After a brief business meeting on Monday morning, 5 December, and after a few final preparations, I set out from Summerstrand in Port Elizabeth along the coastal road to Schoenmakerskop. I had spent a few nights at the phenomenal Ocean Bay Guest House in Summerstrand enjoying the exceptional hospitality of the owners Alex and Lynn Odendaal, as well as super hostess Chantel, something which as someone later joked, had ill prepared me for my little mat, sleeping bag and tent that were now strapped to my bike rack. My daughter Jessica, who lives and studies in Port Elizabeth, met me at the Grass Roof Farm Stall for a coffee and to see me on my way. We said goodbye and I headed for Seaview with a little lump in my throat. I took the R102 to Jeffrey’s Bay and spent the first night of my trip at African Ubuntu Backpackers having covered a distance of 114kms. On Tuesday morning I had a stretch on the beach at Super Tubes and a dip in the ocean. After a breakfast of toast, jam and coffee I got underway at 9am. I hoped to complete a distance of 106km on day 2 and to overnight in Joubertina, however this was not to be, as the heat, strong head wind, and smoke from bush fires, all took their toll and I only managed 63km to Kareedouw where I called it a day and spent the night. Lesson learnt (I’d had it easy on the coastal road the previous year by comparison) and on day 3 I was off just after 5am. I rode the 43km to Joubertina (apple country) quite well and stopped for a good breakfast there. I found the next 70km tough as the heat and wind picked up a few notches (I had to remind myself that this was to be expected – I was basically heading from sea level to the Cango Caves, against the prevailing wind, during the hottest month of the year, something that a Roadtrip handbook advises against, it was always going to be hard). The last seven or so kilometres were a lot of fun as I cruised down the pass and into Uniondale. Another early start on day 4 as I climbed out of Uniondale towards De Rust, 80km away, while enjoying the spectacular sunrise. The final 40km to Oudtshoorn was extremely tough and I found a Mugg & Bean to refuel at, on Chickpea Salad and coffee. I still managed to fit in a pasta later that evening. I camped at a backpackers and was on my bike shortly before 6am on day 5 (Friday). The weather was cool and overcast and there was no more than a gentle breeze. The road to Calitzdorp is flat and I had my best section of cycling to date on this trip covering the 50km in three hours (that is a good indication of how much my bike, pack mule, weighs). There is a massive billboard just outside Oudtshoorn on the way to Calitzdorp that reads “VLEISPARADYS” (meat paradise), that boggled my mind a bit (my vegetarian pasta the night before had been very good. No wonder the Ostriches aren’t friendly). After a good breakfast in Calitzdorp (Port country) I started the next 50km stretch to Ladismith (Brandy country). This stretch took me 5 hours and I don’t want to talk about it just yet (it was only today), suffice to say that there was a lot of hill climbing, quite a lot of pushing, and a stiff breaze into my chest for quite a lot of the time. The 12km Huisrivierpas (House River Pass) is impressive. I am now relaxing and writing in Ladismith and will be cycling for Barrydale tomorrow morning, after which my journey may take a little twist..
Day 1 outside Port Elizabeth
African Ubuntu Backpackers J-Bay
Heading for De Rust