Start 08:30 End 13:30 Distance: 50km Avg: 13.4 km/hr
Short ride today but challenging nonetheless. Blisteringly hot with nary a breeze from the start and over continuous undulating terrain. There’s a fair amount of walking, pushing our Buffalo bikes beside us. Sweat is streaming off us. The walks are the worst as we don’t have the rush of air to help the sweat evaporate. It pours down my face to such an extent that my eyebrows and eyelashes cease to serve their purpose and it drips into my eyes. It’s a glamourous existence, this adventuring. I semi-blindly wobble up the road with my bike, trying to keep one eye open so I don’t wobble off a cliff. Pushing up one of the steepest roads we have encountered to date, I contemplate the many modes of travel which would be easier than pushing a 25kg steel bicycle up a hill: car, motorbike, horseback, abandoning the bike and walking alone, harnessing 1800 meerkats to a cart with jam jar lids for wheels…
The ride to Injisuthi is entirely through typical rural African village. Kids wave at us. Then the kids take up the rousing chorus of, “Sweets, sweets!” which will be familiar to anyone who has travelled in Africa. Upon saying that you have no sweets, they start asking, “Money, money!” Gentle readers, please do not hand out sweets and money to rural children on your travels, unless you are actually purchasing something. It engenders a spirit of begging which is the antithesis of progress in this country. A large part of the reason I support Qhubeka is that is their ethos to give people, “a hand up, not a hand out.” Not all the children were like this, some seem genuinely interested in where we were going, what we were doing and didn’t ask for sweets or money. (As an aside, one asked me for meat. I can’t imagine where he thought I might have been storing meat on my bicycle, unless he mistook the odour of sweaty cyclist for meat past its sell-by-date. Even then, why would he want it?)
I was slightly bothered by a few people shouting, “Hello, amadoda!” as we rode past. To quote Tolkien: I am no man. However, on reflection, given the evidence they are provided with, which is bicycle, shorts and an androgynous baggy shirt, I suppose they can’t be blamed for coming to the wrong conclusion. It seems to be extremely uncommon for local women in rural areas to ride bicycles: why?
We get overtaken by a caravan at one point. In the far distance, I see it slow down to a crawl. I wonder why. Upon reaching that section of road, I realise why: the road is very rocky and potholed. One’s teapot could easily lose its cosy on such a road. Not great on fully rigid bicycles either. One could easily lose one’s teeth.
On the way back, we encounter a fellow bike rider on a clapped out old Raleigh. He decides to ride with us, seemingly wanting to get involved in some competition. I engage in a race up a hill and lose. I think I put up a noble fight on tired legs and one gear but he pips me at the post. I point at my back wheel, shake my head and say, “No gears!” (yes, I am a terrible loser). He has a beaming smile and we have a good laugh together; a moment of camaraderie brought on by mutual love of bicycles. He’s impressive on a bike. His rear V-brake cable is broken, so he brakes by pushing the heel of his foot against the cantilever. If he really needs to brake, he uses his feet on both sides to close the brakes. When we stop for the day, he rides off with his feet over the handlebars, grinning. I hope one day he gets a bicycle worthy of his talent.
3 April: Rest Day