After my homecoming from the last trip through the North West and Northern Cape provinces, I have had a lot to think about, a lot to get processed and a few other interests that have started materialising. For starters, I want to bring a bit more structure and planning to my trips (as mentioned before).
As much as I love travelling as the wind takes me and staying as long as I want, I have realised that in order for me to involve any type of charity organization to help them through my adventures, I need to have a better structure and some type of schedule linked to the routes that I explore. Also, I want to challenge myself to cycle every Mountain Pass in South Africa – all 662 of them. So I have some homework to do now, and let’s be honest, no one likes homework.
My plans to spend a few months in Pretoria changed a bit, as a contract I was working on has been postponed until 2017. Meaning, I have nothing to do for a few months. So I guess I will hit the road for a short trip.
I stocked up on some necessities and headed down the road to Delmas. My plan is: Delmas, Heidelberg, Sasolburg, Parys… and then I will plan farther according to what is happening and how I am handling the heat.
I arrived in Delmas with my first flat tyre for the trip. I pulled into a used car lot and asked if I could make use of their shade to sit and fix my wheel. I got invited to a braai.
On Wednesday morning I finally got to repair my flat tyre and was on the way to Heidelberg. My hosts in Delmas called a friend in Heidelberg to arrange a place for me to crash for the night. From Delmas to Heidelberg is a short drive and I got to town at about midday despite a head wind and being dehydrated from the very hot sun.
I drove around town for a short while – Heidelberg is a very pretty town with a rich history. Did you know the ANC and the AWB were both founded here? I didn’t know it until just recently. In the afternoon I was loaded onto a bakkie and dropped off at my hosts for the night – the night that turned into a five days of guns, parties, swimming and spitbraai’s. And of course new friends to come visit.
My first night in town was a braai, were I met an old school friend I have not seen in a decade. It was probably the strangest and best ‘small world’ situation I have had on the trip, and part of the reason I ended staying in town for five days instead of one.
The following couple of days were a combination of riding around town taking in some sights, eating way too much sushi, going to braais that never actually happened and target practice with muskets at a lake.
I have never shot a musket before, so this was special. The recoil is quite intense and the cloud of smoke after the muzzle flash is massive. And smells like, well, gunpowder. I love it. I tried my hand at the handguns again and fared a bit better this time. Mostly because I was aiming at the lake, not a small target on a piece of paper fifty meters away. I hit the lake every time… Unfortunately the Pictures are terrible, but I only had my phone, and it was dark. Just go with it…
Saturday I was supposed to be on the way to Vereeniging and Sasolburg, but I was told to stay for the weekend, because “we have to braai again before you leave.” I was convinced and unpacked my bags.
This braai that I mention above was supposed to be a relaxed braai to recover from the very busy week we all had. But it turned into a crazy party that made the neighbours complain about the noise. There was swimming and dancing, dancing in the pool and swimming on the dance floor – no seriously, the dance move is called ‘the slug’. I have a few moves to practice for the next time I go on a date…
Sunday morning I lifted my weary head at about six and before long it was decided the best way to get the day started was to go for a swim. Being practical people, some soap was added and we killed two birds with one stone. Morning bath… check. The water was cold, and I was rattling worse than the creepy crawly, but on the plus side, I was a clean rattle.
My daughter came through for the Sunday spit-braai on the farm and we all headed out together for a day of great food and great company. I tried to convince her to eat sheep head and intestines, but only managed to put her off any meat for the whole day. I did however enjoy the tripe and ate so much I felt uncomfortable.
Heidelberg was one of the highlights of the trip. I met amazing people, made new friends and found old ones. I was welcomed everywhere I went and got to see some amazing sights in between. Sadly my stay had to come to an end, and on Monday after nearly a week, I was on the road to Meyerton and Vereeniging. I do get to stop and visit my little Angel again and I spent the morning in Meyerton catching up on writing, while I waited for school to finish.
After my visit with the coolest kid in the World, I was off to Vereeniging for a night of Netball and pizza. I did not play netball – I do not think my ankles will survive that kind of beating – but my hosts for the night play, so I tagged along to cheer from the side lines.
In Vereeniging I had another flat tyre and combined with the one I got in Heidelberg I forgot to mention earlier, I have now had three for three. Three flats for three days cycling.
My next stop is Sasolburg where there is not much to see besides the air you breathe. Okay, it is not that bad, but Sasolburg – actually the entire Vaal Triangle – is considered the most polluted air in all of South Africa. Needless to say I did not stop to smell the flowers here and by midday I was over the Freeway and heading up the hill to Parys. Where I got another flat tyre.
After fixing number four, I pedalled on a few kilometres and found a place I could camp for the night. Upon turning into the farm I received more than a place to pitch my tent… I got… wait for it… (Pause for effect) ANOTHER FLAT TYRE!!!
That is now five for four. And some surprise alliteration.
My campsite is inside a store room, the wind is terrible again and I am rather grateful for the extra protection inside the store room. In the morning I was invited for coffee and rusks with the owner of the farm and then I went to Paris.
I parked next to the Eifel Tower and rested my legs while I checked my maps to see which direction to take out of town. Being in Parys in the week is nice, there is no sign of the usual mob of Gautengers and Bikers that flood the town every Friday, and I will be back to spend a few days here to see all the little shops and restaurants soon. It is too much to take in, in one short morning.
The bridge out of town spans over the mighty Vaal River, which is quite a pretty sight and then up toward Potchefstroom and Fochville.
Just to change the subject for a few minutes, I started this route with a lot less gear than usual. My previous luggage total was 53kg with full water canisters. This time I only have 28kg. I have much less clutter with me, less clothing (I am not going nude, just doing laundry more often) and I left a few other items at home I did not think I would need. My theory is that if I did not use it more than four times on a trip, I leave it behind on the next trip. Obviously my first aid kit is the exception to that particular rule, but you get the just of it. I left my big, heavy rain coat at home… Seeing as I never used it and it takes up so much space… this one I might regret though.
Back to important matters now…
I am heading to Potchefstroom and the road is well, without sounding like a broken record player, windy. The headwinds are terrible again and besides my ratio of flat tyres to cycling days, it is the bane of my existence.
30km outside Potch, the heavens opened up and I had to find shelter fast. I pulled into the first place I saw and asked to rest somewhere dry. It was quite early in the day and I was hoping to get closer to Potch after the rain stopped. The rainclouds had other plans and it only stopped raining in the evening. I am very grateful for the rain, it is so crucially needed, so the delay did not bother me.
Potchefstroom turned out to be a longer stay than expected. (Notice a pattern here?) After my stay outside of town, I fought the wind and got to Potch around midday. My plan was to stop in Potch to see a friend and then head off to Fochville. But as with most plans we make in life, life happens to those plans and they end up changing. Is it not true that change is the only constant in life? And that we must embrace the change, not fight it? Okay, I will embrace it.
I wandered around Potch while I waited for my host to finish work and then we headed to a braai at a different, undisclosed location… sounds mysterious right? I just like being dramatic.
Guess what else I got in Potch? Yes, you guessed correctly, I got a flat tyre. Number six. At least my average is down to six for six now.
Day two in Potch I did laundry, fixed a tyre and had a swim. Oh, and I watched TV for 7 hours. It was a Harry Potter marathon…
I stayed another day after this as a result of the rain, and was on the road back to Parys and Sasolburg early Sunday morning. I took a different route and came into Parys from the Fochville side. In Potch I made up my mind to start heading home. Travelling alone for so long has made me, well… lonely and I have a lot of work to get done for 2017, Next year is going to consist of a slightly better balance between work and travelling. Balance is important in life, and when riding a bike. #mindblown
On the other side of Parys I pulled into the same farm I did on the way to Potch – the one where I pitched my tent inside the store room. I asked if I was allowed to camp here again, I wasn’t allowed to camp…
Because I was told to rather sleep in the spare room. And join my hosts for dinner. I had the best baked potato of my life. I even wrote it in my diary. Just kidding I do not have a diary…
Before the potatoes, we took a drive on the farm and spent the afternoon at a cliff up on a hill. The hill has some very old structures built of rocks, and the foundations of what seems to be an old fort or a lookout tower from the war. I tried to climb up the cliff face, failed and retired to the picnic spot they have built nearby. We sat and visited up on the hill and watched the sun go down over the green horizon. It’s amazing how fast life has been restored to the fields, how fast the grass has grown and the trees have bloomed. I think if you sat long enough and focussed hard enough, you would hear everything grow.
After the potatoes and a good nights’ rest, I was off to Sasolburg and then Deneysville, I am taking a slight detour before heading back to Pretoria, I want to go see the Vaal Dam.
I am also at six flats for seven days in the saddle now. The numbers are improving… And the Funny thing is that most of the holes are in the same area of the front tyre. None so far in the back wheel.
Sorry for the long post, here is a potato…