Enduro Africa riders were off of our bikes for a rest day today, which was spent at a nearby school refurbishing desks, painting interior walls, and performing other maintenance with TouchAfrica.
As we arrived, children started pouring out of the buildings and began waving and dancing for us. There must have been 300 kids there, all dressed sharply in black uniforms.
I know that most of my blog readers need no description of what schools are like in this part of the world, with their dirt floors, crumbling walls, sparce instructional materials, and broken windows. We spent much of the day attempting to address these issues.
During a break, I sat against a building with a thoughtful, young Port Elizabeth-based medic who is providing support for the trek. He picked up and held the most adorable 2-yr old with saucer-shaped dark eyes.
We discussed at length the life expectancy in the community, residents' health status, and health care services available to rural South Africans. Needless to say, much of the discussion was rather bleak, but not all of it, thankfully.
By the end of the day, EA riders had left several permanent products behind which should benefit these children immensely. And we created some lasting memories, including a bagpipe performance by Neil Rathbone that mesmerized everyone at the school for a good 30 minutes. It was touching to see the joy this brought to the crowd. Well done, Neil.
Once again, the experience caused many to reflect seriously about how best to bring positive, long term impacts to communities that need aid the most. Needless to say, a consensus eluded us.
The 8:30 PM pre-ride briefing was unusual tonght for its blunt words of caution about the need for safe, steady progress on tomorrow's 140-km, highly technical, 11-hr ride. In fact, two (not one) escape routes are planned in the event, for example, that the 500-foot, steep declines on loose shale and boulders, prove too much for some.
Stay tuned. I'll provide an update tomorrow night.
Photo credits: Andrew Forsyth, Andrew Pawley