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!