Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Feast and Famine...for the eyes
Dinner was at a local restaurant, not to be recommended. But Nikki, a friend of Billy's arrived via the bus, to join us for the last three days. It was great having a new face and a female at that. However, Malcolm fed them many tequila's (I saw this coming and left) so it was a rude introduction to the tour.
A poor decision was to leave at 8am as Billy - possibly misguided by his wine and tequila - suggested we were out of the Karoo. Bad move. It was to be another sweltering day of 32 degrees average and a high of 44 degrees again.
But, leaving Montagu was spectacular with the rock formations and the tunnel through which the road had been constructed. I missed that photo opportunity. We rode through a town called Ashton and then began the feast for the eyes.
Green is such a soothing colour and the green vineyards, green fruit trees laden with peaches, plums and pears and even quinces were a joy to ride past. We spent quite a lot of time on tar getting through this area and we saw many well known wine estates such as Van Loveren and Zandvliet. The roads were lined with bright red and yellow cannas and there was an abundance of trees.
We crossed the Breede River over the old red iron bridge and a short while later turned onto the dirt road to wind our way to MacGregor.
After the earlier days of this tour, any climbing now was relatively insignificant but Malcolm and I always took time to stretch. It was our way of "smelling the roses".
This paid off brilliantly at the base of a small climb when a tractor towing trolleys of ripe yellow cling peaches trundled past and the driver kindly gave us two to power us up the hill. Mmmm. Fresh fruit, straight off the tree and the export quality.
However, this was where the famine for the eyes began - back to the dryness of the Karoo we knew so well from the past couple of days.
Up over the hill, past fields of onions and we could see the hamlet of MacGregor at the bottom of the valley. One slight deviation to photograph a beautiful puff adder crossing the road. Weirtd to think this was our first sighting of a snake of any description on the trip.
We rode up the main road and saw the VW parked outside a coffee shop called Villagers. Billy and Nikki had already arrived and Eddie and Vanessa were looking relaxed. But, man was it hot at that point.
I had really been feeling the heat today even though it was a 51km (about 2,5 hours) ride to this point. The leaving late from Montagu meant that many extra minutes in the hotter sun. Even the bacon, olive paste and tomato sandwhich couldn't give me the vooma I needed. I can recommend the homemade plum juice here though.
But, we couldn't stay there forever and it was a "mere" 24km to our overnight stop at the Oestervanger self catering cottages. It was now going on midday but we would have more tricky navigation over the mountains so it would take a while longer.
Leaaving MacGregor, I was really flat and I couldn't believe the others had ridden past a perfect dam for swimming in. But somehow, on a shortish pass, I got my second wind and felt sooo much better for the rest of the day.
Our turn off point on this road was at some revolting thatch houses a la Jo'burg secure complexes. The architect should be shot - there is so much character in the Cape architecture and these were just plain ugly.
So now we were off the main dirt road and heading into the bundu. The Freedom Trail leads into a farm called Coenies Rivier and we worked our way through the labourers houses and smiling kids to hit some sweet jeep track. My absolute favourite kind of climbing, in fact, favourite all time riding! The powerlines sweeping across the hills were our guidelines and we worked our way steadily towards them with some beautiful, strange succulents along the way.
An incredibly rough and steep wagon trail took us down the mountain and at one point, we stopped to plot our route and we looked into a really bare valley with dirt roads criss crossing seeming to go nowhere. However, our road was plain thanks to a new house that had been built and we bundu bashed our way across. One more koppie to go around and we were looking at our overnight stop - three little renovated cottages across the valley. We stopped at a farm house to check our directions and were given ice cold water by one of the labourers preparing apricots for drying.
Then, we collected some peaches as big as tennis balls (no, bigger) for the team and as we approached the cottages, Eddie and Vanessa pulled in. I stuffed a ham, Camembert cheese, gherkin, mayo roll down my throat and instantly felt better.
But it is bliksems hot. There is a wind but it is stifling. It is now 6pm and it is finally starting to cool off. I think the ride was about 72km with about 500m of ascent - my gps is too far to get right now. I will post all the ride stats at the end once the info has been uploaded.
So we are braaing tonight....again. Too South African to mind that. Malcolm poured Nikki and I a surprise drink. Holy Smokes. We called it a Karoo Dust Devil and the legs were instantly rubbery. That's one way to relax after a hot day.
Tomorrow is the big push to Bainskloof Pass - about 129km. An early start has to be on the cards, else we will cook again. So it is about 200km to the sea and I can't believe it is coming to an end.