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|
noun
• 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 “[email protected]$%#!” 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.

Leaving Las Midlands

We left Karkloof Spa on Saturday 6 March. But not until The Husband had been brutalised by the resident Thai masseuse. She was fresh off the boat from Ko Loon Poo or wherever, which I guess is supposed to make the experience doubly authentic. Only snag was: she was still trying to come to grips with basic English. Statements such as, “STOP! That HURTS!!!” apparently only illicited giggles from her. She was also unable to understand: “No, not leg massage – back massage, yes?” At this, she apparently nodded and giggled and made all the right noises to indicate that she understood, but then merrily continued bashing The Husband’s back.

Eventually, The Husband decided to try a different tack. It went like this: “Su Lin. I go shop….. I ask milk….. I get Singha beer….. I say ‘NO!’…….. I say: ‘I want milk’……. Again, I get beer……. I shake head….like this (husband shakes head vigorously)….. I say ‘MILK!’ …..Finally, man give me milk…… I happy…..I smile….(husband smiles)….. You understand, Su Lin?”

The universal metaphor of the in-store milk and beer mix-up. Of course. I always forget that one.

And The Husband’s wonders why I don’t know what he’s talking about half the time.

Amazingly, though, Su Lin did actually understand. She grinned, giggled and nodded (as one would expect by this point) and then promptly began pummelling his thighs.

50 minutes into his 90 minute massage, The Husband limped out of the Spa. His right leg was in such a spasm that he asked me to start the drive back to Joburg. Just to explain: this is not normal behaviour. Unless we’re on our way to a big cycling race and he doesn’t want to “strain his legs”, he drives. Always. He is such a shocking back-seat driver that I’m perfectly okay with the arrangement.

“Fine,” I said, “but I’m blind-folding you.”

Since he took up cycling, I’ve started carrying one of those aeroplane eye-masks in my handbag. One peep about my driving and I threaten to whip it out and make him wear it. If he refuses, I threaten to get out of the car. Very mature all round. But it usually shuts him up. For about 15 minutes – but it’s 15 minutes of bliss.

On this particular car trip, he had the post-cycle-race munchies. After he’d finished every Jungle Bar, banana, piece of biltong and anything else he could lay his hands on, he passed out. When he woke up about an hour later, he started moaning for Nando’s. I promised to stop 113km later at the big petrol station outside Harrismith. He whinged for a bit and then passed out again. And then I managed to miss the bl**dy turn-off. It’s really badly sign-posted when you’re travelling north, I’ve decided. Plus there’s nowhere to turn around once you realise you’ve missed it. We were trying to get back to Jozi as quickly as possible to see The Sister for 24 hours, before she jetted back to London, so I starting thinking I should just laugh off Nando’s…

Eventually, I decided the risk of a hungry Husband was far too great and I managed to turn around. With an espresso and a chicken burger in his belly, The Husband rediscovered his sense of humour and we continued our drive to the Big Smoke in peace.

As a born and bred Southern Cape girl, I’ve always struggled with the Highveld landscape. I love the city, but I can’t quite get used to the geography. On this particular Sunday evening, however, Gauteng honestly looked gorgeous. (Yes, I do realise how hilarious that sounds). We were on the N3 and I think we were around the Heidelberg off-ramp. It was about 6pm and the sun was this incredible bright orange ball in the sky. It created the kind of light that photographers dream about. Even the usually boring, barren landscape looked beautiful as a result.

Best of all, it wasn’t raining and there was no mud.

Bring on the Big Smoke.

The Massage

To my knowledge, The Husband has always been vehemently against massages of any kind. “I don’t like people touching me,” he’s been known to say to innocent holiday-makers who happen to recommend our hotel spa to us. (The friendly Americans look taken aback, recover quickly but then politely back out of our dinner date later that evening). So when he suggests that we celebrate my 31st birthday at our local spa, I’m like, “Since when does the Spar do dinner?” Turns out he’s talking about a hot stone aromatherapy thingie at the Radisson’s wellness centre. Ah! Much better.

Birthday eve arrives and we set off for the spa. We get there, change into our fluffy robes and velvety slippers and shuffle over to the heated pool “where our therapists will collect us”. I’ve followed instructions and am clad in the disposable g-string and gown provided, but The Husband’s able to whip off his robe because he’s in his swimming shorts. Our therapist comes through and asks if we have any special requests. The Husband (I should just call him The Cyclist since he’s currently THAT obsessed) wants a sports massage. (I’ve been spared an hour on the stationary bike just beforehand “to earn our massage”, thanks to phenomenal cost of an ad hoc work-out on the Platinum Planet. I mean, it’s my bl**dy birthday, for Pete’s sake.) Anyway, the sports massage request from hubby prompts the therapist to ask if he “would like his glutes massaged.” Now, I’m no expert but it sounds like a fairly standard question to pose an avid cyclist, given that they sit on their gluteous maximus for like, a million hours on the trot. Evidently not, though, because The Husband’s eyes widen and he freezes. The therapist tries again and Lance Armstrong finally responds: “Under …..no…..circumstances…..will…..I….be…..taking….these shorts off”. Ohhh-kay, then, baby.

And off we go to the massage chamber…

We’re asked to lie down on the massage tables (as you do when you’re having a massage, right?) so I duly begin to de-robe when, out of nowhere, a body flies at me from across the room. I’m knocked to the ground and end up in a semi-fetal position, sandwiched between the hard floor and my fluffy terry-cloth robe. My robe is being held in place by the full weight of The Husband.

“Um, what are you doing?” I ask from under my gown.

“What are YOU doing? Why are you taking your clothes off in front of everyone?” comes the shocked response.

Oh boy. I don’t think the previous regime had ANY idea that banning topless tanning would have such a lasting psychological impact on the generations it affected.

“Sweetheart,” I say, “Give the gown to the nice lady. She’s only going to massage your quads and your calves and make you the biggest, strongest cyclist in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD. She won’t bite. I promise.”

Silence. For what seems like forever.

Eventually, I hear, “How big and strong?”

Phew. Progress.

Once I’ve finally coaxed and prized The Husband off me, have helped strap him to his massage table and have left sign language instructions for the therapists to drug him with aromatherapy oils, I sprint out of the couples chamber to the safety of the indoor pool. Thank God the Veuve’s already on ice. I figure that a girl deserves some birthday bubbly after all that. I’ll share it if he comes out of his ylang-ylang coma before I finish it.