March 20, 2012
I didn’t do much preparation for South Africa. Josh, my partner, had been training for the Absa Cape Epic for over six months and I’d seen enough of his blood, sweat, and tears for the both of us. I was just the support team, anyway. So my plan was to go, ride my bike, drink some South African wine, chillax in the woods for 10 days. At the time, I didn’t realize how much work being “support” was for two people competing in an 8-day, 800 kilometer mountain bike stage race.
We spent a good hour trying to figure out how to get our bikes and baggage into the small sized SUV we rented at the airport and after shoving me in as an afterthought, we were on our way to Stellenbosch.
We drove away from Cape Town and into the Western Cape countryside. We passed contrasting roadside views: shanty towns and upscale neighborhoods. South Africa has a disparity that is hard to ignore because it’s all right along the road side. Meeting a person in Stellenbosch, he explained it well, “It’s a part of the every day reality of South Africa. The weight of the poor is on us and we don’t ever forget those people are there.” I found that I had this same conflict as I continued my stay in South Africa – wanting to enjoy the amazing pastries and wine mixed with guilt and a sense of irresponsibility for spending money when it’s so apparent there was a need for money for survival right down the street.
We arrived at Bonne Esperance – a cozy and beautiful bed and breakfast a few blocks down from the main street in Stellenbosch. Preparing to camp out for the next week, we were enjoying every amenity at Bonne Esperance.
From the local shampoo in the shower to the South African breakfast every morning, we had a few days to prepare for the Absa Cape Epic.
We were anxious to get on some South African dirt and test out the bikes after having broken them apart to ship them over so after building them back up, we headed out for a quick spin on the road to a bike path.
After two tire blow outs; one of which ended with a bunch of Stan’s NuTubes sealant in my face, we decided to go to dinner instead. Walking down into town at night in Stellenbosch was relaxing. The air was warm and the streets were dark. We walked down a few side streets and past several cafes and a few churches. The whitewashed walls and tree lined streets led us into a busy area with several restaurants to choose from. We stopped at a restaurant on the corner that had a guitar on the wall and great smelling food coming from inside. This was to be our first meal as “Team Honey Badger” and we were sure to order South African beers to go with it.
We finished the night laughing and drinking…and looking forward to a mountain biking adventure the next day.