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2001 Biking South Africa

Day 04, Tuesday, June 19
27km before Potgietersrus to 5km before Nylstroom
118km @ 15kph

The 27km left undone yesterday were accomplished with ease and pleasure today. Despite aching knees, tired thighs and one blistered backside, today was a great day. Perfect winter weather, pretty scenery, friendly locals. With our destination just 20km over the horizon, a minor disaster (a puncture) turned into a major setback when we found not only that our pump had given up the ghost, but that our spare tube too had a puncture. We came upon a machine-refurbishing workshop a little later (me riding Charl’s bike, he jogging with mine), who got us back on the road, but with only 40 minutes of daylight to spare. And so, despite our best intentions, we had to be ferried yet again.

We got on the bikes at 07h15, dad having dropped us at the 27km-before-Poties mark high in the Ysterberge. Despite a nice long drop into town the 27km left undone yesterday promised us a long long day. Not assisted by the fact that I had four blisters on my bum!!! I’d had them mercurochrome-d and numbed somewhat with anaesthetic cream, but sitting on a blistered bum is no fun.

It was quite beautiful out there, chilly, mountainous (hilly rather than mountainous, actually), slightly barren hills dotted with bushes, trees in the valley, sunlight nice and soft, pretty. The hills were bushy at the bottom, sparsely bushy nearing the top, and bald-headed thereafter.

On the downhills, we conserved our strength; on the uphills we had no choice but to work harder.

Early on I could see my shadow directly ahead of me; could see my legs pumping a nice steady rhythm; could see my Handy Andy flag fluttering quite far to my right off my rod at the back of my bike; could see my rounded head and my collar flapping. My shadow certainly looked as though it was having fun!

The early-morning section of our ride was really great – we averaged 19kph over the 27km back to the caravan park; where we stopped for a loo and jaffle break. We were back on the road just after 09h00, headed through Potgietersrus toward Nylstroom. Poties is quite a cute little town, with wide roads and trees on the pavements.

It was much cooler out there today, mainly because of the wind yet again blowing into our faces. More or less half way between Poties and Nylstroom we passed through Naboomspruit. “Naboom” meaning euphorbia – of which there were many in the veld.

We cycled for some distance with the railway line on our left. Charl whistled to the engine driver of a goods train going by who gave us a friendly toot.

It was pretty out there: grassland, euphorbia ‘trees’, hills in the distance, the road running in a valley alongside the railway line. The only downside being the headwind and my sore bum.

We stopped briefly at a monument: Moorddrif, Truisen Mapele, te herriniring aan 33 voortrekkers wat in 1854 deur Makapaan op verradelike wyse vermoor is. While we were standing at Moorddrif, we had a call from Gary Moore. He and Garth Zietsman were studying our itinerary, looking to join us maybe at Bethal for a day’s cycling.

Mom and dad had commented on how aggressive they found black shop keepers in the area. And I thought about the vicious cycle of white racism, black surliness and feigned stupidity, white racism. Coming into Pietersburg yesterday I passed a black man who spat in my direction – his face filled with a frightening rage.

It really was a glorious day; warm, with just a tinge of coolness on the breeze.

We passed an orange orchard, the fruit hanging heavy and shining bright orange in the sun. I took a great photo of woman and her child manning a padstalletjie there selling navels for R6 per bag, the building white, the fruit orange. Again a stark contrast to the veld next door.

Just on 14h00 we left Naboomspruit, having had a Coke and chips at the local Wimpy. Soon thereafter we saw a sign saying 41km to Nylstroom and calculated that we would be “home” by 17h00.

If I remember correctly the Voortrekkers called this Nylstroom because they thought they’d reached the source of the Nile.

We passed a dead jackal on the side of the road, and a baobab tree, every branch clear against the sky and quite a beautiful shape, and small succulents, and nabome amongst the thorn trees.

At 15h00, with just 28km to go, we could see no reason why we shouldn’t be ‘home’ before dark. With just 22 km to go we found a good reason! I got a puncture, which Charl mended with practised ease. Major problem, though… our pump gave up the ghost so we couldn’t pump the tube. In addition to our problem, dad’s clutch had given up the ghost and his car was in the Nylstroom garage so he couldn’t collect us. Mom and dad were predictably in more of a panic about all this than we; in fact we wouldn’t been worrying if it weren’t for them. In the end, mom persuaded the campsite manager to collect us. Actually to collect me and mine – there was not in fact enough space in his vehicle for Charl and his bike.

So Charl cycled ahead of us in the light of the campsite manager’s headlights, legs pumping like mad.

So … another day on which our destination was not reached! Resulting in some irritation between Charl and I: me because (a) he confessed to knowing there was a potential problem with the pump (ever the optimist, he had chosen to ignore this on the “don’t fix it if it ain’t completely f**ked” principle) and (b) because he thinks I should be able to cope in the dark; he because he thinks I should be able to cope in the dark! Oh, dear.

Moorddrif memorial
Moorddrif memorial
En route Nylstroom
En route Nylstroom
En route Nylstroom
En route Nylstroom
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