Howzit.. (This is a South African way of greeting.)
My name is Cornel van Onselen and I am one of your Bushveld 2020 adventure leaders. I make up one half of the couple who will be ensuring your trip to South Africa is a memorable one. Anneke is the other, more beautiful, half.
One of the things you’ll do on the Bushveld 2020 Tour, is to deliver the sponsored bicycles to learners in a rural area in South Africa through the #BIKES4ERP initiative.
What is #BIKES4ERP?
Gert Vermeulen and Nicolai van der Merwe share a passion for cycling and established a group called, BOMB (Believers on Mountain Bikes). In 2017 they raised funds and delivered 86 bicycles in the town of My Darling, which is situated in the Blouberg area in Limpopo Province.
After the success of the first outreach, they planned for 8 months and raised funds once again. This time their tireless work enabled them to raise enough funds to deliver 100 bicycles in the rural town of Maretlwane, North West Province.
A student is eligible to receive a bicycle if he/she meets a certain set of criteria. One of the criteria is that the learner walks long distances (sometimes more than 10 kilometres) to and from school.
My #BIKES4ERP experience (Part 1)
I’d like to give you a glimpse of what a #BIKES4ERP drop is all about by sharing my 2018 experience with you in a two part series. This will give you a sense of what you will experience on a similar trip as part our Bushveld 2020 Tour.
Thursday, 16 August 2018
The last pre-trip preparations included five vehicles and trailers to be fetched from sponsors, the food for the team to be bought and #BIKES4ERP stickers to be pasted on the 100 bicycles. A small task team took care of the stickers as the drivers of the vehicles fetched the trailers in Bronkhorstspruit. Albert de Villiers had every meal and snack planned, to the last gram (you will understand when you meet him), and did the shopping later that afternoon.
The five trailers were parked in the basement parking of the Epi-Use offices.
One by one the distinctive yellow bicycles were carefully loaded onto the trailers. Due to its robust construction, each bicycle weighs approximately 23 kilograms. The bicycles fit tightly, but securely on the sturdy trailers.
Friday, 17 August 2018
The members of the #BIKES4ERP team arrived from about 7h00 in the basement parking. The 100 goodie bags (filled with a pump, bicycle spanner, puncture kit and helmet), that accompany each bicycle, were loaded. The generator, gazebos, tear drops and other marketing material also made their way onto the back of the bakkies (South African name for utes). Just as we thought that we didn’t have enough space, Jan-Louis came to the rescue as he was travelling in his car. It meant that any excess luggage found a spot. Albert checked and rechecked the tie-down straps. He tied and retied more tie-down straps. We were almost good to go.
“Guys, let’s quickly get together,” said Nicolai. The team formed a circle as Nicolai addressed us and prayed for us. We were also thanked for being part of this project, reminded why we were doing it and told to soak up every moment. Like I said, Nicolai and Gert did the bulk of the work and the majority of us were allowed to take part in the cherry on the cake so to speak. Gert handed out ERP caps and buffs. (I am crazy about the ERP logo!) Lastly, Albert enlightened us on driving in a convoy, the role of the co-drivers and other safety tips regarding the sponsored vehicles. We were good to go.
At around 9h00 the convoy hit the road. The first stop was the Engen garage on the N4 just through the first toll gate. The vehicles were fuelled up and the tyre pressure was personally checked by Albert and his thingamajig. (That is what I most admire about Albert, everything he does is perfect.) Gert, a guru in photography, snapped a few photos and we were off again.
The kilometres seemed to pass effortlessly as Werner and I talked “land en sand”. Someone later mentioned that it is funny how you can discuss so many topics (some very “deep”) with the team members you have only recently met.
The indicators flashed and we made a right turn at the Wimpy near Sun City; it was time for a heart breakfast. Gert first called everyone over, put us in specific spots and then rolled the camera for a recording on our progress which was relayed to the Epi-Use office in Pretoria. Nicolai did a splendid job of broadcasting the message. It was evident that these two made a formidable team.
Wimpy breakfast. Check. Wimpy coffee. Check. Wimpy milkshake. Check. Full stomachs. Check. Smiling faces. Check. Team #BIKES4ERP hit the road again. (As part of Bushveld 2020 you will also get to know and learn to love a Wimpy Breakfast)
The next part of the road was personally my favourite for numerous reasons. I enjoyed it because we turned off the main road, I have never driven these roads before and the landscape was picturesque. I am particularly fond of the dead straight 10 kilometre stretch of dirt road between Obakeng and Molatedi.
At approximately 16h00 and with the drones recording a bird’s eye view of the vehicles, we turned into the Sebele House’s gate. We arrived safely and were warmly greeted by ERP staff members, Buti and Alpheus. After a 7-hour journey, Team #BIKES4ERP already felt like family. Arrangements were made as 8 members would overnight in Sebele House and the remaining 7 members would stay at the Hunting Camp.
Several members followed Buti’s bakkie to the Hunting Camp. Werner, Gert, Nicolai, Jean and Johan geared up to take on the dirt roads on their bicycles and I had my running shoes on and also decided to make my way to the Hunting Camp. There is just something special about running and cycling on a dirt road in the wilderness. We enjoyed every moment of the last sunrays before we all met up again at Sebele House
Several team members congregated around the bushveld television sharing stories of the day and expectations of what lay ahead the next day. Albert, Louise and Johan impressed the team by serving restaurant-worthy burgers and chips. Thereafter, more laughter and stories were shared around the fire.
Johan ventured out of the house with camo pants and Dirk proceeded with countless jokes about not seeing Johan. To his credit, Johan has a great sense of humour. It seemed like he had to bear camo jokes for the rest of the weekend.
Later Nicolai and Albert provided the logistics for the next day and then the team members set off to bed.
Saturday, 18 August 2018
“Good morning, guys. Grab a row,” said Albert as he greeted us at 5h30. “If you do not return the spoon, you do not get dinner.” By row he meant the row of snacks he, precisely, packed out so that each member gets his/her share. Several of us decided to eat the yoghurt first and to return the spoon. If the burgers were anything to go by, the dinner was not to be missed. Werner’s brew floated into the room from the kitchen. Soon, everyone was standing with a mug of coffee and rusk (Trust me, you will learn to love rusks as part of Bushveld 2020). What a splendid start to the day.
“Guys, this is Dereck Milburn, the CEO of ERP. He drove through the night to join us today,” Nicolai said. We were very happy to meet Dereck. We were in awe with his dedication and commitment to make the journey to be there to assist us in delivering the bicycles.
Just before we embarked on the last journey with the trailers filled with yellow bicycles, we assembled in front of the house. Nicolai reminded us about our roles for the day and we prayed for a successful day. Some members would act as Team Leaders and others as Team Assistants, but essentially everyone will help with everything.
Buti led the way, the convoy followed and Dereck’s bakkie brought up the rear. The seven vehicles kicked up clouds of dust as dawn broke. We stopped to watch the sunrise and then continued our journey. Just as the dust clouds hung in the air, the excitement also hung in the air. Team #BIKES4ERP was about to change the lives of 100 learners.
After about 90 minutes’ drive, we drove into the rural town of Maretlwane. We parked under a big tree in the school yard. Gert and Nicolai surveyed the area and decided on where the best place would be for the set up. “Right, let’s get the show on the road.”
I already mentioned that it is a special group of people, but get a load of this: in just two hours the sound equipment and the marketing material had to be set up. Of course, the 100 bicycles’ tyres had to be inflated; handlebars, brakes and pedals tightened; plastic covers removed; dust washed off and, last but not least, an identification sticker pasted on each bicycle.
The entire team jumped in and as Nicolai counted down the minutes, we inched closer to our goal. Before we knew it, the 100 bicycles were neatly and precisely arranged and the sound equipment and marketing materials set up. While we worked, the learners from the five schools arrived. We could sense their excitement about this life-changing event.
We were now all set, and ready to engage with the kids and hand over their bikes. Read part 2 of this post and follow us on Facebook, to find out more about this amazing and rewarding experience, and how you can be involved.