A cold morning start with coffee and breakfast about 20 kilometers outside Pretoria. My parents and I stood next to the road with the sun rising and said final prayers and goodbyes. Finally, the first day of many to come on the road, it still feels so unreal, but here I go…
It went really well, I made it to Bronkhorstspruit in about an hour and a half. And after stopping for a rest at the Buddhist centre for some snacks and water, I carried on along my way toward Balmoral – a tiny town in Mpumalanga, I almost missed it. I stopped at a small shop just off the freeway to refill water bottles and have a rest. The owners were cool and gave me a coke and we swapped details to stay in touch. I soldiered on to Witbank, with no actual plan of where I was going to stay for the night, but I had enough daylight to get there.
The road to Witbank was exhausting, I was at the end of my energy and strength. I cannot explain how tired I was. I got to an off-ramp, drove to the first place I found where I could sit and rest, and collapsed onto the pavement. It turns out I pulled up to the Fire Department. I sat for a while feeling like I would never walk again, but decided to go inside and see what I can arrange for a place to rest. Being day one, I have no idea what to expect, but my original contact I had in Witbank no longer lives here. (I could have checked this before arriving, but planning has never been my strongest attribute.)
I walked into the station and started talking to a few people and telling them about my journey, in the hope that someone might offer a place to stay. My prayers were answered and they offered to let me sleep there so that I could be safe. My suite for the night was the training room, with an air conditioner, bathrooms and soft chairs to sleep on – Heaven after the day I had.
In the morning I got to meet some of the members of the fire department and had a nice chat to everyone there. But the road is calling and I had to push on. So I got some directions, and tips on where to ride and where not, and said my farewells.
The road to Middleburg… Not that I have many roads to compare this one too, But the way I feel now, I rate this one will stay high on the list of sucky roads. There was a non stop headwind that forced me to put in extra effort to peddle down hills! It was draining, and I eventually got off the bike and just walked, cycling every other kilometre marker and then walking again. It was slow going. And all that surrounded me was coal mines – endless piles of black coal.
In my despair and lack of nice scenery, I spotted a very tall communications tower. I figured I was in need of a rest, so I pulled in and found some technicians there. I asked them if I could climb it, and they agreed. It was awesome. I did not climb to the top, that would take too long and the guys wanted to leave. So I went up two platforms – about four or five storeys up. And got to see the world from a birds’ point of view. These towers are high, like Macaulay Culkin High. I wish I could go to the top, but I didn’t want to make the technicians wait for me.
I thanked the guys at the tower, and started off again with new energy to get to Middleburg, Where I was met by my hosts for the weekend. The most generous and friendly people ever! We had pizza together and visited around the dinner table and discussed teaching (Both are teachers) our country and life in general. It was so interesting, and even though my legs hurt and I was dog tired, the company was so nice I hardly wanted to say goodnight, but alas, I had to head to my villa for some shut eye. And a villa it was, I had snacks, a mini bar with water, cold drinks and coffee and tea. I jumped through a glorious shower and snuggled into bed. Thank you ladies for the kindness and hospitality, I had an amazing weekend and it was great to meet you!
I walked around Middleburg a bit and discovered some of the sights there. It is a pretty little town, with the typical South African feel to it. Old churches, old parts of town, the new upmarket Malls and complexes for people to live behind barbed wire and electric fences, and the prettiest old houses and buildings hidden in between. I even found a kickboxing gym inside the old mill at the silos.
As a final word, Never ever doubt the existence and possibility of miracles. I had one happen to me, all I had to do was ask and be faithful. And just like that I had a roof over my head in a strange town with no one I know. I would not have made another 5km if I tried to pedal on past Witbank, but there was provision, exactly when I needed it.