Day 11 Middelburg to Nieu Bethesda
Distance 66 km; average speed 14.9 km/hr
We had to take a portage to Middelburg from Steynsburg yesterday because I was in need of a pharmacy. The benefits of being a doctor, one can write one’s own scripts. To bring you up to speed, I have been suffering with salivary gland swelling for the last few days which isn’t improving. I suspect an impacted stone which I can do little about except control the symptoms and hope it pops out at some point. Eating is a painful chore presently but on the bright side, my ability to drink beer is unaffected.
We head off down the dirt road to Nieu Bethesda and hit headwind the majority of the day. Consequently, we crawl along at 14 km/hr or slower on most sections.
We also miss a turn, which requires some backtracking, albeit with the only tailwind of the ride. The Karoo scenery is stunning, as usual, with the Compassberg mountain range looming in the distance on our right. We experience our first real climbing day, with some walks required.
The road winds us through the nature reserve, and we see large herds of springbok, blesbok, impala and mountain zebra. The herd of springbok charges across the road ahead of us. There are two rare black ones trailing at the back – bred for looks and not for speed, it seems.
We don’t see any cars the whole day (actually, one passes us while we’re sitting on the roadside eating potbread and cheese sarmies). Eventually, we see the sewage works of Nieu Bethesda rise into view, just in time for my front wheel to go flat. We are close to the endpoint so I hobble along on the flat for about 4km.
We hit The Brewery & Two Goats Deli in town and endeavour to try all the beers on offer before heading back to camp. Our favourite is the Karoo Ale, good flavour with a hint of bitterness. The dark beers aren’t bad either. The service is a bit Karoo-like, however. Can’t complain as we are in relaxation mode at this point.
Day 12 Nieu Bethesda to Graaff Reinet
Distance 49 km; avg spd 15.8 km/hr
I wake up this chilly morning to the sound of someone cantering their horse down the dirt road which runs past the campsite. I wait to hear if there are any chasing cowboys, there aren’t, so I get out of bed. It’s a short day today. A short day which starts with a near-300m climb out of town, which has us athletically leaping off our Buffaloes to walk.
We are wearing our usual light weight basic clothing, thinking it will get warmer once the sun is up. It doesn’t, and a chilly, windy descent follows.
We slog into a headwind once again, albeit down kinder tar roads. Yesterday was our hilliest day so far and I can feel it in my legs, very glad to see the town climb into view.
After checking into Camdeboo Nature Reserve (great campsite near the lookout point for the dam), we head into town to sample the beers at GRT Brewery and acquire some bread from Polka bakery (detailed review coming later, some good, one loaf could be used as a murder weapon). It’s extremely windy in the evening and we all retire to our tents sooner rather than later.
Day 13 Graaff Reinet to Aberdeen
Distance 82 km; avg speed 16.7km/hr
The wind died down in the night, thank goodness. One of my tent poles broke in the night. That’s what I get for buying equipment recommended by Prince Charles (to be fair to the tent, it’s been taken up and put down more times in the last two years than most tents get in twenty). What else can go wrong, I think, as the corner of my kitbag splits and Colin declares the clip on his bumbag to be broken. We also learn from the previous day’s mistakes and layer up against the chill. We are both dying of heat as we reach the summit of the first hill, shortly outside of town.
Today’s route has lots of, “Stop and goes”, which are great for us, because the traffic stops, and we can go, on our own personal lane of highway, provided they aren’t actively working on it, which they frequently aren’t. The wind has died down a bit today at least, although persistent.
We arrive in Aberdeen around midday, 55-ish kilometres completed. We add on a few extra to help shorten the distance tomorrow. We are staying tonight at a B&B, Pagel House, which was originally built in 1897.
It’s a marvelous place, thanks again to Andy from http://massiveadventures.co.za/ for the recommendation. We also stop in at the bookshop to chat to Sue, local journalist, who we narrowly missed meeting on 9 Peaks Tour as we whooshed through Aberdeen.