exception.
The Heartman has arisen and, despite Stanford’s considerable charms, our homesick unicyclist is champing at the bit to get to Cape Town, where he is threatening to chuck his one-wheeled steed into the harbour and fly home to Umdloti and his soon-to-be-wife and five dogs.
Yup, we are hoping to stagger up to the Clock Tower at the V&A Waterfront sometime around 2pm on Friday. Please do come down and and feel free to roll around in mirth as we do our sack-of-potatoes all fall down trick. Yes. We are knackered. Two months on the road is a very very long time. Especially when you are Geoff “Heartman” Brink and a completely uncooperative unicycle is between you and that road!
But there have been some wondrous experiences on the way. Such as hooking up with Bob Skinstad and his exceedingly winsome “Walk This Way” girls at Raka wine estate near Stanford yesterday. “Walk This Way” is a Western Cape initiative to promote Bob’s awesome Bob’s For Good Foundation and its work in providing disadvantaged children with shoes to wear to school.
As people who have zigzagged nearly 2,000km to raise awareness of landmines and the thousands of people who also have no shoes – because they have no legs – Geoff and I feel a special kinship with Bob’s excellent cause. Check it out at bobsforgood.co.za and, I exhort you, do the right thing and buy a pair of Bob’s really cool loafers, an act which will give a poor kid a pair of shoes. Easy. Good. And beautiful. Thanks.
OK. So this is what yesterday looked like…
Geoff and Bob prop up my back-up truck to stop it from falling over. They’re good like that. And Bob proved himself a natural at balancing on the unicycle…
… until he decided a bit of “go forward” was on the cards. Oopsiness! Never mind, Bob, a great many have fallen before you. Ask Old Heartie, mastering a unicycle is very much an acquired skill. Very much like enjoying a conversation with, um, Julius Malema!
Aah, that’s better. The team pic starring, from left, Geoff “Heartman” Brink, Bob Skinstad, Claire and Sarah with Shari and Sue gracing the front row. Top-notch people all. Providing shoes for the kids who have never had any.
Bob and his team need your support to put shoes on feet. I know you will help. Because our two-month unicycle rollercoaster ride has reminded us that, when it comes to stretching out a helping hand, South Africans are very quick on the draw.
It’s been beautifulness on a grand scale, Heartpeople. Thank you. There are so many of you to thank that I don’t have the space or time to do it right now. Later. We need to get on the road to Caledon. And, yes, it’s hot. And, yes, there are hills and passes. And, yes, we have just enough dosh for petrol to get us there. And, yes, we are going to conquer this super-hairy monster of a unicycle tour. Because there are thousands of people – those missing limbs – around this beautiful world whose plight is largely going unnoticed. That is all.
Look. There you are minding your own business on the side of the road and trying to get a 2,000km unicycle ride from Durban to Cape Town out of the way when a German comes along and steals your deckchair. Um. Well, not exactly. I don’t do stereotypes on this blog, do I? No. Correct answer. Well, Martin Schroder has made a big impact on the Heart and Sole Tour anyway.
Unicyclist Geoff “Heartman” Brink and I went into the Oudebosch Farm Stall near Tsitsikamma to get a coffee and came out with a coffee and a German. Not just any old German. This one has been riding his bike (the more common two-wheeled version, mind) from his hometown of Cologne (Koln to Germans) in Germany through Europe and Africa to Cape Town. He’s doing a good job. But before I bang on about his little trip, let’s have a look at this crazy character…
That's him. Martin Schroder. And the bike that has carried him from Germany to here. Which, right now, is Knysna. Nice.
Even ignoring the Abe Lincoln vibe of his beard, Martin is a bit odd. Especially for a German, a nation known for machine-making precision, lederhosen, being annoyingly shrewd at winning football matches, drinking beer at an unacceptably early hour but otherwise keeping things absurdly tidy.
At 22, he has visited 69 countries around the world instead of going to university, finding himself a girlfriend with flaxen pigtails and a name like Heidi and settling down over his books like a good boy and drinking barrels of beer before 11am. Fair enough. Even Germans have a right to dare to be different. So he hasn’t used the usual modes of transport when swanning off to these 69 countries. He tends to run, cycle and, for all I know, toboggan into strange places blowing a flugelhorn.
Yes. He’s wired a tad differently from your run-of-the-mill Herr and Fraulein. In fact, he’s getting along very, very well with The Heartman. So I suspect that, as kindred spirits, the Big Kahuna Creator Guy took a little time out to have some fun when putting together these two. So, in no time at all, old Heartie and his new mate were doing this…
Yes. Pretty big, huh? You're rolling with the big boys now, Herr Schroder!
Oh, yes. Martin fancies his extreme sports. Like us, extreme gardening, extreme card games and extreme origami are right up his street. and so is fooling around with crocs. Not the dodgy shoes, silly. Crocodiles. He played nicely with one in Mozambique until it bit him on the arm. Lucky to still have two. Heartie and I love this story. So much so that we have named him Crocodile Cologne. Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, has a far better ring to it than Crocodile Dundee. Or Crocodile Melbourne. Or Crocodile Wagga Wagga. Crikey, what a ripper!
OK. So then, before I, as super-responsible back-up driver and, er, chaperone and nanny to these two madventurers, had time to intervene, this happened…
Er, anyone seen The Heartman? Oh, I see. Well, too late to do much about that then...
And you know how it is. Anything anybody can do, Germans can do better. Or louder. So off he goes...
Nice. We couldn’t pass the 216m bungy jump vibe at Bloukrans Bridge, allegedly the highest in the world, near Storms River without trying out the local freefall facilities.
OK. Two other things to tell you about. Well, I have 202 other things actually but you’ll have to wait for the book. First, Bob Skinstad’s in jail. No, he didn’t forget to pay his speeding fine. He put himself in a cell. As you all should know by now, Bob, after playing quite a lot of more than half-decent games behind the scrum for the Springboks, is doing some good. He’s heading up bobsforgood.co.za , an organisation dedicated to providing schoolchildren who walk around barefoot with much-needed shoes.
The Heart and Sole Tour, dedicated to fitting people who have lost legs to landmines with prosthetic limbs, likes this very cool initiative. We like it so much that, when Bob asked us to get involved with his “Walk This Way” series of events, we jumped at the opportunity to help. So when Bob’s been released from his self-imposed “jail term” at Cape Town’s Waterfront at the end of this week, we’ll be joining up with him on his road trip around the Western Cape to help raise awareness of this extremely good cause. More details later.
OK. One last thing. The Heartman and I have stayed at some wondrous boarding establishments on this tour. I can’t mention them all in this blog post but we would like to thank Tyrone and Tara for giving over to us part of their sublime oasis on the beach at Jeffreys Bay for three days.
It was immense. Their spot is called Beach Music, nestles among the coastal bush at Supertubes and its vibe is so chilled that even a Brazilian surfer called Flavio could forget that he had travelled hundreds of miles to catch as many of J Bay’s legendary waves as possible.
This pic probably sums up the Beach Music vibe…
Buddha among the boards. Yup. If that's the vibe you are trying to achieve, look no further than Beach Music. It's positively soporific.
Too many people to thank. But I’ll try… Clayton, Paula, Matthew and James Whitaker of Port Elizabeth, Earl and Jenny Lawrence of Wild Spirit Lodge, a beautiful backpackers phenomenally situated on the edge of the Tsitsikamma Forest (more about them later), Penny of Oudebosch Farm Stall who so generously fed and watered us, and Pieter and Sue Oosthuizen and Mike Mills of Rotary International (Knysna) who are extending the extraordinary hand of hospitality we have come to expect from Rotarians everywhere. Beautifulnesses all round!
* Right. Due to The Heartman’s very costly addiction to the finest champagne (that’s a porky pie (lie), OK?), The Heart and Sole Tour is scraping along on the bones of its bum. If you’ve got a bit of small change (or very large notes) to send our way, please do. We are relying on public donations to finish this hairy monster of a road trip. The bank details are…
G. M. Brink
Account: 056 706 804
Branch code: 042 626
Hello, Heartpeople! Here, somewhat unusually, are a few words from Geoff “Heartman” Brink, aka the Unicyclist on The Heart and Sole Tour…
It's all about The Heartman... Geoff Brink doing what he's been doing for 43 days. He's halfway to achieving The Heart and Sole Tour's objective Pic: Hatman
“A few words about the reality of riding a very large unicycle nearly 2,000km across our beautiful country (at the age of 38, 2 months before getting married). Undeniably the most uncomfortable mode of transport ever invented.
At any given moment one (that’s me!) experiences pain of some description. At the moment my right gluteus maximus (bum) feels like it has been stung by 32 seriously angry wasps! My right calf muscle feels like it has been gnawed on by a family of hungry Bolivian beavers! My right lateral muscle feels like Chuck Norris just skopped me with one of those “around the house” numbers! And that’s just the physical side!
Emotionally I miss my fiance Kimmi so much it hurts worse than all the above combined. I miss our dogs badly too! It sounds naff but they are our children, and seeing a dog of any description on the ride reminds me of them and how I miss home!
Mentally – well it’s the toughest thing I’ve done since quitting alcohol 5 years ago! The concentration required balancing on one wheel for 5 hours a day is really intense, and I have to be constantly aware of my thoughts especially when faced with insanely steep and long hills, extreme heat and strong head winds! Spiritually I find it really important to keep an open dialogue with God, but often it is really tough to keep that connection when faced with all that I have just mentioned.
Apart from all that this Heart & Sole Tour is an absolute jol! It’s a bit like being a DJ at a party of your choice for 60 consecutive days! Fun but tough!
A quick note to all those beautiful souls who have and continue to support us on this trip. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!!! You have made this trip possible and are all as much a part of this adventure as me and my mate Howard (Fred H).
Best wishes and lots of love.
OK. Fred here. The Heartman (Geoff Brink) has told you how tough it is on The Heart & Sole Tour. And beautiful. Believe him. I’ve been behind him (as his back-up driver) every inch of the 1,100km we have covered so far. What Geoff is doing is beyond words. I could write a book about our experiences. And I will. But not now.
Here’s the really fun bit. Some clever friends (Fred Roed and Mike Perk) of the highly respected World Wide Creative website design group wanted to help us reach Cape Town and achieve our objective of raising awareness of the evil of landmines that continue to maim and kill innocent people long after wars have ended.
So they came up with this cracking idea… they have organised an online raffle in which you can buy a ticket to be in line to win one of these stunning prizes…
* Three nights at a wonderful villa in Camps Bay, Cape Town, courtesy of Cape Realty
* Two nights at the Constantia Boutique Hotel, courtesy of The Last Word
* A weekend away at Friday island Resort
* A chef for the night, courtesy of Capsicum Cooking
* Golf lessons, courtesy of Cape Town Golf Academy
* R800 voucher for an authentic Tretchikoff print, courtesy of VladimirTretchikoff.com
* R500 Spa voucher, courtesy of Health Spa Guru
* A signed Ajax Cape Town football shirt, courtesy of Ajax Cape Town
* A half-day tour around the Cape Peninsula, courtesy of Executive Touring
* A prize courtesy of Wildcard (TBC)
Nice. You each give R25 to help us finish our mad unicycle adventure and you could win – I am sure you will agree – a really, really cool prize. I like this. A competition in which there are no losers. Because even, if by some cruel twist of fate – and that is highly unlikely to happen to YOU – you don’t land up swanning around a Camps Bay villa for a couple of days, you’ll have WON the satisfaction of knowing you helped us to help people who don’t have the same number of limbs that you and I have. Phenomenalness, isn’t it? Yes, it is.
OK. So it turns out that Geoff “Heartman” Brink, our intrepid and totally nutty unicyclist who is fixed-wheel pedalling all the way to Cape Town, has a good dose of Afrikaner in him.
This doesn’t surprise me. Although he’s been maintaining for some time that he’s one part Scottish, one part Viking (whatever that means). I mean, the longer we are on this madness of a Heart and Sole Tour – and the longer we travel the byways and dirt roads of our wondrous South Africa – the more he acts really boor… I mean, Boer-ish. He’s gone all feral on me.
It (The Unicyclist) speaks to cows, yells at hills, neighs at horses… and, if that weren’t enough, it held a long conversation with a very amiable and supportive Afrikaans-speaking geezer what called himself Jacques the other day. While chewing biltong at the same time. All rather perplexing, if not downright alarming, for a back-up driver/blogger/kiepie who is a regte soutpiel (English-speaking South African) brought up of Anglo-Scottish stock in Pietermaritzburg, widely considered to be the Last British Outpost.
So I wasn’t completely shocked when, upon finding evidence of buck droppings the other day, Meneer Brink challenged me to a bokdrol spoeg kompetisie. A what?! Er, that translates to “buck droppings spitting competition”. Afraid so. There’s no getting away from it. And there was no chance of me getting away from it. We do challenges – and sticking a perfectly-formed and rounded piece of buck crap – which looks like an earthy Ferrero Rocher – in one’s gob and seeing how far one can propel it using one’s power of lung expulsion seems perfectly normal behaviour. Um. Well, it does when you’ve been following a very feral unicyclist around the country for a month and a half.
OK. So it was game on, old chap. And may the man who can spit a piece of buck crap the furthest win. Let us – if you can bring yourself to do it – see what that looked like…
The presentation of the deer dung to be used as ammo in the shoot-wild-animal-crap-out-of-the-mouth contest. Yum.
Up first, The Unicyclist... and his best bokdrol spoeging effort reaches a distance of 4.52 metres. Impressive!
Next up, The Back-up Driver... and, wait, his pea-shooting experience at Pelham Primary School proves to come in handy as he propels the impala poop a full 5.06 metres! Wholly crapness!
Not bad for a Engelsman who didn’t grow up on a farm eating half a cow for breakfast and not wearing shoes until he went to university, hey? And even more formidable a victory when it is considered that The Unicyclist doesn’t drink or smoke and is as fit as a butcher’s dog while the Back-up Driver does both the former to Richard Burton-like excess. And, it must be said, is about as fit as the butcher.
OK. so we’re all rather relieved that that little malarkyness is over. Well, almost over. How did this most indecorous of games come about? Well, it had got far too hot to ride a unicycle, as tends to happen every day, and we went off-road to seek some shade. We thought it rather cool to do that in a game reserve and plonked our mattresses under a tree near the reception office and promptly fell aslumber.
Only to be woken up by the “executive chef” of Kichari Game Reserve doing a Gordon Ramsay impersonation and shrieking at us to wake up and get inside the building. We were then chided for sleeping in a spot where elephants, rhino and lions are known to roam! And had pointed out to us a nearby tree that had clearly been used as a back-scratching post for a jumbo. There wasn’t much of said tree remaining. Our midday nap was rather ruined and the bokdrol spoegery ensued. Now you know.
And want to know something else? We had no sooner got back on to the road for a spot of marathon unicycling when we he heard an unmistakeable roar. The Unicyclist fell off his one-wheeled steed, I nearly ran over him, we both grabbed our cameras and ran to the side of the road. This is what we saw…
Ahem. Imagine waking up under a tree in a game reserve to find this feller peering down at you? I did. Not nice!
Right. Well, where to next? Somewhere a little more gentle, perhaps. Oh, yes. We saw a nice sunset. Again. Here you go…
Hang on. What’s that black speck just above the horizon? Let’s have a closer look…
Mmmm. I think we have ourselves a bird flying through the setting sun. Let's see if I can crop in a tad on that chap?
Yes. A bird all right. How good of it to fly into shot at just the right time. I do like it when that happens. When nature decides to co-operate with my persistent efforts to get a decent snap. Nice.
There. That wasn’t so bad after all, was it? No. You’re right. it wasn’t. So all’s well that ends well (a saying that just came to me in a flash and, yes, do feel free to use it as the mood takes you). I just can’t be sure that I’ll be getting to kiss anybody anytime soon!
Mmmm. When somebody says this, it doesn’t necessarily mean much. But when it comes out of the mouth of Bruce Fordyce, Comrades Marathon legend, you have every right be feel a bit chuffed.
This is what nine-times Comrades winner Fordyce said to Geoff “Heartman” Brink – and he’s had a smile on his face ever since. I was witness to this stunning pronouncement. Heartman and I had spotted Baddaford Farm Stall nestling among shady trees on the side of the road heading towards Fort Beaufort and the word “Coffee” performed a lightning coup of our minds.
We had no sooner walked in and met owner Jane Roberts when Mr Fordyce strolled in and raised an inquiring eyebrow at AmaOneTyre, Heartie’s trusty unicycle which has carried him over 700km from Durban towards Cape Town, our final destination. Heartie explained what it required to get on to a unicycle, stay on it and ride the distance that he has. This precipitated in his comment and it is inspiration such as this that will carry Heartie the rest of the way to the Mother City. Pure awesomeness.
Here is the picture…
Comrades legend Bruce Fordyce and old Heartie launch their mutual admiration society outside beautiful Baddaford farm stall
Now, let me tell you a bit about Baddaford. Because our association with this beautiful oasis didn’t stop there. It stopped three days later in Grahamstown. After Jane had given us not only free coffee but a lunch on the house. After she had invited us to spend a night or two at the splendid and very old stone house that she shares with husband Jonathan, a farmer of citrus and pecan nuts.
But Jonny also rides a bike. Very passionately. And, in his fifties, was recently challenged into doing his first Iron Man competition when his son said there was no way he could do it. You don’t tell Jonathan Roberts he can’t do something. He did it. And he did it amazingly well. And he and Jane did a phenomenal job of looking after us. There was nothing they wouldn’t do to help us recover from the rigours of the Heart and Sole Tour. They housed us. They fed us. They helped us. To the extent of escorting us in their car safely over the tricky and testing Ecca Pass and into Grahamstown.
We will never forget the kindness and comradeship extended to us by Jonny and Janey Roberts of Baddaford Farm. Enjoy a gander at the beautifulness of our experience…
The Heartman, Jane and Jonathan at the creeper-covered entrance to their gorgeous old stone house, built on Baddaford farm by Jonathan's great-grandfather. The house burned down in 1928 after an ostrich, which was nesting with its chicks under the house, knocked over a lamp and started the blaze. It has been beautifully restored. Take my word for that!
A water stop on the road to Grahamstown ends in a scrumming contest between Hatman and Heartman with Jonny Roberts at scrum-half. Result? Hatman won. Watch out, John Smit!
The Heart & Sole tour finally rolls into Grahamstown and Jane Roberts has to waste perfectly good spring weater on an overheated Heartman. Eish!
* The Heartman and would also like to thank these people for their phenomenal help: Chris and Sally Purdon of Red Angus Farm and Glenfinlas B&B (between Cathcart and Seymour); Sam and Sandy of the Katberg Hotel at the Katberg Eco Golfing Resort, Brian and Elvira of The Old Gaol B&B in Grahamstown, Cindy and Francesca of Bartholomews B&B, Grahamstown, and the mercurial Martina Gilli of the Live Music Society at Rhodes University who went to great lengths to help raise awareness among her fellow students of the objectives of our Heart and Sole Tour. Further fantasticness from wonderful South Africans!
I have so many stories to tell on this rather neglected Heart and Sole Tour blog that I don’t know where to start.
So I’ll start here. I am staring out of the window of yet another B&B at a beautiful bougainvillea. Its flowers are a rich colour. I don’t know. Purple? Pink? Possibly crimson red? All of those. Magenta. Yes, that’s it. Over and above this abundant diffusion of magenta is the lichen-encrusted slate roof of what I think is St Bartholomew’s church in Grahamstown.
This view is enriching. As it is to be in Grahamstown, which seems terribly civilised after days of hard and sweaty slog on the hills and mountain passes of the road which brought our unicycling madness down from Cathcart in the Eastern Cape.
It has been hard. It has been beautiful. And it has been, yes, enriching. When Geoff “Heartman” Brink and I rolled out of Durban on December 28, we did not dare to dream that this magical mystery tour would bring us so much enrichment. And, thankfully, this has brought me a theme for this post. Children. How much they enrich our lives!
And how they have enriched this Heart and Sole unicycle tour from Durban to Cape Town. Most of us see our first unicycle when the circus comes to town, ridden as it is by a clown called Charlie with a big red nose, pancaked face and blue pantaloons. We appear to have reached places in South Africa where no circus or unicycling Charlie has gone before. For these children, The Heartman’s “bicycle that has lost a wheel” is greeted with disbelief and no little delight.
Allow me to illustrate this for you, may I?
See? The Heartman and his "AmaOneTyre" have this kind of effect on children...
We saw this little school in the middle of a field outside Queenstown and rode down the dirt road leading to it. This is the welcome we received!
These Balmoral schoolgirls, fresh from a swimming gala, were waiting in biting cold at the top of a mountain pass to cheer us on!
The Heartman was asked if he wouldn't mind telling the children of Yellowwoods Primary, near Fort Beaufort, what on earth he was doing riding a unicycle from Durban to Cape Town. He seized the opportunity to tell the kids that, when doing something to tell the world about the horror of landmines, it's worth attempting to achieve what may at first appear impossible!
This little sweetheart seemed entranced by The Heartman's tales of derring-do! Pictures: Hatman
Children. Too much of beautifulness. If this Heart and Sole Tour has inspired just one of these children to begin to grasp that riding a unicycle 1,900km across South Africa (or doing something similarly unconventional) can help a little to improve the world in which they live, then our crazy and wondrous roadtrip will have achieved a lot more than simply alert some people to the devastation that landmines continue to cause.
This, for us, is enrichment on a grand scale.
* Old Heartie and I are about to perform live on behalf of the Rhodes University Live Music Society at an “O Week” event for new enrolments on campus. More on that and how a wonderful couple – Jonathan and Jane Roberts – lifted us up and then carried The Heart & Sole Tour over the notorious Ecco Pass and into Grahamstown later!