Saturday, 7 January 2017

Racing The Munga 2016 - I get to see SALT and a Good Measure of Grit.

As I got closer to Sutherland the dirt road eventually gave way to a paved surface which made the riding easier, although still with a good measure of climbing. I guess the road services the South African Astronomical Observatory outside of town.

In 2015 I rode into Sutherland in the middle of the night so apart from the brilliant view of the stars overhead and the continuous ribbon of road ahead I saw nothing else. This time, arriving late afternoon, I could see the South African Large Telescope (SALT) building perched on top of the mountains as I rode by on the road below. It's an impressive structure that couldn't be accused of blending into its surrounds. To be fair, it would be hard for anything to blend into that austere landscape.

The irony of the high tech eye on the universe driven by a thirst for knowledge juxtaposed against the setting of the parched Northern Cape Karoo wasn't lost in me. They were odd bedfellows indeed but the perfect viewing sky above Sutherland draws scientists from around the world.

I was drawn to Sutherland for different reasons. Mostly because my GPS route demanded it, and also because I knew the next race village in town held out the promise of food, shower and a bed.

The last few kilometres are an easy downhill into town. That is if you can ride. While freewheeling along I saw Sthembiso up ahead. His bike and him had traded places. He had his bike hoisted onto his shoulders. His wheel had finally collapsed and he was footing it.

While competitors, we were also fellow travellers and it saddened me to to see him reduced to walking along the side of the road. Sthembiso had every reason to be despondent but that's not what I saw. I saw a man who radiated determination. A man who accepted the challenge and was going to overcome.

It wasn't far to town, less than 2 kilometres, but walking comes a very distant second to freewheeling downhill. I arrived in Sutherland a good 20 minutes ahead of him.

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