The day started off with a smashing buffet breakfast … little did we know then that our a.m. overindulgence would stand us in good stead later on in the day.
With bikes loaded, we checked out of the Garden Court Mthatha to brave the morning traffic. Chaos as only in Mthatha, we wove through ignoring the lanes like everyone else and just squeezing through gaps when we found them. Eventually we made it to the outskirts of the city … intact.
Making quite sure that we’d passed the city limits, we drew off the road to start the day’s cycling. Having over 100k to go (160km to be precise) to Kokstad, we’d decided to split the day into a relay of 25km at a time, and keep going as far as we could until 3pm. From wherever we would then end up, we’d have to load the bikes and drive to Kokstad. This would mean driving back the next day to complete the distance, but then, if you have to, you have to.
Suzann took the first 25km shift of climbing … again. Stopping at the top of a massive climb, chest heaving, she happily handed the cycling over to me. I thought myself particularly fortunate with all the downhill I was getting … at first. But soon I got my turn to start the uphill slog … and it just continued and continued, relentlessly. My distance was done but the hill was not. Almost at the top the hill seemed to give a little and I stopped at a taxi drop-off point on the roadside to swop with Suzann.
Back on the bike, it was only a few kilometres and we were entering Qumbu. Before we quite knew what was happening, we’d got ourselves wrapped up in the chaotic traffic moving at the pace of an arthritic snail. There was no place to stop and safely load Suzann’s bike so the poor thing had to try and negotiate the mess on her onesies. Unclipping her one foot from the pedal, she coasted slowly ahead of us trying to avoid car doors being opened in her path, reversing trucks that didn’t recognize her as a valid road user, and masses of pedestrians that behaved much like a flock of sheep randomly crossing the road in the face of oncoming traffic.
Just as we all gave a sigh of relief to be exiting the town, a concerned motorist drew in alongside us and yelled across to Kevin that someone had just stolen the bike off the back of the bakkie. Flabbergasted, Kevin stopped and jumped out to check, and low and behold, there was no bike … just sliced straps that had once held a bike. Distraught, we hooted to get Suzann’s attention out front. She seemed to have heard and was slowing down, yet she was a long way ahead by now and we had to turn back. Doing a u-turn, we left her on the side of the N2, safely (we hoped) out of town, to backtrack and see if we could spot anything.
I, of course, was quite beside myself by then, yelling out the window to anyone that would listen, ‘has anyone seen my bike!’ People must’ve though I was demented … this white woman yelling blue murder out the car window … Trying to calm me down despite his own distress, Kevin kept his wits about him and slowly cruised up the main road looking for the police station. Finally we ran the police to earth … after taking a wrong turn and ending up in front of the municipality at first. Thank goodness for the woman who was just walking out the door who could direct us further up the street to the police station.
Charging in at the gate, I jumped from the vehicle even before Kevin had quite come to a total stop yet. Running into the office, arms flailing, shaking with shock and anger, voice quivering on the verge of tears, all I could think of to say was, ‘I need help! Someone just stole my bicycle off our vehicle as we slowly moved through town!’ A plain clothes officer, one of the detectives I later learned, just happened to be in the office at that very moment and he jumped into action, getting another officer out with him to the nearest van immediately. Then it only hit me that Suzann was still on the side of the road, obviously wondering what was going on. By that time Kevin had parked and joined us in the office to try and explain (less hysterically) what had happened. Now more concerned with my sister than my bike, I asked Kev to go get her. The officer at the front desk quickly waved me to the van out front, and I only just made it to tell them about Suzann, before they went roaring off.
Returning to the office, my composure began to return as well, and I had to apologize to the people there for my outburst and jumping the queue and generally causing chaos. They were all very good about it, reassuring me and understanding the trauma had got the better of me. I took a seat on the little wooden bench against the wall where they told me to wait. I did the only thing I could think of to do … pray. I prayed so hard, for Suzann’s safety, for the cops searching for my bike, for the safe return of my bike … I even prayed for the thief, that he would see the error of his ways …
Some time later, Kevin and Suzann returned with an angel of a young man, Eddie, who’d seen the whole thing and had come up to Suzann offering his help. Eddie explained what he’d seen, and told the police who had taken the bike. There was a lot of radio’ing and phoning, and yelling into the back office, before they took Eddie’s number and he was on his way with much gratitude from us. All that we could do was sit, wait and pray.
Not understanding the language, we were not always quite sure what was going on, but we figured that someone was out looking for the bike. Finally, another lady popped out from the back with the overjoying news that they’d found the bicycle. Hugs all around and tears for me and Suzann, we thanked God for the miracle that He’d worked for us … and it was a miracle.
After some time, the detectives returned with my bike on the back of their bakkie. The back tyre was slashed and the seat dropped down low, but otherwise it was totally intact. The police had found it outside the local Build It hardware store where the security guard was looking after it for the ‘owner’, who’d just gone to fetch a child from school or some such cock-and-bull story. ‘The cheek!’ as one of the detectives put it.
I was overjoyed. The concerned detective that had been in the office when I’d run in crying for help, came up to give me a hug. He was really so very concerned, especially since I’d been so near to tears. This amazing soft-hearted tough guy’s reaction really touched me, and nearly had me in tears again … happy tears this time, happy tears.
The police were so concerned with our safety that they offered us an official escourt out of town so that it doesn’t happen again. The bikes had to be loaded on the rack at the back of the vehicle … there was no way we’d fit both inside. Kevin and Suzann had somehow managed to disassemble her bike on the side of the road and load it on the back seat of the bakkie … one wheel on top of the fridge in the back. Now the kindly policemen had to wait patiently as we battled to reassemble the bike. Finally all back together again we had to fix my bike with its one flat wheel to the bike rack with duct tape since the thief had slashed the nylon ties that hold the bike to the rack. We could still tie Suzann’s bike up properly though.
With both bikes back on the rack and the police van behind us, we drove out of Qumbu. Blue lights flashing behind us, we pulled over a little way out of town to say a very big thank you and good-bye to the police. No case was opened so we could just load the bike and leave. I was no longer concerned with the thief … or even angry … I was just so relieved and grateful. God is great, indeed! He sent us an angel to tell us the bike had been taken, another in the form of Eddie to give a statement and name the thief, yet another in the detectives and other officers that searched and finally found my bike. A miracle happened in Qumbu today. What amazing police officers … you guys are all stars … the policemen and women of Qumbu. And thank you to Eddie (we didn’t get his last name), but his info helped tremendously, and his concern was overwhelming … even phoning us to make sure things were OK. There are still good people in this world. Satan tried to thwart us, but he lost again. Our God is with us, every step of the way!
After a day like this, we were not about to cycle further, and just headed straight for the KZN border and the town of Kokstad. Changing our plans to camp at Mt. Currie Nature Reserve, we booked in at the Old Orchard Guest House just outside of town. So peaceful, we decided to stay another day to get the bikes sorted out again and generally recover from the trauma.
Blessed with a wonderful meal of lamb shank and veg. we went to bed early, snuggling down with the electric blankets on max. against the biting cold.
A new day of sunshine and birdsong and shimmering water in the dam that flows in under the restaurant … With a hearty breakfast on board we took to bike maintenance. We had to change my bikes tyres to our spares and readjust saddle heights again. While we were fiddling with the bikes we decided to give them both a bit of a wash and lube the chains again before heading into town for a shop. We had to find new straps to attach my bike to the rack with again … and some groceries would come in handy again.
Getting everything sorted in town has made us feel quite accomplished. Now we can take a breather in the fresh air and afternoon sun before taking on a whopper of a 105km to Underberg tomorrow. Drakensberg, here we come …