Sunday 23 October Day 8 RASA/RTR 18h00
Women hold up half of the sky
The Summer fiesta continues: rain, thunderstorms, over-flowing rivers and mud. Today’s report will contain a very intentional factual mistake. Please note that this is a competition. The first correct reader to highlight this error will receive a prize. First prize is breakfast with me. Second prize is breakfast and lunch with me and third prize is dinner with Anthony (as I will be too full to eat).
It is now 2PM. Since writing my first report I have learnt that it is best to first scan the tracking page, have a gin, take a nap and then re-assess the situation later in the day. At the moment all seems OK on the trail.
It also gives me some time to write about the phenomenal women in our Freedom Family. Not only the riders, but the women (wives, partners, mothers, sisters and daughters) who keep the home fires burning and economy turning while their loved ones brave it out on the trail. Ladies, thank you! Then, there are the ladies at the support stations; our gracious hostesses that welcome weary, smelly and muddy cyclists into their homes and guest houses. Thank you!
Women hold up half of the sky. Yet only 9% of the RASA field are women. Why?
You might respond that RASA is a really tough event, maybe too tough for a woman. Yes, RASA is tough, we all know that! Winter, spring, summer or fall….it is tough. For women it is even tougher. Our upper body strength is never going to match that of a man, so hike-a-bike portages and scaling high fences can be a challenge. Then there is the call of nature. Pee breaks do, and always will, take longer. On a similar anatomical note, our front- and back- bums’ do take a beating from the saddle. Unlike men, when we cycle, we sit on our delicate bits of anatomical tissue. Eina! Women cyclists tend to not talk openly or honestly about saddle discomfort, but pain, swelling and chronic loss of sensation are very common. And worrying too.
BUT, despite all these extra hardships, RASA is definitely not too tough for a woman. Statistically, each year, the same percentage of women as men complete RASA. So, there must be other reasons for such a small field of women entrants. I took it upon myself to ask some of my woman cycling friends why they would not consider entering either RASA or one of the shorter events.
Here is a brief summary of the most common responses.
1. Safety. Women feel vulnerable on the trail.
2. Child care and family responsibilities. RASA takes time. Children, being children, need care. Even teenagers in high school need food and supervision.
3. Navigational concerns. This is a tricky subject to negotiate. In my opinion it stems from society…. historically boys went to cubs and scouts. Girls went to brownies and girl-guides. While the boys got maps, the girls got knitting needles and cook books. Luckily, this is no longer the case. Having written this, I am unable to explain some of the recent navigational shenanigans of the Payne brothers, Andrew Rose and Gavin, er, Mrs Robinson. I am hoping that they can at least cook and knit.
4. Premature ageing. Endurance exercise is an extreme event. You will eventually look older than your actual age.
As a woman I can relate to all of the above responses. Unfortunately, I cannot offer too many solutions. On a positive note, I am delighted to see more women venturing out onto the trail. This year we really hope to welcome Nicole Morse, Marelise Badenhorst, Jacqueline Shaw and Janine Wencke into the blanket-wearing clan. Ladies, we are proud of your tenacity, bravery and sheer determination. Ingrid Talbot and Janine Stewart: we wish you both a safe and fast ride to claim your next blankets. Your efforts in these very tough conditions (including grumpy men) are inspirational.
A few days ago, Sarah (lemon meringue-tart) van Heerden completed her R2R journey in a very respectable 4 days, 08 hours and 37 minutes. Sarah is a super-fast 59-year-old cyclist. She rides effortlessly, leaving a trail of shattered egos and deflated testicles in her wake. Our other R2R ladies (Lucy Erasmus, Kathleen Rauch and Sally Hayman) are still out on the trail and flying the flag high. Keep going ladies, you are making us super proud! In a few days’ time, the R2P ladies (Nicky Booyens-runner, Kim Ward and Gill Graaf) will be setting off on their respective adventures. Stay safe and run/ride like the wind. You can do this!
Now for a gin and a nap.
I am back.
Andrew Rose is flying. He is enroute to Groenfontein, a wonderful oasis of green lawn, scrumptious food and beer. He will be hosted by Frans and Amelia. I can only presume that he will stay the night and start his journey over the Schurfterberg tomorrow.
Stefan Coetzee and Mark Preen are enroute to Kranskop. Sandra’s cooking and catering is legendary. They are in for a real treat.
Janine Wencke, Craig Bosenberg, Guy Henderson and Ian Henderson are at Slaapkrantz for the night. Andy Wannacott is currently enroute to Slaapkrantz. The Slaapkranz homestead offers a delightful farm stay. Joyce is a fantastic hostess. I am sure that the mud-infested roads are and will not be easy to negotiate. The black ‘fertile’ soil on the section from Rhodes to Moordenaarspoort is a delight for the farmers, but an absolute nightmare for a cyclist. This mud is a common occurrence on the trail (summer, autumn or winter): it is now standard practice to pack a paint scraper for this all-too-common eventuality. Janine Stewart and Mike W are also enroute to Slaapkrantz. It has been an awful time for them on the trail with endless rain, flooded rivers and energy-sapping mud. Despite this, it certainly looks like they are having a jolly good time. Mike and Janine are both sporting nice sun tans. They might be tempted to stay at Slaapkrantz or continue further down the trail.
Our intrepid ladies duo of Marelise (ek skrik vir niks) Badenhorst and Nicole (lightning don’t Morse with me) are at the pushed through Chesneywold and then found shelter at a farmhouse en route to Slaapkrantz, aparently Nicole is not feeling well so they will rest and tomorrow is another day.
The R2R racing snake Alex Harris finished in Rhodes today in a very respectable 3 days 06 hours and 38 minutes. Well done! Alex will be joined in Rhodes later today by Jacqueline Shaw, Gary Preston and Dave Templeton. I have been told that is raining buckets in Rhodes. This will certainly make the descent into Rhodes rather tricky. I am sure that they will really enjoy the luxuries of the Rhodes hotel before continuing their journey to Cape Town.
Kathleen Rauch, Lucy Erasmus and Richard Erasmus are at Vuvu school for the night. They will soon be eating a scrumptious dinner of chicken and rice with an assortment of home-grown vegetables, after taking a very hot bucket bath. That all sounds very confusing. Let me clarify. They will in fact be eating the vegetables and not dining with them. And no, the vegetables will not be in the same bath. Actually, they will probably all be in separate baths. The cyclists, and not the vegetables. They (the cyclists and not the vegetables) will then be hosted by a community member in one of their homes. Kathleen is a very interesting woman and wears many hats: adventurer, sex therapist, bike mechanic and beekeeper. Very impressive indeed. The Payne brothers are currently enroute to Vuvu. Let’s hope that the Vuvu valley holds no surprises for them tonight. Especially as Kathleen informs me that there is a fierce storm brewing outside! And carrots in the bath. I now see that the Payne brothers are taking the alternative route into Vuvu. This is much longer, but safer. It is also very scenic, but not at night.
Further back on the trail, the delightful guesthouse Malekolenyane is hosting Josh and Sally Hayman, Ingrid and Mike Talbot. I really hope that the next few days treats you kindly. I really like people from East London. And Benoni too.
Last, but not least is the father and son force of Tim and Murray James. They are at Masakala guesthouse. I really hope that the next few days treats you kindly too.
That’s a wrap. I hope that the weather will treat you ALL kindly. Take care!