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March 9, 2000
River to Sedgefield
This was truly a wonderful day. The sun was shining, my tent was dry, and I was looking forward to the difference the bike fit would make for me on the ride through 119 km. of the beautiful Garden Route.
We had planned an outing in the Tsitsikamma State Forest too. A group of us had made reservations for a short boat trip up the Storms River Gorge. We cycled just 4 km. down the road from our campsite at Dieseland to Storms River Village where we parked and locked our bikes. We all rode in a big open safari type truck down the highway toward the gorge. It was a steep descent to sea level. There it was again, the Indian Ocean, and the waves were crashing onto big black boulders sending spray high into the air. We walked on a boardwalk 800 meters through the forest stopping from time to time to hear our guide tell about a tree or plant. We saw the ‘6 week ferns’ which are picked and exported, to be used in flower arrangements all over the world. She showed us the ‘Hottentot Plant’ so named because those were the people who originally used it for a mattress. Its leaves are very soft and its fragrance is pleasant to us but repels insects like flies and mosquitoes. Finally we reached the mouth of Storms River and climbed aboard the boat. One remarkable thing about this river is the brown color of the water, it looks for all the world just like root beer! It is especially sparkly in the sunlight and the word Tsitsitkamma can be translated to ‘sparkling water’. The gorge was an incredible sight. Millions of years ago that area had been covered by the ocean. The many layers of sediment had formed into rock. Then some gigantic earth force cracked the layers of rock and forced them from a horizontal position into a vertical one. As I gazed at those walls I wondered at how any force could be powerful enough to move such massive rocks into that position. We couldn’t go far up the gorge because the river soon became too shallow and rocky but there were many things of interest to see. Lichen grew on the rocks in fluorescent orange and mustard yellow. The rocks themselves were in colors and in some places rusty from the iron ore they contained. We went into a cave and learned that 5 species of bats live there, about 1000 bats in all. The largest is a fruit bat with a wingspread of half a meter. Insect eating bats are smaller but hungry; a lactating female bat eats one and a half times her own weight in insects every night! We saw a giant kingfisher bird perched on a branch over the river and a white breasted cormorant standing on a rock. There were little mammals scurrying about, the rock hyrax, or rock rabbits as the people call them. It was a very pleasant 20 minute cruise. There was some delay in our return to our bikes so that it was already 11 a.m. by the time we reached them. Some of us were fighting the feeling that we had been playing hookie, it was our job to be on our bikes not out sightseeing. I was one of those.
The next stop for me was the bungy jumping place. I had heard people talking about it the day before and knew it was right on our route, at 215 meters the world’s highest jump, and free for those over 60. That’s me! How could I pass up such a good deal! I decided to do it. When I arrived a small group was getting their harnesses on so I joined them. I knew them, all Odyssey people, and I was pleased to see them there because I think it is easier to do something like this with friends. There were 5 of us: Dennis Graham, a volunteer, Bobbi Fisher, a rider, Tim Kneeland of TK&A, Brit-Simone Sutter also of TK&A, and myself. When we each had our harness on we had to walk out to the middle of Bloukrans Bridge on a cat walk of metal grating and were advised not to look down. Finally we reached the center of the bridge, a solid wide platform where the jumping takes place. We were told our jumping order based on our weight. I would be fourth and thought that was way better than first or last. I was so scared! Why was I doing this I asked myself. I had never wanted to bungy jump. I decided it was because the place and time were convenient, at 216 meters it was the world’s highest jump (if you’re going to do it why not go for the record), and it was free for me! The usual fee is 500 rand, or about $90 for all jumpers less than 60 years old. For once it paid to be old. What a deal! Just too good to miss!
Dennis went first and came up smiling, then Bobbi. She was ecstatic and hadn’t even been afraid in the first place. Unbelievable! Then it was Tim’s turn, he had two bungy ropes because of his weight and he jumped feet first, apparently forgetting the directions! And at last it was my turn. This was really really scary. They sat me down and put padding and straps on my ankles, all the while explaining what they were doing but I didn’t hear a word of it. The video camera was on me and the cameraman asked, ‘Do you have any last words for the world?’ I said, “I love you, Mom! I love you, Todie and Eric! This is really really scary!” Then it was time for the triple check; three different men checked the harness and gear to be sure it was as it should be. Then I had to hop a few feet to get close to the edge, hopping because my ankles were bound together. The last two feet or so two men picked me up and put me down right at the edge so that my feet were extending over into thin air. This was really really really scarey. I didn’t have the courage to look down. I kept my eyes on the mountains like I had been told, my head up and back, my arms out. The two men were still hanging onto me and I asked them if when it came time to jump and I couldn’t do it would they please give me a push. They promised me they would. Then the count down started: 5 4 3 2 1 Bungy! In my head I was rehearsing what I was supposed to do and found that I could hardly wait for the word Bungy so that I could jump. And then it happened and there was I soaring out and down, flying so fast the wind made tears in my eyes. I thought I would never stop going down. The trees and the brown river came closer and closer. But then I realized that I was going up again. I hadn’t felt a jerk or a stop, or a dropping sensation like one gets in some elevators. I was just floating in the air, swinging back and forth, bouncing up and down and twisting a little too, all I felt besides sheer terror was pressure on my lower legs from the harness and in my head from being upside down. I could hear myself saying ‘ahhh’ ‘ahhh’ ‘ahhh’ repeatedly, I didn’t know why or what it meant but I think it was an expression of the terror I still felt.
Finally I realized someone was calling my name and eventually made myself stop the ahhhs so I could hear. It was my rescuer and was I glad to see him! I couldn’t wait to be right side up again. What I wanted to do was just grab him and hang on but since that wouldn’t be cool I resisted and tried to understand what he was saying and what he wanted me to do. At last I was right side up again and the rest was a piece of cake. We were slowly hoisted to the jumping platform, I was placed on the floor and the bungy crew were all over me shaking my hand and congratulating me ‘on the most perfect jump of the day’, as they disconnected me from the bungy rope and unbound my ankles. The rest was easy. The relief was immense. And so were the joy and happiness that I had been able to do such a terrifying thing and even enjoy it. And guess what! I can do it again! It is free everywhere in the world for those of us over 60!
March 10, 2000
Sedgefield to Albertinia
Last night Karen Ann Sutter, partner of Tim Kneeland in TK&A, had to pull a miracle out of her hat. When she got to Sedgefield she learned that the restaurant contracted for dinner and breakfast the next morning had gone out of business. Suddenly she had to feed 200 hungry cyclists herself. She must have run through the local grocery store with a dozen carts, filling them with bread, mustard, catsup, salad dressings, cheese, tomatoes, weiners, sausage rolls, frozen vegetables, new potatoes, dried fruit, cookies, candy bars, baked beans, boxes of cereal, cottage cheese, bananas, muffins, sweet rolls, eggs, juice, coffee, etc. She lit the charcoal and somehow managed to cook or warm all that food. Supper was a fun picnic because there were so many choices. I chose bread, mustard, a weiner and cheese to make a sandwich. I had corn, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, and baked beans. I loved the new potatoes cooked in a buttery mushroom sauce. I went back for more of those.
For breakfast there was cereal, yogurt, milk, bread, peanut butter, jam, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, muffins, sweet rolls, bananas, etc. There was plenty of everything and it didn’t even rain on our picnics. Karen Ann had saved the day.
I think there were 24 of us who bungy jumped yesterday. The evening was spent describing and comparing experiences and being congratulated by those who had not jumped. It was an euphoric evening.
Today we rode past another bungy jumping site on a bridge but it was a much shorter fall so after having done the big one the small one held no appeal for me. I haven’t heard that anyone jumped there today.
The landscape changed again today. We are out of the forested areas and in a plains area. Mixed in with the flat areas there are big hills which we have to climb, hard work on a bike, but the hills improve the scenery. We rode alongside the Indian Ocean and saw the homes of the very wealthy with their views of the Indian Ocean. We also saw more squatter’s camps than we have since leaving Johannesburg. The people put together tiny lean-to structures out of any scrap materials they can find. Often it is sheet metal, wood scraps and plastic. Black plastic usually covers the roof or maybe it is the roof. The government is building more permanent housing for these folks, but slowly. They are tiny structures with one window and one door. It appears that it is up to the owner to provide the door and the window glass but some have had to do without. The discrepancy between the haves and have nots here is vast.
We passed field after field containing hundreds of grazing ostriches. In the next field might be grazing sheep. The pasture appeared to be very sparse, one wonders how they get enough to eat.
We do not have that problem. I am going to dinner now and then straight to bed. I am still not really recovered from the flu and think a good night’s sleep is in order.
March 11, 2000
Yesterday I was dragging and still having flu symptoms so I decided I would take today off. So I am sitting in the sag wagon this morning while others pedal the 122 kms. to Swellendam into a headwind. I didn’t know there would be a headwind, that is just a coincidence, but I am not sorry to be missing it! It is obvious now that I did not take enough time to recover from the flu and I didn’t get enough sleep, staying up late to try to keep up with my email, so here I am taking a day off. As luck would have it, for the first day in a week, the flu feeling is gone but I still need to catch up on my sleep. I wish I could take a nap. Early to bed tonight and I’ll be back on my bike tomorrow.
Riding in the sag wagon is a very boring thing to do. The vehicle leaves the campsite at 8:00 sharp and goes straight to the checkpoint which takes an hour or less, then parks there the rest of the day, until all the riders have made the checkpoint. Sometimes the checkpoint is in a desolate spot and there’s nothing at all to do. Today there is a telephone and a Wimpy’s so we can send email and eat, and that is enough to make me happy.
On the drive from the checkpoint to the campground in Swellendam we passed more herds of cattle and ostriches. (Are ostriches in herds or flocks?) In my travel guide there is some startling information about ostriches. ‘The adults are plucked every nine months or so yielding a kilogram of feathers each time.’ The poor things! That has to hurt. Nothing about the ostrich is wasted, its feathers are used by the fashion industry and for household dusters, its meat is made into biltong and steaks, one egg is equal to 24 hen’s eggs, and its skin is made into handbags, belts, shoes, and wallets. No wonder so many are being raised.
Tonight we are camping at the Swellendam Caravan Park. There is enough green grass for everyone, the sun is shining, there is a laundromat and big sinks for hand washing, and even clotheslines. In a word, paradise. Swellendam is a tiny place but just beside it and framed in my tent doorway are the gorgeous, barren, yet green Hottentot Holland Mountains.
We are getting excited about reaching Cape Town. At least 100 riders have already left and more are leaving every day. The concensus of opinion seems to be that the one layover day planned for us in Cape Town is just not enough to see the sights in Cape Town. Some of the riders who have gone left because they are entering the Argus Race, a 111 km. race in the Cape Argus area. The amazing thing about this race is that there are 35,000 participants. The riders are started in waves. The racers in the first wave will have finished and possibly won the race before some people have even started. Each racer will have a computer chip to help record his time accurately. I have seen hundreds of cars with bicycles on racks headed for Cape Town. We don’t get to Cape Town until the day after the race.
Photos of Cape Town and Wildlife of South Africa
Parliament Building, Cook off, Table Mountain
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