Looks like going for long walks doesn't maintain one's spinning fitness very nicely. Turns out my brother just wanted a visit, not help (he'd have to be half dead to release the helm) so I'm back again. Just as well. All the gym equipment up there is sold or scattered, and I just couldn't bring myself to go and swim in a muddy dam.
I did their local parkrun and achieved a PW of about 59 min. This is even with little bits of very slow running (experimental on the uphills). On one day of the week I walked out about 5.5 km, up about 240m, and back, and later I went up the main road about 7km out, and then back, and about 220m up (and back down). The second one was quite hard for a number of reasons (two people offered to rescue me on the way back, even). It was hot (not 40, but 39, which is plenty hot enough). The road verges are overgrown in places with lantana (a nasty poisonous weed with pretty flowers) so at times it was necessary to walk on the driving surface. At times, even when I was outside the yellow line, and right on the edge of the grass, some vehicles came a bit too close for comfort. A minibus taxi went past so close that I was buffeted by its wind. At the time I was pretty much in the grass, so I'll make the least paranoid assumption, and assume he tried (successfully) to give me a fright, and that this wasn't a failed attempt to kill me for being an isolated available target. I actually was busy stepping completely off the road at the time the buffeting hit me, so the paranoid assumption is not entirely impossible. However it would've cost money to fix the dent I would have made, so I think I must lean toward the "lets give that old git a fright" assumption. After that incident I did some running downhill (which is more forbidden than is the uphill kind). I didn't want to be up in the "pass" any longer than absolutely necessary.
Hmm... I suppose I better mention my final little bit of paranoia near the bottom, but first explain myself (just why I could imagine something so crazy). It starts with the fact that once I was a prosecutor, and for a long time I had a case under investigation on my roll that is not unique to South Africa, but occurs more frequently here than in most places. To translate loosely, it was a "medicine case". And by that I mean witchcraft. A hitchhiker was given a lift by a car full of men, they almost immediately went off the main road, and down a dirt road near the river of the town. He asked what was going on, and one of them said, "We are going to kill you". It turns out they needed somebody's head for magical purposes, and had decided that his would suffice. The announcement of their intentions was to deliberately provoke him into fighting, begging, reacting nice and strongly. A head is not good enough. The owner of the head must first scream a lot before it's of any use. And this saved his life, probably. Instead of efficiently killing him with eg a gun, and then just hacking his head off, then pinned him to the ground, and started to saw off his head with a blunt knife. He definitely didn't make that part up. I saw the scar every time he came to check up to make sure I didn't mess up his case. It was as thick as a small little finger, and literally from ear to ear. It was probably also all skin deep, since he lived through this. He somehow fought them off, ran, crossed the river, ran about 1.5 km up the hill on the other side, and collapsed at a filling station. He was lucky. I also had the occasional inquest docket with similar incidents that ended up with a sad, lonely, cruel death whose perpetrators were unlikely ever to be traced. The only other "live" case like that that passed briefly through my hands was that of a vagrant who as arrested up in a eucalyptus plantation. One of the cops had a look in his cooking pot, just out of idle curiosity, and discovered that he had been busy cooking someone else's hand at the time they arrived. Sort of like that bloke in Germany a few years ago, only he didn't advertise for volunteers.
So to excuse my paranoia, I have quite vivid memories of a man with a huge scar round his neck, and a witchdoctor with beads in his hair, and evil little yellow bloodshot eyes.
Now recently, someone posted something on Facebook about a mountain biker who ended up off his bike, and in the company of two unfriendly men, heading into the bush, and being told that they didn't want his bike, they just wanted to kill him. They attacked him with knives, and he fought furiously, and somehow escaped to be rescued by passers by when he got back to the road. Strange, because in this country, if someone is the kind of person who uses a knife on you there seem to be but two normal modes (from what I've seen, which is far from comprehensive ... but anyway, to explain paranoia, that will do). Two normal modes. Mode 1 is killing mode, and doesn't take long. It always involves overkill - 20 or more stab wounds are common, but it's efficient. Mode 2 is "punishment mode" (at its nicest - actually it's torture mode). In torture mode lots of "one inch" stabs are stuck into either the shoulders or the buttocks of the victim. Apparently being stabbed in these two areas hurts like crazy but is seldom lethal. This guy's attackers seemed to be doing something more like a blunt knife job on him ie. harvesting his body parts for some magical ritual.
Now if this really was an attempt at a ritual murder it's a new development (if what the court interpreter at the place of the severed head murders told me is right). You see, he was white (although all that matters here actually is that he wasn't black - and possibly that he wasn't Sotho or Venda or etc.) That means he doesn't have proper ancestors to hear his screams (very roughly, and this is borderline ignorant, so again this is not offered as fact, but rather as an excuse for paranoia). Up till now it's been something the rest of us are immune from, because we are unsuitable sacrifices. But maybe that has changed.
So of course my paranoia near the bottom of the long hill where I was just given a bit of a fright by a taxi involved the possibility of my head or other parts being harvested for magical purposes. A Golf with 3 sturdy looking young black men went past me not once, but a few times, slowing down a bit as they got near me. As I got near the last bit of slope, there they were, stopped on the side of the road, and doing something in the bush there. Until I finally realised they were just with the local Irrigation Board, I was quite worried, try as I may to reason with myself about how every single thing I was worrying about (apart from being scrutinised from a vehicle that had slowed down) was wild conjecture. It's likeliest that I remain unsuitable for sacrificial purposes; this kind of thing is diminishing as more and more people enter the 21st century; it is extremely rare, even without that (just the fact that it happens tends to push it into one's face, because it's so weird and horrible). So I spent a few minutes hoping that I wasn't about to have to fight a lonely fight for my life, but continuing to walk down the road toward toward the people who might do this to me - out of a kind of embarrassment at my own self, I suppose -- for something like being 5 years old and scared of the crocodile under your bed. Keep walking because that thought is stupid, and then slow down a bit, because it's possible, and I'm rattled by the way the day has unfolded.
and then I got back here, went and spun that spin, and really struggled with it.
I think I prefer spinning to walking on the R536 toward Sabie, then. (But going up a dirt road to a place called Kiepersol was more fun. There, sometimes you wonder whether the local leopard might be nearby and taking a day off from being nervous of human beings, but the thought is somehow easier to dismiss than that of being pinned down so your head can slowly be sawn off. That part of the world reallly is one of those places where wandering pets like cats and Jack Russells will sometimes just never come home, but that's usually due to snares, not predation. A friend of mine's Jack Russell got eaten by a python, my sister in laws chickens, and some of her cats have been Crowned Eagle food, but generally if your pet is missing you need to go searching for where it's been caught in a snare. You'd be surprised how often the snared pets are found, actually. ... anyway I don't ever have paranoid thoughts of being trapped in a snare while walking, so this is getting more irrelevant.)