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.
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!
I have so many stories to tell on this rather neglected Heart and Sole Tour blog that I don’t know where to start.
So I’ll start here. I am staring out of the window of yet another B&B at a beautiful bougainvillea. Its flowers are a rich colour. I don’t know. Purple? Pink? Possibly crimson red? All of those. Magenta. Yes, that’s it. Over and above this abundant diffusion of magenta is the lichen-encrusted slate roof of what I think is St Bartholomew’s church in Grahamstown.
This view is enriching. As it is to be in Grahamstown, which seems terribly civilised after days of hard and sweaty slog on the hills and mountain passes of the road which brought our unicycling madness down from Cathcart in the Eastern Cape.
It has been hard. It has been beautiful. And it has been, yes, enriching. When Geoff “Heartman” Brink and I rolled out of Durban on December 28, we did not dare to dream that this magical mystery tour would bring us so much enrichment. And, thankfully, this has brought me a theme for this post. Children. How much they enrich our lives!
And how they have enriched this Heart and Sole unicycle tour from Durban to Cape Town. Most of us see our first unicycle when the circus comes to town, ridden as it is by a clown called Charlie with a big red nose, pancaked face and blue pantaloons. We appear to have reached places in South Africa where no circus or unicycling Charlie has gone before. For these children, The Heartman’s “bicycle that has lost a wheel” is greeted with disbelief and no little delight.
Allow me to illustrate this for you, may I?
See? The Heartman and his "AmaOneTyre" have this kind of effect on children...
We saw this little school in the middle of a field outside Queenstown and rode down the dirt road leading to it. This is the welcome we received!
These Balmoral schoolgirls, fresh from a swimming gala, were waiting in biting cold at the top of a mountain pass to cheer us on!
The Heartman was asked if he wouldn't mind telling the children of Yellowwoods Primary, near Fort Beaufort, what on earth he was doing riding a unicycle from Durban to Cape Town. He seized the opportunity to tell the kids that, when doing something to tell the world about the horror of landmines, it's worth attempting to achieve what may at first appear impossible!
This little sweetheart seemed entranced by The Heartman's tales of derring-do! Pictures: Hatman
Children. Too much of beautifulness. If this Heart and Sole Tour has inspired just one of these children to begin to grasp that riding a unicycle 1,900km across South Africa (or doing something similarly unconventional) can help a little to improve the world in which they live, then our crazy and wondrous roadtrip will have achieved a lot more than simply alert some people to the devastation that landmines continue to cause.
This, for us, is enrichment on a grand scale.
* Old Heartie and I are about to perform live on behalf of the Rhodes University Live Music Society at an “O Week” event for new enrolments on campus. More on that and how a wonderful couple – Jonathan and Jane Roberts – lifted us up and then carried The Heart & Sole Tour over the notorious Ecco Pass and into Grahamstown later!
Day 31? Mmmm. We don’t really know what day it is – and sometimes even who we are – on this magical mystery tour but, correct me if I’m wrong, I’m thinking that means we’ve been on the road for a month. Yowzerness!
And wonderfulness. We’re loving this. Some days more than others.
Coolness is our best friend on The Heart & Sole Tour. Take Tuesday (Day 30). Cool. Rainy. Make that very rainy. Perfect. Yesterday (Day 31) was hot. Extremely hot. Hard. These pictures may help to illustrate how it looks to unicycle in the two extremes of weather…
Day 30: Rather moist on the road, I'd say, but The Heartman revels in the coolness and ploughs steadily forth...
Day 31: Met eish, ja! Old Heartie cools off with drops of water melting from the ice he uses to pack his knees. It was so darn hot!
But… never mind the weather, we always have fun. Supported by “local knowledge”, we tried a shortcut yesterday. Heading towards Queenstown from Cofimvaba (thanks for the interview and your beautiful support, Warra and Heather!), we swung off on a road which would purportedly knock a lot of kilometres off our route and take us to Cathcart. About 12km of passable dirt road, we were told, and then about 30km of tar to Cathcart.
Dirt always appeals to two quite agricultural overgrown boys. Yeah, right. We discovered that the road, all 40km of it, was dirt. And rutted. With large dongas decorating it in the middle section. Unpassable.
Still, it popped us out of the “Heart & Sole Bubble” we have to occupy on the hard shoulder (if there is one!) on tar roads because of the traffic that hurtles past us. We were freed up to boss the dirt track. I, as back-up driver, left Heartie to monowheel safely on while I stopped to wave my camera at everything that moved.
And this is what moved me…
Oh, dear. Old Heartie seems to have fallen back... and is walking! Too much of heat. Too much of hill. Too much of holes in the road. Too much of tough!
So I turned my eye towards Mama Nature. And, as always, she was very giving. I called this little chap Ringo. He looks like one tough little beetle, doesn't he?
And then there were these two... playing, er, the giddy goats. Juicy leaves make a nice change from grass, don't they?
When the road became totally un-unicyclable, The Heartman and I got down to really having us some fun…
Um. What can I say? OK. I thought the late afternoon golden light so sublime, I thought I would try to embrace it. Whoo! Pic: Heartman
And we couldn’t end without the now almost statutory pic of old Heartie riding off into some kind of sunset, could we? No. That’s right…
OK. So it's not quite sunset. But The Heartman is up and at it and doing his thing. And just dig the cow and goat adding their bit. Nice, hey? Pics: Hatman
It’s more than nice, I tell you. We didn’t realise that the Eastern Cape could be so beautiful. It’s scenery such as this that keeps us going at times. You just have to take the dirt road to uncover the real beauty. Wait. I’m feeling a profound moment coming on. Somebody (who?) once said something like this: “It is better to experience the detours, the curves and the zigzags of life than to hurry to your final destination.” Something like that. The Heart and Sole Tour is something like that. And Geoff “The Heartman” Brink and I are truly privileged to have this experience.
* The Heart & Sole Tour would like to thank both Rotary clubs in Queenstown for their wonderful hospitality and generosity. To Bruce van der Meer of Queenstown Rotary… thank you for the potjie evening and your club’s kind donations! And a big thank you to Kruno and Goga Fuzy of the Lukhanji Sunset Rotary Club for the beautiful accommodation and breakfasts at their homely Novel Lodge! Rotary rocks! No, seriously.