After the great day in Lichtenburg and learning a lot about the place, I am on my way to the farm to meet some lions and tigers. Random fact: In Lichtenburg the ground burns in some places. Yes, the ground. There is a type of turf that is found here that combusts from the heat of the sun, and smoke can be seen rising from the ground in various places. Quite scary that the ground is on fire in this place. The best name I could get for this combustible element is ‘veen’. I am not an archaeologist or expert on the matter, but I was not going to go walking around trying to find a sample to examine.
Back to safer matters: Lions and ferocious predators. The farm is teeming with wildlife. I have never seen such a collection of exotic game, cats and other predators. My hosts for the few days have offered to take me to the farm and some new friends I met are accompanying us. We walked through the camps and got to see lion, tigers and many other smaller cats and tame animals. They have rehabilitated a leopard that only has three legs. Such an adorable little teddy bear. She is so playful and wriggles around trying to get some attention and give everyone a little nibble on the hand. I respect predators, and the need to keep the contact and ‘taming’ of them to the necessary minimum. But it is something to actually scratch a leopard behind the ears and see the smile and twinkle in its eyes.
I did not go into cages, it is not allowed, you know, in case one of the lions eats someone. But you can hold your hands against some of the cages and the animals will lick your hand and let you scratch them a bit. A leopard has a terribly scratchy tongue. One of the wilder leopards did not like us getting too close, and charged at me while I was sitting with my hands and face about thirty centimetres from the fence. It took a lot of courage and will power to not scream like a little girl and fall into the foetal position. But I stood my ground and got the video clip. I cannot show the video clip, because a few unsavoury words came out from either me, or the guy standing behind me when the leopard pounced onto the fence. But it was an amazing experience to have the cat leap at me and growl and hiss right in my face. Rattling, but amazing.
There is a snow leopard breeding pare. Such beautiful creatures, with pure white fur and the bluest eyes I have ever seen. They did try to convince me to stick my hand through and pat them, but I think the look I took for cute and inviting was in actual fact a look of ‘look, a tasty morsel for us to chew on’
My most amazing experience was a white lioness and her hubby, in one of the larger camps, they have a massive roaming area and as I got to the top corner she came jogging up to me and lay down for me to scratch her paw. She followed me all along the fence, most likely looking for a hole to pull me through, but each time I knelt down to get a photo, she would lie down and stare into my eyes. It is like they can see into your soul and extract the essence of who you are. It was an amazing experience.
Soon, however, her husband came along to investigate who was giving his girl so much attention. I think he was jealous. So he kept a close watch on the two of us. I wanted to go into the camp so bad, but I know the meek and dare say submissive way they were sitting down by me and following me was not what I would experience inside. Even playing, they would overpower me and a slight tap of the paw would knock me to the floor. Although it would be a great story to tell when someone asks me what the scar is from that would reside where my ear is now, I prefer keeping my ears in place. So I will love and respect the animals from outside the fence.
After spending the morning with lion, tigers, leopards. hyena, brown bears and a crocodile, we had to get back to town and leave our furry four legged friends behind. I miss that beautiful lioness already. This is definitely going down as another unforgettable experience, and a highlight of the trip.
From Lichtenburg I headed to Baberspan bird Sanctuary. I stopped at Biesiesvlei Padstal, a coffee shop and arts shop with the most amazing rusks and coffee. I got to write my name on a wall and had a great visit with the owner who opened the place to save the building after the town wanted to demolish it. I highly recommend stopping at the little place. You cannot miss it when travelling through Biesiesvlei. It is a big white Church building with an old car that has ‘crashed’ through the front wall. Stunning food and atmosphere.
Next stop was Sannieshof to refill water bottles, I met some Sannieshoffers (I should remember to ask the people I meet how to refer to the ‘locals’, I am not getting any better at naming people) We had a chat and discussed the road and plans of my journey, I got some advice on routes and places to stop.
My destination for the night is Baberspan Dam. I remember as a kid coming here and spending a weekend with family friends on the boat and quad bikes. We rode behind the boat on tubes and attempted skiing. And I vaguely remember my sisters’ boyfriend falling into the mud here. I might be mistaken, I might have wished it, not seen it… We also came here for a new years’ party after high school one year. What a shocking holiday that was. It poured with rain, and we were so unprepared. We actually left late in the evening on old years’ day and got back to Kuruman about half past eleven, by then everyone was angry, tired and sick, so we all went home. One of the worst New Year’s parties I can remember. The best part of the night was, for a good hour one of the guys kept shouting at someone else to apologise to the teenage mutant ninja turtles for ‘dissing’ his pillow case. In hindsight, a 19 year old guy with TMNT bedding is asking for it.
I met the couple that run the restaurant and bar at Baberspan, and they arranged for me to spend the night in the hotel. And I had the best biltong pasta I have ever tasted. A great evening in the restaurant chatting to other people staying at the hotel and resort and some great pictures of the place, and I turned in for the night. I was going to camp in the camping grounds, but I was so grateful for the room. It was a cold night and colder morning.
Baberspan is a birding hotspot and great fishing destination, really worth a drive to spend the weekend or a few days here relaxing by the warm pool and along the shore of the dam.
So after my night in the hotel – just to interject here, how amazing is it that after a few months on the road, I can say things like, ‘night in the hotel’? Life has an amazing way of opening doors and opportunities when we make ourselves available to the chances out there, despite the risks. I thought I would be sleeping under the stars and recycling plastic bottles for money to buy two minute noodles. Not to disrespect the noodles, Noodles are awesome. Instead I am meeting great people, staying in hotels and guest rooms on farms and more often than not, being invited for dinner with my hosts. It is humbling to acknowledge how provision is always there when I need it. And it is not because of my sparkling morning personality, I feel bad, but I still battle to human for the first hour of each day, I have improved though. My mum will be proud of the progress on this front.
I am heading to Vryburg now, and planning to span my next few kilometres into three days. So I took it easy and stopped in Delareyville for a coffee and to call some friends from Kuruamn to book my place on their couch. I spent more than two hours here in the end. I met two amazing couples at the little coffee shop and had a great visit. We exchanged details to meet up again in the future.
A bran muffin and a cup of coffee later, and I was on my way to Vryburg. The last few days and hours have been so amazing and I have received so may blessings from people, I was on a high, and before I knew it, I was in Vryburg. No plan yet as to where I am going to sleep, but I had such a great afternoon and I managed to get some great distance done. I got to Vryburg and had to deploy my parachute to stop I was going so fast. Okay, it was not that fast, but close enough.
At a shop outside of town I stopped to refill water bottles and start asking around if anyone of my relatives or friends had contacts in Vryburg. While standing at the shop, an old high school friend came walking along and we had one of those ‘what are you doing here’ moments. Best of all, the guy I bumped into, is the guy that had the TMNT pillow cases… I won’t mention names.
We made plans to meet up in a few days when I get to Kathu, and I soldiered on to a shop I can ask for a place to stay. It is great to have friends and family that have friends and family all over the place. And as I travel closer to my home town, I am meeting more people that I know. I got a place to stay on a farm a few kilometres back on the road I came in on, but as I said, I was pedalling so fast, I did not even see the place.
An evening of playing pool, a braai and a much appreciated warm bed on a cold night later and I am about to attempt my longest day ever… Can I have a drum roll, and release those pigeons…
I have to do 147km to get to my stop in Kuruman, or split the day in two. So obviously I chose to go all the way. I am told there is a great shop and filing station about twenty kays out of town and I decide to eat breakfast here. The place was forty five kilometres out of town, so by the time I got there, I was so hungry I could eat a horse. Luckily there were no horses, so I devoured the burger I packed. I bumped into some relatives (Crazy right?) and then started down the long, flat, straight road to Kuruman.
About halfway to Kuruman is a town called Lykso. I still felt good, but my left knee is starting to feel the burn after a few hard days. But I soldiered on. At half past three I had my last few drops of water and had to push on the last 40km without water. There is nowhere to stop to refill along the way. I guess I could stop at a farm, but I am scared I get too comfortable and end up staying over. I want to push myself to see how much I can do in a day.
Now, I mentioned how flat and straight the road is, the last fifteen kilometres are suddenly steep. After the long day, the last thing I want is an uphill, but I am so close. So I push hard to get up the hills, and rest on the downs, and then repeat this until I pulled into the first place in town I could get something to quench my thirst.
But I did it, I know a lot of cycle touring guys do huge distances per day, and road cyclist kill it with distance, but for me, personally, I am stocked about my record day. If you told me a year ago I would cycle more than a hundred kilometres in a day, I would probably have laughed at you. Impossible is nothing.
I basically fell off the bike when I got to my destination. But I felt so good. Now for the next personal distance goal… I want to hit the 185km mark soon.
Being in my home town is strange, I did not think I would have so many memories and a sense of nostalgia as I walked around and saw all the old spots we used to frequent. Or going past the house I grew up in. But I think the days when all I could think of was to get away from the place have passed, and I could happily remember all the good times. I won’t ever be able to live here again, but I have a great appreciation for the time I did spend here.
I have a day or two left here, and then I am entering some more wild and wonderful places. The Kalahari is a dry, vast and open world, with red dunes, thorn trees and a scorching sun. I cannot wait to see what the road brings my way.