Capping off in Capetown
Capetown South Africa
March 13, 2000
By now, we've been in South Africa nearly a month. When I came here, I thought it would be dry--barren at times--I didn't expect the lushness of the place--it's rolling hills. I did expect poverty--and sometimes it literally spills out into the streets. There were times I worried about my safety--but nothing happened to me. Practically everywhere I went, everyone I talked with wanted to make sure I was being treated well.
That was especially true in Cape Town. It is a jewel of a city. There is the ocean...and Table Mountain--both of them tourist destinations. Unlike Durban, there seems to be a sense of order about the city--it's cleaner and my perception--it's safer.
Some of us got here early for a bike race called Cape Argus. It's a 109-kilometer event that winds through the city and two mountain passes. It gave several of us a chance to test our conditioning after two months on a bike.
All around us were riders on their $4,500 sleek European bikes--the men with shaved legs and matching jersey and bike shorts. We showed up riding our heavy touring bikes with bike racks and blinking reflector lights for safety.
There were other riders there as well--the weekend warriors. I pulled up behind one during the race and almost fell off my bike. He happily peddled away with a large split down the back of his lycra bike shorts. You just know the last time he wore those shorts was the last time he was on a bike which was last year's Cape Argus bike race.
More than 30-thousand riders showed up for this event--but we were told many bowed out because this year's course was so "difficult". My fellow riders laughed as we passed posers and weekend bikers. They don't know difficult until they've done the "Baja boot camp".
For me, this bike race was a great way to end my stay in South Africa. It has been a challenging month for me...infections, asthma...health problems I've never had before. Despite a number of breaks along the way, I've never consistently been on a bike this long--and I was beginning to wonder if I could handle many more months of this kind of travel.
The race made it fun to be on a bike again--the unique perspective of seeing the world...the views of the mountains and coastline..the two baboons that came out of nowhere to grab food from the middle of the road. Those are some of the things I'll remember about South Africa---and it happened all in one day during a bike race.
P.S. The winners finished in fewer than three hours--it took me four hours and 30 minutes--give or take. Hey, I never said I was fast--just faster than the guy with the "air conditioned" shorts.
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