In the summer of 1969, a 16-year-old farm boy from KwaZulu-Natal cycled from Salisbury in Rhodesia to Cape Town.
Last Saturday, 50 years later, that boy’s two sons rode into Lagoon Beach, completing a similar journey in memory of their father.
Brothers Lyle and Struan Anderson cycled 2 200km from the Beit Bridge post at SA’s border with Zimbabwe to Cape Town, arriving at Lagoon Beach at 12.45pm, to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Lyle and Struan were joined on their Border2Beach cycle tour by two friends, Gareth Myles and Simon Clayton.
The brothers say the idea came to them on the weekend of their father’s funeral.
Jonathan Anderson was diagnosed with dementia two years ago and died in August last year. He was 66. The brothers’ grandmother had Alzheimer’s and Simon’s father has also been diagnosed with the degenerative brain condition.
Old newspaper clippings tell the story of how Hilton College schoolboys Jonathan Anderson, John Schwikkard and Martin Walker, all aged 16, cycled 2 700km from Salisbury to Cape Town.
They were accompanied by their teacher, Rob van Heerden, as far as Johannesburg, but for the rest of the adventure, the boys were on their own. They made their journey in rugby shorts, T-shirts and takkies, and strapped to each bicycle was a sleeping bag, one change of clothing, a puncture kit, eating utensils and a few spares.
They slept in prison cells, charge offices, storerooms or verandahs. They had about R1.50 a day for food and would buy baths at hotels along the way for 50c.
Struan, a KwaZulu-Natal dairy farmer, says he and his brother wanted to honour their father’s memory and support a worthwhile cause at the same time.
“We decided that we would also do our own cycle tour from Beit Bridge to Cape Town. Once we realised that idea, we thought of how else can we make a difference.”
They decided that they would use the opportunity to help other families dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Lyle says they started a campaign to teach people the early signs of the conditions and the importance of early detection.
“We partnered with Alzheimer’s South Africa for this project and during our travels, we would get people to donate to training caregivers who can help people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
It costs R2 500 to train one of these caregivers.
“With our campaign, we wanted to raise R200 000 to train 80 caregivers,” says Lyle. “In some parts of the country, people tend to shun the elderly when they get these kinds of illnesses and assume there are evil spirits. But if they can have trained people in those areas, those people can get help.”
Simon, is a manager at a travel agency, and he has been cycling for six years.
He was out cycling last year when he bumped into Lyle on the side of the road. “We started chatting, and he told me he was training for the cycle tour. At the time, my dad was also suffering from dementia, so it was a subject that was close to my heart,” says Simon.
Gareth is a veterinarian and a friend of Struan’s. He says when he heard about the cycle tour and why the brothers wanted to do it he didn’t think twice about joining them.
“I haven’t been personally affected or had to deal with Alzheimer’s and dementia, but I have seen from Struan and his family how it can affect a close friend. There’s guilt, anger and frustration because family members feel helpless in that situation.”
Border2Beach has established a BackaBuddy campaign in support of Alzheimer’s South Africa. Visit https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/border2beach-psycle to find out more.