Day 30: Kwaduma Peak

12 April

Start 07:30 End 18:00 Peak: Kwaduma (Eastern Cape) 3019m

We intend to start our climb of Kwaduma at first light. Unfortunately, we take a wrong turn on the way to the start and the sun has already been up about an hour by the time we start. We have been up almost 4. Unlike the other two peaks in the Berg, Kwaduma isn’t in a reserve. No fees, no registration with mountain rescue, no track maintenance. It’s an approximately 12 hour round trip though the wilderness between SA and Lesotho. The land in between is open space, utilised by the local people to raise cattle, goats and sheep. The start is a grassy plain next to the roadside from the village of Tabase.

The start of the hike to Kwaduma.

The start of the hike to Kwaduma.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Day 25: Injisuthi to Mooi River

7 April

Start 10:00 End 14:30 Distance: 60km Avg: 14.5 km/hr

Miserable weather this morning. We have to repack the car and wait for a break in the mist before setting off. It is a bit of a test day as neither of us is well and both still tired from Mafadi. We tootle along at a sedate pace. My only challenge for the day is to try cycle up any hill as far as possible before succumbing to the need to walk, as my blistered feet are not happy with being crammed into shoes. I have also strained my left quad and calf. I tell myself some easy spinning will loosen everything up. Continue reading

Day 22-23: Mafadi Peak

4-5 April

Start 07:30 4th April End 18:40 5th April Peak: Mafadi (Kwazulu Natal) 3451m

We spent last night packing bags and distributing weight. We don’t know if the hike will take us two or three days so food planning is a bit difficult and we have to take extra. It will also be cold up the mountain at night and the weather during the day is very changeable so adequate clothing must be carried. All in all, the bags are heavy. Continue reading

Day 20: Winterton to Injisuthi

2 April

Start 08:30 End 13:30 Distance: 50km Avg: 13.4 km/hr

Short ride today but challenging nonetheless. Blisteringly hot with nary a breeze from the start and over continuous undulating terrain. There’s a fair amount of walking, pushing our Buffalo bikes beside us. Sweat is streaming off us. The walks are the worst as we don’t have the rush of air to help the sweat evaporate. It pours down my face to such an extent that my eyebrows and eyelashes cease to serve their purpose and it drips into my eyes. It’s a glamourous existence, this adventuring. I semi-blindly wobble up the road with my bike, trying to keep one eye open so I don’t wobble off a cliff. Pushing up one of the steepest roads we have encountered to date, I contemplate the many modes of travel which would be easier than pushing a 25kg steel bicycle up a hill: car, motorbike, horseback, abandoning the bike and walking alone, harnessing 1800 meerkats to a cart with jam jar lids for wheels… Continue reading

Day 19: Sterkfontein Dam to Winterton

1 April

Start 08:30 End 15:30 Distance: 117km Avg:18.5 km/hr

A very misty start to the day means we set off a bit later. Once we climb past the dam the sun is out and it becomes very hot. We both stop to take off our unnecessary vests. There’s a descent down the pass that goes past Woodstock Dam. As I have Colin’s unfamiliar back wheel and he has only a new, relatively untested front brake, we mutually agree to take it easy down the slopes. Thus begins the exciting descent of the pass, undertaken at about 12km/hr, which is actually less than our usual climbing speed. As Colin points out, it does give one a much better opportunity to take in the view. Upon reaching a rather steep downward section, we mutually agree to walk down to prevent disaster. While my back brake is much better now, I still have moments where I feel like it is going to give up entirely and send me hurtling into the stunning scenery. If you ever think you get strange looks from passing motorists while pushing your bicycle up a hill, you should see the baffled expressions when you push your bike down a hill. Continue reading

Day 18: Witsieshoek to Sterkfontein Dam

31 March

Start 08:30 End 08:40 Distance: errr, about 120m

We have decided to take a short day today, owing to the strain on our legs from the day before. We plan to ride about 50km starting at Witsieshoek. We don our cycling kit and enthusiastically ride from the gate. In about 100m, Colin grinds to a halt, literally. The back wheel won’t turn. Some hasty disassembly and he discovers that the rear outer bearing has ripped itself to shreds. There was nothing obviously wrong with it the day before when Colin checked it, so the few metres now must have put the final nail in the coffin of whatever flaw was causing my initial hassles. Colin was also supremely confident that there would be no mechanical failures on the trip, so we don’t have a spare. I don’t blame the Buffalo bicycle – it has done a lot of kilometres and taken a lot of abuse over the last few years. So has Colin, maybe that’s why he forgot to pack spare parts. Continue reading

Day 17: Namahadi Peak

30 March

Start 06:30 End 16:10 Peak: Namahadi (Free State Province)3275m

True to our word, we are up at 4am. It’s still black outside. None of us slept well. Colin due to uncertainty of the route, and me due to what I discover is a massive bruise on my arse, no doubt a result of the saddle slamming into me during my escapades of yesterday. As soon as the grey starts to show, we drive to the Sentinel Peak car park (see, method in our madness for having schlepped up there yesterday – we don’t have to cycle up there today.) We are the second people to sign in. I contemplate what a lonely job the gate marshal must have at times. A flurry of people in the morning then often nothing to do but wait until they start trickling back. It puts me in mind of old myths where ancient gatekeepers on mountains ask travelers riddles to allow them to ascend the narrow paths. He doesn’t ask us anything more complicated than when we expect to return fortunately. Continue reading

Day 16: Phuthaditjhaba to Witsieshoek

29 March

Start 09:00 End 13:45 Distance 40km Avg: 10.9km/hr

Portage from the pretty Golden Gate National Park where we camped to the outskirts of Phuthaditjaba where we finished the day before. We have an intentionally short day planned due to the difficulty of the hills. The locals of Phuthaditjaba are very friendly; several greet and wave. Bicycles in these parts are still novel enough to cause excitement among the children. I don’t see another bicycle the entire ride through the sprawling village. “Why is that?” I wonder as I push my bicycle up another seemingly unending hill, sweat dripping from my forehead onto the roasting tarmac. It was chilly in the morning when we started but I am now regretting my decision to wear a vest. Continue reading