Cape Epic Days 2 & 3: Butt Sores & Friendly Boers

If you think that chivalry is dead, you need to move to the Ceres region. For the first three days of the Epic, we found ourselves in Op-die-Berg in the Koue Bokkeveld. (Yes, that’s really what it’s called). I don’t think you could really call it a town. It literally consists of two roads: one residential and one commercial. The commercial road boasts no fewer than two drankwinkels and a Spar. I don’t know if it’s the proliferation of liquor outlets but the residents could not have been friendlier.

We checked into Oppi Berg (not a typo) Guest House, owned and run by the Hanekom family, aka Oom, Tannie, Boetie, Sussie and Boetie’s wife. And each family member was more charming than the next. In fact, I think Tannie’s biefstuk may have saved The Husband’s life. I brought him back to the B&B at 10pm at the end of Day 1, battered and bruised by The Masseuse and just generally looking miserable. After a few bites of rump, he had regained his sense of humour and forgotten about his debilitating ITB from just an hour earlier.

Subsequent meals featured not one, but two types of meat. We’d be served chicken AND lamb the one night and then pork AND beef the next. Luckily, the surrounding dirt roads provided gorgeous, peaceful running routes for the two soigneuses, since every time we crossed paths with Tannie Aletta, she offered to feed us.

At lunch on Day 2 we shared the dining room with four friendly, khaki-clad farmers who’d tootled into town for Tannie Aletta’s famous grub. I honestly think I spotted one of them tipping his hat at us as he walked in. Before we knew it, we were “aangename kennis-ing” left, right and centre and 20 minutes later we’d been invited on a “farm tour”. Later that day, we had another taste of local chivalry. We were headed for Ceres to go and fetch the boys when a piece of industrial plastic flew up and got caught in our front fender. We didn’t feel like stopping and figured we’d simply rip it out when we got to Ceres 40 minutes later. But just as we were entering the outskirts of the town, we saw a farmer in a bakkie behaving rather strangely. He pulled over in front of us and seemed to be making hand signals at us. Ever the alert Joburg gals, we assumed he was the local loon and we put foot. Only to have him follow us. He was flashing his lights madly and seemed to be signalling for us to pull over, which we eventually did. He then appeared at our window, tipping his hat and smiling broadly, before ripping out the piece of plastic now wedged in between our front grill. He politely explained how dangerous this was as it would overheat, melt and cause all sorts of complications. And then he smiled, tipped his hat and was gone.

Then it was back to real life with “where’s my burger” and “go get my bike from the wash-bay” as we met our boys at the finish. “It’s fine,” I thought. “The Masseuse will exact revenge on our behalves”.

When we arrived at The House of Pain, we were greeted by the now slightly more familiar sight of near-naked men. But this time, one of the riders (a respectable dentist, I might add) had his jocks whipped into a wedgy to form a lovely thong up his butt. Not only did this reveal his taut bum cheeks, it also exposed the nastiest-looking boil-like butt sore I’ve ever seen. Ouch. And then on top of it, he was wincing in pain as The Masseuse dug her elbows into his quads. If only his root canal patients could see him now.

The Masseuse interrupted her work to thrust a box of Epsom Salts at me and to tell me to get The Husband into bath in these salts. I decided not to beat around the bush and told her that The Husband doesn’t bath.
“Just tell him he must,” she said, looking at me as thought I was nuts.
“I’ll tell him but he still won’t bath,” I said.
She looked at me as if to say, “what do you mean he doesn’t do what you tell him to do?”
I just stood there, so she grabbed the Epsom Salts in one hand, the Husband in the other and marched him off to the bathroom.

I heard running water and then The Masseuse emerged from the bathroom sans The Husband. I actually think she may have locked him in.

Welcome to the Boland. Where the men treat the women like ladies and the women take no sh**.
Love it.

Photo: The “Bum Clinic” inside the medical tent at the race village.

Cape Epic Day 1: Jock Straps & Strapped for Jack

/>epic |ˈepik|
• a long film, book, or other work portraying heroic deeds and adventures or covering an extended period of time

If only the Epic were a long film or a book. I’d be so much more into it if that were the case. But no. The Cape Epic – or simply “the Epic” to uber cool, inner circle, mountain biking peeps – consists of 8 long, butt-numbing days on a bicycle.

On Friday 19 March we rocked up at OR Tambo with new fewer than 83kg of check-in luggage between us. And bear in mind that the bl**dy bike only weighs 10kg. It’s some super duper, carbon-framed, fuel-injected piece of machinery and I’m not allowed to touch it. Anyway, so the remaining 73kg consisted of a few items of clothing for me (25kg) and then 48kg worth of Dischem products in first aid kit. I kid you not. The shopping list took up a full A4 page and the medicines filled an entire suitcase. One thing the emergency kit did not contain was a bottle of Jack Daniels. Big mistake, as it turned out. But I’ll start at the beginning.

The Epic began at Diemersfontein Wine Estate on Sunday 21 March. Only the home of my most favourite Pinotage in the whole wide world. At least this presented me with somewhat of an incentive to drag myself out of bed at 5am that morning. As we pulled into the wine farm, I was greeted by a row of bottle-green portaloos. The Epic had indeed begun.

The Husband and his partner eventually set off when the gun went at 9am. And my fellow soigneuse and I dutifully stood on the sidelines cheering for our boys, along with a handful of other “Epic Widows”. As soon as they were out of sight, we set off in search of wine.

Armed with supplies from the cellar door, we began the trek to our guest house in Op die Berg, north of Ceres. Ordinarily, we would’ve headed over Bain’s Kloof, but were told that it was closed for the lunatic cyclists’ use. Of course.

Six hours later we were once again assembled with the Epic Widows, but this time at the finish line. At 5:20pm, our boys came in – 40 minutes before the cut-off time and over an hour before the extended cut-off time of 6:30pm. (Cut off was apparently extended after an accident caused congestion on a section of single track). The boys had survived Day 1!

Or so we thought.

After they’d eaten their bicycle weights in burgers, we dropped them off for their daily massages. I didn’t tell The Husband, but I admit I was a little nervous when I met The Masseuse. I had spoken to her on the phone earlier and had pictured a bit of a bokkie from the Stellenbosch beauty college. Boy, was I wrong. She was blonde alright, but she looked more like a German shot-put champ, than a delicate dolly with a faceful of base. I left to take The Husband’s bike to the mechanic, just as The Masseuse was ordering him to strip down to his jocks. “Uh-oh,” I thought and made a dash for it.

Twenty minutes later my phone rang.

Me: Hello?
The Husband: I….OWWWW…aaarrgh….%#*&%#….OWWWW…*&^%**
Me: Uh-oh
The Husband: I need….OH MY GOD….aaaargh….I need Jack Daniels!
Me: Whisky? Isn’t that a banned substance?
The Husband: %#*&%#. I don’t CARE! Aaaargh…owwww!!! Bring me my Myprodol!

Since I had half of Dischem’s OTC supplies in the boot of the car, I could help out with drugs. Or I could try to persuade the Ceres Arms to sell me booze illegally on a Sunday night. I opted for the drugs.

When I arrived back at the house where the torture was being carried out, I was greeted by the sight of several prostate men in their jock strips. Most were writhing in agony. The Husband sounded the worst of all. No wonder – the German shot-put champ had her elbow implanted in his upper thigh and was leaning into it with her full (not insignificant) body weight. When he saw me, all he could manage was a strained “whisky!@$%#!” in between the screams. “Does anyone have booze?” I asked. Four elite athletes looked back at me as though I’d just asked them for crack cocaine.

Apparently not.

But that didn’t stop me from raiding every cupboard in the kitchen. I’d find their secret little stash if it was the last thing I did.

Except there really was nothing. Nada. Not a single drop of the good stuff. They didn’t intend to ingest a drop of alcohol for the duration of this 8-day race. Good for them.

Not so good for The Husband, though. Fortunately, by this time he’d laid into his stash of painkillers and his screams had subsided somewhat. He was just reaching for the Stopayn when he got his hand firmly smacked by The Masseuse. “No more drugs for you! You’ll get kidney failure! Anyway, I’m nearly done here.”

“Thank God,” The Husband groaned.

So The Husband survived Day 1 of the Epic. And the riding was pretty rough, too.

Sani 2 C Day 3: The Marlins, The Machines & The Chilled Pills

So this Sani 2 C thingie has a cute little rule: you have to ride it in “teams” of two. If you and your buddy don’t finish within five minutes of one another, then you, like, don’t count and don’t get a medal and like, aren’t like a cool mountain biker. Or something.

Anyhoo, so our gang consisted of three “teams” – i.e. 6 riders. The youngest team was BY FAAAAAAAR the most chilled out. They’d phone their soigneuse at the last water stop to tell her what time they’d be at the finish line; they’d take photos en route; they park off at the watering points on camping chairs, shoot the breeze and sip their Energades. They’d arrive in great spirits at the end of each stage, put their feet up and reach for a beer. The way to do it, really. I’ll call them The Chilled Pills.

Not so with the other teams who were…let’s say… just a teensy bit competitive. To protect their identities as…ahem…respectable businessmen, I’ll call them by their nicknames: The Marlins and The Machines. (P.S. The Machine Team included The Husband…can you tell they nicknamed themselves?)

On Day 1, neither The Marlins nor The Machines wanted to let on that they were perhaps, maybe, kind of, ever so slightly interested in…um…KICKING ONE ANOTHER’S BUTTS. So Day 1 passed uneventfully enough. Then things hotted up. If you recall, I saw the The Marlins looking cool as cucumbers at the second last watering point on Day 2. Turns out that they had no clue The Machines were chasing them. About 5km later, though. they got the fright of their lives when The Machines casually rode up beside them, making little sniffing noises and going, “I smell a Marlin.” I reckon you could probably smell a bit of testosterone too.

In the end, The Marlins finished Day 2 three minutes before The Machines. The race was on…

Later that night, one of The Marlins was feeling rotten and wondering whether he may have picked up this vicious stomach bug that seems to be going around. His partner, however, was not going to let a little tummy parasite cost him the contest. No way. He took immediate action by drugging the patient with Med-lemon, Cal-C Vita, Beta Plus, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, green tea and whatever else he could find. We’re still not sure what else he found, but the ailing Marlin started looking progressively worse as the evening wore on. Eventually, he limped off and retired for the night.

Meanwhile, one of The Machines was onto his seventeenth Castle Lite. For boys who took their competition so seriously, I admit, I was a little surprised. “Ish carbo-loading, shoo know.” The funny part is, he honestly looked like he believed what he was saying. I must have looked unconvinced, because he carried on, “No…sherioushly…BEER…ish a BRILLIANT shourshe of carbs. I shwear.” (In his defence, he is a pretty lean and mean machine, but I’m afraid I’m shtill not buying the “Castle = good carb” theory).

The next morning The Marlin (the one who’d been at death’s door the night before) strutted in, seemingly on top form (and it was 4 in the morning, so that’s saying something). “Sheesh, You look so much better,” one of The Machines said. “Ja,” said the Marlin. “I think my partner gave me performance enhancing drugs, but I puked up all his muti last night and now I feel much better.” Like a faithful soigneuse, I dropped my Machines off at the race at 6am (50km away – can I get a Mexican wave?). I had to use a portaloo AGAIN before driving back to our lodgings, packing up our stuff and then driving 100km to Scottburgh. Don’t tell The Husband, but I was actually kind of looking forward to doing the supporter thang this time. Partly because I was going to be parking off on the beach and catching a tan while pretending to watch out for the boys. But also ’cause I was looking forward to a bit of slapstick comedy. I’d see the a re-run of the 2009 Sani 2 C on TV and the cyclists had to ride across a boardwalk which was floating over Scottburgh beach’s lagoon. Naturally, this was pretty tricky, so a fair number of guys wound up in the lagoon – bike and all. They’d then have to somehow haul themselves – and their bikes – out of the water. Invariably they’d emerge with metres of seaweed caught in their helmets, stuck up their noses, etc, etc. Finally – some decent entertainment. Sadly, though, the race organisers got all snoring boring on us poor supporters and went and put the boardwalk on the beach this year. As a result, I was about to nod off in my beach chair when I started sniffing spontaneously. Ah! I smelt a Marlin!

Once again, The Marlins managed to keep The Machines at bay – but only just. The Machines came in not too long afterwards. Fortunately. Because I was on the verge of slipping into a sun-tanning coma when they rode up.

The Chilled Pills lived up to their pseudonym, enjoying their last day on the bike and were still out riding several hours after our competitive boys came in. By now, the rest of us had found the bar at the finish line. After a couple of icky sweet strawberry Saritas (it was that or beer), I was starting to chill out and think that this stage race thing wasn’t THAT bad. But then I went to get Nando’s chicken for lunch (it was that or burgers). I was told that the chicken was “only for the riders”. By then, I was a few Saritas down, I was seriously sweaty (it was about 30 degrees at the coast), I was windswept, I had sand in my hair and, most dangerously, I was RA-VE-NOUS!!!!!

“This is DIS-CRIM-I-NATION! It’s against the CONSTITUTION!”


“You’re robbing me of the freedom to choose between chicken and beef!”

“Er, Ma’am-”

“Just because I haven’t ridden this STUPID little bike race.”

“Ma’am, you can-”

“I’m calling Robbie what-his-name. I’m telling him Nando’s won’t sell to willing, paying CUSTOMERS!!!!!”

“Ma’am, I’ve been trying to suggest an alternative to you. A local specialty. It’s called Durban Bunny Chow.” Check out this culinary delight:

And no, that’s not me consuming that pile of slop. I told the silly cow trying to flog it to me, that I’d sooner starve myself until I got back to Sandton where “WE HAVE SUSHI! Do you know what that is?”

In retrospect, all I can say is: Oh my GOD – it is SO good to be home.

Sani 2 C Day 2: Weather Blues, Blow-drying Shoes & Portaloos

Things started looking up around midday yesterday when we moved to our new accommodations at Emfuleni Camp. I know it doesn’t sound glamorous, but next to the slimy, mouse-‘n-mozzie infested backpackers, it’s paradise. We have en-suite bathrooms! And I’ve yet to come across a dead rodent, which is always positive. On the downside, however, the weather hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations. Before the trip, I think every single member of our nine person crew thought: KzN = Durban = boiling hot. And then threw shorts and slops into a bag. Not ideal because we haven’t seen the sun since we crossed into KzN on Tuesday afternoon. In fact, I haven’t donned a pair of sunglasses since the Grasmere Toll. It’s been so frigging freezing that one of my fellow soigneuses almost bought a second-hand ski jacket from 1982, to try and keep warm. Check this beauty out in the pic below:

It’s available in one size only from the Fashion Palace at the Underberg Mall. Not that I can talk about trendiness. I’ve been wearing my slip slops with socks for the past two days, because my takkies are soaked through and because I saw no reason to pack closed shoes for my sojourn in “Durbs”. Yesterday, the boys had to peddle downhill through thick mud and arrived at the finish shivering and looking like they’d been rolling around in mud. But then they wanted to ride their silly little bicycles up and down big ass mountains…




Last night I learned that the job of the soigneuse includes washing dirty cycling kit and then…wait for it…drying it with a hairdryer. My little 1,200 watt travel hairdryer has never worked so hard in it’s life. It has also never seen the inside of a pair of smelly cycling shoes – at least it hadn’t until last night. The pic above is me, hard at work.

So, as you can tell, I’ve been working my ass off here. What has helped is that my fellow soigneuses are the personification of Domestic and Logistic Organisation. I swear, they should start a business. Before I even realise what town we’re supposed to be in, they’ve mixed the recovery drinks, planned the spectator routes, booked the boys’ massages and liaised re dinner. And they employ some of the most innovative methodologies I’ve ever come across. They hang all the washed cycling clothes in a cupboard, plug in a hairdryer and leave it on – inside the closed cupboard. This way, the clothes dry while they’re busy ordering sandwiches for the next day. How bl**dy genius is that? (I learnt this after I spent two hours holding a hairdryer over The Husband’s shoes).

And then today I stood in the freezing cold waiting to take pics of my boys at a watering point. The first pair in our greater group eventually pulled in and pulled up next to me to say hi, and to find out how I was doing. I asked them how their race was going, they gave me a quick up-date, told me The Husband and his partner were about 10 minutes behind them, and then they continued on their way. For the next few minutes, I stood in the cold with my camera poised. I even unzipped my warm top so that my supporter cycling shirt was visible (sort of). About four minutes later, I saw my boys. I screamed like a banshee to let them know where I was standing so that they could come over and say hi. Instead, the Husband yelled, “Can’t talk – we’re chasing the other team.” He disappeared and I was left with a photo of his elbow. By this stage I had blue lips, a bursting bladder and nothing but a portaloo to turn to.

I then hung around Tent City (where the riders finish their race each day and where some poor sods spend the night) for THREE HOURS waiting for the boys to decode their race performance, eat 42 burgers, get massaged and get their bikes washed. After coping with yet another portaloo, I was on the verge of losing it altogether. But just before I screamed, “THE BUS IS LEAVING!!!!!” I negotiated the most brilliant deal with The Husband. I promised that I would climb onto a mountain bike, put it into granny gear and ride a three day road race… IF…and only IF… he would be my soigneur for those three days. It might sound crazy, but remember, I didn’t say I’d make the cut off time, I didn’t say I’d refuse lifts from cute Netcare medics on the sly. I said I’d “do” the race.

Telling The Husband the Omo isn’t quite foamy enough while he washes my cycling pants, will be worth every agonising kilometre on the bike. I can’t wait.

Sani 2 C Day 1: The Soigneuse & The Slimeville Arms

Sabbaticals can sometimes be less than glamorous. And I’m not talking about grocery shopping or project managing the pool service. At least, not only. I’m talking about being a cycling “soigneuse”. “Soigneur” is a French word that seems to have become part of mainstream English, thanks to the Tour de France. It’s derived from the verb “soigner” which means “to look after” or “to care for”. A Tour de France cyclist’s “soigneur” is basically his dog’s body – the poor sod who carries the pro’s crap around, mixes his energy drinks, administers his drugs, etc, etc. Being a girl, I presume I am a “soigneuse” and so my job during the Sani to C Cycle Challenge is to carry The Husband’s crap around, mix his energy drinks and generally, to act the part of the unemployed housewife that I currently am. Lucky for me, his butt is firmly on his bike for at least the next five hours, so at the moment, he’s wading through mud far from cell phone reception and therefore far from his adoring soigneuse.

As a result, the Soigneuse is presently sitting on her bed at The Himeville Arms in the town of Himeville. Himeville is 5km from the town of Underberg, where the race began this morning. I tried to dull my boredom on yesterday’s seven hour drive from Joburg by consuming half a springbok in droe wors and biltong. I therefore decided to take myself off for a little run around Himeville last night. Besides the two vicious-looking rottweilers that threatened my life, I found it to be a charming village. Our hotel, however, proved a little less charming. Ladies & gentlemen: allow me to introduce you to the Slimeville Arms, established in 1904 (and not redecorated since). Owing to capacity issues, our group of nine were unable to stay in the main hotel and were therefore booked into the Himeville Barns – out-buildings which were probably once stables. Of course, in London they’d be referred to as “mews” but at the present-day Himeville Arms they’re known as ‘The Backpackers’. I can report that The Backpackers lives up to its name and has all the hallmarks of a backpackers establishment: communal ablutions, erratic hot water supply, vile eiderdowns and no bed-side lamps.

To top it all off, our room smells like a swamp. I decided to take the latter issue up with the receptionist last night before officially moving in. “Oh yes,” she responded with a knowing smile, “it’s when there’s alot of rain around the Sani Pass and the water gets into the carpets.” She stated this matter-of-factly as though the explanation would make the stench (and me) go away. I didn’t go away and eventually she threw me the key to the room next door and told me to “give it a bash”. Thinking that I’d have liked to give something else a bash instead, I stormed off to Room B3. (The “B” stands for “backpackers” – just to distinguish us, lest we try to mix with the nice folks from the main dwelling). B3 smelled equally swamp-like, so I stormed back to reception. On my way, I passed a dead mouse lying on the path. It wasn’t even that gross – it had been there for so long that it had completely dried out and was as flat as a pancake.

When the rest of the group arrived back from registration, one lucky member unlocked his room, only to find an unmade bed and a room full of someone else’s kit. Management (in the form of a rather grumpy Irishman) was summoned. It transpired that the German couple whose kit was in the room, had decided to stay an extra night, without informing management. (Or so the Irishman reported, anyway.) To credit the Slimeville Arms, management unceremoniously packed up the Germans’ sh*t and ushered our group member into his newly vacated room.

Between on-going mosquito attacks and the stench of our damp rooms, no-one had a great night’s sleep. I’ve been counting the minutes to check-out time today, ever since we checked in yesterday. All I know about our next stop is that it’s a farm with wooden huts where they hold Christian camps. I guess this triggered sub-conscious memories of the Scripture Union camps of my youth, because last night I dreamt about our next spot. In my dream, the Manager-dude introduces himself as I arrive, before demanding to know if I’ve “found the Lord”.

It’s now 9am the morning after the night of the nightmares and mozzie attacks and all I can say is “hallelujah”, because it’s time to bid farewell to the Slimeville Arms. My two fellow soigneuses and I just need to pack up the boys’ rooms, drag their stuff to the cars, hitch up a trailer, go food shopping, make sandwiches and appear at the finish line with their recovery drinks. I’m staring to think I should just climb on a bike next time. But first, what I want to know from The Husband is: who’ll be my soigneur?