by Vata Ngobeni
History has a funny way of repeating itself.
Two days ago as the 1965 Ride cyclists prepared themselves for the most gruelling day of this nine day ride for charity, founder Tony Frost waxed lyrically about the beauty of the Maluti mountain range and how majestic they are at this time of the year.
Frost is the brain child of this entire project, the historian of the peloton, the father figure, our guiding light and the man who I believe thrives in seeing the pain we go through on this ride.
Yes, I believe that Frost is a sadist but a good one as his enthusiasm and deep seated love for education is the reason why we put ourselves through the pain and raising funds for those less privileged than us.
It was Frost who gave us a history lesson about the cosmos and how they are not an indigenous flower to South Africa and that it was the Brits fault that this foreign flower has so beautifully invaded the Free State. What Frost forgot to also remind us of is how the British and to a certain extent the Boers succumbed to the rolling and rocky hills that make up the Maluti mountain range when trying to defeat King Moshoeshoe in the dark days of the frontier wars.
Yesterday as we left a freezing Reitz at the crack of dawn and headed towards Bethlehem, the beauty and splendour of the eastern Free State once again left the peloton awe struck and even though the cold autumn breeze kept the banter at its minimum, the spirits remained high as we faced the 147kilometre monster day to Ficksburg. For a greater part of the road to Bethlehem with all its hills I surprised myself in how I cruised up and down pulling along my life-long friend Lwandile Qokweni who it was his bright idea a year ago to do this ride.
As we rolled into Bethlehem I quietly thanked Lwandile even though his job of convincing me was made easy by those double gin and tonics and as Lwandile took a tumble on the outskirts of town after puncturing his front tyre, I felt no pity for him as my knees were starting to buckle under the pressure of climbing.
We made a pit stop at a local dealership who are one of the sponsors of the ride and Lwandile, Dini Gudlindlu and myself were quickly sent on our way towards Fouriesburg as the rookies on the tour.
Spirits still high and the sun beginning to shine, we greeted some of the Free State Stars officials who were preparing to depart for the funeral of their striker Richard Henyekane who had been killed in a car accident earlier in the week.
Suddenly doom and gloom engulfed me and Lwandile and it was not just at the sight of the Free State Stars officials but at the steep inclines that made hard work of the road to Fouriesburg.
It is a road from hell and so too the climbs and even though the Maluti mountains had swallowed us in their belly it was difficult for me to admire this marvel of nature and even at the insistence of Ashley Truscott to embrace the beauty around me, I was having none of it. How could I, the Maluti mountains were pinning me down and with a gentle and unassuming push to the valleys, they were reminding me and Lwandile about those history lessons by Mrs Jill Haxton on how even the mightiest army in the world couldn’t conquer them. Eventually Lwandile and I, and I have Sotho blood in me from my maternal grandmother, put up our white flags but not after having huffed and puffed over a few of those hills and came just 30kilometres short of Fouriesburg.
We did eventually get on our bikes with a few kilometres to Ficksburg but what stood out for me was how the descendants of the British and Boere within our peloton fought not only the elements but reached the highest peaks of the Maluti and came within touching distance of the Lesotho border.
Dini has been a machine on this tour, having run the Two Oceans 56kilometre ultra marathon last Saturday, he has paddled every kilometer in the past three days and I believe will do so until all 850 are done when we enter the Recreational Grounds in Queenstown on Thursday.
Helmets off to Dini, Tony, Ashley, Andrew Mills, Rob Fleming, the grandmaster Rodger Webb, Leon Jacobs, Leon Annandale, Bruce Raasch, Adele Rizzo, Danie Venter, Andrew Nel, Shelley Goldschmidt, Adrian Peltenburg and Marc Bradley for making their own history by conquering the Malutis and changing the course of history for many kids who will get an education at the end of this ride.
Follow the 1965 Ride Cycling for Education on Twitter @1965Ride and Vata Ngobeni @Vata_Ngobeni