Heart & Sole Tour – Day 31: We hit dirt… and our bubble bursts!

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.

Heart & Sole Tour – Day 22: Beautiful ubuntu for lunch… before we grind to a horrible halt

Three gee. 3G. My newly fave number and letter. The re-entry of 3G internet connectivity into my life means that I can (possibly) avoid blogging suicide after days in the Vodacom Desert and get a post out to my Heartpeople. I’m sorry.

And this is a post of two halves. Yes, the joy and the sorrow. From high to low. Just like the story of The Heart and Sole Tour. Rollercoasterness, babies! With your permission, I’ll give you the bad news first. Yes? OK. Good.

Here’s the thing. The unavoidable, somewhat inevitable, awful, chuffing nightmarish thing. After three weeks of toiling up mountains in absurd heat, rain, majestic electrical thunderstorms and a spot of hail, The Heart & Sole Tour has come to a grinding halt. Why? No money. Geen geld. Asinamali.

A humungous thank you to all of you who have contributed dosh to us but we simply do not have enough to continue. Apart from our “Spirit of Ubuntu” lunch (which I will shortly pictorialise for you) we had a bad day on Monday. Searing heat, virtually no hard shoulder on which to cocoon ourselves from flying trucks, crazymaking and potentially dangerous potholes and very, very, very tired bodies and minds.

The Heartman still managed to push himself 32km or so away from Engcobo towards Queenstown. But, because of the heat from hell, we only really rolled off after 5pm and, eventually, at after eight, we gave up and drove to Queenstown to rest minds and bodies. In fact, when we found a place to sleep, I didn’t so much find the bed as the bed found me. We came together as one. No shower. No brushing of teeth. El Collapso.

The next day was our birthday. Yes. Ours. Both born on January 19. Similar characters. With differences. I woke up The Heartman to give him a present. I had thought of getting him a pair of grey socks from Pep Stores, I told him, but I had something better. “Whashat?” he gurgled from his nightly slightly parallel universe. “Look. We’re not going to get much further. We’re knackered. We need a break. We need more funds. It’s your birthday. Spend as much of it as you can with your woman and your dogs at home.” His eyes opened. Wide. “Go. Get a flight from East London. Rest. Raise money. See you on Sunday.” He grinned and said something about Hatman not being so bad after all. He went. He’s recovering. And approaching some corporates about giving us the support we need to finish what we started and achieve our objective of raising awareness of the madness that are the millions of landmines still blowing off the limbs of people all over the world.

We are excruciatingly aware of the near-apocalyptic horror that is post-quake Haiti. It is only right that the compassionate eye of the world should be trained in that direction. But we are not asking for much. Just enough to cover fuel, food and airtime coasts to cover the rest of the Heart & Sole Tour from near Queenstown to Cape Town. We are closing in on the 600km mark, which means that old Heartie and I are a third of the way into this beautiful adventure.

The Heartman has used his rent money. I have exhausted my savings. It has been a giant leap of faith. But, even as we hang suspended somewhere along the arc of that leap, we still believe. I have always seen the two of us rolling into Cape Town and that vision is as clear and golden as the day this crazy wonderful idea was born. Please continue to help us achieve that.

OK. I promised you some snaps depicting what I am calling the “Spirit of Ubuntu” lunch. Quick preamble. We ride out of Engcobo on Monday. Blisteringly hot. We find a couple of trees offering shade. There are a few colourful rondavel huts nearby. The children come. Then the adults. The questions about the bicycle that has lost a wheel. The smiles. The shaking of heads. Our new friends sit around us and talk animatedly about the mad mlungus (white people). Heartie naps. I talk with the small crowd we have collected. They are hungry. Yes, we have some food (stored for camping) in the truck. Ah, I will cook it for lunch says Mama Cordelia, clearly the Big Mama of the community.

I bring out Imana beef mince, rice, a couple of onions, tinned tomatoes and some Aromat spices. Mama C sends oldest daughter Nosipho on a long walk to the spaza shop to get paraffin for the stove she has conjured up from a nearby hut. Pots and spoons magically appear. Mama Cordelia cooks lunch for us, her two daughters and assorted new arrivals, numbering about eight. It is beautiful. We sit on the grass under the trees next to the road to Queenstown eating Mama C’s impromptu lunch. Deliciousness. It tasted something like this…

Our Heartie is chuffed to have lunch served up for him by the redoubtable and indefatigable Mama Cordelia

This shy and delightful child rocks up for lunch. Nobody knows where her mother is. It doesn't matter. She is part of a bigger family. The community. She is duly fed...

Yes. I thought you might want to have another look at this adorable little girl. So I took this. Are you glad I did?

Mama Cordelia, unnamed sweetheart, Mamasolo, me and Nosipho devour the "Spirit of Ubuntu" lunch. Yes, those are (yugh) "Crocs" on my feet. Heartman gave them to me. Because I left my Havaianas in Umdloti. There. That's my story. And, yes, I'm sticking to it! Pic: Heartman

Ndiyabulela (thank-you in Xhosa), Mama Cordelia. And to your lovely daughters. And we’re sorry that we couldn’t accept your offer for us to marry them, even if they do cook as beautifully as you do!

Right. Back on the road…

Heartie gives a thumbs-up to the sign registering 117km to Queenstown. But the heat and dreadful road surface took its toll... Pix: Hatman

And I was going to give you a small closing ceremony provided by Mother Nature as we drove towards Queenstown but the internet connection has slowed down in solidarity with the Heart & Sole Tour. I’ll try again later. In the meantime, if you are able to help in any way – no matter how small – to fund our ride, here are the bank details…

G. M. Brink, Standard Bank, Musgrave Rd, Durban. Acc. 056706804 / Branch Code 042626.

Thank you!

* And, should you want to read Shaun Trennery’s interview with Geoff “Heartman” Brink on the excellent izimvo.com website, please go right on over to here.

Heart & Sole Tour – Day 15: Stillness after the mother of all storms…

Eurekaness!!! After staggering through an internet desert for days on end, I have a semblance of connection! It’s trickling in at the speed of a unicyclist rather than, say, the infamous Winston the Pigeon but I’m not grumbling.

OK. So I have a backlog of about 1,000 pictures and dozens of weird and wondrous anecdotes on The Heart & Sole Tour… but I’ll do my best to get our loyal “Heartpeople” up to speed with our slow but sure progress. First, a picture. Look. It may be nothing more than what we old newspaper hacks term a “boring handshake pic” but, for The Heartman and I, it captures the spirit in which South Africans have received our crazy unicycle ride…

Where's a doctor when you need one? On the road between Matatiele and Mount Fletcher is the answer! This wonderful man, one Doctor Joe Thusi, stopped his car when he saw us taking a quick rest stop, crossed the road and gave us R900 cash to help with our fuel, food and airtime costs! Just like that!

This was beautifulness on an out-of-this-world scale! Heartie and I were simply blown away by Dr Thusi’s generosity and it took us a while to get going again. South Africans of every ethnic background are known for their generosity of spirit and nowhere more so than out in the sticks, where life generally is very challenging to say the least. Out of the basic dynamics of what is deemed newsworthiness, we often get a distorted view of what is happening in our beautiful country. What is generally happening in South Africa, my fellow countrymen, is a whole lot of good stuff. And, after more than two weeks on the road, straining our guts out on behalf of landmine victims, the Heartman and I are well placed to tell you that!

Right. Quick update on our mind-bogglingly beautiful road trip before I take you into a series of pictures taken over the past few internet-free days. We’ve made it to a point 12 kilometres beyond Mount Fletcher towards Maclear. The landscape is mutating into the drier, rockier and more stark terrain typical of the Cape. We have left behind the lush, green rolling topography of KwaZulu-Natal. But still the mountain passes come. The heat has been unbelievable. And we have been pushed to our limits. In fact, old Heartie and I “hit the wall” yesterday. Exhaustedness. The Heartman’s knees, heavily strapped to his physiotherapist’s requirements each day, were giving him pain. Even more exacting has been the emotional and psychological impact of getting a grip on the enormity of what we are doing. It has hit home. We have returned to the rehabilitative sanctuary that is the Matatiele home of Dr Rob and Maggie Mears.

“Doc Mears” and wife Maggie have been fantastic to us and we are resting today, restoring mind, body and soul in order to continue our quest for Cape Town. Enough said. Allow me to guide you through a pictorial tour of our recent Heart & Sole history…

This truckload of young initiates passed us somewhere between Matatiele and Mount Fletcher. It is a Sotho custom that boys, once 16 years of age, are smeared head to toe in red clay and circumcised in a ritual that takes place up in the mountains

We found this dapper young fellow adopting a distinctly Chaplinesque pose beside the road. A definite shoo-in for the Matatiele Fashionista of the Year title?

Introducing you to the sweetness of Mieke Chapman, beautiful but feisty young daughter of Keith and Mandy Chapman, who looked after Heartie and I so well in Kokstad. We overnighted with their neighbours, Vaughan "Neighbour" Raw and his wife Meryl and were spoiled rotten by both families. Thanks guys!

Time for a gentle change of scenery. And it doesn't get any more pastoral than this, does it?

Look. I can't remember where I took this pic. I just know it depicts The Heartman at his classic best!

Aah, yes. We've been stopped by the cops (traffic police) just once. And they rushed over to wish us a safe journey! They were also totally chuffed to receive a couple of ice-cold cooldrinks from our cooler box on a stinker of a day!

OK. I’m pushing my luck with this intermittent internet connection. I could be cut off at any moment. It’s a rollercoaster ride, I tell you! Let’s see if I may regale you with any further snaps…

Oh, yes. The mother of all storms hit us as were preparing to roll out of Mt Fletcher. Torrential rain. And hail too. Let’s see if I can find the pic I tried to take of that little baby…

Some locals are totally unfazed by a storm. Not surprising. It happens every afternoon in summer in this neck of the woods!

But all of the locals are united in their bemusement towards a man riding a bicycle which has lost a wheel! These Sotho ladies are wearing their traditional Sotho blankets. The temperature can drop 15 degrees in an instant!

Yes. I’ve made a meal of this post because I cannot be sure when I’ll be able to get online again. So it seems appropriate to close with a shot of me old Heartie riding off into the sunset…

And a pretty glorious one at that, eh? All pix: Hatman

Yowzerness! This post has been a rare old rollercoaster ride! Pretty much like our 1,700km Heart & Sole unicycle tour from Durban to Cape Town. Hang on! Stop the presses! News just in is that good friends Shane and Netty (she who made the origami cranes to be sold in aid of the Heart & Sole Tour) have driven out from Durban to surprise us. And they most certainly have!

Awesomeness overload! The plan is to camp in their tent on the side of the road near to where we stopped yesterday. I hope they brought a braai (barbecue) and some top-notch steaks! Not to mention beer! Then Heartie and I will set off again in search of Maclear (the next stop on our magical mystery tour to Cape Town) and a man they call Mr Mountain… I will explain all the next time I find the most elusive of holy grails – an internet connection! Toodlepip!

The Heartman opens his heart… and puts his original unicycle on auction!

In his first guest post on www.fredhatman.co.za, the official blog of The Heart and Sole Tour, our intrepid unicyclist Geoff “Heartman” Brink opens his heart about his ride so far… and rallies for support from his wellwishers…

The Heartman: "Please help me to unicycle 1,700km from Durban to Cape Town and do my bit to rid the world of landmines!"

The Heartman: "Please help me to unicycle 1,700km from Durban to Cape Town and do my bit to rid the world of landmines!"

So we move into the second week of the Heart and Sole Tour. Eish, it feels more like a month! Almost at the 200 km mark! I’m not going to lie – it’s been tough! Especially the last three days of almost constant climbing from Port Shepstone on the KZN South coast inland to Harding where we are staying tonight. Heading for Kokstad tomorrow, which is 60km away. It doesn’t seem that far, but when you are climbing from sea level to about 900m above,  it seems like there is no end!

But to be quite honest, the main obstacle standing between us and Cape Town – and achieving our objective – are our ever depleting travel funds. This has turned out to be quite a costly exercise! I can’t thank enough those beautiful souls who have already contributed to our progress – bless you all! However, me and Hatman being two creative individuals both born on January 19 (and both born without a left brain) we have seriously erred on the monetary front. The SA rands are pulling a Houdini trick on us! So, please guys, if you can help in any way financially I promise to wheelie “AmaOneTyre” all the way to the Mother City!!!

OK, to help you guys make some cash handy I have thought up a few ways you can do it!

1. Buy one-ply toilet rolls instead of two.
2. Pay your car guard half of what you normally do (I’m sure he/she will understand).
3. Free-wheel downhill – you will save a packet.
4. Cut out alcohol/cigarettes for 3 days (that’s about a hundred bucks saved!)
5. Sell some old clothes (but if there are any lekker outfits, please keep them for us!)
6. Buy no-name brands at the supermarket for a week.

Lastly, I am auctioning the unicycle that I learnt to ride on… plus I will give three free lessons on how to get you up and moving on it! Bidding starts at R999 – what offers?

Please e-mail my back-up driver, logistics man and tour blogger Fred Hatman at redhatmann@gmail.com with your offer… and he’ll update this blog with the highest offer each day this week before bringing the hammer down for the highest bidder!

That’s it for now folks – thanks for all the support and good wishes.

PS. Everybody seems to think I’m mad. I’m not… just a sucker for punishment! But it’s for a great cause. Let us rid our planet of the unnecessary curse of landmines and save lives!

God Bless!

Geoff “Heartman” Brink

The Heart & Sole Tour – Day 2: Meeting friends old and new

Amanzimtoti to Scottburgh was tough. For Geoff “Heartman” Brink, our intrepid unicyclist, it was 34km of long hills and strong headwinds.

But our boy done well. There were regular stops and we even had the small 24-inch wheeler out for a bit. After having seen him for some weeks astride the mighty 36-incher, which lifts him to a vantage point above the roofs of the biggest cars, this made for a comical sight – like watching Dad sneak a ride on little Tyrone’s tricycle.

As always we had a blast. Bantering with garage attendants, playing football with a boy on the side of the road and old Heartie literally charmed a shirt off the staff at Steers Diner at the Ultra City near Umkomaas. And two surprise visits from old friends who dropped into offer support: Mike Perk and Olivia “OJ” Symcox.

OK. So this is how it unfolded…

The Total petrol pump guys were gobsmacked by the unicycle and one even offered to fill 'er up...

The Total petrol pump guys were gobsmacked by the unicycle and one even offered to fill 'er up...

Heartman's old Cape Town work colleague Mike Perk seemed a bit shorter than usual... but, hey, travelling at 12km on the hard shoulder of a highway for hours on end can have hallucinatory side-effects!

Heartman's old Cape Town work colleague Mike Perk seemed a bit shorter than usual... but, hey, travelling at 12km on the hard shoulder of a highway for hours on end can have hallucinatory side-effects!

Our boy was angling for a free burger and bottomless coffee at Steers branches all the way to Cape Town but was seen off with a kitchen staff T-shirt complete with "sizzling flame" sleeves!

Our boy was angling for a free burger and bottomless coffee at Steers branches all the way to Cape Town but was seen off with a kitchen staff T-shirt complete with "sizzling flame" sleeves!

Even if they were seen hotfooting it away from Ultra City, these cows are not, repeat NOT, the source of meat for Steers burgers. But they did have the effect of putting old Heartie off his stride!

Even if they were seen hotfooting it away from Ultra City, these cows are not, repeat NOT, the source of meat for Steers burgers. But they did have the effect of putting old Heartie off his stride!

And then… big surpriseness! Olivia “OJ” Symcox, a good mate, had just been heard interviewing Heartie’s bride-to-be on Lotus FM when she drew up behind us, bellowing a supportive chant at the unicyclist and flashing all manner of red lights and blaring sirens. Quite an entrance… but our OJ rolls like that!

Hello. A very understated OJ slips in quietly to whisper a few words of quiet encouragement to our brave Heartman.    All pix: Hatman

Hello. A very understated OJ slips in quietly to whisper a few words of quiet encouragement to our brave Heartman. All pix: Hatman

OJ has given the Heart & Sole Tour some serious support over the past few weeks and we love her for this. In fact, Heartie and I have been knocked over by the interest in our unicycle adventure on behalf of landmine victims. People are good. People really do care. And we can’t thank them enough. Beautifulnesses all round us.

So after a day of being buffeted from the side by a plain nasty south-wester, The Heartman is hoping that a gentle north-easter will nudge him in the general direction of Port Shepstone tomorrow (Wednesday). We’re not sure how far we will go tomorrow but we’d love to make Sheppies by Thursday to share a New Year’s drink with some dear friends. Go, Heartie, go!

* Catch our Heartman being interviewed live on SAfm radio at 3pm on Thursday.

* We are aware that some very kind people wish to make donations towards our Heart & Sole “Fuel, Food and Airtime Fund”. I hope to put the account details on this blog tomorrow evening. We have limited dosh for this trip so every little bit helps to take us closer to Cape Town and “Mission Accomplished”. Ngiyabonga, good mense!

Sir Richard Branson’s message of support for The Heart & Sole Tour’s unicyclist

richard-branson-pic

“Geoff, I wish you the best of luck. I know how painful riding a unicycle can be! I hear you are regarded as ‘slightly mad’. Well, join the club! And ride safely.” Richard

This is the message I received in an e-mail from Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group of companies and one of the patrons of the Mineseeker Foundation.

To say that Heart & Sole Tour unicyclist Geoff “Heartman: Brink and I are chuffed about this is an understatement on a stratospheric scale. Inspirationalness overload, dear Hatpeople!

If we weren’t hitherto inspired enough to finish this 1,700 mad adventure from Durban to Cape Town, we are now.

We leave from Wilson’s Wharf in Durban at 8.30am tomorrow. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can follow us almost every kilometre of the way by checking our progress on this blog… and help our cause of raising awareness of the evil of landmines by sharing this with your friends.

* You may also be updated by following “fredhatman” on Twitter (simply click on that chubby blue bird perched at the top of this page) or join the Facebook group “Heart & Sole Unicycle Tour – Durban to Cape Town”. There will be regular updates posted on there each and every day of our unicycle ride, expected to last about seven weeks…

AmaOneTyre! AmaOneHeartman! AmaOneWorldWithoutLandmines!

Fuel for our hearts and souls, powered by the hi-octane Dilana!

You know that sometimes I like to kick off a blog post with a picture. This is one of those times. Stick around. All will become clear. Possibly.

This is Dilana. This tiny woman has a humungous presence and an even bigger voice. On Saturday night, she spoke out against landmines for the Heart & Sole Tour. We love her.

This is Dilana. This tiny woman has a humungous presence and an even bigger voice. On Saturday night, she spoke out against landmines for the Heart & Sole Tour. We love her.

Geoff “Heartman” Brink and I are being constantly amazed by the generosity of spirit shown for our Heart and Sole unicycle tour by people we don’t even know.

We are reminded time and again that people are intrinsically good. Better than good. People are generally kind, compassionate and full of good lovingness. And when we tell them that The Heartman is about to ride a unicycle 1,700km or more to Cape Town to raise awareness of the evil of landmines, there is very little they won’t do to help the cause.

When we tell them that every 19 minutes, somewhere on our planet, somebody – and it is usually a woman or child – has their life devastated by the explosion of one of the millions of military killing devices left scattered around after wars, they are moved to feel very angry indeed. Angry that it is totally unnecessary that people continue to be maimed or killed by unexploded ordnance that is left to lie treacherously around on our earth. Earth that otherwise could be planted and harvested to feed the mostly poor nations which are especially blighted by the planting of landmines.

People like Annette Oberholster, a friend of The Heartman, who has been folding origami cranes in a desert in Qatar so that we may sell them to raise money for fuel and food for our ride which will take around six or seven weeks. OK, so the paper birdies didn’t arrive in Durban in time for us to take to the Dilana/Toni Rowland gig in Pinetown on Saturday night to exchange for 10 bucks or so with people in the audience.

We went up there anyway. To meet with Toni, the beautiful musician who is the ambassador of the Heart & Sole Tour. And to experience Dilana, who had expressed her wish to support us in any way possible. When we meet the diminutive human dynamo who is Dilana, she cannot do enough to help. During her set of heart-wrenching songs showcasing her mega-kaaaBooom voice, she gets old Heartie up on stage to intro the audience to our adventure and ask the hardcore rockers and bikers there if they would like to part with a little cash to help us out.

They did. Big-time. Beautiful hairy, leather-jacketed, multi-tattooed, Harley-riding people. Who care. Let’s have a look at what unfolded…

Dilana gives The Heartman the big intro on stage, he threw his hat into the audience... and the donations came rolling in!

Dilana gives The Heartman the big intro on stage, he threw his hat into the audience... and the donations came rolling in!

R970. Nine hundred and seventy ront, people. Do you have any idea how much of total coolness that is? Couple of tanks of petrol for the old back-up truck, my babies. Thank you Dilana, Eric, Toni, Bronwyn, John, Kai and everybody else who was at VMacs in Pinetown on Saturday night. You rocked. And we rolled. And we all, like, well, y’now… yeah, rock ‘n’ rolled. For people who have had limbs blown off their bodies.

OK. I’m going to play you out with a few more pics. Because you’ll dig them. Yes. You will. You’ll see…

Bronwyn Rowland, Toni Rowland and Dilana... nice, hey?

Bronwyn Rowland, Toni Rowland and Dilana... nice, hey?

Another kiekie of Immense Voice woman. Just because I dig it. Do you?

Another kiekie of Immense Voice Woman. Just because I dig it. Do you?

This is Heartman smoking a rare cigar. Somewhere around Pinetown at 2.30am. I bought it for him beforte the gig for R23. Because I knew it was to be a special night. And it was. That is all. All pix: Hatman

This is Heartman smoking a rare cigar. Somewhere around Pinetown at 2.30am. I bought it for him before the gig for R23. Because I knew it was to be a special night. And it was. That is all. All pix: Hatman

Thank you for coming. I love you, Hatpeople. Buy a T-shirt on the way out. And please find out more about Dilana and her tour with Toni Rowland right here.

* You might have noticed that I didn’t publish an “Umdloti Interview” at the weekend. That’s right. I didn’t. And I won’t until Heartman and I get back from The Heart & Sole Tour sometime in February next year. Because it’s all about the unicycle ride now, OK? We leave in a week’s time and there’s a lot of stuff to sort out before then. Excitingness overload!

The Heart & Sole unicyle tour: the madness continues…

You might think that my driving behind our Heart & Sole unicyclist Geoff “Heartman” Brink for 1,700km from Durban to Cape Town next month is to be, apologies to Nelson Mandela, a “Long Stretch to Boredom”.

I don’t think so. If our training rides are anything to go by, it’s never ever a dull moment, my dear Hatpeople.

Take our late afternoon (and somewhat into the night) ride from Umdloti to Mount Moreland on Monday. Overcast. Damp. Dirt road. Bumpy. Heartman plenty time on bum. Hilariousness!

Allow me to run you through this unicycling sitcom in a series of pictures. Bear in mind that, never mind my nutty unicyclist friend wobbling around up front, I’m negotiating a heavily rutted dirt track in second gear, left hand on steering wheel, shooting these pics freestyle with right hand out of the window. OK. Seatbelts on? Here we go…

Gotta love The Heartman! One moment he's styling it over the bridge and the next...

Gotta love The Heartman! One moment he's styling it over the bridge and the next...

... he's taking a little nap with AmaOneWheel on the side of the road

... he's taking a little nap with AmaOneWheel on the side of the road

Wait! It's woken up. Oh, I see. I know that smile. It fell off (again). And you say you want to ride 1,700km to Cape Town?

Wait! It's woken up. Oh, I see. I know that smile. It fell off (again). And you say you want to ride 1,700km to Cape Town?

Mmmm. There are lots more where those came from. But let’s keep wheeling on. OK. Funny anecdote alert. Funny then. Funny now. Funny forever. I’m focusing so hard on trying to get a decent shot of Heartman weaving crazily around and over the ruts in the dirt road to Mount Moreland that I don’t immediately become aware of a double-cab truck buzzing around behind me. When I realise that I’m holding up the double-cab driver, I swing off to the side and stop to let the vehicle go past. As I raise my hand in apology, the female driver halts alongside me, looks at me in a manner which suggests I might be something really nasty which has crawled out from the sugar canefield and says: “What about you?”

Er, what about me? I thought of starting with my birthplace and birthdate and then telling her about being dropped on my head by the doctor but, seeing the look on her face, thought better of it and explained that I was driving in support of the unicyclist ahead who was about to ride from Durban to Cape Town to raise awareness of landmines.

She twitched her Nip ‘n Tuck nose, tossed back her Terry Scott hair, adjusted the Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses and screwed up her Revlon lips before shooting me a “I live in a huge Zimbali house and drive a very expensive double-cab. I’m very important so don’t screw with me, bru” look. This cabaret interlude gave me time to glance at the name plastered over the side of her vehicle. “Dick Muir… sponsored by Blah Blah and Blah” it read. Wowness! This was the vehicle of our massively-esteemed Springbok rugby team assistant coach! Now I’m a huge fan of former Natal Sharks and Springbok centre Dickie Muir and know him to be a top-notch guy so, instead of concocting something horrible to say to the female driver of Dickie’s double-cab, I smiled sweetly and waved happily as she sped off past a bemused Heartman…

Let's not have any Muir of that, please!

Let's not have any Muir of that, please!

As I say, never a dull moment. Now, where were we? Oh, right. Yes. Our spirits were almost immediately lifted when a canecutter strolling along the road saw the man riding on AmaOneWheel and exclaimed “Hau Nomzaan!” This is what ensued…

Our friendly canecutter clearly thinks there's work to be done on Heartman's Zulu war dance...

Our friendly canecutter clearly thinks there's work to be done on Heartman's Zulu war dance...

... and Heartie reckons Canecutter has some way to go before mastering AmaOneWheel!

... and Heartie reckons Canecutter has some way to go before mastering AmaOneWheel!

Coolness. That’s more the kind of vibe we like to cultivate on our rides. In fact, come to think of it, I am noticing a pattern forming. The more expensive the vehicle, the greater the disdain of the driver. The more dodgy the car, the greater the interest and support from the driver. As is the case with the unsophisticated farm worker standing by the side of the road… pure joy at seeing somebody crazy enough to ride a bicycle with only one wheel. Phenomenalness from the common man. We love it.

OK. So I’m sure you have work to do. Let’s wrap this up with a couple of pics of us making our way back to Umdloti along a cane farm road in the dark. Because we had so much fun, we didn’t realise the time. We roll like that, Heartman and I. Big kids. Enjoy, good Hatpeople…

By the light of Hatman's back-up truck does Heartman unicycle home through the canefields...

X marketh our nutty unicyclist! By the light of Hatman's back-up truck does Heartman unicycle home through the canefields...

Our Heart & Sole training ride neareth Umdloti and a hot supper. But by this time, I think Heartman's walking and I'm weaving all over the dirt track so much that this is the result of the camerashake. Good fun. Good night!

Our Heart & Sole training ride neareth Umdloti and a hot supper. But by this time, I think Heartman's walking and I'm weaving all over the dirt track so much that this is the result of the camerashake. Good fun. Good night! All pics: Hatman

How Netty’s paper birds are helping landmine victims

I recently reported on this blog that, among the many wonderful people and companies which have stepped forward to support our Heart & Sole unicycle tour, an angel by the name of Annette Oberholster had offered to singlehandedly make 1,000 origami cranes for us to sell for fuel and food money.

“Netty”, as she is known to those lucky enough to be friends of hers, is waiting in a desert in Qatar for her man to finish a contract with a petrochemicals company and is currently blistering her fingers while folding as many of her “paper birdies” as possible for us to sell for a R10 donation at the Dilana/Toni Rowland gig at VMacs in Pinetown on Saturday evening, December 19.

This is pure beautifulness on Netty’s part. And I would now like to present to you a depiction of what her origami cranes look like…

Cranes over Africa... these origami birds will help The Heart & Sole Tour to raise awareness of the totally unnecessary scourge of landmines

Cranes over Africa... these origami birds will help The Heart & Sole Tour to raise awareness of the totally unnecessary scourge of landmines

I’m loving that. What about you? How are you feeling about Netty’s gesture? Does it move you? Does it make you feel warm and fuzzy down there, in the pit of your tummy? Does it encourage you to want to smile at strangers, both handsome and ugly, svelte and fat? Does it compel you to hum nice ditties while you do the ironing or while hovering over the cheese section at Woolies? That’s fine. I understand. Because it does me. Actually, it does me head in. That somebody could produce an act of such phenomenalness.

But, you see, Netty has witnessed first-hand the destruction caused by landmines. She has seen the killing fields of Vietnam. The lands littered with UXO (Unexploded Ordnance). And it makes her feel bad. Because she is disgusted by the fact that, decades after the warmongers went home to find something else to do, their detritus continues to kill.

Fact: Every 19 minutes, somewhere on our planet, somebody (usually a woman or child) has their life blighted by a landmine. The Sole of Africa, for whom The Heart & Sole Tour is raising awareness, is working to weed out the killer ordnance and giving assistance to victims by way of counselling and provision of prosthetic limbs.

This is why Geoff “Heartman” Brink is to ride 1,700km from Durban to Cape Town on one wheel. And this is why Netty is helping us. You can help us too. fred@fredhatman.co.za. We have yet to find a comfortable motorhome to use as a back-up vehicle. Please help us to help those who suffer unnecessarily. And we’ll help you.

The Bush Palace Chronicles: Oh, My Hat!

If activity on this blog in the past couple of days has appeared to be less detectable on your radar than the usual blip-blip-blip, my dear Hatpeople, then it’s because I’ve been moving house. Through necessity.

Yes. The staff at Hatman Mansions, led by Alfred, demanded a summer break. I played with the idea of denying them their annual holiday, if only for the entertainment value of watching them toyi-toyi on the front lawn in colourful protest, but chose not to provoke an international incident.

Being an innately decent sort, I declared that they could naff off for a full three months – on full pay – as I was off to organise and participate in The Heart & Sole Tour – y’know, the one in which The Heartman (Geoff Brink) will UNICYCLE 1,700km from Durban to Cape Town to raise awareness of the very nasty scourge of landmines.

Nkosi Alfred roused the staff into a joyous and frenzied dance, sang “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” in isiZulu, grabbed their belongings and raced for the gate, pausing only briefly to give me an interesting wave which appeared suspiciously to feature quite prominently the extended use of middle fingers.

So it is that I find myself at The Bush Palace. Now I must try to find words to do justice to my new, if far too temporary home. Idyllic. Sublime. Chuffing magnificent. Those will have to suffice.

I mean, please take just a mo to drink in the view from where I sit right now, hammering out these words of happy…

The view from my desk on the deck outside The Hatman Wing... not altogether shabby, hey? Even if a tad cloudy on the first day. Oh, that's Meditation Man posing on the balustrade... he's another story at another time!

The view from my desk on the deck outside The Hatman Wing... not altogether shabby, hey? Even if a tad cloudy on the first day. Oh, that's Meditation Man posing on the balustrade... he's another story at another time!

Mmmm. OK. Let’s step right up to the balustrade and take another peek at our slice of the Oceana Indiana, shall we?

Oh, look. A beach. that will be our private Bush Palace beach, people. Yumness. Care to join us for a braai this weekend? Bring and share.

Oh, look. A beach. that will be our private Bush Palace beach, people. Yumness. Care to join us for a braai this weekend? Bring and share.

How do you feel about that?

How did I feel when I awoke at my usual time of 4.58am, stumbled out of the Hatman Wing to sup on last night’s tea… and saw about a dozen dolphins catching waves directly in front of The Bush Palace? They were generally headed towards Durban but, ever in playful mood, had paused to ride a cool left-hander, peeling off at the last second to bounce back into the school. Stokedness. No whales as yet, but I trust there will be a Breeching Display sometime today.

OK. So allow me to introduce you to The Bush Palace Characters. You already know The Heartman pretty well. Madman. Extraordinary guy. Top-notch friend. He and The Fiancee (along with PhutuShark the Alsatian/Africanus crossbreed, Lucy Lu the pedigree Bull Mastiff and Bellatjie the Dachshund, occupy the main building, of which the new Hatman Wing forms a part. You’ll get to know this beautiful couple and their dogs very well as I update you on The Heart & Sole Tour. So let’s move on for now.

Behind the main palace building is a tasty not-so-little rustic cottage. The Film Director lives there. Cool guy. He surfs and dives and skateboards a lot when he’s not filming. And he attracts very hot women with his extremely positive vibe. I’ll develop his personality – not that he needs it developed – to you as we go along.

Ahoy! The Whales Breeching Display is on! Let me grab my Kodak Instamatic and see what I can do…

OK. I’m back and the film is being developed… hang on… here we go!

OK, so I need to upgrade from my old Instamatic to a turbo-charged Nikon V8 or something... but, if you train your binocs on your screen you can make out a whale at play... can you? What? Just move binocs down from container ship to black speck. Well done!

OK, so I need to upgrade from my old Instamatic to a turbo-charged Nikon V8 or something... but, if you train your binocs on your screen you can make out a whale at play... can you? What? Just move binocs down from container ship to black speck. Well done!

Alright. I’m sorry. Let me zoom in on those binocs of yours… ah, there you go. *Passes back binocs*

I told you. A whale. See the splash? It's either that or The Heartman going for his early morning goof!

I told you. A whale. Or are there two? See the splash? It's either that or The Heartman going for his early morning goof!

Right. Can I go back to my Character illustrations? Coolness.

So, as I was saying before the whales deliciously interrupted me, then there’s The Gardening Executive. He lives in a wooden cabin adjacent to The Film Director’s cottage and tends to the small lawn and attendant palm trees which grows on the cleared space around The Bush Palace. Allegedly. I’ve seen him once. He’s very quiet. Big toothy grin. And he comes to the Bush Palace at strange times, asking for a few teabags and some bread. If I see him actually working on the property I’ll photograph him for you. And for posterity.

Now. Hear this, all ye who enter this blog! Bushguy. That’s what I’ll call him. He blows my mind. Bushguy lives in a three-walled structure deep in the coastal bush behind Bush Palace but still on the same property. He never wears a shirt or shoes, come winter or summer, rain or shine, and I’ve seen him three times. Once, before I moved in here, I saw him swimming with his three dogs in the nearby lagoon. He didn’t swim like a person. He used the lagoon as would a dog or perhaps a dolphin. A pure and simple celebration of being submerged in water. He seemed to form part of his pack of dogs. Splashing, diving, jumping, just being in the moment.

The next time I saw Bushguy, he was running up the 147 steps from the beach to The Bush Palace in the rain. No shirt. With his dogs. I had been dragging my worldly chattels up these steps for several hours, stopping several times on each trip to catch my breath, and was exhausted. “You must be super-fit,” I coughed, “to run up these steps like this!” Barely breathing, let alone panting, he smiled as he bounded past and said: “It makes no difference.” Enigmatique, oui?

Then, just 20 minutes ago, he charged down the hill into the clearing on which the Bush Palace stands and I raised my hand and said “Hey, “Bushguy” (but I actually addressed him by his real name, right?), how are you?” He didn’t speak but gave me the enigmatic smile and disappeared under the stilted Bush Palace, where I could hear him taking a cold shower in the old and otherwise unused shower cubicle below.

Are you intrigued by Bushguy? I am. Big-time. I’d love to interview him for my weekly “Umdloti Interview” but The Heartman and The Fiancee rightly suggest that I take my time to gradually get to know him and win his trust before suggesting anything as alien to him as an interview. So, I’ll content myself by sporadically reporting on this blog any new sightings of Bushguy. Too much of mystique.

One thing is for sure. I’ll only be seeing him running around shirtless in this piece of pristine indigenous bush which surrounds The Bush Palace. Nobody has even seen him shopping or eating or drinking in town. He’s seriously feral. For all we know, Bushguy lives off berries and other stuff found in the bush. I’ll pass on further info on him as it is becomes available. Fascinatingness!

And, oh yes, there is – as you would expect – a massive amount of richly diverse birdlife (sunbirds fly into the banqueting hall to suck nectar from the cut flowers), snakelife (nothing found in my bed as yet), and bucklife… a couple of sweet duiker like to nibble in the garden early-doors. Words and pictures on all this and much more as it unfolds, dear Hatpeople!

Let me leave you with this. After my BPC photo-shoot was done, I retired to my lodgings only to be confronted with this going past my window…

The Heartman heading off to the bush to shoot his breakfast. Needs protein for his 1,700km Heart & Sole ride to Cape Town he says. I don't approve. What's wrong with Milo Flakes, I ask. But our unicyclist rolls his own way. As you'll find out...

The Heartman heading off to the bush to shoot his breakfast. Needs protein for his 1,700km Heart & Sole ride to Cape Town he says. I don't approve. What's wrong with Milo Flakes, I ask. But our unicyclist rolls his own way. As you'll find out...