I did not sleep well. Maybe it was the storm cycling back again or Dad succumbing to the aloe pills he had taken the previous day. Either way, I woke up at first light feeling decidedly unrested.
Breakfast was a combination of every carbohydrate I could find in the kitchen cupboards. A layered wheetabix and granola special splashed around some milk in a vain attempt to inject more humanity into my personality. Dad and I spent the first half hour of the day grunting at each other while we readied ourselves for the final ride of the trip.
A fun little aside. Those of you who have read the article on the Sungazer would recall that when we were last in Rosendal, Dad had to abandon his old hiking boots…
… well, guess what I found while ambling around House Beautiful…
Standing on the corner of Yolla’s (our predetermined collection point), Dad and I were lacquered in sunscreen and good spirits. At 08H00, the farmer who had agreed to give us a lift beyond the dangerously saturated road pulled in. It was agreed that Dad would sit with him in the front of the cab, and I would sit in the bakkie bin making sure the bikes don’t go wandering. Little did I know that said farmer was a graduate of the Mad Max school of evasive driving, believing that the faster you go on a gravel road, the smaller your piles would be. Several times the bakkie didn’t drive over ditches so much as leap them, meaning that I got to test all the dirty words my father had taught me at the beginning of the trip. When we arrived in Paul Roux to disembark, my poor mood had been taken to new lows by clutching onto bikes while simultaneously stopping my teeth from evacuating my mouth. Dad asked how I was.
“I’m fine.” I lied.
The farmer sped off, demanding no compensation for his time. It appears good will is enough of a currency in small towns such as Rosendal. Given this was the second time on a trip we had been on the receiving end of a farmers kindness (from the same town no less), I couldn’t help but ask myself what it all meant. Is it easier to be generous outside of a city? Had we been lucky in meeting Rosendal’s only charitable souls? Do ducks wag their tails out of excitement?
I simply do not know.
We mounted and rode. Within no time the smell of home and allure of a smooth tar surface greatly improved our dispositions. The shoulder was wide enough to allow one not to feel like a truck was about to inhale you as it drove past.
It is here that I want to talk about the concept of an empty head. Performing a repetitive task – be it cycling, running or any kind of steady physical undertaking – is the best way for your head to become empty. It is a strange process; the thoughts which normally occupy your mind almost seep out of your feet resulting in the sensation that your mind is no longer cluttered. Cycling is a wonderful way to empty your head. Under the right circumstances, the knowledge of the task you are performing becomes relegated to your limbs leaving your mind clean and minty fresh. Sometimes the demands of the road require concentration, but when a road is simple to navigate and easy under the wheel, it is easy to become empty headed as it were.
Dad and I had a lot of fun. The road opened up beautifully, allowing both of us to lose ourselves in the joy of riding. There were no rocks to navigate past (or, gulp, over) and with the aforementioned generous shoulder on the road, the distance seemed to blur under the wheel. The happiness that comes from doing a simple thing well followed us both all the way to Bethlehem.
Arriving in Bethlehem involved a slow and easy downhill to La Croche. Dad and I settled for salads on the veranda of Stoep Stories, a pub around the corner from the hotel. The usual after-glow of a completed tour hung around us. It was either that or our remarkable guff, it could honestly have gone both ways.
There is not much to say beyond this. The evening was spent pub hopping until we eventually found ourselves back at Stoep Stories for an early dinner and bed. I have been on enough of these tours to appreciate the clarity of thought they provide when all you have to do each day is one simple task – get from A to B. There is a lot in life which distracts you from the simple task of the day. More often than not achievement, or a sense of achievement, is accomplished simply by doing one thing: moving forward.
It is that simple thing that often eludes me. The idea that, during a day, I should be focussing my energy on moving forward. This does not stop me from looking up and enjoying the sandstone mountains in the distance. It does not stop me from breathing in and resting on the side of the road. Moving forward does not mean ignoring the birds that cheer you on from electric cables and rotting poles. It is merely a state, an impetus to go further than where you currently are. Touring like this, carrying yourself in the open air without help, is a distillation of movement. Thinking back to those days on the open road is sometimes motivation enough to keep moving forward.