By Vata Ngobeni
I can smell it, I can feel it and if there is any truth to it, I can taste it.
That is how close we are to the Eastern Cape after painfully negotiating some of the worst roads but equally beautiful terrain I have ever had the privilege of travelling at such close range.
Yes, I’m still on that bike and yes my bum is still sore but my spirit was uplifted yesterday as the 1965 Ride peloton blitzed through the back end of the eastern Free State on a short but very quick 67kilometre ride from Wepener to Zastron.
If there is such a thing is painfully enjoying something then that is exactly what happened to me yesterday as I savoured the last bit of Free State farm land that my eyes were going to see from a bike and at the same time I took time to also experience all the smells that South Africa’s bread basket offers.
It’s funny that mielies can have such a good smell and so too the methane emitted by the thousands of grazing cows while my heart continues to bleed for the road kill of owls, snakes, foxes and dogs that have littered the road side for the past five days.
The bleeding in my heart seems to be more profuse by the lack of schools along our 601kilometre trek so far and our ride is all about raising money for education bursaries.
Last week I made mention of this lack of schools and how communities throughout the country should galvanise themselves into making sure that they have enough schools and libraries in their areas because that is the only way this country can move forward to the prosperous future we so desire.
But my heart just sank when we rode into Zastron around lunch time yesterday not only were we greeted by the biggest and deepest pothole I’ve ever seen in my life but the sports grounds which consist of floodlit netball and tennis courts, two rugby fields one with a gravel track around it and bowling greens were in tatters.
At least the bowling greens looked well-kept and there were some locals doing their thing later in the afternoon but the rest of the facility including the changerooms and stands looks like a tsunami went through it.
I saw the same when we were leaving Frankfort last week and along the way there were at least three more soccer and rugby fields that were neglected.
And all of this in a country that bemoans the lack of infrastructure that can develop and nurture our sporting talent from the millions of children that roam the streets getting up to no good.
The facilities are there but nobody really cares in the municipalities and therefore minister of sport and recreation Fikile Mbalula’s grand plans for the sport will fall flat.
As much as the municipalities are to blame, the communities must also shoulder some of the responsibility.
As South Africans we talk too much and complain about everything but do nothing to alleviate our problems.
I, too, spoke too much and complained about everything before this ride and the fact that I am being part of a solution makes me stand up and ask the rest of us, what have you done lately.
The 601kilometres cycled so far may be a drop in the ocean and the money I raise may benefit one of two kids for now but before our sport falls into the dire situation that our education finds itself in at the moment, I urge the people of the eastern Free State and Zastron to fix and use their sports fields and infrastructure.
Sport afterall is what will continue to bring this country together and education is what will see us live to see the full potential that lies in the dusty streets, farmlands and cities of this beautiful country of ours.
To follow Vata Ngobeni on the 1965 Ride and donate go to Twitter and follow him on @Vata_Ngobeni or @1965Ride and on www.1965Ride.co.za