29 April 2007

CYCLING SOUTH AFRICA - Cape Town to Bloemfontein

27 March 2007
Leaving Cape Town

It was a day like any other that, Ernest and myself said goodbye to friends and family and started heading north. I returned home to see to unfinished business and only joined Ernest in Kleinmond that evening. I also discovered that I packed far to many things and unloaded all the extras that I thought so necessary, just the day before!!

28 March 2007- Kleinmond - Hermanus 38km

A short and easy ride to Hermanus where we met up with Ernest's sister, Olga and friend Donovan for lunch, after which we cycled to Dave and Kathy's holiday flat where we stayed in luxury. (Thanks Dave) Oh what I life.

29 March - Hermanus - Gansbaai 53km

We left Hermanus fairly late and headed towards Gansbaai, straight into a ferocious head wind!!! We stopped in Stanford at the Birkenhead brewery for a beer, which was maybe not the best idea as we still had to struggle on to Gansbaai. We set up camp at the local campsite and I was quite sure the wind was going to blow our tents away in the night. Cooking was quite impossible so it was off the local restaurant. Even just walking into the wind was an effort.

30 March - Gansbaai - Bredasdorp 101km

Amazingly we survived the night and the wind dropped slightly. So off we went in the direction of Pearly Beach, still into the wind but not as bad as the day before (it was a real bugger with the bags and all into the wind). From "Die Dam" we followed a gravel road to Bredasdorp. The road was quite bad, sandy and heavily corrugated. We struggled up the hills and I wonder who's idea this was (and its only day 3). How stupid can one be, going on a cycle trip, without training. Bit late now!! We reached Bredasdorp very late and with a very sore backside.

31st March - Bredasdorp - Swellendam 76km

Wow what a hilly road, up and down, up and down and up again, through farmlands and past plenty of sheep. A really hot day, I even run out of water and Ernest had to jump the fence to get water from the sheep trough, well thanks to the farmer whoever he is, as I would not have made it without that water.

I was totally buggered and my backside was sore. We reached Swellendam and I just flopped down in front of a small shop. It was only after I drank a coke that I once again had the energy to carry on to the campsite. What a lovely campsite it was, so peaceful with loads of trees and a nice green lawn.

1st April - Swellendam - Heidelberg 60km

Woke up refreshed and was ready for a another hilly day. I have driven this road a million times, but never realised that it was so hilly. The bags really made the bike very heavy and difficult to cycle into the wind, specially if it is still up hill. Time to get rid of more stuff I think.

2/3 April - Heidelberg - Stilbaai 73km

We really experienced the friendliness of Heidelberg as a completely unknown lady offered us accommodation in her holiday home at Stillbaai. She was prepared to give us her house keys and let us stay there for the night. I wonder if I would ever have done a thing like that.

So it was back to the hilly roads and it was even more up and down than the previous day. We stopped in Riversdale for some refreshments and the petrol attendant was rather curios about the pipe we were sucking on (the pipe from the camelback that is) and wanted to know if that was our oxygen!! We must have looked as if we needed oxygen!!! Then it was on to Stilbaai. With names like "Skerpkoppies" and "Langhoogte" I don't need to say any more.

At last we reached Stillbaai where my mom lives and we were welcomed with a huge bowl of macaroni cheese (my favorite). We also stayed the following day to recover from our first few days on the road.

4 April 2007
Stilbaai - Mossel Bay

At last we had a tail wind and took the gravel road past Gourits River to Mossel Bay, a very scenic ride with the ocean in the background and past pristine natural vegatation. Arrived in Mosselbay in good time. Camped at "The Point" and took a walk into town for a bite to eat. Once again very one in camp seemed curious and wanted to know where we are from and where we are going. South Africa is just not a cycle touring country.

5 April - Mosselbay – Wilderness 73km

Well, this stretch is not called the Garden Route for no reason, it is absolutely beautiful, we cycled along the coastal route with beautiful scenery to George were we stopped to say Hi to Julian and carried on to Wilderness. We camped at "Ebb and Flow" located on a river and found the local shop closed, another camper offered us 6 beers and refused to take money for it. Later we cycled the 3km back into the Village for something to eat, coming back in the dark after a glass or 2 of wine was quite challenging. We arrived back just in time before the rain started. This is a very forested area and one can expect rain at any time. So it was our first rainy day of the trip (I’m sure lots more come).

6 April - Wilderness

It still rained in the morning, a good excuse for lying in and listening to the sounds of the Loerie and numerous other birds.

Nanna (my sister) arrived from Cape Town to come and visit, so we decided to stay put and just enjoy the day.

7 April - Wilderness – Knysna 53km

What should have been an easy ride was a battle into the wind again. Fortunately Nanna transported our bags so we could cycle unencumbered into Knysna were we camped at “Woodbourne Campsite”. Later we set off to the waterfront to watch the Cricket and grab a bite to eat. But with the South Africans clearly heading for disaster we went back to the campsite just to find our site totally invaded by new arrivals. Ha, ha that’s camping for you!

8 April - Knysna – Keurboomstrand 47km

We left Knysna in excellent weather, but with a good climb out of the valley. Nanna was still with us so she took the bags in the van again, with the result that we had an excellent ride. The plan was to camp at Keurboomsriver, but at R470.00 per campsite we carried on to Keurboomstrand.

I’m still amazed at people’s kindness, from offering to charge Ipods to offering food and accommodation. There is so much kindness around, unbelievable!

9 April - Keurboomstand – Storms River Village 58km

Another short ride, but by far the most fantastic ride so far. A good day in the saddle with bright sun and a slight tail wind, what more can a cyclist ask for. We met Nico along the way who came all the way from Knysna to meet us and offer coke and hot cross buns!! Thanks Nico! We chatted for a while and cycled on to Storms River Village where we camped at the Backpackers, a really nice place with large gardens, green grass and a good atmosphere.

10 April - Storms River - Jeffreys Bay 114km

With a strong tail wind we cruised to J-Bay past cows, and more cows. What a good cycling day not much more a cyclist can ask for, long downhills and a good tail wind. We set up camp at Kabbeljous and went to Mark and Riekie's house for pizza's. Riekie was kind enough to do our laundry (which stinks like high heaven by now)

11 April - Jeffreys Bay - Colchester 116km

We are trying to make the best of the present tailwind and pushed on a bit. Took the back roads, via Uitenhage and only arrived at Colchester quite late, so instead of cycling a further 5km along a sandy track we took a room in the village, and what a good choice, as no sooner have we settled in and the rain started coming down. It rained most of the night but we were cozy and warm in out beds.

12 April - Colchester - Paterson 36km

We woke to a sunny clear morning in spite of the weather report that predicted rain for the whole day. Shortly after we left we turned off the N2 and onto the N10. Now we are heading inland. My legs felt real tired and as soon as we reached Paterson we decided to camp for the night. We found the campsite in George and Helen's backyard, (what a friendly couple) next to the Red House (a farm stall). Camping here is most interesting as we are surrounded by chickens, ducks and geese.

13 April - Paterson - Middelton 70km

After a good breakfast at the Red House (recommended) of roosterkoek and coffee we cycled up the Olifantskop Pass. Oh, and what a climb, but at the top the views were spectacular, we even saw some wild life (Giraffe and monkeys) along the way. We reached Middleton at around 5 and once again we were surprised at the accommodation. Middelton is an old railway station which is now renovated and run by youngsters from the Noupoort drug rehabilitation center. We had a lovely supper and then settled into our tent, the nights are starting to get quite cold.

14 April - Middelton - Farm outside Cradock - 83km

We left earlier than usual as we decided to have breakfast along the way. The first place we got to was Cookhouse, which is even smaller than Paterson, but we manage to find something to eat and set off into the wind again. The going is really slow today as we are cycling mostly into a head wind. As we headed up Daggaboersnek the going got even slower. On the other side of the pass we found a farm stall and pulled in to replenish our water supply. We met some local people from Cradock, who recommended a farm with a guest cottage about 25km before Cradock. We found the farm just before the sun set and once again found accommodation in a beautiful place and with extremely friendly hosts. No sooner have we arrived and Elza brought us fresh milk, home baked bread, cheese and fruit.

15 April - Farm - Cradock Spa - 33km

We left rather late as we have no intentions of going further that Cradock, and as it was rather close there was no rush. We cycled into a stiff breeze, and after a quick lunch at Steers we carried on to the Cradock Spa located about 4km outside town.

16 April Cradock Spa

We spend the day relaxing at the spa and cycled the short way into the village to do some necessary shopping at the Spar. We also found an internet café in the local hairdresser and although very slow, managed to send a few e-mails.

17 April - Cradock Spa – Hofmeyr 62km

It was a beautiful clear and sunny day as we cycled off to the next little village. The countryside is wide and quite awesome. The road is also very quiet with few cars and trucks. Ernest got no less than 2 flat tires but we still reached Hofmeyer quite early. Hofmeyer is real small town consisting of 3 dirt roads and 1 tarred road. It is a small Karoo town with tin roofed homes, Pepper willows, a church, little shop, school and police station. We managed to find a small B & B “Die Pondokie”; needless to say we were the only people there. Our hosts Joey and Derick were once again extremely friendly. We spent the evening in front of the T.V. and at least this time the South African cricket team won!!!

18 April - Hofmeyr – Steynsburg 46km

After a lovely breakfast we were sent on our way by Derick with a copy of the local paper and a packet of fudge, which helped us up the hills between Hofmeyr and Steynsburg. The weather forecast predicted thunderstorms for the area and with dark clouds above we pulled into Steynsburg and thought it wise to head for Redefin Campsite, which turned out a total surprise. A lovely place with green lawns, braai places, a covered area and neat clean toilets and showers, all for just R50.00 for both Ernest and myself. Nothing came of the thunderstorms so it was a good time to repair tubes and do other odd jobs. So with the weather looking promising we set off to the local Multisave for meat and wood for supper. We were still admiring the awesome cloud formations when a sudden storm hit us, water bucketing down, and we ran for cover and closed up tents but too late!! It all lasted no more than an hour and a half, and as suddenly as it happened it stopped and stars came out.

19 April - Steynsburg – Burgersdorp 79km

We woke to a brilliantly clear morning and could hardly believe that there was such a storm the night before. So we headed off to Burgersdorp. Burgersdorp is a slightly bigger town than the previous ones. Once again people are curious and very friendly, from the lady in the bottle store, (she even gave Ernest discount on the beer) to the local cyclists who came to visit us at our camp site that night. The campsite is at “Die Dam”, a most beautiful and tranquil place with large trees and green lawns. It must have been quite a place in its hay day, but now most of the facilities are dilapidated (no hot water) but Andries Pienaar, the caretaker assured us that a geyser has been delivered and just needs to be installed. This time we were more “paraat” and pitched out tents under cover and closed everything up before the storm came. The city slickers are learning!!!

20 April - Burgersdorp – Aliwal North 67km

We were keen to get going as we wanted to get to the hot springs in Aliwal North, as what I can remember from a previous visit many years ago, it is a most fantastic place. The weather was fantastic for cycling, with mild temperatures and big blue skies. We reached Aliwal at around lunch time and headed straight for the hot springs. What a disappointment, although the place was still there it was totally dilapidated, with ceilings falling out, metal work rusted, and paint peeling off the walls. At least one of the indoor pools were still operational, although just about everything was broken from the rails to the stairs. We soaked in it anyway!! After that we set off to the local Spur (not knowing what to expect) but we found the Spur up to its usual good standard. Cycling back we discussed how lucky we were that there is no storm that tonight, but no sooner were we settled into our tents when the thunder and lighting started and rain came poring down. Just made it in time!!!

22 April - Aliwal North – Zastron 75km

Well, it was 12h30 by the time we got away, as we first had to soak in the warm water again and then into town to see if I could find gas for my stove, fat chance in Aliwal on a Sunday. So with a tail wind we headed for Zastron and once again found a most idyllic campsite. Green lawn, big trees, and a dam with loads of bird life and piping hot water in the ablutions!

23 April - Zastron – Mohale’s Hoek 58km

We left Zastron quite late again, can’t seem to get going early. Stopped at the tourist info, which is also the printer and bike shop. Ernest was by now tired of fixing punctures, so he bought some sludge to stop the on going punctures for good. So we decided to head toward Lesotho along a gravel road, and as soon as we crossed the border there it was, a local pub, so we had to try a Maluti Beer, after which we carried on to Mohale’s Hoek with heavy legs. All along the road, people where waving and shouting "Dumela".

No camping here but we found the Monateng Hotel at R230.00 per room and although the hotel is a bit neglected in true African style, we enjoyed some more Maluti beers. Supper was a great treat consisting of Pap, marog and beans (a first for me) all for just R20.00.

24 April Mohales’s Hoek – Wepener 74km

Via Mafeteng and Van Rooyens gate back into South Africa. I’m sad to leave Lesotho, as the people are so friendly and the country has a peaceful vibe about it. The whole day we cycled up and down and up and down, what else do one expect in Lesotho. And still children come running and stare at us in amazement.

No camping as far as we can figure out in Wepener, so it’s another night in a guesthouse, which we can't really afford. The guesthouse is however outstanding, with large, beautiful gardens, really large and well-decorated rooms, as well as a lively bar and good food. So don’t bypass Wepener, go in and stay the night!!

25 April - Wepener - Dewetsdorp 43km

A short ride to Dewetsdorp but we decided to stay over as Bloemfontein is till more than 70km away. Dewetsdorp is a very small village but we found a room, and when the owner found out that we cycling he immediately gave as discount!! (We must have looked a bit worse for ware).

As we arrived early we used the time to do laundry and watched a bit of cricket, needless to say we did not watch for very long, and rather decided to find some food. Small towns always surprise me and once again we found a really quaint restaurant, which even served pizzas.

26 April - Dewetsdorp – Bloemfontein 80km

This must surely be the earliest we have been on the road, as by 8h00 we were ready to go, all in anticipation of a head wind. Not that it helped as we still had a head wind all to way to Bloemfontein. Due to our early start we reached Bloemfontein at around lunchtime and got to the Backpackers early. As we arrived early there was plenty of time for Ernest to go to the bike shop and have his rim straightened, which has been giving problems for a long time.

27 April - Bloemfontein

We spent the day in Bloem as I was leaving the next day to go back to Cape Town in order to get a flight to London from where I intended to cycle through the UK and Europe. Seeing that I have already cycled through Africa barely 2 years ago and that Ernest and me seem to disagree about almost everything I thought it better to go my own way. It was harder than expected to be in someones company 24/7!!

I was lucky enough to catch up with Rita, who was in Bloemfontein for the Masters Championship. She took part in both the 100m and the 200m and won both!!! Well done Rita!!

28 April - The train ride

So it was up early and off to the station to get the train back to Cape Town. The Railway Station in Bloemfontein was quite and experience, devoid of staff and not very clean. The train was 2 hours late, but at last the train arrived and I waved goodbye to Ernest who will be cycling on his own through Africa.

29 April

The train in contrast with the station was a pleasant surprise. The coaches were new and the staff very helpful and friendly. What a good experience, we arrived in Cape Town on time!! My next update will be from London, if I manage to get everything organized before Saturday!!


Rob said...

Can't believe I'm the first to comment! Great post, really fascinating account of an epic trip. I run South Africa Travel Online, and am looking for the best post on each route in South Africa. There's no prizes, but there is the glory of knowing you were the best! We've linked to this post from our Cape Town to Bloemfontein page. Hope the next stage of your adventure went well. Rob

Kieekilue said...

Thanks for the information! I am looking to travel to Cape Town. I was initially scared because of all the news reports about Cape Town's Day Zero - but now that Cape Town has water again I feel ready to go!