Unicycling. Interesting concept. A year ago, my experience of unicycles – like most of you, I suspect – was limited to watching Tickey the Clown, all whitefaced with big, fat, red lips and atop a little contraption with just the one wheel, whir his little legs through the sawdust at Boswell Wilkie Circus.
Then, out of nowhere, this happened. Hmmm. OK. That won’t happen again. Not on your nelly. Think again, Hatman. Turns out that, when it comes to driving back-up to nutters on unicyclists and blogging about the craziness, I’m the go-to guy. Go-to guy and sucker for punishment. And total plonker.
So, this little fandango will be kicking off in November. Yes. Three nutters. One wheel. Well, make that one wheel each. Two thousand five hundred kilometres. Umhlanga Lighthouse to Mouille Point Lighthouse. Er, that pretty much means Durban to Cape Town. Again. Except, this time, the ride is going off-road. All the way. Yes, that’s OFF-ROAD. Correctomundo, as I seem to recall Henry Winkler saying in Happy Days.
Another small difference is that, this time, I will know how to ride a unicycle. So that, when a bunch of kids appear out of the bush and say “Hey, uncle, please show us how you ride that bike that’s lost a wheel” (or the equivalent in Zulu, Sotho, Afrikaans and Xhosa), I’ll be suitably trained to reduce them to tears of laughter and disbelief.
To this end, while I’ve been in Cape Town this past week, having meetings with the CounterBalance crew and writing guff for our our rather tasty little website, I’ve been spending a half-an-hour every morning making a complete toss of myself.
And it’s looked like this…
Pics: Johnny Cronje
And, erm, this…
That there little scratch, I am told by seasoned unicyclists, is called “pedal bite”. It’s what happens when you fall off and a pedal gnashes into your calf. I’ve fallen off more than a few times. But, and best you steady yourself for this, I’m getting the bloody hang of this lark.
Just this morning, in just my fourth half-hour training session, I managed to pedal no fewer than three full wheel revolutions without grabbing hold of the wall – or a gate or a tree or a passing pedestrian or a small mountain range.
Nice. I’m loving it. I started out adopting a totally, like, y’know, fully organic and holistic Zen-like approach. “Lower your full weight on to the saddle,” I’d whisper to myself. “Stabilise.” “Balance.” “Feel as one with the unicycle.” “Become as one with it.” “You are as one with it.” “This thing is now part of my body.” “Good lord, it is my body.” “OK.” “Cool.” “Now lean forward a bit, my son.” “Nice.” “Now, just one revolution…” “OK.” “Push off… here we go…” Kerrrrash! Eina.
That was then, this is now. Now I’d love to know what the neighbours here in leafy Claremont are saying over their infused-with-a-droplet-of-salamander-tears Chai tea of an elevenses.
“Merde!” “Vafancule!” “Come on, you bastardo!” “Get up, idiota!” “You can do this!” “Try again!” “Bring it on!” “Come effing on!” “Let’s nail this baby!” “Go on, my son!” “Yes, yes, yesssss! Aaarrr, yeah!”
Not pretty. Rather unedifying. Positively neanderthal. But it’s working. It’s happening. I’ll show those kids in the villages of our South African hinterland how to ride a “wielie-one”.
I’m here. In my beautiful country cocoon of Stanford. It’s a glorious sunny Cape winter’s day and I could tell you that many birds are lunging out their unique songs in the garden but that wouldn’t make it very much different from many South African gardens.
What is perhaps different is, that from where I sit, I can see – over the roofs of white Victorian cottages – the craggy tops of mountains, glowing in shades of green and muted mauve. The Kleinrivierberge. It is said that wild leopard still roam in these mountains. Although Geoffrey Phipps, a local youngster who himself roams the mountain range in his mission to remove gin traps and assorted evils, says he has only ever seen their spoor and never actually clapped eyes on the elusive beasts.
So why am I telling you this? Because I feel seriously blessed to live here in Stanford, a very special place which attracts special people. And because, since South Africa’s almost excruciatingly magnificent World Cup ended 10 days ago, I have felt both elated and mentally exhausted. I have had to take a break. An unscheduled remission from the giddy-making carousel of SA-positivity which swept me up and spun me around for four weeks. As it did many of you.
As I have drifted slowly back to earth, I have understood how absorbed, nay swallowed whole, I was by my country’s party of a lifetime. I did eat, drink, breathe and live World Cup 2010. OK. I confess. I had a one-month stand with it. A seemingly unstoppable orgy. And, then, cruelly, as the last pyrotechnical rocket popped above Soccer City, I was dumped.
I know that I am a fool. A fool for love. For the love of my flawed, frustratingly fraught with corruption country, at turns horrible and heartwarming, at once wearying and wondrous. This is no easygoing relationship, hooking up just for the good times.
This is like being madly in love with a woman once condemned to death row. Relishing the gift of every moment spent together, luxuriating in the heady scent of her dusty, musty backwaters, delighting in the amusing nuances of her body language, always agog at her ability to poke herself in the eye with a big stick and then break out in a dervish-whirling, devilishly beautiful dance on the world’s table.
We showed them, didn’t we? We showed them how to be truly human and still pull off a successful World Cup. Hugely successful. Triumphant beyond even my wildest dreams. Pay no mind to those number crunchers who now sit like vultures with calculators over the handsome corpse of our World Cup and point to percentages, mumble about margins, groan over graphs and spit out told-you-so’s over new stadiums which may lie unused for a period of time.
To them I say: it’s not about the numbers, you boring farts… it’s about hearts and minds. It’s about inspiring children. It’s about South Africa growing up in the eyes of the world. It’s about perceptions. It’s about seeding a belief that we can overcome our many challenges if we believe enough in ourselves and our 16-year-old democracy. It’s about beautiful things not immediately tangible, by-products not easily assessable by one-eyed accountants obsessed with their abacuses. It’s about a vibe. So kindly shut up.
Instead, if you are of the “SA-positive” persuasion, it is not hard to continue to find the good. The microbiocide, researched by South Africans, that promises to help our women to stem the dreadful tide of HIV/Aids that has threatened to overwhelm our people.
So, as I recover from our ballsy celebration of all that is bloody marvellous in the state of the South African psyche, I look out of my front door and see no despair, only timeless and immovable mountains that offer me strength and hope.
And, now for reasons that should be apparent to you, I offer you some visual inspiration that came my way on my darkest day…
Oh, wait. I should first tell you that, after I pumped every ounce of my passion for South Africa and football into the World Cup, I was flat. Flatter than a pancake baked by the honorary secretary of the Flat Earth Society and then placed on the treadmill trampled on by the people in that awful The Biggest Losers programme. Pap. Introspective. Oh, OK, I was depressed. It wasn’t a World Cup hangover. It was cold turkey. And I felt burnt out. Then somebody sent this to me…
That’s Nick Vujicic. He loves living life. And he’s happy. And his attitude to life is massively inspiring. To everybody to whom the universe has thrown any sort of challenge. It’s how you get up. And it’s how you finish. Now, my little period of papness post-World Cup is as nothing to what Nick has had to overcome. But it’s always worth being reminded of how fortunate we are.
And I so wish I had seen Nick’s video back in 1996 when I did crash and close down. When I spent a month alone in my flat in London, mostly in bed, not working, not eating, not living. I was burnt out. But I did eventually get up, with two arms and two legs, and started again. It’s how you finish.
The link to this video was sent to me, unknowingly, by a man with whom I shared an adventure earlier this year. He rode a unicycle from Durban to Cape Town to raise awareness of the landmines that do remove arms and legs (and lives) and I drove the support vehicle. We lived in a parallel universe for two months… and, for both of us, there was a huge, gaping void at the end of it. But we finished.
I hope that he doesn’t mind me telling you this but Geoff Brink, the unicyclist, also fell down a few years ago. He went into rehab to flush out the accumulated poisons of drugs and alcohol from his body that threatened to ruin his life. It’s one hell of a story, that only he can do justice to.
But Geoff got up. He not only got up but he climbed on to a unicycle only two months after learning to ride it and pedalled it for 2,000km over a period of two months.. I watched him do that. Every minute. Every kilometre. And I will never know how he did it. It’s about how you finish.
So, we South Africans can stumble over each other to grumble and moan about how much it cost our country to stage the 2010 World Cup, how many houses could have built instead of shiny shrines to soccer. How many people could have been uplifted. All very well.
Some may say, now that our throw-everything-at-it party is over, that our country remains down on one knee. I would point out that, down on one knee we may be, but our hands are held up high in triumph. Because, in one short month, we won over the world. And, as Nick Vujicic keeps telling us, it’s how you finish that counts.
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!
Yes. It’s time to remember… what the Heart & Sole Tour has been all about.
So, as Geoff “Heartman” Brink and I (oh, and Kim, Geoff’s fiancee, who has joined me in the back-up truck) roll into Cape Town today (The Clock Tower, V&A Waterfront, 2pm) to complete our beautiful unicycling adventure, we would like to remind everybody of just why we set out from Durban two months ago.
I don’t know the name of the young girl in the above photograph. I only see, as you do, that she has just one leg. And I know that this is so because a landmine blew off the other one.
Isn’t it one crying and intolerable shame that, 16 years, after the civil war ended in Mozambique, children are still having legs blown to smithereens by unexploded ordnance left behind by those who engage in war?
It’s a simple extrapolation: because political groupings cannot agree on how to share the responsibility of representing the people of their country, they fight over who gets to hold absolute power… and the very people who have every right to expect their leaders to govern are then made to suffer.
It’s bloody diabolical.
And, to me, it is a complete craziness that, many long years after political stability has been returned, the people are still being attacked… by evil weapons of war which lurk in subterrannean subterfuge under the ground that they walk on. And that land is left unploughed, unplanted and unharvested because of the climate of fear that exists around it.
It is unacceptable that thousands of children such as the little girl in the photograph, too young to have known war, must hop around on a pole. Or drag themselves around on a trolley. Something must be done to help. The Sole of Africa, an anti-landmines campaign administered by The Mineseeker Foundation is doing what it can.
But they need help. Your help. Please go to their websites and sign up for membership or simply to receive their newsletter. That simple action will give the child amputees of Mozambique, Angola and elsewhere some hope. Hope that they may receive prosthetic limbs. Hope that, one day, their land will be cleared of the evil of landmines so that they may grow their own food. And move around in safety.
That is why Geoff Brink, our incredibly brave unicyclist, and myself have covered the 2,000 or so kilometres from Durban to Cape Town. Because we want to help. Because we can. And because… not once on this wondrous journey of ours, did it occur to us that we might have our legs blown off by a landmine.
Surely everybody has a right to expect that?
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi
* The Heart & Sole Tour would like to thank Penny Sandham of Rotary Somerset West and Joop Weittingh of the beautiful Albourne guesthouse in Somerset West for so hospitably accommodating us on our last night on the road to Cape Town.
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.
Fasten those seatbelts, Heartpeople. I have to issue a health and safety warning here… The following image may bring on feelings of dizziness and acute disorientation. You may experience extreme giddiness and an uncontainable desire to fall to the floor and writhe around in wanton wondrousness.
OK. Ready? Just roll around in the beauty of this little baby…
There. How was that for you? Did the earth move a little bit? I know. Nice, hey? All the work of a clever little clogs called John Gore who tootles around South Africa’s countryside and sets up his equally as clever camera wherever he pleases. Well, I suppose he hasn’t got to use it on Jacob Zuma’s wives’ residences yet. Not all of them anyway. But that is surely just a matter of time.
Never mind. He did capture the utter awesomeness of Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium, far and away everybody’s fave World Cup 2010 stadium (unless you are a Capetonian and can’t bear the thought of liking anything that exists in Durban or, for that matter, anything outside of The Republic of Cape Town).
Anyway, if you’re an individual with an open mind, why not prepare a picnic and take a stroll over here, and just chill while wallowing in the Moses Mabhida experience with 360 degree sense-a-round.
Out of this world, isn’t it? No. Wrong. Slap-bang in the middle of Durbs, actually!
Whatever. But what is true is that our Heart & Sole Tour – yes, that unicycle ride from Durban to Cape Town to raise awareness of the evil perpetrated by landmines – is now near George. Near George? Yes. George. Western Cape. Where PW Botha lived. Sorry. I don’t know anything else about it. And I’m not finding out because old Heartie, myself and our German hanger-on (Croc Cologne, the guy who left German about 23 years ago and is still trying to get to Cape Agulhas) are in Calitzdorp. I suggest you get out the old map because it’s beyond me. But it’s very nice and warm up here on the edge of the Karoo desert and we’re visiting The Heartman’s parents who are very accommodating and run a wonderful B&B called Spekboom Cottages.
This translates into “Bacon Tree Cottages” in English and if anybody knows why or has seen trees with strips of streaky rashers hanging off them, please do write in and let us all know. In the meantime, we’re enjoying being thoroughly spoilt and, when we start getting shifty glances from the locals, we’ll head back to George and start riding towards Mossel Bay. We think we’re only about 360km or so from Cape Town but we’re too scared to ask anybody in case we’re not.
This has been one long roadtrip. But we’re loving it and now know why a certified madventurer like Kingsley Holgate doesn’t bother with sitting around on a sofa and catching the 7pm news before retiring with a nice milky cocoa after putting the dogs out. This adventuring lark is seriously addictive!
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!