After a great rest in Pretoria and Mooketsi, I am ready for the road again. I am heading toward Louis Trichardt and then to the most Northern town in South Africa – Musina. I have to cycle along the N1 as I head north, which is technically illegal for cyclists. We are not allowed on any roads classed as freeways. (This time I did not ignore the law, I had no choice)
I passed my first road block outside Bandelierkop. Which is a tiny town between Polokwane and Louis Trichardt, There is not much but I stopped to get water bottles refilled and a chat to the locals. The Metro Cops just stared at me as I passed them. Nothing, no reaction whatsoever.
I carried on a bit farther and stopped at a lodge, where I was told about a farmer that might give me a place to crash for the night. I arrived at his farm but right at the entrance to the farm is a massive road block, multiple cars and officers pulling every vehicle off and checking everything. I rate my luck has run out and I am going to get a fine, or worse… be escorted back to the place where I got onto the Freeway. (They have the right to do this) I weaved through the road block, trying to look as natural as possible and not draw attention to myself – a tall order seeing as I am the only guy on a bike, loaded with gear. They can probably smell me from a mile away and to top it all off, I am wearing a bright red jacket. But to my astonishment, they wave and let me pass…
I feel like I have taken my credibility as a bad-ass law breaking gangster to a new level, even the cops are scared of me. I think I will get myself a grill for my bike, and my teeth. #thuglife
I am staying in a hunting retreat for the evening, there is an outside shower with no door and a drum of cold water over head with a sprinkler for a shower head. I pulled two hammock chairs into the bathroom and made myself a bed out of them, after I was told there is a leopard in the area I am not taking any chances with sleeping outside.
In the morning after eating enough oatmeal for three people, I started heading up the Soutpansberg mountains and then had to pass through the Hendrik Verwoerd tunnels. The tunnels have been badly vandalized and covered with political posters. Nothing is sacred any more I guess. Most of the monuments or old signs I want to take photos of are vandalized and covered with posters and graffiti, or little adverts for traditional healers that can bring back long lost lovers. I got a ride through the tunnels because the road is so narrow I would not fit alongside the traffic. It was raining on the Louis Trichardt side of the pass, but as I came out the tunnels, it was sunny and warm heading to Musina.
One other thing about the Soutpansberg – I once had a conversation with a gentleman from Pretoria who owns a cabin up in these mountains. He offered me accommodation any time to escape the world and do some writing, as long as I could get there myself and do some work in the cabin as payment. (You need a 4X4 to get up there and there is nothing there. No electricity, no signal and no humans for hours – sounds perfect, right?) But sadly I misplaced his telephone number. I could kick myself now, but my legs are too tired…
The Bushveld is an amazing place. The baobab trees dwarf everything around them, I stopped so often to take pictures of these giants I hardly made any progress. But after a coffee stop at a road stall, I started making an effort to get to my resting point for the next two days. I am staying at a farm about halfway between Musina and Louis Trichardt, at an amazing road stall with the best burgers in the north and the best chilli bites.
During my stay here, I learned to track sheep by ear, visibility in the bushveld is not very good, so the sheep have bells around their neck. It was interesting to learn the different ways farmers have to adapt to their environments. We drive along the fences every morning to check for places where illegal immigrants cut the fence to avoid the toll gate – this is a constant battle for farmers in the north. I could probable write a whole book on the stories of what happens in this place. The shenanigans and crazy things people do to get into the country, the sad stories of farms lost to droughts and the success stories of farmers that have turned this dry, hot place into flourishing, productive farms. I had such a great time up in the North, I leave with a sense of cycling away from something instead of heading toward something. But the road is calling and I have to push on.
I am taking off from just outside Musina along a very quiet road that is surrounded by lodges and game breeding farms and past Venetia mine, toward Alldays. As I cycle along this painfully quiet road, the only sound is rattling fences as warthogs rush back to the safety of reserve as I pedal past them. Sometimes the poor fellows cannot find a hole under the fence so they end up running along in the grass next to the road for a few hundred meters until they can find a hole to break through. I never thought I would go for a cycle with a warthog running beside me. I saw amazing wildlife and stunning places. The bushveld is such a pretty place.
In Musina, before I left, I was lucky enough to go see a car collection that is owned by a collector from a farm near Tshipese. His bigger collection is on his farm, I could not go there, but the cars he owns are amazing. He also collects bonsai trees, Some of the baobab trees he has are close to a hundred years old. Stunning place and amazing vehicles and trees.