Heart & Sole Tour – Day 34: Has anybody seen Seymour?

Hello. We’re in Seymour. Or perhaps not.

Confused? Look. We’re either in Seymour, near Seymour or nowhere near Seymour at all. There is also a strong possibility that Seymour doesn’t exist.

Our mapbook suggested that we head for Seymour in order to, sometime in the next couple of days, reach Fort Beaufort. That’s in the Eastern Cape and on our route to Grahamstown. Which, since we’ve both been there in the past, does exist. Unless they’ve moved it somewhere else.

The thing about Seymour is that we just haven’t seen it. Or seen any roadsigns that might suggest that we’re on our way to it, are in or near it… or, yes, that it might exist at all.

What does exist is the Jan Malan Pass which, according to the locals in Cathcart, goes through Seymour, around it or near it. If it exists. We know the Jan Malan Pass exists because, not only did we see a sign, but we climbed it. To one thousand three hundred and something feet above sea level. And old Heartman knows he unicycled up the three hundred feet bit from Cathcart to wherever it is we are now, Seymour or not.

Focus, folks. That’s three hundred vertical feet covered in 30km from Cathcart to a mythical place locals refer to as Seymour. Impressive stuff from The Heartman. Again.

And that’s why he’s been sleeping for 12 hours while I’ve been watching horses and cows jostle for turf outside the window of the bedroom I slept in last night. The moos outweighed the neighs. Angus stock, you see. Beautiful beasts. The farm is called Glenfinlas (owned by the kindly Chris and Sally Purdon) and it is quite stunning in its sumptuousness. It could easily be set in the Natal Midlands such are the lush, green and rolling hills which peer over this valley.

In fact, I woke up thinking I was in the Scottish Highlands. Magnificent shards of mist were snake-hipping down the mountains, covered in heather for all I know, and the temperature was 9 deg C. I mean, this is January in the southern hemisphere, not J-J-J-uly! There is a fireplace in our rondavel and Heartie and I wasted no time in lighting a great blazing conflagration after we stumbled in last night. I wish we had had a good whisky. Or any whisky.

When I sat at the window at 5am this morning and stared out at the Highland cattle shivering in the gloaming, I really did wonder if we were in some Scottish valley. I would not have been even a wee bit perplexed if I had seen a burly wild-eyed fellow with ginger hair and a kilt run past waving a claymore at some grouse. Because that would have been our nutty unicyclist engaging in some extravagant shenanigans.

He does this kind of thing. When we unpacked the back-up truck last night in a frantic effort to find something for dinner, a vrot (rotten) banana was unearthed among the delicate eco-system which is fast developing among all the junk we carry. I fully expected to find my bed “apple-pied” with it last night. Instead, I was rudely awoken by an alarm clock (set for 2am) which had been secreted under a pillow on the neighbouring bed. I am now keenly anticipating Heartman’s reaction when he slips his feet into his riding shoes to find a very large and very dead dung-beetle-like creature obstructing the progress of his big toe into the forward end of his footwear. Touche!

Such fun. Spoiled only by the distinct lack of a 3G internet connection here in Seym… um, wherever we are. Which means I cannot upload any pictures on to this blog.  Not unless I had a day to spare for each picture. As mellow and laid-back as we might be on this Heart and Sole Tour, I don’t. Sorry. Especially as I have some cracking piccies to show you. From our night and morning spent in the most seductive hamlet of Cathcart.

Of Father Matthias of the Catholic Church who very jovially and expressively made our stay a beautiful one. Of Mama Zoleka who kindly gave over her guest-room to two mad mlungus at the last minute. Of Sister Kathleen who showed us around the Schonstatt Shrine, the very earliest of the Catholic shrines to be built in South Africa, and who blessed AmaOneTyre (the unicycle), The Heartman, myself and (I think accidentally) my camera.

Of Nic Nel who, with wife Rita, runs a strange shop in Cathcart which, among other things of curiosity, sells the wonderfully weird metal sculptures that he conjures out of scrap in his workshop (a building which originally served as a motor repair workshop for Model T Fords). Of former Durban advocate and fierce defender of human rights, Jenny Wilde, who came to Cathcart a couple of years ago to die but found her malady cured by the Catholic faith and the purest of air. Of her daughter-in-law Robyn, a “fire artist, who managed to balance her willowy frame so delectably on AmaOneTyre that she is now determined to add a unicycle to her repertoire of flame-throwing wizardry. Yes, there are photographs of many wonderful people we have met.

And so many, too, of this beautiful thing that goes by the name of The Heart and Sole Tour. Perhaps next time. Lang ma ye lam reek.

Oh, look! A picture has uploaded! Yippeeness! This one is of Heartie planning our route next to last night's fire. Yes. No wonder we can't find Seymour!

Good graciousness. I have pic uploading capabilities. Right, while I have airtime, I’m going to run with this. Bear with me. And do join me on our pilgrimage through Cathcart…

Beautifulness. Mama Zoleka bids Heartman and I farewell after we spent the night as guests in her cool-vibe home...

Ah, nice one. Another pic makes it on! This is the delightful Father Matthias, a beautiful human being, showing off one of Netty's origami cranes which we gave him as a small token of gratitude for his heartsingingly wonderful hospitality

Father Matthias, Sister Kathleen and The Heartman gather around AmaOneTyre before it was taken into the Schonstatt shrine to be blessed

Jenny and Robyn whizz off in their old Porsche after Robyn's love affair with the unicycle was ignited outside Nic Nel's little shop of creative curiosities

There. So happy to have got those pics on the blog. Only took me two hours. I think we have some riding to do now. Word is reaching us that Seymour is still 30km further down (or up) the drag. Ahem. Later!

Heart & Sole Tour – Day 31: We hit dirt… and our bubble bursts!

Day 31? Mmmm. We don’t really know what day it is – and sometimes even who we are – on this magical mystery tour but, correct me if I’m wrong, I’m thinking that means we’ve been on the road for a month. Yowzerness!

And wonderfulness. We’re loving this. Some days more than others.

Coolness is our best friend on The Heart & Sole Tour. Take Tuesday (Day 30). Cool. Rainy. Make that very rainy. Perfect. Yesterday (Day 31) was hot. Extremely hot. Hard. These pictures may help to illustrate how it looks to unicycle in the two extremes of weather…

Day 30: Rather moist on the road, I'd say, but The Heartman revels in the coolness and ploughs steadily forth...

Day 31: Met eish, ja! Old Heartie cools off with drops of water melting from the ice he uses to pack his knees. It was so darn hot!

But… never mind the weather, we always have fun. Supported by “local knowledge”, we tried a shortcut yesterday. Heading towards Queenstown from Cofimvaba (thanks for the interview and your beautiful support, Warra and Heather!), we swung off on a road which would purportedly knock a lot of kilometres off our route and take us to Cathcart. About 12km of passable dirt road, we were told, and then about 30km of tar to Cathcart.

Dirt always appeals to two quite agricultural overgrown boys. Yeah, right. We discovered that the road, all 40km of it, was dirt. And rutted. With large dongas decorating it in the middle section. Unpassable.

Still, it popped us out of the “Heart & Sole Bubble” we have to occupy on the hard shoulder (if there is one!) on tar roads because of the traffic that hurtles past us. We were freed up to boss the dirt track. I, as back-up driver, left Heartie to monowheel safely on while I stopped to wave my camera at everything that moved.

And this is what moved me…

Oh, dear. Old Heartie seems to have fallen back... and is walking! Too much of heat. Too much of hill. Too much of holes in the road. Too much of tough!

So I turned my eye towards Mama Nature. And, as always, she was very giving. I called this little chap Ringo. He looks like one tough little beetle, doesn't he?

And then there were these two... playing, er, the giddy goats. Juicy leaves make a nice change from grass, don't they?

When the road became totally un-unicyclable, The Heartman and I got down to really having us some fun…

Um. What can I say? OK. I thought the late afternoon golden light so sublime, I thought I would try to embrace it. Whoo! Pic: Heartman

And we couldn’t end without the now almost statutory pic of old Heartie riding off into some kind of sunset, could we? No. That’s right…

OK. So it's not quite sunset. But The Heartman is up and at it and doing his thing. And just dig the cow and goat adding their bit. Nice, hey? Pics: Hatman

It’s more than nice, I tell you. We didn’t realise that the Eastern Cape could be so beautiful. It’s scenery such as this that keeps us going at times. You just have to take the dirt road to uncover the real beauty. Wait. I’m feeling a profound moment coming on. Somebody (who?) once said something like this: “It is better to experience the detours, the curves and the zigzags of life than to hurry to your final destination.” Something like that. The Heart and Sole Tour is something like that. And Geoff “The Heartman” Brink and I are truly privileged to have this experience.

* The Heart & Sole Tour would like to thank both Rotary clubs in Queenstown for their wonderful hospitality and generosity. To Bruce van der Meer of Queenstown Rotary… thank you for the potjie evening and your club’s kind donations! And a big thank you to Kruno and Goga Fuzy of the Lukhanji Sunset Rotary Club for the beautiful accommodation and breakfasts at their homely Novel Lodge! Rotary rocks! No, seriously.

The Heart and Sole Tour is back on the road! And we say: “1,100km to Cape Town? Bring it on!!”

OK. I’m a blogger in a hurry. Why? I’ve had word this morning that Rotary Umhlanga has donated R5,000 towards keeping Heart & Sole Tour unicyclist Geoff Brink and I on the road to Cape Town!

In a word: Phenomenalness. In another word: Reliefness. And so on. The Heartman and I are chuffed beyond belief. We can’t wait to resume battle with the uphills, the potholes, the trucks and the heat in our little “hard shoulder bubble”. One thousand and one hundred kilometres left to Cape Town? “Pfffft. Bring it on!”

Old Heartie is already on a plane back to East London, I’ve cleaned out the back-up truck, repaired our yellow warning light, stocked up on ice for his creaking knees and Mickey Mouse plasters for assorted cuts and grazes to come and I’m packing to collect him at the airport.

So, you’ll be relieved to read, i don’t have time to waffle on here. Just know that we are uber-grateful to Mike Kuttner and Jacqui Daniel of Rotary in Umhlanga for giving us a new lease of life and we are totally amped to finish this wild adventure we started nearly a month ago.

So here’s a hastily freshened-up press release I’ve just sent to staunch Heart & Sole supporter Olivia “OJ” Symcox to be disseminated to her extensive list of media contacts. It’s been quiet. It’s been frustrating. But we’re about to hit the road again in our quest to raise awareness of the awfulness of landmines and we need the oxygen of publicity to again be pumped into The Heart & Sole Tour. Anything you, dear Heartpeople, can do to spread the word will be ecstatically welcomed by old Heartie and I!

And, yes, if you’ve sorted the bond/rent, car repayments and popped a bit into the piggy bank for that holiday in July, please don’t hesitate to send a few notes our way! Bank details are at the end of this post! Here we go… oh, first a pic to break up this vast tract of grey words!

Oh goshness! I suppose I, as the back-up driver, will be seeing a lot more of this over the next month or so!

January 25, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE

THE Heart and Sole Tour, a unicycle ride of 1,700km from Durban to Cape Town, has been rescued by an injection of new funding and will re-commence from a point 90km outside of Queenstown in the Eastern Cape tomorrow (Tues, Jan 26).  Geoff Brink, a freelance photographer based in Umdloti on the north coast of Kwazulu-Natal, has unicycled nearly 600km in intense heat, huge thunderstorms and through treacherous terrain in his courageous effort to raise awareness of the scourge of landmines.

Rotary Umhlanga, led by Jacqui Daniel and Mike Kuttner, has donated R5,000 towards the fuel, food and airtime expenses of The Heart and Sole Tour, enabling Geoff “Heartman” Brink and Howard “Hatman” Donaldson, the tour’s back-up driver and blogger, to continue on their challenging but wonderful coast-to-coast adventure through South Africa.

However, the tour requires further funds to achieve its objective of reaching Cape Town and Kai von Pannier, managing director of Mineseeker SA, responsible for their anti-landmines campaign in Southern Africa, is calling on other Rotary branches and, indeed, corporates and individuals to try to match the R5,000 donation made by Rotary Umhlanga.

Donors may find bank details for The Heart and Sole Tour on the official tour blog, http://www.fredhatman.co.za. Any donations from the public, no matter how small, will be gratefully welcomed by Brink and Donaldson who are utterly determined to roll into Cape Town in late February having raised as much awareness as possible of the largely ignored destruction still caused by landmines left scattered around the world long after wars have ended.

The Heart & Sole Tour has been organised in support of The Sole of Africa, a campaign by the UK-based Mineseeker Foundation dedicated to the removal of landmines in Africa. The Foundation has offices in South Africa and the US.

The Mineseeker Foundation,  recruited Nelson Mandela (now retired), Queen Noor and Sir Richard Branson as founder Patrons with Dame Graca Machel, Lord Richard Attenborough,  Brad Pitt and John Paul DeJoria. The Sole of Africa campaign is a Mineseeker initiative to support landmine victims.  Rock vocalist Toni Rowland, an ambassador for The Sole of Africa along with Oscar Pistorius and Candice Hillebrand, has been appointed Ambassador for The Heart & Sole Tour and her single Put Your Foot Down adopted as the theme song for the unicycle ride.

Geoff, 37, trained for three months on “AmaOneTyre”, his 36-inch wheel specialised unicycle and started his highly strenuous road trip on Monday, December 28. He is accompanied by media director for The Sole of Africa Howard Donaldson, who is responsible for general logistics as well as filming, photographing and blogging (as “SA-positive” blogger Fred Hatman) about the 1,700km expedition.

Sponsors supporting the Heart & Sole Tour include Odd Wheel Unicycles, Glaceau Vitaminwater, Gower Power nutritional supplements, Rotary International, iStore, AromaSoothz, The Corner Cafe, Grand Axe Music and Umdloti’s Bush Tavern.

Further information about the Heart & Sole Tour can be be found on the official tour blog (a light-hearted one!) at http://fredhatman.co.za/ (media organisations are welcome to use information and photographs from the blog) and on The Sole of Africa’s website at http://www.thesoleofafrica.org.za/

/ENDS

Geoff can be made available for interview and photography and press enquiries should be directed towards Howard Donaldson, using the contact details below.

Thanking you in anticipation of your kind support,
Howard Donaldson,
Media Director,
The Sole of Africa.
http://www.thesoleofafrica.org.za
e-mail: redhatmann@gmail.com
Tour blog: http://www.fredhatman.co.za
Cell: 072-078 7565
On Twitter: http://twitter.com/fredhatman
On facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fredhatman (Supporters’ group: “Heart & Sole Unicycle Tour Durban to Cape Town”)

There. All the info you could possibly want, yes? Right. Here are those bank details…

G. M. Brink
Standard Bank
Plusplan
Account: 056 706 804
Branch code: 042 626

“Sponsorship for the Heart and Sole Tour. These units will go towards sponsoring fuel costs for the support vehicle and also airtime costs so that they can stay in touch with you! These guys are going through Africa and need to use 3G technology to communicate, as internet cafes do not exist (they tend to be trampled or eaten by the wildiife!). For every sponsorship unit received you will be placed in a weekly draw (Every Sunday) and you can win a personalised CD of Toni Rowland’s album “Unfolding” from Toni herself! There are no carry overs to the following week. The winner will be announced every Monday by email and on the Heart and Sole’s Facebook group. Thanks for your support!”

Just go to Grand Axe\’s website and do the necessary!

Coolness. Now. I’d like to thank AromaSoothz, one of our official sponsors, for offering to help with airtime so that I may keep you lot updated on this blog on a daily basis. Thanks, Cindy. You’re helping to keep us on the road!

AmaOneTyre! AmaOneHeartman! AmaOneWorldWithoutLandmines! AmaCapeTown? AmaOneTime!!!

Heart & Sole Tour – Day 22: Beautiful ubuntu for lunch… before we grind to a horrible halt

Three gee. 3G. My newly fave number and letter. The re-entry of 3G internet connectivity into my life means that I can (possibly) avoid blogging suicide after days in the Vodacom Desert and get a post out to my Heartpeople. I’m sorry.

And this is a post of two halves. Yes, the joy and the sorrow. From high to low. Just like the story of The Heart and Sole Tour. Rollercoasterness, babies! With your permission, I’ll give you the bad news first. Yes? OK. Good.

Here’s the thing. The unavoidable, somewhat inevitable, awful, chuffing nightmarish thing. After three weeks of toiling up mountains in absurd heat, rain, majestic electrical thunderstorms and a spot of hail, The Heart & Sole Tour has come to a grinding halt. Why? No money. Geen geld. Asinamali.

A humungous thank you to all of you who have contributed dosh to us but we simply do not have enough to continue. Apart from our “Spirit of Ubuntu” lunch (which I will shortly pictorialise for you) we had a bad day on Monday. Searing heat, virtually no hard shoulder on which to cocoon ourselves from flying trucks, crazymaking and potentially dangerous potholes and very, very, very tired bodies and minds.

The Heartman still managed to push himself 32km or so away from Engcobo towards Queenstown. But, because of the heat from hell, we only really rolled off after 5pm and, eventually, at after eight, we gave up and drove to Queenstown to rest minds and bodies. In fact, when we found a place to sleep, I didn’t so much find the bed as the bed found me. We came together as one. No shower. No brushing of teeth. El Collapso.

The next day was our birthday. Yes. Ours. Both born on January 19. Similar characters. With differences. I woke up The Heartman to give him a present. I had thought of getting him a pair of grey socks from Pep Stores, I told him, but I had something better. “Whashat?” he gurgled from his nightly slightly parallel universe. “Look. We’re not going to get much further. We’re knackered. We need a break. We need more funds. It’s your birthday. Spend as much of it as you can with your woman and your dogs at home.” His eyes opened. Wide. “Go. Get a flight from East London. Rest. Raise money. See you on Sunday.” He grinned and said something about Hatman not being so bad after all. He went. He’s recovering. And approaching some corporates about giving us the support we need to finish what we started and achieve our objective of raising awareness of the madness that are the millions of landmines still blowing off the limbs of people all over the world.

We are excruciatingly aware of the near-apocalyptic horror that is post-quake Haiti. It is only right that the compassionate eye of the world should be trained in that direction. But we are not asking for much. Just enough to cover fuel, food and airtime coasts to cover the rest of the Heart & Sole Tour from near Queenstown to Cape Town. We are closing in on the 600km mark, which means that old Heartie and I are a third of the way into this beautiful adventure.

The Heartman has used his rent money. I have exhausted my savings. It has been a giant leap of faith. But, even as we hang suspended somewhere along the arc of that leap, we still believe. I have always seen the two of us rolling into Cape Town and that vision is as clear and golden as the day this crazy wonderful idea was born. Please continue to help us achieve that.

OK. I promised you some snaps depicting what I am calling the “Spirit of Ubuntu” lunch. Quick preamble. We ride out of Engcobo on Monday. Blisteringly hot. We find a couple of trees offering shade. There are a few colourful rondavel huts nearby. The children come. Then the adults. The questions about the bicycle that has lost a wheel. The smiles. The shaking of heads. Our new friends sit around us and talk animatedly about the mad mlungus (white people). Heartie naps. I talk with the small crowd we have collected. They are hungry. Yes, we have some food (stored for camping) in the truck. Ah, I will cook it for lunch says Mama Cordelia, clearly the Big Mama of the community.

I bring out Imana beef mince, rice, a couple of onions, tinned tomatoes and some Aromat spices. Mama C sends oldest daughter Nosipho on a long walk to the spaza shop to get paraffin for the stove she has conjured up from a nearby hut. Pots and spoons magically appear. Mama Cordelia cooks lunch for us, her two daughters and assorted new arrivals, numbering about eight. It is beautiful. We sit on the grass under the trees next to the road to Queenstown eating Mama C’s impromptu lunch. Deliciousness. It tasted something like this…

Our Heartie is chuffed to have lunch served up for him by the redoubtable and indefatigable Mama Cordelia

This shy and delightful child rocks up for lunch. Nobody knows where her mother is. It doesn't matter. She is part of a bigger family. The community. She is duly fed...

Yes. I thought you might want to have another look at this adorable little girl. So I took this. Are you glad I did?

Mama Cordelia, unnamed sweetheart, Mamasolo, me and Nosipho devour the "Spirit of Ubuntu" lunch. Yes, those are (yugh) "Crocs" on my feet. Heartman gave them to me. Because I left my Havaianas in Umdloti. There. That's my story. And, yes, I'm sticking to it! Pic: Heartman

Ndiyabulela (thank-you in Xhosa), Mama Cordelia. And to your lovely daughters. And we’re sorry that we couldn’t accept your offer for us to marry them, even if they do cook as beautifully as you do!

Right. Back on the road…

Heartie gives a thumbs-up to the sign registering 117km to Queenstown. But the heat and dreadful road surface took its toll... Pix: Hatman

And I was going to give you a small closing ceremony provided by Mother Nature as we drove towards Queenstown but the internet connection has slowed down in solidarity with the Heart & Sole Tour. I’ll try again later. In the meantime, if you are able to help in any way – no matter how small – to fund our ride, here are the bank details…

G. M. Brink, Standard Bank, Musgrave Rd, Durban. Acc. 056706804 / Branch Code 042626.

Thank you!

* And, should you want to read Shaun Trennery’s interview with Geoff “Heartman” Brink on the excellent izimvo.com website, please go right on over to here.

Heart & Sole Tour – Day 17: Are we on top of the world… or what?

The locals keep telling us that the hills will get less prolific and less steep and easier to negotiate on a unicycle. But they don’t ride unicycles!

Yowzerness! We have every reason to believe that, bar Everest, we have reached the summit of the earth. They come. And still they come. Hills. Mountains. Uphills. And The Heartman somehow finds the strength, the resolve, the sheer bloodymindedness to defeat them.

After a rest stop – which involves glugging two bottles of Glaceau Vitaminwater, snuffling about in sports nutrition powder mixes supplied by Gower Power, icing his knees and growling at me for driving too close to him or too far away – he yells at the next hill, daring it to defeat him with words of warrior defiance.

I chortle in the back-up vehicle and pump up the volume of Joe Cocker, Grace Jones or, ahem, John Fogerty… for these are the tunes which seem to rouse him sufficiently for mountain wars.

This tour is tough. Flipping tough. We somehow ate up 43 kilometres of tarmac yesterday, most of it uphill, and wobbled into Maclear, up in the armpit of the northern Eastern Cape just before 10pm. Just in time to procure a room at the Royal Hotel. This establishment has personality. Actually it has two. One that suggests a longlost association with a more genteel era, when ladies in long skirts and parasols, and accompanied by sniffly corgis, took tea in the shade of the oaks and the cha-cha might have been danced in the banqueting room.

Those scenes have peeled away along with the enamel in the baths, the floorboards don’t squeak but squeal and, lying in bed, one might be forgiven for thinking one is camping under a waterfall given the amount of water which runs, flushes and boils in this quaint old building. The pigeons certainly appear to be enjoying their stay.

Right. It is 3.26pm and the 38 deg C heat – accompanied by a surprising high level of humidity – has subsided enough for us to take to the road again. We hope to make it near to the tiny hamlet of Ugie, the next point on the arc of our magical mystery tour to East London. Nocturnal unicycling appears to be very much in vogue!

While old Heartie straps his creaking knees in preparation for a new battle, let me play you out with a few pictures from yesterday…

Don't ask. I don't know. Maybe a local farmer was a big fan of Chevy Chase... and had also had a sense of humour. All I know is that Heartie couldn't resist an impromptu AmaOneTyre cabaret underneath this curious sign!

This gorgeous "gogo" (granny) fancied herself as a unicyclist and wouldn't give up trying, much to the amusement of all of us!

These rondavel huts were catching the late afternoon sun as we, er, cruised past

Does our unicyclist feel on top of the world? Not really. It just looks like he is!

The big kahuna who is in charge of our universe reminds us yet again that no artist on earth can match his or her creativity

Time for just one more… um…

Oh lawksness! There's The Heartman... riding off into yet another South African sunset. All pix: Hatman

Please excuse me, dear Heartpeople. I must run. Old Heartie is all strapped up and raring to get at those hills. Yee-ha!

Heart & Sole Tour – Day 15: Stillness after the mother of all storms…

Eurekaness!!! After staggering through an internet desert for days on end, I have a semblance of connection! It’s trickling in at the speed of a unicyclist rather than, say, the infamous Winston the Pigeon but I’m not grumbling.

OK. So I have a backlog of about 1,000 pictures and dozens of weird and wondrous anecdotes on The Heart & Sole Tour… but I’ll do my best to get our loyal “Heartpeople” up to speed with our slow but sure progress. First, a picture. Look. It may be nothing more than what we old newspaper hacks term a “boring handshake pic” but, for The Heartman and I, it captures the spirit in which South Africans have received our crazy unicycle ride…

Where's a doctor when you need one? On the road between Matatiele and Mount Fletcher is the answer! This wonderful man, one Doctor Joe Thusi, stopped his car when he saw us taking a quick rest stop, crossed the road and gave us R900 cash to help with our fuel, food and airtime costs! Just like that!

This was beautifulness on an out-of-this-world scale! Heartie and I were simply blown away by Dr Thusi’s generosity and it took us a while to get going again. South Africans of every ethnic background are known for their generosity of spirit and nowhere more so than out in the sticks, where life generally is very challenging to say the least. Out of the basic dynamics of what is deemed newsworthiness, we often get a distorted view of what is happening in our beautiful country. What is generally happening in South Africa, my fellow countrymen, is a whole lot of good stuff. And, after more than two weeks on the road, straining our guts out on behalf of landmine victims, the Heartman and I are well placed to tell you that!

Right. Quick update on our mind-bogglingly beautiful road trip before I take you into a series of pictures taken over the past few internet-free days. We’ve made it to a point 12 kilometres beyond Mount Fletcher towards Maclear. The landscape is mutating into the drier, rockier and more stark terrain typical of the Cape. We have left behind the lush, green rolling topography of KwaZulu-Natal. But still the mountain passes come. The heat has been unbelievable. And we have been pushed to our limits. In fact, old Heartie and I “hit the wall” yesterday. Exhaustedness. The Heartman’s knees, heavily strapped to his physiotherapist’s requirements each day, were giving him pain. Even more exacting has been the emotional and psychological impact of getting a grip on the enormity of what we are doing. It has hit home. We have returned to the rehabilitative sanctuary that is the Matatiele home of Dr Rob and Maggie Mears.

“Doc Mears” and wife Maggie have been fantastic to us and we are resting today, restoring mind, body and soul in order to continue our quest for Cape Town. Enough said. Allow me to guide you through a pictorial tour of our recent Heart & Sole history…

This truckload of young initiates passed us somewhere between Matatiele and Mount Fletcher. It is a Sotho custom that boys, once 16 years of age, are smeared head to toe in red clay and circumcised in a ritual that takes place up in the mountains

We found this dapper young fellow adopting a distinctly Chaplinesque pose beside the road. A definite shoo-in for the Matatiele Fashionista of the Year title?

Introducing you to the sweetness of Mieke Chapman, beautiful but feisty young daughter of Keith and Mandy Chapman, who looked after Heartie and I so well in Kokstad. We overnighted with their neighbours, Vaughan "Neighbour" Raw and his wife Meryl and were spoiled rotten by both families. Thanks guys!

Time for a gentle change of scenery. And it doesn't get any more pastoral than this, does it?

Look. I can't remember where I took this pic. I just know it depicts The Heartman at his classic best!

Aah, yes. We've been stopped by the cops (traffic police) just once. And they rushed over to wish us a safe journey! They were also totally chuffed to receive a couple of ice-cold cooldrinks from our cooler box on a stinker of a day!

OK. I’m pushing my luck with this intermittent internet connection. I could be cut off at any moment. It’s a rollercoaster ride, I tell you! Let’s see if I may regale you with any further snaps…

Oh, yes. The mother of all storms hit us as were preparing to roll out of Mt Fletcher. Torrential rain. And hail too. Let’s see if I can find the pic I tried to take of that little baby…

Some locals are totally unfazed by a storm. Not surprising. It happens every afternoon in summer in this neck of the woods!

But all of the locals are united in their bemusement towards a man riding a bicycle which has lost a wheel! These Sotho ladies are wearing their traditional Sotho blankets. The temperature can drop 15 degrees in an instant!

Yes. I’ve made a meal of this post because I cannot be sure when I’ll be able to get online again. So it seems appropriate to close with a shot of me old Heartie riding off into the sunset…

And a pretty glorious one at that, eh? All pix: Hatman

Yowzerness! This post has been a rare old rollercoaster ride! Pretty much like our 1,700km Heart & Sole unicycle tour from Durban to Cape Town. Hang on! Stop the presses! News just in is that good friends Shane and Netty (she who made the origami cranes to be sold in aid of the Heart & Sole Tour) have driven out from Durban to surprise us. And they most certainly have!

Awesomeness overload! The plan is to camp in their tent on the side of the road near to where we stopped yesterday. I hope they brought a braai (barbecue) and some top-notch steaks! Not to mention beer! Then Heartie and I will set off again in search of Maclear (the next stop on our magical mystery tour to Cape Town) and a man they call Mr Mountain… I will explain all the next time I find the most elusive of holy grails – an internet connection! Toodlepip!

Heart & Sole Tour – Day 13: Let us celebrate the indomitable human spirit…

The more remote the place you go to, the friendlier the people. This couldn’t be more true that it is of the people of East Griqualand. I’m no longer completely sure what area the old East Griqualand covers as the borders of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape seem to have shifted about a lot in recent years.

What I cannot doubt, however, is that the people who live in the region comprising of Harding, Kokstad (both in KZN) and Matatiele (Eastern Cape) must be the friendliest, most helpful and wonderfully human people in South Africa.

This is beautifulness on a grand scale. Because The Heartman and I have needed every ounce of support they have so willingly given us. Quite apart from the shoestring budget, now almost non-existent, on which we are pushing on in the name of The Heart and Sole Tour, locals have driven home to us the fact that we have climbed no less than 1,550km in altitude form the time we left Port Shepstone on the coast exactly one week ago on our sortie into the hinterland.

Geoff “Heartman” Brink, not yet fully conditioned for our 1,700km unicvycle journey from Durban to Cape Town, has cajoled his one-wheeler up hills, up steeper hills and up even steeper hills to rise 1,550km in altitiude in what amounts to six days.

This fact astounds me. We didn’t quite take on board how superhuman an effort was required of our unicyclist and my friend. No wonder he is knackered. No wonder I am so seriously impressed. I cannot do justice in words to how tough this past week has been.

And, now, as we near Matatiele and reach the summit of the Drakensberg escarpment before turning west into the heart of the Eastern Cape, we can take stock of what has been achieved and assess what is to come. Well, at least I can. The Heartman is having to deal with personal issues which are causing him huge stress. I’m not going into details here, of course, but this wonderful adventure has become as mentally and psychologically challenging as it is physical. And so it is. This is the journey we have chosen and the demands of the Heart and Sole Tour will teach us much about ourselves, our spirit and our souls.

(more…)

Heart & Sole Tour – Day 10: Heartie and I style it at Ingeli… and photograph beautiful girls!

I write this while ducking to evade the dive-bombing strikes of a highly perturbed swallow guarding its nest on the shady verandah of the Willowdale Lodge near Kokstad.

But this is the coolest spot I can find and, as much as I love and admire birds, I ain’t moving. Meanwhile, Geoff “Heartman” Brink, our intrepid unicyclist, is splayed out on a mattress under a stand of beautiful trees. He ain’t moving either. He’s not even snoring – which is a nice change. I suspect he is too exhausted. Good boy.

He’s just one-wheeled up a murderously steep pass – Brooke’s Neck I think the locals call it (Brooke had some neck!) – in body-sapping heat and we’re waiting for Madam Weather to chill a little before venturing further. But it isn’t all bad. Max of the Willowdale has picked up the tab for lunch (cheese platters and coffee) and also kindly offered us a room free of charge for tomorrow night.

This is how people are. Beautifulnesses wherever we go. I think that they are so gobsmacked that somebody has the gumption to ride on one wheel from Durban to Cape Town for a good cause that they can’t do enough to help. Like Dave and Gill of the lovely Greenacres B&B in Harding. They extended a very long arm of generosity and put us up in a beautiful room.

Heartie and I have been bowled over by peoples' generosity, such as that extended by Gill and Dave of Greenacres B&B in Harding

Heartie and I have been bowled over by peoples' generosity, such as that extended by Gill and Dave of Greenacres B&B in Harding

As did Brian and Naomi – along with manager Paul – of the superbly-appointed Ingeli Forest Lodge between Harding and Kokstad. The Heartman and I overnighted in a “double-decker” wooden chalet – aah, some much-desired private space for each of us! – overlooking a sumptuous valley and Brian waived all costs of lunch, dinner and a couple of beers to boot. Stunningness overload.

I'm always up at 5am... and this is what greeted me at Ingeli Forest Lodge this morning!

I'm always up at 5am... and this is what greeted me at Ingeli Forest Lodge this morning!

After a, erm, hearty breakfast The Heartman limbers up at Ingeli before we take to the road for Kokstad...

After a, erm, hearty breakfast The Heartman limbers up at Ingeli before we take to the road for Kokstad...

... stopping only briefly to snap this little beauty on the way out!

... stopping only briefly to snap this little beauty on the way out!

Support from bystanders alongside the road has brought us humungous chuffedness too. Local villagers stare in amazement at this man straining to get up yet another hill on one wheel before breaking out in an assortment of wide grins, clapping and cheering. We get stopped and asked questions and everybody, young and old, is fascinated by our strange road trip. Awareness of the scourge of landmines is reaching places where the far more pressing issue usually is how to put food on the table and find employment of some sort.

Drivers, many of whom I suspect have read about the Heart & Sole Tour in the newspapers or heard about it on the radio, hoot and lean out of windows to give us the thumbs-up. Whenever we’ve stopped on the roadside so that old Heartie may catch his breath, glug down a bottle of sponsored Glaceau Vitaminwater or be boosted by the Enduro sports nutritional mix provided by Gower Power, people will pull over and want to know what on earth is going on!

As did Jeff and Zanele Meth, parents of beautiful sisters Bonita and Bridget, who are from Phalaborwa in the Limpopo Province and were holidaying near Harding. Jeff was very curious about the unicycle and The Heartman never tires of explaining the delicate technique required to ride the monster!

I thought you might enjoy this portrait I did roadside of little Bridget. Now tell me you didn't enjoy that. You can't, can you? No. I thought as much!

I thought you might enjoy this portrait I did roadside of little Bridget. Now tell me you didn't enjoy that. You can't, can you? No. I thought as much!

Every word of support from the public gives us a huge psychological boost and, in the case of our unicyclist, a massive pick-up to enable him to tackle the next hill. The most common question we get is “Are you insane?” Fair question. We’ve asked ourselves that many times over the past 10 days. Our answer is that the Heart & Sole Tour is the most sane thing either of us have ever done. We think it is instead completely mad to spend two hours of every working day sitting in traffic… and between each of those two hours to stare at the same four walls of an office waiting for 5pm to come along!

So we are hugely privileged to be allowed to indulge ourselves this wild adventure, meeting wonderful people, accepting their kindnesses and, all the while, be raising awareness of an issue about which we both feel so passionately. And, as we trundle so slowly along, we are exposed to the most gorgeous natural beauty of South Africa, our beloved country. How fortunate we all are!

And here's a spot of South Africa's natural splendour... it certainly seemed to captivate The Heartman! Pix: Hatman

And here's a spot of South Africa's natural splendour... it certainly seemed to captivate The Heartman who found relief from his arduous ride in the scenery! Pix: Hatman

OK. So today’s ride was sheer madness. Steep uphills tackled in searing heat. But it beats being bored in an air-conditioned office, hey? Mmmm. Easy for me to say… I wasn’t the poor soul riding a unicycle in that lot!

* Today’s back-up truck playlist: Donny Hathaway, Gil Scott-Heron, David Bowie, Jethro Tull, Just Jinger, Toni Rowland, Nicola Conte, The Quantic Soul Orchestra, Jazzanova, Mr Scruff, Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse and Alice Russell.

* Pierre Brink, proud dad of The Heartman, is challenging other businessmen or women to boost our dwindling funds by matching his pledge to sponsor The Heart & Sole Tour at a rand per kilometre covered. If we make it to Cape Town – and we will! – that will be a cool R1,700. Anybody up for that? If so, please e-mail me at redhatmann@gmail.com and give me your name and contact details. You will be indirectly supporting our objective of raising awareness of the devastation caused by landmines. Thank you!

The Heartman opens his heart… and puts his original unicycle on auction!

In his first guest post on www.fredhatman.co.za, the official blog of The Heart and Sole Tour, our intrepid unicyclist Geoff “Heartman” Brink opens his heart about his ride so far… and rallies for support from his wellwishers…

The Heartman: "Please help me to unicycle 1,700km from Durban to Cape Town and do my bit to rid the world of landmines!"

The Heartman: "Please help me to unicycle 1,700km from Durban to Cape Town and do my bit to rid the world of landmines!"

So we move into the second week of the Heart and Sole Tour. Eish, it feels more like a month! Almost at the 200 km mark! I’m not going to lie – it’s been tough! Especially the last three days of almost constant climbing from Port Shepstone on the KZN South coast inland to Harding where we are staying tonight. Heading for Kokstad tomorrow, which is 60km away. It doesn’t seem that far, but when you are climbing from sea level to about 900m above,  it seems like there is no end!

But to be quite honest, the main obstacle standing between us and Cape Town – and achieving our objective – are our ever depleting travel funds. This has turned out to be quite a costly exercise! I can’t thank enough those beautiful souls who have already contributed to our progress – bless you all! However, me and Hatman being two creative individuals both born on January 19 (and both born without a left brain) we have seriously erred on the monetary front. The SA rands are pulling a Houdini trick on us! So, please guys, if you can help in any way financially I promise to wheelie “AmaOneTyre” all the way to the Mother City!!!

OK, to help you guys make some cash handy I have thought up a few ways you can do it!

1. Buy one-ply toilet rolls instead of two.
2. Pay your car guard half of what you normally do (I’m sure he/she will understand).
3. Free-wheel downhill – you will save a packet.
4. Cut out alcohol/cigarettes for 3 days (that’s about a hundred bucks saved!)
5. Sell some old clothes (but if there are any lekker outfits, please keep them for us!)
6. Buy no-name brands at the supermarket for a week.

Lastly, I am auctioning the unicycle that I learnt to ride on… plus I will give three free lessons on how to get you up and moving on it! Bidding starts at R999 – what offers?

Please e-mail my back-up driver, logistics man and tour blogger Fred Hatman at redhatmann@gmail.com with your offer… and he’ll update this blog with the highest offer each day this week before bringing the hammer down for the highest bidder!

That’s it for now folks – thanks for all the support and good wishes.

PS. Everybody seems to think I’m mad. I’m not… just a sucker for punishment! But it’s for a great cause. Let us rid our planet of the unnecessary curse of landmines and save lives!

God Bless!

Geoff “Heartman” Brink