Trans-Afrika 2016 part 3

Was tough to rise out the bed knowing Moteng pass was ahead. This is no pass for the faint hearted. Then there are the many hills of Lesotho. My knee swelling had gone down but was sore until they warmed up. This was the same story all the way to Cape Town.

Nice roll down to boarder post. Knowing the drill now for this boarder. Ran to immigration and was second to the window after the gate opened. Jumped on the bicycle and rolled down to Lesotho side. First there and had to wait for the officials to arrive at immigration. After this point you have to start digging deeper and deeper as the day goes on. Stopping once before the Moteng pass to water some bushes. Tough to find a place with nobody watching you.

 

Look around and you will find a man standing rapped in a blanket, gumboots (wellingtons) and some type of warm head cover. He will be standing watching you and often throwing comments toward you.

Just as the pass starts there were two young boys harassing me for sweets. Even trying to creep up to take a grab at my pockets at the back of my shirt. Which was fill of energy bars. Made as if to chase them and a car came passed, then they left me alone. Was nice cool overcast day, so progress was good up to the summit only stopping three times to take a look at the view and catch my breath.

img_20161008_111459This year pedalled all the way up. The year before I did not think it possible for a human to peddle up some of the steeper sections. I now know with some hill training and a few extra teeth on the gears, make it is very possible. (Now 34 teeth on cassette, last year 30) At the top there was a couple having a good photo shoot. So I asked them to take a photo of me.

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This year the wind was not blowing me up the hill, so had to use brakes on the decent. The brakes took some strain and began to overheat. I am not brave enough to let the bike go and suddenly slow down to 20km/h to take the switchbacks. Would not like to have a brake failure and land up flying over the side of the road. Some nice big drop-offs. If you have wings or parachute it would not be a problem.  I see the roof of the house that blew off on me last year has not been fixed and is abandoned.

Reaching Butha buthe for a late lunch. Opting for some biscuits and milk for lunch and some chocolate for energy in the back pocket. While eating and shopping the rain came in.  So next 50 km to boarder at Ficksberg was in the rain and a strong head wind. At one stage there was a pick up that passed me at a faster than normal speed. Only to find him two valleys away with the front of his pickup smashed and 10 dead sheep in the road with other sheep injured. Would hate to have to explain to the owner. Sure there would be a big price to pay for this. Must be the farmers whole flock gone in one hit. Wonder how they deal with this type of thing. There was no chance for hit and run as there was about 20 witnesses around.

Arrived at boarder post as sun was setting. It was my plan to go on to the next town but been wet hungry and having enough for the day, having done 2798m climbing in 167 km. Chose to sleep in same hotel as last year. Getting a good takeaway from the Spar and had a monster supper. Went to sleep and set the alarm for pm and not am. Andy phoned me at 6am to see if the tracker was right to say I was in Ficksburg and not moving. Thanks Andy for waking me up. What a rush to get going. Was a wonderful day with the wind picking up by mid morning. Arriving at Wepner too early to stop and Zastron would be off the route. Tried to push on. Food was running low and energy starting to lag and the cold was starting to eat at me. Not an easy road in the day and early night because of the traffic. Last time did it in early morning in the dark when traffic was low. Finding I was on my limit so rolled off route into Zastron knowing there was B&B’s. Found a sign with phone number and phoned and the lady from Highlands guest house said no problem for a late book in at about 9pm. She even shared her family’s supper with me.

Next morning she made a full breakfast for me at 5am. Another one of those special places to stay. There are wonderful people all over this country. Stepped out just before sunrise to a -3 degree morning. Put on my yellow rubber gloves and froze all the way to Rouxville stopping there to rub some life into the fingers and toes. After about 15 minutes rolled out of town. About 5 km out of town Andy and Johan met me on the road. Andy had to take a photo of me and my gloves. Desperate times, means desperate measures. 
They said they would have breakfast with me at Aliwal North. There is Aliwal North in the trees just above the dam in the photo.

img_20161010_083935 By the time I got there I said I was not going to waste time at a restaurant and stopped at the shop and loaded supplies. As always never enough space to stash all the food. As normal wind picked up during the morning. Rolled into Burgersdorp at lunch time and stocked up at the Spar. Pushing on to Middelberg and stopping along the road to eat and rest. Around Steynsberg the wind started to blow real bad. It felt like I was standing still. This was the same place as last time. Middleberg started to look very far away as my speed was about 10km/h. Booked into the Karoo Country Hotel at 9pm. This was the only place that takes people after 7pm. Had a good supper at the Restaurant down stairs and off to bed. Leaving again just before sunrise to start the climb to top of Lootsberg pass. From the top it has lots of down hills to Graaff-Reinet. However the wind blew so strong that I had to peddle downhill only reaching speeds of 25km/h. The previous year just hung on the bike and did 60km/h freewheeling. Shows how weather can change a whole race. Flat before Graaff-Reinet only reaching speeds of 10km/h again. At Graaff-Reinet had late lunch at Wimpy and phoned Lyn at Pagel house to say I was planning to be in for supper if the wind permits. Took just over four hours of fighting the wind to cover 56km to Aberdeen, arriving halfway into supper.img_20161011_192638 As always Lyn puts on a good spread. Main course was lamb and veg dish. Must be a fancier name for the dish but it hit the big hollow spot in my stomach. She put me up in a better room than last time. Bathroom fitting looked like the kings thrown and bath with ball and claw feet. Shower could have fitted three people in it. Camera did not want to flash so did not get a good picture.

Lyn set some food out for me to take with when I left early in the morning.

Left around 3:30am to the freezing cold. Pushing on in to the dark. Think this is the best part of the race to do in the dark as it is straight, safe and low traffic density. Can make good time.

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Reaching Willowmore for lunch. There is a nice homemade pie shop in town. Mr Loos this is good food you can stop to eat here. Pushing down sand road to Klaarstroom was a real dream. They had just graded the road leaving a smooth hard shoulder on the one side.  After turning on to the R407 to Prince Albert, Andy, Johan and Johan Rissik stopped to greet me. Here is the video of me at this point. Last time it was well into the night when I got here. The sun had not set yet. That is why I was calling out to them like that.

Video near Klaarstroom

Johan Rissik said there will be a strong tail wind into Prince Albert. It was very gusty and strong. I felt like a motor bike on the flat just before town. Speeding along at 30 to 40 km/h without peddling for the last 10 km into town.

Dennehof Guest house is also another must stop place. They also had a Kings room ready for me. Before I knew it she was asking for my washing. Said all will be ready before I knew it. Had a supper with Andy, Johan and Johan Rissik. Great bunch of men that I have had the privilege of meeting. Johan Rissik met me at 2am the previous year and repaired my bicycle when I was sleeping.

Got up early to a full breakfast at 5am . img_20161013_053734Started out to climb 1000m up the Swartberg pass before sunrise. Weather was good and riding went well. Managed to peddle all the way with only a few stops to take a rest and photos. img_20161013_064724img_20161013_084711img_20161013_085057Rolling into Calitzdorp at lunch time. There was a nice big shop open that had some good food. Resupplied and started for Ladismith. Now it was really hot and had to stop on some of the mountain passes to cool off. Reaching Ladismith just before 5pm. Now had to make a decision to head for Barrydale 80km away or sleep. My wiring on voltage regulator had started to come undone and would have to go on standby light which only has 3 hours power. Then Steward Lombard WhatsApp to me giving weather report and motivation. So I rolled out of town. He is like my coach when I do the Trans-Afrika race.

Luck was on my side. Wind not too bad, shoulder wind and as the night set in the wind died down. Arriving in Barrydale just after 9pm as all the restaurants and bars were closing. Lucky the light held all the way. Landed a room right on R62 next to a bar. Not need to go downhill into town. This gave me a chance to have a good night’s rest and head out just before sunrise again. That was my last planned sleep. Next sleep would have to be Cape Town.

It was a little cool but not like up at Zastron. No shops open to get food at this time of the morning. I had to ride to Montagu to shop at the Spar for breakfast. They had a good spread of takeaway food. Had gone onto my reserve tank, so sat down in the parking and had a good meal. As the night before I had missed out on getting food. Had just eaten some droe worse and cookies before bed. For some reason unknown to me the sleep monster was fighting me into Robertson. So giving in to it I lay down on a vacant piece of land near the main road in town. I said to myself you must sleep for half hour. The reverse psychology worked and only managed to sleep for five minutes and felt I had to go on. Now the smell of Cape Town was in the nostrils. Rolling into Worcester for lunch and eating at a garage to make speed. On to Bain’s kloof pass, however the road to get there was longer than I remembered. Now it was down to google maps as I had erased all my routes and data off my GPS near Wepner. So resulted in me stopping often to make sure I was on track. Summiting just before sunset. Started the decent to Wellington to find my wheel was feeling little flat. Thought might just be the long road and hoped it was not a puncture. So stopped to pump and pushed on.

Much to my dismay near Windmeal it was flat and was forced to change a tube in the dark at the turning to Durbanville. Now down to Durbanville found Marias in the main street. He gave me a few directions to Bloubergstrand. Had to tell him the story of the adventure. This slowed me down little but was glad for the help. Before leaving town I grabbed some chocolates for a boost, as power was now at an end. Knowing it was just about 25 km to go. That can be a long way at the end of the day with no more supplies and body reserves running low. Coming into Bloubergstrand had to stop lots to look at google maps as this part was very sketchy in my memory. Landed up turning one robot to soon and getting stuck in those dumb town planners never ending circles that take you back to where you turned in. Back to google maps and worked the way out of the maze. Eventually arriving before midnight.img_1925 How is that for visibility? Could see the reaction by traffic to me this year was very different. Always passing in night with good distance from me. Ariving to an empty Eden on the bay with only Andy, Susan my sister and Peter her husband. They were the most important people I wanted to see at that stage. Thanks for been patient with me and hanging around. The last few km seemed to drag on.

 

Well Andy Masters hope you do not give up with this race. It is a great service to the cycling community of South Africa. We do not have any thing of this kind here. For us to fly to Europe or the Americas is a little costly for the average man like me. Must say thanks to 4 Mix for sponsoring me four nights accommodation. Thank you to Warden Lodge for giving me a free night. Thank you to Susan and Peter for picking me up at the finish and lodging me, then taking me to the airport. Must say Peter your bike rapping is very good. Bike got home in perfect condition. Thank you to Steward Lombard and Annie for helping me with weather and distances to next town, helped me to make some decisions.

For any future riders the three part blogs I have written will give you a very good idea of what awaits you on the road. If you read between the lines and follow a map you will find tons of info to help. Looking forward to see you all on the start line next year. Does not mean I will be racing.  Register early for the race to make sure you can get in. Hope to see at least 20 riders on the start line. Also gives you time to prepare and focus on the race. Not a race to decide to ride next week. All equipment must be tested and unneeded item left behind. Enjoy your riding.

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