Strange how cycling in the cold fog of November can bring back memories of hot sunny bike rides. Today I found myself thinking about how, quite a few decades ago, I used to go off with schoolfriends on a bike ride in the hills outside Pretoria to visit Klapperkop Fort, a white elephant built by the Boers in the 1890’s to defend Pretoria against the British threat.
At the age of twelve this fort held a number of attractions for us:
* Real tanks that you could get inside and move the guns up and down.
* Cut-away shells and weapons that allowed us to study their insides.
* A scarily realistic display in the hospital section of a soldier being held down while his leg was sawn off.
* Good spots where you could collect wood and have a braai.
One of the displays was this bicycle which we always wished had more track so we could try it out:
This would have been used on the Railway between the Cape and the Transvaal, where my grandfather worked as a railway postmaster, maybe passing this very machine in a dusty siding somewhere in the Karoo. Never having met said grandfather makes even such hypothetical connections quite poignant!
The ride home from the fort included the longest and fastest downhill that Pretoria had to offer:
I imagine this is still a popular route with Pretoria cyclists.
South Africa at the time had no television, because the apartheid government of the time thought that it would corrupt the morals of the young. How right they were for all the wrong reasons! And how lucky for my generation who spent all our time out of doors as a result.