Tuesday, 25 June: on a short holiday in Montagu
The alarm goes off at seven. Sleepily, I reach out from under the heavy blankets to silence it. It feels as if the icy cold air instantly freezes my arm. I am so tired. If only I could sleep at night, it would change everything. I roll over, curl up on my side and push my hand under my body for warmth. As if it is an entity on its own, separate from my body, it grabs hold of my doughy belly. Yep. That’s still there. Like my insomnia, it never seems to change. It’s cold out there. I need sleep. My husband is already up. He makes tea in a tiny cup, squeezes a triangle of long-life milk into it. The tea is cold by the time the cup teaches my bed.
‘Stay in bed,’ he says. ‘Get some rest. You need it.’ He, on the other hand, is dressed and ready for his run. He’ll do two hours this morning.
As much as I need to sleep, I also need to walk. Last night’s penne with creamy tomato sauce with sundried tomatoes, feta and herbs, washed down with a few glasses of Uitvlugt Cabertnet Shiraz, won’t burn itself. It needs some combustion, and I need to get my body moving, despite the cold, despite the tired.
I wave him off, dismissing his advice and, once the door closes behind him, I get up to make another cup of tea. I rinse the cup in hot water, in the attempt of brewing myself some warmer odd-tasting liquid. It doesn’t really help, the cold air quickly lowers the temperature of the tea, and I gulp it down, the long life milk coating my mouth in an unpleasant film. Yuck. I can’t stand the stuff. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My face looks old and saggy. How depressing that I now need a solid night’s sleep, make-up, a good hairstyle and fabulous lighting to look halfway good. ‘Walk away from the mirror,’ I tell myself. ‘Focus on the positive.’
I’m dressed and ready to go. ‘Let’s try a one-hour walk,’ is my pep talk to myself. I need to walk 20 km but it’s not going to happen this morning. But I can do what I can do, instead of doing nothing.
The light is spectacular out there. Always the dilemma: do I take photographs or do I exercise? I walk down a narrow tree-lined road. The wet tar glistens and the rust coloured leaves turn golden as they glow against the deep purple clouds behind them. I wish I had my camera. The cold air cuts to my lungs. I begin to feel invigorated. The sleepless night is forgotten, and I’m feeling the cold a bit less. The shops on Bath Street have opened and friendly shop assistants smile and greet as I whizz past.
I decide to aim for 10 km. I don’t know what route in this small town will provide a safe and, preferably, circular 10 km route, but I continue along Bath Street, in the direction of Ashton. I walk past the Bird Sanctuary, which is usually crowded with ibises, and notice that the trees are bare. I wonder if ibises migrate. Something to google when I get back, I think, as I notice a lone heron sitting high up on the bare branches of a tree.
Bath Road ends in De Bos Guest Farm, which is private property. I backtrack, head down a side street, and turn right into Long Street. The light is still incredibly beautiful, the mountain luminous. And then the rain comes down. Big, spiteful drops poke me in the eyes, drench my hair and fill my shoes. I have walked only about 1.5 km. I can’t turn back now. Pushing on is the only option.
It rains down on me for about 45 minutes. People drive by, they wave, runners pass me and say good morning. I’m not used to this friendliness in the city. There it’s eyes front, keep going. No wonder everyone’s on anti-depressants. We isolate ourselves. Cut ourselves off from any kind of human interaction, and then wonder why we’re so alone.
At about 5 km, when I am thoroughly drenched and the rain has stopped, a friendly grey-haired man comes walking towards me across his front lawn. ‘If you’re sorry that you started walking in the rain,’ he says, ‘I’ll give you a ride home.’
‘No thanks,’ I say, smiling back and feeling energised and quite elated by the rain, the cold air, the light, and the exercise.
I continue along Long Street until it turns into a narrow, winding road and there are no more houses. The road links to Route 62, and marks my 5 km point. I turn right onto Route 62, and decide to keep going until the Endomondo woman tells me that I have walked 6 km. I figure that should give me 10 km by the time I arrive back at the hotel. At 6 km I turn around and clock my fastest time, 7 min 51 sec, walking the seventh kilometer. The wild aroma do kerriebossies hangs in the air and the drenched countryside sparkles.
I am running out of patience with myself. My shoelace has come undone. I should be walking further and faster by now. I should be stronger and fitter. I shush myself and push on, focusing on burning belly fat and that little jiggly bit on my thigh, just above my right knee – the bit that sticks out just under the hem of every sexy dress I try on these days.
I make it back to the hotel, 10 km in 1 hr 23 min, soaked to the bone, but definitely feeling much better than I did when I woke up this morning.