Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The mighty heat of the Karoo strikes

Today was a day of tenacity - both physically and mentally. It is 16.15 and still damn hot but that is getting ahead of today's story. My suggestion would be to read this edition of the blog in the nearest sauna just so you can empathise!

We left Oudtshoorn at about 5.30 but it was already warm. We wandered down the road towards Mossel Bay before turning onto the dirt roads that line the various valleys of this region. We should have gone to Mossel Bay.

It was beautiful riding in typical Karoo surroundings - still lots of ostriches and goats and sheep but lots and lots of space to fill your soul. The temperature was rising steaily and it wasn't for the first time that I was grateful to have my Anatomic UV sleeves. We hit a little pass where I had to stop to pump my tire so for a while I was the only person in the Universe. I came upon a farm and there were two labourers sitting on the side of the road - after a friendly greeting, they said "Pasop vir die voels". "Dankie" I said expecting to see a couple of stray ostriches in the road.

Not so. As I came over the rise, there was a flock coming down the road towards me with a large white flag controlling them from behind. Somewhat wiser than yesterday, I pulled off the road to let them through and then I see the farmer standing on top of his bakkie waving at me to move further off.

I was now standing in the middle of a large bush taking photos. But the ostriches had spotted me and stopped and nothing would cajole them into moving forward. Even when I hid in the bush, would they move.

One irate farmer drove through the group, came back loaded me and the bike onto the back of his bakkie and proceeded to drive through the flock again - I was bird high to the ostriches and man, they are large. I saw Malcolm on the other side, also having suffered the indignity of being loaded into the bakkie. Unfortunately, one bird started hauling back down the road - so there I am in the back of the bakkie, the old Medullah with his flag holding on for dear life while we raced to get in front of the runaway bird. Malcolm leapt into the road waving his arms madly and they eventually managed to turn the bird around. We eventually left one grumpy farmer to herd his ostriches who were still not moving!

It was gorgeous riding down into gorge and meandering through the craggy formations. Our plan was to meet Eddie and Vanessa at about 55km at the Gamke River for a top of water and our sammies. Best laid plans...blah, blah. No cell reception, the VW leaving town late after topping up on drinking water and we were left high and dry.

Eventually we stop in a construction hut for shade and considered our options. The map showed very little in the way of houses in this forsaken area and Billy was seriously low on water. Having wasted an hour and the temp rising, we decided to push on to some "potential" houses on the map.

This road consisted of opening and closing many farm gates and about two kms, after leaving our hidey hole, Malcom runs dry. But our luck held and around the corner was the only farm we were to see for the next 30kms.

Thanks Brigitte, James and family for the juice, lemon and mint mix, the precious rain water to fill our camelbacks and your hospitality. But that's not all. It was now seriously hot.

As we left the famhouse 20 mins later, we noticed tire tracks on the dry road. Yup, you got it. The VW had passed us while we were in the farmhouse. Still no cell reception.

James mentioned that we would find reception next to some farm dam and a few kms further on, we made contact with Eddie to everyone's relief. They waited next to a batch of ostriches and about 30mins later we were all re-united. Ham and cheese sammies, Lucozade and re-hidrate never tasted so good. But by now, we were behind schedule with the Rooiberg Pass to come. Ordinarily, the pass would be a tough test, but after a long day (83km) of riding and searing heat, it was a pass from hell.

This person freely admits to walking at times to allow myself to cool off, get the mental gears turning and allow some self pity time! Luckily, the transporter was waiting at the top (rather a long wait for Billy and Malcolm) but nothing like some Lucozade, baby potatoes in olive oil and salt and a big bunch of grapes to get the body going again. The prospect of a 10km downhill was also enticing but even this awesome descent was like riding in an oven. The last 6 or so km to the Calitzdorp Spa ( a dive - not to be recommended), was rather long and tedious.

But we are here now, somewhat dried out, somewhat thirsty, and somewhat impressed with our ride today. The distance was 113km, 6.25 hours of riding for me, 1471m of ascent and a recorded highest temperature of 44C and an average temp of 37 degrees.


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