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2001 Biking South Africa

Day 02, Sunday, June 17
16km before Alldays to Dendron
103.4km @ 16kph

Our first 50km today were a joy. We averaged 19kph on roads that meandered through the vast, almost-quiet of the bush. The silence broken only by birdsong, the chirring of insects and the whirr of our tyres. Our second 50km – during which we averaged only 13kph – were exhausting; due in part to several long climbs and a headwind. We arrived in Dendron where mom and dad (who had found the caravan site to be uninhabitable) had taken up residence in the yard of a family kind enough to offer us not only a patch of ground on which to pitch a tent and park a caravan, but the use of their bathroom too. Encounters during the course of the day hinted at racism, cultural misunderstandings, issues unresolved.

At 08h00 this morning dad drove us back to the white ribbon we had tied to a bush last night at the point at which we got in the car. It was cool, crisp and clear – with the promise of heat to come.

And so back on the road… We climbed for the first few kms today. Past baobabs again, and a butterfly all orange lace and black. Past people gathering fire wood. Past a woman walking fit and healthy – striding along on a Sunday morning. Past people carrying a battery over a tin, and water in a wheelbarrow. All very casual and laid back.

And so back to Alldays with its backdrop of koppies, past some tin shacks neatly made, a couple of gardens, some block houses going up in the township. Men squatting and chatting under a tree. A little bit of greenery now and then and one white cat perched in the shade.

And through the town (with its school, garage, church, Telkom phones on the side of the road, public works building, green water tower, couple of thorn trees, barbed wire, the Alldays Golf club – incongruously green – and boerevereeniging) and onto the R521 to Vivo. With 46km to go to Vivo and another 36km to Dendron.

Dendron … where nine rugby players (white) were recently accused of beating to death a (black) 19-year-old caught trespassing on their land. The police found the body, went away, came back to find the body had gone. The youngster was later found in a croc-infested dam.

Charl reckons that for entertainment out here the men get drunk on a Saturday night, climb into their 4x4s, and knock over the street signs!? Or shoot at them – of which we have seen evidence.

The road was in very good nick, and quite grainy, running through gently undulating bosveld.

With quite a few cotton bushes dotted around, I guess from blown seed. And a herd of cows watching as we cycled by. And a flock of guinea fowl that took fright and flight to our right. Very pale in the distance, real mountains – the Soutpansberg. We did not know if we would reach them on this day or the next, knew only that they promised to slow us down.

We saw the odd baobab, hornbills flying across the road, quite a lot of buck standing by a fence – watching us then turning to run for the safety of the bush, termite heaps. And remembered that sitting on the train on Saturday night we had had a real sense of adventure, and were both excited and anxious.

I have a little mantra to say when I’m tired: take the road, make it yours, conquer it, own it, love it – and I took to using it on this long day.

The bush is really a myriad colours – though similar: browns, greens on some of the trees, orangey brown leaves, grass quite luscious in places, soil rich and reddish brown. It was pretty isolated out there, with very little traffic, and what there was giving us a wide berth. We saw quite a few vehicles towing dirt bikes.

At some point during the morning it suddenly became a lot less bushy and we could see the road for long distances ahead. The mountains moved off to the left, out of our way, and ahead we could see a flat road only. We were averaging about 18kph at that point, under perfect cycling conditions – clear, cool, windless weather on a flat, traffic-free surface.

A nice flat stretch of road took our average up to 19kph; to the Vivo 30km sign, pockmarked with bullet holes; past lilac breasted rollers afloat and cream butterflies with half orange wings hovering above pretty flowering bushes. Also passed and admired lotsa euphorbia trees, and fever trees with green trunks, and a variety of cacti.

Mom and dad caught up with us at about 11h30, giving us our lunch for later, and going on ahead to Dendron to set up camp. At that point, we were hoping to be with them by 15h00 or so.

Charl, always more observant, saw monkeys in the trees; we both heard small animals in the grass, skittering away / scuttling away / bolting away / scrambling away / scooting away / scurrying away at our passing. Tomatoes on our right, the leaves a dense green in contrast to the pale veld behind them and beyond the veld paler mountains against a completely cloudless sky. The sky a pretty blue above, but hazy with smoke and dust just above the horizon.

Physical report: Did not feel too bad after the day before’s cycling; legs tired, of course, but not painful; BUT my bum had chafed a little on the inside of my new cycle pants! Potentially unpleasant!

Just outside Vivo we saw a woman walking towards us dressed in her Sunday finery and a cross outside town proclaiming “Elke knie sal buig” (Every knee will bend), a church steeple visible just beyond. In Vivo: A sign for the Blouberg Rugby Club; Cashquick finance and public phones; Lucy’s Salon; Vivo Handelaar; a couple of offices and a café with a microwave at which we heated up last night’s pasta for a snack; the Vivo bottle store open despite it being a Sunday; a brightly painted wall with pictures and vari-coloured fonts announcing “Welcome to Vivo Inn Centre café bakery confectionary butchery bottle store supermarket filling station lottery – lots of fun”.

The last few kms into Dendron were slow going dropping our average to 17kph and then 16kph for the day. Arrived to find there was some sort of problem with the campsite (for which I had already paid in full). Luckily a café owner had offered space to camp in his front garden, so at least we had a bed and the use of a bathroom.

Tropic of Capricorn
Tropic of Capricorn
En route Potgietersrus
En route Potgietersrus
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