Day 27-29: Midmar Dam to Matatiele

Day 27: Midmar Dam to Underberg

9 April

Start 07:30 End 15:00 Distance: 96km Avg: 14.5 km/hr

Today started out great – overcast weather but not raining, pleasant roads leading from Midmar to Howick then onwards, reasonably fresh legs. Then someone thought it wise to turn up the temperature and throw in lots of hills. Several are unrideable on our singlespeed Qhubeka Buffalo bikes so we end up pushing a lot. The blisters on my left foot complain when I walk so I endeavour to ride up the hills as far as possible, much to the detriment of my thighs. Also, we are both still laid low with our colds. Sometimes you can’t win. It’s not about winning – it’s about soldiering on despite the universe’s attempts to stop you.

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Although we were just short, here is the anatomy of a century (100km) touring ride:

  • 10km – Bloody hell, if I feel like this now, how am I going to survive another 90km?
  • 20km – Okay, legs feel better now. Yeah, let’s do this!
  • 40km – I’m starting to feel peckish.
  • 50km – I’m really hungry now. I am going to fall off the bike unless I eat soon.
  • 60km – OM NOM NOM NOM! Lunch!
  • 70km – Gracious, why did I eat? I feel like lead.
  • 80km – This ride is starting to drag on a bit, or is it just me?
  • 90km – Almost home! Pedal, pedal, pedal.
  • 102km – I want to die, who signed me up for this shit?

Day 28: Underberg to Swartberg

10 April

Start 09:00 End 16:30 Distance: 98km Avg: 14.7 km/hr

Cold start to the morning although the sun is out. We have to put on our yellow serial killer raincoats (can I abbreviate this to YSKR going forward?) just to keep off the chill, especially downhill. The hills of yesterday continue. There are no flats; just ups or downs. Colin optimistically thinks that once we are well past Underberg, the road will improve. It doesn’t – we are riding over the foot of the berg and the berg has big feet.

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I am a fan of tunnels now. We should put them everywhere. Yes, they’re more expensive and difficult to build compared to a road over the mountain but think of the energy saved by cyclists! Actually, I wonder if flat tunnels aren’t a safer option for South African drivers as well. There are no crash barriers unmarred by the remnants of a vehicle leaving the road out of control. We must spend a fortune in taxes repairing them.

The roads never look as steep when you take photos... Long walk.

The roads never look as steep when you take photos… Long walk.

The roadside scenery today is mostly hills and farmland. We enter dairy country and the cows change colour accordingly.

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There were some interesting bird spottings as well. A pair of Grey Crowned Cranes next to a dam – a rare sighting and somewhat out of usual range. Also an African Crowned Eagle, watching us ride past from the top of a telephone pole. There have been continuous crows since we started. I feel like they are following me, like a character in a horror film; except I must remind myself that I am not in a horror movie and this is what I choose to do for fun on holiday.

Day 29: Swartberg to Matatiele

11 April

Start 09:00 End 12:00 Distance: 50km Avg: 16.4 km/hr

A completely uneventful ride today apart from a brush with a snake of indeterminate nature. We took it easy to give our legs a chance to recover for the long hike to Kwaduma and back tomorrow. The colds are at least showing signs of improvement. My blisters are only slightly better. I anticipate some striding, followed by hobbling.

On the road to Matatiele.

On the road to Matatiele.

Matatiele is an odd town. It’s more bustling than expected. The roads are wide and well-maintained. There’s a significant amount of new development. There doesn’t appear to be much around other than farming to support it. What goes on around here?

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