Day 2: Iron Crown to Manoutsa

15 March

Start 09:00 End 16:00 Distance: 125km Avg: 20km/hr

The 9 Peaks Tour team. Maggie (backup driver), Colin (expedition leader) and Bianca (provider of sarcastic commentary).

The 9 Peaks Tour team. Maggie (backup driver), Colin (expedition leader) and Bianca (provider of sarcastic commentary).

 

We portage to base of Iron Crown to start the first leg of the cycle. Leg is an apt word as our thighs are a bit sore from the previous day’s hike. My non-dodgy knee also moans a bit. My dodgy knee sallies forth without complaint. We head towards Tzaneen. These are some very steep, winding mountain roads. At this time, I discover my back pedal brake isn’t working so well, Colin thinks it is due to the greasing at its pre-trip service. Carry on carefully; it’s easy to hit 60km/hr or more on a bicycle but we keep to less than 40km/hr. I institute cadence braking and it seems to work better at controlling the descent speed. Some steep downhills mean some tough climbs as well, at considerably slower speed. The views are magnificent and much better appreciated at cycling pace.

Colin and Bianca at the base of Iron Crown for the start of the cycle.

Colin and Bianca at the base of Iron Crown for the start of the cycle.

We reach Tzaneen and head to the garage to meet Maggie then head on with our route. Delighted we have to cycle back up a hill we just came down at 45km/hr. The climbs are less steep from this point but the road is over rolling hills, so you are continuously going up or down. I lose faith at one point and beg nature for a stretch of flat ground. Nature doesn’t oblige.

Along the road, we meet some young cyclists with back-up vehicle. We are slightly perplexed when they pass us a second time after they took a break on the road side because the bikes are the same but the riders are different. Their back-up vehicle slows down to chat to us and we discover they are “Warriors” and are doing a team relay from near Tzaneen to Hoedspruit. Unfortunately due to road noise we can’t hear why; not that it matters. Sometimes there is no why. Sometimes it is the why.

The rest of the ride is fairly uneventful except for a couple of brushes with cars. There seems to be a law in SA that people drive as poorly as possibly when nearing a village. There also seems to be a law that the traffic police stop cars just outside the village for speeding rather than monitoring what’s going on in the village where there are pedestrians and livestock to maim. Colin points out that cars are pulled over for speeding but obviously unroadworthy vehicles sail past (I use the word “sail” here loosely, what they really do is grind, splutter and wobble past the police).

It was a long, hot day but blessed with changing scenery. Once out of Tzaneen’s forests and fruit plantations, we pass through bushveld and game farms. We spot some kudus and several rollers. Mostly European rollers but I did note one lilac breasted roller which had clearly rolled into the path of an oncoming vehicle and was not going to roll again. I felt sorry for it, completely unaware that after 100km I was going to feel very similar. Not sure what the average temperature was but when we finish at four, it is 35 degrees. Very relieved that tonight’s campsite has water which is both hot and able to fall from a shower in a substantial stream. Those familiar with campsites will know that these luxuries are not always that luxurious, or present. Feel much more human after the shower and hopefully the legs will be rebooted for tomorrow’s combo cycle/hike.