For the second leg of the Triple Challenge, which we had to derive in haste following the cancellation of the Thaba Trails 24 hour, we drew inspiration from our first cycling challenge many years ago, 1000km in 10 day on R10 a day. This time, we would be riding our Buffalo bikes 100km a day on a budget of R100 each for food and cycling drinks. Sign of the times that we didn’t think we would be able to replicate the original budget of R10 a day! As per the back to basics rules, we would be eating no processed foods and drinking only our homemade sugar-salt solution while out on the bicycles. We made our own peanut butter, jam and bread. We decided to ride to Parys and back from Bianca’s home in Alberton, with a ride around Parys on day 2. In addition to Colin and Bianca riding the full days on their Buffalo bikes as always, we would have company as Maggie, Lene and Shaun would be joining us for variable distances of cycling (but weren’t joining us on our strict food budget).
Fruit and Veg City Big Deal for R150 including:
7 kg Potato
7 kg Butternut
5 kg Carrot
3 kg Onion
3 kg Tomato
Total = 25 kg = Veg average price = R6.00 / kg
Boerewors at R 50 / kg
Chicken breasts at R 40 / kg
Pork at R 60 / kg
Flour at R 8 / kg
Rice at R 11 / kg
Pasta at R 20 / kg
Sugar at R 13.20 / kg
Peanuts at R 50 / kg
Oranges at R 1 each
Eggs at R 1.30 each
Margarine brick at R 32 / kg
Cheese at R 80 / kg
Breakfast x 3
2 Eggs 2.60
2 Flat breads 1.40
20 gm Margarine 0.64 Total R 4.64
Lunch x 3
4 Flat breads 2.80
30 gm Peanut butter 1.65
30 gm Marmalade 0.66
40 gm Margarine 1.28 Total R 6.39
Snack x 3
1 orange 1.00
Dinner One ( Chicken Spag Bol)
100 gm Spaghetti 2.00
750 gm veg made into sauce 4.69
200 gm Chicken 8.00
1 x Flat bread 0.70
10 gm Margarine 0.32 Total R 15.71
Dinner Two (Braai)
100 gm Rice R 1.10
750 gm Veg – grilled R 4.69
200 gm Wors R 10.00
1 x Flat bread R 0.70
10 gm Margarine R 0.32 Total R 16.81
Dinner Three (Carbonara)
100 gm Spaghetti R 2.00
100 gm Pork – sliced and fried R 6.00
1 x Egg R 1.30
50 gm cheese R 4.00
25 ml oil R 0.62
1 x Flat bread R 0.70
10 gm Margarine R 0.32 Total R 14.94
Day One – Alberton to Parys
7am departure from Meyersdal. It’s a fairly flat and windless route (we have some argument at the end regarding whether there was a tail wind or head wind – the one thing we do agree on is that it was hot.) We cycle on back roads from Meyersdal to Midvaal and then on to Vereeniging.
We had anticipated that cycling through town wouldn’t be an issue due to the time of year and the public holiday – everyone would be away, not so? Not so. Town was chaos and there was no hard shoulder in most places. Frantic holiday shoppers rushing everywhere, presumably zooming along from one shopping centre to the next. I think I’ve mentioned before that there is one thing that unites South Africans regardless of race, age and gender, and that is their complete disregard for the lives of human beings on bicycles, as if the 20 seconds they save on their way to the McD’s drive through by smooshing someone into the dirt is worth the cost of life. Fortunately, we only have two very close shaves before we stop for lunch just outside of Vanderbijlpark.
Shaun has cycled the first 60km with us and obtained a new distance PB for him. Time for a change of rider and an enthusiastic Maggie takes over for the next 20km, often option to ride on the dirt on the side of the road rather than have her elbow shaved by the traffic.
We end up having to cycle down the R59 briefly however at least it has a wide hard shoulder. It also has one of the longest hills I’ve ridden in a long time. Not steep or challenging, but persistent and when one thinks they have reached the top, there is a little bit more. At the top of this hill, we turn off onto the side road towards the camp site and it’s time for another change of backup rider.
Lene climbs on for the last 20km, down a fairly quiet side road lined with bush. We made good progress, averaging 19km/hr and finishing the 107km ride at about 1pm.
We are camping at Wesvaal at the Barrage and all looking forward to getting the campsite up and chilling in the shade. They couldn’t find our booking. Despite this hitch, they have space for us to camp and we set up in a shady area not far from the river banks.
Unfortunately there is some sort of children’s performer at the swimming pool area and the general ambiance is not very relaxing. Dinner tonight was half a chicken breast with vegetarian pasta. It was delicious. The “music” eventually goes quiet and is replaced by the gentle calling of a Piet My Vrou. We all head off to our tents for a good night’s sleep.
Day Two – Parys loops
Good night’s sleep my arse. That was the noisiest Piet My Vrou we have ever encountered and the bugger continued his calling most of the night. We also had a sudden uprising of wind which had some of us (not Colin, who slept through the storm and the birdy chorus) startled our tents might blow down in the night. Fortunately it passes quickly. We are all up at 5am to get an early start to the day’s ride. Colin only gets one egg as he picked a vrot one. Sorry. The plan for the day is to do loops from the campsite, enabling other people to ride with us throughout the day.
Maggie and Lene join us on the first loop, 30km half on tar and half on dirt. It’s pleasantly overcast when we start but doesn’t last long and soon the oppressive heat returns.
Colin and I do a solo 40km loop after that. It gets prettier the further down the dirt road we go. It also gets more hilly and corrugated. We opt to turn down a random side road, my theory being that these are always less traveled and therefore less corrugated. Wrong. Side road is very bumpy, especially on our rigid bikes. We find an ostrich that either wants to scare Colin off or ask him on a date, we move off quickly as neither option is appealing.
We head back to the campsite for a quick lunch (at least shady and we have camping chairs, which is a novelty as we are used to dining on scorched road sides with random rocks or just the dirt for chairs).
Then it’s out for our final loop of the day, 30km which Maggie opts to ride with us. As usual for out-and-back rides, we have a tailwind out and a headwind back. For once I’m not complaining as at least the breeze relieves some of the heat.
A decent shower and nap follow. The Piet My Vrou continues looking for his mate (new theory: there are actually a team of them, taking shifts to avoid interruption in the cacophony). Dinner for day two is boerewors and sides. It’s actually rather good but we are somewhat dismayed at the lack of fillet steak and greek salad that is being enjoyed by the others.
Day Three – Parys to Alberton
Another 5am and boiled eggs/flatbread start. We break up camp and start the ride with Maggie doing the first leg of cycling. Shaun has an episode of bad service as the camp manager refuses to refund his deposit for the braai grid because it’s 6:50am and they officially open the office at 7am. Wesvaal campsite: don’t add to your to do list.
We ride the reverse of the route we started on. Colin’s a bit tired so I pull at the front for most of the route. Maggie rides 40km followed by Shaun for another 40km. We stop for lunch just outside of Midvaal at about 65km.
The refuel does my legs some good so I can continue to tap away at the distance from the front. Final stop for a rider change at 15km and Lene gets on. Little does she know that that part of the route is all uphill and into a headwind.
It’s blazing hot as well, being around midday and probably 34 degrees. It’s an uneventful day out and the roads are much quieter than when we cycled out. As we make the second last bend to the finish, I hear a familiar noise and feel the sudden increase of resistance that indicates a puncture. 314km and I get a flat less than a kilometre from the finish. Once again, the Buffalo bikes have performed admirably over the distance. We did as well, and finished under-budget for food. Next time I will eat more cheese.