Thursday, October 22, 2009

How to Make Friends and Influence People

We rode 151km from Betta to Konkiep. It was more of the same. Brutal roads, lots of sand, tons of complaints. Just after lunch we arrived in a little village that had the most wonderful apple cake. I arrived just after Peter (the Grumpy Dutchman) and Hinchy. I was trying to decide which store to stop at when I saw their bikes out front of a little hotel. It was run by Germans, had a very German garden, and was the perfect place to stop. Oddly enough, the town itself had 2km of paved roads – and then back to the dirt.
Simon showed up just as the guys were leaving, so I decided to stay a little longer. We sat inside on the couches. I hadn’t sat on a couch since Cairo.
I took off with Simon, but the roads finally turned into graded hardpack, so I unfortunately left him behind. I got into the hotel and joined the crew that was already sitting around the pool drinking beer. The hotelier was this lovely old woman who baked us chocolate cake for that evening. As the evening progressed she told us more and more about her life. They had bought the place as a farm, but her husband couldn’t farm on it. The lodge was her idea, to give her something to do, now that her daughter had grown. Her son-in-law worked there, and originally I thought he was her son, which was a little creepy – he looked like a blond-haired Norman Bates – even dressed the part. The husband was frustrated because her business was doing so well, and yet he couldn’t make a go of the farm, so he was selling the place.
Before dinner Erin and I hiked up the local mountain to check out the view. It was amazing. The ground moved in rivulets, making it look as if it had once all been covered in sea (probably had). The few roads that there were looked like unending straight gashes in the land. We made bets on if we were seeing the end of the road out there. We saw Lloyd coming in on his bike – he was the size of an ant. It was a nice hike, and even same easy scrambling made me wish for the rock climbing back home.
The chocolate cake kept people up later than usual – 8pm instead of 6. Peter (Rumbutt – or Rombaut as would be proper, but less fun for nicknames), Erin and I decided that tonight would be the night to stay up late and have fun. Hardpack the next day and only 130km. Why not? There were a few stragglers from our group at the bar – the sectionals and the folk who hadn’t come for the whole tour – and we kept ordering bottles of wine. We definitely drank too much. Near the end I kept ordering water, but the damage was done. Peter and Erin tried out Hakkestraand, a liquor with barbed wire on the bottle, and so they went downhill fast. At some point we got on the topic of how lame the group was. We were frustrated by the militaristic schedule, of being hushed if we were up talking past 8pm. Wasn’t it our trip too? We decided that we were going to have a sleepover and stay up all night. Peter and Exley had a cabin, we could joke and have fun, and in the morning we could watch how fast the rumours flew. It was a silly joke that we would regret the next day.
The following morning I officially decided that I would never again join a group tour. The cabin we were hanging out in didn’t have soundproof walls. The folk who like their privacy decided that instead of camping near the rest, they would camp by the cabins. We kept them up all night. They looked at us with disdain. Erin and I rode together. Peter rode off looking as if he hadn’t consumed a thing. He said he was hungover, but nothing seems to affect that man negatively.
When Erin and I got to the cake stop, Allan blocked us from getting through the doorway and completely reamed us out. Local people were trying to get in and out, but his anger made him oblivious to their presence. Finally, he left. We sat down and Simon told us that rumour were going ‘round about usual having participated in a wild orgy. We had kept a bunch of people up because of the lack of soundproofing. We were laughing and talking in what we thought was privacy, and not one of the frustrated folk had even thought to knock on the door and say – Hey guys, we can hear you and we can’t sleep. Anyone we said this to said they were too angry, or that we wouldn’t have cared, or just gone back around to the whole “well you shouldn’t have been up late anyway” argument.
I officially have burnt out on my fellow riders. I find myself almost exclusively hanging out with Erin, Peter, Simon and the sectionals. I’m tired of curfew. I’m tired of routine. I’m tired of there being puerile unwritten rules. We’re near the end of the trip and everyone is following this work-week routine of: slog through it, get in, drink yourself silly on the first night of the rest day, see a sight or an internet cafĂ© the following day if all of your chores are done, repeat.
The ride was a beautiful one, and along the way Erin and I stopped for a nap. The timing was perfect. Right after that I was able to carry on. Erin laughed at how easy it was for me to fall asleep. We climbed up mountains and were treated to the most spectacular views. It was wonderful. Even in our muddy-headed states it was so joyous.
We got in that night and the Dutch had prepared a special event for us to celebrate their Queen’s birthday. We toasted her with a horrible orange schnapps, and they handed out beer (a few of us passed on those). It was a quiet night for our little group who had, at least for the night, become social pariah. South Africa, though, is just around the corner.

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