I passed Oppi Koppi outside Northam and did a short 3km detour into the area. It is a week after the festival is finished, and I can hear the guys cleaning up inside the farm. The sound of hundreds, probably thousands of bottles being dumped into refuse skips is the ambient music for my roadside lunchtime picnic.
I am bouncing my way toward Dwaalboom, Bouncing is not how I want to describe it, but I am afraid that children might read this and the language that I need to use to describe the tremendous corrugations I am summiting will damage their innocence. I rate I have done double the actual distance travelled with the amount of times I have zigzagged across the road in search of smoother parts.
Back track a few minutes – I passed a town called Zwartklip, Never even knew it existed, but what a quaint little mining town. You enter through a boom gate, put there by the mine. The town has endless neat blocks of mine houses and friendly people wandering about on their weekend routines. It is like the place exists outside the normal parameters of life as I know it.
The road I am on toward Dwaalboom is called the mountain road. And for good reason, it is steep, and windy, and dusty. And the surface is rocky and well, bouncy. I passed a dozen game reserves and private safari camps, only to pass more around each bend. The wildlife is amazing here and I had a warthog run ahead of me for a few seconds as the poor fellow tried desperately to get through a hole in a fence. I guess in his head I am a weird looking creature with round legs and a human face…
The road climbed and climbed and I was running out of water, there is nowhere to refill bottles unless I risk being eaten by something and enter a lodge or game reserve. But then, just as I was preparing myself to bravely go into a reserve in search of water, I got to the top of the highest mountain in the world… just kidding, it is not that high, but in the heat and with the head wind I had all day, it sure felt like it. The world was spread open in front of me from up here, as far as I could see the bushveld stretched to the horizon, and the sun was racing down the sky to meet the trees on the horizon. Breathtaking and I had a sense that I could grow old in the bushveld. I could belong here.
I raced down the mountain as fast as I dared to go over the rocky, then sandy road. I sank into the dirt a few times and I rate, if you were riding behind me, you would fall off your bike from laughing at me trying to keep my balance through the thick sand. Legs and arms flailing as I desperately attempted to stay upright and keep the right parts of the bike on the road. I stopped a few times to laugh at the sight of a suntanned, dusty ginger lying in the dirt in a jarring position as the vultures picked at what was left of me after the crash. Luckily, I did not fall off… I won’t be eaten today.
I pulled into a farm, drove about two kays down the road to find the house, but found nothing. So I turned around and carried on. The next farm had a sign that read: “Here we shoot first”. Needless to say I did not attempt to go in there. After a few more kays and finally turning onto the tar road, I found my safe haven for the night, by pure chance.
I was heading to a farm and the workers told me to ask at the house on my right for the contact details of the farmer. I did not even see the house on my right, so I went closer and was invited in to stay in their caravan for two nights. I never got to go to the planned farm I pulled in for, but I am so glad for it. We ate together and visited on the stoep watching the sun set and the farm animals come home for the night.
Sunday morning I joined them at Church and had fudge, biscuits and savoury tart with the locals of the town, and some coffee. While chatting to everyone there, I was invited to stay at a farm about 60km from town, on a route that, I am told, is prettier, more secluded and has better wildlife that the one I was planning to take. I am travelling through the old homeland – Bapututswana, and it is such a beautiful place. I get to ride along the Botswana border for a section of my journey.
Sunday Afternoon we had a braai and I fixed flat tyres. I watched a goat give birth to twins right after another ewe had triplets, amazing to witness nature unfold in front of me. Luckily I am not too squeamish. I had such a great time in Dwaalboom. It was so chilled and laid back. Monday morning, after breakfast and goodbyes to everyone, I headed along the last bit of tar I will be seeing for a while and turned off toward Derdepoort. At the intersection I met someone from my hometown. What are the odds?
Guess what? The road to Derdepoort is bumpy, and rocky, and then all of a sudden it is thick sand that I sink into, making me do the spider monkey dance to stay balanced. This is the name I am giving my ‘moves’ when I try to stay balanced on the bike in thick sand. All you fellow cyclists out there will know the feeling when you suddenly have to move like Jagger to stay upright. It is great to be able to laugh at yourself. It’s better when there is not another human being within earshot to laugh with you.
I got to my stop at midday. I had power nap in my bungalow before lunch and the activities of the afternoon. Whilst napping under the cool thatch roof I realised that I might just want to be a farmer in the bushveld on the border of Botswana. Wow, the place is starkly beautiful. The valley I cycled through from Dwaalboom to the farm is called Silent Valley, and what a fitting name. The silence is deafening and makes you appreciate just how amazing everything is around you.
I helped get cattle and sheep into the kraal for the night, and we drove to the various hunting camps on the farm to check on the hunters there. After getting some supplies at the little farm shop down the road, we joined the one hunting party for sundowners and watched the full moon light up everything outside the halo of our camp fire. I felt like a little kid gaping at the beauty of the place. I am definitely coming back for a weekend in the bush. No signal, no technology, just the peace and calm of the bushveld.
I will always love the bushveld. The place and the people have a way of sneaking in and stealing a part of who you are, making you long to come back before you even leave. I have left a part of myself here. I will be back to fetch it one day, or perhaps I will stay. Who knows what time will bring. One can only hope.