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2004 Biking North Cape

10 km from Pofadder (Pofadder), Thursday, Dec 16; Rus ‘n Bietjie, R240 total; 68.4 km @ 17 kph; max 42 kph; cycle time 3h49

Day 4 was the toughest so far this trip. We were out late last night and so got less sleep than we needed; and we had to pack up the cottage/car/trailer and drive out to the 73 km mark. So we only got on the road at 06h20 – quite a lot later than usual which left us out there quite a lot later than usual – until after 12h00, in fact.

The road still great though with very little traffic on this public holiday. Today the electricity and telephone wires marched off into the veld (Charl says following the old road) – which left us in more silence than before. Just the whirr of tyres on hot black tar, and the somewhat cooling breeze whispering in our left ears. And now and then the cawing of birds startled from their roadside ground nests by our passing.

In this part of the world one passes places called Droëgrond and Klippunt. And the grass is tufty and grey. Now and then one sees a windmill etched against the hot blue sky. A dam, some sheep. All red and cream and grey and tan.

At one point a car passing first me then Charl tooted and flung out a pamphlet to each of us. “Litterbugs for Jesus”, I thought. Typically I did not bother to stop – and Charl could not resist. Some tome about hell and damnation!

In the last couple of days we have been ‘regrouping’ every 5 km. Whoever is in front stops at the 65/60/55 km marker and waits for t’other. Off the saddles briefly, drink of water, quick chat and back on the bikes saying “CU at ~ km”. It makes each bit manageable and a daunting ‘20 km to go’ becomes instead ‘only three more breaks before we get there’.

We were doing really well – pushing our average up from 14 to 18 to 19 over time. Dropping back down to 18 and then zooming up to 20 when we hit a long (13 km) downhill at the 35 km mark (so ending at the 22 km mark). One of those delightful drops where one’s speed hovers comfortably at 35 kph and one can just sit and watch the world go by. Super. But bittersweet too as the altitude lost had to be made up again – in the burgeoning heat.

With 12 km to go we took a break from the then 10 km climb we were conquering…under a tree (yes, a tree) complete with a large sociable weavers’ nest. From there we thought it would take another hour and decided to call dad with whom we had arranged to come to our rescue at noon if he had not heard from us – to say we were OK and not to come. But he decided to bring us some cold water as he and mom had measured the climb and it did not end for another 8 km! So out he came and back he went and just after the 10 km mark my tyre went flat and that was all she wrote. Charl had used our last tube earlier in the day and we could not face mending my tube in the heat. So we called dad and called it a day and were soon ensconced at Rus ’n Bietjie – where mom made Russians and scrambled eggs for lunch and we slept in the pm.

We have had endless hassles with our tyres. On Day 1 Charl’s first puncture turned out to be the result of no less than 5 holes. We had bought two new tubes to bring with – which turned out to be narrower than our usual tubes. I can’t remember all the details now (they’re already a frustrating blur), but on Day 2 at the backpackers Charl had to replace the new tube which had split at the valve. On Day 3 he had another puncture on the road; and just before we went out to dinner he found one of his tyres was flat again. This he had to change before we went to bed that night. On Day 4 at the garage where we pumped the tyres while attached to dad’s car, the goodie in the valve got stuck and the tyre deflated. This was replaced. Then Charl had another puncture on the road and we used our last tube. And then my final straw. In between all this we bought two new tubes at Kakamas – both of which gave problems almost immediately. Charl will now (in Pofadder on our rest day) mend all the tubes and buy another two if possible. Let’s hope things will improve in that arena.

Our turn to cook, TV, long sleep.

Pofadder, Friday, Dec 17; Rus ’n Bietjie, R240 total

A rest day, restfully spent.

We drove out to nearby Pella, an oasis in this arid landscape, to visit the cathedral (yes, cathedral) there. And the nearby Orange River – this time not lined with luscious vineyards. Drove through red dunes and a landscape coloured cream and green and grey. Past a team of people incomprehensively sweeping the shoulders of the newly-tarred road many kms outside town – make-work work.

The London Missionary Society began a missionary here in 1812, naming the place Pella after a city in Macedonia (go see Alexander). In 1825 they were followed by Rhenish missionaries who lasted until 1868 – the locals being unfriendly. They in turn were followed in 1875 by French Catholic missionaries – who built the cathedral, apparently using an encyclopaedia to do so.

The Catholics had more staying power and are still in Pella today. Providing spiritual guidance and growing dates to finance the church. We were shown around the cathedral by tiny Sister Theresa (in her 80s). Who took a fancy to mom and later presented her with a hand-painted tea tray cloth, bright red. On the living quarters gate is a sign that reads: Pasop!! Boerboele. As die hond kom, gaan lê plat op die grond en wag vir hulp. As geen hulp kom nie: STERKTE…

Pella is essentially a coloured town of 8,000 souls, and relatively poor. We saw a store called Wikkel & Sukkel, someone advertising fresh snoek (though where fresh fish is obtained we could not imagine) and an attractive tavern. The date palms were impressive, though in the last couple of years the dates have been stolen, apparently, just at harvest time. (Dad told us a story about Samantha’s Afrikaans homework in which she had to use the word dadel. Hy het haar op ’n dadel geneem, was her failed attempt!)

From town we drove out to see the Orange, with Namibia just across the water.

Then back to Pofadder to shop, rest, watch telly, take a long walk in the fading light and eat.

South Africa Pofadder
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South Africa Pella cathedral
South Africa Pella cathedral
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South Africa Pella cathedral
South Africa Pella cathedral
South Africa Pofadder
South Africa Pofadder
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