Day 18: Witsieshoek to Sterkfontein Dam

31 March

Start 08:30 End 08:40 Distance: errr, about 120m

We have decided to take a short day today, owing to the strain on our legs from the day before. We plan to ride about 50km starting at Witsieshoek. We don our cycling kit and enthusiastically ride from the gate. In about 100m, Colin grinds to a halt, literally. The back wheel won’t turn. Some hasty disassembly and he discovers that the rear outer bearing has ripped itself to shreds. There was nothing obviously wrong with it the day before when Colin checked it, so the few metres now must have put the final nail in the coffin of whatever flaw was causing my initial hassles. Colin was also supremely confident that there would be no mechanical failures on the trip, so we don’t have a spare. I don’t blame the Buffalo bicycle – it has done a lot of kilometres and taken a lot of abuse over the last few years. So has Colin, maybe that’s why he forgot to pack spare parts.

Phuthaditjhaba rises from the mist.

Phuthaditjhaba rises from the mist.

It’s off to Harrismith to look for spare parts. There’s only one bicycle shop and they don’t stock spares for our type of bicycle (i.e. old fashioned steel frame back pedal brake). Colin makes a plan. He now has a standard back wheel with a five speed cassette and a front brake. Some brute force was required to get the new rear wheel to fit. The bike is still single speed so he is carrying extra cogs for nothing. It is also uncertain after all these years of riding a Qhubeka if he will remember to pull a lever to brake. Hopefully it holds together sufficiently until we get to our next biggish town. Today was a lesson in ingenuity but perhaps not preparedness.

Impromptu Buffalo bicycle repair shop.

Impromptu Buffalo bicycle repair shop.

We have a cycling deficit of about 70km to make up before we can progress again. The rest day is probably fortuitous, given how demanding the previous two days were.

Zebras visiting the campsite.

Zebras visiting the campsite.

Sterkfontein Dam campsite is pleasant. There’s a decent view of the dam and zebras arrive to take advantage of the manicured green grass. It is also the first campsite ablution I have ever encountered the problem of the showers being too hot. They are set at a central temperature and now way to adjust them. Oh well, let the Dance of the Shower Fairy commence.

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