19 March 2015
Start: 07:30 End: 14:00 Distance 110km Avg: 18.8km/hr
Woke up feeling refreshed and without the stiffness in my legs that has followed the hiking sections. The weather is perfect for cycling, overcast with a gentle wind only. It is going to be a great day. I enthusiastically wheel my bike out onto the lawn and discover I have a rear puncture. Lovely. Mend puncture (caused by a tiny sliver of wire piercing through the wall) and head off. We make good progress, averaging 20km/hr for the first 50km.
At this point, we turn off onto the road to Stofsberg. The previous night as Colin was reviewing his maps, he discovered that on his previous recce of the route, he had circled this road and annotated it, “NO!”. He can’t remember why he did this, suggesting it was potholes and that we should brave it anyway as the only alternative route is a 90km detour to Lydenburg. I suggest he should make his ominous annotations clearer next time. I also suggest maybe there were dragons – what else would reside at Stofsberg (Dust Mountain)? Other suggestions are tossed around – angry inhabitants, fairies, belligerent garden gnomes. We head off, my can of Smaug Repellent in my stylish 90’s bumbag, and reservations in my head. Turns out it is potholes, most of which have been repaired, if your definition of repaired involves no use of levelling equipment. There is also no hard shoulder which results in some death defying stunts as we avoid vehicles which are avoiding the potholes.
As we travel, the scenery changes from green hills to mealies to bushveld. I always feel more at home cycling through the bush and the farms on either side provide some opportunity for game viewing. Most notably, we pass by three sable, horns so long they almost touch their backs. We eat lunch on the roadside (Colin’s delicious bread rolls, baked the night before) and then start off down our first dirt road of the trip. I am glad to be away from the traffic and in my natural cycling habitat. The zen feeling lasts about 10 minutes as the traditional game of “Find the piece of road without the corrugations” starts. For those who have never played this game, it requires a bumpy dirt road, bicycles and at least two participants. The goal is to find the smoothest piece of road. The catch is that you live in a constant state of paranoia as you are convinced that your riding partner has found the smoothest path. Do you cut across the road, over the worst of the corrugations creating further aches in your joints and arse, and join them on their blissful dirt highway? Yes, you do, and almost inevitably the road on the other side is at least as bumpy, if not worse. From what I’ve seen, emigrating to another country is similar to this game.
We whizz past some vervets drinking from a puddle and I notice a sudden drop in my momentum. Another rear puncture. Pull over to fix it. A devil thorn. Colin starts changing the inner tube while I check the front wheel. Another devil thorn. I pull it out and the front tube takes its last breath. That’s three for the day.
The rest of the ride is uneventful. We ride as hastily as 100km legs allow to reach the accommodation for the night as the clouds are dark and lightning cracks in the distance. It’s good to know there’s still a bit of juice in the tank at the end of a day’s cycling.