Snowflakes in hell

So I’ve been interviewing for a new job. Monday’s prime juicy interview was near jhb int airport, a fair ways from where I live. The weather was a little on the glum side, but nothing special. Been riding for 7 years or so now… a little rain is barely worth noticing.

Something most people will know about Africa: it generally doesn’t snow here.


So there I was going down the freeway when it started to rain. Big, widely spaced drops. Come on, I’m harder than that. Then it started to hail. Standard procedure here is to stop under a bridge, check if the hail is big enough to damage the finish, and carry on if it isn’t. This stuff was odd… small individual chunks, but falling densely and with sharp edges instead of the more usual rounded pellets.

Weird as it was, this still wasn’t a reason to be late for an interview. I mean, come on… I’m not a wuss, here. Soon after leaving the safety of my bridge – cackling slightly at the other bikers remaining there – I had an Experience. Astute readers will know where I’ve been going with this.

In the middle of a winter’s day in Africa, I was suddenly blind. The rattling of hail on my helmet muted, and my vision clouded over with what, it turned out, were snowflakes. Seems they like to cling to my visor. The road surface turned into a mess of ice, mush, and snow.

This is not a good situation, folks.

Right, well, I’m a seasoned biker, but this was beyond unsafe. Wombling on while trying desperately to make out shapes through my half-open helmet, with my face being ravaged by wind and freezing water, the gods tipped their hand with a final joke… the fuel reserve light started blinking. Cursing slightly, I somehow managed to recognise the shape of a bridge and pull out to the side of the road under it.

Turns out that I wasn’t alone in this plan. Under the bridge I met a fellow who had been riding a small bike bought for his son, and also our saviours of the day. An engineering supplies delivery truck had pulled over to help, and the chaps offered to help us get our bikes in the back and give us a lift down the freeway.

Now, a CBR1000 is a superbike. This means it’s pretty light… compared to other bikes. Even with an empty tank, though, it still weighs in at a measure more appropriate to farmyard animals than, say, a kitten. It took four people to get the thing over the (high) back of the truck, and once we were in the riders would have to stay in the back to keep the bikes from tipping over or rolling out.

Ah, yes. A particular foible of south african transporters… they tend not to close the rear doors of their trucks.

So there we were, sitting on our bikes, desperately holding on to the roof/side/whatever struts for balance, and counting the accidents in our rear-view mirrors. When we could see out of the back, anyway. Between the sleet/snow in the air and the ice being kicked up by our pet truck, the view out of the back was generally about as interesting as a blank sheet of A4.

Turns out the truck was going to Edenvale, and they helped us get the bikes out just as traffic began to pile up due to an accident on the offramp. This was in fact in a completely different direction from my intended destination, but at least I recognised the area – I’d been for an interview at a company there the previous week. A friendly fuel station attendant gave me directions, and I arrived at my interview three quarters of an hour late, soaked to the bone, and colder than I have ever been in my life.

The interview itself was fortunately fairly informal, and I was soon on my way out. The sleet and snow had subsided by this time, but there was still snow on and beside the road on my way back. Very pretty, but taking pictures would have meant getting off the bike, and that bike was serving double duty as a mobile heater/life support system. By the time I got home I couldn’t feel my extremities and couldn’t speak properly on the phone. Managed to warm myself with a bath once I somehow clambered out of my heavy, wet gear.

Definitely not going to be a day I forget anytime soon.

1 comment
  1. Arkaine said:

    I lol’d throught his entire story…

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