Saturday, 4 April 2015

I learn a new Afrikaans saying

There are certain moments in life that stand out in bold face. Once such moment occurred in April of 1973. I was in the First Form (Grade 8) and my day dreaming during the Afrikaans lesson was interrupted by Mevrou Wasseman. 
"Yes ma'm?"
"What is the Afrikaans word for Thursday?"
I had absolutely no idea and just winged it, "Dinsdag?"
I recall watching the veins on her neck and forehead getting bigger by the second. She grabbed a ballpoint pen off her table and strode over to where I sat at the very back row. 
"The word you are looking for.....," she said, grabbing my by the hair on the back of my head. "Is..." she pulled the cover off the pen with her teeth and spat it out on the floor. "D" the ballpoint pen pressed deep into my forehead. "O". A deathly hush fell over the class. "N". The pen stopped writing and she paused to scribble on my diary to restore the flow of ink. Having painfully redrawn the N she continued. "D". The girl sitting next to me started giggling. Rather that I thought than pity. "E R D A G."
She stood back looking quite pleased with her work. Fixing me with her bloodshot eyes she continued, "Donderdag, DONDERDAG!" 
That's quite a few fillings I thought as her face was obscured by the widest mouth I have ever seen. 
And so, to this day, I have never forgotten what Thursday is in Afrikaans. 

"How do you spell that?" I asked. 
We had made our way across the scarred landscape and were walking up the jeep track. 
"L-e-p-e-l l-ê with a cap on the e," replied Casper. 
"Lepel lê," I repeated. "So that's the Afrikaans word for spooning, interesting!" There was my new Donderdag. 
A little further on Casper remarked, "At least we have had a good nights sleep and should be able to push through to the finish without any more power naps." I chose to ignore that comment as a battled to keep my eyes open. 
At 7:30am we walked in through the front door of the Elandsberg farmhouse where we were warmly greeted by Lisa. 
"Hello Mike, you better call Meryl. She is worried about you guys."
We apologised for not letting her know we were running a little late but explained that we had no cell signal on the other side of the mountain. 
'A little late' meant 8 hours. We had surrendered an 8 hour advantage to Tim by parking off in the bush for the night. We knew Glenn and Meryl had been at the farm the night before and were keen for any information about Tim. When we asked Lisa she mentioned that Tim still wasn't feeling well and she thinks he spent the night  at the previous support station of Romansfontein. I was a little skeptical because that didn't sound like Tim. You would have to beat him with a gum pole to make him stop. We didn't have 3G signal so couldn't check the Freedom Challenge website to check on support station times. I called Meryl. The conversation went like this.
Me: "Hi Meryl, we have just arrived at Elandsberg."
Meryl: "That's great. Glenn and I drove through that awful storm near Elandsberg last night and were really worried about you guys. Where did you sleep?"
Me: "Doringbos Lodge."
Meryl: "Thank goodness. We were so worried. Did you have any trouble getting in?"
Me: "Huh?"
Meryl: "Were the people at the lodge okay with you just pitching up?"
Me: "Meryl, there is no lodge. We slept under a thorn bush; a doringbos!"
Meryl: lots of laughter.

I asked her where Tim was and she confirmed that he had indeed left Romansfontein the previous evening at 21:15. That meant he should be right behind us. She said he was last spotted entering the Elandsberg portage section. That's where we slept. 
I converted this information to Casper and we resolved to get out of there as fast as we could. The problem was the food. It was awesome. At one stage Casper spilled something and apologised as he scraped it off the table cloth. I told him it was okay, after watching him scrape the yoghurt off the carpet at Brosterlea and eat it I was immune to anything. 
"I was hoping you didn't see that," he said the laughter rising in his throat. 
I took a dollop of anaesthetic cream and gave my saddle area a good smothering to numb it ahead of the long ride to the next support station of Stuttgart. 
Casper looked up in mock shock. "How can you do that in the middle of the dinning room?" he asked.
"You stick to carpet yoghurt and I will take care of my sore butt!" I replied. 
Suitably fed and hydrated we got a cricket score update from Jose, thanked Lisa and Jo for their hospitality and pedalled off down their driveway. 
Still no Tim in sight. That was good. 
We resolved to get to Stuttgart as fast as possible with the hope that if Tim was close behind he would see that we were moving quickly and give up any hope of catching us. We could then take a lazy ride to the finish without worrying about Tim pipping us at the post. 
The ride from Elandsberg to Baroda is normally crazy fast. We had a slight head wind that continued all the way to Stuttgart. Crossing the tar road near Spekboomberg I could feel the sleep monsters rousing. I asked Casper if he had any music and ear phones. He did. I told him I was sleepy and was going to get my ear plugs in and drown out the monsters. I did just that and Casper followed suit. Without any chit chat we moved efficiently on to Stuttgart covering the 72 km's in 4h30. 
Refuelling on a pot of tea followed by a plate of scrumptious venison pie we left Stuttgart half an hour later at 13:22 ready to bang out the last 72 km's of our race. 

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