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.

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Waterberg road trip(Nyl zen oog)

Thought to do a few long day rides this long weekend. So off I cycled to Nylstroom and purchased some slime, knowing my back wheel was dry. Using some insulation tap strapped it to my carrier. Next stop was the biltong shop (beef jerky shop) to make sure the stomach had something to work on. Planning to ride for a full day with no stop for lunch. Then a little extra water just to fill up the water used to ride to Nylstroom.

I love the signs I find along the road. Take a look at this.20140614_120209 Every winter there is run away fires that are very difficult to stop in these mountains. They sometimes burn for days. Normally fanned by a strong wind. They often burn down game lodges and farm houses. Not easy to get into the hills with fire fighting vehicles so they have to fight on foot. Due to the trees and wind these types of fires are best put out by fire fighting vehicles and helicopters. However cost of helicopters is prohibitive.

 

 

There were some nice climbs with some good solid gravel. I can see in the rainy season the road gets washed away in places. May get a little slippery. So if you want to try the Nyl zen oog road winter would probably be better.

Interesting to watch the farms and lodges along this road. Most farms were small and can be seen that their economic viability has been pushed to the limit.20140614_122546 Most turning to a mix of guest farms and agricultural practices. Others going all the way over to game farming. These tending to be up on the hills where irrigation water is limiting.

Coming near the top of the mountains my water started to get low. I thought to get some water from the streams. As water is seeping straight from the mountains. At every stream I thought no let’s get at the next. To bad as at the top of the hill there was no nice clean streams to drink from. The top of the hills opened up to open cattle country. 20140614_132140The road became very sandy with big corrugations making going very slow. Just had to ration water and eat some biltong to get the mouth wet.

Came across the main water supply dam for the town of Nylstroom. What a nice deep body of water between the hills. Having steep cliffs coming up to wall it in.

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Name of dam is Donkerpoort.20140614_140737

 

Round about here the bicycle wheel bearing started to give the same feeling as two weeks  back. That time one ball bearing had worn flat on one side and had to be replaced. Put wheels back together after greasing them and all looked good until now. Estimated to be about 60 km from home so had a look and decided that I could not do much. Wind had come up and fortunately turning to ward home it helped. Knowing the condition of the bearing I set out on the tar road home from Nylstroom. Making it 132 km for the day with average speed 19.6 km/h.

Stripping wheel down at home found the axil cone has developed some rough spots. Will have to make a trip to town, to get some spares. Looks like Jimmy cycles is seen a lot of me lately.

Waterberg roads

This weekend rode bicycle into Nylstroom and did some business. After which I took the Vaalwater road. Just out of town I found this new sign. 20140531_114110

This touches my heart as I am a farmer and people do not know what goes into putting a plate of food on the table. Some way down the road I took a right turn at this sign.20140531_122309

Not more than 2 km a right at the next sign.

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Now at this corner stood a herd of cattle that were crossed with an indigenous breed called Inguni. I see the owner has chosen not to burn the horns. There was a study done which found animals with horns could handle more heat than those with out. As the horn acts as a type of radiator for the blood. That is also why they stopped cutting off Rhino horns to prevent poaching. However due to the number been poached they had to resort to removing them again.

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This road had a good surface but after some way it became very sandy and corrugated. At one point there was a steep down hill which I used to my advantage but due to the rough surface it felt like I damaged my front wheel bearings. The down hill in the distance is what damaged the bearings.

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Passed some dams up in the mountains. Here is one of them.

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Rattled my way to the end of this road and decided could go no more until I had taken a closer look.

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Could not see or feel what was making the strange feeling so had to carry on home as there was another 50 km to go.

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Pity the impala ran away from in front of this dam before I got my camera out.20140531_144516

This just looks like a dirt road but was trying to show the straight road. The road on the horizon can be clearly seen with the eye but not by my camera. From this point it is about 20 km home. This road also gave me a puncture forcing me to stop and pump wheel up once. Tried to make it home with out pumping again but could not ride any more when I got  200 m from my gate.

Did 125km for the day. The sand roads and hills had pushed my heart rate quite high for most of the day. By the time I got home it felt like I had just run the Comrades marathon. I had also tried to use Energade for the second time. It gave me the same problem as the first time. It gives me a head ache when I first drink it, then once it gets to the muscle it burns. I then have to drink extra water to try to get the extra energy out of the muscle to stop the burn. Looks like I will have to stick to Game. What is nice about Game it is a powder. So can pack extra with me on the long cross border trips. I use one packet per 100 km. I also mix it weaker than recommended taking into account the day temperature. The hotter it is the more I dilute it.

Well as always when pushing yourself to the limits. You make a decision to never do it again. Now a day later I am planning my next route into the hills.

 

Settler to Belmoral

I did not post a post this weekend as I took a long weekend to visit my sister. I did 332 km by bicycle for the weekend.I will post a few photos.

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Had to cross a few mud puddles. I landed up been covered in mud. Some were a foot deep.

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I will not try my luck going through this fence, if there are lions in this game farm.

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Stopped to take photos

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No doubt they are serious. Just wonder how this sign will help in court if they did shoot a person

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Highveld of South Africa. My view at lunch time.

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Highveld. My lunch time view.

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Bicycle also had to take a rest at lunch time.

The weather was good and the wind favored me. On the way there I managed to cut an hour off my best time and did 166 km in 9 hours 10 minutes. The way back is more down hill and managed to cut 1 and half hours off best time, came in at 8 hours 40 minutes for the 166 km.