Cape Town to PMB cycle ‘an education well beyond the classroom’

2016-04-13 10:24
Home after riding 2 200?km from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg, 11 Wykeham Collegiate girls and Adventure Sport co-ordinator Les Willows savour their welcome back to the school.

Home after riding 2 200?km from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg, 11 Wykeham Collegiate girls and Adventure Sport co-ordinator Les Willows savour their welcome back to the school. (Rose Harries, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Every pupil at The Wykeham Collegiate was on hand on Wednesday morning to welcome a team of 11 girls and the co-ordinator of TWC Adventure Sport, Les Willows, back to Pietermaritzburg after a holiday-long cycle tour from Cape Town.

First held in 1998 to celebrate the school’s centenary, the 2 200 kilometre tour was originally cycled from Pietermaritzburg to Cape Town. It has since taken place every three years, and the last four editions have been from Cape Town to the KwaZulu-Natal capital.

Willows dreamed up the challenge when travelling from the Mother City through the Karoo. There he came upon a woman in her sixties doing a self-supported ride, who had suffered a puncture. Willows helped her fix it, and she, in turn, provided him with the motivation to take on the Pietermaritzburg-to-Cape Town ride to celebrate the TWC centenary.

“It is hugely beneficial to these young girls,” he told The Witness at the finish at TWC. “What they learn out there on the roads, day after day, and living in close quarters with each other, they will never grasp in the classroom.

“It’s an education well beyond the doors of the classroom.”

Cycle Tour captain Hannah Chapman reflected on the lessons learned along the way: “Working with others and working as a team [was the primary lesson]. It is not about one person; it is more about service to each other. It’s also about perseverance; some of those passes were so steep,” she said.

The 11-strong group agreed that the passes and getting up at 1.30 am each morning were the toughest tests, but the heat and wind, too, made things tough.

Riding between 90 km and 100 km per day, they began cycling in the early hours of the morning, slept in the afternoons, woke up to eat dinner, and then slept once more from about 8 pm until their very early wake-up calls.

“You see a very different side of South Africa. I feel a lot more privileged now. We rode through so many poverty-stricken townships and rural areas,” Isabelle Joubert said.

Willows said it had been a huge privilege to see the girls mature before his eyes on the trip. “It has been nine months that they have put into this. They put in an enormous number of hours of training. A lot of them didn’t own a bicycle and I had to ride next to them and teach them to change gears. I must commend them for this huge achievement.”

He concluded: “They weren’t necessarily the best of mates to begin with. Their only common denominator was to ride a bicycle from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg, but they have become huge friends. They have bonded and their maturity has been exceptional.”

Read more on:    cape town  |  pietermaritzburg  |  education

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