I have 100km to get done today and it is mostly open flat road all the way to Tzaneen. Still not an easy feat. It is a hot day. There is nothing between start and finish except informal settlements and bushveld lodges. So I have to use my water sparingly. I cannot risk stopping at a lodge to ask for water, I might get eaten on my way up to reception. And the locals in Limpopo seem to not have any of the friendly curiosity I found in Mpumalanga. People are confrontational and, I dare say, hostile – well up until now this has been my experience in Limpopo’s rural areas. I hope this changes, seeing as I have only been in the province for a day and have a few weeks to go. Frustratingly, I have to backtrack about 22km back to the T-junction heading toward Tzaneen.
Along the way I stopped at Blue Cottages & Monsoon Gallery for coffee and some delicious snacks – a very pleasant stop between the J.G. Strydom Tunnel and Hoedspruit. The artwork is amazing and the food and accommodation is great as well. I recommend pulling in for a stop as you head toward, or from Hoedspruit. Here is the location.
Unfortunately I did not make it as far as I planned, and I found myself about 50km into the 100km stretch with about two hours of daylight left. I started waving down bakkies to get a lift into Tzaneen, eventually I got someone to stop and was able to get a lift to about 18km outside of town. The guy is from Mpumalanga so still no redeeming points for Limpopo. #justsaying.
As I get off the bakkie in the middle of the township outside of Tzaneen, which I might add I have been warned against as it a dangerous place, I realise I have a giant thorn in my back wheel. So I have very little daylight left, a deflating tyre and a dangerous setting to crown it off. And to my horror, I realise it is payday weekend. So the shebeens and taverns are teeming with life. But despite a few people having a bit to shout at me as I pass them, I got through without incident. I decided to push as far as I can while my wheel still has breath in it, I just hope my lungs don’t run out of breath. Did you see that double play on words there? I did.
I got about 8km done before my back wheel was too flat to ride on, and started pushing the bike. Luckily, I have been in contact with someone from Tzaneen for a place to stay for the night and I took a chance and called ahead to see if they could help me out. And amazingly, they came to get me, as the last daylight was fading I was saved by a Ford Ranger and two strangers that did not stay strangers for very long. I also had my first drink of water in two hours as I ran out before I got the lift. Great planning Kyran…
Regardless of the lack of planning and rationing, I am safe at my hosts for the night and head straight to a braai down the street. Good food and good people are always welcome after a day of cycling and struggles.
Day one in Tzaneen, we went to Debengeni falls. A stunning place tucked away inside a lush green forest with a natural water slide and clear pools at the bottom of a stunning waterfall. I will have to come back in summer to go down the natural water slide – I am up for a challenge most of the time, but it is cold and I don’t want to get sick… That is my excuse and I am sticking to it. We headed on to a tea plantation for tea and pancakes, but sadly the place had closed down a few weeks back. Unfortunately the whole farm has come to a stand-still, the new owners seem to not really do anything on the farm. The tea trees are growing wild and the harvest is weighing them down heavily, but there is no one to pick the tea. Everything is falling apart and crumbling to the ground. We took in the breathtaking view and headed down to have a consoling milkshake at another place in town.
Despite the disappointment, we had a great time, but we had to get back to town and get all cleaned up for a dinner party. Thank goodness I have long pants and a decent shirt somewhere in my bags.
The dinner party was great, I ate so much I was about to explode, and I tasted gluhwein for the first time. And despite my general social awkwardness and preference to being a wall flower, I think I handled the influx of questions well and represented the gingers of the world in an acceptable fashion. We ate Ostrich neck for the main course. Just kidding, it was oxtail, but I was almost convinced that it was a flightless birds’ neck I was chewing on. And desert was my all time favourite – Malva Pudding.
Tzaneen is an amazing place to be. During my stay here, I got to have cappuccino’s on the bank of a river teeming with Hippopotamus. No barriers between us and the very large, very fast animals with very, very big teeth. I saw Siberian-, white- and Bengal tigers, lion and white lion, hyena, jackal, and so many other animals – An absolutely wild and wonderful experience. There are countless places to see and be submersed in nature.
My caffeinated-Hippo-sundowners were at a place called Letaba Junction Lodge. It is such a great place with great staff. We got to explore a bit and, because we were the only people there (They stayed open after closing time to let me see everything and finish my cake), we got to sit right by the water and watch the hippo just chill in the last of the African sun. Again, way beyond the warning signs that do not allow people to get too close to the water (at least I am consistent in ignoring the signs). Words are hard to come by to describe the peace you feel watching nature prepare for nightfall. To be immersed in their space and just let the moment play out.
After we enjoyed some chocolate cake, we headed back to town. I had to get ready to be on my way to my next stop. There is so much to do and see in Tzaneen, I could not get to everything. I will definitely be back to experience more and see more of the town and the surrounding areas. Thank you to my amazing hosts for all the driving around and taking me all over to see everything.
My next stop is Mooketsi. It is raining and cold and about 40km to go to the bustling metropolis. I was blessed to get a lift Mook-ville, and what a welcome, just look at the clouds blanketing the mountains. I am staying up in those clouds for a few days.
I will be resting up here a bit, as the family gathering I have been working so hard to get too has been cancelled. So I get to wash smelly clothes, sort out bike issues and air my tent. I am also going to be dropping a lot of the weight I am carting along. I want to travel lighter and faster. And seeing as this trip is one of faith and dependence on provision from my heavenly Father. I am leaving a lot of clutter and excess things behind. I believe in His provision.
Mooketsi is amazing. I wake up to small Duiker, monkeys or a herd of playful cattle each morning, with breath taking views and amazing moon-rising’s. Yes not a typo. We sat outside to watch the full moon rise over the mountain. It illuminates the world around us, and is so bright everything has moon shadows and I can see clearly into the night. It is so bright and massive, but sadly my camera did no justice to the painting that was unfolding in front of me.
Great news as well, I have been approached by a guy that makes bikepacking bags. I will be sporting some awesome kit very soon. I will have a much better gear page and links to see the amazing products he makes. I cannot wait to be a part of this, and have the weight off my back. It will be a load off my shoulders. Sorry for the terrible pun.
Right in the middle of my Mooketsi rest I had an unplanned visit to my folks in Pretoria. It was so amazing to see them and my little princess. We went to an SPCA fundraiser with jumping castles, a thousand dogs everywhere and perfect sunny weather. The next day we went to a food and crafts market in Pretoria with live music and great food. The turkish delight was amazing…
My last day in Pretoria we went to a petting zoo to let Alyssa interact with some farm animals and have milkshakes. Alyssa loved it and we had bunnies follow us for food and a little fuss. Bunnies are so soft and fluffy. I saw a donkey with blue eyes, and the ugliest pig in the world. Truly a ghastly looking piece of bacon – I would still eat the bacon.
A relaxing and very chilled weekend. It was good to see friends and family and catch up on life and happenings. But I will not lie, I was really eager to get back on the road, so I headed back to Mooketsi and got packed and prepped for my journey North.
Happy adventures and chat soon.