Here follows some excerpts from our journey experience. It might be few and far between, but how does one document the experience of cycling 900 km with 5 amateur cyclists over 8 days? It would be amazing if done accurately. A miracle I would say.
The trip was an idea that originated between three students with a passion for social justice. The group grew slowly, but in the end it was an idea that was placed on the hearts of students and carried out by those students, successfully I would say.
A short description would be the following: none of us are cyclists (except for one guy that did the half iron man, but that was a once of thing. He is a runner by nature). One guy also won the Argus, when he was five years old and the race was about 3,5 km. Other than that, we knew nothing about cycling and got on bikes for the first time in the middle of October (a month and a half before our trip started).
Three of the five cyclists started spinning in March all through to November. That would be me (Breda), Christoff and Mias. Wonderboy joined us at the start of October and Luke joined us in the middle of October. We didn’t have bicycles yet. So we did spinning, at 6 in the morning, every morning. Later on we scouted some wheels and started doing 25km trips twice a week before we did our first 60km trip to Stellenbosch and back on the 3rd of November. We were on old “verjaarsdag winkel fietse”, with takkies, t-shirts and one red light at around 4 in the morning.
Between then and the first of December we went through one too many conversations with experienced cyclists that, quite bluntly, expressed their disbelief in our preparation and ability. We gritted through those until we found an Oom that felt the same, but believed in our abilities and our cause and was willing to lend us an experienced helping hand.
We sourced better bicycles from different places, got our gear together piece by piece and then found ourselves ready to hit the road on the 30th of November, or so we thought. This all happened while we were writing Medical exams. I hope this is an indication of how serious our cause is.
The second year students finished their exams at 11:30 on the 30th Of November and were ready to go, but some car admin held us back. In the end we left to Vioolsdrift, on their last exam day, at 17:30. We arrived at the border at 02:30 on the 1st of December, packed our gear and started cycling our first 118km at 04:00 that morning to Springbok. There was no sleep involved in that period.
What followed after that was a routine of waking up between 01:30 and 03:00 to start cycling as early as we can (for the cool weather and calmer traffic). We’d spend around 7 hours on the bicycle (mountain bicycle) at an average speed of 19km/h with longish breaks inbetween (we wanted to enjoy the scenery and not rush to the destination).
We’d arrive at our destinations around 15:00-17:00, eat, wash, converse with our hosts or pitch our tents and then head to bed around 22:00 – 23:00 (although we always aimed for 20:00, but failed).
On day one we did 118km to Springbok, then day two was 114km to Garies, day three was 145km to Vanrhynsdorp, day four was 144km to Citrusdal (we had a gravel road detour), day five was 104km to Malmesbury and day six was 60 km to Tygerberg (from 1:30 – 06:00) with an average sleeping time of 2 hours and 50 minutes per day, not counting naps. Which were usually around 10-20 minutes.
Day 7 was a rainy day that offered us some rest (sleep). Our day seven then moved up one day. We woke up at 02:30 (after two of us attended a wedding untill 23:00) and left at 04:00 to meet the Rector at 06:00 in Stellenbosch. He cycled with us to Franschhoek after which we continued to Caledon covering a 125km trip for the day. The day after that we left at 04:00 again for our last day (eight) to Cape Agulhas. We were blessed with what we will claim to be the most beautiful sight we ever saw and will see: the sunrise over the “ruêns” of the Overberg. Golden grass fields over rolling hills with blue mountains surrounding. Fresh, crisp air and a cloudy sky at dawn. We allowed this sight to burn into our memories as we glided along a downhill that we all wished would never end. It is at that sight that none of us could deny the existence of God as the Creator of the universe. That one moment is one that changed our lives forever. In our day 8 video you might catch a glimpse of it, but it is something you should see for yourself.
We arrived at Agulhas around 13:00 after what we think was closer to 920 km. It was a moment too big to be captured by a camera, yet it is the norm of society and the need for exposure that caught us smiling at an innate object as tourists awaited their turn for a photo at the landmark. We were tired, burnt, emotional and to be honest, a bit overwhelmed. Yet deep within, we felt invincible. Nobody outside of those 7 group members understood what it took to go from a dream, to standing at the Southernmost part of Africa. It took everything, and more. Some part of me would have the destination set without parents, cameras and other spectators – to just revel in that moment. Our team went through tough sacrifices, each with our own battle, over months. That was our victory moment. I would have loved to see every member react in their raw state of being. Behind 7 smiling faces there were tears, outbursts of jubilations, cries for rest, winces of pain, memories of hardship and triumph, there was deep love and brotherhood, there was an intense awareness of God’s provision and our dependancy on Him. Maybe it wasn’t too bad that we held that in, we might have never left the place.
We are a group of amateur (I think that is overselling it) cyclists. None with more than a month’s experience. On day 2 we found out that Wonderboy climbed on a bicycle for the first time in his life when he started training with us. Note to self – good question to ask someone before asking them to join your cycling group. Yet, it is another point of proof for the cause that burns in our hearts.
We are medical students by trait, not cyclists. We trained hard on stationary bikes. Put on cleads for the first time on the morning of the 1st of December. We cycled 920 km, in blazing heat, with less than 3 hours of sleep a night, with no special eating plan. Just rehidrat, dried fruit, jungle bars, potatoes and coke. We love each other and were unwilling to let our team mates, and even more, our peers, down. Not for a minute. In the end I believe what carried us was our cause, which was born from personal experience and frustration with the state of things on our campus. It kept all our cylinders firing, against all odds.
Financial exclusion is a reality. One that reminds us of the past, one that keeps the past alive. Cycling brought students from different backgrounds together and offered us a platform for reconciliation. Together with a strong cause, loads of bravery and grace from God, we completed what we set out to complete.
This is the end of the beginning, as Churchill said. There is more to come. We dream of having 50 or more students, representing all backgrounds and genders, cycling together to break a barrier that influences us all.
A message to cyclists out there – you have amazing power at your fingertips. Power to explore the creation like no other can, power to do good, power to build relationships and dare I say; you can use it to empower a group of students to make the impossible possible. You are capable of more than you can imagine, especially physically. There is more to cycling than gold medals and a shot of endorphin. There is so much more. We hope you can find it in the same way we have.
Thank you for listening to our story. We have fallen in love with cycling and hope to abuse its ability to level the playing field.”
From Breda Reed, leader of the team.