Sunday, September 21, 2014

Melkbosstrand to Red Cross Children's Memorial Hospital, Mowbray - 38km

Day 22: 17th September 2014
We have arrived 3 days early! 

At Red Cross Hospital
This is the last day of our trip. The memories of our journey which we started three weeks ago will be an indelible part of our lives. The hours and hours that Curt and I spoke, reminiscing, finding solutions to what made the world go round were sometimes funny and sometimes thought provoking.

I would like to thank 

  • my dear friend Curt, my partner in my Journey For Haemophilia for his unwavering support and care.
  • Sandy for keeping the blog up to date, her love and cheering me on.
  • Fiona and the kids for sharing Curt with me.
  • Bradley Rayner (SAHF) for his energy and compassion.  
  • Sr Ann Cruickshank for her presence at the start.
  • The Namibian Team: Dr Regina Redecker, Pastor Robert Smith and Jolandie Haywood.
  • and to all my Friends!
The success of this tour would have not been possible without your love and care!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hopefield to Melkbosstrand - 106km

Day 21: 16th September 2014
A night at Plaasmol Padstal was wonderful. The R45 to Malmesbury takes me pass the the wind farm; 20km from Hopefield and onto a gravel road the R307 along the railway line. Only 40km and into Darling. My route takes me past Mamre and on to Atlantis which I try to avoid at all cost. The traffic is not what I expected and I make Melbosstrand with my shirt still on. Phew! 
My journey from Namibia was a wonderful experience. The South African leg of the journey was memorable for all the right reasons. I hope that my blog will serve as information to those wanting to tour South Africa:
DON'T BOTHER, TRUCK AND 4X4  ARE KING. If you really want to do this bring along a coffin with you as well … you have to go home in something.
The day has come. By now my fresh sheets and pampering beckons. We have mixed feelings about returning home. Personally its only really my family that draws me, but if there was something interesting on the horizon…..I could probably be tempted. There is so much to see and do in this world and I cannot see the comforts of home restricting me from a life out there. The situations are unique, the people different and the encounters priceless. In my earlier interactions with the outdoor life I looked at the veld and it all looked the same to me, until I started to take an interest in the fauna and flora that a whole new world opened. Reading the veld became an obsession, identifying tracks, buck species ,why proteas grow on one side of the slope, the aloes the other, the list is endless and I haven't scratched the surface. I don't need the DSTV as it gets in the way of all my reading about this subject. It has been a romance that started 10 years ago and I am still a novice in the honeymoon stage. What a privilege it has been to be this close to the road and nature to hear and smell the very nature around you. Some landscapes go on for ever and it compels you to take in all its colour, magnificence and overwhelming size, to put your life in perspective. So all the soppy philosophical stops have been pulled….but that is why I do this… to have a relationship with myself! Well done Eugene you have given me a ticket to your world and for that I am grateful!!!

Elandsbaai to Hopefield - 118km

Day 20: 15th September 2014
Elandsbaai kind of grew on me overnight. It feels much safer in the morning and the sleepy cove feel makes me consider another visit to the town. We are up as usual and continue peering into our rapidly emptying fridge and decide that bacon and eggs it is going to be. By now our clothes, bedding and just about everything needs a major overhaul and I swear even the sheep I see this morning-- if they were to wear lipstick, would look attractive to me. Yep this must be the home run!
Vlei at Elandsbaai
There is a steady climb out of the bay area and I look over my shoulder to have a last look at the resident baboon. A new and appealing side to the town emerges which I must admit was different to what we had seen before. The road for Eugene is not great but the tar gives him exceptional speed. By now he is so fit that my stops are short and my book is complaining for lack of attention. Its a beautiful drive and of course all the way to Dwarskersbos is birding country.
Iron Ore haul
Abruptly Velddrif arrives and suburbia pokes its head out with all its trappings of Spar, Pep and banks. Traffic is fast becoming a problem and we are faced with new challenges that just a short few weeks ago we would have welcomed as "nothing like our traffic" in town. We take a long uneventful drive towards Hopefield in the "hope" of finding a campsite. Nothing, but then the hospitality angel arrives and we get taken in by an eclectic family who gives us their lawn and a farmyard which they are currently converting into an eatery. Ah, it all ends well. Now for the long haul home tomorrow which becomes more dense and complicated with every km we do. But we'll deal with that tomorrow as we usually do. So far we have eaten the elephant 1 bite at time---which works for me!

Strandfontein to Elandsbaai - 98km

Day 19: 14th September 2014

It is a soggy day to start off with as the Atlantic mist continuously coats the sleepy resort town. I am not sure what the road ahead is like, but it is Sunday and all is quiet. Our municipal park attendant hasn't come to collect the rent so it looks like it may be Christmas in September. So off we go through Doringbaai which in itself does not seem like too bad an option as towns go, but the road drags on until the outskirts of town where we hit the dreaded gravel. By now we have gone through all the moans and grumbles and Eugene says "push on". It relentlessly winds its way through to Lambert's bay with nothing much to show. The town once again is lazy and typically West Coast, but we start noticing more Cape Town cars and Sunday drivers.
We head out along the Spoornet services road to Elandsbaai with the sea lapping along on our flank and we unceremoniously arrive in the local caravan park with Baboon Rock in the distance reminding us of its presence. We decide that this will be our last braai for the trip and pull out all the stops. We are now going through our rations closed eyes as our preferences have long been consumed up the track. Ah, to bed with the sound of crashing waves and the pleasant thoughts of loved ones soon to be seen after 3 more sleeps.

Kotzerus to Strandfontein - 127km

Day 18: 13th September 2014

                 West Coast tortoise
After some final directions from our host I am on my to the land of nowhere. Well, I have a vague idea as I am aiming for Koekenaap.I am hopeful that a tarred road will appear. A railway crossing is the first sign of life. Finally I hit tar and Namaqua Sands Mining generously offers me their asphalt.I suppose I have to be grateful for what they do for us cycling types!

End of Day
Small towns and their inhabitants in these outlying areas have their own psychology. When asking for directions things never stretch further than say 30-40km. Also responses are not given in mileage but rather visual descriptions of things like passing a water tower or some obscure hill or something totally baffling. So you humour the dude and start agreeing to not seem too disinterested, but you say to yourself, hier kom k….k . I think its their way of keeping sane and to deal with their localised environment, they say to themselves, don't go large or you may just question what you are doing in this small dorp
Well any route we follow out today still comes back to the same point. In fact this happens to us and we just smile at each other like two moegoes who have been taken for a ride. Even the GPS yearns for some direction in its now short lived life. Yep, this is the forgotten part of South Africa, even Pofadder, Pella or Keimoes gets more hits on the popularity ratings. If I ever want to hide from the tax man or Gerrie Nel, this would be my place of choice. We end up in Strandfontein much further than expected along with fish and chips and a pooped Eugene.
I don't know how he does it and I suppose I never will!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wallekraal to Kotzerus - 78km

Day 17:12th September 2014

We arrived in Soebatsfontein in the late afternoon. After some investigation we found a fenced off area which we were told we could use as camp for the night. We were still unsure about our current location and after a quick call to the park we were assured of proper accommodation in an adjoining farm. We were given directions to the park. We entered the park from Soebatsfontein and were charged a park fee for entering and exiting. This was at 4pm and we were not told it was a 30km journey to the office which took just under an hour. If we had known this we would not have entered. I must say the park on the other end was spectacular and had we been there a week earlier we would have seen the daisies in all their glory. I got to see the Namaqua Park which is absolutely huge, beyond my expectations. 
Sunset at Kotzerus
The detour has cost us a bit of time and our journey begins today at Wallekraal.

The day is slow and tiring and even the gps is not playing along. The day ends off with an introduction to a very colourful character called Ettiene De Jager who runs an accommodation establishment who kindly offers us space for the night without charge. I think we needed to pay him for not only the stay but the entertainment value of his conversation as well. We look forward to tomorrow with better prospects.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Springbok to Soebatsfontein - 120km

Day 16: 11th September 2014

The landscape of Springbok is quite interesting. The N7 is the backbone to the town. The planning is not conventional so the town developed on either side of the N7 with older more established areas formed as part of the old copper mine.

My route will take me towards town of  Kleinsee (alluvial diamond territory).  The sharp incline out of town is a bit harsh for the morning. Not long after that the Sandhoogte Pass is about to add more heat. Strangely enough, there is a mist that hangs over the valley. I'm  riding with a jacket on and the downhill is cold. Not long after another climb, the  Spektakel Pass appears with an amazing downhill at least 5km long. At the  50km mark the turnoff to Kommaggas is a tarred road uncannily and the country side is dry and barren. Sheep and goats are farmed in this area. 
Uphill climb to Kommaggas
Another nasty climb awaits me at the crest and in the  distance is the town of Kommaggas, a mission town. The tar road ends here for no reason and the poorly maintained  gravel  takes over. Ever so often I have to push my bike through the loose sandy soil. The turnoff to Soebatsfontein brings no comfort. Long stretches of rolling hill and the landscape has turned the ochre soil green. Along my route I enter the Namaqua National Park. At far end of the park I enter Soebatsfontein

The stretch along here is very confusing. Fences for farms are either non-existent or neglected, sheep and goats roam freely and people tend to erect a khaya in the veld and then continue farming. Its strange I must say. The infrastructure and governance seem to have fallen by the wayside. Have there been land claims here or is it unprofitable to farm? At this rate all the vegetation will be chewed up pretty soon. Then one stumbles across these little hamlets where people seem to yearn to go to Springbok whether to seek a better existence or because there is nothing better to do … I don't get it. One thing for sure is that employment and opportunities are in short supply. On the other hand, when one enters the National Park and things seem better. Farms are more prosperous and still run by generational families. There definitely is a political vacuum here. We will see tomorrow if there is any change when we leave the park.