Day 39-40: Graaff Reinet to Willowmore

21-22 April

21 April: Start 09:00 End 15:30 Distance: 111km Average: 21.1km/hr

22 April: Start 07:50 End: 13:10 Distance 80km Average 18.1km/hr

The day of the first leg of this ride dawns clear and warm. Much to our delight, instead of the pervasive headwind that has dogged us for the last few days, we have a crosswind that borders on a tailwind. The road is flat and straight, cutting between the koppies. We pass a trig beacon on a hill; it’s less than a 100m climb. At the risk of sounding like someone who is constantly dissatisfied; we are actually desperate for a hill to climb.

So very flat.

So very flat.

The problem with riding a bike on flat terrain at constant speed, is that one’s bottom gets rather sore from all the sitting. Hill climbing, while tough on the legs and lungs, allows an opportunity to get out of the saddle. On a bike with gears, you can achieve this on the flat by changing down and chasing on for a stretch but on a singlespeed, you merely end up spinning like a madman after three metres.

Colin has some hassles with his chain dropping off. Easily fixed though, just some adjustment to the chain tension and we are off spinning again.

Colin fixing his chain.

Colin fixing his chain.

Just before we stop for the day, we meet two fellow adventurers who are riding up from the Mighty Men conference on petrol engine mountain bikes. They say they average about 35km/hr on these modified machines and other than constant struggles with the chain tension, are generally fun to ride. It’s an interesting way to cover distance yet still appreciate the views.

The two Mighty Men and their petrol-powered bicycles.

The two Mighty Men and their petrol-powered bicycles.

It is pleasant to have a day which is less tiring. We have our fastest day on the road so far, averaging slightly over 21km/hr. The cycle to Willowmore is still too long so we portage and will have a catch up day tomorrow.

Posing en route in Aberdeen.

Posing en route in Aberdeen.

Day two we decided to hover around town and then head down the Baviaans Route and back. Willowmore is a combination of picturesque old restored buildings, some dilapidated residences and faded multi-coloured RDP housing.

Willowmore RDP housing. Needs fresh paint.

Willowmore RDP housing. Needs fresh paint.

There are several antiques and craft shops where one could spend some hours (as Maggie does while we are out on our own for a change – by the time we get back she is like the town’s historian). It’s a very friendly place; several locals wave and tell us to enjoy the cycle. There’s a large and what appears to be a rapidly expanding cemetery just outside  town. Many of the graves look new and it is incredible given the size of the town. Sadly it appears that some battles still have a long way to go…

The old train station in Willowmore.

The old train station in Willowmore.

Today was the warmest day for quite some time. We both have to remove our long sleeve vests before halfway. The cycling tan on the legs is a bit further ahead than the arms as a result of the cold weather so maybe it evens out a bit after today.

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The Baviaans route is scenic, running parallel to a railway line with the mountains in view on the side. It’s a single lane concrete road for a large section which is good for us as we don’t have to jostle with cars squeezing past. Most drivers actually pull off halfway onto the dirt shoulder to pass us which makes a refreshing change to having the skin taken off one’s right elbow. A Jaguar F-type flies past us adopting the same strategy, we wonder who pays for his tyres. Come to think of it, that’s an excellent way to get around the countryside too although the view might be a bit of a blur.

The concrete highway.

The concrete highway.

Somewhat macabre en route entertainment today (vegans look away): checking out roadkill and deciding what can be made out of the remains. Hawk feather headdress, Davey Crocket hat, fur collar, fluffy dice, pair of slippers, unlucky key chain… It really is a pity so much wildlife gets demolished by speeding cars.

Not dead on the roadside - an aardvark out in the day. Unusual.

Not dead on the roadside – an aardvark out in the day. Unusual.

Tomorrow we leave the Eastern Cape for the Western Cape, the last province. The Northern Cape we walked into when we climbed Murch Point but we have not ridden on any roads in NC on this trip. Previously, on our first 1000km cycling adventure, we have cycled to Groot Drink so I think we can get a pass on that one.

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