Saturday, July 14, 2007


So, I've had a few days hanging around at home, and some time for contemplation. The thing that struck me most about the race this time was contrast - in everything about the race.
First of all there is the trail, the scenery, the country. We traversed so many different regions of the country in such a short space of time. Everyday something new would pop up - the land would have a different feel - from the high mountains of Lesotho, to the flatlands of the Great Karoo. Sometimes it was so steep and rugged that carrying your bike was the only option for hours on end, on other days you could coast a lot, as the flatness became almost monotonous, but that is South Africa. No one day was the same - each day offering up a new challenge, a new experience.

Andy dragging his bike up "Die Leer"

Welcome to the Karoo

The vegetation ranged from lush forests in the Baviaanskloof, and some areas of Natal to the sparse semi-desert of the Southern Cape - the small valley of desolation near the Addo Park still makes me nervous - I think there are lost souls walking around there! The grasslands of Natal were also a treat, allowing the construction of fantastic single track, and the ability to veer off the beaten track without too much pain, for some additoinal exploration.

The valley of desolation

Next, the cultures of the people we came across. It seems all cultures (except the culture of commercialism) have some sort of component based on generosity. It is strange that we got the most help and assistance from those that expected no money, and in some cases had no money. Those that needed money in return for service seemed to give the least (even though they had an open cheque book with us - we would've paid any amount for food).

It is truly inspiring to see how people manage to care for themselves in adverse conditions - although many of the population can be described as "unemployed", they are by no means under the breadline - the subsistence lifestyle keeps a basic meal on many tables, and that included us at some stages. When I see how they live I find it strange that there is this huge migration to the cities in search of the better life - I think they have the better life - relatively speaking of course (they don't have DSTV). Their generosity and respect for visitors is non-existent in modern city life!

Of some consternation is the commercial farming sector that we past through. In some cases 4th and 5th generation farmers are trying to stop their kids from continuing the legacy, as they believe that the commercial viability of farming is in a steady decline, and it will not possible to run the farms in years to come. Surprisingly this is not a result of politics, land-reclamation, weather or anything like that - it is the invasion of the recreational international farmer who is paying top $ for farms purely for occasional recreational use.

Speaking of the many genarations of farmers - wow - some of the farm houses have 200-300yr old furniture, pictures, and some have European heirlooms standing around that pre-date 1700. Next time I'm going with a lorry, not a bicycle. In some of the houses you feel like you are in a living museum!

It seems all cultures can bake good bread - we were so spoilt with the variations to the common loaf of bread, and fruit jam. mmmm....

Our accommodation at Masakala

Our accommodation varied from traiditional huts, to living in the houses of local communities, sharing farmhouses, luxury guesthouses, small hotels, a revamped ranger office in the middle of no where...Although we usually didn't care for the luxuries - as long as there was hot water for a shower, food, and a warm bed we were OK. Andy did have a fright when someone felt his hair in the middle of the night - he he - same place that I had them staring at my chest hair last year. Seems like the kids took the chance to feel our hair while we were sleeping, either that, or it was the tokolossie, but the beds were on bricks, so I think we were OK.

To be continued.....


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