Father and daughter Qhubeka fans, Colin and Bianca Cooper, have been supporting us in numerous ways over the past few years, from buying and pimping their own Qhubeka bikes, to hosting fundraising events to helping us construct the new bicycle assembly factory as part of the Madikwe Rural Development Programme (MRDP).
In 2014, they decided to do a Nine Peaks ride for Qhubeka in August, riding through each of South Africa’s nine provinces on Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycles, climbing the highest peak in each one. Tragically, the tour had to be postponed after Colin and his partner, Maggie, were attacked on their farm, resulting in both being admitted to ICU.
Bianca says that the recovery process was slow, but both Maggie and Colin showed great determination, with Maggie picking up her guitar and Colin strapped to the stationary bike in first weeks following their discharge. “On 10 October, Colin managed his first ride on the Qhubeka Buffalo bicycle. On 11 November, three months after the attack, he rode his first 100km. Both have continued to recover well and their strength gathers, although Colin still has some weakness of his fingers due to a bad fracture and tendon injury,” she says.
“As clichéd as it sounds, no one ever expects that these things will happen to them, especially as the area in which they live was historically very peaceful.” She says that the community was shocked and struggled to understand how people could harm two people who have contributed so much to the area – in particular the job creation scheme at the Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycle factory. “It is difficult to remain positive when such terrible things happen, but in the days following this tragedy, we were flooded by such human kindness. Firstly from Qhubeka itself; thank you to Anthony and Giovanni for the phone calls, kind words and coffee. Secondly, my employers and our sponsors, ER Consulting Inc, who have been endlessly supportive and without question gave me a second opportunity at completing the tour. The third group of people are the family and friends who sat with us, bought us coffee, made us meals, gave us shoulders to cry on and were generally amazing. Lastly, the community of Groot Marico, who ensured that everything at the farm was sorted out so we didn’t have to worry about those formalities.
“Ultimately, we must recognise that this incident was as the result of the actions of individuals and not representative of the population. This attack has cemented in our minds the reason organisations like Qhubeka are essential in South Africa. The only way South Africa can move forward is through education and employment, both of which are facilitated by the donation of a Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycle.”
The trip is now set to start on 15 March. A new hurdle has arisen in that Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, home to Gauteng’s tallest peak Toringkop, has been closed to the public until further notice. “We are working on a solution to this challenge,” says Bianca. “We have had to make some minor changes to the format of our trip; we will be staying in intermittent contact with the support vehicle during the day and staying only in secure locations, even if some portaging is required. The essentials of the tour remain the same. Colin and I will still be covering the 3000km on our Buffalo bicycles, our food budget is R20 a day (although I argued that as it is a new year, inflation should be taken into account!) and we will live as simply as possible.”
If you’d like to support Bianca and Colin, consider making a donation through their fundraising page, which will be up and running until a week after the trip is due to end. “The Nine Peaks Tour has as result of this setback become so much more than a fundraising trip. It is now a tale of strength, recovery and hope. Any support is appreciated. Help us mend South Africa and Give Hope,” says Bianca. “Tour updates will appear on our Facebook page, 9 Peaks Qhubeka Tour. My acerbic commentary on the tour and life in general can be followed on Twitter @BinxGOBC.”
The entire Nine Peaks Tour will be ridden on the solid steel Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycles, which have no suspension – just one gear and back-pedal brakes, meaning that this will not be your average cycle tour. Furthermore, the Coopers plan to live simply as they ride, without many of the luxuries that have become standard cycling fare. For example, they will live on homemade bread and water from rivers or boreholes, as well as other fresh food.
“Nothing processed, branded or packaged in plastic,” says Colin. “Although beer is also allowed! The food budget will be R20 per person per day. No Coke, energy drinks, gels or bars allowed.”
They will travel by map, odometer and compass (no GPS), riding on dirt roads wherever possible. They will camp for the duration of the trip and ride in “normal” clothing. “No lycra or expensive branded cycling kit,” says Colin. They aim to take 1 000 photos and keep a blog diary of the ride. They also hope to have no mechanical failures on the bicycles.
Colin and Bianca are aiming to get sponsorship to raise funds for Qhubeka. “Colin and I have decided to support Qhubeka as we believe strongly in the principle behind it, which is to give a hand up, not a hand out,” says Bianca. “By rewarding people with bicycles for their achievements, you not only provide immediate benefit with the bike itself but also engender the spirit of entrepreneurship and self-help in the community. Also, the Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycle is a bike for life, which means that the recipient will reap the rewards for many years.”
They plan to do 3 000km in 30 days, averaging 100km per day.