Day 8 Bloemfontein to Trompsberg
Distance 104 km; average speed 17.9 km/hr
Due to me having to fly back to Joburg for the night (cats! She said, vaguely) we ended up staying three nights at Amanzi, so we portage to the south of Bloemfontein for the start of the next leg. I have to hit the pharmacy so we end up only leaving at 10am. We make good speed despite it, mostly on decent dirt road until Edenburg.
From there, quiet tar road to Trompsberg, where Maggie finds a unique little take-away bakery, selling cakes in take-away pot containers. I think it is an idea that would go down well in the food markets of the cities, especially with the trend for deconstructed everything. We get some chocolate cake for my birthday.
We are in a self-catering cottage tonight, otherwise populated by burly construction workers with unusually small dogs and a tendency to listen to the TV too loudly. Apparently we all take a shower at the same time too, as the water pressure is so low it would have been quicker for me to get the dirt off with a hammer and chisel.
I’ve mentioned before that one’s mind has a tendency to wander while cycling long distances at steady cadence. My thought for the day: the 800m sprint would be a much less interesting spectator sport if run in a straight line.
Day 9 Trompsberg to Gariep Dam
Distance 84 km; avg spd 17.4 km/hr
Mostly ride on dirt roads parallel to the N1 adjacent to the railway line – the best we have enocountered on this trip and probably some of the best we have ever ridden on the Buffaloes. It’s mostly smooth and compact, and there is some lovely roadside scenery.
There are a few corrugated areas at the busier sections, including the last downhill stretch before the tar to Gariep Dam starts. Colin almost bounces off and almost takes me with him. Somehow we avoid both becoming entombed at the craters at the bottom of each corrugation. We encounter very few cars until just outside Gariep too – three for the whole day. Glorious cycling. If ever you want to experience these roads for yourself in a fun, challenging way, chat to Andy at Massive Adventures as they form part of his Bloemfontein and Karoo Dash routes.
Day 10 Gariep Dam to Steynsberg
Distance 85 km; avg speed 17.3 km/hr
Back on the tar today, although possibly the quietest tar road in the country. There are hardly any cars (less than 5 after leaving Gariep) and only one tried to squash us as he squeezed past unnecessarily closely, given that the oncoming lane was clearly vacant for about 4km in a straight line.
We hit the Eastern Cape and the Karoo today, some of my favourite cycling country. It has its own smell and atmosphere. It also has hills. We spend all day going uphill and end with an unnamed pass. We manage to get up without walking, probably for the last time this trip.
There are some serious passes coming; we know from 9 Peaks Tour. We don’t finish the day in Steynsburg, I need a pharmacy, again, so we portage to Middelburg. Campsite tonight is great though so it’s a fortuituous detour. Lush soft green lawns, electricity points and decent ablutions. Colin, five minutes after arrival, declared he was taking off his shoes and socks and, “cavorting barefoot on the grass”. His cavorting looks strangely like putting up a tent but I leave him to it.