N3TC Hero – Gerrie Steenkamp
“As we share, so shall we prosper.”
Ghunti Mazibuko was Gerrie’s best friend growing up in Geluksberg. Together they explored the hills, rode horses bareback, climbed cliffs and swam in the streams while tending the sheep. Enjoying whole days of freedom which are unknown to most children today, often from the top of the iconic hill Tintwa. (When viewed from the East, this hill is shaped like a wagon tent, which earned it its name during the Great Trek.) With his mates, Gerrie learned how to speak Zulu, which wild berries were tastiest, which mushrooms not to eat, and developed his love of the outdoors – particularly the grass covered hills surrounding the Lost Valley on the border of KwaZulu Natal. Ghunti still lives and works on the old farm and Gerrie visits as often as he can, feeling terribly fortunate to have such a strong connection to a childhood playmate despite their paths in life being so different in the intervening 50 years. Asked if there is anything he’d like to change in his life, the answer is an emphatic “No, thank you!”. Having experienced a fantastic childhood, which gave him a priceless connection to others in his community and unusual at the height of Apartheid, has, without doubt, influenced Gerrie’s determination to support the less privileged.
“A few years ago, I had decided to move to George, but N3TC then offered me a position as Route Maintenance Superintendent and I am so glad I accepted.” Working in the area has given Gerrie the opportunity to help the community in many ways. “I have received so much, I can’t see myself not getting involved in giving something back” he says.
Gerrie’s passion is mountain biking. He has competed in many challenging South African races and is particularly proud of his many trophy’s for instance – finishing the Cape Epic and the Trans Baviaans race (longest single stage race in the world) a consecutive five years in a row. The Drakensberg escarpment around Geluksberg provides the perfect training ground and inspired him to start a race right there – The Trans Draak 24 hour MTB Quest – which has become a feature on many adventure cyclists’ calendars. Competitors often simply take it slow in this place where time certainly does not fly. Admiring the aloes clustered on the hillsides, ambling cattle, grinning kids and the endless views. “I remember one year these three mountain bikers, with a team name called “FU KING SLOW” took 22 hours to finish” he laughs, “they just loved it.” Proceeds from the race go to support the schools that cyclists pass.
Gerrie would like to introduce more cycling options for the local children. He mentors a few who have done well in local races and is in the process of establishing a sports academy in Tshiame township with his friend Jan Moloi. Gerrie is very aware that dishing out bicycles where there is no infrastructure or skills to repair even simple problems like broken chains is not very sensible. Training in basic bike mechanics would be a good idea and he is hopeful that the right people will be identified and supported to offer a very useful community service.
While retirement looms in a couple of years, Gerrie is adamant he doesn’t want to sit on the stoep. He knows exactly what he will do. “My passion is to support people’s development. The little I am able to give makes a difference. I have received so much, I must share. If I can change one person’s vision for the future, I will have done my job.” Geluksburg was a truly good place to grow up – a childhood that has influenced Gerrie’s entire life.