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The Oros woman

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

I wrote this post after the Freedom Challenge Circuit 700km in April 2021.

There is no such thing as bad weather... only inappropriate clothing. Very sensible advice indeed; and certainly worth remembering when you decide to ride the Freedom Circuit knowing that inclement weather is on the way. But the words: sensible, Freedom Circuit and Ingrid are as in-congruent as 'slightly pregnant' or 'Mike Woolnough is an ordinary cyclist'. As you have probably guessed I was inadequately prepared for the foul weather. Sandra and I had ridden through half of the night and day in a torrential downpour of freezing rain. Normally I am okay in cold weather. But then normally I don't wear a rain jacket that has been duct taped and glued back to its former glory by a husband. Well, within a few minutes, the cold rain found its way through the glue and the duct tape leaving my base layer as wet as a soggy sponge. My rain pants were also not up to standard as I discovered they had been ripped on a barbed wire fence and the now increasing hole in the backside area was a welcoming funnel for the cold rain. My chamois was starting to resemble the sagging nappy of a young toddler playing on a beach.

It was on a chilly ascent through the village of Mademong (about 12km after Masakala Guest House, near Matatiele) when I realised that my uncontrollable shivering was not going to abate. I was frozen to the core. I expressed my concerns to Sandy. It was then that good fortune crossed our path. Literally. A group of noisy revellers had just piled into a Toyota Fortuner that was now doing a ten-point turn across our path, wheels spinning in the thick mud. Nolwazi Mabel Lengolo was waving good bye to her jovial guests. Perhaps it was the pitiful image of the two umlungu women, in the freezing rain, on bicycles, in the middle of nowhere (as Nolwazi put it), or the pleading look on my face, but Nolwazi insisted that we seek shelter in her house.

We really didn't want to impose . Especially as Nolwazi explained that they were in the throes of a funeral. Sandy and I expressed our condolences and suggested that this might not be the appropriate time or place for us to be seeking shelter in her home. "No, no", said Nolwazi, "the dead one was old and grumpy." Nolwazi led us to an area of the garage where the women were preparing food for the celebration of life. Big pots of boiling water were bubbling away on the gas burners. A slaughtered sheep lay on the nearby table. Dogs sat eagerly at the foot of the table, their mouths drooling at the thought of fresh meat and blood dripping from the dead offering. Sandy, a vegetarian, looked pale. Our arrival was met with great excitement. From the kitchen area, women emerged to greet the freezing umlungus. We were given seats between the boiling pots and gas burners to warm us up. We were wrapped in blankets and served hot coffee. An elderly lady with a wicked glint in her eye offered me a sip of Vodka from her half jack and a sniff of her snuff. I resisted the temptation. As a Piscean, I knew that if I gave into the seductive snare of these forbidden fruits I would soon be enticed into a wild party that just might end up with me singing Karaoke in the local tavern. It did not take long for a group of teenagers to emerge from the depths of the house to meet the two umlungu women on the bicycles. As usual, these teenagers had many questions. Why were we doing something so stupid? Were we being paid lots of money to ride bicycles in the freezing cold weather? What was the prize money for winning the race? So insightful were their questions that I did consider taking a big slug of vodka from the granny's bottle.

After about 60 minutes of sitting at the hot pots, Sandy felt that it was time to leave. I was still frozen. I then had a brilliant idea. All I needed was warmer clothes. I offered to buy some of Nolwazi's clothes. Luckily my suggestion was met with great excitement and enthusiasm from Nolwazi. She disappeared into her room and emerged with an assortment of clothes. Some floral, some plain, but who was I to be choosy. I was soon fitted with three long-sleeve shirts, a warm polo-

neck jersey and a trendy hoodie. It was just my legs that needed some sort of covering. I suggested tights. Unfortunately there were no tights on offer. Just then Nolwazi spotted her son's white tracksuit pants. The problem, however, was that her teenage son was wearing the pants. Nolwazi blurted out a flurry of Xhosa words. Her son replied "hayi mama, hayi iblukhwe yam". Which meant "No mom, not my pants''. Nolwazi would hear nothing of his nonsense and pulled his pants down. I now had some warm pants. "What about a bra?" asked Nolwazi. She fumbled around at my chest, estimating my bra size. "Duduzile", she shouted out, "give her your bra, she is your size". Luckily Duduzile was nowhere to be found. Suffice to say I did manage to leave her home with my heart and body as warm as toast. I must have looked like the Oros Woman. Only hotter.

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