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?