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South Africa 

 


DAY 56

Feb. 24, 2000

Hluhluwe to Mtunzini  

Hello! When I left the Malala Lodge where we had camped on their grounds I was wearing my clean but soaking wet cycling clothes. I had washed my gloves too and hung them on my bike handlebars the night before to Ďdryí. Of course they didnít dry so I left them dangling from the handlebars and started the ride. Later in the morning I was disappointed to discover that one had fallen off. As I had only one pair to begin with now I have only one glove, the left one. One friend said she too had lost a glove and would lend me the remaining glove, but when we got them together they were both for the left hand.

The first part of the ride was the hardest and most fun. The long narrow road into the Lodge was about 1.5 km. of deep sand. Ordinarily a bike canít be ridden in deep sand and the DRG warned us to walk or we would fall. But the night before I had tried because I thought 1.5 km. was too far to walk if it could be avoided and because the sand was so wet I thought I could do it. I did! I succeeded in doing it both ways and although it was hard going and a bit scarey at times the fun made it worthwhile.

At the end of the day I learned that the gear trucks had not been so lucky. They had become stuck in the muddy field where we had camped and men with two tractors worked for hours to pull them free.

The rest of the day was trees and sugar cane. It was a relatively easy day because it was only 128 km. and there were few hills until near the end. But I was tired and although I had made good time because of the flatter terrain somewhere in the middle of all those hills I realized I was too tired to ride safely the next day. I would have to find alternative transportation. Maybe six days of riding in a row were going to be more than I could do. Everyone on this trip is finding that they have their limits.

The checkpoint was at 74.8 km. at a ĎTea Gardení and curio shop. They knew we were coming and had prepared sandwiches. They were teeny little triangles but the riders already there told me that it was all-you-could-eat for 7 rand. There was no alternative except peanut butter and crackers so I paid 7 rand for the sandwiches and 3 rand for a glass of juice. 10 rand is about $2, not bad. The sandwiches were on a large tray and it was a self-service. I donít know how many I ate but I had to go back several times for another handful to finally feel satisfied. Everyone was doing the same thing. Then I wandered through the curio shop where I bought a couple of postcards and returned to the shelter out back of the tea house where the sandwiches and drinks were. I needed to buy a bottle of water to pour into my Kamelback. In passing by the sandwich table I noticed a new sign: 7 rand = 4 sandwiches. Oh dear! Now what do you suppose brought that on! We all thought that outrageous and especially after yesterdayís all-you-can-eat free lunch.

The sandwiches held me until 116 km. when I reached the Forest Inn. I needed to buy more water and I wanted juice and ice cream too. But I had so few rand left that I had to settle for just the water and juice. I was leaving when Fred arrived. He was going to have ice cream and asked if he could treat me to a bar. ( This is a different Fred than the one who treated me to hot chocolate on the Hill of Death.) Could he! He must have read my mind! We sat with other riders also having ice cream and enjoyed a short rest and visit. When I rode into Mtunzini, the community nearest our campsite, I asked directions to an ATM and again it was my lucky day, there was one only a block away. There was a guard at the ATM machine so I felt safe using it. What a marvel these machines are. You put your credit card into a slot, push a few buttons, and out pops the amount  of money you want in the currency of the country. There is a small charge to the credit card account for using the machine, but the convenience more than makes up for it. Some folks on this trip have come with travelerís checks expecting that to be a safe and easy way to carry money. Wrong! Safe maybe, but convenient probably not. Many places will not accept them and these people then have to find a bank to get them cashed.

We get the DRGís each morning about 6:15 when they are put in stacks on the steps of the gear trucks. The most interesting part is in tiny print at the bottom of the last page. (Sometimes we have only one page of directions but more often we have two or three.) After reading the bottom part where a one word sentence ĎLaundry.í caught the eye of nearly everyone, some began scheming ways to get to the campsite first or at least early to be among the first in line for the laundromat. You canít blame them. We were a smelly soggy mess! I decided not to join the race. I had washed a set of cycling clothes and worn them dripping wet that day and I could do it again. I had even washed my towel in the shower with shampoo before using it, better to dry off with a wet towel than to smell moldy I thought.

I think there may have been a few sudden illnesses that morning, people so desperate to wash clothes that they would ride in a sag wagon all day in hopes of reaching the campsite before those who had cycled could arrive. They could then dash to the gear trucks, snatch up their laundry and run to the machines. At least one group of riders had another plan. They cycled to the checkpoint, then hitched a ride to the campsite. That way they figured to beat everyone into camp, everyone except Trueheart of course.

Wrong! Neither tactic worked and for two reasons: the gear trucks were late to arrive because they had been stuck in the mud back at Malala Lodge and even worse, the Ďlaundryí was only one washing machine and a dryer that didnít work!

Some few who had the right coins did rush to line up for the washing machine, but the rest of us were happy enough to find 4 big laundry tubs and 3 sinks with hot and cold running water where we could wash to our hearts content. And boy did we! Some people washed their footprints (a footprint is a tarp-like groundcloth that you put under a tent) and tarps (some people have sheets of plastic for the same purpose), and others washed the tents themselves. My tent was not dirty because I had always picked my spot with great care and I worked hard to keep it out of the dirt, but it certainly was soaking wet. Unbelievably the sun was shining at last and it was this combination of sunshine and laundry tubs that sent everyone into such a cleaning frenzy.

The first thing I did was to pitch my tent hoping it would dry before the clouds covered the sun or it began to rain. I draped bags and all sorts of things on a tree and my bicycle hoping they would dry too. Then I washed all my cycling clothes except the set I was wearing even though it was late afternoon and there were dark clouds in the sky. I figured I could just wear them wet if necessary in the morning and put the rest in a bag to dry at the next stop.

Another lovely surprise that our campsite at the Umlalazi Nature Reserve held for us was that it was very near the Indian Ocean. With our chores done Beth and I were ready to walk to the beach only .6 km. away. It was a relaxing walk through a junglelike growth of green trees and bushes and delicate bright orange flowers. Frogs were happily croaking in all the lovely wetness and the crickets chirped loudly in the last warmth of the sun. We were happy too and enjoyed the scratchy warmth of the dry sand as we made our way to the water. It was a vast expanse of beautiful clean beach and hardly a soul was there except for other cyclists. Big waves were rolling and people were trying to catch one and ride it to the beach. I had been in the Indian Ocean before off the shore of Fort Aguada, India so I knew what would happen but I went in anyway. It was fun to walk out ever deeper daring the waves to knock me over and bracing and running backwards so they couldnít. But of course the inevitable happened, the waves won and I went tumbling over and over in the surf. I came up with water in my nose and sand in my teeth. My cycling jersey pockets were also filled with sand. That was enough and I got out to take a few pictures. For the rest of the evening every time I bent over warm water ran out of my nose! The Indian Ocean is warm and one could play in it for hours but dinner was already being served and we were still at the beach and needed to shower and dress so we headed back. We met three men with enormous fishing poles, a lantern and a picnic heading for the beach. We asked what they hoped to catch. ĎSharks.í came the reply. ĎBlack-finned sharks.í We had read a warning sign stating that there were no lifeguards and no shark nets and to swim would be at your own risk but we thought that was just a standard warning and paid it no mind. The men explained that they would have to cast their lines out about 150 meters to catch a shark and I wondered how anyone could throw a line so far but I didnít ask. If the sharks are that far out then the swimmers are surely okay I thought. I asked them what they do with the sharks and was told that they release them. Alive, I hoped but I didnít ask. Iím not sure how one would get a living shark off a fish hook.

It was dark by the time I got to dinner but there were tables set with white and red tablecloths, candles and flowers, and for the first time in days it wasnít raining. It was like a party. 

 Goodbye! Alice  

DAY 57

Feb. 25, 2000

Mtunzini to Durban  

I didnít hear it rain during the night so maybe it didnít, maybe it was just dew that had made our tents sopping wet again. But wet they were and wet they would stay for now. I checked the clothes I had left hanging out to dry all night and found that they were wetter than when I had hung them. I could wring water from them. They and my tent went into plastic bags to be dried later.

This was to be a 3 page day, a 144 km. ride to Durban where we would have hotel rooms and sleep in dry comfort for 2 nights. I had already decided that I was too tired to ride a sixth day in a row and the way I felt when I got up that morning confirmed my decision. I asked around about what arrangements other people had made who didnít want to cycle and found that two groups had arranged for trucks and drivers. There was room for me in one of the vehicles so I put my tent and other baggage into my locker of the gear truck and ate breakfast. Soon the truck arrived, the bikes were loaded and we climbed aboard. Jane was in the group and bless her heart she decided that Judy and I were to sit in the front seat with the driver. I realized that this was because of the women in the group, we were the oldest. The others had to sit in the back with the bikes. Sometimes it pays to be older... Then we were on our way. We had a good driver and it was kind of neat to cover in a couple of hours what would have taken us all day on our bikes. Thinking about that as we drove we couldnít believe how far 144 km. seemed to be. As we passed Odyssey cyclists pedaling toward Durban those in the back of the truck cheered them. It was fun to try to identify each rider as we overtook him from his riding style and profile. Once we had arrived in Durban we followed the directions on the DRG and drove directly to our hotel, the City Lodge. They had been preparing for our arrival and had arranged many special events. It was a festive time and even the sun was shining. But best of all the hotel had anticipated our laundry needs and offered their service at a 40% discount. They received hundreds of bags of wet, smelly clothes and delivered them back in time clean and dry. This time I didnít lose a thing.

My next priority was to get some books and things that had been accumulating in my luggage making it too fat to fit into the locker to the post office to be mailed. That had to be done by noon because it was Saturday and the post office would close at 12:00. I was able to buy a box from them but they didnít have tape. The clerk offered me a string. I tied the box best I could. I hope the string holds.

Another chore to be dealt with that day while the sun was shining was to dry the tents. It was warm and windy, perfect for drying tents but we had to hang on or they would fly like box kites. I dried mine thoroughly before putting it away and in looking it over noticed that black mold has started to develop on the double thickness parts like around the zippers. I would really like to know how to stop that and prevent any further mold growth. But my mold was nothing compared to the troubles of others, especially Art and Lynn. They awoke in the night to find themselves being bitten by hundreds of ants that swarmed their tent. I didnít hear how or if they got rid of the ants or where they spent the night. But Art showed me the damage the ants had done. The ants had chewed 150 holes more or less through both their footprint and the floor of their tent. The tent floor looked like a sieve! It would be disastrous to have a tent full of holes in wet weather so they were resigned to spending their layover day patching all those holes. I suggested they send the tent back to the factory for a new floor and in the meantime borrow the tents of others who are off route, just as one rider who lost his bike is borrowing bicycles. I havenít heard what they decided to do.

Goodbye! Alice

DAY 58-59

Feb. 26-27, 2000

Homework Day

 Hello! What I needed to do was to spend the layover day writing all the back reports for my web page. What I wanted to do was to go on a tour to Shakaland. Shakaland is a Zulu cultural center where Zulu people live and tourists can visit for a few hours or overnight to learn about the Zulu people, to enjoy an astounding dance performance and to eat a delicious meal. You guessed it! I chose to make the trip to Shakaland which was very rewarding but filled the entire day because there was a 2 hour drive each way. Two other people in my car, Joan and Drew, are Odyssey riders. The drive gave us a chance to become better acquainted. Drew is a young man who otherwise would not have been likely to spend a day with us, two old retired school teachers, but I think he kind of liked us before the dayís end. He is having the time of his life and at 27 has the energy to do everything. I would like to write a little about the Zulu people, their history, customs and beliefs, but I do not have time.

The evening of Day 58, our layover day, was spent at the hotel. I went late to dinner trying to get my packing done first and hoping the line would be short by that time. It wasnít. Before I could even get my dinner the mandatory meeting called by TK&A commenced. The purpose was to allay fears and to reassure people that riding this week through an area said to have more than its share of robberies and other crimes will be as safe as riding anywhere. As a result of the meeting some people decided they could ride afterall and there will be a lot of Odyssey riders on that road.

But other riders are still concerned for their safety and will ride only the first day to Port Shepstone which is not in the so called dangerous area. They will take the bus the rest of the way to East London, missing the last four days of riding. Everyone has struggled to make the decision whether the unknown risks are worth the benefits of riding. Some people have rented cars and are doing tours of their own instead of riding this week. Certainly many riders are looking forward to riding all 5 days. Those who are riding have formed into groups based on average speed and have committed to stick together for the week, believing that a large group is less likely to be bothered than a small group or an individual. TK&A insists that there is no more risk than any where else in the world. Some people are angry, some are scared.

I have also pondered what to do and realized I didnít want to miss that part of the ride. I have joined a group too. We have armed ourselves with whistles which we will blow to attract attention if we find ourselves in danger. I donít really think we will be. Another group of cyclists rode this same route last week without incident. We will too.

I made another decision too and that was to stay behind in Durban locked in my hotel room until I was up to date on the writing for the web page. Day 59, Durban to Port Shepstone, was today but I missed it. I am happy though that I have nearly reached my goal. I will write more succinctly in the future I hope and not fall behind. I am also hungry. There is no food service in this hotel except for breakfast so today Iíve subsisted on bananas and peanut butter and some healthy tasting wholewheat Crispbread. Even a hockey puck would look good to me now.

My plan is to get on a bus arranged for by one of the riders, Shelli Rose, tomorrow morning at 6 am and ride to Port Shepstone where the bus will stop to pick up the riders that rode today but donít want to ride the next 4 days. The bus will take them to East London. I will get my bike off the bus while all of them load and then put it back on last. I hope the driver will stop at the checkpoint to let me off so that I can ride the rest of the way to camp with my group if it hasnít passed the checkpoint yet. Let the adventure begin!

Alice   


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