Start 08:00 End 14:30 Distance: 85km Average: 18.0km/hr
Cycling to our final peak today. The day is hot from early and the road straight with no yellow line for most part. The mountains are in the distance head on. They gradually grow bigger as we trundle down the road. I feel like I am in a video game and that we will reach a certain point and an invisible barrier will prevent us exploring further towards the peaks. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen. Unfortunately, it does mean we have to start climbing some hills. Once again, the Curse of the 60km Mark (the Curse of the Lunch Stop?) strikes again.
We manage to remain on our bikes until we hit the Huis Rivier Pass. Initially, the pass descends rather spectacularly between walls of rock into the valley of the Huis Rivier. I feel like we are going to continue to descend into the centre of the earth as the mountains tower over us. Not for the first time but felt with greater effect today, I feel our insignificance compared to these mountains. We are temporary; they are permanent for our lifespan. Depending on where you are in the world, tectonic activity may convince them to budge and the inevitable erosion occasionally leads to rockfalls which can change the landscape. We can alter them with explosives, machinery and hard labour but mostly they will remain unscathed long after humans cease to inhabit this planet.
After this rather spectacular descent and some riding through the valley, the pass continues, only upwards this time, as per the, “What goes down, must go up” rule of bicycle touring. We make it further up the pass than I expect before stopping to take some pictures and to catch our breath. I think my breath is still at the bottom of the hill, catching up with me.
As we commence the walking part of the climb, Colin says, “You know, this pass wasn’t on my map.” “This pass,” I ask, “The 6km long one with 300m of ascent and its own website?” “Yes.” I suggest that perhaps it’s time Colin invested in a new map. We keep pushing until the road flattens out somewhat and there’s a small descent before the next climb (which is annoying, actually. Go up, road, we want to go up, not down!) We pass a couple taking photos at a viewpoint. They greet us and then she bursts out laughing. She might have been recalling a funny moment on The Big Bang Theory rather than laughing at us for cycling up the pass on Buffalo bikes. At least at that point we are actually riding our bikes. There’s another long push and then we reach the summit.
It’s downhill from this point to the turn-off for Seweweekspoort, or it would be but for the headwind that has developed while we were slogging our way up Huis Rivier Pass. We survive despite burning thighs (well, mine were at least. Colin seemed perfectly content bashing away in front) and then stow our bikes on the trailer to portage back to Calitzdorp where we are staying the next two nights.
It’s remarkable how much less impressive the pass is when crossed in a vehicle. A few minutes and you’re done. It’s almost sad. As a species, we are often obsessed with doing things in the most efficient, quickest way. So much gets lost in the gaps.