No ride is complete without discussing each other’s ride, complimenting the skill and endurance of everybody and bond like just men can do who shared the special moment of able bodies, single track and accomplishment. At the coffee shop, we were surprised and welcomed by the presence of the one and only Phil Leggitt, the famous Tour de France TV presenter. He was the honorary guest that morning, invited by Chris Greenham, to promote the 320 km ride in aid of the Aids Orphanage in Umhlanga. Who can resist an invitation if you can cycle along Phil Legitt and Shark rugby players: John Slade and Ian Garvey? Nobody can, especially considering that Chris and Sheryl converted a part of their house to cherish and care for 25 abandoned HIV/Aids babies. Anyway, I was convinced that I am able to complete three Arguses straight after the other!
Well, as my wife says, I run where angels dare to tread and without a second thought we, 80 cyclists, left the Sunday, 16 December 2007, to Little Switzerland in the Midlands where we would have an early start for the 320 km back to Durban. I was greatly unprepared. I packed no extra food or water bottles for the ride. How much do you need in any case if you are just having a relaxed ride? My main aim was to raise as much money that friend and foe who knows me, are willing to give this very daring and amazing effort of mine to help disadvantaged babies. I sent a sms to everyone in my address book. I asked one rand for each kilometre I was going to ride. The response was just amazing. Over R10 000 was pledged… if I cycled each and every kilometre of the planned route!! Replies to my sms were rather encouraging: Phil Pearse – “Sure thing – but I will not pay for hospital bill”, Jan Thalma: “Klink vir my na ‘n seersit affere! Gary Cloete: “If you finish, I will buy the whole orphanage!” So, you don’t know me after all Gary, never knew I had so much tenacity! Betaal broer! Chris: ” Is jy nou heeltemal mal?” Nasser Khan: “Only if you finish” Thanks, Nasser we are both men of our word!
Excitement was tangible and Monday 4h30, yes no typing error, the long ride started with 50 km’s of downhill. Easy peezy. It seemed like a breeze and everyone was in high spirits, joking and laughing. Sunrise gave us hills and as the day dawned, fun changed colour to rethinking my “mallighed”. The first few hills at Ladysmith and Escourt, followed by Mooiriver and Nottingham road were achievable but it was at Maritzburg… The smiles became grimaces. We could feel the 220 kilometres beating our backs, legs, butts just to name a few places. Realization set in. Life was hard. Cycling at that moment was terrible. My only motivation was the babies, unknown and disadvantaged. Foxhill, a 19km climb out of Pietermaritzburg tested my endurance, played with my mind and was there to murder me. It was a hellish hot in December (40 degrees) and we still had 100ks to go!
The Valley of a Thousand Hills became reality, and we suffered like never before. Cyclist was fading out like flies – mainly due to the heat and dehydration. I peddled slowly up Drummond, Inchanga, past the Comrades Runners’ Wall of Achievers, Heidi’s Padstall, not thinking about anything or anybody. It was only me, myself and I. When we reached Botha’s Hill the police came to the rescue. We stopped, replenished our bodies with fluid, stretched the legs, and ate anything and everything we thought that could pull us through the last 50 kilometres. I straddled my bike, determined to make this enemy my friend. Great thanks to the Traffic Police. They paved the way through traffic, stopped cars and announced our arrival. It was magnificent. Vehicles let us through, had respect for the warriors on their bicycles and we sped past them.
We arrived at our destination in Durban 13 hours after we started. The reception was incredible. We were on a high. I was ecstatic with joy. I never felt such an accomplishment as at that moment. About 25 of us cycled the whole distance, but the encouragement from the cyclists from the sweep cars made each and everyone a winner. They gave us water and food during the ride and were there when they thought we were going down. Thanks, you were great.
I went home and was a hero in the eyes of my boys and wife. The true heroes however are the people who pluck up the courage to be compassionate and care for the less fortunate. I admire them, because they “cycle” more than 320km every day to care for babies and children. In perspective, this was a small drop in the bucket to help my fellow man or child.
I lost 5 kg’s and was cramping in every muscle imaginable. I could not sit properly for a few days, but gradually regained strength and was back on the road by the next weekend.
Will I ever do it again? NO!