On April 1, 2013, I left my short-term dwelling in Cape City, South Africa and started a close to two-month lengthy bicycle tour throughout the nation and thru the neighboring nations of Lesotho and Swaziland. Moderately than cycle straight out of Cape City, nonetheless, my good friend Anthony provided to select me up in his automotive and drive me to close by the close by metropolis of Paarl. This is able to not solely get me out of the worst visitors, however it will save me close by a day’s price of aggravating biking.
Anthony and I ate lunch at a Wimpy’s in Paarl after which we mentioned our goodbyes.
After having spent the previous a number of weeks touring with different individuals as a part of the African Bikers mountain bike tour, and after having spent a lot time with Anthony in Cape City, it felt bizarre to as soon as once more be setting off alone… and to know that for the subsequent two months or so, I’d have nobody to depend on however myself.
Not lengthy after leaving Paarl I bumped into my first main climb. I took it gradual, stopped alongside the way in which to take a number of pictures, and earlier than I knew it I used to be on the prime of the cross. This was, nonetheless, simply one in every of many lengthy climbs I might make on my touring bicycle over the subsequent a number of months as I slowly cycled throughout South Africa. This climb, nonetheless, was one of many extra memorable merely due to the views that it offered.
As I used to be coming down the opposite facet of the steep mountain cross, I noticed a person developing the highway in the other way on a mountain bike. Sweat dripping from his face and physique, he stopped to speak to me for a second after which invited me to come back and keep at his dwelling, which was positioned a number of kilometers south of Worchester, South Africa. I informed the person, whose identify was Stephen, that I wasn’t positive I’d be capable to make it that far, however that I might strive. We shook arms after which each continued on our method.
Coming down the valley, it began to get darkish and rain. I started searching for a spot to camp for the night time, however I couldn’t see any appropriate spots. Despite the fact that I by no means actually deliberate on taking Stephen up on his supply for a free night time’s lodging, the rising rain made me suppose that looking for his home utilizing the verbal instructions he gave me may be a good suggestion. In order that’s precisely what I did! I managed to seek out his home (which was large, had a swimming pool and a tennis court docket and several other outbuildings) simply earlier than darkish. Sadly, Stephen wasn’t dwelling after I obtained there. So I simply sat and waited out in entrance of his home, nonetheless not completely positive I used to be in the appropriate place. As soon as the sky turned black and the mosquitoes began biting, I made a decision to arrange my tent within the grass close to the tennis court docket and look forward to Stephen within the safely of my cellular dwelling. A few half-hour later, Stephen pulled as much as the home in his truck and welcomed me inside.
After displaying me to a spare bed room, I took a bathe after which met Stephen in his lounge, the place we sat down for some meals and dialog. I informed Stephen about my travels and he requested questions on how he might so one thing related for himself.
Within the morning, I let Stephen take a spin on my touring bicycle round his backyard and he was stunned at how simple it was to deal with the bike. “I can think about how with just a bit follow, this could be very simple to manage,” he informed me.
After thanking Stephen a number of instances for his generosity, I mentioned goodbye and made my method north to the N1 freeway after which turned east.
I had been informed that this stretch of highway (the N1) was horrible, with a lot of visitors, massive vehicles, and no shoulder to journey in. However as is commonly the case with bicycle touring, just about all the pieces I had been informed was not true. There have been some massive vehicles on the highway, however the visitors was actually moderately gentle (so much lighter than lots of the roads I’ve cycled in North America, for instance) and the shoulder on the N1 was gigantic. It was sufficiently big for a whole automotive to drive in. There was actually little or no to fret about!
My second day on the highway was chilly and windy and I didn’t cowl a complete lot of floor. I handed via a number of vineyards, noticed baboons working alongside the roadside, stopped to replenish on food and drinks within the small city of De Dooms, after which made camp within the bushes simply off the facet of the highway on the backside of a big cross that may take me the next morning from South Africa’s wine properties and ship me into the South African Karoo.
I woke on the morning of day 3 with a rainbow over my campsite. After packing up camp and climbing again onto my bicycle, I slowly made my method up the big hill in entrance of me. Half-way up the hill I regarded again at the place I had been tenting the night time earlier than and realized simply how tough it will have been for a passing car to have seen me.
Dropping down the opposite facet of the cross, I might immediately see a distinction within the panorama. What was solely the day earlier than, inexperienced and luxurious, was now brown, dry and barren. Whereas some individuals would take a look at the South African Karoo and say, “That appears so boring,” I really type of like some of these environments. Trying again on it now, the Karoo was most likely one in every of my favourite areas in all of South Africa.
The issue with biking alongside the N1 is that discovering a spot to camp for the night time could be difficult. There are barbed wire fences just about all over the place in South Africa, so so as to discover a place to sleep you’ve principally one in every of 4 choices:
1. You’ll be able to camp exterior of the barbed wire fence. This implies principally tenting alongside the highway someplace. I did this solely two instances throughout my whole bike journey throughout South Africa.
2. You’ll be able to try to discover a place the place there isn’t any barbed wire fencing to camp. That is tough, however not unimaginable. As I mentioned earlier than, the barbed wire fencing is nearly all over the place in South Africa.
3. You’ll be able to soar the barbed wire fencing after which camp on somebody’s personal property (which is what I did virtually each single night time whereas cycle touring throughout South Africa).
4. Or you may ask a property proprietor if it will be okay so that you can camp on their land for the night time. I by no means as soon as did this.
Throughout my third night time on the highway, I used to be capable of finding an unimaginable campsite by first turning left on a dust facet highway that took me off of the N1. I cycled up this highway for a couple of kilometer after which discovered an open gate, which I let myself into. Inside this gate was a properly the place water was being pulled out of the bottom for sheep to drink. I washed my face within the properly, nonetheless, and stuffed up my water bottles. Then I pushed my bicycle over a close-by hill and located a pleasant, flat, remoted space to pitch my tent for the night. This turned out to be one in every of my greatest (if not the easiest) campsite I had throughout my whole bike journey throughout South Africa.
Earlier than I left Cape City I had changed the disc brake pads on the again of my bicycle, however for the primary a number of days of my journey, the brakes weren’t really working like they need to. So I took a while on day three to regulate my brakes and get them working correctly once more. That is a type of issues (taking the time to repair your brakes) that I actually don’t take pleasure in doing on a bicycle tour, however when you make the time to do it, it makes a giant distinction in how the remainder of your bicycle tour performs out. In different phrases, it’s price taking a small period of time to repair your brakes versus not taking the time to do it and have non-working brakes for the complete remainder of the tour. Apparent recommendation… however I nonetheless don’t take pleasure in doing these types of issues.
The following day I had only a quick 15 kilometer journey earlier than biking into Laingsburg. The streets of the city have been overflowing with individuals… and I obtained quite a lot of consideration on my fully-loaded touring bicycle.
After I stopped on the native grocery store to get some meals, a person with an apparent deformity chased me via the road and my guard immediately went up. I rapidly realized that the person was providing to protect my bicycle whereas I went into the grocery store, however the fact was, he was the one individual round that I used to be nervous about stealing my bicycle. And that was typically instances the case in South Africa. The individual providing to look at my stuff was the individual I used to be most afraid of stealing it.
The person providing to protect my bicycle didn’t converse English, and I attempted to inform him that I didn’t need his assist. I locked my bicycle to the railing proper exterior the entrance door of the grocery store after which walked inside. Earlier than I had even stepped contained in the grocery store, the person had his arms on my bicycle and I jumped again at him, yellowing at dwelling to get away from my bicycle. “Don’t contact my bicycle!” I screamed on the man, with an offended look upon my face. “Don’t contact!”
I ran contained in the grocery store and did my procuring as rapidly as I might, whereas working again to the door each few seconds to see what sort of motion was happening round my bicycle.
After I stepped exterior the store a couple of minutes later there have been a number of males surrounding my bike. I positioned the meals I simply bought inside my panniers, unlocked my bicycle and put away my lock… after which the person who had been “guarding my bicycle for me” requested me for cash.
“No!” I informed him. “I didn’t need your assist. I’m not providing you with something.”
The person regarded upset and the individuals round him laughed at his misfortune. The person chased me down the road till lastly he might see that I wouldn’t be giving him a factor. I rode on down the highway for some time, upset on the man, upset at myself, and realizing that this was a state of affairs I used to be going to need to face time and time once more throughout my travels in South Africa.
That night time I scored one other unimaginable campsite. As soon as once more, I discovered a dust side-road to cycle down, after which pushed my bicycle up onto the highest of a small personal hill the place I then arrange my camp.
That night time I used to be handled to a spectacular desert sundown… and when the celebs got here out that night, I had by no means seen something so wonderful. By no means in my life had I been capable of see this many stars within the metropolis. The Milky Means was plainly seen as one stable streak within the night time sky. I took some pictures of the celebs with my digicam… and took a number of extra pictures of my tent at the hours of darkness.
The following morning I packed up camp after which pushed my bicycle again out to the primary highway.
Again on the N1, I cycled for a number of hours earlier than arriving at a tiny roadside fuel station with a restaurant inside. I ordered a cheese and tomato sandwich, french fries, and a chocolate milkshake… and downed all of it whereas watching my bicycle exterior via a big glass window. Sunburned, soiled and drained, the meals tasted great!
Again on the N1, I cycled for hours with my headphones in, listening to music and having fun with the desert landscapes.
At the moment of yr in South Africa it will get darkish round 6 PM, so I’d often begin searching for a spot to camp between 3 and 4 within the afternoon. On this specific night I discovered a facet highway on the south facet of the N1, took it for a kilometer or so, after which turned proper on a dust highway that paralleled the practice tracks. I cycled down this dust monitor for one more kilometer, then crossed over the practice tracks after which let myself right into a fenced off space the place a small cemetery and adobe ruins may very well be discovered. It was right here, close to the adobe ruins, that I might make my camp for the night.
After I wakened the next morning, I used to be tremendous excited as a result of I knew that in only a few hours I might be arriving in Beaufort West, South Africa… and on this small desert metropolis I deliberate to discover a resort and take a bathe. If I appreciated town, I’d even keep there for 2-3 nights. So I packed up camp and hit the highway, retracing my steps again to the N1 freeway after which biking east towards Beaufort West.
The signal under says “If drained, cease/relaxation” in Africans. I used to be a bit of drained after using my bicycle for therefore many days, so I did as instructed and snapped a photograph or two whereas I used to be at it.
Whereas bicycle touring on the N1, I spent quite a lot of time on the numerous relaxation stops that litter the roadside. There gave the impression to be a relaxation cease each 10 kilometers or so.
After a couple of week of biking, I had efficiently made it from Cape City to Beaufort West, South Africa. My time on the N1 has been surprisingly nice, however now it was time for a brief relaxation, a bathe, a brand new highway and a brand new journey.