#Bicycletouring

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Have made a page on my blog for people to find others to join them on their bicycle tours. It is found under Next trip, Tour companions.

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Settlers to Tzaneen and back again via Hoedspruit

What a four day Easter weekend I had. I quickly slapped together a route that should take me about three days if fit enough. Made sure to take all the back roads to avoid the holiday traffic. Only using main routes when there was no other way round. Packed very little in my bags. Only packing a jacket, T-shirt, sweat pants, first aid kit, chargers, solar panels,new sleeping bag, tent just incase I did not land in the right place at the right time.

Starting off on friday with a nice low heart rate making sure that I would be able to maintain it for a few days. First heading in the direction of Marble Hall along my normal training route. Swung left on a gravel road to wards Roedtan.20150403_104154 - Copy

Stopped at Roedtan for lunch. Not really a town. It has more than one petrol station and a few shops. Village is over shadowed by a Grain silo. From here I sped along a flat road towards Zebediela.

As I passed Lebowakgomo people started to pass comments of surprise to find a white man on a bicycle.

Once the sun had set it was quite clear as to where the villages were and the cattle grazing areas lay. Here I picked a nice bushy section that was surrounded by thorn trees to set up my tent. There was a wonderful full moon that made it not necessary to use a torch. Laying on my back with the tent door open, watching the clouds moving in front of the moon and stares.  This made me drift off to sleep with such a relaxed feeling.20150404_063840 - Copy

This is the sunrise next morning back on the road. Slept in the bush on the left of photo.The hills started to rise so that the road had to snake through them.

Coming up one rise I realized that this place is Moria. The place which the religious group ZCC pilgrims to every Easter and Christmas in their millions. The week after I spoke to a fellow worker who went there. He said there were over 13 million people in attendance for the weekend. 20150404_075101 - CopyThe smoke from the cooking fires was drifting on the wind down the valley. The night before I had thought there might be a run away fire as I could smell the smoke drifting on the air. 20150404_090657 - Copy

From here the road rises to the Haenertsburg.

This was the highest point before dropping off the escapement down the Magoebaskloof pass to Tzaneen.

Tzaneen is a very tropical part of the country. Been one of the high rainfall areas of South Africa with a mild temperature. There are lots of road side farm stalls selling the fruits that are grown here. Here is a short list of some of the fruit: bananas,mangoes,pine apples,oranges,avocado pears and grape fruit. See there is a very large tea plantation.

Stopping for lunch at KFC in Tzaneen. Took a little time out and fulled up on water to cross the lowveld. There were more down hills towards Letsitele, Gravelotte and mica. This stretch had lots of orange farms and then the game farms start. 20150404_150104 - Copy

At Mica I found this sign post. If you go down that road you will be entering the Kruger National park in about 60 km. This is one of the world renowned national parks. Home to Elephants and Lions or should I say Africa at its best. 20150405_071058 Also found this sign for Foot and mouth control. This is a disease that is controlled by the government. They try to contain it in the areas were there is a lot of wild animal movement. The movement of wild animals makes it very difficult to control. They need to control this disease otherwise other countries will not import meat products from South Africa, if there is no controls in place.The road down to Hoedspruit is lined with nine foot game fences. Making it feel like you are passing down no mans land at a country border.

Rolled into Hoedspruit not long after dark. Here ordered a pizza and booked into a Hotel. It was good to have a hot shower and scrub two days of sweat and dust off. Washed my cycling clothes, as the cycling kit I had on was the only set I had. Nice to put a clean set of clothes on the next day. Must say I slept just as well on the hotel bed as I did the night before on the ground in my tent, even with out a mat.

Rolled out of Hoedspruit finding there had been a light rain in the night. This gave a sparkling new feeling to the day. Passing fruit orchards and fruit packaging plants with names that I recognize from the supper markets all over South Africa.20150405_070839

Crossing the Blyde river on the way to the JG Stridom tunnel.20150405_073918Looking at the mountains of the escarpment I was getting that hollow feeding in the stomach knowing that I  will have to climb them to get home.20150405_093531 Wondering if I will be able to conquer them. It was a good thing I started early as the road to Ohrigstad had a long climb.  20150405_092105 At the foot of the hill before the JG Stridom Tunnel is the place to stop and take your sun glasses off and wear a pair of gloves with a supper absorbent back, so as to wipe the sweat out of your eyes. This hill is not recommended for beginners unless they plan on pushing for 20 km. I used all those granny gears most of the day. Pushing is not an option if you are training and that was the purpose of this tour.

Just to pop your bubble of conquering the climb (400m to 1200m) the road makes a very steep decent the other side down to Echo caves (700m).Then started climbing again untill reaching Jane Furse the next day at 1350m.

Back to the road. Took the road to Burgersfort just before Ohrigstad. Stopping to take a look at the Voortrekker graves. They must have been some tough people to stop and farm in these hills. Getting their wagons over these hills must have taken some nerve. They were wise to stop in these vallies away from the Malaria and Tsetse fly that killed their oxen and horses.20150405_131538 20150405_131545

Stopped at Burgersfort to have a late lunch and get some supplies for supper as it looked like I was going to sleep in the tent again.

On to Steelport. Well it shows how little I know about my own country. This is a major steel mining area. There were so many trucks transporting steel to the smelters that I had to ride on the sand shoulder of the road. This stretch of road is not recommended for cycling.

Turned off to Jane Furse just as the sun was setting. Could see there had been some protest marches in this area as there was burned tyres that had been pulled off the road. Not far up the hill it was getting dark and seeing I was not going to make it safely along this road I stopped for the night. Crossed some farm lands and found a nice ditch with trees to set my camp up. Had another nice wild camp and set out at sunrise the next day. This was the view at sunrise.20150406_062826

On the top of Dihlabeng mountains I found a real gem of a sight. There were these rocky boulder mounds with bushveld plants that I have not seen in a long time. It was like a rock garden. With a paved road that snaked through the bush like on a game drive farm. Felt as if an elephant was going to step out in front of me at anytime. Must say the wild animals have long last roamed these bushes.20150406_085137 20150406_091039From here the pave roads ended and turned into a loose gravel. Passing two more new dams the government has built to supply water to these rural communities. 20150406_092734From the last dam it was back to paved roads all the way to Marble Hall. Lunch was in the saddle after stopping at the supermarket in Marble Hall.

Last stretch from Marble Hall to home is my normal training ground. Got home at 15H30 monday. With 720 km and over 5000 m ascents. It turned out to be just the training ride I needed for the Trans-Afrika race. May have to do it again sometime.

Cycled to Pretoria and back to farm on the R101

I cycled to Pretoria this last weekend. I have been wanting to do this for quite sometime. I have been putting it off as there were some concerns in my mind. I was concerned about the amount of traffic along the routes that I would need to take. Then there was the crime issues.

Much to my surprise the concerns were all in vain. I have traveled with a car and motor bike on the R101 before. However traveling the route by bicycle gives a whole different feeling. There is no doubt a lot of traffic. However they gave me enough room to ride with exception of one or two trucks. There are a lot of 60 km/h and 80 km/h zones, resulting in traffic moving slower.

People along the road were friendly and often welcomed me. Many times I felt as if I was traveling in one of the neighbouring countries. There was water been carried in 20 litre drums which can be seen in other places in Africa. The zinc houses and half build run down houses can also be seen other places in Africa.There is however evidence of money coming from the big cities. There were the fancy cars and houses here and there that shout out income from the big cities.

I passed the Carousel Casino near Hammanskraal. This is were many people go and gamble away their money thus enriching a few with their lost money. Just across the road is a poor suburb called Carousel view. Most likely where most of the workers of the Carousel live. At lest there is some employment for the local community.

There is some farming along the road. There is one well known farmer that does crops under centre pivot and has some processing plants. I also passed a few animal feed plants. Farming on small farms takes place almost up to Onderstepoort. This is the main veterinary training and research station of South Africa.

After riding out of the drought stricken Springbok flats I rode over Magaliesberg into down town Pretoria to get a heavy afternoon down pour of rain. Which resulted in the streets been under water and having to take off my sunglasses, because I could not see.

To round the trip off. There was a hot head wind all the way home. Nothing like some good training conditions. Nice interesting ride of 260 km. Taking me through the farm lands, poverty suburbs and the Capital city of South Africa. What a contrast.

New Cycle Tour recruits

Last weekend I went with two couples on their first mini cycle tour. They had just got their bicycles and gear together. Now this was their first test to see what they need to carry with them on a New Zealand tour. They did 45 km to Nylsvlei where they camped the night and rode home the next day.

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Must say I think they did very well on a day that reached 42 degrees celsius. The evening finished well with a very enjoyable braai (BBQ). All brought along something to eat. It turned out to be a very enjoyable meal with even a cup of cinnamon milk before bed.

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I wish them well on their tour and hope they find the wonders of the world out there.

2015 tour plan

New year has begun and it is that time of the year when I have to submit my leave plan for the year. Is there anybody out there that would like to do a tour with me? This way we can get our times to come together. This is often the biggest hill to get over. Most times people cannot join you as their time table does not match yours. Unfortunately I am limited in time. I get four weeks a year but also need to spend some time with my family. Thus it would be nice to do a two to three week tour. That is also good for most people who have a real job and family. We cannot all be vagabonds.

The second question would be where to next. People are already asking me where my next crazy adventure will be. Well it could be a pleasure ride or a mad rush to get to a destination, to fit the most amount of km in before the leave runs out. I really enjoyed the slow ride with my Dad last month. To be honest I feel a lot safer on the roads outside South Africa. As the traffic is less and they travel slower. On the other had it my be time to get that book everybody is talking about. Riding the Dragon’s Spine  book uses back roads to travel the length of South Africa. That way we can get away from the traffic.

Well send me a comment or a tweet. Let me know if you available and what tour you would like to do. Then we can start planning.

Tour de Dad

Just finished a tour with my Dad so have called it Tour de Dad. I did 500 km and my Dad did 315 km. Very proud of my 76 year old Dad. I will make a page for this tour. I have already begun with the video. We landed up cutting the tour short as his circulation in his legs was giving him a hard time up the hills. Never the less he did an outstanding attempt for somebody of his age.

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There were people along the way that thought we were doing it for a charity. However it was just a good father and son outing. Why do we need to do this type of thing for charity? Time to get out of your chairs and do it for yourself. For those of you who are not out riding your bicycles, it is now time to start.

Then there were wonderful people who stopped and give motivation along the way. It is nice to find good people out in the world. Gives you hope for the future of our world. There are people out there that are driven by more than just money. They have good hearts.

As always we learned things along the road. We are suffering from electrical load shedding in South Africa at the moment. As there is not enough generation capacity to cope with demand. It feels as the government has not been putting in enough energy as they should to correct this problem. However we found km after km of new road surface that had been laid to help the trucks that transport coal to the power stations. Then the volume of trucks transporting coal was impossible to count. There was a steady stream of trucks all the way from Balmoral to Volksrust. The amount of money that must be paid to keep this stream running is beyond my comprehension.

Pay a visit to my Bicycle trips page. Tour de Dad is now under construction.

Father son trip

They say part of a holiday is the planning . The next is getting there which in our case will be the holiday. The destination will be the smallest part. Last the way back is also part of the adventure.

I have been keeping touch with my dad regularly. He sure is living out the planning and training for his cycle holiday. He is working hard and has been on a exercise schedule. He is now on to the cycling every day stage. His exercise has effected his blood pressure. He is normally on blood pressure tables. He monitors his blood pressure and has had to stop taking tables as his blood pressure has come right. As with age there are lots of other things you have to look out for with your health.

He is concerned that his health will hold out for the whole trip. I just keep on telling him we are going to go at his pace and if he has any problems we can rest or if worse comes to worse we can find a bus home.

As with all first time tour cyclist, he has a long list of questions.

Gear is one question:

I just keep saying that you do not have to have the most expensive gear.

Take time to find the things you need and do not buy the first thing you see.

Normally we buy too much gear and cannot pack all. Land up having to leave some behind.

Find what you have around the house and modify it if you need to.

Bicycle requirement:

Should he get a more comfortable saddle or riding pants. Well I say that if you going slow and doing sight seeing. It is up to you. Which ever you feel comfortable in.

Should he put slicks on. Well he is not going to go heavy off-road. It will probably help to get a more easy roll.

Clothing to take with:

Hard to say to a person that is used to been set in their ways to leave most things at home. Time to rank needs and wants. Summer tour will always have rain in this area. Then there are the night time mosquitoes to keep off. Wind chill when it rains. The scorching heat at mid day and afternoon. Then something to swim in. Light backpacking towel.

Well back to me. I have stopped training and now resting for the Momentum 94.7 this weekend. Will let you know next week how it went.

 

Change in Trip in December

There have been no responses for anybody to join me to East London. However my father has been itching to take his first long ride. So I have changed my mind. I do not have many years left with my father. Thus I have decided to take to a shorter trip from Johannesburg to Richards bay via St Lucia Natal South Africa. This will be done at my fathers pace and we plan on doing about 50 to 60 km a day. Thus giving us time to rest and enjoy some time together. He is in his mid 70’s and not a spring chicken anymore.

Anybody who wishes to join us is welcome. This my be in the range of more people. We will be camping wild and stopping at some nature reserves. Then ending with some swimming in the Indian ocean. My father is an avid bird watcher so he will want to stop and look at birds.

Departure from my house will be on 12 December and will meet my father at my sister’s house at Balmoral on the 13 December. From there we will hit the road together and head east. Doing a mix of sand and tar roads. We will be avoiding all major routes to keep out of the traffic. Plan to bus it back to Johannesburg on 27 December. Once I have done more planing I will post it on my Next trip page.

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Vaalwater trip

Took a training ride to Vaalwater this past weekend. The aim was to ride hills on tar roads to get fit for the Momentum 94.7 cycle challenge. On top of it was to do a two stage ride. To make sure I am getting fit enough for my December adventure to East London. I covered a distance of 209 km for the weekend.

Left at 09H45 on Saturday and stopped for lunch at Nylstroom (Modimolle). From my house to Nylstroom there are no hills.

From Nylstroom to Vaalwater is in the Waterburg hills. Must admit they are big for me but will be small for those of you that are riding in Europe or in Natal. Must be getting fit as the hills did not seem as big as I remember from the previous time I did this route.

The road climbs up out of Nylstroom in steps leaving the Springbok flats behind in the distance. The hills are fenced with game fencing. From time to time you can catch a glimpse of Impala, Kudu, Nyala, Vervet monkey, Baboon,Wildebeest or a cow. The scenery then opens out to grasslands and crop lands. As you start to descend again into the next valley the peach orchards begin. Peaches are now in season and can be bought along the road at small stalls. Not to mention all the Sekelbos wood been sold for camp fires or braai (barbecue). After this there is a goat farm that has a restaurant and makes goat cheese. This would be a nice little outing for the family.

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To climb out of this valley is the steepest part of the ride. After passing some game farms comes the monster climb. On the way back home I had to make some noises to chase the Baboons off the road, as I was freewheeling and reached a speed of 65 km/h. It would have caused a terrible accident if I had hit one of them. My heart rate monitor started to beep as I was not peddling down the hill. To the mother baboons in the trees this was terrifying. They just dropped out of the trees baby and all. Their feet were running in the air, so when they hit the ground they hit it running.  Fortunately the up hill is not to long in the direction of Vaalwater and then you are rewarded with a nice long down hill to Vaalwater.

First time I went to Vaalwater I had all these romantic ideas of a town surrounded by game farms and pumping with tourists. Well it has some game farms around it. It has a grain silo and a rundown town centre. This town centre could have come out of some middle African town. The buildings are in need of paint the roads are very fill of potholes. There are street vendors selling vegetables. Must say some of the nicest tomatoes I have seen in a long time. Signs everywhere to sell biltong (beef jerky). There are any type of biltong, starting at beef all the way to Eland.

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I camped at a small lodge come camp site tucked away behind the sports bar. The sports bar is a nice neat restaurant come bar that serves very nice pizzas or steaks. Their salads are nice and crisp. They say there are two other places to eat in town. I have not tried them. The local farmers sometime come with their wives and children to eat out. Open people if you start to talk to them. They will enjoy a chat with you. Note big topics are the weather, rugby, crop farming and game farming.

Word of warning there is a night club where the local blacks like to hang out. This place has the music up loud and goes all night. Almost until the sun comes up on Sunday. Then there is the busy road that runs through the centre of town. This is one of the main routes to the mining and game farming towns to the west of Vaalwater. So any place you choose to stay at in town will have the back ground noise of the road and night club. The town’s name is also Vaalwater which means unclear water. This means the water source is caring a high particle load and the local municipality can not clean it up so good. Do not think it will harm you but bottled water tastes much better.

Left Sunday at 7H00 and was home by 11H30. Much more down hills on the way back. Early riding is best as it is cooler. For example on Saturday it went to 35 degrees on my cycle computer just before getting into Vaalwater.