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’ve been thinking about developing a personality. No, not mine. I gave up on that some time ago. Earthworms have got the jump on me. Not my fault I like to wear an anorak, write down the engine numbers of passing trains, have a massive collection of pet rocks and have taped every episode of Noot vir Noot on VHS.
No, I’ve been thinking of developing a character, like sex symbol blogger Seth Rotherham has done so cleverly with TBG (Tall Blonde Guy) over at 2oceansvibe.com. And very charmingly too, if I may say so.
I did have one. A character. A strange, eccentric, reclusive one called The Bushguy. But then I left Umdloti to go on a unicycle marathon, found Stanford and lost him. Not difficult. Last I heard, Bushguy was still living in the thick coastal bush above Umdloti Beach with his dogs and existing on mushrooms.
So what to do. Where to find A Character? As always, one doesn’t have to go far. He’s been on my doorstep. No, not at Hatman Mansions. But on the doorstep of my conscious. And characters don’t come any bigger, colourful, tougher, crazier, more beautiful than “The G-man”.
Are you feeling strong today? Are you up for this? Sure? OK. Let’s take a look at him…
No sooner had he been introduced to Miss South Africa and The G-man takes a call from a fan
OK. Now I can’t speak for you but if I had just been introduced to Miss South Africa Nicole Flint, I wouldn’t take a call from anybody, not Nelson Mandela or even my close friend Gen Morton. Even if I had just bought one of those phenomenal new iPhones that look like a crayfish.
But this is how he rolls, The G-man. The man for every situation. So cool you need to wield an icepick to get near him. A man you’d want alongside you in the trenches in a particularly brutal and unconventionally-fought war.
The G-man is an ADD-addled action hero. He’s seriously feral. A natural-born actor. He’s South Africa’s Bruce Willis, Woody Harrelson and, er, Lou Reed all rolled into one unpredictable, fearless and insanely cool package. And you don’t have to take my word for it.
He lives noisily in a quiet village north of Durban. You might see him barking like a dog at the La Mercy Lagoon. He can convincingly imitate 36 animal sounds. I know. I heard them all during this madcap adventure.
I could go on. But I’ve used up all of my G-man force for the day. So this what I’ll do. Send me a photo of you with The G-man and, every Friday, I’ll choose the craziest one. The winner will receive one of those brand-new, totally insane Special Edition Crayfish iPhones. Yes, just like the one The G-man is using in that pic!
How cool is that? Yes, yes, I know. Please try to remain calm. OK. Here’s a tip on how to find The G-man. He really digs the coffee that Judd “Juddy-poo” Campbell purveys at the absurdly groovy Corner Cafe in Glenwood, Durban. You’ll find him there most days, high on caffeine and getting up to mischief.
Brace yourself, introduce yourself, get in a picture with our boy and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If it’s the nuttiest one of the week, you win a Crayfish iPhone and I publish the pic on here. Well. Why are you still sitting there, staring at this word. Vamoose, babies!
I’ve been asked to pay the hosting fees to renew the fredhatman.co.za blog with Hetzner, who have looked after me extremely well for the first year of my blogging life.
Wowness. A whole year! Now, usually at this point, people like to look back and review the past year, pinpointing their highs and lows and generally boring me to within an inch of my life with what has gone before.
I’m not a fan of looking back. Give me today. Carpe diem. And then let’s grab hold of the future. So, what does the future hold for your “diagnosed SA-positive” blog? You’ve got me there, Hatpeople. You don’t mind me calling you Hatpeople, do you? Good.
Just as I don’t analyse the past, so I don’t like to try to prescribe the future. That’s never worked for me. Visualise a best-case scenario, yes, make decisions around it, no. What will happen will happen. What’s the point of planning for the unknown? “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans,” said John Lennon. He was sharp, was John. So all I can say is, that for as long as I write this blog, its central theme will be one that is “SA-positive”.
It’s the way I’m wired. To be positive about my beloved country. South Africa. It’s purely instinctive, my great love affair and affinity with my country. And I instinctively write with passion about the things that make South Africa the best country in the world in which to live.
Wave the flag, wave the flag...
So, if it’s all the same to you, that is how we will continue on this blog. What I am doing, however, is bringing a bit of structure (did I hear cheering at the back?) to how I deliver to you my blogposts. Yes. I need to do that.
It’s been a bit all over the place, hasn’t it? Loyal followers of fredhatman.co.za (and I thank both of you for lasting a full year) have never know when to expect to find some freshly-laid waffle to read. There have been days I have kept you waiting. There have been days, especially during this post-World Cup cold turkey slump, when I gave you diddly-squat. I’m sorry. No, really. I am.
So, today’s previous post will give you a hint of what you can expect to find on any weekday. First up, in the morning, a fascinating fact about South Africa, delivered with a Hatmanesque twist. You’ve told me you like it. So I’m sticking with it. This start-your-day factoid is called “Know The Beloved Country”.
Then, later in the day, you’ll be getting something – it could be anything – which generally will show off our uniquely beautiful and intriguing country in an “SA-positive” light. You know where to go to read the bad news. And you know to come here for the good stuff.
Cool. You’ll get that before home-time. Unless, of course, you’re skiving off early for a bit of how’s-your-daddy. And that’s fine by me. You’re probably over 16. You have choices. Far be it for me to judge. Good golly, no.
OK. So you should, by now, know that not only am I lucky enough to live in South Africa, I’m seriously blessed to live in a particularly gorgeous part of it. Stanford. Third best-preserved Victorian village in the Western Cape. In the Overberg region. Twenty-three kilometres on the R43 beyond Hermanus going towards Gansbaai, to be precise.
Yes, we’re sandwiched between South Africa’s “whale-watching capital” and our “shark cage-diving hotspot”. Lucky fish. That’s us. It’s a largely undiscovered rural gem, is Stanford. And a village that has a vibe that is impossible to describe. “Hugely spiritual” will have to do.
Stanford: a spiritual experience
I’m going to be doing some writing about what it’s like to live here in Stanford. The amazing people it continues to attract. The strange goings-on. The headless horse which gallops through the roads of Die Skema by night. The seven leylines which run across our land. The annual far-too-hotly-contested giant pumpkin-growing competition. Weird stuff.
And I’ll also be updating you on the exciting campaign to position Stanford as the gateway to the fast-developing biosphere that is blossoming around the Agulhas National Park, right here on our doorstep. How we are growing towards becoming a hugely attractive nature-based tourism destination. But more, much more, on that later.
You might remember The Heart and Sole Tour, a crazy 2,000km unicycle jaunt from Durban to Cape Town earlier this year? Well, there is to be another unicycle marathon starting in November… and this time three unicyclist friends of mine will ride off-road (almost all the way) from Umhlanga lighthouse to Mouille Point lighthouse to raise awareness of a an excellent cause that is close to all of our hearts.
This mammoth undertaking is still in the planning stages but I will be writing a great deal about this as it unfolds. Prepare yourself. It’s going to be another rollercoaster adventure, babies.
What else? Oh, ja. You’ll want to read something after you’ve got home. Once you’ve put the TV to bed and before you slump on to the sofa to watch the children. Something like that. So I’ll be posting a wee taster about how it feels to me to spend another day in paradise. A rumination about life in a small country village in South Africa. Stanford. I might call it “By A Country Smile”. We’ll know by tonight.
And, if you’re really unlucky, I might start posting reports of my “Weekends with The Beast”, adventures down the dirt roads which lead in every direction out of Stanford and into the magnificent Overberg. But that’s only if you dare to visit me on a Monday…
How beautiful is The Beast?
* If you wish to receive updates of all of my blogposts, please join the Fred Hatman group on facebook or follow fredhatman on Twitter. Should you want to be updated only on Stanford-related posts, join the Stanford Alive! group on facebook. For updates on posts about the “mammoth off-road unicycle ride”, join The CounterBalance Project facebook group. Whatever you do, stay SA-positive!
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.
Some of you may recall that I got involved in a very jolly jape earlier this year, in which one of my nuttier mates Geoff “The Heartman” Brink rode a UNICYCLE from Durban to Cape Town.
That’s right. One man, one wheel… and one hell of a ride which lasted 58 days and covered nearly 2,000km. I was Geoff’s back-up driver, blogger, photographer etc and we did it to raise awareness of the madness of landmines for The Sole of Africa.
I still get flashbacks about this epic journey nearly three months later. Given that I have yet to father a child and still haven’t quite managed to engage in flagrante delicto with Genevieve Morton, The Heart and Sole Tour was the most beautiful thing I have ever done in my life.
And I thought that, Gen phoning up to ask if I would like to co-create a sprog notwithstanding, that would be that. But it’s a case of “not so fast, Freddie”. No, Gen hasn’t phoned (yet) but a couple of equally deranged unicyclists have.
To make a proposal. Not to bear my children, I hasten to add. But to create something which will involve even more pain and result in something just as beautiful.
Before I let you in on their mind-bogglingly mad idea, I’d like to get out my old projector and show you a short movie. If you’re sitting comfortably (and, of course, have pressed pause on the following fliek so as to allow the thing to fully buffer) we can flick off the lights and begin…
Crikey! What did you make of that malarkey? Yes, these guys are as nutty as squirrels poo. What did you think of the madman right at the beginning whose unicycle went over a bump and propelled him on a (near) collision course with quite a sturdy tree? Well, that’s Johnny Cronje. Fine. But the really worrying thing about Johnny is that he is actually one of the most sane people I have ever met.
So, get your head around this. Johnny, Alan Read and Donna Kisogloo are wanting to ride their unicycles for a distance of around 2,000km to raise awareness of a very good cause over a period of about six weeks later this year. Now this would sound very much like the Heart and Sole Tour… except for one rather notable difference.
They want to do it off-road!
Yes. I know. Do what I did when I first heard about this. Breathe. Deeply. In. Out. In. Out. You should start getting back to normal quite soon. Lucky for you. I’m not. Normal, I mean. Because the three of them have asked me, as South Africa’s prime exponent of slow driving (I mean, 58 days of driving behind Geoff Brink to Durban to Cape Town at an average of 16 km/h has to be some sort of record, right?) to be their “support vehicle driver” for this 2,000km off-road unicycling adventure.
And, only because I’m so intelligent and worked out that “support vehicle driver” sounded far more posh than “back-up driver”, I have agreed to do it. And photograph it and blog about it and film it and raise awareness of it and… er, live it for the next eight months.
Look. There’s a lot of organising and sponsorship-raising and stuff to do before we leave, so I can’t tell you much more about it right now. So, amuse and amaze yourself by taking a peek at what Johnny and Co and their unicycles do for fun at weekends and I’ll fill you in as we go along.
Heavens to Betsy, I am so looking forward to more unicycling craziness already! Two thousand kilometres. Every single one of them on dirt? Bring it on!
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