It is not the end…it may not even be the beginning of the end!
After a hiatus of a year, apart from the adventure of the Virtual Tour in 2020, we ventured back onto the road to Komani with some trepidation and concern about doing so, not only because of the lurking dangers of covid 19, but also how it would be received overall.
We need not have worried!
This was arguably the most successful tour ever.
We did have worries and drama. I guess the 1965Ride would be incomplete without at least some each year.
As usual we struggled a little to obtain our permission to traverse the Free State roads. This was not the fault of the Free State authorities but rather the tardiness of the SANRAL officials to sign off. We were lucky to have an outstanding young woman on our side in the Free Sate Department of Roads, Police and Transport, Siphokazi Fana, who did more than one would have expected from a public servant to ensure that we got what we needed. She even went to the extent of coming into the office during her vacation to make sure the documents were ready and signed by all that needed to do so. She is a Champ and she is on our side. She sent us messages of good luck and congratulations. All our negotiations were on her private gmail account and her own mobile phone because she said the office numbers were too unreliable and worked inconsistently. We had Free State Traffic protection all the way from Reitz to Rouxville; and a celebrity-type cavalcade courtesy of Dihlabeng Municipality Metro Police through Bethlehem to Bethlehem Isuzu for a coffee stop, and then out to the edge of the town.
Eastern Cape also provided their own form of challenges. Our man Mark Berger, from Alderson Ambulance, personally visited the offices to obtain our permission from them. They claimed they had not received our application although we had a ‘Received and Read’ receipt dating back months. They gave our Mark a run around but eventually he walked away with the documents we needed. Our final hurdle was a last-minute call from SANRAL Eastern Cape asking why we had not applied to them also. I explained that no-one in 10 years had even suggested we should. But once they had our application to hand the permission was quick in coming.
Our big bureaucratic hurdle this year was Gauteng, or more specifically Lesedi Municipality. Usually, we have our permission within a fortnight. When the Tuesday morning 6th April dawned and we still did not have permission I decided that we would ride with or without it as we had done everything possible from our side to secure the right to ride. Fortunately, we had on our side Gerda Joubert, in the Gauteng department, who had been the responsible person for the last 10 years. She is our friend. She had moved to another department but had assured me that she would make sure we rode with permission. I still do not know what she did or how she did it but at 16:45 the day before our departure she texted me to say that our permission was on its way! And sure enough it pitched onto my computer minutes later. My relief was huge as I did not want to expose the tour and all the special people involved in it to some unnecessary scandal not of our making. We had after all applied months before for this permission which in the and was secured in the space of 7 hours!
We were good to go.
In Komani Jacqueline Wijtenberg, the CEO of the Queenstown Education Foundation, was as busy as a hive of bees making sure that the end would be something special. She and our Jen Wilson, who, because of injury could not ride, were in constant communication with each other working on the PR, Marketing and planning for the finish and the exposure of the tour as it progressed.
What they achieved was amazing. We received worldwide exposure and out Facebook page peaked at just on 12000 hits!
The co-ordination of the four tours: the 1965Ride, the Uhambo tour from Cape Town, the East London tour, and the Johannesburg Virtual Tour was adequate but could be greatly improved. There could and should be much greater communication in-tour between the groups and the co-ordination of intent between them needs to be enhanced for greater impact.
The finish celebrations were wonderful and meaningful. It is always fabulous to have the learners around the Rec celebrating with us. It is always an abundantly emotive and emotional experience after days on the road. The schools and the QEF did us proud and we are so grateful to them for the immense effort that was put into making it so special.
Our intense gratitude also goes to the QEF for beautiful friendly and celebratory atmosphere they arranged for us at the Gallery Restaurant at the end of the tour. It was such a fitting end to the tour of tours! Our thanks go to Chairman Roddy Sutton and CEO Jacqueline Wijtenberg for this wonderful gesture we do hope that it is the start of much greater co-ordination of all fund-raising activities such as ours and a deeper bonding amongst the schools for the good of excellence in education in Komani.
Comments about our tour would be incomplete without mention of the terrible condition of the ‘road’ between Frankfort and Reitz. In fact, it cannot be described as a road and no sensible person would venture down it in a normal car, let alone on thin-wheeled road cycles! It was awful and scary and it is surprising that we did not do serious damage to our bikes and more damage to bodies! The road has been bulldozed in preparation for its rebuilding and it looks much as though the construction company doing the work has abandoned it as there was no sign of any construction activity for all of its 70km. Sad!
And now for my amazing team….
We will start with those who were not particularly visible on the tour and those who were at the back and, yet, in a strange way were front and centre for the whole tour. Without these folks it is highly likely that the tour would not have happened.
- Mark Berger
Mark has been integral to the tour for 4 years. Next year he joins the ranks of the 1965Ride Legends who have done the tour 5 or more times. As mentioned above he started this year’s tour doing a time-consuming bureaucratic task – obtaining permission from the Eastern Cape government for us to ride on the N6. He did it willingly and without complaint and without his intervention it is doubtful that we would have received it at all.
And then…. he drove behind us for 850km. Fortunately he, as our paramedic in the Alderson Ambulance emergency response vehicle, did not have to deal with any serious medical emergencies. Sili and Chanelle attempted to give him an early challenge. At the very start of the awful stone-strewn dirt track that was fronted as a road Sili slipped and Chanelle decided to ride right over him. I was almost also involved in this collision and saw it all happening almost in slow motion. Fortunately, no more damage was done other than some cuts and contusions which Mark quickly treated and we were one our way again. The only other person to require his assistance was Mona who also fell and grazed his knee.
But Mark brings much more to the tour than just his paramedic expertise and wisdom. He brings a quiet, generous caring and a ready wit. When he laughs it is a laugh that engages his whole body. He is a real asset and is absolutely integral to our efforts.
It is thrilling to think that next year we may well have him and his boss, Jason Leicester on the tour on bicycles!
- Rodger Webb
What a blessing it was to have Rog as our Chief of Support! He has done the tour himself 6 times. He knows what it means to ride and what is required along the way. He has made all the accommodation bookings for us now for about 4 years. He knows the roads and he knows the people. He took looking after us to a new level and we were privileged to have him as our CoS!
It is the first year that I have not had to intervene in anyway. He is a gem. He also has a big personality and made sure that the system of stopping was predictable and easy to understand. He clearly loved the Ford Tourneo and drove it with gusto! He has secured a permanent spot now at the head of the tour!
- Jacqueline Wijtenberg
Jacqueline, or Jax as we call her, has been busy preparing and engaging with the tour since the end of 2020, maybe even before that. She has been our constant contact in Komani all this time. She coordinated, coerced, persuaded and organised so much for the enormously successful end to our tour including arranging for the effervescent Zodwa to run the live stream of the finish.
She does all this with a quiet, calm efficiency and a bright smile! Having her at the heart of QEF activities in Komani makes our job this end so much easier.
- Jen Wilson
I, more than anyone, know how much Jen would have loved to have been on the tour. She decided not to join it because of ongoing injuries, her belief that she would hold the Parlotone back; as well as the fact that if she came as additional support the costs associated with that are roughly equivalent to a bursary. She has been absolutely invaluable to the organisation of the tour since its very inception. In fact, she helped originally to scope the route we use to this day. And behind the scenes she deals with a mountain of administrative and marketing stuff that not even I fully comprehend but know that if she did not do it the tour would be in jeopardy. She lived the whole tour with us all of its distance was busy in the background posting blogs, finding photos and generally keeping the world informed of our progress.
- Laurence Buchanan
When I think of Laurence I think of irrepressible energy and enthusiasm. He is not just a Duracell bunny but is at least a double Duracell bunny. He and Chanelle kept us forging forward. He was always up for everything. He did more than anyone. He was up early to climb the Aasvoelberg above Zastron before our record ride to Aliwal North. But add to this his kindness and generosity and willingness to help with anything and everything made Laurence an invaluable part of the 2021 tour. When he arrived back in his home in Cape Town, he quickly climbed that mountain before the sun set and went for an early morning cycle tour of the Peninsular just to make sure it was still all there while the rest of us took a rest day or travelled.
- Leon Dillman
Leon only started riding about 18 months ago with the view to doing the 2020 tour. He joined the virtual tour last year and by the time 2021 dawned he was ready for the real thing. There were days when I am sure he wondered what he was thinking when he decided to ride but, on those days, he soldiered on, swept aside any offers of help and finished the tour strongly and proudly EFI’d! Leon always had a ready laugh, a quick self-effacing quip and often had us laughing. No-one on the tour gained more nicknames than General, Colonel, Fluffy. Flushy, Fluff-master and probably others that have become lost in the dust of the 850km. He and John made an indomitable pairing and stuck to the front for much of the last three days. Leon was also an invaluable partner in arranging, fetching and returning our brilliant Ford Tourneo from CMH Hatfield Ford.
- Chanelle Houston
Chanelle is also one who thought they would be doing the 2020 tour until covid cancelled that idea. Wherever there was fun and excitement and noise you would be sure to find her there. Another Duracell bunny. She filled everything with such enthusiasm it was easy to get swept along. Her fund-raising efforts were spectacular and she would have been happy if the entire tour had been one long uphill climb. She sponsored the day through the Cosmos fields and the gear she provided us was the perfect blend of colours for that occasion. The most liked photo on the tour was of Chanelle exuberating in the middle of the Cosmos! She filled all the space with her personality and so now it will be difficult for her not be a fixture in tours to come. She filled her role as Chief Couture Officer with enthusiasm and instructed what to wear each day.
- Siliziwe Mafika
Sili was one of the first to sign up for this tour and what a win he has been. A prolific photographer and sharer of his photos. He is also a writer of excellent English prose and many of our followers commented on his daily updates that were with all sorts of snippets that may have been lost in the dust without his recording of them. He also now holds a few records: First to fall off his bike: first to be ridden over by a fellow cyclist (yes, Chanelle!); first to need two tyre replacements; first to replace four tubes; first to ride the whole way with a Camelback. He is also a prolific fund-raiser and contributed hugely to the fun and humour along the way. He is the first to sign for the 2022 version of the 1965Ride. A real acquisition for our efforts. One of his most endearing characteristics is the way he was able to communicate with our bursars that met us at the end. He made a point of spending time with them which is such an important part of our ethos – staying in touch with those that we support.
- Monaheng Mrwetjana
For most of the 850km Mona was my riding partner. For me he was the perfect foil. We spoke when we needed/wanted to and we rode in our own revelry for some of the time. We shared thoughts about the landscapes; about our country; about many issues. Thank you, my friend, my brother! So, a little bit of history: He asked me to source a bicycle for him. A dear friend of ours had just died and had two bikes of the right size for Mona. He chose the Merida which was slightly newer and a little bit more modern. A few weeks after taking delivery of his bicycle via a private jet delivery in Cape Town he was smashed off his bicycle by a driver not paying proper attention. His bike was a write-off and he was bruised and cut just three weeks before the tour! The insurance dilly-dallied as they are wont to do. I offered my friend’s other bike, a bright red Raleigh identical to Leon’s. The first time he sat on the bike was at Heidelberg Kloof Lodge the night before the start. By the end of the tour, he bonded so much with it he bought it as well! He started and finished strong.
- Nico van Eck
Three weeks before the ride Nico had never heard of it. On one of our Friday morning training sessions Chanelle and I passed him on the side of the road in the Cradle. He was quickly up with us and very quickly he and Chanelle were talking about the 1965Ride. There and then he signed up and the rest, as they say, is history. He is an interesting character and even more interesting cyclist. He is in his seventies and was as strong as any of us on the tour. However, maintaining his line and being situationally aware are not his strong points. In the beginning this was a big worry but about 673km later his riding had become much more disciplined and focussed. He is a great character, has a huge heart, a big laugh, wants the best for everyone, is wonderfully helpfully and has an extraordinarily generous heart. He I also got to know very well as we shared rooms at most of our nightly stopovers.
- John Sturgeon
Apart from Rodger and Mark, John is the only one who had experienced the tour before. We were doubtful that he would even be able to start the tour as he had torn a hamstring a few weeks before. But he decided on the Monday before the start that he would give it a go. John is a strong and enormously experienced cyclist and knew exactly how to nurse his damaged leg to last the distance. He did more than that…he and Leon set a cracking pace during the course of the last leg into Komani and we knew that he was back with a vengeance! John was our CPO (Chief Parlotone Officer) and had us riding in tight formation for pretty much all of the last 500 km. He and the three other accountants on the tour kept us on our toes and after listening to them for 9 days I am now convinced that as part of the training as articled clerks they are taught to shout “Hole” or “Hole left” or “Hole Right”. Of course, these shouts are all relative as it depends on where you are in the Parlotone (peloton) to know exactly where this hole is! His experience and wisdom were invaluable and he played an important role in so many ways. We must hope that his renewed enthusiasm for the tour will see him back for a few more.
Finally, a few notes about our accommodation:
We never have complaints about the places we stay. Occasionally there are comments about water pressure and showers and the like, but never about the rooms or the food. This trip seems to have been no exception. So just for the record this is the list of places we stayed in the order in which stayed in them and the recorded distances between each:
- Heidelberg kloof Lodge, Heidelberg 97 km
- Niki’s Stone Cottages, Villiers 97,9 km
- Poelanie’s, Reitz 113,4km
- Shumba Valley Guest Farm, Fouriesburg 104,2km
- Cranberry Cottage, LadyBrand 95,5km
- Lord Fraser Lodge, Wepener 67km
- Mountain View Chalets, Zastron 71,9km
- Umtali Country Inn, Aliwal North 105km
- The Gallery, Queenstown/Komani 56,7km
We met the Cape Town Uhambo tour at the entrance to Komani/Queenstown. We were given Traffic Police protection through the centre of the town to our scheduled stop and gathering with the East London tour. Arrangements went slightly awry here and the stopover did not quite work out as planned and so we pressed on to the Rec (The Queen’s College Sports Stadium) and waited for the grand finale. And Grand it certainly was with learners lining the track, Chariots of Fire blaring and the Alderson Ambulance sirens screaming to be followed by interviews and speeches. What a finish!
It was a sheer pleasure to be part of this great group and I for one hope that we have many more years like this one to come!
We owe our partners in this venture deep thanks:
The two other tours: Uhambo from Cape Town; and the East London tour.
The Heads and Staff of the 13 member schools of the Queenstown Education Foundation
The Queenstown Education Foundation for much organising a a wonderful reception and celebratory dinner at The Gallery.
The education Endowment Fund for being custodians of the money we raise.
And, or course, most importantly all our amazing and generous sponsors who make this venture so worthwhile!