South Africa Reflection

Back safe & sound & what a wonderful trip it was. Much tougher than expected in that although the mileage was not huge (around 450km), the bikes were heavy, wide-tyred offroaders, most of the route was on tracks (some very rutted), the hills were steep & the weather was hot.

Having said that, the weather was mostly sunny (though lots of wind), the people were wonderful, the accommodation was good, the food was great & plentiful & the scenery simply amazing. I managed to cycle all the days & all the routes (plus a few voluntary add-ons) & loved (almost) every minute of it.

There’s some photos on Photobucket ( Stuart Fell has also done a group video song which you can see on Youtube.

So thanks for all your help you lovely supporters from Jersey Hospice & from me.

Day Seven: Cape Agulhas – Cape Town

Drive for an hour, cycle 15km & finish!

A bit of a doddle day really with whale watching in Hermannus – quite wonderful with sightings of two pods, one with newborn & then to a penguin colony with thousands of the cute guys & marmosets type creatures. Bussed on to the Cape where we all cycled onto the point of the Cape of Good Hope, in convoy – Judy & Kirby leading. Lots of photos & emotions.

A great trip, possibly far harder than anyone expected & although not as long as prior trips, the off road nature of much of it plus the heavy bikes & heat meant it was no doddle. But lots & lots of joy & fun & the very best of company.

Drive to Cape Town where Chris/JT & I branched off for the Victoria & Alfred hotel where we met up with our ladies.

The evening celebrations at the African Café on Sunday night were quite wonderful with a selection of African foods, lots of wine & the staff doing a series of songs to the accompaniment of a single drum. We also met up with the Trekkers who had clearly had a wonderful time.

Big thanks to Steve, the SA rep – what a lovely guy, to the ever smiling Duncan from Discover Adventure UK & the lovely doc Anna who was not only great in her doctor role but an amazing cyclist/athlete/supporter & full time, uncomplaining back marker. Big thanks also to Paola for all the support/training/massages & to Phil & Anwin for their supervision & to Phil & John for endless laughs. I think we shall also owe a vote of thanks to Stuart for what promises to be a great video record of the trip.

Brian Frith

Nov 2011

Day Six: Mossel Bay – Cape Agulhas

Up at 6 just to make sure of that shower & then a walk & photos on the beach. Seal sightings but kept eluding me. We were bussed through dramatic scenery with wheat fields up to the foothills of the mountains and sightings of elephant & ostrich.

The bus ride was 3 hours with a decent stop at 11am to observe 11 Nov silence (very emotional not least of all in the company of John Lyon’s widow Judy, her daughter Kirby & god daughter Kerrie).

Around 1pm we stopped for tyre repairs & to start our cycle in the rain. Ok whilst we were on tarmac but as soon as we hit the tracks the mud began to fly & it was interesting to see a mud splattered group when we stopped for lunch.

Whilst there was wind from the south I think we all realised it could have been so much worse although small comfort as the road seemed to become endless in our journey to the most southerly point of Africa. After what seemed an endless road with only the odd vehicle (which covered us in dust each & every time) we hit the tarmac & a right turn towards the Cape.

Agulhas is a pretty place with some quaint, old fishermen’s cottages (not unlike Jersey’s) & a beautiful shoreline with crashing waves & sandy beaches. We stopped just short of the Cape to regroup at a pretty cafe (great milk shakes) but an owner determined to close at 5 despite our pleas to stay open for the rest of our group.

We cycled to the cape point & walked the boardwalk to the monument for videos/photos & xmas hats & managed once again to get other visitors involved in our photos & celebrations.

Our accommodation (Back Packers Hotel) initially seemed something of a come down after prior accommodations. Six bunks in our room, eight in Arnie’s but the cheap build and corrugated roof was hidden by flags & pictures & endless scribbling & it actually had a great ambience, helped by a great open hearth on which some excellent food was produced.

Chicken hotpot went down well with everyone & a party atmosphere followed with yet another spell of video with the locals, Stuart style.

Day Five: Wilderness – Mossel Bay

Full marks to the hotel for coping with us plus a whole battalion of German tourists. Organised chaos in the dining room but a great breakfast featuring guava & for the first time porridge!

Out of the hotel, down a cycle path for a short way then off to make a climb onto the plateau with the loveliest views of Wilderness below. Quite a way on these red dirt roads & feeling on top of the world. It’s not easy riding with heavy bikes on track but in this sort of scenery it’s certainly very uplifting. A spectacular descent on tarmac & then a long, long climb through lush forest, complete with all associated noises/birds. Stop at the Nelson Mandela University (in a strange location) to regroup when an ominous wind became apparent. A long slog on tarmac but thankfully with a cycle lane, to finish with a strong wind on our left hand side.

Lunch in a field but with the added bonus of chocolate ices from an adjacent shop. The afternoon was pure adventure as we set off through a game reserve on dirt roads – giraffe/gemsbok/ngala/rhino/wilderbeast/water buffalo plus forded 3 streams and became completely & utterly knackered. Having said that, not quite as knackered as JT/Chris/Belinda/Sandra et al who headed for the hills, having missed a turn & put in a good few extra kilometres.

Eventually found a cafe & a very welcome coffee and warm up where Stuart once again got the locals singing for his video. Then bussed to our digs – railway cabins on the beach! How novel is that & identical to the one Jude & I rode from Joberg to Capetown some years ago & therefore knowing lack of showers, dumped bags & grabbed one very quickly!

A meal in the restaurant car & a night’s sleep to the sound of the ocean (& Stuart’s snoring).

Day Four: Knysna – Wilderness

Up at 6am, breakfast at 7am just down the road (fry up – no ‘healthy’ option) & we leave this lovely place. Tarmac for a while but then the inevitable dirt roads but somehow more acceptable than yesterday – maybe the rain has compacted them. Three steep climbs early on but the overcast sky & cooler temps help a lot. Stayed back marker today & all at the back seemed much more relaxed today and had more stamina & rhythm.

Water stop at a rather quaint shed/store where we got a surprisingly good coffee from a machine. The morning was an amble through what looked exactly like English countryside with huge herds of cows, a significant number Jersey breed. Stuart is beginning to put together his video so much play acting & laughter.

Lunch was at the back of a house/cafe “leafy shade” type of place with egg mayo/tomatoes etc on offer. The sun was shining by this time & the group looked relaxed & happy & all agreed it was a good morning’s ride despite the abundance of uphill stuff.

The afternoon took us into more ‘forest’ type areas & a rather humid/rain threatening environment though mercifully it held off. What we did encounter were corrugated dirt roads which make everything hurt from your wrists & elbows to your ankles & knees. A few hours of that & the energy begins to just drain away. More climbing, some undulation & finally a very steep dirt road defence onto marsh flats & the road to Wilderness.

About 1 ½ miles from the hotel Kirby got off her bike, quietly threw it onto the ground & decided – enough! We’d been in the saddles a long time by then so there was lots of sympathy & 15 minutes later she found the energy to make the final push.

The Wilderness Beach Hotel was not as dramatic as the previous 3 nights but pretty good even so & a 2x double bedroom to share is just fine with me. A coffee to take off the chill, a shower to wash off the dust & grime & I’m all set to…..go to sleep!

Phil & John had been hamming up the gay thing since being branded a ‘couple’ early on in the trip. When they were spotted sitting together in the dining room Paola couldn’t resist & sent them a flower & candle. With what must have been 120 German tourists looking on plus our crowd, their reaction was to link arms & drink a toast to each other!

These guys provided constant laughs from the beginning to the end of the trip.