I am 36 Kilometres into a 40 plus Bicycle Ride Through the Durban Docklands to the Beachfront and Back. The mid-winter sun had just ducked it’s round behind the Berea ridge, and I first feel the squiggly grind of a flat front tyre on tar as I stop at the Bayhead and South Coast roads intersection.
As I am walking my bike south across the intersection down South Coast Road and home in Woodlands, I am looking for a secluded, lighted space to repair my front tube. I have all the tools for the job. I have a puncture kit, inspection dish (used ice cream container) in my pannier at the back and water in my caged drinking bottle on my Giant Talon frame.
As I walk my bicycle down off the rail overpass at Bayhead and South Coast Road, the road curves to the right and the high arc lights over an entrance to a container depot are a beacon to me. I have repaired many tubes as a cyclist, and here I have light, a workspace and if this tube can be fixed and I will be able to ride away into the night.
I lower the tube valve first, into the water in my ice cream container, the telltale bubbles spew from where the valve and tube intersect. S***, this tube cannot be fixed.
The headlights of trucks bear down on me as I walk on with my ‘cycle at my side, at times I just stop and lean away as trucks rumble past, there is no space for me and oncoming night traffic, across the road there is a pavement. A gap in the traffic allows me to change sides.
Here it is just the bright lights of trucks in route to the harbour and the night glow of the changing shifts of workers in safety gear walking past.
South Coast Road proper is just ahead with its ladies of the night and the Woonga addicts looking for the cash for their next hit. The ladies and I have a mutual respect going from my many night ‘cycle trips through in these parts of the city, the woonga addicts are another thing entirely.
I pass a parked truck on its traffic side, the pavement side is a bit long and dark, as a nightwalker/cyclist I try to make myself a hard target for anyone who has unsociable outcomes in mind. I am now walking on the road as the two young men come out of the shadows I have just detoured from while walking on the traffic side of the truck just now.
“You have nothing to fear here, you cycle past here during the day, you are one of the community” I carry on my way as they keep up with me on the pavement in the bright beam of my bicycle headlight and the soft glow of my iPhone in its pouch fixed to the bike.
“What is that there?” The tall one of my two new friends asks as he notices the glow off my mobile phone, I reply that he actually doesn’t see anything there. I press my hip up against the ‘phone pouch as I get in the way of Number Two as he tries to wrest my phone away from me. Number One threatens to poke me with a knife that I have yet to see in his hands. “I am going to poke you, I am going to poke you with a knife”
I do not care what Number One says about giving me a poke with a knife, my eyes are glued to the hand in his pocket where the said knife is supposed to be. Number Two is having trouble trying to get hold of my phone that is still firmly in its pouch, my hip is still blocking his way. I keep my firm grip on the bike, My headlight comes out of its holder in our joint scuffle and hangs by the cord that is for this very purpose.
The momentary sense of ‘being mugged’ is quickly replaced by a deep awareness of the situation around Number One’s hand in his pocket, of my close surrounds and a sense of my own physical strength and resistance to the endeavours of Number One and Number Two on this dark Durban road.
A voice calls out to the two parras, (Short for parasites, South African slang for street criminals) “Get away from him.” My guardian looks at me through rimless glasses, he speaks English with a heavy Afrikaans undertone. “Come in here, they won’t follow you in.” Number One and Number Two spring away from me and tumble over themselves into the night. I follow my guardian into the truck washing depot where he works and away from the spot where Number One and Number Two went empty-handed.
In the seclusion of the washing depot, I turn off my ‘phone and headlight, I want to proceed on my way home without calling any more attention to myself. My guardian and a woman who also works at the depot agree to walk with me as far as a tuck shop at the next intersection. Walking as three is better than walking alone. Patience signs to me that this is where she and my guardian stop.
South Coast Road is a dual carriageway here and walking along the centre island makes me a harder target for any others that want to take their chances with the man walking with a flat wheeled bicycle in the night. As I walk I keep a lookout over both shoulders to keep aware of what is around me. There is only one more contender on the pavement to my left but he does not come across the road to the centre island where I am walking. “…I want your bike” he says to me, I just wave back to him and carry on my way.
It is a six-kilometre walk from where I felt something wrong with my front wheel to my room in Woodlands. Apart from a few curious dogs, my walk is just a slog up the hills of this part of Durban. I have plenty of time to think about what has just happened to me.
- Never ride without a spare tube, tools for simple bicycle repairs, a puncture kit and fruit and water for energy and hydration.
- Always wear shoes that you can also walk in.
- Muggers don’t have a plan b, do the unexpected. Give muggers a way out and they will take it.
- Be calm and stay calm and focused, I don’t know when my angels will come.
- Dogs on the roads are usually are only curious about what is coming past their territories, don’t take their barking personally.
- It is always easier to ride up a hill then walk up the same.