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2001 Biking South Africa

Day 03, Monday, June 18
Dendron to 27km before Potgietersrus
98.8km @ 13kph

Tough, tough day – during which we did not make it to Potties as planned by a long 27km. So Dad collected us in the waning light and drove us up over the Ysterberge (and back again on Day 04). We left Dendron at 07h40 getting onto the R521 to Pietersburg. It would have been an OK 61km as the road undulated gently and although it was busy it was less busy than I had anticipated. But the wind blew straight into our faces all the way. And, to add injury to insult here’s a first, I developed a blister on my bum! We crossed the Tropic of Capricon (sic) – which not only was incorrectly spelt, but was marked in Afrikaans as being many metres further on! And lunched at Steers in Pietersburg before tackling the hills to the south.

I got a blister on my bum! A painful first.

We cycled the R521 between Dendron and Pietersburg, which was relatively quiet, though we heard the traffic all through the night and I was quiet anxious about the trucks. The road from Dendron was marked with those old cement pillars, ticking off the kms so we got to see each one going by and see how far we’d been – reminding me of that song “and another one down, and another one down, another one bites the dust”.

Our evening in Dendron was quite distressing. The people with whom we stayed, loneliness looking out of their eyes, were unbelievably racist. They are ex-Rhodesians, who “had to leave” the country when Mrs went to have her youngest daughter and found herself in a hospital with a black woman next to her and one opposite her; she went home and announced to Mr, “We have to leave”. So they moved south to then-apartheid South Africa, leaving behind all they had worked for and starting again.  They had offered us a place to sleep when we needed it and had been incredibly kind to us, so it was hard to know how to cope with / respond to their attitudes. This morning I asked Mr how many people live in Dendron, and he replied, “Well, if you count blacks as people, 7000”. Sad people, hopeless story.

Another first: we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn on our bikes for the first time, amused to find a spelling error on the signboard: Tropic of Capricon.

There was not much out there to recommend it – dusty and dry and brown, prickly pears along the side of the road, cattle, sheep and donkeys wandering about; slightly undulating road making for not bad cycling, but bucking a headwind we averaged only 15kph during the course of the morning.

We surmise there are lots of reasons why the new SA is slower to get its act together out here – real communication problems, major cultural differences, big gap between rich and poor, a very long history of baas and servant…

The road widened considerably before Pietersburg, which was a relief. A guy cycling ahead of me on the outskirts of town had two car tyres and the frame of another bike strapped to the back of his bike – quite impressive.

In town, where Thabo Mbeki street vied for attention with Paul Kruger street, the new South Africa with the old, we bought blister medication from the local pharmacist, and had lunch at one or other fast food burger place, sitting outside in the warming sun.

We left Pietersburg for Potgietersrus at around 14h30, both really tired and struggling, and travelled south on the N1 towards Pretoria on a nice wide shoulder; soon, though, turning off the highway onto the R101, with still a daunting 55km to go and the Ysterberge lying ahead of us to be conquered before we could rest.

In the end we could not make the distance and Dad collected us before the last incline in the waning light after we “tied a yellow ribbon” to mark our stopping place.

It was an “endure-day”: wind, dust, traffic and blister!

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