Week 9 - Spin 3 - Heavy Weather

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.)

12 Replies

  • Oh my goodness!! I have no words!! So glad you got home unscathed. Can't say I'm surprised the spinning didn't go particularly well, you must have been in the downward sweep of the adrenalin response curve - not the best place to be for a PB! Congratulations on your spinning graduation Gary. :)

  • Thanks. Certainly the traffic was something I was right to be scared of, even if the body parts hunters turned out to be harmless figments of a traffic-traumatised imagination.

  • Blimey Gary, that's some story! You should write a thriller with your experiences. No wonder you were apprehensive on that road! And there's me worried about tree roots!

    Great news about getting to the end of the programme. And you managed a Parkrun too. Well done to you for your commitment and hard work. What happens next?

  • If I could revive some of my prosecuting memories well enough to bring out the details, I'd have a few stories to tell. Luckily they all happened to other people. Mind you, I have friends and family who have even better (well worse) stories to tell - apart from the witchcraft related ones.

    I think the last time someone tried to frighten me/ maybe even tried to kill me on the road, it was last year on my little motorbike. I just got the feeling I needed to immediately change lanes "now", and did so, and a taxi almost hit me going past as I did so. (My mirrors are a bit of a disgrace, so someone close enough behind me is invisible). It felt very much like if I'd been in the outside lane for one more microsecond, there would've been someone pushing me out of it - which is always painful on a bike. Moral of the story? Don't use a bike that maxes out at about 120km/h on a motorway.

    Hopefully it'll be a good while before the next incident. And hopefully once again all the driver will intend is to scare me silly.

    My next plans are to just keep regular, I think. I have an electric bicycle, which makes cycling up these hills possible, and I think I'll start using that to get around more and more, and perhaps extend my range. That's a bit difficult, because this city was built on the assumption that everyone would be in a car or a bus, so to get over the coastal freeway there's just one bridge, and cycling across it is not very good for the nerves.

    My warmup for spinning will become cycling. I'll probably swim a bit more again too.

    I've done a few experiments with a bit of running that didn't seem to do any harm, so I'll also keep testing that possibility. Maybe every Saturday I can do a very, very slow parkrun, at a running gait. Might even cycle there.

  • Holy Crap !!!! Even the tags on your post are enough to give me nightmares !!!

    That must've been a truly frightening experience for you Gary and I am not surprised that you struggled afterwards .

    Congratulations on your Graduation , Well done ! xxx

  • Thanks. The buffeting by the wind certainly got my attention enough to keep me nervous all the way down. I think the first time someone tried to scare me/ run me down while walking along a country road was way, way back (probably in the 1930's or something - I forget :-) ) when a mate and me were walking from one horrible boarding school to another to visit his sister, and a driver of one of those old American tanks they used to make swerved right across the road, straight at us, so that we had to dive to avoid being hit. He might have timed it so as not to damage his car, but it felt like being part of a Stephen King novel.

    Here, back in Westville, all that happened was a walker said good morning to me as we crossed paths, and then further along the circuit, we crossed paths again, and I accused her of cheating by running somewhere, because she'd covered too much ground. I also told a passing motorist, lost here, where Buckingham Terrace was. People are always getting lost here. The roads don't follow a nice grid, and they tend to carry you away from whatever landmark you thought you'd head toward. Not so exciting, but I think this is more my cup of tea. It's not that I go looking for adventure; it's just that every ever so often someone tries to kill me. :-)

  • Ha ha Gary, I love it " Its just that every so often someone tries to kill me " Ha ha

    Whoa ! Hold on one minute, Rewind - Way back in the 1930's ????? I hope you dont mind me asking, but how old are you ? You dont have to answer that if its too personal, if so , forgive me for being rude xxx

  • 1930's is a bit of an exaggeration. I'm actually only 53, so the actual date was sometime in 1976, I think. Which is a very, very long time ago, isn't it?

    And here's hoping that from now on until I turn 106, adventure stays out of the Shire. :-) Apparently an old (and clever) Chinese curse is: May you live in interesting times.

  • Ha ha ! You are nowt but a young whipper snapper ! :-)

    Yes , I think you have had more than your share of adventure and danger now . Heres hoping for more peaceful and safe times ahead xxx

  • Oh Gary, some pretty horrible stories there, so no wonder your mind was working overtime on those quiet roads! Glad that third spin of week 9 is done, though! Congratulations - also for some quite bizarre tags at the end of the post!

  • Thanks Sandra. I've just looked at the tags. :-) Yes, they are strange, aren't they?

    It feels really nice to have the third spin done and dusted like this, but the memories of the unwanted adventures have swamped it out a bit. Maybe I'll have to just celebrate my first week of sticking to the plan I don't yet have settled.

  • Well that all sounds very dramatic. Keep safe over there Gary. No wonder you were a bit paranoid, I would be a nervous wreck!

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