The eThekwini Municipality Staff Bicycle Project is a brilliant idea. It’s right up there with free dolphin-assisted births at Sea World for employees over forty. Expectant mothers could cycle to the dolphinarium, squeeze out a nipper for the lunch time crowd in the Cargo Hold, and be back behind their desks in time for afternoon tea. Their waterlogged loinfruits could be raised by Gambit until they were old enough to work as waiters at Wahooz.
Pregnancy has been on my mind of late. I caught sight of myself, in profile, with my shirt off, reflected in a bottle store window, and, had I been a woman, it would not have been unreasonable for passers-by to smile and say, “Do you know the sex?”
I thought I might supplement my exercise regime with a little light cycling. When I heard the city council was dishing out free bikes to staff, I immediately applied for a job. It didn’t matter what the position was. Anyone with access to the Internet can learn to do anything. I’m surprised they still bother with universities. When the drugs wore off, it occurred to me that it might be easier to just hire a bike.
So I went to the beachfront and got me one of them fancy jobs with Hell’s Angels handlebars and four or five gears. It lacked, like all bicycles lack, a saddle the size of a dinner plate. That’s the size of my ass. I know because I have sat on enough dinner plates in my time and it’s a good fit. These ridiculous modern saddles can cleave a man in two.
I hadn’t ridden in forty years but I needn’t have worried about falling off because it was just like riding a bicycle. Standing up in the pedals like Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider, I wheeled over to a sign in front of Mike Sutcliffe’s pathetic excuse for a dune belt. I needed to determine the rules of engagement. No alcohol, littering, open fires, public disturbance, sleeping, unruly behaviour, weapons, bottles, braais, music, urinating and defecating. I was pleased to see that shagging wasn’t on the list. But, as tempting as it was to have hot monkey sex right there outside Circus Circus, I was paying more by the hour for this bicycle than I would have done for a mid-week special from Point Road.
I pointed my snout northwards, engaged first gear, and set off at a blistering pace for Kosi Bay. I hadn’t gone far when I was forced to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid the sorriest pair of paddling pools you are ever likely to see. They were cordoned off with razor wire. Shade cloth hung in tatters. The paving was cracked and the grass overgrown. It was the Auschwitz of paddling pools. Two men with clipboards wandered about pointing at things and shaking their heads.
Blue Lagoon wasn’t much better. It has been a construction site for as long as anyone can remember, and still it looks like nothing more exciting than a giant parking lot. On the positive side, I was fortunate enough to witness the KZN work ethic at close quarters. I felt like Richard Attenborough observing a rare species in one of the planet’s more remote locations.
“We have to be very quiet. Two of them are on their feet. They are slowly making their way to what looks like a hole in the ground. Another is already there. He is picking up some sort of implement … no, he has put it down again. Golly! That was either a very big yawn or a silent scream. We aren’t sure yet how they communicate. Or even what they do.”
Nobody could call Blue Lagoon a hive of activity unless they were talking about one of those hives that had been smoked out by beekeepers, pillaged by honey badgers and poisoned by Monsanto.
Even though it is almost impossible to accomplish, it is vitally important to look cool when you are riding a bicycle. What you don’t want to do is go about in shiny Spandex shorts, gay shoes and the silliest helmet seen since the Norman conquest of England. I rode with my left hand in the pocket of my camo rods and the index finger of my right hand resting lightly on the handlebars. I kept my eyes on the ocean. Only geeks look where they are going. I was fortunate to have a sturdy child from the hinterland break my fall after colliding with one of Sutcliffe’s desperately unhappy palm trees. That man has a lot to answer for.
Tekweni Beach – formerly known as the beach for darkies – was completely deserted. Thirty percent of the province is unemployed. Where the hell was everyone? There is no excuse for not going to the beach if you don’t have a job.
The trouble with cycling is that at some point one begins regressing. By the time I hit Dairy Beach I was riding with no hands and scaring the elderly. A couple of hundred metres on, I was trying to pull wheelies and ramp off the stairs. I rode up behind a couple of mounted policemen and smacked one of the horses on its rump. I was going pretty fast. The animal obviously thought I wanted a race. It caught me in about three seconds flat and carried on going. It’s probably in Knysna by now.
At this point I must have covered at least 250km. Surely by now my stomach was rock hard and I could stop? I gave it a feel. It wasn’t pleasant. It was clear that cycling does nothing at all for your abdomen. My legs, on the other hand, were ballooning by the minute. As the muscles in my calves and thighs developed, so the leg fat was being squeezed up into my stomach. It was a terrible discovery.
But not as terrible as discovering that there was nowhere to have a beer between North Beach and uShaka. Oh, the restaurants are there, alright. But they are reserved for pigeons only. The council built them in case the city’s precious sky-rats fancied sitting on something other than Addington Hospital, which, I might say, is looking far more attractive these days as a Jenga puzzle of rusted scaffolding and old bricks.
I came through South Beach like the explorer Ranulph Fiennes, were he to ever have the balls to take on a challenge as perilous as this. The clock on the lifesavers’ tower permanently reads 9.30. It probably froze when black people were allowed onto the beach. Seismic events are known to have this effect on chronological devices.
Wahooz appeared like a magnificent mirage. I dropped the bike and crawled to a table, my bottom minced raw and bleeding. I could barely sit down. Boil up some spaghetti and one could have made a decent bolognaise from my butt.
Even the adverts for uShaka Marine World bleating from a scratchy PA system failed to bother me. King Shaka, I am sure, would have been delighted to have a theme park named after him. His love of water slides is well documented and he was frequently seen drifting down the Tugela in a rubber tube. However, being an adventurous sort, he preferred the rapids of Blood River.
I overdid it on the carbo-loading and had to ask a rickshaw dude if he’d take me and my bike back to North Beach. He gave me the lazy eye and asked for a scamdalous fee. It was clearly some kind of payback for apartheid, but nobody charges those rates any more. The price of penance has plummeted since 1994. Someone should tell him.