16 March 2015
Start: 07:30 End: 14:00 Walking distance: 20km Walking elevation change: 501m Cycling distance 10+30km
Short 10km cycle to the base of Abel Erasmus Pass at which point we load the bikes onto the trailer and change into our hiking gear. The pass isn’t one of our 9 Peaks but it is too steep to get up there on a Buffalo bicycle. We are still sticking to our mandate and not using motorised transport, so we are walking 18km up the pass and collecting our bikes at the top. It’s a long, hot, steep walk. Puzzled by the many signs offering “Manekis”. Is it a type of fruit? Is it the name of the village? After passing a few vendors, we realise they must refer to the carved wooden men for sale – “mannetjies”. Most of vendors on the roadside appear puzzled at seeing two people choosing to walk up the hill, rather than the conventional means of car or possibly aeroplane. They still try to sell us heavy wooden Africana statues. I admire their entrepreneurship but decline on lugging a 20kg piece of art to the summit. I’m strange that way.
On the way up, we meet some men from the local village loading up wood on the back of the truck. Colin asks what type of wood it is and one says that he does not know the name except in his mother tongue. He tells us anyway. Neither one of us knows what it is. He looks disappointed. He still attempts to find some common ground and asks where we are heading. “Lydenburg” Colin answers. At this point I think he has given up trying to find common ground and wishes us goodbye. I hear him shout, “100km!” to his friends up the hill as we walk away.
If you have never walked up a South African pass, I highly recommend it. The views are much better appreciated on foot, at 5km/hr, versus by car, at 80-infinity km/hr (or 20km/hr because you’re stuck behind a truck and are too annoyed to admire the scenery). The Abel Erasmus Pass gives excellent views of the tallest Tufa waterfall in Africa. I also highly recommend doing lots of walking training before attempting it, something I discover I have neglected prior to the trip, as evidenced by my burning thighs and sore feet. Colin agrees he much prefers cycling to walking. Beautiful as it was, the endless stomp on the tarmac does become rather dull in the 30 degree plus heat.
Eventually we reach the summit and climb back on the bikes. Again, it is a steep descent that goes on for about 5km but we travel cautiously. Colin, because he is admiring the scenery, me, because my brake is still threatening to do the opposite of its job and send me hurtling into the stunning scenery. It’s a bit of a challenge cycling after the long climb and we decide to stop at Ohrigstad rather than arrive late in Lydenburg. Plan is to do the rest of the 50km tomorrow and have a short day with some time to recover. We are both fit but the change between the walking and cycling is having an effect. Prior experience has shown that we just need to survive the first week.