Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mini-Breakfast Run

When I confirmed to John The Salesman that I will be using my new 800GS for commuting, I could see the disappointment on his face. He was probably thinking that it would be the same as your wife using your Z6 convertable to drop the kids at school every day. I don't blame him, why would one buy a Landrover Discovery to fetch bread and milk at the corner shop every day, or a GS to go to work with? Anyway, I was thinking that maybe I could take the scenic route to work every day, maybe this will make John feel better, so this is what I did this morning....

I live about 8 km from work, all through concrete jungle and hectic traffic. But I also live close to the nicest backroads and cross country roads. So this morning I decided that I will include a little mini-breakfast run on my way to work. I left home at around 7 and headed the opposite way towards Melkbostrand. I had all the morning peak traffic coming from the front, so I had an open road all to myself. At Melkbos I turned right towards the N7. On the N7 I headed towards Malmesbury. About 30 kms from Malmesbury is the Swartland Engine 1-Stop. I've never stopped there before, the place out there in the middle of nowhere always looked too deserted. When I saw the Wimpy sign I thought this could be the place to have my breakfast. I am a big fan of Wimpy breakfasts, so deserted or not, at least I knew what to expect on my plate. Boy was I surprized when I entered the Wimpy and found that the whole farming community goes there for early coffees and morning chit-chats. Rodwin the Waiter in true Wimpy style offered me the menu and I had something small to get the digestive system going. It was a breakfast run after all. And then of course my favourite Wimpy coffee, or milky coffee as my dad prefers to call it. I watched the people going in and out and realized that this must be a regular hang-out spot for many farmers and businessmen. They seemed to know every one in the way they greeted each other. I felt a bit like an intruder, but then again that mysterious biker image I so much love was starting to appear. I was hoping for someone to come up to me and say "And where are you from Stranger?", but I guess my Cape Town number plate ruined that moment for me. This might happen 800km further down the road somewhere in the Karoo maybe.

From the 1-Stop I headed for the Durbanville back roads, through a small farming settlement called Philladelphia and down Adderley Road onto the Malanshoogtepad. There I met my first gravel road ever. What an amazing feeling. This is why I bought the GS, to explore the dirt roads of Southern Africa and here it was lying in front of me. Sadly my pleasure ended very quickly when I discovered that the dirt road was just a small section of the Malanshoogtepad, but the twisties that awaited me further down the road made up for the disappointment. I then hit the Contermanskloof Road who is not shy with its twisties either. Here I started picking up morning traffic but on a bike, who cares? I just had an awesome ride to work this morning, and I still arrived before most of my colleagues. When I took it out from my topbox, I saw that the chicken salad my wife neatly packed for me for lunch was already mixed thoroughly, so that saves me some extra effort over lunch. But all-in-all I think John would be proud of me. I wonder where I will have breakfast tomorrow?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Calmness within

A couple of years ago I read a book by Steven Kotler called The West of Jesus - Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief. Steven was an ex-surfer (if you can call a surfer 'ex' when he stopped surfing for a while) who suffered from Lyme disease. He spend nearly two years in bed and with his illness just got weaker and weaker to such a point that doctors did not give him much time to live. As he says, he lost everything: his health, his job, his girl, and, he was beginning to suspect, his mind. Then one day a friend reintroduced him to surfing. He took his board and headed for the waves once more, as weak as he was at that point. He got hooked again and miraculously after a while he got stronger and eventually beat the struggle against this life threatening disease. In this book he tells about his three-year globe-trotting quest to find out what believe really is. He was wondering that if there was nothing to believe in anymore, can something as unlikely as surfing be something to believe in? The answer to his quest unfortunately cannot be answered with a yes or a no, like most questions on beliefs. What stood out though, not only from this book but from other authors writing about the capabilities of the mind and religion, it seems that if one finds something that one enjoys so much that it can cure where no doctors or medicine can. I definitely don't want to start writing about the origins of believe and the power of the mind, but when I think back to his book and compare it with what I experienced last night, I have to admit that I might be convinced that there might be some truth in the healing powers of surfing.

Yesterday afternoon after work I headed for the beach as usual. Yet another perfect day in Cape Town, no wind, quite warm and spectacularly beautiful. I saw a couple of surfers in the water and immediately went back home to fetch my board. The waves were small compared to what most surfer's would call a "respectable wave", but there was something unexplainable in the air and in the water. The sky was blue and the water was crystal clear and warm. Something the Atlantic side surfers cannot brag about often. There were about 70 surfers spread out from the KFC all the way down to Doodles, each one enjoying his own little "private spot". I sat in the water, caught a couple of nice melow rides and experienced what I think changed Steven's life. Unfortunately the feeling or the serenity could not be captured in a picture, but the calmness I experienced while enjoying the sound of waves breaking, hearing guys expressing their pleasure after each wave and the sun that was going down at the same time made me realized yet again how something as simple as surfing could clean out your head and your heart in a single beat. After nearly two hours in the water with the sun already down at the ocean's bottom it suddenly as if someone had switched of the wave making machine. The clouds moved in and everything went flat, the water became glassy and it felt as if I have just had the longest purest meditation session ever. I took my last wave to go out very reluctantly, but I sat down on the beach for an extra couple of minutes just to make sure that the euphoria soaked  completely into my body and soul. It is moments like this that cannot be explained to people who have never experienced that. Maybe if we all could get a taste of this at least once in our lives we could all turn into more calmed and peace loving human beings who not only appreciates the beauty of our surroundings more, but also allow ourselves to believe that there is something more powerful and greater out there than what meets the eye.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The GS has landed

Ok, so I got it. My GS was ready for collection and my nerves were shot. I went to the BWM Motorad showroom to do the final paperwork and to pick up my bike. While John the Salesman was handing over the bike and explaining what the different buttons were, all I could think was how am I going to drive this expensive piece of machinery back home in Cape Town's horrendous traffic? I remember the day I brought my first-born home from the hospital. It felt like all the trucks, trees and lamppost were coming at me. It was like driving on eggs to be honest, too scared that my son might get hurt on our way home. Today was not different. When I went past the roadworks on the N1 I saw the sign flashing "Speed Kills. Please Go Slow". I knew that message was not directed at me because I was already holding up the traffic behind me which were cruising at less than 60 km/h through the bends and road signs.

Compared to my old bike everything was different, from the starter to the indicator lights. At one point I realized the confusion I must have been causing when I discovered that I have two indicator switches and a third to turn it off. Thinking back now I believe John did mention it to me. The throttle was sensitive and the brakes sharp, making be look like a kid on a rocking horse while I was trying to get the hang of it. I cannot remember exactly which road I took to get back to the office, but it was definitely the one with the most traffic. Or so it felt. When I stopped at work I realized with a bike this size (compared to my previous one) you have to know exactly where you want to park, there is no chance of pushing it around until you are happy with the spot. My feet barely touches the ground. Once I stopped I took what felt like my first breath since I left the showroom. I had another problem when I discovered that I was not sure if I could just switch it off or if it had a procedure to follow to kill the engine. And then off course getting down from a bike twice the size of my previous one is a skill mastered only after a couple of demounts. The black topbox and being stiff from a recent squash game did not make it any easier.

Anyway, my first trip was good, it reminded me a lot of my first bungi jump and skydive. The nerves were calmed down after I managed to put my feet back on Mother Earth again. It was not long after that I realized I had something else to do before I go home. Last year I came home all excited with my new kite board and said to my son "Look what Daddy bought himself". He replied with "Where is mine Daddy"? I know a two-year old is a bit young to have his own kite board, but the disappointment in that little voice and face I will never forget. So to prevent this from happening again I had to go out to find him small toy so that he does not feel left out. (As if this is going to make up for spending all his college money on my own personal gratification). Maybe a little bike similar to Daddy's will help.

My second trip went much better than the first one. I couldn't find the toy I wanted though but now I have an excuse to ride again. Finding excuses to ride, I think that would be the pattern from now on. Although I guess you cannot compare a cruiser with an on/off road motorcycle I am sure I made the right choice. I still have to get used to the upright seating position because I keep putting my feet on the front footrests which are not there anymore. It makes me look a bit stupid but fortunately no-one could see my face under the full face helmit. The helmit by the way also kept the bugs out of my teeth. With all these summer bugs flying around the smile was just too big for an open face helmit. But my biggests challenge still lies ahead...which bike is sleeping outside tonight? Or might it just be my wife's car....?

Well, I hope from now on that I will have more things to blog on, many trips and happy returns wherever I go. I will not attempt Africa right now, but be sure my family is not going to see much of me over the coming weekend.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Happiness is...

They say that men don't grow older, it is just the price of their toys that gets bigger. After discussing the fact that our wives don't understand the reason behind spending money on "toys", a friend of mine replied with: "The guy who dies with the most toys WINS!" Period. I love that. Honestly I won't mind leaving this world as the winner then...

I read in the newspaper the other day that a study was done at the San Fransisco State University that claims that money does not bring happiness. Or rather, money does bring happiness, but only if it is spent on experiences rather than possessions. I looked on the Internet and found more information on the topic, but my first reaction when I read it was "No shit, you must be kidding me. They only discovered this now?" I knew this fact long before they even thought of doing research on it and I could've had my doctoral thesis by now had I put my wisdom on paper. Anyway, I see the study extended over a period of 35 years. You want to tell me it took them THAT long to reach this conclusion?

So to get back to my toys and how it ties in with happiness. Since I got my first pay cheque I always said that I am working to DO things, not to HAVE things. The money I earn is also usually spent on experiences rather than stuff. When it is spent on possessions then it is on things that I need in order to be able to have these experiences, like a surfboard to be able to surf, or a bike to be able to travel through Africa. But this is not the same as buying a painting or expensive jewelery. Mine are toys, but the latter is classified as possessions which apparently does not make anyone very happy in the end.

Anyway, to get to the point. I have made another purchase to ensure another unforgettable experience. I think this one will take me past nirvana. I have always had this dream of riding through Africa on a bike. I don't think I will ever get the opportunity to go right through, but I have told a friend of mine that to reach a dream you have to take small steps at a time. I cannot give an exact number on how many steps I have taken towards this dream already - quite a few to be honest - but I am certainly yet another step closer. How many steps remain is also not clear either, but I will never stop dreaming. And I will never stop doing. So let me introduce you to my new toy. The BMW F800GS, built for Africa. Unfortunately I will have to get rid of my old bike in order to pay for this one, so my tally on toys (despite the cost of the new one) will remain the same as well as my ranking on the winner's list. But I am adding onto my experiences, and if we can believe anything on what the study that took 35 years to complete says, then I'm definitely going to be a much happier person from now on. So here's to all the new people I am going to meet, the interesting places I am going to see and the experiences waiting out there. I hope to see you on the road soon....

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The White Squaw

I never did much reading when I was young. I always believed there was something better to do than lying on a couch with a book in my hand. I think the only book I voluntarily read from start to finish before I left school was the Bible in fact. This took me four years to complete. Then there was of course the books that I was forced to read in order to hand in my quarterly book reviews. One particular book I remember from school was called The White Squaw. The reason I remember this one so well was because it landed me in the headmaster’s office. I cannot remember the plot so well but my English teacher didn’t think it was good English literature and I wasn’t going to read another one just to please her. What the woman didn’t realize at that point was that no matter what the adult rating of the book was it did teach me a couple of new English words like moist, shaft and loins, to name only but a few. It was also my first introduction into interracial relationships and in South Africa that was a big taboo then. I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about and today I realize I was actually light-years ahead of my classmates and English teacher. It is only now later in life that I see the real benefits of reading. I do not only learn new words every time I open a book, but I also learn a lot about other topics. One topic I particularly show interest in is stories on people and their views on life. Fiction? Never in my life…I still believe there are better things to do than to waste time on fiction. For that I have a DVD player and a big screen.

I just finished a book by Elizabeth Gilbert called Eat, Pray, Love. Although it is supposed to be a "girlie" book I started reading it and actually finished it in about 5 days. What caught my interest was her style of writing and specifically how she has the ability to describe things and events in such a way that everyone could relate to them. “With those giant brown liquid-center Italian eyes..” I also realized that she knows a lot of English words that I didn’t even know exist, “fervent”, “imbibed”, “maw”. I guess if I had read better English literature at school I might have picked up on these words a long time ago. Admittedly I never had the opportunity to use moist, shaft or loins in any of my posts yet. Another thing I realized not only from this book, but also from the couple of post that I have done so far, is how observant one has to be when writing. Especially when describing situations and scenes. One good thing about this is that it makes you see and experience things in a different way than just plainly doing and seeing it. People, names, time, places, finer detail, all becomes important. The more you look at these things, the more you learn and the more interesting life itself becomes. We get so caught up in our thoughts that we sometimes miss all the finer detail. We go to place, come back and can’t even remember what we saw or heard.

I won’t call myself a writer by a long shot, but what I do know is that reading makes you a better writer. Even if it just makes me see and experience live from a different perspective, then I guess I have achieved something. To my English teacher just the following…if you had encouraged me to read instead of trying to convert me I might’ve been a better writer today. To the white squaw…you might not have taught me a lot about English literature, but you sure got my imagination and creativity going.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Beach Tennis Discovered

I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I need to go back to beach basics, doing things on the beach that actually makes going to the beach more pleasurable than just surfing or kite surfing. This week I had some time to kill on the beach, so I tried the beach tennis for a change. Now as previously mentioned beach tennis used to be very uncool under surfers. This is the stuff the Vaalies (the people from Gauteng that was previously called The Transvaal) did when they came down to Durban for their summer holidays. Fortunately later in my life I dropped this superiority attitiude of me that was merely based on where people decided to spend their lives and adopted the "live and let live" approach. Unfortunately the beach tennis stayed uncool....until this week.

So, first of all you need a beach tennis set. My wife bought this set for my son at The Crazy Store for something like 25 Rands. I am sure you get better quality bats, but this one is OK for beginners. The neon pink ball looks a bit 80's but does the job well. At least it is visible against the blue backdrop of the sea. It does become a problem when your partner, or is it opponent, is using the printed side of the bat when hitting. The ball seems to disappear for a while and it makes it difficult to predict its trajectory once the ball is hit. I guess the only other thing you need is sunblock and a reasonably skilled partner.

I guess this is the second reason why beach tennis never became big in our family. "A reasonably skilled partner". Although I have some ability to hit a squash ball right in the middle of the racquet and place it where I want it, my wife does not possess any of these talents. As a matter of fact, when asked what type of sports she watches on TV she would immediately say "None, I don't have ball sense at all". Like you need ball sense to watch sports on television. But that gives an indication of how skilled she is when their is a ball involved. What she can do however is cook, and after I told her to see the bat in her hand as someone catching pancakes, she immediately showed considerable improvement.

Now I never thought that beach tennis could be so much fun. Not only is it very good exercise, it also helps with concentration and while you are busy doing it, you get a very even suntan all over. I guess the worst injury that anyone can get from this is sunburn and tennis elbow. After a couple of attempts my wife started hitting pancakes back to me left, right and center, and we had rallies up to a 100 hits before one of us dropped a pancake. At a point she did so well she started talking about our son's progression at school while she was progressing in becoming the best beach tennis player I have ever played with. I don't know where this beach tennis is taking her, but next week we both start working again, so I guess the bats will be put away until the next time that we go to the beach....which could be as soon as next weekend. Anyone else interested in some beach tennis...?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Back to the beach basics

I remember at school we always told this joke. We used to ask someone if they had known that there was a lady of 85 living in Durban and who has never seen the sea. Obviously no-one would believe that and would say "no way" to which we would reply.."yes, she was blind". A bit of an insensitive joke, but we were kids and what better did we know. Anyway, she had a reason for never seeing the sea, but I guess there are people living by the sea who never put their feet on the sand, let alone in the water. I know living by the sea does not mean you have to be on the beach every day...or even like the sea for that matter, but I feel that if you have the priviledge of living by the sea then at least you could go and sit at the beach every now and then and just appreciate the beauty of it. I try to go to the beach every single day, even if I just drive past to see what the waves are doing. Today I actually realized even though I live by the sea, go to the sea every day and named my blog after the sea, that I have forgotten what it's like to do the activities that some people usually associates with beach holidays.

This morning after another lovely Carlucci's breakfast I headed for the beach to go surf. My wife, son and his granny were already there. Yes, after my last cold water surfing experience I decided that today is the day to get back on the proverbial horse and to face the cold water again. Armed with a wetsuit and lots of enthusiasm I had one of my best surf sessions in months. I was really stoked. But you see, this is usually where I end my "beach activities". Today was different. Instead of going home I joined my family where they were lying on the sand and because it was such a  beautiful day I decided to stay for a while. My wife bought a beach tennis set for my son and like real holiday makers we played for nearly an hour. With my wife's limited ball sense beach tennis has never been big in our family, and besides, beach tennis had always been considered to be uncool by surfers. Rather play touch rugby if you really want to run around with a ball on the beach. I also realized today that I never swim in the sea anymore. I mean like doing real "body surfing" swimming, not standing in the water up to the waist and then calling it swimming. In Durban and Mossel Bay I used to body surf for hours, until my body felt like I've had the best chinese massage ever. Ok, I have to admit that the water is bloody cold here and body surfing with no wetsuit is not what I call fun anymore, but I miss that feeling of going down the face of the wave with no board underneath you only to be smashed when the wave breaks on your back. What a feeling! And spending time on the beach, like sun tanning, building sand castles, sitting under an umbrella and eating expensive ice creams from the local ice cream vendor who is selling his ice cream for double the price, is something I hardly do anymore. All these things I have lost along the way.

So next week I am planning a full day on the beach, to do all these things I never do anymore. I want to come home all wasted with sand everywhere. I want to do it the way the holiday makers do it. For the body surfing...well...that will have to wait until I reach a place with warmer water. So a trip later this year to Durban is not excluded.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Build a pergola the African way

I have this problem with a pool that is not fenced off, and no matter who comes to visit, it seems to be the attraction in the garden every kid loves. I do have a safety net on the pool, but I also have an adjacent fish pond which is not covered. The biggest problem with the pool and pond however is the little stones lying around the pond. My son knows that stones should not be thrown into the pool, but usually my friend's children are not that well educated. Hahaha, no hard feelings guys. Anyway, I decided that I need to build some sort of barrier to keep children away from my pond, so I decided a little picket fence and a pergola the African way is the way to go. I won't call myself a skilled carpenter, but I know how to hold a hand saw so this how you do it.

So what is a pergola the African way? Nothing much really, it just means that there were no plans, no design and the whole contraption was build with one saw, a couple of nails and a lot of enthusiasm. Ok, I did use a grinder and a sander as well, but everything was very basic. I only had one right hand man in the shape of my dad and also my son who tried to help but usually just carried my tools away. I started at 7am and had the whole thing finished at around 6pm. I still have to do the gate otherwise the whole exercise would not be worth the effort, but I ran out of material...and time. At least most of the hard work has been done.

I can't really tell you exactly how much material I used, I can't remember to be honest. All I know is that the wood is treated with CCA (chromated copper arsenate) which is a water-borne preservative that protects the wood for at least 30 years. Or so I was told. The picked fence I bought in lenghts of 1800 mm. Everything was rough timber. Not only is it cheaper than "machined" wood, but it has a rustic look which suits the African look. The nice thing about this pergola is that it will hopefully one day be covered with some creeper. This will hide all the mistakes. But there weren't really many. It is rustic after all. Everything was concreted into the ground to make it a bit more sturdy..and to last at least 30 years. All I have to do now is the gate and then paint it with some wood protector to protect it against the African sun.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Do you wipe your arse..?

A friend of mine recently told me she likes my posts where I am speaking from the heart more than the opiniated ones. Aren't opinions also coming from the heart I wondered? Anyway, listen to this one and then tell me if it came from the heart or if it is only my opinion.

I was driving home from the beach when this guy in a Volkwagen Golf (CA 86414) opened his window and catapulted a half eaten apple onto the pavement. Now when I see people doing that I feel my blood pressure rise in an instant. I cannot understand when or why some people missed the first lesson in keeping your country clean. I think that lesson came just after the "keeping your arse clean" lesson. What is wrong with a person that he/she will open a window and toss everything out that they do not want inside their car? Is a car the only place that they believe should be kept clean? Because if that is the case, why can't they extend that believe a little further to their surroundings as well? Do they brush their teeth, do they shower or bath, do they wipe their arses when they are done? Then why the hell can't they wait until the next waste bin before they clean their cars out?

Ok, I know an apple is probably biodegradable in a sense, but if it was only half eaten apples then maybe I would calm down a bit, but anything from plastic bags, aluminium cans, everything that should go to a waste bin. Where do these things end up? Who has to clean it up? No wonder the national flower in South Africa is called the Plastic Bag. Dammit man, this country belongs to us all! If you can keep your arse clean, try and keep your country clean as well.