Cape Epic Blog

23 03 2017

John and Joel finished stage 4 in 12.  They are hanging in at 11 in the GC.  https://www.cape-epic.com/teams/2017/9503/alchemist-mountain-flyer

 

Below is from the Mountain Flyer blog. Enjoy!

 

John Bliss Cape Epic Blog: Day 1 in Cape Town

Sparkplugs in their Mouths

The Morning – As Inspector Clousseau was fond of saying, “we have arrive –ed”. 19 hours of traveling from Denver through London’s Heathrow airport, a quick exit through Cape Town Customs, grab our bike boxes and we were met by a quiet middle aged woman with smiling, warm eyes, Leeny. She brought us to our driver, a GQ model like-looking young guy with rapid fire chatter, a tour guide’s monologue of what we were seeing, and into the traffic we plunged.

But this traffic was notably different – down the miles of cars inching along to work in the city, along the center divider, were hordes of black men in packs, meth heads, he said, slowly and methodically scanning each car. They walked with a swagger like they owned this highway. Our driver said they were looking for single woman with handbags in the front seat to rob. They do this in full view of the traveling masses, he said, in broad daylight, typically during rush hour when cars are moving slowly. “Too many of them and not enough police.”

“I tell my wife everyday to put her purse in the boot, but she won’t listen,” he says with a pained expression. “She says, I put it in the center console so they can’t reach it from the driver window.” He tells her, “But they break the front window and pull it right out.” He tells me to look closely at their mouths. “You will see a spark plug in their teeth.” I did. “That’s so when they jump on the hood, they press the spark plug to the window and it shatters.” We did not witness this, but he said he had. “Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore,” I thought.

On the other side of the highway were encampments, shanty towns. 20×20 ft. corrugated square boxes. No windows. District 9 without aliens.

The Afternoon – We walked around our hotel, the Southern Sun Waterfront, to get the jet lag out of our legs and found a bike shop, The Handle Bar, with an espresso bar. The bike owner, a skinny, narrow slope-shouldered dude that looked like a former pro roadie, said we could ride to the local mountain biking “tracks”, a national park called Table Mountain.  He said it’s a steep road climb and then you’ll hit “tar roads” and jeep trails. He wasn’t kidding on the steep road part. Thirty minutes of continuous climbing and 2500 feet of gain and we arrived at Table Mountain. A  breathtaking view of Cape Town harbor, a gentle warm breeze, 82 degrees.  It felt and looked like I was back in Hawaii where I grew up. Every rider we ran into was warm, helpful, smiling, interested in our story but quick to say they weren’t fit enough to do the Cape. Even a guy who dropped us on several of the climbs riding a single speed said he wasn’t up for it. Shit, I thought, what have we gotten ourselves into?

The descent back into downtown Cape Town at 4pm was in rush hour. It wasn’t for the faint of heart.  It required every ounce of street smarts. Cars coming at you from every direction and of course our instincts were wrongly tuned to driving on the right. When you need to make split second decisions, this isn’t helpful.

They had intermittent bike lanes, big green things, but they were effectively short term parking for many delivery trucks and cabs. Pulling around them in traffic was the gut check moment because it was one lane only in each direction. At one point, a car on my left and a car on my right wanted to switch in front of me, squeezing me down the middle with a foot on either side of my ergon grips separating me from their front car doors. At least one guy said he was sorry as he cut me off.  We managed to make it back to the hotel intact. I found myself pining for the safety of singletrack.

From shanties to Paradise, what a bookend of experiences.

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