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Zvastica, Omul de Fier si Magicianul - Partea I / The Swastica, The Ironman, The Metal Jockey and The Magician - Part I

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Su Shi

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Couchsurfing: Garden Route, Port Elizabeth, Somerset East 11 - 15/04

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Plecasem de la Cap Agulhas in voie buna. Dar in emisfera sudica deja se intuneca devreme si seara e atat de frig incat imi ingheata mainile pe ghidon (am pierdut manusile Dainese de mult, in Windhoek, iar cele de rezerva s-au scorojit de la caldura si pur si simplu nu ma mai incap). In Africa de Sud - am fost sfatuiti de nenumarate ori - nu e safe sa campam oriunde, nu ca ar fi multe terenuri ne-ingradite cu sarma ghimpata. Campsite dupa campsite insa, in seara accea, nu ma gasit nimic deschis, decat un hotel obosit unde tariful ar fi fost in jur de 60 de euro pentru doua paturi. Cand am ajuns in Bredasdorp deja era noapte. Am vazut niste motoare parcate in fata unui pub, The Pink Piano, si am intrat sa cerem un sfat.

Daca nu esti genul care intra in vorba cu necunoscuti care iti ofera ospitalitatea, nu are rost sa bati drumul pana in sud-Africa. In tara asta trebuie sa uiti de prejudecati si sa nu te astepti la nimic. Noi asta am facut, pentru ca noi astia suntem, si am fost rasplatiti, si cu rele, dar mai ales cu bune. Poate ca natiunea asta eterogena are probleme la capitolul coabitare pasnica, dar structura multi-polara a societatii a dus la nenumarate ‘adaptari’, tot atatea lectii de viata pentru cineva care vine dintr-o tara ca Romania. Aici oamenii se pot retrage la periferia vietii sociale, unde isi contruiesc propriul univers si isi cultiva unele dintre cele mai interesante hobby-uri. O sa incercam sa impartasim cate ceva din experienta noastra de nomad pe canapelele sud-africanilor, cat de obiectiv putem. La drum! 

In Cape Town am fost gazduiti de un evreu cool, care lucreaza in industria cinematografica si de prietena lui romanca. Apoi, in loc sa dam peste tineri care trag liniute de coca, asa cum fusesem preveniti, am fost primiti de un cuplu crestin de Afrikaner. Comunitatea de motociclisti insa a compensat dezamagirea - cu informatii valoroase si ture faine. La 300 de km de Cape Town, in The Pink Piano din Bredasdorp, grupul posesorilor de ‘vitezane’ nu promitea nimic grozav. Vestimentatie din piele neagra, insigne cu zvastica, tunsori soldatesti si o tipa cu cizme pana la genunchi si machiaj goth. Ne-am baut ceaiul si berea, cat gasca se sfatuia in Afrikaans. Cateva telefoane mai tarziu, tipul de langa noi, ne face o oferta de nerefuzat, zambind pe sub mustata: suntem invitati sa dormim la el acasa, tocmai a vorbit cu sotia si cei doi copii, care sunt incantati sa ne primeasca. JJ, posesor de GSXR de 1000, este mecanic la centrul national de testare si service al industriei aviatice militare din Africa de Sud. Sotia lui preda engleza la un liceu mixt. Ne-am intins pana tarziu in noapte, la pahar dupa pahar de povesti. Dimineata am facut schimb de adrese si ne-am luat, cu regret, ramas bun. Multumim JJ! Inca o dovada ca aparentele inseala… 

We had left from Cape Agulhas in good spirits, but at that time of the year the day was short and evenings too chilly for our summer gear. I had lost my gloves long time ago, in Windhoek, and my spare pair had been baked by desert heat to the point of being unwearable, so my hands were freezing. Everybody had been saying how wild-camping was unsafe in South Africa, but the fact of the matter was that had not seen a single unfenced spot all day. We did try reluctantly a few campsites, none was open though, high season now over. We stumbled upon some hotel that was 60 euros for two beds in a dorm. When we arrived in Bredasdorp it was already pitch black. We saw a couple of power bikes parked in front of what looked like a cute pub, The Pink Piano, so we figured we could go in, have a drink and ask locals for advice.

If you’re not in the business of meeting quirky characters don’t bother to couch surf in South Africa. Here one must leave their prejudices at the door and step in expecting nothing. Which is what we did, and we were rewarded with hospitality, sense of humor and some of the most unusual encounters. The cocktail nation of South Africa may lack in the peaceful cohabitation department and may not be the jolliest around, but this very polarized structure has allowed all sorts of social specializations that are quite an eye opener for someone coming from a place like Romania. Not being judgmental is hard, so let’s go. 

In Cape Town we were hosted by a jewish guy who works in the film industry and his romanian girlfriend, then by christian Afrikaners, who couldn’t be more different from the cocaine addicts we were warned about. The Cape Town motorcycling community provided the fun, the information and the rides into the veld. 300 kays from the Mother Town, in Bredasdorp’s Pink Piano pub, we had a bad feeling that it was the right place to ask for directions. Three biker dudes and a goth chick were dressed head to toe in black leathers, sporting army style haircuts and swastikas pins. We sipped our tea and beer while the guys debated our situation in Afrikaans. Nothing good could come out if this, we thought, but we were about to be proven wrong. The guy sitting right next to us at the counter put down the phone and offered us a wide smile; his wife had agreed to welcome us for the night at their place! JJ is a mechanic at a testing facility for the South African military aviation. His wife teaches English at a colored school, and they have two kids, a girl and a boy. We enjoyed each other’s companies and stories so much, it was hard to put an end to the night. In the morning we exchanged contacts and regretfully said good-bye. Cheers, JJ! 

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Coasta Oceanului Indian (Garden Route) este renumita ca unul dintre traseele cele mai frumoase pentru sofat din lume. Nu ne-am lamurit de ce: autostrada e aglomerata si obositoare, ca sa vezi faimoasele golfuri din cartile postale trebuie sa faci de fiecare data zeci de kilometri dus-intors pana la ocean. Drumul merge de fapt la mare distanta de tarm si partea pitoreasca se intampla in statiunile de vacanta care sunt insirate pe litoral. Am mai cotit pe unde am putut ca sa mirosim briza si sa vedem oceanul, insa nu aveam in plan sa risipim timp si bani prin pensiunile cochete: eram asteptati in Port Elizabeth. 

Midway between Ct and PE, on the East coast of SA, lies the scenic garne Route, named for its lush vegetation. Garden Route is hailed as one of world’s best drives. Frankly, we couldn’t see why: its basically a quite busy freeway running parallel to, but far from a section of the country’s most beautiful coastline. The drive itself is not particularly thrilling, as the routes more a eco-tourism destination, for shopping, sunbathing and the odd celebrity spotting, a holidaymaker and the world’s rich and famous paradise. It is a charming holiday area, not catering to the travelers on a show string, but to enjoy the beautiful views, the beaches and tranquil bays, one must leave the freeway and drive many kays to reach the resort towns. We had nor the time or the budget for this, so after a few off-road detours to smell the salty breeze and sink our eyes into the endless horizon we kind of got bored with the traffic.

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In 1488 Bartolomeo Diaz era primul european care ajungea in Mossel Bay. Ne-am oprit cat sa comunicam cu gazdele de diseara si sa mancam ceva. Orasul este incantator, dar scump. Am tras la o cafenea simpatica, detinuta de arhitecti. Localnicii ne-au trimis la Sea Gipsy pentru a gusta din faimoasele stridii locale, insa nu se compara cu ce am mancat in Walvis Bay!

In 1488 Bartholomew Diaz was the first european to reach south African soil in Mossel Bay. We stopped there in a cute cafe owned by architects, for a latte and internet. Later we asked some locals where to sample the famous Mossel Bay wild oysters, but they were not even close to the ones we had in Walvis Bay! The seafood basket at the Sea Gipsy was brilliant though, if not very cheap.

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Pe Garden Route - atunci cand nu e full de masini

Garden Route, when it’s not full of jeeps.

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Dupa Knysna, plictisiti de moarte de autostrada, am facut stanga catre Route 62. In cativa kilometri eram singuri pe un R340, un drum superb de pietris. Contrastul era prea tare: aer curat, muntii acoperiti de vegetatie, cascade supurande, traseu sinuos. In prima oara ne-am oprit de cateva ori sa facem poze, apoi pur si simplu am uitat. 

After Knysna we decided we had had enough, so we took a left towards Route 62, via Albert Pass. In a couple of kilometers we were again alone, riding on a superb gravel road that winded up rolling green mountains. For a while we remembered to take some shots of the stunning views and frigid waterfalls, but soon enough we were too spellbound to stop. 

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Drumul - prin trecatoarea Pince Albert - arata cam asa:

The road looked like that:

Odata muntele traversat, am iesit in Route 62, care taie drept zona deluroasa si cateva parcuri nationale. Insa se facea foarte repede noapte, asa ca nu am apucat sa vedem mare lucru. Am facut plinul si am completat ce aveam la pachet cu de-ale gurii dintr-un supermarket. 

Once we hit the plateau again, we took Route 62 across the hilly countryside that cuts through several conservancies. It was already getting dark though, so unfortunately we didn’t get to see much. At some lost filling station we bought petrol and some food.

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In Port Elizabeth am ajuns dupa 8. Gazda noastra ne urmarea aventura inca de anul trecut si ne invitase sa ne arate imprejurimile. Nu stiam nimic despre Bernard, cu atat mai mare surpriza sa aflam ca este unul dintre putinii oameni din lume care a terminat - nu doar o data - cea mai dificila competitie sportiva de anduranta din lume: Ironman. 3,8 km inot in ocean, 180 de km ciclism, 42,2 km maraton, doar numerele astea insirata sunt de ajuns pentru a intimida pe oricine. Dar nu si pe Bernard, care are in palmares zeci de triatloane si competitii de inot si doua competitii Ironman terminat cu timpi impresionanti: ceva peste 11 ore, cand recordul mondial depaseste 8 ore si limita este de 17! Astfel de performante impun disciplina si antrenamente dure, dar pentru Bernard, perfectionist si pasionat, un astfel de regim de viata este normal. Am petrecut cateva zile insorite cu un cuplu ‘de fier’, pentru ca iubita lui Bernard, Sharmyn, a terminat si ea de doua ori cu lauri faimoasa competitie. Exemplul lor de curaj si generozitate ramane unul dintre cele mai emotionante din calatorie. 

It was after 8 p.m. when we arrived at our host in Port Elizabeth. Bernard had been following our thread on advrider.com since last year.  But this guy was an Ironman. If you are not familiar with what is the toughest and most grueling athletic competition in the world, let us give you a few details. The numbers alone defy description: 3,8 km open sea swim, 180 km cycling, 42,2 km run; world record is over 8 hours, cutoff time 17 hours. Bernard has done it twice, in little over 11 hours! He has been training his body and mind for a lifetime to beat what is generally accepted to be humanly possible. And yet, with this ironman schedule, he invited us in his life, and boy, what a man we discovered behind the iron! 

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Bernard & Sharmyn are quite the iron couple really: she has also done the competition, twice!

Port Elizabeth este al treilea port de cargo ca marime din Africa de Sud, edificat de-a lungul lagunei si fortului din 1799, dar botezat oficial abia la sosirea colonistilor britanici in 1820. Englezii au esuat la tarmul insorit, unde briza neimblazita framanta dunele. In prezent orasul formeaza, impreuna cu Uitenhage centrul industriei automobilistice din Africa de Sud, iar in golful Nelson Mandela se organizeaza an de an in aprilie competitia Ironman. Plajele pustii sunt minunate pentru picnic, asa ca ne-am executat, cu pui fript si o sticla de Merlot.

PE is the third largest port for cargo, built around the Bay of the Lagoon and the 1799 fort, but officially named after the arrival of the 1820 British settlers, their ships carried ashore through crashing surf and confronted by a desolate sweep of sand and the uncharted bushland behind that.  Today PE is - together with Uitenhage area - the heart of the motor industry where the largest automobile manufacturers are headquartered. Also PE’s Nelson Mandela Bay is the venue for Ironman South Africa. The wind swept beaches are perfect for an intimate picnic, so we grabbed some barbecued chicken and a bottle of Merlot and hit the dunes. 

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Putinele locuinte rustice care au supravietuit modernizarii sunt exploatate turistic

The few rustic Dutch town houses that survive have been refurbished as souvenir shops and info points.

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Zone de agrement si mall-uri chic sunt aliniate la litoral. De pe terasa unei cafenele cu wifi zarim comercianti ambulanti de suveniruri africane de duzina, denumite peiorativ - incepand cu Zambia - ‘curios’. 

Malls and recreational areas line the ocean. From this wifi connected cafe we could see street-side african art dealers selling generic carvings and jewelry called ‘curios’ since Zambia.

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Nu degeaba Port Elizabeth este poreclit ‘Orasul prietenos’: un alt cuplu de motociclisti ne oferise gazduire dupa ce ne urmarisera calatoria pe advrider.com. Asa ca am luat cina impreuna, noi doi si Bernard la Terry si Dorianne, o seara prea scurta insa pentru cate lucruri ne-am descoperit in comun, pasiunea pentru natura si faptul ca Terry este unul dintre cei mai cunoscuti arhitecti din oras fiind doar cateva dintre ele. Dar Bernard planuise pentru noi o iesire la tara, pe ferma tatalui sau, care s-a retras la 73 de ani pe pamanturile parintesti, la cateva zeci de kilometri de Somerset East. De neratat!  Ne-am suit pe cai: noi pe Tenere, Bernard pe un BMW R1100 S din anii 80’, si, dupa 150 de km de asfalt si o gustare cu fructe de cactus, am tras in fata domeniului Avon Heights.

PE is nicknamed ‘the friendly city’, and rightfully so. Terry, an architect and his wife Dorianne had also been online with our travels for a while and were keen to meet and host us. We shared many stories over a lovely dinner, a far too short opportunity to get to know each other. Hoping that we would meet again, we left PE the next morning, as Bernard had made plans to braai at his father’s farm near Somerset East. We hoped on our bikes: us on the Tenere, Bernard on his 80s BMW R1100 S, and 150 km and a prickly pear road side snack later, we were in front of the Avon Heights gate.

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Casa e plina de amintiri si obiecte pretioase: scaune pliante de serie mica executate pentru armata britanica in anii 30’, fotografii de familie, mobila vintage si o bucatarie cu un sarm inefabil

The country estate is a collection of charming buildings and family memories: pliable chairs manufactured in the 30s for the British army, old photographs, vintage furniture and a lovely rustic kitchen & stove

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Printre micile comori de familie se numara si un Harley din 1932, unul dintre cele 1137 dintr-un lot produs special pentru armata britanica. Visul lui Bernard este ca intr-o buna zi sa redea viata ‘mostrului’.

Among the family treasures, a 1932 Harley, from a 1137 pcs. lot specially designed for the British army. One day Bernard will bring this baby back to life.

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Cel mai pretios secret este insa cascada de la ferma, un loc care iti taie rasuflarea. Am pus berile, taraneste, la rece in apa limpede ca cristalul si am incins un braai adevarat.

But the most precious secret on the estate is the waterfall that offers an astonishing background for braaing and swimming. We left our beers to cool in the crystal clear stream and made the fire.

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O gasca relaxata

Our chilled gang 

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Si cascada, care formeaza la baza mai multe locuri bune de baie

Avon Falls, an impressive sight at over 30 meters drop into several pools

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Tot ce e bun are si un sfarsit

All that is good must have an end though

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Incheiat insa cu un drum pana la spitalul de stat in Somerset East, pentru ca tatal lui Bernard s-a renit intr-o piatra. Am asteptat trei ore sa ii fie suturata plaga, timp in care ne-am convins ca un spital de tara nu e departe de nivelul Municipalului din Bucuresti

In our case that meant a trip to the public hospital in Somerset East, where Bernard’s dad had to get a few stitches after injuring himself onto a rock. The three hour wait in the hallway was quite interesting for us: this sketchy countryside hospital is not much worse that our Municipal facility in Bucharest!

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