Learning Patience — a letter to my friends on the full moon
I arrived in Hogsback on Wednesday in a cloud that completely enveloped the mountain and the forest. Today, on full moon, is the first day we have clear skies and an uninterrupted view of the beautiful landscape.I felt quite rushed to get here the past week, probably because I felt like it would be a good place to rest and revive my energy. I have been on the road now for over four weeks and it takes its toll on body and soul. Of course, in the way the universe works, I was delayed quite a few times to remind me to not rush.
First, my back tyre burst on the road between Lady Grey and Dordrecht. I heard a load pop! and slime from my tube sprayed all over my legs and luggage. A sharp rock had cut through my tyre and tube. I carry a spare tyre for exactly this kind of situation, so I stopped, unloaded and took off the wheel. Luckily a generous couple found me and my disassembled bicycle shortly after and gave me a bed, a meal and a new tyre, which means I still have a spare!
The road from Lady Grey to Dordrecht is probably the most challenging I’ve cycled so far: up and down mountains with sharp loose rocks; a seemingly unending ribbon through the hills of the Eastern Cape. I was 20km outside Dordrecht, tired to the bone with the sun ready to set and a threatening thunderstorm rolling in when I was picked up by a farmer who lives just outside of Dordrecht. Some people I met in Zastron told him about me and he had been looking out for my arrival for days.
I rested in Dordrecht for a few days after cycling The Road Invented in Hell (though it was one with some of the most breathtaking scenery so far) and headed through the Transkei towards Queenstown on Monday. Ten kilometers from my starting point, I heard that sharp hissing sound that all cyclists hate, followed by a thump-thump-thump… First flat tyre of the day. The tube had a long cut in it close to the valve, so I couldn’t repair it. I still had one spare tube, so I started replacing it when a farmer stopped and ask if I needed help. We had a friendly chat and he fetched a spare tube for me from his house, which meant I still had one spare left until Queenstown.
I coasted down the first hill into the Transkei, elated that I was moving at last. Not five kilometres further, again… Hiss. Thump thump thump.
Now what? I stopped, unloaded and inspected the damage. The rim tape on my back wheel had torn and was cutting the tube at the valve: very hard to patch. I knew that the rim would keep cutting any new tube I put in, so I superglued the rim tape to the rim and covered the sharp edges with insulation tape (cable ties, superglue and insulation tape basically comprise my entire toolbox).
A friendly traffic cop stopped and helped me inflate my tyre and also gave me his telephone number in case of any emergency. I thanked him, got back on my bicycle and carried on through the villages. A thunderous cloud and grey sheets of rain were approaching from the west, and a slight drizzle started to fall. I was still optimistic, when another ten kilometres down the road… thump. Thump. Thump.
I was out of spare tubes, and it seemed like I would be stuck in the rain. I pulled over to a small dilapitated bus stop and decided that the only thing I could do in this situation was… Have lunch. I needed to eat anyway.
After some food and a cigarette I felt ready to make a plan and took off my back wheel for the third time that day. Same problem as before, but the cut at the valve was much smaller than the previous one. I took my last three remaining patches, cut a hole in one to fit over the valve and then doubled the patching over the seams. Bugger of a rim tape won’t be cutting through those, if I had managed to seal the cut properly.
I started inflating the tube and listened closely… No hissing! I might just make it. A friendly Tata waiting for a taxi across the road kept me company through this whole process, and was as happy as I was when my plan seemed to work.
The rest of the day I kept sending prayers to the Adventure Gods that my patched wheel would just make it to the end of the day. I had hoped to sleep at Aloe Grove that night, a guest farm about ten kilometres from Queenstown. When I got to the turn off I gave them a call and asked if they had space to camp.
“I can offer you a chalet?” the receptionist said. I laughed, and declined. There was no way I was spending a week’s worth of food money on one night in a chalet. I was standing at the t-junction in the drizzle with no idea what to do, when a white bakkie pulled up. It was the owner of Suntsani Escape, a beautiful camping ground next to the Bonkolo Dam, just 200m down the road. He offered me a camping spot, even though the grounds had been booked out by a group of Rhodes students. Relieved, I accepted his offer and cycled to my last stop for the day.
And here, I received my biggest surprise and blessing for the day: The group of Rhodes students? A field trip of Environmental Science Honour Students, with their lecturers.
What am I doing? Raising money for trees.
If I hadn’t had all those delays, I wouldn’t have met the owner of the camping site at exactly that moment at the T-juntion. I wouldn’t have camped at that campsite. I wouldn’t have met the people I was supposed to meet. I watched the most beautiful sunset that night and just felt immense peace and gratitude for being on this journey and being shown time and again that trust and patience will bring me exactly where I need to be, if I am open enough to see it.
So I am learning to be patient. When things seemingly go wrong, I try to not get upset because my plans are being interfered with. I stop, I breathe, I look around. I decide what to do about my situation, and I do it. And I carry on.
And somehow, in some mysterious way, things flow harmoniously to an outcome that is better than anything I could have ever planned.
So on this full moon, I would like to ask you to not rush. Wherever you are at the moment is exactly where you need to be, and if you take the time to become present and actually look, and listen, and feel, the purpose of your being here will reveal itself.
Learning patience is hard work, but also very rewarding. At the end of the day, I’ve found that it has everything to do with acceptance, perseverance and attitude.
If you can learn patience, you can learn anything.
My you have patience with your circumstances, your loved ones, and mostly yourself on this special full moon!
All my love,