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!
Look. I’ve been a journalist long enough to know how to expertly “fudge” an issue. But if this blog is to be an accurate portrayal of the peaks and troughs, nay hills and valleys, of The Heart & Sole Tour, then no way… I’m not making a silk purse of a sow’s ear.
This day has been both beautiful and disastrous. Beautiful in that The Heartman, aided by favourable conditions, chowed up no less than 40.2km. A gentle tailwind and cool, overcast conditions propelled him, despite painful knees, from Scottburgh to Hibberdene in no little style. The hills were tough but, with his stamina and strength on the rise, old Heartie wasn’t to be beaten. In unicycling terms, the best day so far.
Then dee-rama struck on a grand scale. Or not so grand. I’m not going into detail – there’s a Heart & Sole Tour objective to be accomplished – but suffice to say that it has been forcefully driven home to me that perhaps the greatest challenge faced on a marathon adventure such as this lies in the psychological and emotional dimensions. Especially with two such strong personalities at the centre of it all.
OK. Tomorrow is another day. Now, if this infernally weak internet connection allows me, I would like to treat you to a video that has just reached us of Geoff “Heartman” Brink showing off his considerable unicycling skills and talking eloquently about what it is that drives us to overcome all adversity to complete the 1,700km – wait, 1,600km! – which lies before us.
I’ve just been brought a cold “Pussy natural energy drink” to help me recover from this day. And find enough patience with this woeful internet signal to attempt to load up the vid. I suggest you pour yourselves a stiff one while I try…
There. I think it’s on. If you do actually get to see the above video, it was filmed and edited by bright Umdloti thing Jimmy Reynolds using footage shot in Mozambique by Brenda Spaan for The Sole of Africa. The gravely disfigured face in that footage belongs to Ignacio who stepped on a landmine when he was just nine years old. But not just any landmine. This particularly cruel piece of military ordnance was designed, when detonated, to leap roughly five feet nine inches into the air and explode into people’s faces.
This is what happened to Ignacio, a beautiful and innocent boy at the time. And this is precisely the reason why we need to put personal – and ultimately petty – differences aside and finish this Heart and Sole Tour. My connection has gone again. And so have I. Good night.
In yet another of my weekly interviews with interesting Umdlotians, I asked the Big Five questions of film-maker Jimmy Reynolds who, probably due to the fact that he sent back his answers on his iPhone from the legendary Bush Tavern after several gin and tonics, only answered four. But this a completely democratic process. So I’m totally fine with that.
Let’s first have a look at the young legend-in-the-making…
Nice. Pic: www.tyronebradley.co.za
FH:Jimmy, your game seems to be all about making extreme films of extreme sports to thrill, in the main, internet users. How did you get into all that… film, extreme sports etc?
JR: Well Hatters, I learnt to ride a bike like any regular kid and just never stopped. When all my friends got into drugs and girls and all that stuff I just kept on riding bmx and ended up travelling all over for about five years. During that time my good friend and partner in crime www.tyronebradley.co.za and I started making bmx videos about all our adventures and that just took off and I got more into shooting than riding. And I guess that’s where I’m at right now.
FH:From what I’ve seen, your style of film-making is a touch on the rad side. Tell us about your camera technique, how you do it… and who your influences are…
JR: … “Hey, Ty, get me another G&T, dude!”… *?*
FH:Your dad was the top camera kahuna (director of photography) for Jamie Uys’s classic South African movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy”? What do you think of that? What impact did that – and your old man – have on you?
JR: I think I must have got some natural talent from him, but I was away so much when I started that it was more constructive criticism that I got from him than help with shooting. So he played a big part in my learning to shoot. I never studied it or anything like that. So I guess his amazing stuff that he shot has just inspired me to make stuff look as good as possible while shooting, which is quite hard while making the trick look as badass as possible. But I definitely want to make riding and other subject matters look as good as possible.
FH: Are you crazy? OK. I understand. So share with us your major malfunction…
JR: Crazy question, dude! I don’t think so. I consider myself the most normal person around and I’m not even slightly eccentric or anything. I just shoot, surf and hang out at the Bush Tavern. The only thing non mainstream about me is my love for old hair metal…
FH:You’re a cool dude-about-town in this epically kiff ocean-hugging town we call Umdloti. Reveal to us what you love about ‘Hloti, how you use it… and feel free to reveal any secrets about the “dark underbelly” of this crazy place of which I might, as a relative newcomer and somebody on the right side of 30, not be aware…
JR: This town fucking rocks!!! I’ve travelled to every corner of this country and have never found a place like it. I’ve always wanted to live in a place where when I have kids they can play in the street and this is it. Plus the Bush Tavern is epic! Pizza and beer specials rock. We have a warm ocean and pretty good waves here so it’s a treat to be able to look off my verandah and decide where to go surf whenever it’s good. I’ve only been living here since March but meeting all the locals has been a treat! G man, Piggy, Liz, Capo, Simmo, the Redmans and all the other 568 kids are so rad and we’ve had so many damn good times here. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to leave. Rad!
Total radness overload, Jimmy. Thanks for dropping in at the last minute to do this interview (because the bloke who works on projects in Waterloo township for Tongaat Hulett, despite committing to do so, wasn’t bothered to reply to my questions – or my voicemail messages to remind him to do so) and I thus owe you some serious gin-and-tonicness.
* Oh, do yourselves a favour and check out http://www.theriot.co.za/
I’m no gadgety geek but the stuff you can do on an iPhone is radness overload. Thanks to Umdloti iPhonehead Jimmy Reynolds for totally sucking me into an info-vortex which dumped me, head spinning, on Planet iPhone over a couple of G&Ts at the Bush Tavern yesterday.
And it just got much better. American photographer Chase Jarvis has developed an application for iPhone which takes photographing fragments of your world up to another stratosphere altogether. He’s calling it “The Best Camera” and it pretty much pulls in the best of all of the best things about taking pics with a cameraphone and enables everybody (with an iPhone of course) to record what’s happening around them at any time with a totally pro vibe attached.
Let’s see what Chase has to offer us (please be forewarned that our man is plugging his app and “how to” book to within an inch of vulgarity here – doesn’t everybody these days? – but this vid is a complete eye-opener)…
How was that for you, Hatpeople? “Get an iPhone” just zoomed straight to the top of your “Must Have” list? It’s on top of mine. I have to say that some of my most cool pix were snapped using the “Fluorescent” setting on an old Sony Ericsson K800 (see here). I recently became the lucky owner of a Canon EOS 50D – and I’m well chuffed with it – but, when it come to photographing arb stuff on the move, nothing touches whipping the old cameraphone out of the pocket and grabbing the image in an instant.
The iPhone, along with Chase’s awesome app, will massively enhance this whole slice-of-life capturing thing and my red hat is tipped in gratitude towards can’t-help-enough Stephen at Durban’s Gateway iStore for offering to lend me an iPhone for our Heart & Sole unicycling marathon across South Africa.
I’ll be documenting Geoff “Heartman” Brink’s mad 1,400km ride from Durban to Cape Town every inch of the way on this blog and the iPhone will give me the means to post words, pics and vid on the blog, Twitter, facebook, YouTube and flickr with a few brushes of its screen.
Now I just need to buy Jimmy a whole bunch of G&Ts in exchange for a crash course in how to get the minimally-loaded left-brained side of my lopsided head around the iPhone and Chase’s amazing app!
I’m not much good at extreme sports. I do extreme cooking that would make Jamie Oliver faint but I don’t think that counts.
It’s not that I’m too frightened. It’s just that other people are petrified to be around when I attempt them.
So I’ve kept it all pretty tidy since that time I wiped out 12 very genteel skiers rude enough to be crossing my path to get to the restaurant to have their lunch. It was my second day of learning on the snowy slopes of Meribel in France and perhaps I shouldn’t have tried out a red run when I didn’t really know how to snow-plough.
It ended with me having to steer myself into a tree to avoid going over a cliff. I escaped with third-degree bruising. The Genteel Skiers Party wasn’t quite as lucky. Their very French tanned-nose-in-the-air-with-not-a-hair-out-of-place vibe was horribly punctured and, after enduring some uncontained cackling from already-seated lunchers, they stared daggers at me through designer sunglasses and muttered Frenchieisms, many of which included the word “merde“.
I still can’t understand how they didn’t see the funny side of it. But then I am a South African.
So friends go to great lengths to keep me away from surfboards, skateboards, snowboards, blackboards and anything ending in board. Which is rather unfair as I often like to get my “Extreme Scrabble” game out of the cupboard.
But, hey, it doesn’t mean I can’t admire the total radness of a totally rad dude doing something totally rad in an extreme sport. This is where I introduce you, if you haven’t already been exposed to his total radness, to local lad Greg Illingworth. He rides bikes (bicycles) but not quite in the manner in which you might have seen people using them to gad about Amsterdam.
So here’s a mindblowing vid (Jedi web edit for The Riot) shot by Jimmy Reynolds, one of Umdloti’s finest creative sons, of Greg taking a leisurely Sunday cycle around a shopping mall and environs…
How did that feel? Nice? Not a million miles from awesomeness overload, hey? How was that drunk woman who stumbled out of somewhere to find young Illingworth whizzing past on his way to get a book out of the local library before 5pm shutting-up time?
I liked it. I like it so much I’m going to pester Jimmy into making a lekker movie of me doing the same thing. He might want to shoot it with a mega-zoom from the top of a very tall building. That’s cool. But maybe not for any Frenchoids promenading around in search of a nice, quiet lunch.