Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Urban Farming in Africa

Ride start at the top of Mount Verde
Imagine, for $100,000 you can own a farm in South Africa- right outside a major city- right next to a game preserve.  You could grow sugar cane, or just let the management company grow it for you. Our practice ride today was at Mount Verde- a large estate outside of Pietermaritzburg with 58 farms. Much of the land is at the top of a ridge, which was shrouded in fog.  As we rode down and around, the fog would clear and we could see cattle, but also monkeys and antelope (they wouldn’t stick around for me to snap a photo).  I rode for a while with Kathy, one of the organizers.  She is part of a bunch of people that are trying to bring cycling to this part of South Africa.  It was chilly in the fog- it’s the end of winter here.  Kathy told me that just last week there was snow on the hills. 

One thing I have noticed is that nobody rides a bike as transportation in this part of Africa.  Either people walk or they take a taxi.  Few people own cars, so you would think a bike would be a good alternative.  But the culture just doesn’t exist.  Kathy and her friends at 4Ever Cycles (official bike shop sponsor) have been working to change that.  The sign up for the race was at their shop.  After putting together our bikes (Meg and I did it pretty much all by ourselves, although we did have to watch a YouTube video) and having a great breakfast at our hotel, we drove to downtown Pietermaritzburg where the bike shop is located.  The city itself does not impress.  Streets are lined with shops and vendors are set up all along the sidewalks selling everything- piles of shoes, clothes, fruit, candy.  But again, there are signs of hope.  We had lunch in a very swanky place called Cappello, where the slogan is Food Passion People.

After our ride, Meg and I had tea in our room, and headed out with Ed, Jodee and Ann Marie for a barbeque down in Alexander Park. They had huge tents, two cash bars and a large stage set up in an area they call Event Central.  The road race starts and finishes at the park, and the culminating party will take place there on Sunday night. Tomorrow the plan is to wake up early, put together my time trial bike and go ride the course.  But for now, I will dream about a sugar cane farm in the clouds.  

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