Railroad Adventures and Riding for a Cause

On Sunday 16th June, we joined Elton Davids for the last home stretch of his #domore ride from Knysna to Cape Town to create awareness for the Chaeli Campaign’s goal of raising funds for the new early learning centre.

We had enthusiastically agreed to join several weeks ago, but in the rush of everything to do with our new life situation, it was only last moment that I realised our transport dilemma… it was the first time we would be doing an event where the start and finish were at two different places – approximately 18km apart. Usually, I can get myself and Damian and our bike and buggy wherever we need to be on our own. But this time was different, and not being someone who likes to ask for help, I swallowed my pride and asked a few people – all who couldn’t help on this particular day. I pondered over every possible person who may be able to help and went to sleep Saturday evening with a blank list.

Knowing everything always works out for us, I woke up with fresh hope on Sunday morning and a great big dose of inspiration. I phoned Cape Town City’s transport 24/7 advice line – and after going over a few details, on the second phone call I had my solution. We would take the train! Damian was shrieking with laughter at the craziness of this plan. I had no idea how I would manage Damian, his trailer and my bike – but it was our only option – missing the ride was not.

We parked our car at Chaeli Cottage, hooked up the bike and trailer and cycled the short distance to Plumstead train station. Our first challenge was the stairs leading up to the ticket office and no ramp. I carried the bike up and a kind young guy appeared and helped me carry Damian in his buggy up. I bought our tickets – R9.70 each and R10.00 for my bike – and got some tips from the ticket office lady about where to change trains to get to Thornton.

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Plumstead station is very neat and peaceful on a Sunday afternoon, and there were a few others waiting to board. I asked a security guard to help us get onto the train when it arrived and he was very obliging. Damian was beside himself with excitement, waiting for our 11:21 train.

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DSCF0321The guard helped us on quickly and soon we were rambling through all of the stations in the Southern suburbs. I started to feel a bit nervous when I saw how quick the stops were and how little time I would have to get off with the bike and buggy – not enough time to do both. I was also nervous I would miss our change over in Salt River as I don’t know the order of stations in that area. Another traveller very kindly offered to get off at Salt River to help me, even though it wasn’t her intended stop. She helped us off and pushed my bike through to the exit and found a security guard to help get us to the next train. Salt River station was a bit hair raising. It wasn’t the picturesque and peaceful station that Plumstead station was. It was busy and crowded with bustling passengers. We needed to cross the railway bridge, and fortunately there was a long ramp option. The security guard pushed my bike, and I pushed Damian. He waited with me until the 11:55 train arrived headed for Thornton, and helped us board. I quickly found another passenger who was getting off after us and he was happy to help me get off at Thornton. We managed this with speed and precision without causing him to be left behind on the platform during the quick stop.

DSCF0318My second bit of alarm was finding ourselves alone on the platform with no guards, exit, or ticket office in sight. Fortunately we soon spotted the only other couple on the platform and asked for directions. The man offered to push my bike out – over the railway bridge! No ramp in sight – only stairs. I took Damian out of the Riksha as there was no way I could carry it up with him  in it. A vagrant appeared out of nowhere and carried it up to the top, where I took over and managed to carry Damian and push the buggy down the stairs, with the man’s wife guiding it from the front. At the bottom of the stairs Damian went back into the buggy, we hooked it up to my bike and the man pointed us in the right direction. Thank goodness for GPS enabled cellphones as I had no clue where I was or which way to go from there! I found my way the 1.1km to the Denneboom circle which was to be our meeting point – 20 minutes early!

DSCF0319I was blown away by how willing strangers were to help and how they seemed to appear just when we needed them. I also learned that sometimes, instead of stressing and asking “Who can help me?” it is much more empowering to remain calm and ask “How can I help myself?” The experience of making a plan and making ourselves vulnerable to a new adventure left me with an absolute joy and gratitude for being alive. It also gave me courage to make the decision on an adventure that has been brewing in my heart and thoughts for a while.

The rest of the group arrived shortly after – Elton, who is the man cycling from Knysna to Cape Town to create awareness, along with two ladies who joined him at Bottelary, a friend of his and Peter, who was my support rider in the Argus. We set off from Thornton at 1:30 and headed out into a chilly wind bound for Chaeli Cottage. As before, Peter gave me a push up some of the hills,  while the other Peter would frequently ride up just in front of me to give me a slipstream. I started to take strain towards the end, and Elton came up next to me and put his arm around me to give me a push up some of the climbs. We arrived at Chaeli Cottage and were welcomed in by some wonderful supporters, followed by much appreciated refreshments.

It was an amazing day in the company of people with incredible spirits and an eagerness to #domore.

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