TREIN-ing For Summer
(6 - 12 November 2019)
DAY 1 and 2 – Johannesburg to Cape Town
Summer holidays… days of sweaty bodies, skimpy bikinis and dripping ice-creams
Everybody wants to get into shape, physically, emotionally and mentally – but mostly PHYSICALLY! The bod, the sack that contains our food, our heartbeat and our soul – we need to get it ready for dealing with family you only see once a year (or maybe have never even met); you need to handle other people on holiday… the other people are always worse; you need to show off your 2kg lighter frame to people that never saw the 2kg heavier version; you need to keep all those braai-broodjies in check; and you need to make it look like you are having the bestest time on Vleisboek.
We started our trein-ing in all earnest…
(A ‘trein’ is Afrikaans for a train)
The Shosholoza Meyl is a long-distance passenger rail service that rolls the tracks between Johannesburg and Cape Town. One of the two Tank Girls has never done a train ride. We booked our tickets a few months before to shooshoo down to Slaapstad with our bikes. We were told to be there 2 hrs earlier than normal boarding time, to load our own bikes in the freight wagon – and to bring our own tie-downs!
The idea was to trein down to Cape Town and then ride back up (aka ‘op warm’) to Gauteng. We packed light and made a short list of sights we wanted to visit.
When we got to Johannesburg Park station, we were told that they do not take luggage anymore (a bike counts as luggage with wheels). They have decided to stop taking luggage two weeks earlier and never thought of informing ticket holders. But… but… but… we were packed, waxed and ready to roll?!?
*Breathing exercises should be your starting point – deep ones in and hold for 5 seconds, then deep out and hold for 5 seconds*
We got hold of the Station Manager (Charmaine) and told her of our predicament. The Prasa-people were all moerse friendly and started running around trying to make a plan. In the end they hooked up another freight wagon just for our bikes. The train was running a bit late now, but we had our horses in a stable in the car just behind the locomotive (…just in case they needed a few extra horsepower).
We had to share our 4-berth compartment in Tourist Class and were excited to meet Joyce Khumalo. She was also a first time Shosho-passenger, and a granny on her way to meet friends and visit her youngest son.
*Yoga pose: The-Fart-Duel*
We saw that Joyce only had a packet of crisps and a 2L cold drink with her (the trip takes two days), so we invited her to join us in the diner for hamburgers. She also turned out to be a good Bananagrams-player and loved our tea made on a little gas burner. She was the best company to share a small cubicle with two slightly-pickle-brained-bananas for two days – ngiyabonga Joyce!
*Brain Treining: One should always know how to spell the word onomatopoeia*
At one of the shorter station stops, Chikita jumped off the train to quickly buy bottled water at the spaza, but before she could return the conductor blew the whistle and started the engines… Everybody was hanging out of the windows to see if she would return in time. The suspense was brewing as the engines started growling louder and louder! As she rounded the corner I screamed, “GOOI NET DIE WATER!!!” Luckily, she is quite the sprinter and she jumped through the door just as the train started moving.
*Yoga pose: The-Pelican-In-The-Door*
The ride itself was quite ruff. We were told to keep the windows closed at the stops as the skelms grab anything they can reach through the windows, sometimes they even throw stones at the train, there were endless stops, three engine replacements, and with every minute that passed it felt like we were falling three behind. The only surety you have is that the train is always late. But at least we had cold tequila and the train-food was yummy.
*Yoga pose: The-Pewww-I’m-A-Rocket-Ship*
The night was a freezer and we were all shivering more than a steam engine by the time the world started to glow in gold. If only we remembered about the big warning sticker stuck on the roof: CAUTION – DO NOT STARE INTO HEATER!
The brakes seemed to sometimes work, sometimes work too well, and sometimes they just gave up trying to stop at a station…? With one particularly sudden bumpy halt at a station, we heard a loud, “RECKLESS DRIVER!” echo down the hallway.
*Yoga pose: The-No-Kids-Ever*
It is sad to see so many beggars next to the rail (some still in diapers!). Nobody thought of selling anything like snacks or curios? I guess when you are ‘unfit’ it is easier to do nothing and hope for everything… The shacks were built with millimeter spaces between them and the roaring train coaches, and sometimes the rubbish mountains stood taller than the real mountains on the horizon…
Yet, in between broken fences, plastic bags and zinc shacks… your eye would catch another eye in a dusty street. And that other eye will look at you with anger and wave a pointy finger in your direction. And you will slightly tip your head, smile and wave a pointy finger back. And as that eye holds onto your eye – you both might start laughing.
DAY 3 – Cape Town to Cederberg
Cape Town, the city of contradictions. Where bergies beg between tables of champagne. Where the wind blows so hard, it bends the sun rays. Where everybody is late, yet always has time.
Starting a morning with T is an everyday for us; two sugars and a dollop of milk. Starting it with a C is to be spoiled; two shells and sand between your toes.
We went down to Clifton’s biets – the second one… It was a great morning for a Yoga session to get our minds and bodies ready for the uphill trip back home.
In Cape Town – even the dogs know how to yoga-yoga!
A quick dip in the icy ocean of Atlantis
I was told that yoga brings together the body, the mind and the soul. Through posture, breathing and diet we create space and flexibility. How true these yoganites are! We were hungry as sjaait and we needed to stretch our stomachs! A quick bel to Boetie and Muis to confirm a cup of coffee, a few rash-bacons and a scram-egg. It’s always good to see old friends, specially when they feed you.
*Yoga pose: The-Drag-A-Dog*
With stomachs out, chests in… we rode up Bainskloof pass. Between the in-flight stretches, we got distracted by armies of troops of baboons. There was Boggom, Voetsek, Adoons and Kees. They would bark as we ride past, either giving us directions or complaining about the state of berries in the mountain???
We stopped at a small town on a mountain, where we had a helping of melktert and gemmerbier. Why is it that one wants to believe that the small town old aunties would know how to make these two classic South African recipes? The beer tasted like a really condensed version of Oros, and the tart was more like a jelly. Nope! But namaste never mind…
*Yoga pose: The-Spanking-Child*
We were planning on burning off the high sugar content on the Katbakkies Pass, but we found a group of adventure riders having a braai next to the road. Wise man says that if you cannot burn off bad food, then at least cover it with a branna and a tjop.
*Spot the famous person… Thing T. Thing*
Most exercises you do because you plan on doing them, but when you spot a big fat yellow squiggly line in the road there is an involuntary jerk of your knees up to your ears. It goes together with a chant, “Ohmmmm… ygawd!”
*Yoga pose: The-Snake-kNot*
Be sure to do a few last minute stretches before continuing on your trip.
I think it was at this point when I realized I had no back brakes. There were none, nada, nothing, niks… But if you stomped hard enough the bike would come to a spectacular skidding halt. Unfortunately, the brakes would not let go again and I had to ride it out of the grip. It was going to be a looong trip with some thought-provoking maneuvers to slow down.
We ended the day at the Cederberg Oasis, where Gerrit offered us a tent and a beer. Happy Tank Girls – HAAAAPPY TANK GIRLS! That evening we kuiered with Sean, Jasper, Jaco, Jacques and Johan. It was either the tears of laughter OR the spillage of tequila, but somehow Chert (aka Jasper) moved his pancreas. Nobody was concerned…
DAY 4 – Cederberg to Tankwa Karoo
Riding through the Cederberg mountains when even the mountains are still asleep, you only hear the soft hum of two motorcycles as they sway past.
The best thing to wake your body is to; let your skin grab some untouched sunlight, let your ears hear some unmuffled rural sounds, let your lungs fill with some fynbos scented oxygen. While you’re out there – do a few stretches!
*Yoga pose: The-Yena-Hambile-Lapa-Side*
Sometimes even the bikes need to slow down and meditate, specially with a view of what lies ahead. The Pakhuis Pass seemed to be the perfect spot to focus speedometers, achieve a clear carburator, and reset their timing.
Walking a labyrinth can lead to deeper relationships, a feeling of being on a spiritu… WHAT? WAIT?? Until it’s a dice to see who can get to the centre first! Well.. if your centre is competitive, it’s not like your betraying the self, is it?
Finding old ruins always makes me wonder what the house looked like in its prime? When there was a family with kids playing outside, maybe a cat in the window sill and a peach tree in the back yard…
A few small water crossings were just to get the boots wet for the big one.
Swimming keeps your heart rate up but lessens the impact on your joints. Coordination is of utmost importance when all you know is doggy paddle. Or Suzuki paddle… whateva!
*Yoga pose: The-Lifesaver*
As we reached the Tankwa it was as if all life instantly disappeared. Trees, bushes, animals were all turned to dust – flat expanses of dust.
When you’re driving on the highways and you stare into the horizon, you sometimes wonder if there is anyone living there on the edge? If there is life, roads, kraals, if anyone has ever walked there? THIS is that place.
I could scream as loud as I could and nobody would think anything wrong. Cause nobody doesn’t live there…
But we were overheating… it became clear.
A stop at the Tankwa camp to get a rum for the bikes and petrol for the girls… was I hallucinating from the heat??? As long as it was Red Heart, Brom wouldn’t mind.
We saw ostriches being chased by a dust streak, a few Kholisi-bokkies, and an Oryx with a flailing horn.
Even though the flatness grows knee high in these lands, we were running out of wildness and out of sunlight to put up a wild camp. And to make matters worse, Chikita nearly stepped on a puffie’s tail! We both looked at the puffadder as he gruffly slithered away and we for a few seconds reconsidered this camping-under-a-tree thing. The few seconds passed…
So we Pilcherts…
Cause Frenchie loathes these little boney, acrimonious, oleaginous, shiny slithers. But the Beya says it’s good for muscle building, for preventing blood clotting, for squeaky joints, and something about a radiant skin. So stop dry-heaving and just lick that tin!
There was a gate, there was bloudraad, there was a path down a riverbed, there was the most spectacular spot to put a small tent, there was a sunset, there was tequila, there was a crackling fire, there was tinned food, there was blinking stars, there was a bunny in the moon, there was a Gé Korsten song, there was a feeling of home. There it was.
DAY 5 – Tankwa to Hell
The soft furry peach that goes by the name of Sun woke us with pinky orange hills. We boiled a wille-tea on the gas burner. A quick morning jog all around the two-man tent got the blood flowing through our stiffened limbs. We never take any form of a mattress, but even a sandy riverbed grinds into ribs and hipbones.
What a gift we received with an amazing morning back road framed by mountains in the distance. Hopping, bouncing and snaking over bumps, twists and dry riverbeds. The only soul we encountered was a Saturday-nighter on his way home, still with a jive in his step.
Our breakfast stop was at a garage with a Steers take-away which gave us time to recharge all our camera equipment. We watched as bus after bus pulled in to fill up and the passengers would stumble out of the doors with cramping legs, taking a quick loo-smoke-fart break before they all bundled back into their compact seats to sit crammed next to loo-smoke-fart smelling strangers. Not on a bike – never on a bike!
Prince Albert; where we had a cold drink on the steps of the old library.
*Yoga pose: The-Wind-Remover*
Standing there between these majestic fold mountains, you realize you are nothing. It’s hard to explain that it’s not a negative feeling. It’s a wonderous feeling, it’s an empowering feeling, it’s a gift. Knowing that nothing you do matters, that you are but ephemeral. It’s a feeling of freedom. Realizing how small you are, a few cells filled with water that can talk. There you stand amidst these wrinkles and folds of quarzitic sandstones. As you try to comprehend the forces it must have taken to fold this 10km think layers of sandstones; even before that - the time it took to deposit 10 000m of sediment; and then to erode it just enough so that we can stand there in awe. As you tilt your head back to follow these lines, you realize all you can do is live, all you must do is live.
Our drone also took her first flight. We’re still working on our angles and smoothness. For now, we’re just chuffed that we got it in the air. Smile and say tequila!
We took the turn off to Hell. No really; the road turns right just before you reach the peak of Swartberg pass. We were told that the road would take 3 hours to ride and we expected a really bad surface, maybe some burning coals, a demon or six hundred and sixty six, at least a dog called Hades chasing us…?!?
The first section was lovely smooth dirt roads, lined with proteas and Klipspringers. We rode deeper and deeper into this olive green valley sinking between two majestic mountain ranges. I saw Chikita fall behind and after what seemed like eternity (pun intended), I turned to go find her. You never know what games Satan plays, and all kinds of cruelty was running through my mind. Turns out Lucy was just trying to pick-pocket a GoPro for xmas. Chikita lost it somewhere on the road, so we started slowly heading back to see if we could find it. The cliffs were steep and I knew if it wasn’t lying IN the road… it was gone. As the devil would have it, the Pro bumped over the side of the road but landed in a little bush (nope – it was not burning). Chikita crawled over the side and safely retrieved our treining manual.
I have always taken it as a quite obvious conclusion that I would go to hell. From the descriptions I’ve heard it’s quite a lekker plek. It’s always summer, they have braaivleis going year-long, dressing up with horns and pointy tails wouldn’t seem to offend, Jack Daniels is on tap, and swear words are not frowned upon. I could see myself hoofmeisie of a place like that…
But it turns out hell is heaven in the mountains!
Has cold beer
Has a dog, even though they called her ‘Koejawel’?!?
Has very happy people, albeit mostly with red hair
Has donkeys, but they might just be evil horses?!?
Has flush toilets
Allows motorcycles, which says more about hell than it does about Merry Pebbles…
Has water crossings
Has a back door – you would never have guessed that one!
“The gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if that's where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won't do if they don't know about it. This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight.”
DAY 6 – Hell to Rietbron
We had a hell of a time, but we had to return to reality. We can safely report back to all our readers: “Hell is not a place…”
Suspiciously, it’s easier leaving hell than expected? I guess riding UP the pass without brakes was probably the reason. But we stopped to do a few last warm-up exercises with hell in the background.
We stopped at a donkey sanctuary and were greeted by braying furry ears. Being an adventurer is somewhat like the donkey who found out that the book gives wisdom… and ate it! Never follow the rules, don’t always trust advice, use your own senses.
We encountered a few locked gates on the smaller roads and even though these are public roads, the farmers have decided to lock the gates and block access. Animal theft has gotten so out of hand that the only way to ensure you keep your skaap, is to keep the wolves out. We didn’t mind, as this meant we got to spend a few extra kilos riding around the Karoo before our trip came to an end.
At Rietbron our paths split. Chikita still had to head back to Cape Town, and I had to get back to work.
Train to explore the world! Go on as many as possible adventures, survive breakdowns, suffer broken bones, endure extreme temperatures and ride beyond the NO ENTRY signs. Every road takes a new turn, every mountain is a different blue, every sunset leaves an inimitable memory. But you will never become fit, and therefor the training is infinite.
Skinny & Chikita took a train from Johannesburg to Cape Town. They rode back up through the Cederberg mountains, the Tankwa Karoo, down to The Hell and back home. They trein-ed down & warmed up: Yoga, meditation & beer! Have a look and let us know if you think they are ready for the adventure Olympics...!
ANTIPANTS - ANTIPOACHING!
Join us for a broek-dropping ride in support of our lions. This year all donations will go to lion-conservation.
Pitch up at the Union Building on Sunday 19 January 2020, 08:00 – WITH YOUR BROEKS STILL ON! We will have a vehicle there that will take everyone’s jeans to the end point (Kearneys, Broederstroom). Riding in your undies is NOT compulsory, but if you decide to stay panted, you have to donate an EXTRA R100!
Stuff the honesty newsletter… Two weeks after we passed through this inaccessible quaint little ‘town’ called Die Hel, there was a runaway veld fire and almost everything (guesthouses, camp site, infrastructure) burned to the ground. The families that still live there full time (some of these families date back to 1830) need all the support they can get. How about giving hell some cash this time? It might even get you into heaven…
Bank: First National Bank
Account Name: Gamkaskloof Guest Farm
Account: Cheque Account
Account Number: 62174261314
Branch Code: 210414
Go To Hell!!!
YouTube: Skinny van Schalkwyk