Updated: Jul 3
Sunday morning and the Buffalo Herders find themselves in Rhodes. We were a bit confused for a moment until we remembered that it is Freedom Challenge season and we have a job to do. Reports to write, dishes to be washed and other useful activities, not that I am able to list any of them but surely there must be at least a few. I’ll ask John the Geologist if he knows of any. It is cold up here in the mountains and the wind is howling. We passed the heavily wrapped Batch One group at the top of Naude’s and managed to get to Alpine Swift to welcome the first RTR finishers.
Well done to Andrew Walker, Arn de Haas, Nicholas Brouckaert (all five and a half days) and Justin Dowdle and Bruce Mckinlay (four and a half days). All looked in fine spirit, as did Roger Nicholson’s RASA group who headed off to Slaapkrantz early this morning. Iain Russell is cruising.
Tonight it is just the Buffalo Herders at Rhodes, Batch Two having been split by the acceleration of Justin and Bruce and challenges experienced by Jonathan Williams, Craig Copeland and Clint le Roux, the latter three having lost a day or so for various reasons. They appear to be fine though, accepting that a day or two lost before Rhodes is not the end of the world. Plenty of time to recoup early losses after Rhodes.
In the week since the event began on Monday over half the field (seven of eleven batches) of 2021 RASA and RTR are on the trail. We wait somewhat nervously for news of a possible COVID lockdown. Cyril is chatting to the nation this evening. With soaring infection rates in Gauteng there is a possibility of restrictions impacting interprovincial travel, especially from Gauteng. The last batch leaves next Thursday so a few Gauteng riders may have to get to PMB earlier than thought, maybe even today. Although we have all had negative PCR tests one feels a bit like an outcast coming from Gauteng. People look at you funny and keep their distance. I think I know how the lepers of old used to feel.
There are a number of riders that we are keeping a watch over, riders who are clearly going through their own personal struggles, wrestling with their particular Freedom Demons (a whole new category, watch this space). Tracy Lentin from Batch Four had a really tough first day (maybe too fast a start by that batch to Bisley?) and has been taking a few recovery days to get back in the groove, being knocked back again with some adventures in Ntsikeni. She is riding mainly alone and we wish her well. She should get to Masakala tonight, having effectively only lost one day. The three guys already mentioned from Batch Two also fall in this category. Only one withdrawal so far, John Beckley calling it a day before Allandale. John, we all understand what you will be going through in the next days and weeks. Many, if not all, of us have been where you are. We look forward to seeing your return.
The Freedom Writers are, one by one, finding their inner authors. Carlo Gonzaga, the latest recruit, had his piece published earlier in week. Ingrid Avidon’s introspective musings were posted two days ago. Ingrid is our star attraction. No disrespect to the rest of us Freedom Writers but she is funnier than us, by some margin, and these are times that call for some humour. It can’t all be about post offices, sadly. Ingrid has very kindly sent me an image of her RTR outfit that she will be wearing in a few days. Coincidentally this outfit bears a remarkable resemblance to her Gladiator outfit from her adventures of twenty years ago. She only needs one outfit because she is so fast she doesn’t need to change before she gets to Rhodes. Her ice-cream box prowess also helps in this regard.
Mike Woolnough’s reflections on why he keeps returning to the trail went up this morning. Fiona Coward, Leon Erasmus and Sandy Maytham-Bailey have their offerings in draft. Leon is, I think, writing about “man-love” on the trail. This is a wonderful thing and about time it was celebrated. Kevin Davie is chatting to Dave Waddilove. Eight Freedom Writers, our cup is overflowing, but there is always room in the Freedom Writers Inn.
The numbers for the Buffalo Herder Rally (not to be confused with the infamous Buffalo Rally in East London, although it has the potential) at Cambria keep rising. It looks like Doug Kennaugh (RASA 2009) is joining us. There will be a strong 2009 contingent there with Fiona Coward (RASA 2009) and myself (RASA 2009 "nob") there as well. Incidentally “nob” means “no blanket”. Couple of JHB Cyclopaths are thinking about it as well. We may have to put some rules in place, just as Julia has done for the buffalo herding in the Baviaanskloof. Bruce Backhouse, our Freedom Artist who is on the road to recovery after his fling with COVID, has done some artwork for this guidance.
John the Geologist and I have a couple of days to fill before the next riders arrive at Rhodes tomorrow afternoon. I have no doubt that many of you wonder what we do when we aren’t doing Buffalo Herding duties. We do not sit idly. Our 4X4 is well equipped with fly fishing gear, golf clubs and, yes, bikes. We don’t often get to use these but it is comforting to know that we could use them if we had to. You will all no doubt be pleased to know that we have managed one ride from our stay a few days ago at Flitwick. John the Geologist, from a zero experience base, is showing some promise as a future Freedom Rider.
We also have an additional Buffalo Herder, Janine Oosthuizen deciding to stay in KZN after her efforts at Centacow and Mariazel High Scholl where she donated a whole heap of sanitary ware. Fantastic effort and many thanks for coming to help us out. I suspect Janine’s splendid new 4X4 won’t be looking too flash in a few weeks’ time! We have a small issue about the magnetic Buffalo Herder signs that Janine is required to slap on the side of her car, but this will, I am sure, be amicably resolved. Something about “scratches”.
From a historical point of view (I know there are some fans out there) Rhodes is of particular interest to me. Buffalo Herding allows for friendships to be made along the trail. I connected with Fiona Adams (owner of the antique shop “Back in the Day” in Rhodes) last year. Tomorrow I will go and pick up the following from her:
23 X Illustrated London News (1945-1946)
6 x Practical Mechanics (1930s and 1950s)
6 x Life Magazine (1969 including the moon landing)
4 x Vula (1984-1985)
4 x Fair Lady (1968)
12 x Australian Home Journal, including sewing patterns (1950s)
The above fills me with great joy, especially the sewing patterns. Fiona and I have a number of other “projects”, all, in time, worthy of reporting in this forum. I’m happy to let slip that one such project involves the postal history of the NG Kerk in Rhodes, as unbelievable as that sounds. John the Geologist and I met Dave Walker of the famous Walkabouts pub and hotel last night. We (as did the riders, later) carefully sampled the locally brewed Blizzard craft beer, and it was fine. I’m meeting with Dave in a few days, he has been in Rhodes for 30 years and is a mine of information.
It is good to be alive.