So, this is it, the end of our African Adventure. Remember when we started? We said that Africa is nothing like we thought it would be. It’s everything we hoped it would be. It is a lesson in contradictions, things you expect like Lions and Natives with spears on the road to things you don’t, like High Rise buildings, freeways and modern medicine. South Africa is developed and the Garden Route brought back memories of our first cycling days on The Pacific Coast Highway in California. The best of it all, The People, The People of The Rainbow Nation. It’s easy to fall in love with some parts of Africa. It’s hard not to fall in love with The People. We’ve met generous and caring people everywhere but so many here. Then there are PEOPLE LIKE NELSON MANDELA and KOFI ANNAN. These are Africans that you have to LOVE!
South Africa is a well developed and safe place to travel.
If it’s not on your list, put it there!
Out of Africa, Into the 21st Century
April 14, 2004
12 Kilometers (Total 90 Ks for the day)
nto Messina at 4:00 PM
The border passage on the South African side was simple. We rode up a little hill to the border building. A group of Immigration Police gathered round and pointed out the door to our ride in South Africa. Cat again went in, I stood and talked with the guys. They were astounded that we’d come through Zimbabwe let alone the 15 other countries north of here.
The ride is pretty much desert on a narrow road. Suddenly, town, and the 21st century. It was 4:00 PM and the street was alive with shoppers. It’s Election Day and the polls are open. There is a feeling of celebration in the air. A guy on bicycle wobbled up and almost crashed into us. He pulled over and blocked the shoulder of the street and asked, “Way’re ya gwone”? He was in no condition to be cycling. We pushed past and rolled on but he caught us. I told him we were looking for a grocery store and motel. He launched into his life story. Otto is a Master Butcher and Department Manager at the Kwik Spar Market. He took charge and led the way.
Spar is through town, we kept our eyes open for a place to stay but saw none. We were surprised that they would sell wine today and surprised at the terrible selection they had. He strutted around the store slurring out our story to anyone who would listen. We passed on the wine but bought bananas, cheese, crackers and an apple. What a treat to walk through a store and find things, good things. The nice gal at the counter directed us just around the corner to the Impala Lielie Motel. Cat remembered that Wendy, our friend in Masvingo had recommended it, too.
The room was plain but large. The air conditioner was only blowing warm air. I walked down to the bar, they had a fine bottle of white wine and the manager said they’d fix the AC. The real treat was enjoying the cheese, crackers and apple with a good glass of South African wine. We are in the 21st century!
Oh yes, a super hot shower, nice towels and a very good dinner. Cat has been craving pizza. They had it, the dough was slightly undercooked but that didn’t slow her down.
9:30 PM, we’re exhausted. Our first night in South Africa and, they did fix the AC.
April 15, 2004
R & R in Musina (Messina)
Two stiff and sore bodies that slept through the night awoke late. Cat was doubly sore from her tumble yesterday. So, our first day in SA will be a day off. We’ll get our fill of Internet and stock up on our dwindling supplies. The included English breakfast was great. We both took our Monday Malaria pill and talked about how much longer we’ll have to take them.
Our first stop was Tourist Information. They have a small office just around the corner. Not much info, we did get a few brochures and a map of places we’ll pass as we ride the N1 south. The guys there knew little or nothing. They did tell us that there is an Internet Store next to the Kwik Spar Market. Rather than start the morning and possibly end the day on computers we walked on into town.
Musina, the old African city name, is a long strip of businesses. It reminded us of Mojave, California in that it has a railroad track behind the strip. There are 3 big supermarkets full of things that were impossible to get yesterday. Wow, politics do make a difference. We sought a bicycle repair shop but that’s one thing they don’t have, here. We replaced lots of grocery and toiletry items and I found a pair of sunglasses. Another discovery, they have Icys, frozen crushed ice with flavored syrup on them. Yummy, I had three!
The Internet Shop is actually a Computer Store. They sell machines, hardware and software programs. The owner, Cameron, seated us in his repair shop because the other 2 machines were in use. He explained that they hadn’t thought they’d need more than a couple of machines but business was pretty good, today. As we opened our e-mails he asked about the map on our t-shirts. Turns out that Cameron is an avid cyclist and of course wants to know everything about our voyage. He was busy repairing a computer that crashed due to program conflict. Otherwise, I think we would have spent the afternoon trading cycling stories.
Cameron, The First of Many Generous Acts
Cat went across the street and bought sandwiches. We ate while sorting out messages. After almost 3 hours we signed off and started to leave. Cameron came out of his office and suggested getting together later. We chose 6:00 PM at the Hotel, he agreed.
We’d just started a glass of wine when he knocked on the door. Voila, he brought a bottle of red. He’s spent time on our web site and figured it would go well and he was correct. The 3 of us sat on the beds and talked about riding bikes. He has been a racer but is suffering an arm and elbow problem that has temporarily halted his cycling. He has ridden the Cape Argus, the big annual Cape Town race.
About the state of the nation from his perspective, South Africa is going to be a tough place to raise and educate his children. Originally from England he feels that they’ll move back in 5 or 6 years. They have 2 daughters, his oldest is 14 but he says she acts 18 and that scares him. He wants them to attend good Universities. His description of both kids and his wife leaves no doubt that he is a proud and happy man.
Spurs Restaurant was his choice for dinner. Good food, better conversation and of course another bottle of wine. Cameron insisted on buying. This is the beginning of our “generous South African” experiences.
It was a wonderful albeit late evening.
April 16, 2004
Messina to Ingwe Ranch Motel
Up early, slight headaches hampered progress a bit. Awe the price of a late night with a great guy. The included breakfast and hot coffee helped pull us into the day.
We cycled back to Cameron’s Computer Shop for pictures and a farewell. He even took a turn around the parking lot on my bike. “Like riding a truck”, he said.
Feels like a truck!
It was 9:00 AM by the time we shook hands, hugged and promised to see each other again, somewhere, sometime then pedaled away. Cameron had warned us of road construction and again, he was right. Riding was tough, narrow roadway, lots of traffic and no shoulder. In the 15 kilometers we were forced to ride on dirt several times. As if to add to the difficulty, we hit the hills, too.
Once through the construction zone the hills were gentle rollers, that wouldn’t last. After a brief stop at a truck stop, for “pies”, meat pies heated in a microwave, we pedaled up, up, up.
African Born and Bred
Another stop for soft drinks at a small store. When I took the cans back in to throw in the trash the guy at the check stand suggested that we should take a drink or food with us as a gift. I told him that we’d take his friendship. He liked the idea and shook my hand vigorously. Back outside, we decided to take a look at the wine at Jay & Ash Liquor Store. Choosing a bottle, we started talking with the older guy in the check stand. He, again, offered, actually insisted that we take a cold drink for the road. He sent a clerk for a big bottle of Lemon Drink and pressed it into my hands.
The guy next door came in, he’s Jayesh and Ash is his wife. The older guy is Uttam, his Father. After outlining our trip they told us that they are all “African, born and bred”. First and second-generation natives of Indian origins, they wanted to know about the world and our observations. Jay also told us that there is a Motel part way up the hill, about 13 kilometers from the store. “Up the hill”, those 3 words were the key to the rest of the afternoon. We left with a big bottle of cold Lemon Twist and another wonderful feeling for the Africans and their generosity.
Into the Darkness, Into the Tunnels
Ahead of us lies one hell of a hill and two tunnels. The first tunnel looked threatening and Cat decided that we should walk the bikes through. I pushed for a ride but she insisted. She was right, it was dark, noisy and traffic, cars and trucks with lights on, roared through like they were on a raceway. There are reflectors that stick out about 2 inches from the wall. Easy to see in car lights but I caught one in the dark and left a dark mark on my leg that would last for a couple of weeks. Hobbling in the darkness and pain, we finally met fresh air and sunshine.
They’re called the Hendrik Verwoerd Tunnels, yes, tunnels. The second basically the same drill except that it was tougher to get behind the guardrail. Then an even greater obstacle, at the exit the guardrail turns and attaches to the tunnel wall? The challenge, 2 tired cyclists had to lift the bikes and bags up and over. What a struggle, trying to balance them one at a time, without falling out into the speeding traffic.
Uttam and Jayesh had told us that we’d find a motel in 13 Ks. We were sure that we’d done that and more as we climbed up the steeper, ever steeper hill. Then the sign, Ingwe Ranch Motel, with an arrow pointing up a steep driveway. Pushing was so tough that I made it to the top then went back to help Cat. The place was a pleasant surprise. Our room was a cabin behind the restaurant and bar. Tom, a local, was helping take a window out for remodeling. It fell with a crash and showered the steps with huge shards of glass. Shocked, I asked and Tom assured us that he’s planned it that way.
Tom owns a business further up the hill called Doors and Frames. He has timber farms and was in logging for 25 years. His accent is intriguing. As he told us about his daughter, a musician on Cruise Ship plying the Pacific from South America to Alaska I decided that we needed him to do “You Must Be Crazy”. We already have it in Afrikaans but he explained its origins were Dutch. Funny we thought it was from German? What a nice guy Tom is.
"You Must Be Crazy," Afrikaans
A group of locals yelled and cheered over each play of a Rugby game on the big screen. Dinner was great, we were tired. No TV in room, we slept early and soundly.
April 17, 2004
Ingwe Ranch Motel to Mokopane (Louis Trichardt)
The great and plentiful breakfast fast became ballast. We dropped down the steep drive then swung back and forth in the saddles, continuing yesterdays climb. Up, up, up slow grinding pedaling then pushing. The road was lined with avocado and potato peddlers. One girl, Letia had small bags with 30 avocados for 25 Rand and a large 60 fruit bag for 40. Wow, that’s only about 8 to 10 cents each? How can they do it? (Someone later told us that often they have no cost, stolen fruits!)
Topping out, we were able to ride. Then it was a big fast down, into Mokopane. The mountain is covered with pine trees in neat rows. As we coasted into town Cat’s front shifting cable broke. About the same time my auto shifter began to act up. We limped into town and up to the door of the Tourist Info Center. It was already after 12:00 noon so we decided that it was too late to get the bikes fixed and go on. Edina was extremely helpful, she provided a town map and marked the Bicycle Shop, Hotel and Internet Shop.
Mohamed, Nonjudgmental and Generous!
Our first stop was The Cycle Center. They were busy and the lady told us that their mechanic wasn’t working so we’d have to come back on Monday. When we explained our trip she called for the owner, Mohamed. He listened then said, bring Cat’s bike in, we’ll figure out the shifting cable. He and his helper Peter struggled getting the old cable off but installing the new was a snap. What a great guy Mohamed is. We talked about tolerance, as he worked. He told of eating dinner out last week. After he was seated a family came in and sat at the next table. The waitress knew Mohamed and his family. She called him by name and when she left the guy at the next table told him that they were Jewish and asked if he minded them sitting adjacent? They got into such a warm and friendly conversation that Mohamed suggested moving the tables together. Why can’t the world and governments get along like good people do?
When they finished we took a picture in front of the shop. Mohamed, in typical South African fashion, refused to take any money. We were appreciative and slightly embarrassed. He also insisted on calling what he called the best Hotel in town, to insure that they had a room. What a wonderful human being, what a wonderful friend!
The Villa Grande is a family owned and operated place. The room is quite nice, just like the family. They don’t have a restaurant but suggested a couple. A Laundromat? Not in Mokopane. Cora, the Mom, said, “Give us your things we’ll wash them for you”. Cat asked the cost and she replied, “Oh, we’d never charge for that”. More good South African hospitality.
Starving, we shared the lineup at KFC with a soccer team. They were hungry, too. This is our first visit to a Kentucky Fried Chicken and we liked it. The food was tasty and hot. Sitting in a window seat we wolfed and watched the local comings and goings.
It was a long walk on a hot afternoon to the Internet Shop. We caught the beginning of the finishers of a 10K and half marathon as they ran back into town. Wow, it was too hot even to walk, how do they do it? They’re run was for charity, our walk was in vain. The Internet place had closed at 3:00 PM, their normal Saturday closing time? You’d think the place would be full of kids on a Saturday afternoon?
The Spar Market has an interesting sign at the front door. “Though our Security Officers try very hard Pick Pocketing is still rife, mind your purse and pockets”. We held onto our wallets as we shopped and decided to eat in instead of at the uninteresting restaurants. The lineup for fresh bread was almost a push and shove affair. Obviously they have good bread here. We ordered a barbequed chicken for 6:30 PM rather than chance that they’d still have one.
I spent the shank of the afternoon on the computer playing journal catch up. Cat scanned through the new books and maps that Edina had given us.
Back to the Spar at 6:00 PM, we bought the chicken, some cooked rice, bread sans lineup, and a can of veggies. Back at the Villa, Cora’s daughter microwaved our veggies and threw our cloths back into the dryer for another spin. *(Amazing, this is the first washer and dryer that we’ve seen in 8 months!)
We sat on the bed and picnicked while watching a movie then the news. Life is GOOD!
Sunday, April 18, 2004
Mokopane to Polokwane (Pietersburg)
The family doesn’t start serving breakfast until 8:00 AM. We had the bags packed and were ready to go then up to the serving room. A family from France, Serge, Pasqual and son Romain were the only other diners. They met while working with Air France. Cat worked with Air France in an earlier life so we had something in common. They’re headed for Kruger National Park and a safari. They live near Disney Land in Paris.
We loaded up on picnic supplies at the Spar and got a 9:45 AM start. My shifter was sticking, I had to kick start it occasionally. The road is fairly flat, long and straight with some small ups and downs. The scenery is semi arid. We’re cycling the N1, national Highway
Tropic of Cancer
The Tropic of Capricorn, unlike the Tropic of Cancer, has a monument. Well, it’s off the N1 on the old Highway. The road is full of potholes and the surface is rough. It has been neglected almost as badly as the monument. The obelisk has graffiti at the base and bullet holes up the shaft. We didn’t mind, better than nothing and it marks another giant step in our Odyssey.
Tropic of Capricorn
Onward, down the old road then back onto the N1 into a small village. Homemade meat pies and Lemon Twist and we sat in the shade, leaning back on the building to eat. This drew a crowd of curious young kids. Then a couple of guys, arm in arm, swaggered up. They acted like they’d just had a 2-martini lunch. One, tall and thin the other was shorter and wearing coveralls. They were a little belligerent at first but when we gave them cards and told them of our voyage they became fast friends. In fact they began trying to provide crowd control, pushing the kids back to give us room. I finally asked them to stop. They insisted on shaking hands and it became a grip strength test. Of course I crunched down as hard as I could, they were surprised. Maybe they just humored me?
The Polokwane Pedalers
Lunch, though nourishing and tasty, wasn’t very restful. We rolled onward with 50 Ks and sundown looming ahead of us. It was already after 3:00 PM so we pedaled. Flat was good but it still took almost 3 hours to get into Polokwane (Pietersberg). Uncertain about direction we pulled up and bean studying our map. We were suddenly surrounded by cyclists, the Polokwane Pedalers. Gerhard, the founder and unofficial President took charge and offered us a place to sleep at his home. Explaining that we wanted a restful day off we graciously declined. He and Johan, his stoker on the Tandem, talked and checked the map then set our course into the center of town. They made a couple of recommendations for Hotels. They hurried for home and we for town as the sun was disappearing fast. Though we used their direction we chose The Holiday Inn. It’s central, clean has a restaurant and is close to our budget.
Margaret, our receptionist, gave us a warm welcome and a small discount. Every little but helps. We took the “No Breakfast” deal and pushed through the hallway to our room. So, we have CNN and AC. We did take advantage of their Big Buffet. Cat hates them because we always eat too much. Tonight was no exception, two huge appetites and no self-discipline. Cat even topped off with chocolate cake.
Stuffed we waddled off to bed.
April 19, 2004
Day Off in Polokwane
We called Gerhard and made a date to get together tonight with him and any other cyclists that can make it on short notice. Cat had spotted the Golden Grill across the street so we walked over to save money on breakfast. The waiter was a great guy, the food was so-so and the cost ran up due to charges for everything including coffee refills.
Our next stop was an Internet Shop. The recommended Post Net turned out to be a dud. We couldn’t get into AOL. The staff was less than helpful and we had to pay for the struggle time?
Next, a bike shop that Cameron in Musina had recommended. Babu, the owner was a nice guy with and his shop was well stocked. We bought gloves, handlebar grips and a spare Thorn proof tube. Neither he nor the nearby camping store had a headlamp to replace the one Cat left behind. Neither, either, had loose fitting cycling shorts.
Geez, this is going to get some getting used to, we found sox for Cat, CDs, even Mini CDs for the camera. That’s something we haven’t been able to buy since entering Africa. Our Visa card is smoking, burning up under the unleashed spending spree we’re enjoying since arriving in South Africa.
I went back to the H. I. to type, Cart found a different Internet Shop and spent another frustrating hour with no result. She had warned them up front about the problem yet still had to argue to get her pre-paid 30 Rand. (About $5.00 US)
Gerhard Continues SA Hospitality
Gerhard came alone, at 6:00 PM. We loaded into his orange van and visited he and his wife Teresa and their 2 young daughters. We sipped a little wine and talked cycling. They have their tandem hanging from the ceiling in the hallway. After an hour the girls needed dinner, bath and bed. Today is Grandson Timothy’s 13th birthday, we need to send an e-mail, Gerhard drove us to Charles and Antoinette’s and got them out of bed. They yawned and waited as we connected. She works with Gerhard, more SA hospitality!
We went back to the Holiday Inn and ate a late dinner, in. Packed and re-packed, we hit the sack and dreamed of Cape Town.
April 20, 2004
Polokwane to Mokopane
Early breakfast at the Holiday Inn feeding trough. (Big Breakfast Buffet) Choices, the N1 or the R101, the old road. We started on the old but soon saw that it was too narrow and more crowded that the adjacent National Highway. The wind was blowing then howling then screaming. In the height of the big blow Gerhard pulled up in his little orange van. He offered a ride but of course we had to decline.
Onward, as the skies darkened and the wind began to feel wet, then came the rain. Big drops began to pelt down on us. An off ramp led us to BJ’s Café just as the real downpour began. Sipping lemon twists we watched and waited then, like magic, the sun broke through the dark clouds. Even the wind began to moan and die. And, the best news, we set off down a long slopping run toward Mokopane. It became a picture perfect afternoon of cycling. We were in Mokopane just a few minutes after 2:00 PM.
Gerhard had insisted that he would help us find a place to stay. The directions to his office were vague, next to the Nursery? We rode back and forth then back into town. A stop at the service station proved fruitful, they directed us to the side street, around behind the Nursery. He’s in charge of all City Parks and other landscaping including indoor plants in offices. His crew also builds sets for community plays and exhibits.
Sleeping in a Breeding Park?
He has booked us in at a The National Game Breeding Park? Managed by his friend Mark, they have a small motel/guest house on the property. We cycled, Gerhard drove and introduced us to Mark. At first we thought we’d be obligated to take a tour but to the contrary, the tours are separate and cost. All the animals and birds are caged and managed. They breed endangered species and care for sick and wounded animals brought I from the bush. Mark’s a great guy, a deep thinking guy. He wanted to know details of our journey and shared info on their projects. Another benefit, he let us use his computer to check Internet. Another employee, Dylan, sat a while and talked. He wants to head out some day, travel the world but not on bicycles.
Swinging Spider Monkeys
Mark had suggested that we could take an adjacent room for bike parking. It is currently occupied but the couple will be leaving, soon. Mark seemed irritated that they were here carrying on an afternoon affair. We assumed that one of them was a higher-ranking government employee than he. I told him that it seemed appropriate to have an affair in the National Game Breeding Park, after all we’re just animals aren’t we?
Cat asked Gerhard what a “Ladies Bar” is. He said it was easier to show us than try to explain. He whisked us across the street to the Protea Hotel. His friend and the manager there, Neil from Wales, is a character. He joked and laughed us through a tour of the Ladies Bar. Seems the name comes from the days when they had separate bars for single men. The Ladies was reserved for women except for those married, they were allowed to be joined by their husbands. Today it is as integrated as the rest of South Africa, anyone can imbibe regardless of sex, color, creed, etc., etc.
Back at the Park, Cat wrote notes on the day’s activities while I used Mark’s computer to check e-mail. A very good deal, he allowed us the use for FREE! He sat and chatted while I read and wrote.
We walked back to the Protea for dinner. A little disappointed that Neil had gone, we weren’t at all disappointed by the meal. Though Mark had urged us to take a taxi back for our safety, we decided to walk. A warm, moonlit night and a walk without incidence, a fitting end to an otherwise blustery day.
Surprise, there were 3 guys seated in the living room area. They had taken over our garage room. Maybe employees of the Senior Official? So, the bikes will remain lashed together near the TV that held their undivided attention.
April 21, 2004
Mokopane to Modimolle
Though we had wanted to cycle to his office Gerhard insisted that we walk over? Maybe he feared theft but we wanted to get out immediately after breakfast. We met at 7:45, took a tour of his domain then he drove to the restaurant. Sort of a set menu, yet faced with a 110 Km day, not as much food as we’d have liked. However, the coffee was hot and the conversation great. Gerhard plans to visit the US someday and we hope that he’ll allow us to offer the same welcome he’s extended. We’re really getting used to this “South African” hospitality.
It was after 9:00 AM by the time we got detailed instructions about our route and bid Gerhard adieu. Funny parting with someone who was a stranger yesterday can cause an emotion rush at parting. As I always say, “The best part of our Odyssey is going into the unknown daily. The worst is saying goodbye every day”!
We set off on the old highway toward Bela Bela, the name translates to Warm Baths. Gerhard has cycled this road and says that it has plenty of room for bikes. In fact, it was a 4 lane with few cars or trucks. He had also prepared us for the hills, not mountains but a few pretty good pulls.
Lunch at a cross roads that had a Wimpy’s Burger place. Pretty good fast food, they even have table service. We sat and watched everyone get out of their cars and stare at the bikes. As we mounted up a young guy here on holiday with his family asked about our trip. We got a card into his hand before the kids drug him away toward food. The old road has more ups and downs that N1 and it narrowed abruptly at a T-junction. We began riding to the right but turned back in just a few hundred meters. The shoulder completely disappeared and the edge of paving dropped off about 15 centimeters. (6 inches)
A quick backtrack and a long up to the N1. It became apparent that we weren’t going to get to Bela Bela so we set a new course for Modimolle. Even with shortened distance it was 5:00 PM by the time we got into town. Our noses led us to the local Pizza place. They suggested a B&B called the Pink Gables Inn. Though it’s 2 Ks up, yes, up the road, it was a wonderful place.
Thelma greeted with that familiar SA Hospitality. The room is furnished in 1800s period but has a wonderful tub/shower. There’s a TV room and they receive both CNN and BBC. What a great deal, now all we had to do was figure a way to get back to a restaurant. Thelma suggested having food delivered from her favorite restaurant.
Showered and dressed in our sweats, we hovered near the TV and got our fill of great pasta and world news. More war in Iraq, the largest single loss of American lives in one day and April is shaping up to be the month with most casualties since the invasion. How will it ever end?
Peter, another guest, is a meat inspector. He’s here on business and will be working here for a month. He had no problem telling us his opinion of President Bush and it wasn’t a very positive one.
The room is cozy the bed comfy with canopy, no mosquito net needed.
April 22, 2004
Modimolle to Carousel
Thelma serves up a great breakfast. She and husband Japie have owned the place for just a few months. It’s her business but he does the landscaping. He has a day job with a company that sells irrigation equipment. They have a daughter, Carmie who is just starting to crawl. Japie has made an offer on a farm. Thelma hopes that the deal doesn’t go through, she fears farming. I told them the story about the farmer who won a million dollars. When the newspaper asked what he’d do with the money he said, “ Guess I’ll just keep on farmin’ til it’s gone”! He laughed, she didn’t. I told her that we thought she was British. That made them both laugh. They told us that neither spoke English before they bought the Inn.
They poured over the map with us, told us about road conditions ahead then conquered that the N1 would be our best bet. After a picture in front of the Inn we waved goodbyes and set off into a beautiful morning. It’s a 10 K ride back to the N1.
A car pulled past then over. The driver got out and waited for us. We approached with caution but his smile shown brighter than the morning sun. Allan owns a game ranch just ahead. He invited us to stop and spend a day there. He’s a cyclist and wanted to know everything about our ride. Today he’s going to Pretoria and invited us to stay with them at there home. We’re pretty sure that we won’t make it 130 Ks and our plan is to stop at a Casino that Japie and Thelma spotted on the map for us. We had to turn down his offer for a ride, too. You know, we must be true to our orbit, at least as true as possible.
With sun on our backs on a slight wind in our faces we rolled along at moderate speed. Flat and fast except for the tollbooths. We passed by 3 during the ride. Passed by meaning that we rolled around the booths passed the smiling attendants. They all waved and wished us well. One rushed out, we thought he would ask for money but he just wanted to caution us not to cross the sensor strips or they’d have to charge.
The Casino, A Good Bet!
Plenty of signage led us to the gates of The Carousel Casino. The gate looked like the ticket booths at Disneyland. At the gate arms a guy waved us over to the last lane. He asked if we have a reservation. The answer no brought a look of dismay to his face. He called someone then told us to wait. A few minutes passed, I approached and he told us to go off to the right and enter through the employee entrance.
We cycled along the front fence then toward another gate. The guy there motioned
For us to go back and around, we were coming in the exit. Another security gate, then we leaned the bikes and Cat went into see about a room. Nobody seemed to know what we were talking about? I sidled in, keeping one eye on the bikes, and joined the conversation. We couldn’t understand what they wanted? Then a gal, Teresa, came through who spoke good English. She is with a company contracted to do the janitorial work.
Just when we thought we were getting somewhere the Security Manager approached and told us that we’d have to go back around to the main gate. The guy there had been mistaken.
Okay, we weren’t very happy but we rolled back around, through the gate as though we had a reservation and into the main doors of the Casino. (They did wave the 10 Rand fee for the discomfort, that’s about $1.75) The Hotel is pretty glitzy as a Casino Hotel should be. While checking in we met Liz, the Operations Manager. She’s heard of our problems and offered apologies. When we asked about an Internet connection she offered her computer.
Starving, we accepted then she pointed us toward the fast food court. A sandwich and soft drink filled that need then it was into the room, a shower and rest. Liz’s computer would let us in but not allow answers. After an hour of frustration we just read and saved messages for another day.
Dinner at Giovanni’s, pizza of course. Funny, you walk down the center and the restaurant looks like it should be outside. Not a lot of people here, the Casino is pretty sparsely populated and Giovanni’s didn’t require a reservation. Interesting, they have a separate area for non-smokers behind glass. However, like most gambling joints, there were plenty of folk puffing and gambling.
Repack, then TV and shortly, sleep.
April 23, 2004
Carousel to Pretoria
Checking out, Liz surprised us by reducing our room rate by almost ½. Then, in typical South African style she hovered over our map and helped us route into Pretoria. She also forbade us to travel on the old highway. It’s too far, the shoulder is not bike friendly and there are two townships that she feels may pose a problem for us. The worst part of the plan is that we have to backtrack and you know how we feel about that. It adds 6 Ks to the ride, too.
Another nice day, another easy passing through tollgates. Traffic on the N1 is light, the shoulder huge and the terrain, flat. Lunch in the sun at a PetroPort. We bought soft drinks and ate our left over Giovanni Pizza. The sun was hot, so much so that it stung a slight abrasion on my knee. As we ate a couple of guys stopped and asked where we’re headed. Mark and Bertus are cyclists. They live about 100 Ks south of Johannesburg and invited us to call when we get near and stay with them. More of that SA hospitality.
Cycling to Pretoria
Our ride on the N1 intensified as we came into Pretoria. We rode along singing, “Oh we are cycling to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria. Oh we are cycling to Pretoria, today”. The traffic roaring past couldn’t hear our song. Every on/off ramp was a challenge. We had to stop, wait for a break then scurry across. Our maps were a little confusing but we somehow chose the right exit and were in the city streets. Our goal is to get to Arcadia, an area of town. Cat was raised in Arcadia, California and her parents still live there.
Cycling on the streets here is thrill a minute. There’s no space on the road for bikes and no room in the minds of drivers for us, either. We were finally banished to the sidewalk, a bumpy narrow path. We found a sign for Arcadia and took a pic of Cat. There were a couple of Arcadia Hotel signs, too but we failed miserably in our attempt to find it. A big sign for the Marriott Courtyard drew us down a side street. The girl was very kind and helpful but the price for a night here is way beyond our budget. She took our map and drew a route to Hatfield, another nearby neighborhood.
Another sign that advised of a weekend special at the Protea Hotel. We found it without too much difficulty and it was a perfect match. Restaurants and Internet Cafés in abundance surround the place. We had to push up a very steep parking lot ramp to the rear door. They’re elevator was large enough to take the bikes up to the room. We made a quick trip to the Pick and Pay Supermarket next door for a bottle of wine then wasted the rest of the afternoon on the Internet.
A warm shower and dinner down the street at Greenfield’s. The service and food were wonderful. The price fit budget. We were happy cyclist campers. They even had a huge piece of carrot cake to top off with, delicious!
CNN and early to bed.
April 24, 2004
Pretoria to Johannesburg
Greenfield’s feels like home, like a very upscale Denny’s. The grabber was flapjacks. Yes, they have pancakes and maple syrup on the menu. When we saw that last night we canned plans for Egg McMuffins and knew we’d be back here. It’s been more than 18 months since we’ve had pancakes. We weren’t disappointed, this felt like a little piece of Americana. We rolled down the steep ramp and onto the street at 9:00 AM.
We faced a long up out of Pretoria. Lost then refreshed with directions from locals, we re-immerged into the thick flow of traffic on N1. This may be the most dangerous cycling we’ve tried. Each on/off ramp was a heart pounding rush. It was pull up, wait for a hole in the flow then dash. The worst was 2 lane ramps. The stream of cars and trucks seemed endless.
As we struggled up we were met with motorcade after motorcade. Most were black Mercedes speeding along behind motorcycle police, sirens screaming and red lights flashing. President Imbeki, his Cabinet and supporters headed for Pretoria and his second Inaugural.
Now the N1 went from bad to worse. Our wide shoulder lane shrunk to minimal. This is not a fun ride, its nerve racking and dangerous. We decided to go escape and turned off at the Old Johannesburg Highway. Though it is narrow, too, the traffic was minimal. The road was lined with pine trees and became a study in pedal hard up then glide down.
Lunch, we’ve cycled 40 Ks and the difficulty factor has taken most of the energy our Flapjacks had given us. Midrand is supposed to be midway between Pretoria and Joburg. Our search for food took us into a large shopping center. There on the fringe was a Pub style restaurant. Another “feels like home” experience, it reminded us of a Marie Calendars in Ventura. The waiters were more interested in checking out the bikes than serving soup. Saddling up, I dropped my helmet. It needed a patch job. Chivon at Beauty Haven, had tape and a smile. Like a broken nail, she made it whole, again.
Back onto the N1, then following directions from our friend, Cuan, (que ann) we veered off to the right on the M1. Another tollgate, this time a not so friendly gatekeeper. As we started slipping past she shouted. I turned and pushed toward her straddling the bike. The cars in line were impatient and left little room to slip through as they constantly moved, one at time, through the gate. I yelled from the shoulder that we had passed through all other gates without having to pay. She shrugged and said she’d call the Metro Police if I didn’t stop arguing and pay up. I pushed in front of a startled motorist, held up the progress of the impatient and paid. She did allow us to pay as though we were one vehicle. It was only 4 Rand (about 65 cents) but it was the principle of the thing that irritated us. I gave her our card, she glanced at it then held out her hand for the money. In a form of protest I took my sweet time digging in it out of my wallet. All I had was a 50 Rand note. She frowned, handed me the handful of change then smiled and raised the gate.
Constant and ever increasing traffic drove us off the M1 and onto a 6-lane street, Louis Botha Street in an industrial area. Industry gave up some of its corners to commercial properties as we rode up, yes, more up. A young couple, Celia and Brett pulled up, blocked a lane, and asked where we were going. She told us that they’d seen us, circled the block for a closer look then decided that they had to know. They’re familiar with Joburg and the radio tower that Cuan had told us to ride toward. They thought we were on the right track and told us to continue to Hillbrow then take a right.
Cycling in the Bronx?
We pedaled onward, slowly upward in moderate traffic when we heard a horn honking and saw Celia and Brett signaling for us to pull over. They had rethought their advice and she said, “That area is like the Bronx in New York, it’s not a good neighborhood”. Lacking any further ideas, Celia suggested we talk with the group of Police at the next corner. Then, as they prepared to drive away she invited us to stay with them when we pass through their town. It’s about 100 Ks south of Joburg. We told her we might just do that, we’d be I touch. What nice people, concerned about our welfare they have now spent more than half an hour circling and talking with us.
The crowd of Cops were involved with an arrest. The guy looked like he’d been drinking and was resisting arrest? One Policewoman listened to our questions, had another guy listen then a group that had clustered around them all agreed that we should continue to Hillbrow and turn at the Police Station about 6 Km from here. Out of options, we set off but as the neighborhood changed to commercial and residential Cat became more and more nervous. A Minibus Taxi pulled up at a light and a guy leaned out the window. He shouted at us, “What do you have in the bags”? The area was seedy and the people on the now crowded sidewalks looked like the type that might want a bicycle and some bags.
Cuan to the Rescue!
We crossed the street on the green light then pulled up on the sidewalk. A Policewoman sat eating lunch in a small café. The window was open and Cat asked her advice. She shrugged then said, “You should be careful in this place, there are some bad people, lots of good people but some bad”. That did it, tired and nervous, Cat was ready to call it a day and call Cuan. The Policewoman pointed across toward McDonalds when Cat asked for a telephone. It was Cuan to the rescue, he answered and told Cat that we should wait, he knew the place and he’d come pick us up.
After off loading the bags we just stood and watched the typical comings and goings. It’s Saturday and just like at home, there are several kids celebrating birthdays. Little faces under cardboard crowns, covered with ice dream and cake. Some were screaming with joy, others in agony.
Cuan (Que Ann) pulled through then circled back around. His classic Land Rover handled the bikes and bags. Cat had to jam into the backbench seat amidst the pile of WorldRiders equipment. What a great guy this guy Cuan is. We’d only met him for moments in back in Tanzania yet we’re already beginning to feel like family. You may recall, we met him and William, the Irishman, in Iringa. He also introduced us to Joel, AKA Masharubu, in Mbeya. We stayed in contact via e-mail and he invited us, almost insisted, that we stay with him in Joburg.
Cuan’s girl friend Debbie has only recently moved in. They hit it off and dated for 7 months. He’s never taken the plunge, several near misses but never got to the altar. She married once but just for a moment. What a beautiful couple they make, what a couple of beautiful people. We celebrated our arrival with a glass of wine, Zydeco Music then hot showers. Cuan and his Sister Juliet have owned the house for 8 years. It’s a classic that includes a separate guest room and loft rental out back.
Melville is a wonderful little neighborhood tucked into the midst of the other 5 million folks that make up Joburg. It reminds us of Noe Valley where friends Franklin and Aura live in San Francisco. We walked to the little main street and dined in one of Cuan’s favorite places. Wine, laughter and stories of life filled the evening. On the trip back home we bought muffins and sweet rolls for breakfast.
More wine and music, even some singing and dancing on the beautiful wooden floors of the dining room. Debbie and Cat did a sing along with Frank Sinatra that sounded good at the time. We decided that the video shouldn’t make these pages for obvious reasons after reviewing carefully. (Pretty bad!)
Sunday, April 25, 2004
At Home in Melville
Maybe it was the late night or just the wonderful relaxed feeling but we slept through the night and didn’t awaken until after 7:30 AM. Breakfast, fruit and great coffee. Debbie calls the cinnamon raisin rolls covered white icing “Chelsea Buns”. We just call them tasty. Soaking up CNN news as we ate added to the joy.
A trip to the huge shopping center and the very upscale Woolworth Market for dinner supplies. Cuan chose meat and we bought wine for the occasion. What a surprise, Woolworth’s has died and gone to heaven in the US. Here it is alive, well and very upscale.
Johannesburg “The Crime Capital of the World?
Cuan is completing a bid for a UN project. He went back to his computer and I hit the keys of ours, playing journal catch up. Cat walked to Spiro’s Restaurant and the Internet. Debbie decided that she should give us a guided tour of Joburg’s upscale neighborhoods. We picked up a frustrated Cat, the Internet wouldn’t work. Debbie drove and pointed to mansion after mansion. This is not the Joburg that we’ve heard or and feared. Our trip took us to Market Place, a huge mall full of small shops. African crafts, furnishings and more. I the food section Debbie bought cheese, ham and pesto. I spotted a yellow Ferrari amongst the Mercedes and BMWs, is this really Joburg, the “Crime Capital of the World?
Our foursome gathered round the table in the kitchen and enjoyed great sandwiches. Then Debbie left for an afternoon at here office as Cuan and I returned to the keyboards. Cat went back to Spiro’s only to continue the self-torture, the machine refused to recognize AOL?
A Lamb and Boerewors Braai
Debbie brought a glow of joy into the room when she returned at 8:00 PM. Cuan and I tuned out the computers and he fired up the Braai. (Barbeque) Debbie whipped out some wonderful salad and sweet potatoes. Cuan turned the coil of Boerewors sausage (Beef Sausage) and the lamb chops until they were cooked to perfection. Chilly though it was we sat at the patio table in our sweats and jackets and enjoyed the food and each other.
The party moved inside, we listened to Shawn, Cuan’s brother-in-law’s CD. He’s an internationally known guitarist and his vocals range through 4 octaves. Eventually the girls faded while Cuan and I watched, “When We Were Kings”, a wonderful documentary about Mohamed Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle with George Foreman, a boxing match held in Angola, Africa.
April 26, 2004
Business Day in Joburg
A cool coffee and toast morning. Debbie’s off to work, Cuan drove us to his Travel Agent Jan’s office to pay for and pick up our tickets to Victoria Falls. Our second stop was a Bike Store recommended by friends of Cuan. We took the bike there for a checkup. Since our old shoes have disintegrated we were happy to see a big selection of sizes and styles. We also bought shorts, leg and arm warmers, a heavy inner tube and mirrors. We are having the techs install the mirrors and new pedals as well as check the brakes and wheels.
On the way back we sat at Cuan’s favorite sidewalk table at Spiro’s and had lunch. Cat tried to get on AOL and failed again. During lunch most of the other patrons stop, shake hands and talk with Cuan. One group was worried and taking a guy to the Doctor. He has been feeling ill and almost passed out here. Cuan drove to the Post Office and we mailed the pictures from Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
A call to FedEx confirmed that they are holding our package for ransom at the Airport. They won’t deliver unless we pay more than $300 US because the package contains our new camera. That’s half the price of the camera? We decided to stop on the way back in from “The Falls” because it’s a 240 Rand taxi ride out and back.
Debbie came in and we were soon on the way to “Supper” at her friend, Laureen’s home. Surprise, it was really a Supper Party, in celebration of tomorrows Freedom Day. Plenty of free flowing wine and conversation. About 20 friends stood talking in the living room, den, around the Braai and the pool. These Africans are typical Yuppies. The talk politics, business and social topics. Though we were sort of fringe because we knew none, they were all nice and did chat with us.
The Braai wasn’t loaded up until 10:00 PM. Food was very good, dessert was scrumptious. Ice cream, brownies, a rich pudding, fruit, cheese and green figs. Needless to say, all this led to another late night.
April 27, 2004
Flight to “The Falls”
Freedom Day in SA
Late to bed, early to rise, yawn. A quick packing of our borrowed suitcase, muffins and coffee then Cuan drove us past Jan’s home to pick up our air tickets then onto the airport. More of that SA hospitality, it’s a long drive against fairly heavy holiday traffic.
Had just enough time to check e-mails at a very fast but pretty expensive Internet Shop. Spent 30 minutes and cleaned up most back messages. Almost had to run to get in line for boarding. I sat next to Graham, a cattle rancher and tobacco farmer from Zambia. He and his family have been shopping in Joburg. They feel badly for Zimbabwe farmers but he agrees that there was a lopsided land issue and that the farmers all too often flaunted their wealth. Nice guy, nice family. The flight was smooth, the food good and best of all, we got back on the ground safely. (That’s my idea of a successful flight, takes off and lands safely!)
Chuckie (Chookee), from Bushtracks Africa, was holding a sign with our name among 3. She led us to a van, we joined the others and were whisked off to The Zambezi Sun Hotel. She did a light commentary describing the non-descript scenery and the town of Livingstone. It’s pretty touristy but that has some value. Three young guys played drums and sang African songs in honor of our arrival. The Hotel looks like it should be in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The room doesn’t have a view of The Falls, in fact none of the rooms do. We can see the cloud of spray and hear the roar but any view is hidden behind trees. I suggested that they should clear some but was rebuffed by the gal at the front desk, “This is a National Park, removing trees is against the law”. We also learned that we’ve chosen the worst time of the year to be here. It’s high water season, in fact this year it’s flood season. They say that there’s more water falling over than has in over 30 years. Native Africans call it Mosi-oa-Tunya, The Smoke That Thunders”. So, we can see the smoke and hear the thunder.
A walk to the view and some other nearby areas then back to the room and a few minutes of relaxation. We blew our plan to see the sunset but got back to the in time to realize that sunset isn’t very dramatic. Oh well, we’ll catch it and all the other sights tomorrow.
Dinner was to be the Big Buffet until we looked over the faire and cost. There is another restaurant, inside the Casino called Squires. Casual, and good food for a price closer to our budget. Pizza lured us in and it was good. As we finished the Chef/Manager came to our table to make sure that we were happy. He asked about the maps on our jackets and after outlining our story he insisted on giving us a Don Pedro. It’s an ice cream and whiskey thing and it’s GREAT!
April 28, 2004
Big Day at Vic Falls
A Three Baboon Day
I was in the shower, Cat wanted fresh air but when she opened the slider she got a big surprise. Two cute Baboons sitting on the deck rail made a dash into the room. As Cat screamed they ran directly to the coffee set up, stealing all the packets of dry cream and sugar. Her screams put them on the run. They clutched the packets and jumped to a nearby tree limb. Sitting there, calmly opening the packages, they had a banquet. Obviously this isn’t their first raid, they knew where to go and what to grab. It almost looked like they had smiles on their faces as they licked the packets. Once she got the glass slider closed they moved back and perched on the rail again, waiting for another opportunity.
Our included breakfast is a huge buffet served at pools edge. As we approached a big, burley Baboon dropped from the roof and grabbed handfuls of food from the table of two startled ladies. The staff yelled and feigned throwing things but the old fellow took his time climbing back up a vine to the roof. What a start and thrill for the ladies. And, our second Baboon breakfast raid of the morning.
A couple at the table next to us opened conversation. Really nice people, Peter and Wally are from Hamburg, Germany but have lived all over the world. Peter worked with Mercedes Benz then the EU for 8 years after retiring. They’ve lived here in Zambia, Ghana in Africa, as well as Sri Lanka, New Guinea, Libya and Iran.
Cat threw our rain ponchos into the bag as almost an after thought. Once we neared the falls we were glad to have them. In fact there was a small stand renting them to fellow falls viewers. Walking down one of the trails that leads to the precipice and river below was like walking in a monsoon downpour. Even with ponchos we feared getting our camera wet. Our shoes and shorts got soaked so we squished back to drier ground.
The walk toward the Zimbabwe side passes dozens of booths full of woodcarvings and other souvenirs. Crossing the border includes a crossing of the Victoria Falls Bridge that was built in 1905. It shakes like an earthquake when the big trucks rumble by. They only allow one vehicle at a time onto it. The bridge is a favorite bungee jumping spot, too. One guy had already jumped as we rounded the corner. We did watch as he dangled and bobbed, head down, waiting for the crew to reach him and haul him back up. The jump would be terrible, in our minds, but the rescue after is even more awful looking. Cat saw the guy finally climb over the rail. She asked and he did the thumbs up, “Fantastic”, he said. He’s probably think that we’re crazier than he if he knew of our trip.
Our hope is that they’ll allow us to come around for the Zim side view since our Visas are still valid though only for single entry. Most of the other people walking to or from the border had umbrellas. The spray drifting over was so thick that we had to put our ponchos back on. There’s absolutely no view from the road, or at the Zimbabwe border. The Immigration Police were friendly but firm, we could re-enter if we pay $30 US each. We did our best sales presentation but failed. Our walk back through the Smoke, near the Thunder, was again without view.
French Road Warrior
Our walk back led to a meeting with another “Road Warrior”. Christophe, from France, has been cycling from France for 5 months. He came on many of the same road as we’ve traveled. His pack only contains a bedroll. He lives off the road and sleeps with families, in their yards or houses. His favorite place to spend a night is schools, which brought back memories of our night in the Russian School. He’s had constant diarrhea, amebic dysentery and malaria, 3 times. Too tough for us, but what a nice guy.
Our walk to the footbridge crossing was another soaking. The spray was so thick that we couldn’t see at times. Sloshing, we climbed back up and warned others about the impending storm below. We followed the sun and began to dry out.
A few pictures with the statuary on the grounds then lunch at a small walk up café near the Casino. We had a so-so sandwich but the best of it was, another Big Baboon raid. Sitting, eating in the sun, we were completely relaxed when suddenly out of nowhere or off the roof, another huge male baboon dropped down and began stripping food from the table nest to us. I jumped up and threatened but he ignored. The woman screamed and still he continued to fill his hands with food. The staff rushed out and sent him flying back up despite handfuls of food. Once over the shock, the woman and her son got a good laugh from the incident.
I went back to the room and worked on these journal pages, Cat walked. She explored the riverbank up stream to The Royal Livingstone, the adjacent Hotel. It’s the upscale place but she says she likes the Z. Sun better. The buildings are white and Colonial looking. The restaurant is chic and expensive looking. A deck juts right out into the swollen Zambezi River. She was intrigued with a herd of zebra grazing on the lawn.
Our CNN News is all Iraqi and all bad. April is now a record for single month casualties of American troops. More than 100 have been killed and deaths since 3/20/03 have now surpassed 700. Yes, more than 700 19 year old boys and girls have now gone back home in body bags. What were you thinking George W.? We couldn’t stand the blood and guts so switch to a horror movie.
Dinner again at Squires. No Chef, no Don Pedro but the same good food and service.
One more dose of CNN and Iraq then bed.
April 29, 2004
Victoria Falls to Joburg
A beautiful rainbow greeted us when we pulled the drapes back. It hung in the mist, the smoke above the thunder. Our scavenger friends, the Baboons and Monkeys were nowhere to be seen. We enjoyed another huge breakfast, they missed that, too.
Packed and ready for the flight back to SA we took a walk. Cat was guide, up river to the Royal Livingstone Hotel. The Zebra grazing on the lawn were tame enough for us to walk up to and have a picture taken. Back at the Zam Sun we chased down the couple from Germany, Peter and Wally, and got a picture of them as they were leaving. We also met a couple, Brian and Mildred, from Georgia, USA. Fun for us to talk with. He’s a Doctor and an avid cyclist.
The boys in the African greeting band were playing welcome music to new arrivals. I got a picture and video of them. Dressed in native garb, one who hasn’t traveled as extensively as we have might think that they live in mud huts and hunt lion with their spears. They’ve just been playing together for only 3 months, they all just got out of school so this is like a summer job. Nice guys, Clever, Lufasi, Stanley and Franco. Fun to talk with, fun to watch.
Our Bushtracks Africa van rolled away form the Falls at 11:30 AM. Chuckie had a card with her e-mail address for us. She says that she has thought about our travels and agreed that we “Must Be Crazy”. The van made a special stop for one of the passengers, Olivier, who takes pictures of Post Offices and Mail Boxes all over the world, for a friend.
The Airport was hot and stuffy. Beyond my dislike for flight, the AC on board cooled my sweaty palms. Another great flight, it took off and it landed and as I’ve said before, that’s a GOOD flight. We were on the ground at 3:15 PM, retrieved bags and caught a cab.
Less Than Civil Servants!
First stop, the DHL Office. The manager there fond our paperwork and sent us back down the road to the Customs Office. The clock on the wall there read 3 minutes before 4:00 and the sign told us that they close at 4:00. We thought we’d just made it when dozen or so people, most women, in white shirts came down the hallway. We asked who we should see and the lead lady told us with a smile that they were closed. I objected and pointed to the clock. Several chuckled as she said, “Sorry but we’re closed, come back tomorrow”. W couldn’t believe it and there was no room to negotiate, they were headed out the door? When we told them that we’d have to pay a Taxi 240 Rand ($37 US) to get back out here they just shrugged and walked on away.
In deference to other workers, Joseph our cab driver was a gem. He came with us into DHL and expedited their service. He tried to get the Customs employees to help us, to no avail. He also wasted no time getting us back to Cuan and Debbie’s place. It was rush hour yet he seemed to know short cuts and less used streets. We were at the gate by 5:30.
Debbie’s working late this evening, Cuan has us lined up for dinner with friends, Ken, Angela and their daughter Robin. Not only nice people, Ken and Angela have toured a lot of Africa on bicycles. Dinner was another treat, as was the South African hospitality. Cuan talked with Robin while we traded cycling stories. They brought their bikes out and we got a picture next to their pool. Another wonderful meal and fantastic evening.
April 30, 2004
A Day With Cuan and Debbie
Cuan cooked breakfast, pancake and bacon, our second I less than a week. We told him we could get used to this kind of service. He called a Taxi Company he uses and cut a deal, to the airport and back for 200 Rand. This is less than half when compared to the normal faire. Our driver was a nervous Afrikaner, he talked to himself and other drivers. He had little patience with other, especially the taxi van drivers. He says that they get away with murder, the way they drive. At one point, as we waited for a stoplight to change he pointed out a woman standing, begging. She was weather beaten, her skin was leathery looking. He let his prejudice slip through the thin veil he maintains and said, “Look at her, she used to be white, now she’s one of them”. He was referring to the blacks also begging near her.
A South African Observation
Unlike Zimbabwe, the whites here make up a larger portion of the population, about 15 % compared to 3% there. Another distinct difference, there are white people in every economic level here. We noted that Gerhard was a middle-income guy and this woman was proof that there are also poor whites here. These are just 2 examples, we’ve seen many more. The key is that in Zimbabwe we found a few middle level folks but most whites had money and the things that money buys. This observation is in no way a scientific survey merely our feeling based on what we saw. If you want exact statistics go to www.Google.com.
Our trepidations were groundless this time around. We walked right into the Customs Office, up to a window and pushed our papers under the glass. The Officer looked at them then asked, “Are you leaving South Africa soon”. We told him of our trip then he asked, “Will you take the camera with you when you leave”? He signed and stamped the papers as soon as we answered, yes. So, it cost $35 for the taxi but we did save the more than $300 we were told last week. With clearance in hand we sipped over to DHL and they immediately released our package.
We had the Taxi driver drop us at the Bike Shop. Another interesting trait, he talks as though he knows the streets of Joburg by heart. Somehow in his heart he lost the direction but we were able to find a landmark building and get him to take the turn. He continued to expound upon how the street was marked improperly even as we paid and he began to drive away.
The bikes were ready, the clothing and shoes in bags. The bill was BIG but the items were sorely needed. Cuan pulled up and helped us load into his classic Rover.
Back in Melville, it was like Christmas. The only disappointment, they had sent new jackets, we need cycling jerseys, ours are faded and thread bare. Awe well, there are bound to be little mistakes when doing business at this distance, by e-mail. The camera is fantastic. It has a 10X telephoto lens and many of the features are similar to our other camera including the battery. The big difference, it uses a Memory Stick rather than Mini CD. The included Stick is only 32mb. (We will find later that this will only take 15 photos.) Charlie was able to find an extra that is 256mb, that’s actually larger space than the CDs. It’ll take some getting used to but should give us some great photos.
Cuan has completed his report and says he needs a haircut. The 3 of us walked down to the main. Cat dropped off at Spiro’s for a last shot at e-mail. We went around the corner, I decided to get my head buzzed again, too. In short time we were both looking freshly shorn. Cat was nowhere to be seen at Spiro’s. We took Cuan’s favorite table on the sidewalk and waited. *A bit of bad news, one of Cuan’s friends told him that the guy who was sick when we were here last week was sent home from the Doctors and told to prepare to die. He has advanced AIDS and there is no treatment available.
Cat came up, she’d found another Internet Shop and it worked fine. She reported that to the Spiro staff but none of them know how to adjust their machine. Lunch was better than the Internet service. It’s fun to watch Cuan hold court as we ate. He really knows everyone who comes in.
He walked back home, then to the new Internet Shop and spent a couple of hours working through the messages. Back at the house, we readied a package for mailing home then walked to the Post Office.
Dinner out at The Local Grill, Melville. A fun place, great food and wine, too. Debbie took the new camera for a ride. She even took a close up picture of my ear. We had so much fun, sharing details of our lives and travels. The wine flowed freely. Steaks were cooked to our specific order and followed by wonderful lemon meringue pie. Full of food and fun, we waddled back home. Gosh it’s good to be with good friends.
May 1, 2004
On The Road, Again!
Johannesburg to Parys
24 Ks in Cuan’s Rover, 75 Kilometers
Geez, parting is sorrow and not so sweet. We pulled the sheets off the bed in our cozy guest room and left them on the washing machine. Bags packed we took them to the garage then enjoyed coffee and toast with Cuan and Debbie. It’s doesn’t seem possible that strangers just a few days ago can feel so close as we prepared to go.
Cuan refused to let us cycle through Johannesburg, we didn’t think it would be that difficult but he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Not wanting to bite the hand that fed us, we quietly agreed. I wanted pictures of the house and our guest room. The camera somehow glitched. (Not the new camera, the older one.) It began to try to “repair data” then the ugly news flashed onto the led screen, “Disk Error”. I tried two more times but both failed. Cat was anxious to get going, we have a long ride ahead and it’s getting late. Debbie needs to get going to work too. I gave up and switched to the new camera to get one last pic of the happy couple. Hugs, a moment of heavy emotion then she was off to work and we to our continued adventure.
Cuan gave us another guided tour of Joburg. We cruised through downtown but were disappointed to find the Nelson Mandela Bridge closed. We knew that the meaning of Gauteng, the Sotho name of the area means “Place of Gold”. Cuan pointed out large yellow hills all around town. These are tailings from the gold mines. They’ve worked them for more than 100 years. There’s a bar and restaurant in one of the old mineshafts, Cuan says that it’s ½ a kilometer underground.
Parting, That Damn Sweet Sorrow
Our only disappointments here are that the trip back to the airport robbed us of the time to visit the Apartheid Museum or Soweto, the township where the struggle to end Apartheid was born. Now, Cuan and Cat were pushing to get going. He has to get back to his home office and we need to hit the road.
It was a little after 10:00 AM when we got our equipment out of the Rover. The final hug of the day was a tough one. You’d think that we’d be used to saying goodbye by now? Handshakes, bear hugs then moments of uneasy silence. Cuan turned and walked away, out of our life for now but we’ve given he and Debbie honorary family membership. We’re sure that we’ll see them again. We both had big lumps in our throats as he drove away.
The ground was scattered with bags, I decided that we should check the fit of the new pedals. They are hard to clip in, adjusting didn’t seem to work, but I couldn’t seem to move it. We decided to ride them for a while and see how they feel. Both of us were dancing around, Cat went searching for a toilet. I danced and adjusted the brakes. The mechanics had the brakes clamped down but didn’t true the wheels so they were dragging. No toilet, I stood behind a big street light post then Cat popped a squat there. (We heard a girl in a movie say that she needed to “Pop a Squat”, we loved it.)
There were 3 guys sort of hovering around nearby. They had small birds in cages? Probably caught them and are trying to sell them. We worried that they might also deal in bicycle parts. They drifted off just as I got the bikes back on their wheels. It was now 11:00 and we were off.
The guys at the tollgate just waved to us as we rolled out around the sensor strips. The neighborhood there is definitely a township. Small shacks with corrugated tin roofs. We’d not ridden 2 kilometers when I had a problem. My shifting belt tangled up on the gears and broke. That is a first in more than 23,000 kilometers. (14,200 miles) It requires pulling most of the bags back off, removing the rear wheel then putting it all back together. The locals sat in chairs off to the side of the road watching with interest.
Back up and rolling but not for long. Cat felt that her front wheel was wobbly. Flat was what it was. The bike shop had switched front wheels. Mine was the one without a puncture resistant tube and she’d picked up a nail. More removal of bags, a change of tubes to one of our heavy duties, then finally we were rolling south. Hectic was a good descriptive for our first morning back.
The road is flat and weather is optimal, sunny but cool. Tall grass or grains line the route. Late lunch at 55 kilometers, Meat pies at a BP Service Station. We asked a local farmer how far it is to Parys and he told said, “Ask my wife there in our Bakkie”. (They call pickup trucks Bakkie’s but pronounce it Bucky here.) They had a typical husband/wife discussion and decided that it was 20 Ks. When Cat sighed he said, “Why not just come over and stay with us”?
Geez, more of that wonderful SA hospitality! We appreciated the offer and told them so but if we fail to get to Parys we won’t be able to make the distance to the next town, tomorrow. It is pretty sparsely populated out here on the prairie. Leaning against the wall we gulped down our pies and soft drinks. We’re so late that Cat’s beginning to fear darkness.
While we’re dealing with pronunciations, Parys and Paris as in France, sound almost the same. The S As say Parees in a slightly different accent than the French. They’ve a few things designed to remind you of Paris, France like a tiny Eiffel Tower and French Flags flying here and there. So, it’s possible, here, to jump into your Bakkie and go to Parys. No need to take a plane and fly all day.
The 20 Ks was on old road, no shoulder and quite a bit of traffic. Probably heading home from work? Most were kind and pulled wide giving us room. A few little ups and downs but fairly fast cycling and we were in Parys well ahead of sunset.
Louie To The RESCUE
First stop, a grocery store. The clerk, Louie, was beyond personable. We asked for wine and he said, “That’s in my Liquor Store, across the street”. He led us across and asked where we were going as we walked. Inside the store he helped us choose a bottle, we grabbed 2 since tomorrow is Sunday and all Liquor Stores are closed. AS we came to the check stand the gal saw already checking out her register. Louie told us that Liquor Laws require them to close at 5:00 PM on Saturdays. It was 5:10 PM, we were in trouble and facing a wineless weekend. Louie said told us to bring the wine through. I didn’t want to cause him any problems and told him so. He said, “I can’t sell you wine but don’t worry, I’m giving it to you”.
Man, we’re getting to really like this SA Hospitality thing. We stood and talked, Louie’s family came here from Madeira when he was 5 years old. He’s Portuguese and proud of it. He’s also proud to tell us that he not only owns the Market and Liquor Store, he owns the Spurs Restaurant, too. A confident and successful young guy. He pointed out the Hotel, it’s above Spurs. Surprisingly, he doesn’t own the Hotel.
It was tough finding the entry to the Palm Court Hotel. We were pleasantly surprised when we the guy inside pressed the buzzer and opened the security door. The price was right and the place is classic. It’s more than 100 years old and has recently been renovated. The only problem from our perspective is the stairs. Our room, one with a shower for Cat, is up, across and then down several stairways. The owner made room for the bikes in a closet. We only carried our cloths and the computer but that’s still 2 trips up, over, and back.
A hot shower in a claw foot tub. The shower curtain is sort of suspended and seems to be falling down. It did leak but the floor is designed to take the water. A glass of wine thanks to Louie and dinner at Louie’s Spurs restaurant, a pretty good life.
The only thing missing was CNN or BBC. We had to rough it with SABC and E Channels. They tend to mix languages and most of the news is local, as it should be.
Sunday, May 2, 2004
Parys to Kroonstad
Breakfast was included and pretty darn good, too. We were able to trade off the Boerewors Sausage for extra bacon. The sausage is too dry and spicy for us. It comes back to haunt as you ride. The taste isn’t any better, to us, the second time around than it was going down.
Our early start was slowed by a desire to get a picture of Louie. We cycled to the Market and asked the guy in the checkout stand if Louie was in. “No but he be ear in few minutes”, he responded in a blend of Afrikaner/Portuguese. We waited for 20 minutes then I asked again and told him that we just wanted to get a picture of him. He picked up the phone and called then said, “Eee be ear in 10 minutes”. I asked if he and Louie were related, his chest seemed to swell as he said, “Yeees, eees may Son-in-Law, married my daughter”. Who wouldn’t be proud to have a Son-in-Law like Louie?
It was fun talking and getting to know Louie just a little. He doesn’t spend all his time working, just most of it. His hobby is Drag Racing. He has a car and says he spends too much time and money with it but obviously loves it. Probably driven to win just like in his businesses.
Rather than backtrack, Louie told us that the old road would be a good ride and we’d save 20 kilometers. That made the decision easy. A woman honked then rolled her window down and asked where we were going. She was so full of questions that Cat finally told her we had to get moving. It’s only 10:15 but she’s already thinking about sunset.
Narrow, no shoulder and a busy flow of cars had us wondering if we’d made the right decision? Then, we reached rolling countryside and traffic was replaced by small ups and downs. At 14 Ks we found a small store. Cat loaded up on lunch food while I stood the guard. The road widened a bit and the surface improved. We sat in the sun at 1:00 and picnicked.
The scenery is strictly grassland, brown grassland this time of year. It reminds us of South Dakota grazing land. Cattle are scattered in small herds trying to find sustenance in the dry stubble.
It was 5:00 PM when we rolled into Kroonstaad. Signs advertising the Arcadia B&B lured us along until we saw Hotel Hacienda. It’s looks were a turn off, concrete block in pinks and gray that betray it’s age. However, it is here and the Arcadia is still and unknown. We tried to ask about the Arcadia at the nearby Service Station but couldn’t get passed the language gap. So it was the age dated Hacienda.
Cat told them that she wanted a shower but the double rooms only have baths. The thought of taking the bikes to the room was another stumbling block. I was asking how to get to the Arcadia B&B when they decided that we could stay in the old section that hasn’t been rehabbed and they’d give us a key to a single room where we could shower. Awe, the old adage, “All things are possible, just ask”. Well it was ASK then THREATEN that got the job done, here.
We took turns going down to our other room for showers then went to dinner. The service was good but then we were the only people in the restaurant. The food was great. For dessert, carrot cake, perfect!
May 3, 2004
Kroonstaad to Winburg
The day started cold, breakfast in the restaurant next to the pool. A little kid walked through one of the sliding doors. The kid was okay, but the window was gone and the wind knew it. Even sitting at the farthest table from the flapping drape was cold. The food was warm, we wolfed it down.
I stopped at the Service Station to give a guy we met last night one of our cards. We spoke different languages but communicated just fine. He is the kind of person that you feel you know just by looking in their eyes. A firm handshake and we were on our way with a new friend in our lives.
The cold continued through the entire day. We slipped our arm and leg warmers on and kept them on. Kroonstaad is much larger than we thought. Cycling through was tougher than we thought it would be due to thick traffic and narrow streets. Asking our way, we found Sweet ‘n’ Salty, a candy store with Internet connection. I want to check because we’re hoping that Don and Betty the couple who owned The Golden Spider Web back in Zimbabwe have sent us a message. We hope to meet them in Bloemfontein.
The couple that own the place, Frans and Chantelle, asked about the map on our jackets. Once they heard the story they wanted a picture. I took one of them then he had us pose with the bikes. He feels that the local newspaper will like to hear of us. We told him that we usually don’t try to get press and have learned that it’s not easy to do. By the way, no message from Don and Betty.
Here we were again, after 10:00 AM and headed out into an unknown 100 kilometers. Cat made a great decision, we pulled up at Pick and Pay for some lunch things. It was a long pull up out of town and the traffic was dense. Once we broke free of city the road flattened somewhat and the flow of traffic diminished. It was so desolate that at times we wished there was a little more traffic.
Ventersburg is the halfway point of today’s ride. It’s also little more than a crossroads but both sides of N1 are lined with Service Stations, Mini Marts and a few fast food places. We chose Speers, what we consider an upscale fast food place. Our order of burgers and fries was taken at the counter then delivered to the table by Mabel. She’s out going in almost a happy go lucky way. She joked about our jackets then became so interested that when we finished eating I asked her to pose for a picture. She insisted on coming out front with the bikes. Then, she chose to pose on board Cat’s bike. She’s the kind of people that make these days, this trip, memorable!
The afternoon was a series of ups and downs through fields of brown. The sun was trying to slip away as we entered Winburg. It was ask, ask, ask time and our first ask was a young girl. She pointed ahead and indicated that we should go ahead then to the right. We started off when the young boy, her brother J C caught us on his bike. He called out, “Follow me”, and raced off down the street. We had a hard time keeping up but did roll up to the door of the Winburg Guesthouse close behind him. It was definitely dusk and we were definitely cold and tired.
Jock checked us in. When Cat asked how many people live here he said, 2,500. We both thought it looked bigger and she told him so. Then he astounded us by saying, “Well there are about 30,000 blacks living here, too”. He added that some of them are out of work as the mine laid off 1,500 today. Not like a prejudiced statement, not with malice, just a statement. He doesn’t seem to think the way that we do. He’s still talking talk and thinking thoughts that were the norm here, before 1994. Some things die, hard!
The place, like Jock’s thinking, is age dated. Our room is large and has a shower. Too bad, it has 3 single beds. Well, after todays ride it won’t make much difference. The owner’s Sister-in-Law served dinner. The owner is a local farmer, his brother and wife have just begun running the place. He bought the Hotel down the street that’s been closed for several years. They’re re-building it and will soon have two places here. The Brother-in-Law is a cowboy. He has lived in Texas and loves Country Music. He has a huge collection of C&W CDs. The food was less than good, pasta like we’ve never seen pasta before. Sort of a catsup sauce on over cooked spaghetti. To top it off, it was cold. Nice people but they have a long way to go in learning the Hospitality Profession.
We caught a movie in the room while huddled under all the blankets. Yes, no heat. They have an electric heater but no place to plug it in.
May 4, 2004
Winburg to Bloemfontein
A cold night followed by a cold day. Huddling under the weight of the pile of covers had us sweating while our noses were freezing. Breakfast was almost as uninteresting as dinner had been. The Cowboy and wife were cordial. When they asked how the food was we just smiled and nodded. Hopefully they’ll get some help in the food service business. A gal, Petro, seated across from us, introduced herself. She lives in Cape Town and is here with the Health Ministry, checking the hospital facility. She invited us to call when we get in and they, she and her husband, will give us a tour of the Cape. More hospitality.
The ride again is little ups and downs in grassy prairie. There are trees in some of the riverbeds but most of the scenery is grazing land and small herds of cattle. We’d picked up some meat and cheese in Winburg but the bakery hadn’t delivered bread yet. There is absolutely nothing in terms of stores, service stations or any other services along the road. We slipped past the tollgate un-noticed on the way out of town. The bread we bought two days ago was hard but better than none. We lunched under an underpass. At first we sat in the sun but its rays began to burn our faces. It’s great fun to get honks and waves from truck drivers now familiar with us.
The afternoon passed quickly, maybe due to the friendly motorists passing, honking, waving, flashing their lights and giving us the thumbs up? At last, at 15 Ks out we came upon a Service Station/Mini Market. Even the cold afternoon hadn’t taken our appetite for ice cream away. As we stood licking the cones several people gathered round and talked with us about travel, the world and George Bush. His ratings may be up at home but they’re in the basement here?
It was dusk as we rolled into Bloemfontein. A group of cyclists ending a day ride, maybe a club, passed and waved from across the road. We’ve seen so few that it was a memorable moment. We almost thought of chasing them to get ideas for places to stay. The friendly Holiday Inn sign lit up as the sun sank out of sight. Our concern about the price of a room disappeared when the nice lady informed us that they were fully booked. They were busy checking others in but she took time to call another Hotel. They too had no vacancy. She tried another then another with the same result. We were beginning to panic when she said, “Bring your things in, we’ll make room for you”. Bless her and the Holiday Inn. It is cold, dark and foreboding looking outside. She couldn’t guarantee that we could stay tomorrow but at least we were at home for the night.
They don’t have an elevator and our room, the only room available in town as far as we know, is on the second floor. We got the bikes to the bottom of the stairs and stood staring at the obstacle. I asked the young guy out front to help. He took one look and said, “You must keep these in our luggage room.” Now that sounded like a good plan.
We’ll take tomorrow off and may have to move anyway.
During the process I met a guy, Abbey who asked what we were doing with bicycles in the Hotel. He works and travels with a firm called Eskom. As we talked and I told him of our web site he volunteered to do, “You Must Be Crazy” in his native tongue, Sesotho or South Sotho.
Mpeg 035 “You Must Be Crazy”, Sesotho
There’s nothing like a HOT SHOWER after a cold days ride. The restaurant here is called MacRib. They have a great buffet spread. The room filled I with giant guys as we loaded our plates. They’re Rugby Players, here for a tournament. So, that’s the reason the town’s booked? A mountain of food, at least as much as any of the huge guys ate, ice cream for dessert then, off to bed.
May 5, 2004
Day of Rest in Bloemfontein
Trying to escape the Hotel atmosphere and cost of breakfast, we went searching. A big sign on the sidewalk tugged at us. Everything it promised may have been true except the part that said, “Open”. The young guy who greeted us cheerfully said, “Sit down, have some coffee, the chef will start cooking in 30 minutes”. We were now becoming too hungry to wait and I never drink coffee before eating my fruit. Couldn’t get out of sequence you know. Then, across the street we stumbled upon a homey looking place. The waitress, Melize, made us feel at home, too. And then came the best part, waffles. Waffles with maple syrup and bananas, wow, delicious.
As we were having our second cup of coffee Clive came over and opened a conversation. He and his wife Denine own the place. They’ve just opened it a month ago. He’s been farming but lost interest and sold the farm. The restaurant is Denine’s baby, he is dreaming of starting a “Quick Lube” place. You know, where you drive in and they change the oil, lube and check the water, tire pressure etc. Maybe even a car wash. He say’s that there are none here. Sounds like the farmer will make a good entrepreneur? Actually aren’t farmers the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit?
One of our goals for today is to have Cat’s ears checked. Her hearing is diminished to that point that she can’t hear low sounds including trucks bearing down on us. Clive took it upon himself to guide the two cycling Yanks. The Medical Clinic we’d heard of at the Hotel turned out to be the Emergency Room of the Hospital. We shook hands and wished Clive well in his new endeavors then entered the corridors of Medicine. It was the same process, checking in, as any hospital we’d been in, any where in the world. Once the paperwork was out of the way we were seated and waited.
The facility is very modern. The Doctor, a woman, took one look and confirmed my suspicions, earwax. She turned the operation over to a nurse who brought the tray of warm water and wicked looking syringe in. I raised the camera and she said, “Pictures of employees and equipment of the Hospital are prohibited”. Though it didn’t make sense I did sneak one of Cat and the syringe. (Strange rule, eh? Fist time we’ve heard that one?) Both ears flushed clean and a prescription for drops, we were out the door for 200 Rand, less that $40 in less than 40 minutes.
The Internet shop in the Big Mall didn’t speak AOL. I went back to the room and our keyboard, Cat found another at The Waterfront, a shopping center on a lagoon. She cranked out 3:45 of reading and writing messages.
Dinner in the downstairs diner, again. Tonight they had a veggie buffet. Cat went for that, I stuck with lamb and the trimmings. CNN for dessert then sleep, sleep, sleep.
May 6, 2004
Day Off in Bloemfontein
Now that we’re back in Big Mac territory we’ve talked about breakfasting there. In my single days I used to get and Egg McMuffin with juice and coffee. I’d have the juice with the egg and 1 side of the muffin then put jam on the other and drink my coffee. You know, that thing I have about the order of food thing.
The budget idea was blown from the start. The picture of the breakfast deal had a cup juice included. The clerk said that we could have juice or coffee but not both. I couldn’t believe it, the picture had all the items and the sign said that coffee was included. He insisted and persisted until Cat stepped in. She hates conflict this early in the morning. I hate wrong, even if the wrong is not a very big deal.
So, we ordered the deal and paid extra for the coffee. I was as steamed as the coffee. (McDonalds serves hot coffee, remember the 105-degree lawsuit, where the woman took a sip, burned her lip and dropped the cup into her lap? How could you forget a million dollar award? Only in California”!) I don’t give up easily, a guy oozing with authority came in then took paperwork and sat at a table in the patio. I took my argument to him. Yes, he was the manager and yes the picture does lead you to believe that the juice is included, Big Mac knows it’s misleading and they’re changing the picture later this week. So, we had an explanation but no offer to vindicate?
I couldn’t leave it at that so I pointed out the picture they portray as the original McDonald’s in Indiana or somewhere. I pointed it out and told him that I used to drive through the ORIGINAL McDonald’s in San Bernardino, California. He squirmed under the pressure of two incorrect signs in one morning but said he’d look into it. It was obvious that he didn’t believe me but then, who cares. I know whether he and all the other Big Mac’ers do or not. I think Cat was a little embarrassed.
Still hungry we stopped at a nice looking Coffee place and had muffins and real lattes. When added together the costs and found that we could’ve had the big buffet or breakfast with Clive for about the same? Sometimes a bargain really isn’t, is it?
We also dropped our dirty laundry off on the way to the Internet Shop. More new messages, more joy answering our trail of friends around the world. Walking back we picked up picnic goodies then went into a big department store called Kloppers. We bought an extra Memory Stick for the new camera and some CDs. At the check stand we remembered that Cat needs a flashlight to replace the one left back in Guinea Bissau. The gal there stacked the things aside and pointed to the second floor. A helpful fellow led us to the shelf and recommended one, their best seller.
What a nice guy, Wouter Klopper, one of the brothers that own this huge store. We felt sure that it had to be a chain but no, it’s a one of a kind. Their Father started it and they have nurtured and grown it into this one of a kind super store. He was completely intrigued with our trip. As we paid he walked up and handed Cat a special tool. One of those “All in One” things with screwdrivers, wrench, even little pliers. This is another of the on going examples of South African warmth, sharing and hospitality.
I journalized the afternoon away. Cat worked our e-mail messages down to 2, an all time record for us, then picked up the laundry.
Another Big Buffet dinner then a pack-a-thon in preparation for morning departure.
May 7, 2004
Bloemfontein to Edenburg
Loading up on calories, we hit the Big Breakfast Buffet. Though the price is Big, too, Cat did snipe some meat and cheese for lunch. It was 9:00 AM as we pushed out of the driveway and into the steady stream of traffic. Bloemfontein is a big city, some 380,000 or so people and we feel like most of them are on the street this morning. The route we’d mapped out changed then changed again. Not because we felt we were choosing a better one but because we found ourselves lost.
Searching for lunch food, we pulled into a small shopping center. Cat went looking while I stood the guard. A couple of guys seated nearby kept eyeing me. Thoughts of robbery crossed my mind then one walked over and asked where we were going. No robber, Chris and his brother built and own Blackwood Crossing Center. Though they just completed 18 months ago it’s now 100% occupied. We filled him in on our trip then talked real estate. They owned and operated a chain of ice cream stores sold them and began buying properties and developing. This project was first presented to the City in 1992. After 8 years a scaled down version was finally approved. Geez, that sounds like California.
The store had no lunchmeat or cheese. The only thing we got there was good conversation. As we were leaving Chris urged us to stop in Edenburg at the Butchery and say hello to Marcus. The Butcher there also owns the Liquor Store here.
Onward, the road divided and expanded to 4 lanes. At a service station stop we found toasted sandwiches and bought a handful for the road. Flat, the scenery is becoming more and more like dessert. This is the beginning of the Great Karoo. This is the start of the wide-open spaces that we’ve been warned about. We lunched on the roadside again watching and waving to cars and trucks.
Our relatively short ride had us in Edenburg by 3:30. Marcus wasn’t in at the Butchery but we did meet his wife. She outlined the route to the Country Lodge. It’s a simple place in a small town. Anita had us push around back, through a courtyard, over a little narrow bridge then into the hallway. It was a lift up over steps and scoot around narrow hall corners but the room was okay. We had our own bath and the water is hot.
No TV in the room but they do have one in the living room area. We showered then Cat huddled next to a space heater and we sipped a glass of wine while and watched CNN. A couple of big Afrikaner guys, former rugby players who had seen the game in Bloemfontein, sat and talked next to us. They are interested in a Soccer game coming up at 7:00 PM. We relinquished the TV but were ready for dinner, anyway.
Funny, even in these small towns or maybe especially in these small towns, there are no black people in the bar or restaurant? Well, there’s only one other person in the restaurant tonight, Charles.
Quiet at first, we didn’t get into conversation until after soup was served. Then he really wanted to talk with us. He’s 80 years old and an accountant. He’s just finished a 10-day holiday in George, on the coastal Garden Route. He’s a widower yet at his age, he still has clients and works daily. Interesting, he tells us details of his drive including time, kilometers per hour and distances. I told him that my Father, also named Charles, was an accountant. I told him that most people called my Dad Charley or Chuck but his mother, my Grandma, always called him Charles. This Charles said that the only person he ever allowed to call him Chuck was his Australian Brother-in-Law.
A wonderful evening, a terrific guy, we could have talked all night but fatigue was setting in on all of us. We decided to continue the conversation over breakfast.
May 8, 2004
Edenburg to Springfontein
Charles was already at his table when we came in for breakfast. We took the same seats nearby and resumed conversation. I took a picture of him for our memory and the girls serving wanted one, too. Susan and Michele got dinner for us and now they’re already back, already cheerful and already serving, this morning. Susan was so excited when she looked at it that she took the camera and disappeared into the kitchen. The howls of laughter and joy set the mood for the morning. Of course they wanted a copy and we had to try to explain that they would find it on the Internet. They have herd of Internet but never tried it. They’ll have to go to Bloemfontein to give it a try, there’s no connection here.
Big News In Small Places
As we ate Anita came in holding a newspaper and said, “You’re a bit famous here, now”. Frans had been successful in getting an article in. Anita read it to us, it’s written in Afrikaans. Charles was quite intrigued and studied it carefully. When I asked for his name he took our little notebook and wrote, “Good Luck and good fortune for your future travels”, then he signed it, “Charles, 80 years old, Bloemfontein.
The consensus around the breakfast tables was that we should take the old road today. They say that it’s slightly shorter, less traveled and more scenic. After the same struggle getting the bikes back outside we stood and talked with Charles and Anita. He’s driving a 20-year old BMW 530. It was his wife’s car and only has only been driven 30,000 Ks (18,600 miles) since they bought it new. Like Charles, it’s a well- preserved classic.
The surface of the old highway is rough, broken up and patched. As for the scenery, it’s pretty much the same as that of the N1. In fact we can see the N1 off to our left 2 or 3 kilometers, most of the time. It parallels the tracks and we did have a freight train pass by. “Whoopee” as Cat’s Dad Earl would say. With virtually no traffic and flat topography we bumped right along. The map has a mark for a town called Krugers. We wanted a picture to send to my Sister, Joan Kruger and her family. Anticipation waned as we rode, there was never a sign, either of buildings or any other thing to identify the spot where it may have once been?
Meshack, Cycles and Speaks Xhosa
Trompsburg is our halfway point. We found a store, bought lunchmeat and cheese then picnicked at a table across the street. Apre lunch we used the toilet at the Service Station. I talked with a young guy, Meshack, while Cat was busy there. He works with Telkom, the telephone company, and has for more than 25 years. He’s been married 25 years, too, and has two kids a boy 23 and girl 20. He’s also a strong cyclist. He and a group ride here and back from Springfontein, where he lives, almost every weekend. Meshack’s ancestry is Xhosa. They’re one of the tribes that click their tongues when they speak. Though we had a slight communication problem he did “You Must Be Crazy” for our Languages of The World.
Meshack represents modern Africa. His job is technical, he makes pretty good money. He has two cars, a Mercedes and Toyota as well as a Company Bakkie. He’s raced bicycles and still loves to ride. I invited him to join us tomorrow when we leave Springfontein. He looks much younger than his 42 years. What a bright, likable guy!
"You Must Be Crazy," Xhosa
Tired of the bumps, we rode the 2 Ks back to the N1 and resumed our trek on the wide, smooth shoulder. Yes, there is much more traffic but we have our space and like the recognition from our friends in the big trucks. The afternoon ride was flat and fast, well, fast for us. We took the off ramp for Springfontein but found that we were still at least 2 Ks from town. A motorcyclist was pulling out of the Service Station as we passed. He called out then rode to us and asked where we were headed. He, Conrad, is from Cape Town. He owns a Computer Company and does contract work for larger firms. He’s riding his big BMW bike to Bloemfontein to teach a class. When he asked, “Why are you doing riding bikes” we answered, “Just for fun”. He sort of feigned shock and said, “You call that FUN”? It was good for a laugh but then, there are days when we wonder the same.
Springfontein is smaller and less developed than we had thought it would be. There are signs for B&Bs but we felt that we should find the Hotel because we want dinner and breakfast. Saturday afternoon and the shops and markets were closed. We came upon a Policeman and asked. He informed us that there isn’t a Hotel, only a Guest House here. We followed his direction and easily found the place. It was run down looking and the small crowd of Afrikaners inside the bar were boisterous. The bad news, their restaurant is closed and she didn’t know if the other one in town would be open tonight?
As we stood pondering Meshack pulled up. Being a native here, and feels that we should follow him to a B&B. He says it’s much better and they will serve dinner, too. We followed but when he pulled up on front of what looked like a private home. He rang the bell at the gate but no one answered. He shouted and rang and finally roused a lady from inside. Yes, they do have a room and we’d be the only guest. Yes, they do served dinner. Best of all, yes they do have a bottle of nice white wine. We were in business, we were home for the night.
The place is called The Springfontein House. It’s very nice, our room is separated from the main house. The best feature of all for Cat is the little wall heater. The owner is away, in Port Elizabeth, attending a meeting of B&B owners. The two women are nervous and call him on his cell phone almost every time we ask a question. They are gracious and want to help any way they can but we hate it when they call me “Master”. Cat thinks it’s a form of courtesy, I believe it’s a hold over from the old days. Uncomfortable as it was, it may have been more difficult to transcend the language problem if we tried to explain my feelings so we let it lie.
They served a very nice white wine and cooked a wonderful meal for Master and Madam. We followed it with a package of cookies and TV in the living room. Local TV only but the big news was that Brenda Fassie, a South African singer/songwriter was near death. She fell into a coma 3 days ago. In fact one newspaper had reported her death 2 days ago. She is more than a singer, she’s an icon of the anti-apartheid days. She’s a strong proponent of both Human Rights and Women’s Rights.
Sunday, May 9, 2004
Springfontein to Colesberg
Brenda Dies on Dali’s 100th
We tuned in CNN and were saddened to hear that Brenda Fassie did give in and take her last breath, last night. Alas Brenda we hardly knew you and now you’ve gone. We also learned that today would have been Salvador Dali’s 100th birthday. Maybe these 2 artists will meet in the hereafter? If there is a here after for artists? (We did hunt down and buy Brenda’s CD, “The Best of Brenda and the Big Dudes” all of her early hits.)
We invited Meshack to have breakfast and ride out with us. He seemed anxious, we waited then enjoyed a great breakfast. He was a “No Show”. Too bad, we wanted to spend time with him. We rationalized that it’s Mother’s Day, his wife probably said, “You go off with 2 Americans on Mothers Day and you might as well keep right on going”!
Broken Seat Post, A Sinking Feeling
We rolled out on the old highway and enjoyed more prairie and some trees with autumn leaves of gold and red. It was a beautiful sight on a beautiful morning. The road curves round and joins the N1. It was almost flat, we found a service station that had some meat pies. They were the main course for lunch. We came upon a huge road construction job. The N1 was reduced to 2 very tight lanes. We ate our pies while sitting on a guardrail. Lots of well-wishers, honking and waving as we ate, it was great. Cycling in the construction area was not that great. We started in dirt then had to cross a very narrow bridge. Lucky, we caught a lull in the lines of one-way traffic. It was back to the dirt then and a push up the steepest of it. Just before we crested the hill I began to sink back and down. I though the seat had come loose? I stood and pedaled to the hilltop.
Unbelievable, the seat post has broken off. I was able to slip the sleeve over the remaining post and we rode on. Sitting too low was tough on my knees but at least we were continuing onward. We rolled up and into Colesberg at 4:00 PM. Someone had recommended the Lighthouse Hotel. We parked the bikes on the street and I went in to check out a room. Small and old was the best descriptive. We might have taken the deal but the rooms are all up stairs, way up stairs.
The Lighthouse is a Guesthouse just down the street. We’d heard good things of it but again, it was slightly old fashioned and the room that Cat looked at was too small for both the bikes and us. The great gal manager, Ettorina decided that we should have a little house usually rented to families. (She and her two daughters are cyclists. They have just ridden a 30 K fun ride and loved it. Her husband, Riaan, says that he will by a cycle, a motorcycle, someday.) Plenty of room in this room but only a bath. She solved that one, too. There is a shower just around the corner that we decided would do just fine.
As the 4 of us talked a young girl pushing a stroller came in. She, Bianca, is the daughter of the woman that owns this and another Guest House. Her Dad died at age 60, just a year ago. Her Mom had decided to sell the 2 places when Bianca and her husband Brian volunteered to come work them. They and their 6-month-old daughter, Jodi, live in the attached house where Mom and Dad used to live.
A Sunday Cycle Fix
Ettorina and her husband, Riaan, who manages the Shell Service Station and Mini Mart, called around and found the brothers who work at the bicycle shop. They came by and picked up the broken seat. No way to fix it but they’ll try to find another post that’ll fit. Nice guys, to come out on a Sunday evening. They tried to force the larger of the 2 posts they brought along then asked if they could take the bike back to their shop. No problem.
While we were struggling with the bike Cat went in and talked with Ettorina. She was interested in Cat’s perspective of our trip and what she feels she’s gained from it. Once she heard how much both of us feel we’ve grown and learned she talked about her family and their life. Both she and Riaan were teachers but they completely burned out. Neither could face another class, another year of the same, same books and subjects. They work hard, the Afrikaner work ethic. They are just slightly above middle income. She helps manage the 2 Guest Houses, juggles keeping their house and keeping up with the activities their two daughters. She has a slight bend toward Religion. She took a bracelet off her arm and gave it to Cat. It says, “Africa 2 Chron. 7:14”, a Biblical Verse. She told Cat it means, “Leave evil behind and God will guide and bless you”.
We showered then walked to dinner at a place they call The Upstairs. You guessed it, it’s upstairs and has a balcony overlooking the main street. They offered us seating on it but when the sun went behind the mountain it was like someone turned on the air conditioning on an already cold evening. As w sipped a glass of wine and studied the menu a guy we’d seen at The Lighthouse came in. He stopped to talk then allowed us to buy him a beer. He, Fletch, has been in the South African Air Force for 11 years. Cat asked if he’s a pilot. His answer, “No, I’m the guy responsible for keeping them flying”.
The conversation helped us learn of the life of an average Afrikaner. He teaches classes but this trip is to learn. He’s been married for 8 years and has a 3 year-old daughter. They have a nice home in Louis Trichardt. He scoffed at the new name, Mokopane, and said that they should have left well enough alone. (The town has assumed an African name, like many others, since freedom in 1994.) It’s obvious that he’s proud of his family and work. We invited him to stop and visit us when he gets to California. He told us that he couldn’t see ever having enough money to get there. Our advice, as always, “Start Dreamin’”.
Fletch left us as dinner was served. We shook, he hugged Cat and we agreed that since he was leaving at 6:00 AM, we might miss him tomorrow. The food was really good and the wine was divine.
It was dark as we walked down the street. We were the only people there. The bike was sitting on the porch of our little house. The thick seat post had been filed and ground down then forced to fit. It was solid. We were ready for the road. While I put my bags back on Cat used Bianca’s computer to send a “Happy Mothers Day” message to her Mother.
Another Mothers Day with out our Moms. We should be with her next year!
May 10, 2004
Colesberg to Middleburg
Advice from Ettorina led us to the Bordeaux Coffee Shop for breakfast. The place is a great looking old house. It feels so California except for the temperature, it’s cold. Beyond that the service was slooow and the food, though good, was lacking in volume. Small portions led to an extra order and cost making it expensive, too. Other than that, we loved the place. (Yo, ho, ho)
Back at Lighthouse we talked with Bianca about the Guest House. We know it’s a tough business especially for a young, inexperienced couple. It was a big decision for them, giving up good jobs in marketing in Cape Town and moving to a small place like Colesburg. At the same time they decided to start their family, another big decision. Brian talked about the problems of maintaining a 120-year-old building. Bianca’s challenge is keeping the books and keeping cash flow moving in the right direction. Taking over a family business doesn’t guarantee success but it does mean hard work. They say that the trade off is raising their family in a small town. They’re both very bright, we think they’ll do well.
Colesburg’s main street climbs toward the church. We stopped there and Cat bought food for lunch while I stood the guard. Two young brothers approached, they were dirty and disheveled looking and I was sure they would beg. They just stood and stared, I asked if they went to school and the older said, “No”. They couldn’t or wouldn’t answer my question, why. I gave them our card and asked if they have used Internet. Again the elder spoke, “Yes, in school”. So, they have gone to school, maybe they’re out for vacation? Their look reminded me of my youth. Jerry, my brother, and I often looked like these boys. I told Cat that we took off our shoes when we got out of school for vacation and wore our rag tag cloths everyday, too.
Main Street circles round the church then really climbs. We huffed and puffed our way to the top while locals watched, seeming to enjoy our struggle. Health Zone, the Bike Shop/Weight Training store is at the top. We stopped to thank J. P. for taking time from his Sunday evening to fix the bike. He’s a nice, almost shy young guy.
It was now 10:00 AM as we faced up to Carlton Height, the up and over pass, ahead of us. At the summit we met Allan, Brenda, Boet and Norma, two couples about my age from Joburg, vacationing together. They’re doing it in the normal way, in what they call caravans. (We call them camp trailers.) They’ve been sharing holidays for more than 20 years. It all started when their kids were young. They’re grown now but these guys continue to enjoy each other and pulling their house along as they travel. This is quite typical back home, we never thought we’d see it here in Africa.
It was a long slow pull to the Carlton summit but we were able to cycle it. We took a few minutes to relax and eat there. The road is flat across the top then we enjoyed a long, fast downhill run. The final 30 kilometers flew past in just slightly over an hour.
A Day Off In The Great Karoo
A sign for Karoo Ouberg Executive Guest Lodge but it sounded too rich for us. We sought out the hotel. Cat stood the watch while I checked out the facility. The room is small and upstairs. The price is right but doesn’t include breakfast. We decided to look for a B&B. Cycling down the street we saw a couple but they looked fairly dismal. Then we came upon the Karoo, at the end of the street across from open space. The sign was gold on a white fence. We had to check it out. Okay, it’s a little over budget but includes a great breakfast according to Jenna, the girl working here. We took her deal.
As we pushed around the corner and onto the lawn toward the house Jenna introduced us to Alan, the owner. He and Jenna’s Mom were having tea. Somehow that seemed appropriate. The gardens are groomed and there are guinea fowl pecking around on the ground. It’s a house more than 100 years old. It’s been refurbished and is wonderfully furnished and feels like home. The room is spacious and we get CNN. We’re taking tomorrow off, it feel too good not to.
A wind down hour with a glass of wine, showers then off to dinner. They do cook here but you must reserve in advance. We decided to walk down the street to the Farmhouse Grill, another rebuilt old home. An enjoyable meal and we met the guys at the nest table. They are from Italy, all but Ari, he owns Gauteng Leather Works, the sheepskin leather tannery here. The Italians are his customers. He invited us to stop by for a tour of the tannery.
They were joined by Rhona, the girl friend of one of the Italians, one that lives here in Middleburg. Ari introduced us and told us that she rides bicycles, too. She was wearing exercise cloths. She said that she’d just led a Spinning Class. She’s beyond avid, she told us that when she was divorced she had to make a choice, depression and drink and drugs or exercise. She chose bicycle riding. She said, “Cycling is my life. I love my bicycle”!
Walking back to the Karoo was a walk back in time. The street lined with classic homes and trees dressed in autumn leaves. CNN and bed.
May 11, 2004
Day Off in Middleburg
It was cold during the night, almost freezing outside. We enjoyed the terrific breakfast while seated near the fireplace. It was a roaring fire and Cat needed it.
A walk though town then out to the Tannery. The air warmed as the sun climbed. We got in the gate and were escorted to the office. We had to wait for Ari then he was a lot less enthusiastic than he was last night. He did take us through his plant and warmed as he talked. They don’t actually tan the sheepskins here, they pickle them, seal them in barrels and ship to buyers, mainly in Italy. Ari did walk us through the process from grading the rough skins to washing and removing the wool. We did a short video of the process then he said, “Turn on your camera again”. I did and he added, “The best Sheepskin Leather in the World”! We must say, it was a pretty interesting tour.
Our walk back was interesting. We skirted the township housing and took pictures of local housing. Established older homes, newer additions and some under construction. I returned to The Karoo and our computer. Cat went to the Pharmacy, did a little more exploring then picked up picnic goodies.
When Cat returned we huddled under the covers. My feet were freezing and she was shivering. We watched TV for a while. The Chef, a woman, came knocking to see if we wanted to have dinner in. We passed because they had a fish dish and we wanted meat. When we told her that we were freezing she asked, “”Why don’t you turn the heat on”? Heat, what heat? She came in and pointed out the wall heater sort of hidden behind the desk. It wasn’t instant but we could feel a difference by the time we headed out for dinner.
Back to the Farmhouse, we had another great experience. Lamb Shanks for me and Fillet Mignon for Cat. The only thing missing was company. We were the only people in the place.
More CNN and early to bed.
May 12, 2004
Middleburg to Cradock
Cat congratulated us as she woke up, we’ve been on the road for 2 years and 1 month, today. Our room was almost too warm this morning. Breakfast was as good today as yesterday. We did have company, George and Susan, on holiday from Johannesburg. Also as we ate the Reporters from 2 of the tiny local newspapers came in. Alan had asked and we told him that if it had value for him we’d be glad to talk with them. We talked, Alan told them of our website. He asked if they had digital cameras, they both said it wouldn’t do any good, they didn’t have computers either. They took pics, so did we. It was kind of fun but we had to go.
Alan surprised us, he grabbed his bike and joined us actually guided us out of town. According to him there’s nothing between here and Craddock. We stopped at the grocery store and bought meat pies and soft drinks. He also pointed out both Rhinoceros and Table Mountains. He’d just climbed Table Mountain recently. He’s very active, hiking and cycling. It led to another of those emotional moments of parting.
We will note the difference we see in housing here. The old, classic homes are virtually all inhabited by whites. Blacks and Coloreds live on the edge of town. Their homes range from cement block and corrugated metal to newer but small block covered with stucco. Well, it did bring back the memory of Mark’s comment back in Mokopane that they’re adding 500 new homes to inventory, everyday in South Africa.
Riding the Karoo is pretty much riding desert. We did get pics of Rhino and Table Mountains. The road is a series of little ups and downs. We pulled one of the ups then pulled up roadside to eat our meat pies. The sun feels good. Sitting, enjoying it and the attention from passing drivers was motivating.
Onward, we were in our final 20 Ks when we met another cyclist. He was riding toward us, uphill and upwind. I called out but he just kept pedaling. We both called and he looked our way. He stopped, stood looking back at us then turned and crossed the road. Alex is headed toward Middleburg but we’re concerned that it is too far for him to ride today. What a strong minded and interesting person he is. He set us straight, yes he’s mentally handicapped but that doesn’t stop him from living. He has cycled thousands of kilometers around the Cape. He lives in Wildernes and attends school for the Handicapped. He printed his name and address in our book then his Mother and Father’s name, too. He included his ID number then signed the page. We stood and watched as he rode away. I had a lump in my throat, Cat was close to tears.
It was 5:00 PM and a downhill coast into Craddock as some young athletes jogged up the steep hill. The it was our turn, the main street took a turn for the up. Struggling upward, we spotted the Victoria Hotel. Maybe a sign? We had also been struggling, trying to decide where to stay. Cat went in then came back out and said that we would be staying in one of their renovated classic homes built in the 1800s. They line the street, just around the corner. We were assigned one called 40 Something. A living room, kitchen, bedroom and bath. Spacious, classic furnishings and within budget. The living room became our parking space. We still had room to sit and watch TV. No CNN or BBC, only local stations.
We cranked up the heater and walked to dinner at the Victoria. They serve a Buffet, not your normal Buffet but a gourmet Buffet. We’d heard that they would have an African music performance at 7:00. Late, we found that we’d missed them. Then as we started toward dinner seating they began singing, again. What a treat, three Xhosa women, Ayabulela, Bulelwa and Noneca who call their group Anointed. They’re basically a gospel group but have just completed recording a mix of standard music on CD. The only disappointment was that it’s not available, yet. (We hope you can sample their sound on our little video.) They’re entertaining and the sound of their voices are great.
Blake and Cheryl, a couple originally from Boston, Mass now living in Florida enjoyed the command performance with us. This is their second trip to South Africa. They were here 10 years ago just after the 1994 election. To them there seems to have been little change? Seated next to them, we talked throughout dinner. They have relatives in California so we made plans to see them after we return. They’re headed for Addo Elephant Park tomorrow.
Another couple that were there at the performance, Terry and Jackie are from England. They’re own a Travel Agency and are here doing a Familiarization Tour.
Dinner was wonderful and wonderfully filling. Back at 40 Something, we watched a special on the life of Brenda Fassie. Though we hadn’t heard of her she did achieve some International acclaim. From modest Township beginnings to South African Diva, she struggled with drugs and emotional problems. No matter her personal problems, she always worked promoting Human and Women’s Rights. I had moist eyes, Cat cried.
May 13, 2004
Cradock to Golden Valley
The Breakfast Buffet is included and good. More interesting conversation with Blake and Cheryl then of they went. We found hills and slow going. The weather is cool and windy. After a long pull to the top of the first mountain, out of town, Cat had a flat. I fixed it in the rain gutter. Not a great way to start a long cycling day.
Down from there then up and down and up. Sore up than down it seemed. As we slowly progressed the winds picked up and the clouds gathered. A lunch picnic on top of one of the hills found us huddling together in the now cold wind. We even donned our raincoats, for warmth. It was a quick 10-minute lunch stop then onward. We not only kept our raincoats on, we rode with the hoods up, under our helmets to keep our ears warm.
Our hope to find a place to stay in the town of Cookhouse went up in smoke. It’s a pretty good-sized place but no Lodging. No Hotel, Motel, Guest House or even room to rent. So, based on the advice of the woman in the Service Station combined with that of a guy out front, we set off for Golden Valley, another 9 kilometers down the road. The wind has slowed, the clouds separated but it’s still pretty cold.
Friends In Need, Friends Indeed!
Cat spotted the Golden Valley Hotel off to the right. A nice looking white 2 story with lots of cars parked out front. She worried that they may not have a room. I couldn’t imagine that, not on an off-season weeknight. Probably locals playing pool or a Rotary Club meeting, I suggested. WRONG, the place is fully booked. An Insurance Group from all over South Africa is meeting here. We couldn’t believe it. A young girl suggested that we could go on to Middleton. Then she and the manager, Lizette, discussed whether they were still taking guests as it is being converted to Youth Rehab Center. None of that mattered, it was now too dark and cold for us to attempt cycling another 20 kilometers.
We had begun thinking tent and wondering where we could set up when Lizette said, “You’ll stay at my house”. We were astounded, she has just worked 12 hours and now suggests that we come home with her? She even told us that she’d cook dinner. That goes beyond SA Hospitality, it’s unreasonable. We suggested we could eat here then sleep at her place. She worked it out, her husband Giel, a teacher, is attending a school function and will stop by later. In the mean time she’ll have a drink while we eat.
The food was good, the room cold. We turned on the flat wall heater nearby and Cat huddled up to it. We took essentials off the bikes and left them in the meeting room. Lizette’s daughter, Lize (Leeza) drove us to their house. They live on a farm, 2 Ks from the Hotel. It was a bumpy ride on the dirt road and dark as pitch when we pulled in. Lizette rolled in behind us and introduced us to Giel, her other daughter Jolene and nephew, Pieter. She went to work, getting the Braai going. She’s invited another regular Hotel guest who was shut out, over for dinner and a bed. I talked with Giel while Jolene played with her baby ducks. She keeps them in a box inside, out of the cold. She complained that her hand was sore. It was swollen and I remembered the advice of our friend, Dr. Banman. I said, “Our Doctor told us the best way to take swelling down is R I C E. Before I could explain Pieter said, “Rest, ice, compression and elevation”. I couldn’t believe that he would know about this. The others were impressed. He dismissed it by simply saying, “We studied it in First Aid class”.
Cat went to a warm bath. Giel told of their lives. He and Lizette have only been married for a year. She told us earlier that she’d been married previously, a couple of times. They started with little and are struggling to survive financially. He said that teaching is a good life but doesn’t pay well.
Cat left the bathroom and Jolene went to bathe. She came out and complained that there was no warm water. Giel told her to take a quick splash bath. He explained that the water heater doesn’t recover very fast. Cat had inadvertently used up all the hot. I decided not to splash in cold so went to bed with out a bath.
The room was comfortable but cold. We used all the heavy layers of blankets and huddled. We talked about whether we would or could be this generous? The decision, as we drifted off to sleep, was that we’d have to try when we get back home.
May 14, 2004
Golden Valley to Paterson
Lizette was to awaken us at 6:00 AM so that we could ride with her when she goes to work. We were already awake and moving around when she knocked. It was still dark and very cold. Giel and the girls were up and readying for school. The old car sputtered and backfired and Lizette apologized as we bumped along the dirt road. I told her that no one could understand starting over better than Cat and I. That was our plight when we first met.
Lizette made a pot of coffee while we re-packed the bikes. She serves a wholesome breakfast, Cat hovered next to the heater as we ate. We were ready to go by 7:30 but chose to wait out the sun and a little warmth. At 8:30 Lizette joined us out front, we gave hugs and thanks for her exceptional hospitality and friendship. (We offered but she refused to accept money.) Ernest, one of the Insurance guys, took a picture of the three if us then we rolled off and she went back to work. She’s acting Hotel and Restaurant Manager this weekend. The owner, John the Brit, is away. She and Giel will sleep over, escape daily life and have a little pretend second honeymoon. What nice people they are!
The flat began to wrinkle, we crawled up a long steep then flew down into then past Middleton. We considered stopping for a snack but it was too early and we were on a roll, up and away from town. We had picked up a couple of pre made sandwiches at the little store as we left Golden Valley. Onward, then at the top of another pull, a car van pulled up behind us and began flashing its lights. I recognized the driver, Alan from The Karoo Lodge. We pulled up and talked. He’s headed for Port Elizabeth to watch his son’s Rugby game. His school is league leader and his son is working toward a sports scholarship in Rugby. He told us that George and Susan, a couple we’d met briefly at The Lodge, were also coming and they had a surprise for us.
Alan hurried on and we continued our ups and downs. As we neared the top of another tough climb a car began to honk and pulled past then over in front of us. It was George and Susan, they brought sports drinks called Naartjie, for us. We stood and talked, he works with the Telephone Company. He said, they break the equipment or it wears out and I fix it. She works with Regional Government. They’re on a driving holiday to the Garden Route. More wonderful folks, doing nice things for people they hardly know.
We lunched, sitting in the grass roadside at the top of the next hill. Our sandwiches went well with the Naartjie. Still a little windy but warmer now, in the sun. The toughest ride and push of the day was Olifantskop Pass. (Elephants Pass) It’s a long and often steep road, up the mountain. Even the trucks had to grind down to low gear as they crawled up.
Finally, at the summit, we began a fairly long downhill sweep then crossed flats and turned across the N10 and into Paterson. Not too much there. Searching for a room and wine, the clerk at the grocery store said that we’d find both across the highway in Sand Flats. The Liquor Store, Artists Shop and Sand Flats B&B make up Sand Flats and the same couple, Rudy and Denise, owns them all. John at Golden Valley had called and reserved a room. We were paranoid after last nights “No Vacancy” in Golden Valley. This is Friday, what if they were full, would we be lucky enough to meet another Lizette? The reservation was unnecessary, we were the only guests.
The hot shower felt good, especially for me since it was my first in 2 days. Yes, they had a good bottle of white wine. Lammince, a young girl from Holland working here, asked if we wanted to eat in the Restaurant or the small room off the bar. When I asked the difference she said, “You’ll be alone in the dining room”. I looked at the room near the bar and told her it would be great if she could fire up the fireplace. She stammered a bit, something like they hadn’t planned on a fire, then she said, “Yes, I make a fine fire for you”.
Steak, Macaroni and Cheese then another glass of wine. The conversation at the bar was interesting when they broke away from Afrikaans, into English. We could hear them but were alone with our roaring fire that brought a glow and warmth to the little room. It was a fine fire and a fine evening.
No CNN or BBC, in fact, no TV in the room. So, it was early to bed.
May 15, 2004
Paterson to Port Elizabeth
Rudy served a wonderful breakfast of eggs, ham and sausage and potatoes, perfect fuel food. Again, the flat didn’t last long and it was all ups and downs again. The air continued to feel chilled but the landscape began to change, the brown giving way to farm fields of green. In fairness, it began to be more down than up as we rolled down toward the coast. Nearing sea level, N10 merges into N2. We soon spotted Colchester, Sundays River and the Indian Ocean.
South Africa Will Organize the 2010 World Cup!
Down into the village and to a Service Station travel center. The restaurant was warm, we leaned the bikes outside the window then ate and relaxed. In the midst of our sandwich, they broke into the Soap Opera on the TV to announce the decision for the Country that will host the Soccer World Cup Games in 2010. The room was silent as the Federation President pulled the paper from an envelope. He said “The 2010 World Cup Games will be organized by --- “ then he pulled the paper up from the envelope and it said, South Africa. “At the same moment he shouted, “South Africa”. The few people here and the crowd on Television went crazy. Funny, we have been hearing about the competition for the games and began to hope S. A. would get it. Now, it was almost an emotional moment for us. As though we’re from South Africa. I decided to celebrate with a cup of coffee but they had just poured the last drop. The waitress assured us she’d have fresh in a few minutes then rushed off and forgot it. With about 50 Ks to go, I dropped the coffee idea, we paid up and pedaled.
The ride was slightly up out of Colchester then fairly flat. The big challenge became road construction. About 10 Kilometers of it as they work to build a divided highway. We cycled in the lanes that had just been paved but not opened to traffic. They gave way to compacted dirt and gravel that then gave out entirely. We found ourselves struggling on narrow or no shoulder and in heavy traffic. Once beyond that we were trapped on a freeway, a busy freeway. Okay, we can do it, we don’t like it but we’ve done it before however, not at rush hour in a large city. There seemed to be no alternative so we ducked our heads down, gritted our teeth and rode. The worst, as always, was the on and off ramps. Our decision to find a surface street came at the turn off that a disabled truck chose simultaneously. He was limping along tight against our shoulder.
Rather than compete we pulled up and let him pass. He drove slowly on, lights flashing, then stopped and began to back up. Again, we pulled over to see what he was up to. His assistant was guiding him back. We asked direction and he said they were backing up on the off ramp to get off, too. We watched them struggle then a car with mechanic onboard pulled up. The driver jumped down and talked with them then turned his attention toward us. He, Swiphiwe, told us that they’d blown 3 tires and hit the guardrail trying to get the 26-wheeled rig stopped. The tires were fresh but re-caps. After complaining about having just bought them he told us that they knew of us from other drivers. A picture then we pulled around him and on to the street below.
Cuan had insisted that we talk with his Mom and Dad who live here in Port Elizabeth. They know someone with a B&B. We stopped at a service station and called them. Jeanette, the Mom, answered and told us we were on track, just keep riding and call again when we get further along toward town. Doing as we were told, we stopped again in half an hour at a Shopping Center and called. She gave us the name, First Avenue Lodge and its address, “Just keep going straight until you find First Avenue”, she told us.
We were on oceanfront with lawns, strip centers and a pier. It felt like Ventura in a way. Without problems, we found First Ave and Denise, the owner of the Lodge. She only had a room for tonight. Disappointed, we told her that we needed a rest and wanted to stay 3 nights. She studied her reservations again then re-confirmed the bad news. When we asked about another place she could recommend she asked if we would like to look at her cottage, across the street. Its tucked in behind her house, Cat walked over and came back smiling. Denise was apologetic and offered the place to us for the same price as a small room in the main house. Then discounted it by the price of the breakfast when Cat told her we’d love to just relax, cook in and hide out.
The bikes lay in repose in our living room. Besides the living room with couch and TV, we had a kitchen, breakfast bar, bathroom with shower and nice bedroom. The piece de resistance was CNN and BBC! We were at home in PE.
Rather than tell me how to find the grocery store, Denise insisted on driving me. The center’s only about 3 blocks and has 2 great stores. I found chicken for dinner and lots of fruit and muffins for breakfast. Cat unpacked and set us up for housekeeping. Salad, pasta that we had on board was combined with the chicken, bread and wine. Feasting at the coffee table, we watched a movie. Life is good. Several times we’ve wondered if taking the extra 5 or 6 days to see the Garden Route would really be worth it. Tonight, it felt like the best part of our African Adventure. We were at home.
Sunday, May 16, 2004
Day of Rest in PE
Fresh fruit, muffins and coffee, just like a normal day at home. Cat asked Denise if there was a Laundromat nearby and she told her to use the washer here. Another great deal for us. Then another bonus, when we asked about an Internet Café Denise offered us the use of her computer. This is another of extreme SA Hospitality!
Only 50 Years since Brown vs. Segregation?
Today is the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court Decision, Brown vs. Segregation. Imagine, only 50 years ago in the good ole U, S of A, black kids in the southern states finally were allowed to attend public schools? Well, it wasn’t as easy as that and the TV here would play scenes of white people jeering, pushing and threatening the kids as they arrived for their first day at the “Whites Only” school. There is a lot of similarity between the footage of riots here at that same time but it would take another 40 years before Apartheid would give way to the sanity of a Rainbow Nation.
I took a turn on the computer then Cat took over and I went back to our little house and worked on the journal. We lunched on leftovers then walked along the Promenade and beach. There were several Sail Surfers taking advantage of the constant wind. (Many had told us that PE was always windy and today was living up to that reputation.) We walked on to the market and bought lamb, pumpkin and pasta for tonight’s dinner.
Cat pulled some rice out of our bags because it sounded good with the lamb. When it hit the hot water little black bugs began to swim. It must have been with us on the bikes since last year? Maybe longer? So, we ended up with lamb, pasta, squash and wine, fantastic. Another movie then late to bed!
May 17. 2004
Day Off in PE
Another “just like at home breakfast” spiced up with news form CNN. My job this morning is to get to FedEx and pick up our package from LandRider with a pair of fresh, spare AutoShifters. Again, when I asked Denise for a phone book to call them she offered to drive me there to pick it up. She said that she had to go that way, anyway. Cat organized the bags while we went for the parts. I got back just in time for our meeting with Cuan’s family. Jeanette, the Mom, Juliet his sister and Shawn, his brother-in-law. Cuan’s Dad has a standing golf game on Mondays so he couldn’t join us. They pulled up right at noon.
Lunch at The Oyster Catcher, an ocean front place. A good view, great food and a getting to know each other conversation full of laughs. Shawn is a musician so we talked music. He’s well known and has played guitar with some big names in Rock ‘n’ Roll. On the way out I took a photo of Hamish, our server. He’s wearing a shirt that extols the sexual values of eating oysters. It was 3:00 PM when they reluctantly dropped us back at our little home. We hugged, did the cheek, cheek kiss and promised to see each other, somewhere, sometime.
Finish packing and re-packing the bags getting ready to roll then we put a big box together to mail home. Cat mailed it and picked up a few groceries for our bags. She also found a Pizza Place that delivers. I typed then used Denise’s phone to call Ema in Zimbabwe to reassure her and Pat that we’d like to use the flat in Cape Town. She’s offered it for only 200 Rand per day. (Only $30 US per day for a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, fully furnished place.) So, we’ll have our own house in Cape Town, too.
We had our salad, Pizza was delivered and we feasted. The wine was fine and another movie filled the night for us.
May 18, 2004
Port Elizabeth to Jeffery’s Bay
One last breakfast in the B&B, good food and met a nice couple from Plettenberg Bay, here for a golfing holiday then off to Addo Elephant Park. Cat enjoyed talking the golf and elephants with them, nice people. Goodbyes to Denise and a photo session then down to the beach then a backtrack toward the N2 and heavy traffic. A stop at the same Market where we called Jeanette to pick up picnic supplies then on toward the freeway.
The weather has turned slightly to cloudy and cool. The wind began trying to live up to the PE prophecy. We pushed a lot of the main street due to traffic. Once on the freeway headed toward the N2, we found ourselves in nerve racking, cycling chaos. Cars and trucks were coming at us from all angles. Too many on and off ramps, too many directional signs. Easy for a cars, but a tough route for bikes to follow.
We rode through some bridge construction that slowed traffic and left us in the stream with out a shoulder to go to. A traffic fender bender accident then hitch hikers lined the shoulder. A helicopter hovered over us for a while. We chuckled thinking that we were probably being talked about on TV or Radio on a traffic show. “We have a couple of crazy bicycle riders out here, on the N2, slowing traffic. Who are they, what the heck are they doing here”? Well, the drivers, especially the trucks, seem to be cheering us on when not challenging. Almost 2 hours have past since we rode up onto the freeway. The countryside has been a fight to get to, we’re glad to see it.
Ups and downs along the coast and lunch at roadside. We had to leave the N2 and cycle around St. Francis Bay to get into JefferysBaai. We just rode straight in along the main street. It was down, across a river then up, into town. A nice looking building drew us in but the rate threw us back out and across the street to The Beach Cabana, a Motel 6 kind of place but….they gave us a room downstairs for the bikes and one up with a shower. We took the deal.
The couple, Jeff and Linda, who own the place were helpful. We asked about the Chinese Restaurant we’d seen on the way in and they recommended it. Cat showered then walked for Chinese take out. We ate Chinese and watched local TV.
Easy to get to early bed!
May 19, 2004
Jeffery’s Bay to Tsitsikamma Lodge
78 Kilometers on Bike, 24 on Pickup
Jeff and Linda, Innkeepers in Jeffery’s Bay. They were farmers in Zimbabwe, gave it up and took on a farm, lodge and game park combination. Tried to immigrate to Australia but one member of the family was disallowed? Now all their eggs are in the Inn basket. Speaking of eggs, their daughter served a good breakfast. She seems to have a slight handicapped, similar to Alex. We wondered if this was the reason the Aussies had turned them down? Pretty lame if it is!
The road was an up hill struggle away from the beach. It was a push getting up the steep street out of town. The weather has cooled and the wind began to whip it up. We stopped at the ramp taking us back onto the N2 and pulled our hoods up to keep our ears warm. We wondered if we’d made a mistake? Maybe we should have taken the old road? We could see it below and it was flat.
Jeff told us that the road for the first 75 Km was flat. We found a constant flow of ups and downs. Fairly fast downs into the wind, and very slow, often pushing ups. Lunch, ham and cheese we picked up on the way out of town. Jeff was completely correct about the fact that there are no services, no stores, along the route. We found a guardrail and hunkered down behind it. It was a pleasant, sunny interlude in an otherwise tough day on the road.
Danger in the Night and Doug
The little red numbers on our map don’t seem to add up. We rode on as the sun began to sink below the Tsitsikamma Mountains. At 75 kilometers we found ourselves deep in the Tsitsikamma forest with no civilization in sight. It was getting cold and dark. Tsitsikamma Lodge is visible only on our map. So, Terry, it’s time to take the “Rubber Off The Road” again. The road has narrowed and is scary now, imagine doing it in the dark?
Leaning the bikes we turned our flashing red taillights toward oncoming traffic and waved our headlights. Funny, when we were riding it seemed that there was a constant stream of cars and trucks. Now, we waited and hoped for headlights coming our way. A small bakkie slowed, looked us over but sped on. Another, pulling a trailer slowed, passed then pulled over. Our evening Angel, Doug, looked at our bikes and us then said, “You’re lucky I stopped, most people are afraid to pick up strangers out here”. He’s right you know, we are LUCKY. Lucky to meet nice people like Doug who will take a chance and lend a hand to friends in need.
We hoisted the bikes up into the bed of the Bakkie. Cat sat in the front and I did my second hunker down of the day in back, with the bikes. Doug wastes no time, he pushes the pedal to the metal and we flew through the twilight night. I pulled my raincoat hood up then noticed that our ponchos, still on the bags, were beginning to flap in the hurricane force wind. I got my shoes and poncho off but as I struggled with Cat’s her poncho flew off, into the darkness. I did get her shoes then turned my attention to our maps. The clear cases were flailing and threatening to fly. I tucked them down then went back to my prenatal crouch.
Doug is a Rancher from George, and a General Contractor. As our luck would have it he is returning home from his job. He offered to take us on, into George but I told him of our “Keep Rubber on Road” philosophy and he understood. Cat ran in to confirm that we could get a room. Doug and I lifted the bikes off when she gave us the high sign through the window. Funny, thank you feels almost shallow at moments like this but it’s about all we can do or say. Doug continued his S A Hospitality by inviting us to spend the night at their Ranch when we get into George.
It wasn’t easy finding our cabin, #5, in the dark. The Lodge is a wonderful place in the wilderness. The cabins and main buildings are all built of logs. Our cabin has a loft with extra beds. The shower is hot and heavy. It was cold outside and in as we pulled the bikes across the little porch and into the room. The heater cracked and snapped as it struggled to drive the cold from the room.
Dinner is a buffet, a very good buffet. The atmosphere is quiet, this place is a retreat for many hard working professionals. I did meet a couple as Morris, the bartender, suggested a selection of wine for our happy hour. They waved hello when we came in. The fireplace crackled and the glow warmed the evening and our hearts. Yes, we are LUCKY, aren’t we?
No TV, just an extremely large and comfortable bed.
May 20, 2004
Tsitsikamma Lodge to Plettenberg Bay
Another great buffet for breakfast. Morris the Bartender is now Morris the Breakfast Waiter. It is cold but they have another blazing fireplace for us to hover near. Morris became intrigued with our cycling. He was a Mountain Bike Racer for several years. He fell hard, several times and had surgery on his knee, twice. That ended his racing career but not his love of cycling.
Bags packed, we were setting up to take a picture when Erika, the gal I met last night at the bar, offered to take it. We invited her to join us in the photo. She is a character, they’re from Queenstown, retired and on a slow drive around the country.
Morris Rides Again
Morris checked us out then checked out our bikes. He was intrigued with the Auto Shifter. Of course he had to take a ride. He’s never cycled with baggage on board. It felt uncomfortable to him. A couple of pictures at the gate, including one that said, “Dead Slow, Germs Crossing”. Pretty funny.
The road is tight and bumpy, the traffic heavy and unforgiving. They all seem to be in a hurry. It was 16 kilometers of high anxiety then we found the wide shoulder we love. Pine trees and ferns line the route. This is the beauty we’ve heard bragged about by so many South Africans. They have not bragged in vain.
Bungee jumping S A style, the worlds highest jump, 216 meters (710 feet) off a bridge over one of the series of gorgeous gorges that cut through the land carved by rivers seeking the sea. They say that the first bounce is a greater fall than the 2nd highest plunge in the world. No jumpers while we were there but we did spot a group of climbers repelling down massive cliffs at the Storms River Bridge. A group of guys, there during a break from their retreat, told us that the climbers drop to the river below then white water raft to the ocean. Makes cycling around the world look pretty tame, eh?
The N2 continues to pitch up and down, reminiscent to our first week of riding on The Pacific Coast Highway #1 in California. In fact parts of this ride are like deja vu, all over again, as Yogi Berra once said. Hard to believe it’s been more than 2 years since we rode the coast of California. We’ve come a long way, baby!
An American in The Cregs
The long ups and downs were sapping our energy. We needed food. It was after 2:00 PM and we’d seen nothing to eat. After more than 50 Ks we rolled into a small place called, The Cregs. The store/service station didn’t have lunch food, not even a loaf of bread? As we pondered a guy with a cast on his leg hobbled up and said, “The woman at the business next to here is an American”. At first we wondered how he figured out that we’re from the US? He couldn’t or at least didn’t slow down so we’ll never know? Are we that obvious?
Kathy, originally from Minnesota, lived in California and taught school in Orange County. She took a position at Big Bear Lake with the OC School District. An outdoors class to get city kids into the country for a week and teach them about nature and survival. She loved the job but when budget cuts interrupted it she followed her brother here, to South Africa. He told her about a similar position here. She met and fell in love with a local guy. They married and she gave up teaching to help manage their growing business. They are a welding shop and prosperity came in a strange way to their door. The area has a growing number of Polo Fields and has been chosen for the 2007 Worlds Polo Championship Games. Another boon for South Africa, this area and especially for Kathy and her husband. They’re building all of the pipe railings for the new Polo Fields that are popping up like mushrooms around here.
Kathy told us of a restaurant just 1 kilometer down the road that she called The Pie Place. We rode and looked but didn’t see it. I asked at a service station and a young guy pointed back to t dirt road and told us to take it. We hated to leave the N2 but hunger prevailed. Allan, the owner of the Farm Kitchen, he served us meat pies and info about the area. He’s been here for 4 years and feels the area is ready to explode into a huge Mecca for tourists. There is a Monkey Farm that has recently opened and several other attractions being planned. Allan’s son is publisher of Holidays in Africa, a slick color magazine full of ads promoting Hotels, Restaurants and things to do along the Garden Route. This place even sounds like California!
The Push into Plet
The remainder of the ride was pleasant until we reached Plettenberg. Once across the river, we were greeted by a huge hill. The road and hillside is lined with trendy looking homes and groups of Condominiums. More reminders of California, Malibu, California. So, we pushed all the way up, into town.
The Bayview Hotel is sort of stark and more expensive than our budget allows but we’re both tired and need a warm shower, we took the deal. It is conveniently located in the heart of the village. Apre showers we walked the main, looking for a food. Most of the small shops are Real Estate firms. It has a feeling of Montecito, CA to us.
A moderately priced pizza, local TV and early to bed. Awe, the life of bicycle vagabonds.
May 21, 2004
Plettenberg Bay to Knysna
During our walk last night we noticed a breakfast place just across the street. They advertised waffles and that sounded good to us. We could see that it wasn’t open from the window of the Hotel. We wanted to get rolling so we went in and checked out the Hotel breakfast. We tried to get the Front Desk to include it but they wouldn’t. They did reduce the price of the buffet and confirm our lower price for the room. So, we eat in. Pretty good spread. There was a group of German tourists there. A small bird flew in and partook of the buffet. One of the tourists got a picture of the little bandit. I wanted one, too but the tourist tried to get closer and the bird flew the coop.
The main street is a slight up away from the Hotel then at the corner it was right and right up a steep hill. Pushing isn’t a great way to start a day but then? We pushed! Back on the N2, we found that it was lined with B&Bs. If we’d known that last night our experience in Plet would be completely different. Obviously we’re getting closer to Cape Town’s population center. Lots of tourist attractions tucked into the forest of pine that lines the highway. Cat kept asking why we couldn’t see the Ocean? Okay, we’re inland but carpets of lavender beautifully accent the colors of the forest. Yes, this is the Garden Route!
Touched By An Elephant
Too early or too close to breakfast to eat but we did anyway. A small tourist store had meat pies. They were pretty good and sitting in the sun felt great. I told Cat of my developing dream to visit The Knysna Elephant Park with the bikes and get a picture for the web site. She almost laughed, and said, “You think they’ll let us just cycle up to an elephant”? Well, that’s what dreams are made of, right? I thought we’d go into Knysna, find a place to stay then go to The Elephant Park and see if the dream is possible.
As we rode out of the Tourist place we saw the sign, Knysna Elephant Park 2 Km. So, I convinced Cat to take the turn off, we’ll ride to the Park and give it a try. The road is dirt, dusty and bumpy. Several cars came past and stirred up a brown cloud. When we got to the Park I loved their logo, the word elephant but written so that it looks like and elephant. Inside the office, we asked. The girls at the desk looked at us like we were crazy. They called Renee’ out. She’s one of the owners, well her husband’s family started the place, and she is running it. After listening to our story she called one of the Elephant handlers. We heard him on say that the animals would be okay with it, on the walky talky.
Renee’ had us go around the building, through a gate and down the dirt road toward the forest. A fellow working near the gate yelled at us, we yelled back that Renee’ has sent us. It’s a tough ride on rough and loose dirt and the hills are steep but definitely worth it. The other tourists are driven in on trams, we were a spectacle. The herd consists of 5 young adults and 5 calves. Victor, the handler, asked one of us to ride by carefully to see how they would react to the bike. I remember the advice we got about how fast an Elephant can run while we were telling about our close call when we cycled through Mikumi Park. 40 MPH as I recall. I tried to act like we do this all the time. I tried to be prepared but then what could I prepare to do if the beast charged? I even thought of the guy that Mark at the Game Breeding Park told us had been killed by an elephant.
On my solo pass the adults paid little attention. The calves stirred and ran away. We made 3 passes and got braver each time. The third time we just stopped in front of 3 adults. The big one, Harvey, stepped close and began to sniff Cat and our bikes. His trunk left a trail of mucus on the bags. We’ve never been this close to an un-tethered
Elephant. Victor is near and always reassuring both Harvey and us. It was a wonderful experience. Cat was thrilled when Renee’ suggested that she bottle feed one of the babies. Even the little ones are big. Cat approached with some trepidation but the little one was only interested in getting the milk into its mouth. I almost had to drag Cat away. Victor told us that unlike Indian Elephants, the African aren’t easily trainable. These have been raised around humans but aren’t tame. The park is a great way to see the big guys up close and it also works to heal the sick and wounded from the Game Preserves.
Excitement and thoughts of elephants filled our minds as the final 20 Ks just fly by. The N2 thinned and traffic thick end as we dropped down the steep hill into town. Cycling in was like riding on PCH in Laguna Beach. Stores, shops, cars, tourists, it has it all. We’d read about a place called The Wayside Inn. It’s in the center of town but our Lonely Planet says it’s in the “Top End” price range. The Tourist Office is a little kiosk. We stopped and the young girl, Celine, got a list of places to stay. We asked about the Wayside, she pointed to it just across the parking lot. The price is high but Celine called to see if they have a room and got them to help on the price. There was one other option but she recommended taking the deal at Wayside. As a parting shot she said, “I will call the Quaysnet Internet Shop, they’ll let you use their connection for free. She is a great helper, she’s enamored with our travels. She told us that she’d helped Walking Man when he came through town, too.
The Wayside is a surprise, it’s a fairly new building but inside feels like a turn of the century Hotel. Our room looks out on the parking lot and has a great little patio deck. We settled in, showered then walked to the Internet Shop. Surprise, the young guy there told us that Celine owns the shop. He was a nervous wreck. His first day on the job and he’d just been robbed. A couple of teenagers lurked around until he turned his back to help a customer then grabbed handfuls of money from the register and ran.
The waterfront reminded us of Long Beach, California or Pier 39 in San Francisco. Shops, restaurants and tourists milling about. We found a laundry on the way back to the Wayside, nice guy, and open tomorrow.
Dinner at a place called Changes. We both gorged on Lamb Shanks. Wonderful!
CNN and sleep on an oversized and comfortable bed.
May 22, 2004
A Day in Knysna
Homemade museli, muffins, croissants, tasty juice and good, strong coffee. Who could ask for more? They bring the tray to our room and set it in through a little trap door at the bottom of the door. A lazy start to a lazy day. Cat carried the big bag of dirty cloths to our friend’s laundry. I did more pecking away at the journal pages. She also stopped at the Internet Shop and worked through the 100s of messages. We ate lunch out on the patio, in the sun, thanks to Cat’s stop for picnic supplies.
A walk to the Waterfront completely consumed our afternoon. It’s like a small version of Santa Monica complete with a Ferry Boat ride and small craft marina. Even a strolling band of old guys in red jackets. We picked up our clean cloths then stopped at a different Internet Café on the way back to the Wayside. A fellow American traveler, Raymond, heard us talking and introduced himself. He tired of his life in front of a computer screen, quit his well paying programmer job and has been flitting about the world for more than a year, now. Great fun comparing notes and stories.
We made note of a sign we’ve seen recently, can’t remember when or where but it seems appropriate to enter it here;
Travel Broadens The Mind, Friendship Is A Sheltering Tree!
Dinner across the street at Mamma Maria’s, one of those small, checkered tablecloth places. Big plates brimming with good pasta, food meant for cyclists carbing up. The whole family including Mamma and Papa were at an adjacent table watching TV and cheering for the Italian competitors riding the Giro D’ Italia.
Papa was born here in South Africa. They have newspaper clippings from 1960 when Papa traveled to Italy, met Mamma and immediately told her that he was going to marry her. He left but they wrote letters, fell in love and he did go back and steal her away. So, it’s not just Dutch who have settled here in SA, they really are the Rainbow Nation.
Sunday, May 23, 2004
Knysna to George
Up early, too early. We thought it was 6:00 but a little light on the watch and we saw 5:00 AM. Laid around, snoozed and finally turned on the news at 7:00. Breakfast slipped through the little door on the door at 7:30. No matter the early food, the start was a normal 9:00. We took the bikes out of our parking garage, room # 7 and leaned them on the fence while loading the bags. A young couple from England watched, asked and we talked. They’re driving the coast from Cape to PE, we’re headed up and out, to George. Another huge hill climb out of another beach town.
It’s a flat ride out of Knysna Town along the Knysna River. We could see the Heads, the headlands of the river at the ocean. It’s a wetlands area and tidal flats, lots of birds in the water. Once we crossed the bridge the road was up, some ride and some push. It got real narrow, no shoulder at all. Ups and downs through pines and brush ate up the morning.
It was Sledgefield for lunch and not easy to get across the lanes of fast moving traffic. The restaurant was another sort of Italian place. They have decorations, very realistic looking paintings of places around the world, on the walls. We started a recollection quiz between ourselves. The Eiffel Tower was easy, several others were, too. When I went to the Restroom I saw one that not a lot of people here, maybe anywhere, would know. I asked the Chef/Waiter, Devon if he knew the story. He said that the owner, a lady, had told them that it had something to do with Pissing on The City of Brussels, Belgium.
I had to take his picture with Manneken Pis, the one we called “Little Pisser” in Brussels. We had a good time, talking about the story they tell there, how Manneken peed on a big fire and saved Brussels. The food was okay, the fun with Devon was great.
I’ve been feeling a wobble and checked my rear wheel, it was loose. So, we had to pull the bags off and crank down on the axel nuts. That done, we were off, up, up, up. Climbing away from Sledgefield was another pedal hard then push hard. At the top of hill we looked back, took some great pictures including one of a critter whose name and nationality we don’t know, then rolled down to the Diep River and the Sledgefield on the Sea slough.
The road was major climbs with some relief in the down hills. Slow pedal or push up, swoosh down. The road to George angles off to the right. Our map informs us that it’s 10 Ks to town. We stopped, had an ice cream and tried to call Doug, our Angel, the guy who picked us up in the cool and dusk of Tsitsikamma. He’s invited us to stay on his farm and we wanted to see if the invitation was still available. Talking to an answering machine, we asked then said that we’d call back in a while.
There is a Hotel adjacent, it looks closed and there are For Sale signs along the driveway. The nice girl at the desk confirmed a very reasonable rate of 220 Rand. ($34 US) Cat checked it out and decided it would do fine, she always says, “It’s only for 1 night”! The Hotel restaurant is closed but they will provide breakfast. We moved in then tried to call Doug, again. Hoping to at least buy him dinner to repay his kindness, we could only leave a message with the machine.
Our room is actually pretty nice. Cat walked to Wimpy’s, next door, and bought Chicken, Ribs and Calamari. Not great but at least fair food. A picnic on the bed, CNN news and a movie. Life is good!
Speaking of news, George, that’s President George W., fell off his bicycle today. He skinned up his nose and chin. Maybe it was in reaction to Michael Moore’s big win at the Cannes Film Festival? He was awarded the Palme d’ Or, for best film, Fahrenheit 9/11, his stinging critique of President GW, his War on Terrorism and the invasion of Iraq.
Words of wisdom we read today;
Tell Me and I’ll Forget,
Show Me and I May Remember,
Involve Me and I’ll Understand!
May 24, 2004
George to Mossel Bay
The included breakfast was surprisingly good. A virtual horde of servers swarmed around us and the only 2 other people staying here. We asked about the For Sale signs, the girl said that the owner didn’t really want to sell but has to keep the signs up until the end of this month? The best we got was that the listing agreement must have been expiring?
When you start at the top of a hill it should be all down hill to the beach? We did have lots of ups and downs but the ride was scenic and fast. Mossel Baai is 7 Ks off Highway N2. As we rolled toward town we came upon a group of kids, just out of school. They began to run, laughing and talking with us and about us. They stuck right with us for about a kilometer. When they dropped off 2 boys on bikes stayed almost into town. They shouted encouragement as they turned off toward their home in a township. Mossel Bay is another hillside beach town. Of course hillside means some pretty good ups and downs getting in.
There are several B&Bs along the route but we need a restaurant and want to be in town to see the sights. The Tourist Office is just across from the Old Post Office Hotel. The priced they quote is above our budget but they’re the only game in town. All other possibilities seem to be ½ K or more from town. Cat checked and they did give a tiny discount on the price. Once again, “Rate Has It’s Privileges”. We took the deal, showered then had a picnic lunch, on the bed again.
It doesn’t take long to see the village. Things historic here are quite similar to things historic in California. The beach area is down hill, we just contemplated it from above and afar. A fine fish dinner in a fine Fish Restaurant, more CNN and early sleep.
We’re getting pretty anxious to get to Cape Town. It’s been 14 months and 5 days since we set off from Finland. That’s a lot of almost daily cycling!
May 25, 2004
Mossel Bay to Riversdale
The hot water refused to get hot for my shave this morning. I called and the girl apologized, somehow it had shut itself off. She suggested that it would be hot in about ½ hour. I thanked her but told her I’d shave with cold rather than wait.
The Soweto String Quartet
Breakfast was a terrific treat. Another treat, the Hotel Manager, Karen, stopped by our table and apologized for the cold water. She insisted on making it up in the rate. We didn’t object. I asked her about the music playing, wonderful almost classical sounding with an African beat. She checked then told us it is a group called the Soweto String Quartet. I asked where we could get a CD and she sent one of the girls to look for one. She returned with a CD, Karen checked and it was different from the one, Renaissance, that was playing. I accompanied the girl back down the street to the shop but they were out of Renaissance.
Karen offered their copy, a copy. It was scratched and well used. I wanted the jacket, the story of the music, so we told her that we’d find one, later. We loaded up, pushed through the lobby of the elegant old Hotel, paid our bill and got a picture on the steps with Karen. She’s a gem, she’s helpful beyond the call of duty and kind to all, guests and employees alike.
One of a group of German tourists preparing to board their Windward Tours bus took our picture. Erika, a gal in the tour asked about our trip then told us that her husband is a cyclist. She said he told her that it would probably be impossible to cycle in South Africa. He probably thinks like so many, that there are Lions and Elephants on the road being chased by natives with spears, in loincloths. The others in the group clambered around took pictures and marveled at our courage. Erika had a friend take one of us together to show her husband. We didn’t realize until they’d boarded and were waving from the windows of the bus that we hadn’t taken a picture of them. One of those darn, darn, double darn moments.
Getting out of town was a very big push. Once at the top and on the road it was more of the same scenery today. Cattle, sheep and ostrich held off the road by barbed wire stood and watched our passing. Then, a flurry as Ostriches in one field seemed to be challenging those in the adjacent. They ran back away from the dividing fence then spun and charged back. Some of them ran in circles, almost dancing. Mesmerized, we could have stayed and watched but they had their games to play and we had our distance to go. We did stop and air up at the Engen Service Station.
A break would be nice and the double bridges gave us the opportunity. From our highway bridge vantage point we would watch crazies dive off the old railroad bridge. It’s more a giant swing than a Bungee Jump. You’ll see pics and video here of a guy who took the plunge. Though neither of us have any desire to take a plunge, this looks safer than dangling on a cord. However, your life still rests in the hands of the strength of the rope and the expertise of the operators.
Lunch in Albertinia, the Aloe Capital of Africa. There is an Aloe factory and plenty of plants with orange flowers standing tall. There are 2 Service Stations on the corner. The decision of which to choose was made because one had a guy greeting and waving us in. As we leaned the bikes a guy, Andre, the owner, wanted to know where we’re from. Inside their Café, he and his wife Renee served us soup and conversation. Andre told us we’d have almost 30 Ks of flat then in the final 9 there would be two challenging hills into Riversdale. They live there, Renee invited us to spend the night with them. They pressed their phone number into our hands to impress the point.
Andre whispered that they have sold the business and this is their last few days running it. He is oozing “short timers disease” and wants to get out and get going. They’ve made an offer on 2 Video Stores. They’re truly entrepreneurs, they previously owned a wholesale tire distribution center in Cape Town. They made the move to the country so that their kids would get better schooling. They just moved to Riversdale 2 weeks ago but the kids have been going to school there for 2 years. No wonder they know the road so well!
As Andre had foretold, we fast tracked on the flat for 28 Ks. The terrain ahead began to look like waves of miniature Grand Canyons. The first big dip was a fast down then a struggle and push back up. On the second, even bigger big dip we met with a pleasant surprise. Our Tsitsikamma evening Angel, Doug, pulled up as we pushed. Headed back to George, he crossed the road and stopped. He said that he told his friend, Hanae, who was with him, that it had to be Pat & Cat when he saw us. We had a nice chat, he almost scolded us for not going to his farm. He’d gotten the messages but thought we understood that he wouldn’t be there but his friends would welcome us.
The temp was dropping like the sun as we pedaled into the up and down streets of Riversdale. Tired and anxious for a hot shower, we decided to grab a Hotel then try to have dinner with Andre and Renee. It’s a little way off the highway, into town. Stopping and asking several times, we finally found the Travels Inn. The rooms are all up, a young deaf guy helped me get them up the winding flight. I mention that he couldn’t hear because we had a real struggle communicating as we lifted, pulled and pushed. The rooms, at least ours, was pretty plain.
I called Andre and Renee and was surprised to hear that they were just now on the way home from work. Also, they have a school program to attend tonight. We made a date to have breakfast together, here at Travels Inn. Dinner in the Inn was pretty good. The Manager, a nice looking young woman, hovered at our table assuring good service and learning about our travels. Though breakfast hadn’t been included originally, she threw it in, kind of a bonus.
We had local TV only but did understand one story. The station broadcasts in Afrikaans but the piece was in English. We heard the words under their voices that
Tony Blair had taken a slight deviation from George W. today. He stated that he feels the Interim Government of Iraq should have some control over the Coalition Forces.
May 26, 2004
Riversdale to Swellendam
Andre and Renee’ met us for breakfast at 7:30 AM. What nice people, they have only just moved here 3 weeks ago. We ate and talked about their family, 3 kids ages 17, 15 and 9. Andre is preparing to take over and operate the two Video Stores, one here and one in George. Renee’ will reapply herself to the education profession. She’ll spend more time with the family and take substitute-teaching jobs.
They drove us to an Internet Shop a few blocks from the Hotel. We parted with handshakes, they wished us well in our travels and we wished them luck in their future business endeavors.
The computers wouldn’t let us answer any of our mail? The young girl tried but couldn’t make them work for us. We gave up, it was 10:00 by the time we muscled the bikes back down the stairs and hit the road.
Andre and Renee told us how to find a mountain that looks like Sleeping Beauty. We caught first sight of it while still in town. Stopping several times, looking for the best vantage point, we took a huge series of pictures.
The road was a continuation of the ups and downs that ended our day, yesterday. It was already after 12:00 noon when we rolled into Heidelberg, just 24 Ks from Riversdale. It’s pretty much a crossroads but there is a Wimpy’s so we decided to have a burger lunch. Cat is nervous, concerned that our late start will have us riding in the dark. She was pushing for grabbing a sandwich and moving on, eating on the road. I convinced her that we should have something substantial.
Back at it by 12:45, we struggled in the ever increasingly steep ups and downs. It was warm and we were pouring sweat. It began to look like Cat’s projection that we would ride in after dark might come to pass. After struggling, even walking up 3 steep hills, we were treated to a long gradual downhill run. Our thoughts that we’d climbed our last hill dissolved, in the final 10 Ks we were faced with 2 more challenges.
The first turnoff is to Swellendam East. We passed and rode on looking for the main part of town. As we crossed an overpass a young calf ran out onto the road and in front of us. We tried to herd it off the bridge and out of traffic. We were doing pretty well until it tired, even slipped and fell. Then it panicked and ran to the middle of the road and back onto the overpass. We gave up, hoping that it wouldn’t be hit by a truck or car.
Asking direction, the woman with a baby n her arms pointed then told us to loop around and go up. What a surprise, we looped and went under the road where we’d just chased the calf. Straight away, through construction and a loose dirt surface then onto the main street. It was nearing dusk but we’d beaten the darkness. A Hotel sign just across drew us in. Cat went shopping for a room. The price, 495 Rand, was beyond budget and seemed high for the place. She came back out and we talked, its too late, almost dark now, to look elsewhere. I talked to the clerk, he mentioned a Weekend Special. “Why not give it to us now”? “It’s the rules”, he replied, “and I can’t break the rules, it’s only Wednesday”. I asked him to give it to us if we stay 2 days? He said that he couldn’t so I asked if he knew of other places to stay. He gave me a list of B&Bs and as I turned to go he said, “The best I can do is 395 Rand”.
It was way too late to go looking by now so we took the deal. Then the other problem, the rules don’t allow bikes in the rooms. He suggested locking them in the Managers Office. We gave in, unloaded and lugged necessary bags to the room.
A glass of wine to relax and toast our tough fought victories both on the hills and with the clerk, then dinner in the Hotel Restaurant. Wood fired pizza, things were looking up. Cat had a no cheese, lots of garlic model. I chose one called The Karoo, lamb and mushrooms, sounds weird but it was great. They were so large that we had them save almost half of each in the fridge.
No BBC or CNN so early to bed. We are so tired that early to bed feels great.
Another quote, one we heard on TV this morning that seems appropriate here after our warm days ride and this freezing, unheated room.
“Too Hot To Handle, Too Cold To Take”?
May 27, 2004
A Day Off in Swellendam
Awake at 6:00 AM we tuned in to BBC News on the local station. The only big, unexpected news is that France, Spain and Russia are leading the UN Security Council in proposing amendments to the Resolution sponsored by the US and England regarding the forth coming independence of the Interim Government in Iraq. Looks like they are agreeing with Prime Minister T. Blair, that the Interim Government there should have control over Coalition Forces.
It was still dark so we crawled back under the covers and snoozed until after 8:00 AM. Tired bodies, we’ve cycled the hills these past 4 days and they’re stiff and sore from the effort. At 9:00 we walked across to a Veggie Market for bananas then ate them as we walked along the main street. Coffee and a waffle rounded out our breakfast. Not really filling or fulfilling but then, as Cat says, we’ve eaten a whole pig since we got into South Africa. A day without bacon, sausage and eggs will be good for us.
Swellendam looks and feels like Sonoma, California to us. Fall is definitely in the air and golden leaves grace many of the trees. This is the third oldest city in South Africa. We just sauntered along, took pictures and enjoyed the day. The Manager, Val, at the Tourist Office was full of places she felt we should see as well as info on Cape Town. She told us the story of the building that houses her office. Built in 1838 by the Church, it was a school for the children of former slaves. Slavery was abolished and they wanted to help the Africans learn to read and write. One of the two clocks is painted on the building at 9:00. The kids were told that when the hands were the same it was time to go to school.
There are lots of old homes now used as B&Bs here. The Drostdy Museum is similar to an old house called Olivas Adobe back home in Ventura, old building full of old furniture. There was a trio playing music at one corner. I hope you can enjoy the video. I was taken by a painting of faces in the Curio shop. They seem to reflect the reason that South Africa’s called the “Rainbow Nation”.
(Funny, Cat asked Val at the T. O. about the area, Three Anchors Bay, where we’ll be staying in Cape Town. She said it’s a good neighborhood but when Cat asked about riding the Mini Vans into town she said, “I would never ride those, the Black People ride those”. We told her that we’d been riding them throughout Africa and she said, “For you, tourists, it’s probably okay but for an Afrikaner the Blacks would find it strange to see me there”. We guess it takes more than 10 years for the colors of a Rainbow to blend?)
E-mail was next on our agenda so we stopped at an Art Gallery/Internet Café. Their machines gave us the same “You can read but you can’t answer” treatment as those in Riversdale had. When we exited Cat asked if the guy thought the other shop down the street would work. He told us that they all use the same Server so it wouldn’t. Not taking his word for an answer we walked back and found that the guys at Heskwa Rekenaars (Computers), Koos and Males really know their stuff. He is a retired Admiral from the South African Navy and met his first computer in 1968. We connected, answered and wrote mail for more than an hour then headed back to the room for lunch. Left over Pizza, and it was great.
Cat headed back to Heskwa and that keyboard, I slaved over ours for the rest of the afternoon. Happy hour, a glass of wine in our room then dinner in the Hotel Swellengrebel Restaurant. Big plates of pasta again, in the hope that it’ll fuel us up.
May 28, 2004
Swellendam to Stormsvlei
A peak outside told us that the weatherman had called it right. Wind and heavy dark clouds threatened to bring his storm into our lives. Breakfast, we sat next to a guy we saw last night who looks like David Cosby, the 70s Rock n Roller. He acted as though he spoke no English so he didn’t get it or just ignored our question.
The Big Storm Blows us in to Stormsvlei!
So, we set of into cold wind, headwind that put a little misery into our lives. The road out or town is raised and the wind swept from the north and across with a vengeance. We had our heads tucked down and held on for dear life. The nasty side wind left us wobbling in the gusts. I began to think that we should have waited a day. Then we talked about turning back but decided that we hate that idea. So, we wobbled on.
The road to Kaap Agulhas (Cape Agulhas) turns downwind, off to the left. The sign tells us that it’s “Suidelikste Punt Van Afrika, 97 km”. I thought that if we took the turn, as some had suggested, and put up a sail, we’d be there in no time. Moving onward, slowly, into the wind that was now beginning to bear drops of rain.
We’d been struggling in the gale force wind for 4 hours. By now it was full of rain and we were getting soaked. Hunger and the struggle were tiring us, fast. Every farm became a possible shelter but they were so far off the road that we stayed the course. Then came Stormsvlei, a truly appropriately named village. There was a sign for a Wine Store, we felt that, that was surely a “Good Sign”! It was soon obvious as we cycled in that this was not a village. It may have been one in the past, but those days are long gone. The Wine Shop and Dried Flower Store were the total sum of it.
Artists And Other Angels
Soaked to the bone, we leaned the bikes near the door and sought refuge inside. The woman there seemed less oblivious to our plight than she was concerned about the mud and water we’d tracked in. Two couples were seated near a bar, eating sandwiches. We moved past the flowers and took a seat at the table near them. The woman warmed to us as we dried like her flowers. She did have sandwiches and we were hungry. The couples, Derric and Sharmain, Marius and Hester, began questioning us or perhaps our sanity?
Marius told us that Derric is an Artist and he is his Agent. They asked what route we were taking to Cape Town. When I answered that we’d go the shortest most direct route, on the N2 Sharmain said, “No, that way is steep and the scenery is boring, you must go through Betty’s Bay. You can stay at our home, there”. Being more concerned about getting a place to stay tonight took preference for the moment.
Another couple, Michael and Jane, came in. They knew the others, they’d all stayed at a B&B north of here in McGregor. The talked and joked then Michael and Jane went into the wine shop and the others began to leave. Sharmain stopped and gave us their name and phone number. She again urged us to stay in their Beach Home, it’s a second home, they live in Cape Town. It would be all ours and they’d love to have us as guests. We thanked her but in out minds we were still intent on pushing up and over then flying down into Cape Town, ASAP!
With hearty handshakes and well wishes they ducked out the door, into the rain. Michael and Jane waved goodbye to them then turned and began talking with us. They were worried about what we’d do. Mary, the shopkeeper, told us that there is no place to stay, not even a room, here. Michael insisted that we put the bikes in his rental car and they’d drive us into Riversonderend the next village sown the road. There are a couple of places to stay there.
Mary, who lives on a farm nearby, had called her husband. He was coming to help her but she volunteered that he’d drive us into town in his Bakkie. Michael seemed to really want to help and suggested that we leave the bikes here and take the bags into town n their car. That made sense to me, we’d be able to find a ride back out tomorrow and continue the course of our Odyssey. That was a plan we cold live with.
Mary graciously allowed us to pull the wet, muddy bikes inside. Michael and Jane helped us carry the few necessary bags out and throw them into their trunk. We were off to Riversonderend. (River Without End) Michael had mentioned that they were here from Joburg celebrating Jane’s Birthday. We slipped back inside and bought a gift bottle of her favorite wine, Merlot.
As we pulled into Riversonderend Michael pulled up in front of Jasmyn Guest House. She only has one room and it’s available. Michael negotiated a good price in Afrikaans then asked her to find a ride back to Stormsvlei for is in the morning. She quickly volunteered to drive us back. We now have a home and our host drivers are hungry. They’ve stopped at a Café here previously and liked it. Of course we joined them even though we were full of Mary’s sandwiches. It was only 2:00 PM, way early for us to start drinking wine but then, we did need to celebrate our new found shelter and friends. What a wonderful afternoon, sharing stories of our lives. They too are a couple that rebuilt their lives after divorce. Jane is from London, England, a big city girl. Michael is Afrikaner and very proud of it. His love is to be in the wild, listening to the beasts of the jungle as they sleep in a tent. She is adjusting to the wilds.
Oh how we hated to see them leave. It was a picture, hugs and those Afrikaner 4 cheek kisses, all around. The house of Jasmine is old and cold. Well, the shower was hot. We spent an hour watching African TV then walked back over to Vn’ Desden, Beer on the Stoep, for dinner. The food is good, the local feeling and glow that the owner Desmond, brings as he works the room add a great deal to the evening. Jasmine and her husband, Arman, came in. She told us that they’d drive us back and set the departure time for 9:00 AM.
What a day, what great new friends the storm had blown into our lives. We studied our map and began to think about taking the extra day, skirting the two passes and looping out, through Betty’s Bay. The more we talked about the big hills the more Cat liked the beach idea. She threw the extra blanket on the already heavy load of covers on the bed. We crawled in, huddled up and basked in the glow of our good fortune.
May 29, 2004
Stormsvlei to Caledon
It was so cold in our room that we could see the steam of our breaths. It was tough to crawl our from under the pile of covers. Who’d ever think that it would be this cold? In Africa? We dressed in record time and went back over to Desmond’s for breakfast. The place is a combination butchery, bakery, Mini-Market. Breakfast was the usual, eggs and sausage but we topped it off with fresh baked sweet rolls and hot strong coffee.
Desmond told us that he was in Medical Research for several years. It’s a good career and he liked the work but it is dependent on annual grants and contracts. One year you get a $250,000 grant then just as the project is in full swing they cut the grant the next year. A friend of his left and opened a Dry Cleaners. That inspired Desmond, he opened a tiny bakery and coffee shop here and the rest is history.
Arman drove and smoked, Jasmine talked about their lives. We didn’t quite get it all but sounds like they’re a later in life couple. He’s still working but could retire. We think he’s afraid to quit, he likes the money but hates the work.
Mary and Theda, her helper, were just opening the door when we drove up. We got a picture of them and the bikes in the shop then pushed out and pedaled away. The unsettled weather continued and we went through areas of raindrops then dry but always into a cold wind.
Desmond was out, we stopped anyway and bought some of his homemade meat pies to picnic on later. Out of Riversonderend the wind and cloud cover continued but the rain stopped. The countryside was a patchwork of greens, browns and golden fields. They helped cut through the ups, downs and cold. There was no shelter, we just lay the bikes down and sat on the roadside to eat our meat pies.
They Won't Fly!
It was 4:00 PM when we hit the outskirts of Caledon. Off to the left was we saw the Caledon Casino. They have a Hotel but we thought it would probably be expensive. It’s a fairly steep down, into town. Sure that we’d find something, we tried the other Hotel. It was pretty simple and the only room they had available has a tub, no shower. The gal told Cat she could use the shower down the hall. We decided to ride back up to the Casino.
A Night in The Painted Lady
It was a tough pull and push. Hoping the struggle was worth it, we rode in then were shocked. The girl at the desk told us that they were fully booked. It’s Saturday night and they have an ANC (African National Congress) Convention booked in. Unbelievable, I told her we needed help, it was getting dark and really cold. She started calling around, looking for a B&B. They too had no vacancies. As she continued down the list, a snappy looking guy in suit and tie stopped and listened. Hein, the Manager, stopped her and said, “We’ll put them in the Painted Lady”.
Painted lady is or was a guesthouse. The Casino bought it and some of the help from out of the area live in her when they’re working. Hein and his assistant, Edgar, solved every problem before we could bring them up. “Do you want to come back for dinner tonight”? Of course we do but no car, no way to get here. “We’ll have our driver pick you up then take you back when you’re finished”.
Edgar drove and we followed. He stopped and picked up some of the workers who were walking home. Through the streets of Caledon and up to the Lady, The Painted Lady is painted mauve. She’s an old, cold house but the guest room out back does have one of those flat wall heaters for Cat to hover next to and a hot bath. No shower but plenty of hot water in a cold tub in a cold bathroom. No matter the little discomforts, we had a roof to sleep under.
Benny, the driver, knocked on the door at 7:00. Dinner, Ostrich Steak for me and Fish for the Cat. Hein stopped to make sure all was well and we posed under the sign, Black Sheep. (They call the restaurant The Black Sheep and the sign says, “Every family has one”.) I think I’m it in my family!) Another guy came out with a camera and took one of us there, too. He said it’s for the Casino Newsletter.
Benny dropped us back at The Lady. The room is still cold, we got an extra blanket and snuggled in. Is this really Africa?
Sunday, May 30, 2004
Caledon to Betty’s Bay
Man it was cold this morning. We hated to crawl out from under the thick layer of covers. Our breaths hung in the cold morning air as we walked to the Spar Market. Hein has suggested we could get coffee and breakfast at the coffee shop there. Well, you can, any day accept Sunday. The clerks there told us that the only restaurant in town that’s open this morning is at the Parkland Hotel, the one that we walked out of after seeing the room last night. Concerned that they might tell us to take a hike we were pleasantly surprised when Linda, the owner, met us seated us and wanted to know all about our ride around the world.
Linda Does Breakfast, Tom Does Music
She’s such a great gal that we asked her to sit with us and drink her coffee while we ate her wonderful breakfast. She is on her own bug adventure, she bought the Hotel a year ago and has been working, struggling with repairs and maintenance but still believes it’ll pay off. She called out to a guy who was carrying his suitcase down the stairs. She told us that he’s from California.
Tom told us that he’s Los Angeles. I told him that the only other person I’ve ever met who claimed to be from Los Angeles is Cat, she was born there. He laughed and said, “Well, my house is in Laurel Canyon, in the Hollywood Hills, maybe that doesn’t actually qualify as Los Angeles”? He owns a Music Licensing Company. We asked what a Music Licensing Company does and he explained that he contracts music to companies that do “Oldie albums”. His number 1 client and best friend is Andy Williams. He also has The Everly Brothers and lots of other 50s and 60s artists. A really nice, soft-spoken guy, he is here on a side trip. He flew into London to put together a TV Christmas Special for Andy Williams. He’s been here in Africa many times and usually stays at the same Hotel but it too was fully booked last night. Fate? The only disappointment for us was that we didn’t have our camera. So, you’ll just have to imagine what Linda and Tom look like.
An Artist’s/Cyclist’s Retreat
We bought picnic things and were on the road by 9:30 AM. The weather warmed some, the wind slowed and the road was shallow ups and downs. When we caught a look at the Houhoek Pass, the lesser of the two between us and Cape Town, we were glad that we’d decided to take Sharmain and Derric up on their offer of the house in Betty’s Bay. It will increase the distance by about 30 Ks and take a little longer but it makes good sense. Especially now that Cat has seen the mountain.
Lunch, we ate sitting on the ground, in the sun, against the wall of a Service Station. It was nice for a while then got too hot to handle. This is the ride that so many told us would be “BEUDIFOOL, but to us it was just another tree lined road. As we neared the coast it began to live up to the description. This is so California, a Golf Course Development on the water. The coastline is rough, the surf crashes on rocks as you round the corner into Betty’s Bay. Sheer, rocky cliffs climb straight up into the clouds.
The Restaurant where Sharmain had told us we’d find the keys was closed. A fellow there suggested that we try The Penguin Place up the road. The lady there knew nothing about a key. She didn’t even know Derric and Sharmain. They did have a coin phone so we called. Sharmain told us how to find the place and that the key was hidden in the barbeque. We took 15 minutes to check for e-mails at a Café with a computer, across the street. The woman there told us to cross the highway, go down a dirt road to a path that takes off to the left and go to the next street.
The dirt road was loose and hard to ride. The trail was so narrow that we struggled trying not to let the brush throw us off the seats. We found the street, but no markers, no way to know if it was the right street. Asking a couple of women out for a walk, they pointed out the house, it was just around the corner.
Wow, a great looking place but, no key in the barbeque. We searched all around the brick barbeque and anywhere else we could think it might be hidden. One of the walking women came by so we asked if we could call Sharmain from her house. She knows them and told us she’d call them. She probably wanted to call and make sure that we weren’t thieves or worse.
Waiting, we began to shiver. She came back and said that the girl, Jorika, (pronounced Eureka) had forgotten to leave the key. She drove up in just a few minutes and opened the place for us. They are having a problem with the alarm. She found the box but couldn’t get it turned off so it went off. She called the Security Company and squared things then left us to our own devises.
Hoping that Derric and Sharmain would never know or at least not care, too much, we pulled the bikes inside and leaned them on the dining room table. What a great lace this is. The warm shower took the chill out of our bones.
Jorika had given us some bad news, no restaurants nearby. Most of them are closed on Sunday night. So, we took Derric and Sharmain up on their invitation to use any food from the cabinets or freezer. Wonderful frozen Butternut Squash Soup and Pasta that came from our bags. Unfortunately as Cat shook the salt the top came off and poured the entire bottle on the pasta. Pretty salty, pretty good. The wine we borrowed was great, too.
The have a couple of pieces of Derric’s work on the wall. A brochure tells of his love for the land here in Africa and has pictures of several of his works. I took photos of them from the book. Landscapes, brilliantly colored landscapes, no wonder it’s so popular.
Almost like being at home, we ate at the coffee table and watched CNN, CNN, CNN.
May 31, 2004
Betty’s Bay to Strand
Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day! The sun sits behind the huge rock cliffs but a spray of rays for tells its coming. We were loading up when the neighbor came knocking. Just checking to make sure that we were okay. It seems to be every ones business to watch out for each other, here. They urged us to stay another day, see the Botanical Garden. Our sights are set on Cape Town, it’s only a day and a half away, we can’t stay. They did help with directions and suggested that we have breakfast at the Gardens, good food and a glimpse of the plants.
The Botanical Gardens are just across the highway, we rolled in and told the guy at the ticket window that we just wanted to have breakfast. He insisted that we had to buy a ticket, anyway. Perplexed, we said that we only wanted breakfast, not a tour of the Gardens. He stood fast, we threatened to go elsewhere, and he just shrugged. We left.
Cycling onward, we found the little store and returned the key to the house. Jurika was there, we asked about breakfast and she pointed to the place next door. The Bay Café is a wonderful, artistic place. The owner served a great plate. We filled up and warmed up. The cost was more than usual but we did have Cappuccinos, our first in months. The wind had begun to whistle along the cliffs. The guy suggested that we see the Penguins while here. He pointed the way down the side road.
As we prepared to leave I spotted a nice old car at the Gas Station. The guy, Ron, was carefully holding the hose for the girl who was pumping. I asked and he told me it’s a 1968 Alfa Romeo. I looked her over and expressed pleasure. Old guys with old cars, we’re all alike.
We cycled down the small road toward the penguins. Ron pulled up behind and honked. We stopped, talked and took a couple of pictures. He lives in the next village, Pringle Bay. He invited us to stop for tea at his home. A nice gesture but we told him that we needed to roll. His place is just 10 Ks down the road, too close to stop so soon. Then he really tempted me, he said, “Too bad, you’d love my 1935 Austin Convertible. Awe, temptation!
Penguin Point was disappointing. It’s a long walk to the Penguin beach and the wind is howling. We stood, shivering in the wind, took pictures of the signs and hoped to see more of the little critters, later.
A looping, slow decent then as we passed Pringle Bay, off to the left, I was tempted. The climb is between two completely different hills. One is all rock, little or no plant life. The other is green, verdant, covered with fynbos. (Translation, fine bush.) At the summit we met wind, fierce wind. The hill down to the beach is steep. Stopping for a picture, we then had to cautiously pedal hard, as it whipped us back and forth.
The coastline is dazzling in the morning sun. The road narrows and it’s a long
drop to the water below. We saw groups of seals, sunning in the choppy water.
The ride is simple despite the lack of shoulder. Traffic moves slowly and is
considerate. Our only real adversary is the wind and even that was only
intermittent. The mountains began to protect us from it.
Gordon’s Bay is somewhat sheltered. We took the high road, a pretty strong pull. It was a walk, part of the way. A fast steep downhill then we began looking for food. Even a store for sandwiches would be okay. Just as we were about to give up and move onward Miguel stepped out of a take away Pizza place and told us to follow him. He also owns a nice sit down place on the oceanfront. By the way, that’s now the Atlantic Ocean.
The Pizza was great but we’d waited too long to eat. We took more than half of it with us. It’s10 Ks to Strand, we decided that would be our new home for tonight. The wind was now our friend, we covered ground fast and were there in less than 30 minutes. The Strand, at least the beachfront, is a row of high-rise Condos the likes of which we haven’t seen since Marbella, Spain. Looking for any sign, Hotel, B&B or Guest House we finally stopped at Seeff Properties, a Real Estate Office. After a short wait Lita greeted us, listened to our story, welcomed us as two fellow REALTORS. She left her desk, got her car and led us to Welterusten Guest House. After a quick hello and intro to the Henry, the owner and goodbye to us, then she rushed back to her office, dreaming of a big sale. (What a nice thing to do for a couple of strange looking strangers!)
Henry and Jeanette are the owners. She drove up with their two daughters as we pushed inside. The elder was carrying a guitar. I asked if she’d been to lessons. When she confirmed I asked if she’s going to be a famous Rock Star? “Of course”!
The room is furnished in period style, B&B style. They allowed us, even helped us, put the bikes inside it. After a quick shower we walked to the nearby Internet Shop but their provider was down. They sent us 6 blocks down the road to another but it was closed. Total frustration, back at Camp Welterusten (Well Rested, we think?) Henry offered to let us use his computer, we displaced Jeanette but she smiled and said, “I was only playing games”.
The idea of just eating the left over Pizza disintegrated, there just isn’t enough left for both of us. Henry knew of a place he said was close by. So, we walked, into the wind and cold. The restaurant he suggested is right on the water, in fact the water almost laps up under it. The wind whistled through the window so loud, at times, that it was hard to talk above it. Cat had Calamari, just so-so. I ordered Lambs Neck, oh my, it was fantastic.
We talked about how different South Africa is compared to other countries on the Continent. Just walking on the streets after dark was a huge risk in some of the places we’ve seen. Even the people, like Henry, Jeanette, Derric and Sharmain, they are so out going and share so easily.
Henry had found CNN for us. We watched the news then snoozed.
June 1, 2004
Strand to Cape Town
Last Day Of Cycling, In Africa!
Henry is the chief cook and bottle washer. He serves a wonderful breakfast, just what two cyclists on their last days ride in Africa need. He also shared some family history. He and I have some common background. His first wife died, they had a Son. He and Jeanette married, and had two more children, daughters. Their Son, who was only 22, was killed in a car crash just a little over a year ago. You may remember the story of my loss? My son, Ronald Jerry, was only 19 when he died. I told Henry that the loss probably shaped my life, made me want more than just a good days business and a “normal” life.
The other Americans Henry had told us of came in just as we finished breakfast. A Mother and Daughter, Denise and Sanette are from Maryland. They’re here to attend a wedding in New London, taking a few days to drive there from Cape Town. Sanette told us that she’s studying Cinematography, she wants to work in film editing. We suggested that she could join us when we get back home, edit our story while going to UCLA? Well, it’s a thought? There was another, older couple, maybe just slightly older than I. They’re from South Africa, just traveling and enjoying retirement.
The consensus of opinion amongst the group was that we should cycle on R102, a surface road, rather than the N2, today. We bid them all goodbye, Jeanette and Henry posed with us for a picture then we pedaled away, toward the R102. We didn’t last too long there. The road is busy and the shoulder comes and goes. After riding on a sidewalk, stopping at each corner to drop off the curb then lift up on the opposite side of the street, we upon an N2 onramp. The wide shoulder graced flat and fast cycling. We were off to Cape Town.
The closer we got to the Southern Capital of South Africa the tougher it was to cycle. Traffic was thick and fast, we were crowded and harried. The on and off ramps, again posed the greatest danger. Then, as we had been warned, we started past what we think the map calls the Bridgetown Township. It’s really a shack town, most just corrugated roofs and walls. What a striking contrast to the high-rise skyline we’re beginning to see tucked into the base of Table Mountain, ahead. There are cows and donkeys strolling in the dirt streets. People walk along the edge of the N2 and in the open green area between the highway and the fence. Joggers and cyclists also use the same shoulder that we’re on. The warning? Several friends told us that the people here have been throwing rocks at cars. We had only friendly waves and greetings thrown at us.
An Interview on the N2
Feeling pretty confident about the neighborhood, we were concerned when a car pulled past, slowed then stopped ahead of us. Two guys got out and stood behind, waiting for us. Then one raised something up and pointed it at us. First thoughts, a gun, like we’ve seen on the news, guys running and firing AK 47s? No, we could soon see he was holding a camera with a huge telephoto lens. ¬¬¬Denzil is a freelance photographer, Babalo’s a reporter. They’re returning from a story and spotted us. Babalo said, “You look like you’re traveling a long distance, we’re sure that there’s a story here”! He asked a few questions, Denzil took more pictures, we gave them our card then they were off. No promises, but the story may make the papers.
Onward, a 3 lane off ramp really threatened us. We took the turn with it rather than challenge the fast moving freeway lanes of traffic. It turned out to be okay, we found the R102 again. It sort of winds its way through the heart of Cape Town, changing names often. Hungry, we stopped at a Sports Field to eat. The sun was high, the temperature climbing and teams were practicing Field Hockey. Our last lunch on African Road.
When it became Beach Street we were in Three Anchors Bay. The next challenge, locating Pat’s flat. We stopped and I asked a guy on the sidewalk. He thought for a second then said, “Up this street to the top then left one street then back down”. Then he jumped on a delivery motor scooter and roared away. Should we trust him? The street he pointed to is up, really up. Based upon nothing but the hope that a deliveryman would know his way around.
Pushing was really a chore. It reminded us of the day we pushed up and down, looking for Franklin and Aura’s house in San Francisco. Then at the top we drifted down to the next street. A construction guy there told us that the Condos were in the building that backs up to the street, here. We were at home.
Keys from Flat #1 then a little discovery, how to turn on the water, electricity and refrigerator. The housekeeper from #1 came to show us the power, we experimented until we had water and the refrigerator started to hum.
The down side of Pat’s Flat is, the TV doesn’t work, well, there is great picture on the local channels but only static when we turn the sound up. And, there’s no music.
Quick showers then we walked down and found a fast Internet connection. Messages sent and received, we shopped at the nearby market for groceries. Dinner, chicken, potatoes and pumpkin. We watched pictures pop up on the computer and yelled out the names of the places where they were taken. Almost like a contest.
9 Months to the Day?
Yes, exactly 9 months ago we took the Ferry across the Straights of Gibraltar and landed on African soil. What a huge journey, what a gigantic adventure. Lots of people have asked if we were ever in danger. We always answer that, “If we were, we didn’t know it”! We’ve survived jungle, huge trucks, robbery, theft and lots of diarrhea. Yet, when we look back we remember the GREAT MOMENTS, the WONDEROUS ADVENTURE and the FRIENDS MADE ALONG THE WAY.
Maybe we’re just lucky? Perhaps anyone who sets off on the same or a similar journey will have the same or similar experiences. We hope so. It’s been a fantastic part of our Odyssey.
June 2, 2004
Three Anchors Bay
Good Housekeeping in Three Anchors Bay
Home sweet home and a homemade breakfast, fruit, muffins and coffee, Life is really good. The laundry machine spun and cleaned our fowl cycling gear as we ate.
Big News in the Cape Times
Off to the Internet Shop and were shocked to receive an e-mail from Bala, a PHD Student from India, here completing his Doctorate. He told us that he’d seen the article in the newspaper and wanted to meet us, talk about cycle touring. He has a dream to do something like our trip, someday. We rushed right out bought a paper and found ourselves on page 7. To celebrate we had lunch in the Shopping Center then shopped for more groceries. As we checked out a guy said, “Hey, you’re Pat & Cat, the World famous cyclists. How funny, we talked as we waited to pay. He’s Jewish, doesn’t want to travel around the world, just to New York City. Why? He wants to see a place that’s home for 2,000,000 Jews. Strange reason to want to go but, nice enough guy, maybe he will be inspired to go or to travel?
Interesting, my hero, Nelson Mandela’s picture took up almost a quarter of the front page. He has announced that he will retire, stop taking appearances, to spend time with his family. He’s 80 years old and has been looking pretty shaky lately. A shame to see him fade into the sunset but then, he’s done a huge job for a long time including 27 years behind bars.
Another interesting connection due to the article, Don Lawson a guy from Knysna, sent an e-mail message. He picked up on a response to the question, “Had we experienced any physical problems”. I said, “The most grueling part of the journey is sitting on these bicycle seats”. Don has invented a bicycle seat that he says will cure the problem. He’s sending 2 of them to us for a trial run.
A Travelers Re-Union
We had connected with Robin, the guy we met way back in Tanzania. You may recall, he had driven down from England, alone. He pulled over, even offered us a cold soft drink. We have no pictures of our meeting because of the broken camera. He came to our Flat and drove, in his big Rover, to dinner. Kitima Eastern Eatery is chic and combines Asian foods from China and Japan. He and Cat had Chinese, I wanted Sushi. Good food and tall tales of travel filled the night.
Robin gave us an after dark tour of Cape Town on the way back to Pat’s Flat.
June 3, 2004
Three Anchors Bay
Another homegrown breakfast. Then a walk to our Internet Shop and the Telephone Boutique. I failed to get an appointment with a Doctor for physicals but did connect with Robin’s Dentist. We also connected with Cassandra Pickup, owner of Pickup Car Hire. (Strange name, eh?) Michael and Jane had recommended her; she's a client of theirs. We booked a car for tomorrow, we’re driving on the wrong side of the road, to Winelands. They’ll even deliver to the Flat, tomorrow.
The attempt to connect with Robin’s Travel Agent failed, she was out. We rode the bikes into Cape Town to Bowman’s Cycle Shop, recommended by Robin and several others. Great place, Kyle, brother of owner, Shane, took our bikes to heart. He knows bikes inside and out. They offered to go through them completely, stem to stern. He even said they’d box them for the flight to South America. Geez that sounds strange, doesn’t it?
Kyle pointed out a small place, The Boston Café, and said that they have good food. He was right and the owner, Ernie, was a Boston Bonus. He asked about our jackets and when we told of our trip he insisted that we write on his wall. He has a wall reserved for well-known local celebrities signatures. He also recommended a travel company, Club Travel, just 3 doors down the street. We sat at a bar looking out the window and watched the locals in action as we ate.
Club Travel is like a discount agency. Most of their business is done over the phone. Jeanine had us booked and confirmed in just minutes. We’ll leave South Africa at 10:45 AM and arrive in South America at 3:15 PM. Not that short, it’s actually a 9 ½ hour flight but we’re flying with the time zones.
Dinner With Artists
We walked down and through St. Georges Mall and on to V & A Waterfront Center. (Victoria and Alfred Streets) The bookshop there had both a map and Lonely Planet Guide Book for Argentina. A fine wine store filled our need to replace the bottles we used when we stayed in Derric and Sharmain’s place at Betty’s Bay. We’ve invited them out to dinner at a place of their choice tonight, a small repayment for their kindness.
As we waited, David, a high school student, helped us get the right bus back to Three Anchors. He was awe struck with our story. What a nice young guy. He dreams of travel but in no way would he do it on bicycles.
Sharmain picked us up at the Flat at 6:00 PM. We enjoyed a glass of wine and tour of their home, including Derric’s studio. The place is beautifully furnished. Proof of the adage, behind every great man stands a great woman.
Dinner at their favorite Italian Restaurant, great food, wine and conversation.
Derric drove us back to Three Anchors. It was one of those rally tough partings, both at the house as we did the hugs with Sharmain then again at the Flat, with Derric!
June 4, 2004
Another lovely homemade breakfast and an on time Rental Car delivery. The driver pulled inexactly at 10:00 AM. Strange process, he had me accompany him around the car and made marks of existing damage on a schematic of the car. He noted scrapes and dings, the car is only 2 years old. The exercise may have been to emphasize the value of their expensive insurance. In the end, though I objected and referred him to our Credit Card Insurance, he told us that it is Company Policy that we have their policy. The price was almost half that of a days rent on the car. When I refused to sign for it he called the guy over who is waiting for him. The Boss, he said that they must have me approve it but won’t charge the cost if the car comes back in the same condition it’s in, now.
Off, On The Wrong Side of The Road, To The Winelands
The best part of the deal is that they deliver and will pick up, anywhere in town when we get back. The toughest thing of the deal is getting used to driving on the right side and shifting with my left hand. Driving on the right reminded me of a time I rented a Moped in Bermuda. The cheerful clerk said, in that wonderful Bermudan accent, “Remember Sir, the left side’s the right side and the right side is suicide”. This young guy suggested, “Just make sure the driver is in the center of the road”.
You’d think that after cycling for 9 months on the left driving would be simple? However, we haven’t even driven in more than a year so it’s 2 adjustments. I pulled in then did a turn about in the parking lot. It was tight, I almost hit the neighbors car and was pretty happy I’d signed for the Insurance. Once on the street another problem surfaced. Cat felt that I was driving too close to parked cars and that culminated in a rash of screams.
We made a deal to leave our things in the Flat without cost while we’re on the road. We were off by 10:30, on the way to Stellenbach Town and The Winelands. Pulling in we were trapped in a long line of traffic, then we saw the reason. A young boy was lying in the middle of the street. A guy in white shirt and tie was hovering over him as if to provide medical assistance. A group of guys lifted the boy, using his coat and pants legs, and carried him to the side of the road. The white shirt guy was now on his cell phone and within minutes we heard the whine of the ambulance siren. Not positive but we now think that the white shirt probably hit the boy with his car?
Slightly shaken but undeterred, we followed the signs toward Morganhof Winery. A beautiful place with a wonderful little restaurant. What a way to start a tour of the Wine Country, great lunch and two glasses of fine wine. We chose 2 varieties as a sampling. A couple of real hardcore types slammed down 2 bottles of red with lunch and a white as dessert. A rooster took a one legged stance and watched us enjoy.
This area is really BEEYOUDIFULL, as the South African would say. It’s autumn and the colors are out in bright, full force. We did partake of a little tasting after lunch, pretty good but we declined to buy.
Franschoek is another wine area, near by. A stop at Rupert & Rothschild’s L’ Ormarins Vineyards was another taste of finery. We’d forgotten how fun a tasting trip can be. Our last winery of the day was Rickety Bridge. Fairly nice wine and an even nicer gal, Mariaan, who took time to search out and recommend a B&B. Unfortunately it was closed for repair but the owner pointed out another nice place just down the street.
As we pulled ahead to turn around 3 classic Cadillac’s rolled passed and into a parking lot. Of course I had to see and know what they were doing. One was from the 40s, another the 50’s and a baby blue from the 60s. Local cars, they were preparing to pick up a wedding party. The parking lot is for the Huguenot Museum and a huge Memorial to the original 200 French Pioneers. They arrived about 10 years after the first grapes were planted here but they were the true beginnings of great wine grapes here in Africa. In fact, Franschhoek means “French Corner” in Afrikaans.
La Fontaine is a lovely old home that cycled through other uses including a Girls School. Cathy and her husband owner and operate it and they’ve just bought and started rebuilding the old house next door. That will add several rooms and additional potential to La Fontaine.
Our room has a fireplace that was set up to blaze. It took the edge off the cool night air. We enjoyed a glass of wine and CNN. We get tired of the over and over broadcast of news but never the wine!
Bundled up, we reluctantly left our cozy lair in search of food. The French Connection is just a few blocks away, down the main street. As we studied the menu in the window another couple stopped and looked. They, Jerry and Leslie, are from Colorado. Jerry flew Air Force Jets then was a Commercial Pilot with TWA. She too had an Airlines career and though TWA is history some of their benefits, like “Fly for Free” are still available. The food and company were great, of course the wine added to both.
June 5, 2004
Winelands, Simons Town
New and sad news on CNN this morning, Former President Ronald Reagan has died. He suffered with Alzheimer’s for more than 10 years. For him life, as he had known it, ended at least 8 years ago. I like many Americans, admired him. Like many, I didn’t agree with all his policies, but he was almost like a Father figure. His most famous line as an Actor was “Win one for the Gipper”. In Politics it was spoken in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate when he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”. Of course that reminded us of our friends Martin and Jessica and the day they took pictures of us at that very spot. Like many, I hated the Iran/Contra Affair but then, who of us is perfect?
The la Fontaine Breakfast was as good as the Bed had been. Cathy even allowed us to play our “Soweto String Quartet” CD. It’s the first time we’ve heard it on big speakers. As we ate another couple, Roger and Michele, from England joined us. They both work with British Airways so they to have those wonderful travel benefits. They’re also here, just driving and drinking, well, sampling, nice wines.
Our first stop was Roschendal, we’ve heard from several that the Manor House here is a must see. The grounds are fantastic but the house is fairly plain. The exterior is typical Dutch architecture. They offer an interior tour, we glanced through the door but decided that it was just another chance to see the same period furnishings that we saw at the Drostdy Museum in Swellendam. We moved on to Paarl (Pearl) a few Ks down the road.
The drive was in driving rain. Paarl isn’t that picturesque but a nice little town. For some reason there was a huge line of traffic. We stopped at the Tourist Office, the girl there thought it was due to a large wedding? I’d seen a magazine ad for a winery, Charles Back’s Fairview Estates. They have a very catchy wine that I must see. The 2nd bicycle tour I cycled was in the Cotes du Rhone. They call several of their wines “Goats do Roam”. Very funny, don’t you think? We pulled in just 10 minutes before they closed. They did give us tastes of their 2 “Goats” whites. We bought one of each. They have another item that I wanted, badly. A cycling shirt that says, “Don’t be a Nerd, get into the Herd, Goats do Roam”! I squeezed into a large but needed and they had no XL. Check their Web Site, www.Fairview.Co.Za. I will order that shirt, it’s a must have. The “Goats” thing was an idea born of a project they do here at the winery. They raise goats and give the meat to Namibian Orphanages. They also sponsor a bike ride to raise funds for them, too.
Next stop, Seidelberg Wine Estate, established in 1692. Their tasting room is actually a Cave and the Restaurant overlooks the vineyards and valley, below. We sampled and chose a bottle to accompany lunch. The restaurant was jammed, two tour buses had unloaded and the table next to us held a dozen celebrating a baby shower. The food was really good. As we were finishing a guy and gal stopped and she asked, “Are you Pat & Cat, the famous bicyclists from America”?
What fun, she, Sylvia had seen the Newspaper Article. Her friend Pat is a cyclist. Sylvia is from Washington DC, here on Sabbatical from Georgetown University. We got a picture with them then Pat’s wife Rosie and Sylvia’s friend Jen walked up. Pat is pretty serious, he’s cycled from Seattle to Philadelphia on much of the same route we followed. He and Rosie are South Africans from nearby Durbanville.
Leaving the Winelands, we drove in off toward Cape Point in on and off rain and made it to Simon’s Town. The best choice seems to be the Central Hotel. It’s an oldie but goodie in our price range. Our room is old and cold.
The Restaurant across the street rolled out a very nice good buffet. We indulged and had a short conversation with the gals at the adjacent table. Deborah is here from Big Sur, California studying Stone Therapy Massage. The other two are her teachers.
We huddled down under the pile of covers and caught a movie on the tiny screen TV. It matched the turn of the century furnishings.
Sunday, June 6, 2004
Apre the included breakfast we walked to the small craft Harbor. There’s a tall mast that we assumed must be attached to a Tall Ship. It was inside the Naval Base. Just as Cat asked I saw that it was anchored to the roof of a building. The Sailor at the gate laughed.
Next stop Boulders Beach. There is a colony of Penguins living there. Not huge numbers but plenty of the little guys waddling around in formal wear. What a treat to watch. Cat’s pretty happy that we’ll miss Antarctica but I really wanted to see these guys in giant sized Tuxedos.
Onward, to the Point. The day is cloudy but no rain. The road leads directly to and into Cape Peninsula National Park. You have no choice, you gotta pay or turn back. We paid. The scenery is fairly mellow, lots of fynbos. There were a few strange looking antelope, called Bontebok hanging around near the Park Infocenter. Though we didn’t see any, we did learn of Sushi eating Baboons. They climb down and harvest mussels from the rocks. We also stopped at the two obelisk monuments commemorating the passage of the first 2 Europeans, Portuguese, in fact, who rounded the Cape of Good Hope. Bartholomeu Dias in 1488 then Vasco Da Gama in 1497.
A ride up the Funicular to the spectacular view of “Cape Point” where we met some guys from the States and some from Lebanon here attending a Life Fitness Seminar. Strange, here we are at the southern tip of Africa after 9 tough months and we’re already starting to miss her? We see the rocky cliffs and the spray off them as the surf crashes but we only remember the good times and people that are now part of our lives.
Back down the road and around to The Cape of Good Hope. A rocky beach with a monument telling us that it’s the Southwestern most point of the continent. Almost disappointing after the blood sweat and tears we’ve shed getting here. Anticlimactic?
Lunch in a little village known as Scarborough. Soup and bread as we watched locals play cards and scrabble. A decision at the table, we need to find a more central place to spend our last 2 days in Cape Town.
It’s called the Chapman’s Peak Coastal Drive. Not that scenic but very scary. Sheer cliffs that drop away from the road to the crashing surf below. And narrow, it’s so narrow that we had to suck in our breaths when cars passed. Then the topper, we had to stop at a tollgate and pay for the drive of fear.
We stopped at Three Anchors Bay, paid the rent and picked up our bags. Driving around was also nerve racking, between traffic and lack of ideas where to stay. I tired of the game and wheeled into the Holiday Inn. They’ve been good to us so, maybe this will be a good home for our final days? Wrong, It was way over budget and they were even a little snippy. Who would think that good old, down home Holiday Inn would think of themselves as upscale?
Cat had seen a small boutique Hotel near Bowman’s Bike Shop. We cruised back and bought in at the Cape Heritage Hotel. A little over budget but close to everything. Winfred checked us in and helped get the bags to the room.
Our list of “Things to Do” in the next 2 days has grown. You know, to see to accomplish and to enjoy, before Africa is History in our Book.
Dinner at the adjacent Asian Restaurant. Fair food, slow service. TV and Bed.
June 7, 2004
The bed is big, the mattress is comfortable. We slept like babies. Winfred introduced us to Meryl and Elizabeth who served a wonderful breakfast. As we ate Nick, the affable owner and avid cyclist, came in, sat and talked cycling, travel and business. He’s traveled the world working for large Hotel chains. The Cape Heritage wasn’t doing well, he has applied his management style for the past year and turned it around. It’s a great place to stay next time you’re in Cape Town.
Wasted Trip, Lost Pictures
We’ve got things to do and it was 10:30 AM before we got moving. I drove out to the Sony Customer Service office. They suggested bringing our disabled disc to them. The directions seemed simple enough and they were until I left the N1. Then it was a lot of stop and ask, stop and ask. When finally there it turned out to almost be a wasted trip. They couldn’t finalize the CD? The pictures of people we met, the boys laying music as we arrived and some of our best shots of Victoria Falls may be lost, forever? When I walked back to the car I was shocked, there was a big dent in the trunk. Then around the side, I saw that the front bumper had been hit, too. A sinking feeling then glad that we’d signed for the Insurance. As I tried the key in the door I realized, it wasn’t our car, WHEW! Getting back to the Cape Heritage was a simple task. I parked and called Pickup Car Hire at 12:00, exactly. We avoid additional cost if they pick up by noon. They were there in 20 minutes and true to their word, they waived the Insurance and additional time charges.
Cat’s morning was a shopping spree. She found the plaid plastic bags to pack our cycling bags in. She also bought toiletry necessities and picked up our Airline tickets. Our next task is to get to the Dentist. Winfred was going to the market and volunteered to be our guide. He told us that he is from Johannesburg but moved because of the crime rate there. He was walking down the street in Joburg talking on his Cell Phone when a guy threatened him with a gun. The guy tried to grab the Phone and when Winfred resisted he shot him in the leg. We told him that we hadn’t felt the crime that everyone talks about but then, we didn’t really get into the neighborhoods known for robbery and violence. I assured him that there are areas in our little town of Oxnard where the same thing could and does happen, almost daily.
An African Dentist?
We’re well beyond the typical misgivings that Africa is a backward place where natives and hungry lions lurk in the bushes, hoping for a tourist to walk by. However we did have some trepidation about a Dentist even though our friend, Robin, recommended him. When we stepped out of the elevator on the 12th floor and got inside the office, all fear disappeared. Dr. Kevin Reed’s office is the epitome of modern! The equipment is incredible, we’ve never seen the feature of a tiny camera that takes pictures and projects them on a TV screen. He inspected, x-rayed, shot the pictures then gave us his assessments. Cat’s problems can wait until we’re back home. I had a cracked filling that he felt might be leaking and could cause a cavity. He felt that it should be taken care of soon. I asked if he could do the work today, he said, “Yes, we’ll take off the old and replace it right now if you want”. I couldn’t believe it could be done that quickly? They went right to work, pulled the old filling off and had it replaced in just 20 minutes.
Dentists here only do dental work, they leave cleaning to their Hygienist, Sarah. She was thorough, made recommendations, even scolded me for the way I’ve been using my Dental Floss. She has the ceiling of her office covered with crayon pictures done by her young patients. Very entertaining during an otherwise tense and at times a little painful process.
Our idea to get physicals here has faded. We’re out of time today and tomorrow is reserved for sight seeing. We’ll just have to do that in Argentina. Getting the Dental checkup was a real relief.
It’s damp and cool but we walked. A Russian Restaurant caught our eye. It is a fun, funny play on the word, Soviet called Sob eit. (So Be It) The bar is called “Cape to Cuba”. We had to have a picture of the V. I. Lenin look alike staring up from his casket in the entry floor. A catchy marketing strategy and that’s as close as it comes to being Russian. We stopped at an Internet Café, read and answered nice messages from family and friends then dashed through what would turn out to be a downpour. The Italian Restaurant next door was another dash, between big drops. Calzone for Cat and a juicy Lamb Shank for me. Great food and people watching.
A quick stop at Bowman’s to check on progress. They had the bikes in the air and 3 guys working on them. They are so thorough, so professional. The bikes have never had it so good.
Back at Base Camp Cape Heritage, the rain had taken a toll on the roof. Nick had mentioned his problems with roofers and this is proof that he was right, the guys didn’t know what they were doing. We called and the night clerk came, surveyed the problem and placed wastebaskets under the drips. To us it was like putting an obstacle course between the bed and the toilet. And, the drips were drumming on the bottom of the baskets. She came back up and lined the buckets with towels. That took care of the noise but nothing for the discomfort. She reappeared and helped us carry bags to a different room. Bigger and nicer, sometimes disaster leads to better things.
We snuggled down under the pile of covers on the comfortable bed and slept to the soothing sound of rain on the roof.
June 8, 2004
Cape Town Robben Island Tour
Last day in Africa! We’re motivated to get going, see the highpoints we’ve been looking forward to. Breakfast, a couple from New York are here celebrating their 30th Anniversary. Gary was in the Peace Corp, Constance worked with the Peace Corp, in Botswana. They worked together, fell in love and with 30 years seniority, it appears to have worked out quite well. Gary has carried on with his International interest, he works with a Non-profit called Human Rights First.
Our first stop, Bowman’s Bike Shop. We carried a few things that they’ll pack inside the boxes with the bikes. They’ve got the forks apart and though they’re slightly worn Kyle is sure that they’ll survive the ride from South America to California. He’s replacing the chains, all bearings, tires and installing the new seat posts supplied by LandRider and seats from Don Lawson. You remember, Don from Knysna, has invented a seat for the upright handlebar cycles like our. He’s sent 2 to Kyle. We are keeping our old seats, just in case, but he seems pretty confident that we’ll like them.
A City Tour
The Cape Town Explorer is one of those open topped, double decked bus City Tours. The kind we tend to dislike, but we’ll never see this place in our only day left without it. The morning is cool but sunny. The big bus wheeled around the small streets as Melanie described the buildings and history of each neighborhood. One area of extreme interest to me was what she called Neighborhood #8. The Apartheid Government proclaimed the area to be converted from a colored to an all white neighborhood. The residents were relocated and their homes demolished. The decision came late in the failing Apartheid system. The area became politically sensitive and has never been rebuilt. They have started building a few homes and apartments on the fringe but the majority of the land remains vacant, a sad reminder of bygone days.
The Explorer climbs up to the lift at Table Mountain. Our plan to see Cape Town from above was thwarted by Mother Nature. She slipped a thick dress of cloud on the mountain. We got a good understanding of Cape Town but not many good pictures from the bus. They drive so fast it’s impossible to set for a shot.
We dropped off the bus near the Waterfront and hustled to make the 12:00 noon boat to Robben Island. Two disappointments, there is no Noon Boat today and the fellow at the ticket booth pointed out a problem with the letter Janine, from Travel Club had given us. It’s good for 1 ticket but we were supposed to have called a week in advance. We complained and he sent us downstairs. The guy there handed us off to a gal, she took a look then went back inside. Just as she did a woman walked out with a Birthday Cake on her arm. She was proud so I took her picture then sang, “Happy Birthday to You”! The other gal re-appeared and conferred with Phyllis, the Birthday girl. Turns out that she’s the manager. She sat her cake down and looked at the letter then turned to us and said, “This letter isn’t valid”. As we began to lose heart she told the other Gal, get them a ticket.
These tickets cost almost ¼ of our daily budget. What a nice gift Phyllis gave us for her Birthday! Our boat won’t float until 3:00 PM so we walked and took pictures of the Waterfront. I fell in love with the performance of a group calling themselves the Abonwabisi Brothers. They perform a Zulu a Capella style music and accent it with group moves. I watched, listened, took a photo and video then bought their CD. (Hope you can see and hear them on our little video.)
Love, Forgiveness, Reconciliation
The ride to Robben was a little rough. We bought sandwiches, we ate then almost suffered seasickness. The tour is completely organized. Our guides are former prisoners. The first, Sideeq, was a political prisoner here from 1960 to 63. He was funny but firm at times. He had lived here for a while after getting the job but just couldn’t take it. He needs to leave at night to keep the bad memories at bay. It was a very tough life he and the others got for their resistance to the Apartheid Rule. He told of isolation for years, of families being separated by rules like prisoners could only communicate in English or Afrikaans with visitors. Some families only spoke their native language. Also, prisoner’s children under 18 weren’t allowed to visit the Island. He said that some of them didn’t see their kids for years.
Sideeq’s portion of the tour is by bus. The infamous Lime Quarry held two points of extreme interest for us. The first is a tunnel where many great ideas were formed during meeting there. It was the toilet for prisoners. The value was that the guards dared not tread there. It was against the law for Whites to use Black toilets. It was here that much of Mandela and other dissident’s thoughts and ideals began and traveled off the Island while they remained imprisoned here. Also, they recognized that ignorance was holding them back. It was in the toilet cave that the philosophy, “Each one, Teach one” was born. That is, each prisoner was required to teach others who hadn’t been schooled.
The second and most important thought born in the Toilet Hole would become the basis for change once Apartheid died. Love, Forgiveness and Reconciliation were the words written on the wall there that may have saved thousands of lives. They say that our own infamous CIA, famous for bad or disinformation, warned then South African President, F. W. De Klerk that legalizing the ANC would set off a blood bath. In fact their estimate was that as many as a million would be killed, most of them white. De Klerk went ahead and fortunately Nelson Mandela and the others chose to take the “Love, Forgiveness and Reconciliation path”.
Another feature of the Lime Quarry is a pile of stones. Sideeq told us that when Mandela and others were here celebrating the 10th anniversary of his release, here in 2000. When they came to the Lime Quarry he spoke of memories then picked up a stone and walked a way then said something like, “Each rock here is different from the other yet when together they have a new strength”. With that each person there picked up a rock and added it to the pile.
Our second guide, Derick, was held here from 1985 until 1991. (He wrote in our book the exact day, April 11, 1991, when he was finally released.) He’s younger and still slightly angry. When asked, he said that you had to go along with all the rules or you received no favors. He had a tough time deviating from his beliefs so they cut him no quarters. He did his entire sentence and added days and seems proud to have done it that way.
Derick took us into the cellblocks. He was splendid in a harsh way. His speaking voice is strong and his language eloquent. He asked where we were all from he lit into President George W. when we raise our hand when he said, “America”? He spat out feelings about the current situation in Iraq and the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba being held without charges, representation or contact with family, indefinitely.
There is an Army General from Zambia on our tour. One of his bodyguards is South African with Robben Island. He told Cat that lots of people from other countries in Africa, especially Military men, visit the Island. We watched them and took a picture of him. One of his Guards told us that he was standing in front of the cell that his Boss had been held in. Mandela, or 46664 as he was known when he was residing here, was held in Cell #5. There is a piece of wood in the Cell with the following carved onto it;
No other man has ever done so much for so many!
Madiba, as he is affectionately known by fellow South Africans, appeared at the opening of a school built with funds from his Trust Fund, despite his announcement of retirement just a week ago. What a guy!
Catching the local bus was no small feat. We asked then walked then asked again. At the shelter a young guy, David, helped us. We were getting on the wrong bus when he spoke up. He joined us on the bus to town and starting asking about our bike ride. What a nice young High School student. Another of those Hospitality Moments.
We split up, Cat headed back to the Cape Heritage and I to Bowman’s Bike Shop. The guys there were just finishing putting us back together. Kyle had found a crack on the frame caused by the broken seat. He tried to get it welded but his friend’s equipment was broken, too. Looks like it’ll hold up. Cat, who is repacking our bags, called to say that Nick our pal from the Hotel has volunteered to take us to the Airport tomorrow and would pick up the bikes in about an hour. The pressure was on, the guys worked at getting the frames and wheels stuffed into the bike boxes. They were just taping up when Nick arrived. We shuffled them to his van, he said “Good Night, see you in the morning” and drove away.
We dined for the final time at Savoy Cabbage, what Cat calls a Chi-chi place. Good food, small servings, large price.
A final packing frenzy then sleep, restful sleep, sleep, sleep.
June 9, 2004
Cape Town to Buenos Aires
The wake up call at 6:00 AM was a waste, we were up and final packing at 5:00. Our busy minds had spun all night, not as much sleep as we’d hoped for but this is a BIG DAY for us. Breakfast at 7:00 then Nick came at 8:00. We already had the bags down in the lobby. Yes, were anxious and don’t want to be late for our flight. That anxiety had us at the Airport 2 ½ hours early. Well, they do recommend getting to the terminal 2 hours early. We took a pic with Nick, shook and hugged then pushed our bags to the counter. We had a clear path. Bags checked in, tickets and boarding passes in hand, we had 2 hours until flight time.
The Departure Terminal is a giant shopping center. Cat spent the tiny remains of our RAND fortune on candy bars and a bottle of wine. (That bottle will come in very handy tonight but then that’s another story.
Our Malaysian Airlines flight arrived on time, we boarded on time and settled in. The plane is a new 747. The only problem I have is that it must have been designed for the average Malaysian, the seats are a little small.
Strange to here the Captain speak in Malaysian, English and then, Spanish. We lifted off at 11:00 AM, Cape Town time. The Odyssey is on the move, after 9 months and 8 days in Africa.
African After Thoughts
A Small Glossary of Interesting South African Words
Bakkie (Bucky) A Pickup Truck
Braai (Bry) A Barbeque
Dankie (Donkey) Thank You
Fynbos (Feene Bose) Fine Bush
Izzit? (Is It) Really?
Playsiah (Pleasure) Your Welcome
Robot – Stop Light
Wow, 2 years and 2 months cycling the world and 9 months in Africa.
This has been a DREAM for us. We thank you for reading along.
The best part of this Odyssey is meeting new people, experiencing new places, and SHARING those with YOU.
Stick around, we’re headed to South America and the last big leg of our journey.
No, we won’t see Antarctica but we’ll start as far south as possible.
So, we’re brushing up on our flimsy Spanish and having the winter cloths sent.
Hasta la Vista, Africa. Hola Argentina.