Saturday, 25 July 2015


We arrived at Mrs Kibi's house in Tinana at 16:40 with daylight to spare. Tim had pushed through to take on the Vuvu valley in the dark. The valley isn't that hard in daylight but the prospect of traipsing through there at night under a moonless sky didn't appeal to us one bit. It seemed Andrew and Gawie were in accord as we found them well settled in Mrs Kibi's house. By the time we arrived Andrew had hunted down a spaza shop and proudly displayed the spoils of his sortie - two cans of sardines, one 2 litre Coke and two quarts of beer; milk stout and a larger.

The pair of them had started on the beer and Andrew had successfully ripped the lid off one of the sardine cans and was busy sampling the contents. The luxury of arriving at an overnight stop in daylight had us all in jovial spirit.

Mrs Kibi was out of town..... Hmmm.. Out of village....that doesn't sound right....She was away! We were attended to by an older woman who, in spite of the language barrier, busied herself quietly arranging drinking glasses and tea. She then went outside and started heating water over an open fire so we could wash. She pretty much hovered around in the background. Then something fascinating happened. Andrew started speaking to her in her own language. Right in front of my eyes she inflated. She went from a shadow to a full blown personality. It made me think of the English we hear practiced on us as we ride through the Transkei. The perennial favourites being; "Good morning." "How are you?" and "I love you". The first being rolled out at all hours of the day. We smile at their attempts, but how much isiZulu or isiXhosa do I know? None, they at least knew three sentences.
The effects of not being able to communicate and the resultant opinion formed about people we cannot speak to is unfortunate. This lady in Mrs Kibi's house was just someone doing mundane things in the background. The moment she found her voice in the comfort of her own language she was someone else completely - in my eyes. And I lay the blame squarely on myself. As a first and only language English speaker I have fallen foul of the trap that makes us feel smarter than people who don't speak our language. That is a very sad state of affairs. My ability to speak English is an accident of birth. My inability or unwillingness to learn another language, particular in a country with a diversity of languages, is a poor reflection on me.

This lady, now comforted by the fact that she could be understood, told us (via Andrew) about the bathing arrangements and when dinner would be ready. Washing is an awkward affair if you are not used to it. You are generally presented with 3 shallows buckets. One to wash in, another with boiling water and a third with cold water. You mix the water to your liking and have a strip wash. It makes one almighty mess, but this is apparently okay. Still makes me feel uncomfortable as water is slopped all over the floor. Clearly I have yet to master the technique of the bucket wash.

Spruced up we gathered in the lounge and ate a hearty dinner. I was ravenous for the first time in the race and I knew it was a good thing. After dinner we sat around talking. All in all we spent a good few hours hanging around chewing the fat with each other. Bed time arrived. I was still coughing badly and chose an inside room to spare the others who bunked in an outside room.

By bed time we became aware of Tim's antics in the Vuvu valley. He was going the wrong way. For that matter, it appeared that everyone still in the Vuvu valley was going in the wrong direction. I heard later that Glenn, the race director, was concerned. The only logical explanation he could come up with was that there was a fire in the valley and the riders were trying to avoid it. Why else would they have scattered like shrapnel. He even sent Tim a message asking about it. As there is no cell reception in the valley Tim didn't receive it immediately. Hours later when he had scrambled up the side of a mountain (way off course) he received the message. His reply to Glenn was something like 'I wish!'

So, with at least a half dozen riders wandering around lost in the cold Vuvu valley I lay in my bed, pulled the thick warm blankets up around my face and settled into blissful sleep.

1 comment:

Marnitz said...

Ek dink dis lankal tyd dat jy bietjie IsiAfrikaans, IsiZulu, IsiKhoza en nog 'n paar tale leer praat......