Tuesday, June 12, 2007

About a guy, his bike and our beautiful country

So there's this guy, Ray Chaplin. And he has a bike (and trailer). Notably, he has been cycling from Cape Town to Pretoria since early May. Today is Day 40 and tomorrow, on Day 41, he'll reach the end of this journey in Pretoria.

We met via email some years ago when he first affirmed his 3 Poles (www.3poles.co.za) dream; to trek unsupported to the North Pole, South Pole and the summit of Mt Everest. He moves to Dubai for work two years ago, enters the Pole-2-Pole expedition (the organisation cancelled the event scheduled for late 2006), returns to Cape Town, initiates a "Make Table Mountain Safe" campaign, runs Two Oceans Half hauling a yellow shack on wheels in support of Habitat for Humanity, spends months training and man-hauling his yellow tyre "Tony" around da mountain and then decides to cycle from Cape Town to Pretoria to promote non-motorised transportion and bicycle touring in South Africa. I'm a fan.

As I type, Ray is on the road from Vanderbijl to Joburg on Day 40 of this "The Life Cycle" project (www.thelifecycle.co.za). He left Cape Town on Friday, 4 May with his yellow mountain bike and trailer, headed for the town of Wellington - his first stop on Route 62. Towards the end of his first week Ray had to ride through the "Big Cold and Rain of 2007". I was actually in Cape Town over this weekend of the 11-12 of May and was gobsmacked by the volume of water descending from the skies over the Western Cape. And that's to say nothing of the cold... and snow.

Ray's route took him along the coast and through to P.E. before heading inland and upwards towards Bloemfontein; and from Bloem to Joburg and Pretoria. I read Ray's daily dispatches in batches every few days and catch him on Skype at night occasionally. What an incredible journey!
By the time he reaches Pretoria tomorrow, Ray will have spent 41-days on the road, with few rest days to break the daily riding. He has been on his ownsome-lonesome, sleeping in guest houses, on the roadside, in gardens, ultra city grass patches, a road construction site office enclosure and in homes, welcomed by friendly strangers.

There's also the food thing; loads and loads of food is needed to keep Ray fueled and despite supplements, protein shakes, oats, a daily loaf of bread, bars of chocolate, salami, chicken, fruit, veg and a host of other edibles, his 6-foot-plus frame has lost kilograms.

I am certainly not brave enough to just take off on my bike riding around the country... alone... it also isn't something I've actually thought about doing. South Africans travel abroad to bike around Spain or southern France but little do we consider our own backyard.

We are certainly in agreement that we live in a beautiful country; mountains, valleys, the plateau, the Karoo, forested and tropical coastal regions - our ecological options are diverse. We - outdoor, active, adventurers - just don't utilise our resources as much as we could. I know that I don't.

Ray's objectives have been to promote non-motorised transport (in partnership with the Bicycling Empowerment Network - www.benbikes.org.za) and local bicycle touring. As for the latter, Ray has opened my eyes to the possibilities of planning a loosely structured cycling (or running?) holiday.

Ray, well done. This journey is an inspirational achievement to be proud of in terms of your promotional and personal objectives.

Note: Ray will be talking about this trip at CapeStorm in Bryanston (Carvenience Centre) on Tuesday, 19 June at 18h30 for 19h00.
"From figuring out what to pack to how to transport it all, route selectionto the all-important diet, crocodile cage diving to surfing with theself-inflating mattress, I'll be sharing my experiences with you... and showing you how to undertake a non-motorised trip across our beautiful country [and of course how not to!]."

3 comments:

Stijn said...

Lisa

I totally agree that people should check out what this country has to offer on a bicycle. But since this is an AR website - how about some more coverage of the Freedom Trail (and Challenge)? If you're gonna go into the wide open spaces of our country for a life-altering experience, why use so much tar?

www.freedomchallenge.org.za - this year's race starts on 18 June and there's even a guy doing it on a rigid singlespeed!

Stijn

lisablog said...

Ahhh... it's that time again. Thanks for the reminder.
I usually run occasional updates on the event when it starts. In the event's first year I did daily coverage; Andrew would phone me every evening with an update on what was happening. I'd type his news and post online.
They now run full coverage on their website.

Anonymous said...

Hey Lisa... nice piece, thanks.
While I hear what Stijn is saying about the tar, there are a variety of ways to tackle any trip and on this occassion I decided to go on the road due to 1) it being my first long trip, 2) me going solo, 3) no backup team, 4) having a tightish deadline for getting to Gauteng.
My trip was certainly made very special by the people I met, not just the scenery. I've had people pull over and offer me drinks or just stop to chat.
I will be cycling back to Cape Town via a different route, before heading off on a 4500km road journey around SA... so this trip is also preparation for that [which I have to do on the road].
Maybe next year I'll be able to head off-road for a few 1000km ;-)