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2004 Biking North Cape

Diary: Northern Cape / West Coast, South Africa: 12 December 2004 through 9 January 2005

941.3 km (We compared my odometer to the milestones and found that my reading was slightly out. I have left the readings below as we found them, but have divided the total kms by 1.1 to reach the more accurate overall reading above!)

Upington, Sunday, Dec 12; Die Eiland Caravan Park, R460 total

Charl and I arrived in a very hot Upington (39°) on an InterCape bus at 17h30 – after a ten hour ride from Johannesburg with stops at Vryburg and Kuruman and several other dorps. When one of the passengers mentioned the shake, rattle and rolling of the bus to an InterCape employee (the bus literally felt like a boat on a very rough sea), he said we should try the accompanying bus which was “nine times worse”! The air con overheated the engine and could therefore not be turned to comfortable, the loo on board did not flush, and the same movie was shown twice. But otherwise…

Dad collected us from the bus station (he and mom having arrived in Upington by car from the Cape the day before) and drove us to Die Eiland where we had a two-bedroomed cottage on the banks of the Orange (now called the Gariep) River – where hundreds of white butterflies cavorted in the soft evening light and later the lights of the town and nearby bridge reflected off the quiet waters.

We arrived to tales of two German cyclists who were holed up in a nearby cottage…with sunstroke...

And to concerns over Oupa – back in hospital again after being released after his knee replacement op.

Upington is situated in the southern Kalahari (semi-desert) and was originally a Dutch Reformed missionary.

Keimoes, Monday, Dec 13; De Werf Lodge, R380 total; 47.7 km @ 14 kph; max 44 kph; cycle time 3h23

I woke at 03h30 ... filled with ‘what if’ fears. What if we get knocked off our bikes? What if we get badly burnt by the Green Kalahari sun? What if we simply cannot cope with the distances set? Awoke wondering if I should have brought my helmet along after all. Wondering why I hadn’t done more preparation; why I had allowed myself to get so unfit.

On the plus side…I switched off the alarm, set for 04h15, before it went off, and Charl and I donned our cycle clothes (including our white shirts intended to reflect that desert sun), had our breakfast and were out the door by 05h00 as planned – arriving in Keimoes at 09h15, much earlier and happier than anticipated.

Out into a beautiful clear calm morning. To discover immediately that my front tyre was pap. We stopped in Upington’s famous Avenue of Palms (one of South Africa’s longest date palm avenues), which leads out of the caravan park, to pump it enough to get me to a nearby garage at the turnoff to Keimoes. And then got ourselves onto the N14 west.

For the first few kms west of Upington the N14 has a wide yellow-line shoulder ideal for cycling. After awhile, however, the shoulder narrows somewhat – but it still provides some much-desired safety from traffic and a modicum of psychological well-being.

And so we were off. The road was often flat and often undulated, but gently enough to require no walking (although Charl did give his bum a brief rest). The tar very black and in excellent nick. The sun not yet risen; the light soft; the breeze cool and gentle.

To our right ran the electricity cables – some way back from the road, but their monotonous hummm a constant reminder of their presence – and the closer telephone wires on poles. These poles serving quite often as an indicator of hills to come – i.e. seen rising ahead before the current incline was conquered and the road’s contour again visible over the rise.

We saw on several occasions tiny weavers in their dozens pecking at the tar – amongst them the vivid Red Bishops, that would fly fly away at our approach; a couple of sociable weaver’s nests on the telephone poles; kokerbome (quiver trees) almost invisible on a tan hill; bright fresh green vines, their grapes hanging heavy and ripe for the picking, a contrast to the desert-storm shades of the natural habitat; white butterflies fluttering by; fields filled with stones and impossible to farm; isolated homesteads; sparse bush.

We had our (dare I say) first puncture of the trip at 06h45 – Charl’s back tyre. While he replaced the tube, I picked ten tiny thorns out of his tyres. He has decided to stick to the tar in future! While pumping, we were approached by a young coloured man who told us he was looking for a job. We said we were from Johannesburg and could not help. He then asked for some water which we gave him. Asked for the “gift of food” – which we refused. Asked for a lift to Keimoes. Nope! Then he told us he had won the Lotto and reached into his jacket pocket. We live in such a suspicious world! I immediately wondered about a knife, but he pulled out a Lotto card attached to his FNB statement which showed a balance of over R7,500. And off he went, wishing us well and waving when we passed him again later.

We were overtaken by a couple of open-backed trucks loaded with friendly and vociferous field hands. Most of the locals wave or toot a greeting...those more reticent await our greeting before responding with wide grins and incomprehensible comments. Charl managed to frighten one local half to death. A young man walking up a hill, Charl cycling unheard up behind him and then changing into a lower gear – a sound reminiscent of a gun being cocked. The poor man whipped his head around at the sound...and did not return my greeting when I passed him by a little later.

On the outskirts of tiny Keimoes (known for its sultana industry and its ancient water wheel) we spied a graveyard below the bridge over which we cycled – with the most perfect kokerboom. Obviously very old, its branches formed into a perfect circle.

Our accommodation in Keimoes was superb. A comfortable air-con cottage set in pretty grounds with a pond and water fowl and almost-tame springbok.

A really good first day!

South Africa Upington Avenue of Palms
South Africa Upington Avenue of Palms
South Africa en route Keimoes
South Africa en route Keimoes
South Africa en route Keimoes
South Africa en route Keimoes
South Africa Keimoes graveyard and kokerboom
South Africa Keimoes graveyard and kokerboom
South Africa Keimoes
South Africa Keimoes
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