[caption id="attachment_1996" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Proudly African - Landing in Johannesburg, South Africa"][/caption]
Greetings to all my EFRT teammates and blog readers,
It's Thursday, 12:34 pm in Port Elizabeth South Africa and I am at the Radisson Blue Hotel lounge overlooking the ocean and the swim start for Ironman South Africa. I swam one loop of the two loop swim course in some choppy, though perfectly warm/cool water in 28:44. A very easy swim and I stopped twice to figure out where the heck I was going. After the swim I was the second person in line to get registered for the race. Since arrival, I have had no time to sit and relax and genuflect . . . . until now! And boy do I have so much to say.
[caption id="attachment_1997" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Ironman South Africa Swim Course"][/caption]
Though we started packing five days early, it was still a bit hectic trying to actually get out the door. Monday, April 9th I swam and rode my bike and then stopped at the Greenway 500 Bicycle Shop. Mike O'Reilly expertly packed my bike after first replacing my chain and casette. He said 3,500 miles is way too long without changing both! LOL. What do I know, I'm a swimmer. Duh!
Once I got the bike packed, I realized I was going to have to take out a row of seats in the Dodge caravan in order to fit seven people, fifteen bags, one stroller and one bike. Oh, by the way, I color coded the luggage: two blue Swiss Gear roll bags for the four boys, two red Swiss Gear roll bags for my wife and baby, three-piece orange Eddie Bauer luggage set for me, my TYR triathlon gear bag, two blue Jeep roll bags for food, equipment, Team Baleka T-shirts, and supplies, four grey Prime back packs that can also be rolled for the boys carry on's, and the baby bag carry-on. Somehow I managed to get this all packed and we headed to my father's house in Plainfield, IL only five hours behind schedule. Not bad.
We spent the night at my father's and in the morning I ran five miles, then had to re-pack everything, including stuffing last minute items, into two cars. My father and step-mother then drove us to O'Hare airport. Baggage check in wasn't too bad, and they only charged me $75 for my bike, half of what they quoted me on the phone, and another $75 for an extra bag. So I broke even and was very happy. Going through security was a bit more challenging. No one got buzzed or pulled out of line, but 24 6.5oz juice boxes were confiscated from the kids backpacks!
[caption id="attachment_2001" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The boys on their way to Africa . . ."]
[caption id="attachment_2000" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Chadonicka and TaNihisi heading to Africa . . ."]
When we got on the plane from Chicago to Atlanta (two hours), we had to do some seat maneuvering in order to get Team Baleka all together. It was then that I had that moment - my whole family wide-eyed at their first ever flight! It was just a warm-up, however. When we got to Atlanta, we had about 1 hour to change planes for the Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa flight (fifteen hours). My fear was the kids would get bored, fight over video games and stuff, and generally annoy the other passengers. None of this happened. In front of every seat was a monitor with more movies and games than they could possibly watch and play in fifteen hours! So they were occupied or sleep the entire time. I didn't have to say a thing the entire flight.
We had other fears for our infant son TaNihisi, especially that his ears would hurt or that he would be fussy and we would become the stereotypical guilty-parents-with-screaming-baby-on-plane. This didn't happen, either. TaNihisi slept through take-offs and for most of the flight. The ticket agent even arranged it so that there was an empty seat in between me and my wife. Though we tried our best to get comfortable, we weren't.
It didn't go so well for me and my wife. Shortly after we left Chicago I came down with a fever and aches. The last two days of packing and getting to the airport took a lot out of me. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my Theraflu. Finally, I asked the stewardess if she had any medication and I took her "non-aspirirn". My wife fared worse. A few hours after me, she too came down with a fever. By the time we landed in Johannesburg, we were wiped out and we still had another two hour connecting flight to Port Elizabeth.
[caption id="attachment_2002" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Siphiwe and TaNihisi in Johannesburg, South Africa"]
The boys were very helpful in getting and rechecking our bags for the final flight, and we arrived in Port Elizabeth at 9:25 pm Wednesday, April 11th. At Avis I picked up our VW T5 Kombi, collected the kids and luggage, and packed it all in. It was then I noticed it was a manual transmission with the steeering wheel on the right side and stick on the left hand side. Ok, hold up .... I know I reserved a standard transmission. Well it was late, Avis was closing, we just wanted to get to the Pine Lodge Resort, so I figured, "Hey, I am a truckdriver. Man up! I can drive this thing!" Family cheering, I started the car and we went. About 10 feet before I stalled. And I stalled a few more times getting out of the parking lot. And a few more times getting out to the main road. And a few more times going down the main road. And they kids said, "What's that smell?". And then we saw the smoke. And then the clutch got stuck and I couldn't get it in gear. Finally I pulled over and luckily for us there was a policeman right there! He offered to drive us the remaining half mile to Pine Lodge but discovered the burnt out clutch. So he got out under the hood to look at it. Meanwhile, another police arroved and we decided to send my wife with the baby and youngest son ahead to check in at the resort. The irony of having to rely on white police officers to care of the most vulnerable members of my family in post-apartheid South Africa was not lost on me. Not exactly the way I wanted to start out in Africa. To their credit, the police were very friendly, and very helpful.
While waiting for the police to come and get my other sons, the dam T5 Kombi caught fire! Yep! Ten minutes in Africa and the car is on fire, there are no several police, firetrucks, everything! I'm thinking, "Shit! This is gonna break my bank...." My wife reminded me that I paid for insurance, so I probably wasn't going to have to replace the VW or its clutch. About an hour later we made it to the resort and I could finally sleep.
So this is a good place to stop for now. I'll try to get another post up tomorrow getting you caught up on our case of tonsilitis, the ocean, lions and elephants, electric plugs that don't work, the monkeys that keep coming in our room and stealing our banans and avocados - you know, typical African stuff! And oh yeah, some Ironman stuff too!
[caption id="attachment_2003" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Siphiwe after the swim"]