Monday, April 20, 2015

Lessons from Africa: Part II

I'll assume all you faithful blog readers read my last blog and have literally been on the edge of your seats this past week waiting for Part II. So I will pick up where I left off which was Danny and I speed-touring London, minding the Gap and just making the 11 hour flight to Jo-burg, South Africa. Phew!  

And let me make it crystal clear that the 11 hour flight was a DELIGHTFUL part of trip. Here's what happened.

1. Store luggage in overhead, take a comfy seat and buckle up. 
2. Decide which 7 of the 30 movies to watch and add to your own personal playlist.
3. Take off. WHHEEEE!
4. Order water, coffee, wine (free!)

5. Watch about 1 hour-ish of first movie in the 7 movie line up.
6. Order MEAL. And it was delicious. And HOT. And there was REAL silverware. And a side salad.
7. Pause movie to take a cat nap (~3 hours in duration)
8. Repeat from line 4.

It. Was. AMAZING. Pretty much like a flying retirement home with a fabulous wait staff. So I was disappointed to leave the land of cat naps and food but also excited to be on the other side of the globe on a crazy adventure.

In the past, landing and dealing with a bike box is a big pain in the rump. But not in Port Elizabeth. And definitely not when you have Theuns and Tess Kotze owners of Cycle Service Center on your side. Theuns met me at the airport, gave me a fist pump and whisked my bike away to build and tune it. I hope he reads this and knows that HE IS THE MAN. If I were to speak Afrikanns I would say: 'Theuns you are ongelooflike!!!'

And speaking of ONGELOOFLIKE humans the van Eyke family welcomed us into their home and fed us espresso and koekesisters and date balls and copious amounts of ostrich steaks and they were also so wonderful that we are still wondering how in the world we can repay them. 

The race adventure/vacation started out on such a positive note that Danny and I decided to ride this high all the way to the Tsitsikamma forest. This was hands down the most beautiful place I have ever been hiking. It was a dream like day full of caves and ocean views and lush single track. However it also involved getting stalked and hunted by a troupe of Baboons. Oh the drama!  And ironically one of the locals had just finished telling us how nasty Baboons can get.  So the GOOD and the BADS of this day pretty much stacked up like this:  


BADS: I honestly can't think of anything bad except the Baboons. This is just an unnecessary gap filler to the longest multi-part blog ever.

The next day was filled with warthog sightings and giraffes and zebras galore. 

However, we had ventured off that day to see the stunning elephant in the wild. Just when we thought this day was not our elephant sighting day a Mom, Dad and Baby elephant came bumbling out of the thicket to drink at a watering hole. We could NOT take our eyes off these magnificent creatures. It gives me chills just thinking about it. 

And by the end of the day we had seen so many elephants that it was like. "Move aside elephant! We got places to be!"  And one of those places involves an 8 foot by 8 foot shark tank!

To be continued...OH THE SUSPENSE!!!

Editor's Note: I WILL eventually thank my sponsors and discuss my race.  Stay Tuned!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Lessons from Africa: Part I

I know one thing for certain and that is life is fragile. Relationships, adventures, races, friendships are PRECIOUS. But, eventually, everything comes to and end. "And it is not the strongest of the species, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." - Charles Darwin.

If you have never been to South Africa I say put it on your bucket list and make it happen. It is a country with breathtaking beauty and energizing adventures.   It's extremely hard to avoid falling in love with the natural wildlife and the beautiful people.

This guy!

My new friends Arnie and Annika. I hope I get to go back to SA some day and visit these two.

  Admittedly I entered this race slightly under prepared after the brutal NH winter, the physical stress/fatigue from the 2014 season and...bronchitis.  Phew! The triple threat! However, being surrounded by awesomeness changed my outlook on the race.  Something about being 2 feet away from elephants and warthogs and giraffes opened up my introspective capacity. I don't think I would have made it to South Africa had I not had the courage to pursue this crazy passion.  Mentally, I wanted to suffer and fight and have a good race but deep down I knew my body was still rebuilding. When it was all said and done I decided to indulge in the beauty of the county, explore, taste the local foods - especially the desserts - and by the way, it's impossible to make an educated decision on dessert yumminess unless you've had at least 2 or 3 servings - and then enjoy the race with whatever energy I had left. And if race energy was measured by pre-race calorie intake I was good to go.

Koeksisters + Date balls  = The reason why I was 6 kg heavier on race day.

Okay so let me back up. Before I talk about THE MOST AMAZING bike mechanic, and the Van Dykes, warthogs galore, giraffs, elephants, a troop of Baboons in tsitsikamma forest, an 140.6 mile adventure, monkeys, the Indian ocean, the beast of the East,  a pod of 200 dolphins that was only overshadowed by a whale sighting which was only shadowed by great white shark diving which was only over shadowed by the most amazingly lush and gorgeous scenery and terrain...

It was only day 1 and I spotted my first Baboon! 

Another Baboon! What luck.

 ...let me start in London.  "Being a penny pincher is the only way to be." -Greg Cullen. (My Dad)

 If you agree, when booking your South African adventure you should purchase the cheapest ticket and that golden ticket will have you stop over at the London Heathrow Airport for a luxurious 11+ hours.  However, if Danny and I know how to do one thing right it is SEIZE. THE. DAY.  Sit in an airport for 11 hours or take the tube to embark on a speed tour of London? No brainer! We researched London and sought out the advice of our friend and colleague Neelz who worked in London for a few years and established a master plan.  We minded the GAP and speed walked, beer tasted, and buzzed our way around London on rented bikes.  After 7 hours in the city which included taking a super secret tour of an amazing anatomy museum, soaking in the architecture, admiring Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the House of Parliment, and the London eye we were minding the Gap again on our way back to the airport to board the plane for South Africa.

Two Baboons in London. Amazing!

To be continued....