24 April 2011

Howzit! I believe Jiten’s last blog finished off at our stop in East London. Since then a week has passed and we’ve made steady progress on our way to Lesotho. Close enough that a mountain etched skyline is becoming a constant companion on the road.

Instead of giving you a daily summary of our stops and distances in the past week, I’d like to rather to talk a bit more of my experiences on the trip. Else this blog will just be just as boring for me to write it as it will be for you to read it.

“I am so hungry, so very hungry, I want to eat!”

After a late start in East London, we headed for Stutterheim. However a 13h30 start so us stopover at the Wings Club airfield about 30kms from EL. For some reason we didn’t think ahead to stock up on food for the next day’s cycle to Stutterheim. By around lunch time with no real food, I was broken. Another hot day in Africa, with a steady climb to the next stop with nothing in my belly had me singing songs about just how hungry I was. Cycling into a headwind can also dampen your spirit a bit. The next time I do find myself in this situation again I’ll try to remember to record the song on video.

The mercury, she is falling

One should note that from East London (sea level) we’re cycling continuously uphill to Lesotho – if I’m not mistaken the Sani Pass sits at 3250m ASL, around about the typical jump height at Skydive Robertson (I’ll come back to this shortly). Add to this the fact that the Southern Hemisphere is quickly approaching winter, means that it is getting colder! And we’re definitely feeling this especially in the early mornings – putting away a wet tent with icy steel poles can tend to numb your hands at 7am – a pair of gloves is right up on the things to buy list, as well as some thicker socks! However, cycling in the day is a pleasure so long as the rain stays away. I really hope the weather continues to play ball and it does not rain on us until we’re back at the coast again.

Sacrifices and things we miss

Our date of departure was planned early last year, a long time before it was announced that Skydive Robertson would be hosting Nationals 2011. As I write this there’s a gathering of skydivers from around the country at the Robertson Airfield (if you’re in the Western Cape region, definitely go check this out), and not being there for this event is perhaps the only thing I’m regretting – don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the trip, but if I could have my cake and eat it – I’d be in Robertson right now, falling from the sky like a brick. Enjoy it guys!

Going solo

Yesterday we reached the town of Cala just after 1pm. There was an on and off light drizzle and threatening rain that had us investigating the possibility of camping at the Cala Police Station. However by 3pm the weather looked a bit better, good enough for me to want to continue cycling. Jiten and Imraan decided to rather stay on in Cala and seek accommodation there. After a bit of deliberation I decided that I’d prefer to keep going, and so I did. Now I know some of you may not like the sound of this, but it is what it is and for me I think that was the best decision. Being in a group is in itself a challenge on this trip, well for me it most definitely is. We had a chat a while ago that there may be times that we will not cycle or stay together and yesterday was the first time that it actually happened. At first cycling off on my own had me questioning the decision but in all honesty I did plan a solo trip so a day or two going solo shouldn’t really be a problem, and it wasn’t. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the chance to be alone with my thoughts and the mountains was just what I needed. It gave me the opportunity to cycle as fast or as slow as I wanted, but perhaps more importantly it was an opportunity to be in my own space. Right now, Imraan and Jiten are somewhere on the road between Elliot and Ugie. I myself am at a guest house in Ugie, the Caledon Guest House to be specific, where another gracious soul has offered us accommodation for the night – I think the guys will be happy that when they arrive there’ll be no need for tents or sleeping bags tonight.   

Happy surprises on the road

This past week saw a few unexpected but pleasant, if not downright fantastic surprises on the road. A few days ago, on our way from Stutterheim to Cathcart, a vehicle pulled over on the other side of the road from me, and out stepped my cousin – probably the last the person I would’ve imagined meeting on a quiet country road in the middle of the Eastern Cape. Not long after this first surprise, was another one. Some time that afternoon we were caught in the middle of a quick downpour, but the real surprise was when a white golf pulled over on the side of the road (not another cousin this time), and the driver got out and ran across the road in the pouring rain to give me a packet with three energy drinks and energy bars! A complete stranger who obviously bought these items just for us – to that kind man: thank you very much, if only kind actions such as this were reported in the news perhaps people would be more optimistic about the good energy there is out there, and it is most definitely out there.

Lastly, on the generosity and positive energy note, when we aren’t camping its usually because someone has offered us accommodation. People such as the von Delfts in East London, the labourer at the Wings Club Airfield (who allowed us the use of his house whilst he was away for the night) the Wearings in Cathcart, the Birds Nest BnB in Stutterheim, the Queens Hotel and Casino in Queenstown, the Cloete’s in Elliot, and now the Caledon Guest House in Ugie. It’s not only with accommodation, last week East London Cycles graciously offered to service our bikes, but their generosity did not stop there – from lunch, to a new helmet, spares, accessories and just overall incredible support, the Govender family has really helped us out.

That’s it for me. Hope you guys are enjoying the Easter weekend and upcoming public holidays.
Stay safe ;-)