Day 3 Parys to Kroonstad
Distance: 97 km, average speed: 18.1 km/hr
Very uneventful day of cycling. A bit of climbing to get out of Parys into Vredefort but then all flat from there. We also (for once) have a tailwind.
A bit of drama on the hard shoulder as the road is strewn with broken glass. I make the customary hand gesture and do some elaborate swerving – turns out they were green jelly beans.
Some decent roadside game spotting along the way – nyala, gemsbok, sable and springbok with rare colour variants. We make good progress to our stop for the night in Kroonstad – Jukskei Park. There is a problem with the ablutions so we get our own chalet for the night. We camp in tents and braai our dinner, leaving the comfy beds and fully equipped kitchen unscathed. We stop in at Appointment Craft Brewery in town, despite not being fully set up and still finalising their selection of beers.
The company is good and there are some promising choices of beer. We particularly enjoyed the red ale. We commiserate with Rudi that the locals have been reluctant to switch to heartier styles of beers, a problem we encounter even in big centres such as Joburg, where lagers and blonde ales remain the most popular choices, often bumping IPAs and stouts off the taps as time goes on. Thank you to Rudi Brits and Coal for the hospitality!
It’s early days for this craft brewery but well worth a stop, or visit one of the local restaurants that stock their brews. Back at camp, we befriend a cat and go to bed. 3am: am woken up by a headbutt from a friendly cat who has crept in under the rainsheet of my tent and located my head just below the flysheet. I nearly have a heart attack.
Day 4 Kroonstad to Virginia
Distance: 73 km; avg speed: 17.8 km/hr
Flat, hot day of cycling. A few small hills stretching amongst the grasslands and farms. I’m somewhat alarmed by my lack of vegetable identification skills. Only a few plants growing in the fields adjacent to the roads are identifiable to me as food. If anyone knows what the bright green short thingies, the taller green thingies with tufty bits and the fine leaved green thingies are, please let me know.
Arrive at the campsite in Virginia (why is this town called South East England on Google maps?). There are biting flying bugs and ants galore. It’s very green and pretty. For some ungodly reason, there are also free roaming emus.
Thoughts I’ve had today:
1. Cyclist problems: my two pairs of shorts aren’t the same length, I am going to bugger up my tanline.
2. If one of those emus pecks my eyes out, I am going to write a very stern letter of complaint.
Not much in town so we take a drive to Welkom to the brewery there. Oddly placed, behind a car showroom, you wouldn’t know it was there unless you were looking for it. No tasting during the week so we buy some random brews and head back to camp.
The lager fizzes all over the grass when Colin opens it (do you want ants? Because that’s how you get ants.) [Note: Colin is keeping a beer diary and will post more detailed reviews at the end of the trip.]
Day 5 Virginia to Brandfort
Distance: 97 km; avg speed: 17.7 km/hr
For some reason we are all tardy to get going. The R road we are riding today is quite busy, with lots of fast moving vehicles. The hard shoulder is wider than most so it’s still manageable. You just don’t really get used to cars and trucks whooshing past at speeds frequently (always?) above the national speed limit. There’s a bit of a head wind today and the going is hot.
We take one wrong turn but realise our mistake early. We find the right turn and bounce along down a few dirt roads, before realising that what appears as secondary roads on the map and Google, are dead ends as they have (probably illegally) been closed off by farmers.
It’s a worthwhile detour however as we spot a lot of game, including white gemsbok, sable, roan and… tigers. The tigers were enclosed behind a chain link fence with a sign that said, “Beware of the lions” which makes me wonder about the owners.
We are struggling to find decent bakeries on this trip so far, resorting mostly to the in-house bakeries at grocery shops. In Bradfort, we find a pub with adjacent store that sells bread so we buy some white loaf there.
The campsite we are staying at is amazing, at Amanzi Game Reserve. Personal braais with built in sinks and work surfaces. I had to knock some points off the otherwise excellent shower for having to brave not one, but two shower curtains. Weird. At least they are clean and sturdy. I have a horror of flimsy, mouldy shower curtains that creep up on you while showering and cling to your vulnerable bare flesh.