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.
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.
Mmmm. When somebody says this, it doesn’t necessarily mean much. But when it comes out of the mouth of Bruce Fordyce, Comrades Marathon legend, you have every right be feel a bit chuffed.
This is what nine-times Comrades winner Fordyce said to Geoff “Heartman” Brink – and he’s had a smile on his face ever since. I was witness to this stunning pronouncement. Heartman and I had spotted Baddaford Farm Stall nestling among shady trees on the side of the road heading towards Fort Beaufort and the word “Coffee” performed a lightning coup of our minds.
We had no sooner walked in and met owner Jane Roberts when Mr Fordyce strolled in and raised an inquiring eyebrow at AmaOneTyre, Heartie’s trusty unicycle which has carried him over 700km from Durban towards Cape Town, our final destination. Heartie explained what it required to get on to a unicycle, stay on it and ride the distance that he has. This precipitated in his comment and it is inspiration such as this that will carry Heartie the rest of the way to the Mother City. Pure awesomeness.
Here is the picture…
Comrades legend Bruce Fordyce and old Heartie launch their mutual admiration society outside beautiful Baddaford farm stall
Now, let me tell you a bit about Baddaford. Because our association with this beautiful oasis didn’t stop there. It stopped three days later in Grahamstown. After Jane had given us not only free coffee but a lunch on the house. After she had invited us to spend a night or two at the splendid and very old stone house that she shares with husband Jonathan, a farmer of citrus and pecan nuts.
But Jonny also rides a bike. Very passionately. And, in his fifties, was recently challenged into doing his first Iron Man competition when his son said there was no way he could do it. You don’t tell Jonathan Roberts he can’t do something. He did it. And he did it amazingly well. And he and Jane did a phenomenal job of looking after us. There was nothing they wouldn’t do to help us recover from the rigours of the Heart and Sole Tour. They housed us. They fed us. They helped us. To the extent of escorting us in their car safely over the tricky and testing Ecca Pass and into Grahamstown.
We will never forget the kindness and comradeship extended to us by Jonny and Janey Roberts of Baddaford Farm. Enjoy a gander at the beautifulness of our experience…
The Heartman, Jane and Jonathan at the creeper-covered entrance to their gorgeous old stone house, built on Baddaford farm by Jonathan's great-grandfather. The house burned down in 1928 after an ostrich, which was nesting with its chicks under the house, knocked over a lamp and started the blaze. It has been beautifully restored. Take my word for that!
A water stop on the road to Grahamstown ends in a scrumming contest between Hatman and Heartman with Jonny Roberts at scrum-half. Result? Hatman won. Watch out, John Smit!
The Heart & Sole tour finally rolls into Grahamstown and Jane Roberts has to waste perfectly good spring weater on an overheated Heartman. Eish!
* The Heartman and would also like to thank these people for their phenomenal help: Chris and Sally Purdon of Red Angus Farm and Glenfinlas B&B (between Cathcart and Seymour); Sam and Sandy of the Katberg Hotel at the Katberg Eco Golfing Resort, Brian and Elvira of The Old Gaol B&B in Grahamstown, Cindy and Francesca of Bartholomews B&B, Grahamstown, and the mercurial Martina Gilli of the Live Music Society at Rhodes University who went to great lengths to help raise awareness among her fellow students of the objectives of our Heart and Sole Tour. Further fantasticness from wonderful South Africans!
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!
Confused? Look. We’re either in Seymour, near Seymour or nowhere near Seymour at all. There is also a strong possibility that Seymour doesn’t exist.
Our mapbook suggested that we head for Seymour in order to, sometime in the next couple of days, reach Fort Beaufort. That’s in the Eastern Cape and on our route to Grahamstown. Which, since we’ve both been there in the past, does exist. Unless they’ve moved it somewhere else.
The thing about Seymour is that we just haven’t seen it. Or seen any roadsigns that might suggest that we’re on our way to it, are in or near it… or, yes, that it might exist at all.
What does exist is the Jan Malan Pass which, according to the locals in Cathcart, goes through Seymour, around it or near it. If it exists. We know the Jan Malan Pass exists because, not only did we see a sign, but we climbed it. To one thousand three hundred and something feet above sea level. And old Heartman knows he unicycled up the three hundred feet bit from Cathcart to wherever it is we are now, Seymour or not.
Focus, folks. That’s three hundred vertical feet covered in 30km from Cathcart to a mythical place locals refer to as Seymour. Impressive stuff from The Heartman. Again.
And that’s why he’s been sleeping for 12 hours while I’ve been watching horses and cows jostle for turf outside the window of the bedroom I slept in last night. The moos outweighed the neighs. Angus stock, you see. Beautiful beasts. The farm is called Glenfinlas (owned by the kindly Chris and Sally Purdon) and it is quite stunning in its sumptuousness. It could easily be set in the Natal Midlands such are the lush, green and rolling hills which peer over this valley.
In fact, I woke up thinking I was in the Scottish Highlands. Magnificent shards of mist were snake-hipping down the mountains, covered in heather for all I know, and the temperature was 9 deg C. I mean, this is January in the southern hemisphere, not J-J-J-uly! There is a fireplace in our rondavel and Heartie and I wasted no time in lighting a great blazing conflagration after we stumbled in last night. I wish we had had a good whisky. Or any whisky.
When I sat at the window at 5am this morning and stared out at the Highland cattle shivering in the gloaming, I really did wonder if we were in some Scottish valley. I would not have been even a wee bit perplexed if I had seen a burly wild-eyed fellow with ginger hair and a kilt run past waving a claymore at some grouse. Because that would have been our nutty unicyclist engaging in some extravagant shenanigans.
He does this kind of thing. When we unpacked the back-up truck last night in a frantic effort to find something for dinner, a vrot (rotten) banana was unearthed among the delicate eco-system which is fast developing among all the junk we carry. I fully expected to find my bed “apple-pied” with it last night. Instead, I was rudely awoken by an alarm clock (set for 2am) which had been secreted under a pillow on the neighbouring bed. I am now keenly anticipating Heartman’s reaction when he slips his feet into his riding shoes to find a very large and very dead dung-beetle-like creature obstructing the progress of his big toe into the forward end of his footwear. Touche!
Such fun. Spoiled only by the distinct lack of a 3G internet connection here in Seym… um, wherever we are. Which means I cannot upload any pictures on to this blog. Not unless I had a day to spare for each picture. As mellow and laid-back as we might be on this Heart and Sole Tour, I don’t. Sorry. Especially as I have some cracking piccies to show you. From our night and morning spent in the most seductive hamlet of Cathcart.
Of Father Matthias of the Catholic Church who very jovially and expressively made our stay a beautiful one. Of Mama Zoleka who kindly gave over her guest-room to two mad mlungus at the last minute. Of Sister Kathleen who showed us around the Schonstatt Shrine, the very earliest of the Catholic shrines to be built in South Africa, and who blessed AmaOneTyre (the unicycle), The Heartman, myself and (I think accidentally) my camera.
Of Nic Nel who, with wife Rita, runs a strange shop in Cathcart which, among other things of curiosity, sells the wonderfully weird metal sculptures that he conjures out of scrap in his workshop (a building which originally served as a motor repair workshop for Model T Fords). Of former Durban advocate and fierce defender of human rights, Jenny Wilde, who came to Cathcart a couple of years ago to die but found her malady cured by the Catholic faith and the purest of air. Of her daughter-in-law Robyn, a “fire artist, who managed to balance her willowy frame so delectably on AmaOneTyre that she is now determined to add a unicycle to her repertoire of flame-throwing wizardry. Yes, there are photographs of many wonderful people we have met.
And so many, too, of this beautiful thing that goes by the name of The Heart and Sole Tour. Perhaps next time. Lang ma ye lam reek.
Oh, look! A picture has uploaded! Yippeeness! This one is of Heartie planning our route next to last night's fire. Yes. No wonder we can't find Seymour!
Good graciousness. I have pic uploading capabilities. Right, while I have airtime, I’m going to run with this. Bear with me. And do join me on our pilgrimage through Cathcart…
Beautifulness. Mama Zoleka bids Heartman and I farewell after we spent the night as guests in her cool-vibe home...
Ah, nice one. Another pic makes it on! This is the delightful Father Matthias, a beautiful human being, showing off one of Netty's origami cranes which we gave him as a small token of gratitude for his heartsingingly wonderful hospitality
Father Matthias, Sister Kathleen and The Heartman gather around AmaOneTyre before it was taken into the Schonstatt shrine to be blessed
Jenny and Robyn whizz off in their old Porsche after Robyn's love affair with the unicycle was ignited outside Nic Nel's little shop of creative curiosities
There. So happy to have got those pics on the blog. Only took me two hours. I think we have some riding to do now. Word is reaching us that Seymour is still 30km further down (or up) the drag. Ahem. Later!