Author Archives: kellbess

12 May: Yzerfontein to Capetown

93 km to ride with 730 metres of climbing and 720 down. Last day today!

As was expected, it was very cold overnight. I was awake from 4 am. The cold night was not helped by the tent being soaking wet with condensation. Yay the last time for a while taking down a tent and packing it away.

Wet tents are so hard to pack they just don’t want to go into the bag. I am pleased I also have a dry bag to put it into so it won’t get my gear in my bag wet.  Shirley is so sick of her tent that after pulling it down she threw it into the bin. To be fair her tent has had zip problems for a while. I am going to enjoy not having to grope around in the dark with a head lamp on, getting dressed and getting packed up. I also suspect it will be awhile before I eat porridge again.

We are meeting at lunch at 76 km to convoy the last 17 km into Capetown.

We had a cold foggy start to the morning and had to delay leaving camp until the fog had lifted a bit. There were quite a few hills in the morning to get up. Lovely farm land, very different from what we have seen till now – green and lots of cattle, plus an ostrich farm.

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Last day, early morning start from Yzerfontein

I am riding with Fritz, Carl and Tom. We have been told to make sure when we are going through Atlantis at 46 km to ride in groups. Atlantis is an area of high crime and last year a rider was held up at knife point and robbed. Atlantis was certainly pretty bleak, a mixture of apartment blocks and shanty town, it looks very poor and run down.

I found out later that Atlantis was created in response to the Group Areas Act 1950 that removed all black people living in Capetown and relocated them over 50 km from Capetown.

After Atlantis we had a head wind for about 20 km, then thankfully turned to the left and had a tail wind most of the rest of the way to the lunch stop.

We met at a lovely beach for lunch, with a great view of Capetown and Table Mountain, plus TDA have made an amazing lunch. We had about an hour to take photos of the view and each other before we left in the convoy.

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At the gourmet lunch spot on the beach after 70k. Cape Town and the finish only 20k away.

Unlike yesterday’s convoy it was fun, we had a police escort in front and back, and traffic lights were blocked off so we could go straight through. It was nice weather and flat and even though it took two hours the time went pretty quickly.

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Convoy with police escorts into Cape Town

The convoy ended at the Lagoon hotel, on the beach in front of it. It was very nice seeing families waiting for some of the riders, some of them had not seen their partners for 4 months.

We had lots of photos on the beach, of individuals and groups, then we went inside for a glass of bubbles and the medal ceremony.

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Finish at the Lagoon Beach Hotel, Cape Town

Everyone who does the ride gets a medal, some people love to get these. Then the 6 riders who had done the entire ride – every f*cking inch – didn’t get a medal recognizing this, they got a certificate! I would have thought if you were going to give medals surely you would have one for EFI riders.

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Finish at the Lagoon Beach Hotel, Cape Town

Next job was boxing up the bikes (Brett) and drying tents on hotel balcony (me). I was amused to find when I had packed up my tent that morning a snail had been included. I hope he/she enjoys their new life in the hotel garden.

Then I spent some time writing thank you notes and sorting gratuities for the TDA staff. Got it all just sorted in time for dinner. I sat with Shirley, Dan, Brett, Tom, Richard, Terry, Fritz and Carl.

Dinner was a nice buffet with lots of selections. After the main meal we watched a slide show that Lordan, the comms guy, had put together of the trip.

After the dinner a number of us went to the bar to continue celebrating. I was surprised to find I had managed to stay awake until 11.30pm especially since I had been awake since 4 am.

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After 23k the Wildcats stop in Darling trying to recruit another starter at the Marmalade Cat Cafe

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Finish at the Lagoon Beach Hotel, Cape Town

Categories: Tour d'Afrique | 7 Comments

11 May: Elandsbay to Yzerfontein

146 km to ride, with 605 up and 600 down.

I woke up to a range of birthday wishes from family and friends which was lovely, plus bout of gastro – not so good.

It getting much darker in the mornings now so we are not setting off until 7:15 when it gets light enough, so won’t need to get up at 5:45 anymore.

I hadn’t told anyone it was my birthday until I told Peter last night when he came and chatted to us at the hotel, and he has told everyone. Peter even told the shop owner  when I stopped at 55 km to get a drink. I was sitting at a table drinking my ginger ale outside, next thing the store owner comes out with soft serve in a cup with a candle on top, singing happy birthday, followed by Peter laughing.

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With my birthday ‘sundae’ and shopkeeper

The first 12 km today included 7 km riding on a gravel road around the coast, with beautiful views of the sea and shoreline. After this it was pretty flat but with either a cross wind or a head wind.

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12k of gravel alongside the ocean leaving Elandsbay

We had to go in a convoy in groups of 12 – 16 from lunch for 67 km, due to being on main highway and we had to be seen to be a “bike event” because of police regulations. Two groups went with police escorts and I was in the group with Tallis. Unfortunately Tallis went way too slow downhill and on the flat and a bit too fast up hills. Of course all the climbing had to be in afternoon! I was getting helpful hints on how to maximise my speed by a couple of riders, so after 40 km I was getting stressed and had had enough and got in the lunch truck as it came past.  It’s my  🎂 🍰  I should be enjoying it! 

At camp I put up both the tents. I had literally just banged in the last peg in Brett’s tent when he showed up. He said he hadn’t waited behind a bush until I had finished.

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Last night in a tent, beach camp at Yzerfontein

After putting up the tents and having a shower etc we walked up the toad to a nice bar called Yzen Bru. They are also a craft beer brewery and I had a great IPA, best beer I have had in Africa, and also yummy pizza.

Most of the riders either stopped there on the way to camp or came back there.

Unfortunately at 5:30pm we had to be at the riders meeting. Tallis must have been worried that most of us wouldn’t turn up given there was great food and cold beer (I suspect he was right) so he turned up to remind us about the meeting at 5:30, and that we wouldn’t want to miss it as we were going to discuss a lot of details for the final days ride tomorrow.

The bar shut at 7 otherwise I suspect a few of the riders would have gone back.

Dinner was pumpkin, corn, salad, and garlic bread, plus fruit salad, chocolate and custard. I was pretty full from the pizza so ate a couple of pieces of garlic bread and shared red wine with Dan, Shirley, Fritz, Carl and Brett to celebrate my birthday.

We got our trip riding shirts to wear tomorrow.

Yay! The last night in a tent 😀. It’s going to be pretty cold. 

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Rider’s meeting and jersey presentation. Stephanie on the left, Tallis on the right.

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10 May: Strandfontien to Elandsbay

109 km to ride, with 1040 metres to climb and down 1040 down.

It was very cold in the tent overnight and I ended up sleeping with my jacket on, as well as trousers plus had the sleeping bag pulled up over my head! Thankfully only two more nights after this, it is getting too cold for camping.

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Leaving the Strandfontein camp for Elandsbay

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Such a pretty spot

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The Atlantic Ocean

The first 11km we had a nice view of the sea and tarmac, and then we turned onto gravel for 49 km, of which 20 km was into a wind. Not much fun and pretty slow going. I rode 20 km with Rommy, chatting to her which helped pass the time.

At 31 km we turned right and while we still had 29 km of gravel at least it wasn’t into a head wind, more of a cross wind. Mostly I managed to ride but there were bits that I had to get off and walk. I was very pleased to get back onto the tarmac at 60 km.

We had a nice 11 km stretch on the tarmac with a tail wind till lunch at a very pretty spot called Lamberts Bay.

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Another gravel shortcut, but back on the tar

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Cool, breezy autumn morning. Doringbaai fishing boat harbour

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Nice riding in the morning alongside the South Atlantic

After lunch the first 5 km was a tail wind and flat, after that it was head wind or cross winds and quite a bit of climbing. Just before camp there was a great 6 km downhill which was pretty steep, I was very relieved to hear at the riders meeting that we don’t have to climb back up it in the morning.

Tonight we have managed to book a room in the little hotel by the campsite. Tomorrow we are going to be tenting so as we have a room and the hotel has a restaurant we decided to celebrate my birthday a day early and have dinner at the hotel tonight.

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Overnight staying at the Elandsbay Hotel

Over at the camp site I was amused to see a dog that looked very much like my old dog Pat (Pat was part Huntaway, part Great Dane and part Lab, with a Lab obsession with food). This dog not only looked like Pat but was involved in his favourite occupation – scavenging for food (this one was checking out the camp rubbish bins).

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“Pat” look alike checking out the bins at Elandsbay beach camp.

We had a very nice meal outside in the courtyard with the 4 stray cats that live here.  Very friendly, especially when the food came out, but they fought a bit amongst themselves so we quickly realised to throw the scraps in different directions.

We had a lovely sea food platter with prawns, grilled Hake which was delicious, some mussels, and some crumbed fish, plus a very nice bottle of Chenin Blanc.

Peter and Elaine stopped by our table and had a drink and somehow that it was mentioned that it’s my birthday tomorrow. I had been keeping that under the radar.

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Early birthday dinner with the stray cats

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Elandsbay Hotel cats finishing off the seafood platter

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 Sunset from Elandsbay Hotel

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9 May: Garies to Strandfontien

163 km, with 2160 metres to climb and 2380 metres down, plus 27 k of gravel.

Very cold again in the morning and fog and a lot of climbing. Not an appealing day to be out on the bike. I decided to eliminate the fog and cold and 3/4 of the climbing and took the truck to lunch.

The landscape is the same as yesterday, mountains and sand – bleak, desolate, and beautiful. Lulu told us that between late July and late September this area is covered in acre after acre of wild flowers and is incredibly beautiful, and people come from all over the world to see it. Hard to imagine at the moment.

Just before lunch we hit the gravel for 2 km, it was pretty nasty, hopefully I will be able to ride at least some of it. After helping set up lunch I set off.

I walked up the first hill to warm up and then started riding, it was actually not too bad. I had to criss cross the road frequently, but mostly managed to ride it until the last two kilometres where it was a 50/50 mixture of riding and walking. It still took over two and a half hours.

After this it was rolling hills on tarmac. There was about 5 km that was a bit hairy with no shoulders and busy. I had to get off at one spot that was very narrow and trucks passing both way.

It was great to see the first sight of the Atlantic. However with the sea often comes wind and the last 10 km was hard work with a up gradient pushing into a Wellington-worthy head wind. I was averaging 6 km an hour.

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First sight of the South Atlantic Ocean.

We have a very pretty camping spot right by the sea. Fantastic views, lovely beach, and grass to camp on. Tallis has provided a chilly bin with beer and wine we can buy. Life is good.

Dinner was really nice, a spicy bean mix with chilli and avocado, very enjoyable even with the inevitable tomato and cucumber salad.

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Coming into the beach camp at Strandfontein

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8 May: Springbok to Garies

It was very cold this morning, I had full finger clothes and my rain coat on setting out.

Unfortunately my nice warm thermals and over boots are in my permanent bag and my toes are freezing. I did have a look in the truck where the permanent bags are stored to see if I could see mine, and if I could I was going to ask to get into it. Unfortunately it is buried under others and can’t be seen.

I resorted to a trick I used in South America where the last couple of weeks were very cold – plastic bags on my feet. But instead of a plastic bag over my shoes, I had a pair of socks, then a plastic bag, then another pair of socks – kept my feet pretty warm.

As well as being cold it is overcast, so hopefully it warms up when the sun comes out. There is lots of climbing, so by 20 k, I am warm enough to take my coat etc off. There is a lot of climbing today but some great descents as well, and the same bleak but stunning scenery. Sand and mountains.

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Overnight stop in country town of Garies

The campground at Garies has fallen into disrepair and the toilets are unusable and TDA have been told they can not dig holes, so tonight TDA has put everyone up in a hotel or bed and breakfast.

We are at a bed and breakfast called Sophie’s full of old stuff from the 50’s, it’s pretty quaint. The shower is all ceramic and pieces of mirror and glass with yellow flowers.

The dinner tonight is white pasta, broccoli in sauce, and tomato and cucumber salad .I am pretty much done with TDA food and hope not to see another cucumber and tomato salad for many months. At least not one without lettuce and other ingredients.

Tomorrow we get to see the sea (Atlantic Ocean) which I am really looking forward to.

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7 May: Felix Unite camp to Springbok

133 k to ride, with 1626 metres to climb and 923 down

It was still nice and warm when we were leaving the camp but the temperature dropped noticeably as soon as we crossed the border into South Africa at 12 km.

The only people in the group that need a visa to get into South Africa are the New Zealanders. I keep telling everyone it’s because we keep beating the South Africans in the rugby. It’s actually because we have tightened up our entry criteria for South Africans, so they have reciprocated.

Last year a NZ rider, who had done the whole tour, didn’t have a visa and got turned around at the border. He had to catch a bus back to Windhoek and then a plane to Capetown, but wasn’t allowed to leave the airport before catching a plane back to NZ. To make it worse his daughter had flights to Capetown to join him there.

Getting through the border was very seamless and we were soon out the other side. To start there was a very long climb, 30 km, which was not that steep it was just on going, and I couldn’t get my speed up over 13-14 km/hr, probably as there was also a head wind. More climbing after lunch, but we then had a fantastic downhill for about 8 km, but after that a few more hills.

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13k from camp we cross through the wire at the Noordoewer border and enter into South Africa.

Before we went to camp we went into the town of Springbok to get a SIM card. We went to the vodacom store thinking it would be straightforward like it has been everywhere else, but it took over an hour to get the network to contact my phone and get it set up. I was just about at the stage of giving it up, but don’t like to be without a phone in case something happens at home. At least this is the last SIM card for the trip.

There were quite a lot of beggars in town which was sad to see. Not sure how much work opportunity there is here.

At camp you can tell it has got a lot colder, all the riders were wearing jackets and a number were wearing hats. The pool is empty and looks bleak and cold. It’s hard to believe yesterday we were wearing t-shirts and a number of riders were swimming.

I’m not wearing warm weather gear though. Yesterday when I got a bit frazzled and was looking for my purse, I somehow managed to put all my warm gear into my permanent bag! I can’t get it back till Capetown. Ha after carrying it all trip in my daily bag just in case, now the only time I need it I can’t get it! Thankfully I have my full fingered gloves in the apidura.

Dinner was peas, gravy, potato, vegetarian sausages and beetroot salad (at least a change from tomato and cucumber).

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Into South Africa and mostly good roads. Nearly there!

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6 May: Rest day Felix Unite Camp

On the way up to breakfast I noticed in the bank by cabana there are hundreds of swallow nests in the bank. I didn’t see them yesterday when I arrived possibly because the sun was directly on them and it was too hot. (later on I couldn’t see them in the afternoon when the sun was directly on them).

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Swallow nests in the earth bank

First off, up to the breakfast buffet .What a debacle, a buffet with no food! Even if there had been food, there were no plates, bowls, glasses, cups or utensils to eat it with anyway. There are no other options to eat so once again Africa time prevails. As I commented yesterday, if you know you have 63 people staying, and you are the only option for breakfast, possibly employ some more staff for the day and get extra supplies.

First of all out came toast but no butter, then into the buffet about 6 slices of bacon, then there was juice but no glasses and so on it went.  After about 40 minutes I managed to get a cup of tea and milk, and toast and butter. I used Dans saucer from his coffee to get a bowl of cereal. We tried to settle the bill before we left but they said they were busy and to come back later.

Due to the breakfast experience and the TDA olympics which were meant to start at 2pm, we were at lunch bang on 12pm, when the restaurant hours said they were open. We were told: “Come back later, we are still setting the tables for lunch”. We came back but were still not allowed in the restaurant, but we were allowed to order sitting outside. I had lasagne and Brett had fish – accompanied by literally hundreds of flies! I spent the whole meal shooing them away. We tried to sort the breakfast and lunch bill, but were told “come back and sort it out later, we are too busy at the moment”.

Today we have the TDA olympics. This was meant to start at 2pm, we got there at 2pm and found the time had been pushed back to 2:30pm. We came back at 2:30 and waited, and waited! I was already lacking in desire to do this but was fronting up as part of a team.

At 3:10pm I said to the organisers that it either needed to start or the other teams who were not there should forfeit. All the Wildcat team were there.

Finally at 3:15 we started. We were doing team challenges. It will be if no surprise to know the Wildcats have a team, but what was a surprise was Gerry gave us a written application to join our team. I was highly suspicious.

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Olympics at Felix Unite Camp

We had 6 challenges and one member of each team has to choose which one to do:
1. Eat food hanging from the clothes line (with hands tied behind your back)
2. Furthest throw of a bike shoe (we chose my riding sandals as they are the heaviest)
3. Ride the bike holding an egg on a spoon (a number of riders decided to do this holding the spoon in their mouth. Plus a few cheated and glad-wrapped their egg to the spoon (of course the Wildcats cheated in this, whose idea do you think it was)
4. Slow riding – taking the longest to get from point A to B (not for me, it requires excellent balance)
5. Stacking the highest number of canvas chairs (this got pretty competitive as there were only a set number of chairs, so competitors ended up dragging them off each other)
6. Table tennis with shovels (due to the behaviours with the 5th challenge this was cancelled due to the worry riders would start whacking each other).

I was surprised how competitive it all got. At one stage one of the team was shouting in my face and I responded by saying “it’s just a fucking game you know!”. I think he had lost that point.

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Slowest Bike Ride

I managed to misplace my purse that has my money and unusually both my credit cards. I pulled apart the room and thankfully found I had accidentally packed it in a packing cell in my permanent bag. Phew!

I went to pay the bill and of course both breakfast and dinner were not on it, so I had to wait while that was sorted out – only took only 45 minutes to sort.

Dinner was a barbecue again, and TDA said they would provide sides if we provided our protein. So it was sausages and a baked potato – no bread or salad.

Today is the last rest day. Tomorrow we cross over into South Africa and we have 6 riding days, including tomorrow, until we arrive in Capetown.

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The next 6 riding days

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5 May: Fish Canyon to Felix Unite Camp

As agreed yesterday, I rode in the lunch truck to lunch, so that I could get to the supermarket before it closed, to get supplies for dinner.

The ride from lunch to 129 km was spectacular but taking photos on the iPhone doesn’t do it justice. At 122 km we came to a T intersection and got the first view of the Orange River. Along both sides of the river are vineyards surrounded by desert. The first lot of greenery I have seen for quite awhile.

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Have reached the Orange River and the border between Namibia and South Africa. Tar and vineyards and only another 50k to camp!

At Assenkehr, the turn for the supermarket, there was a huge shanty town built mainly from cardboard, hardboard, or thatching on the sides and corrugated iron on the roof. There were hundreds of houses and I couldn’t see any services, sidewalks or roads. I couldn’t imagine living in a place like this. At least it doesn’t rain hardly ever here, so not much issue with house leaking or mud. I spoke to one of the TDA staff afterwards who advised that the people here would work in the surrounding farms and vineyards.

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Shanty town at Aussenkehr

At the supermarket I bought bread, 3 packets of bread rolls, tomato sauce, cheese and 4 packets of sausages and butter, and then managed to get it all into my apidura (bike bag) and a back pack and set off. I couldn’t certainly feel the difference in weight going up the hill back to the main road.

The ride for the afternoon did not have much climbing but it was a slight up gradient all the way into a head wind and very hot. There was not a single spot of shade the entire ride. I was worried that I was going to run out of water but about 20 km before camp Jen and Stephanie came past in the cruiser and did a refill of water.

The Felix Unite Camp is very pretty and we have a lovely cabin (called Cabana) with a view of the river. We are at the end of the row so on the right hand side we have lovely river views as well as out the front. However this means 4 walks to and from the truck carrying bags but worth it for the view.

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After a big 5 days mostly on dirt arrive for the rest day at the Felix Unite Camp on the banks of the Orange River.

When I got into camp I was told by Errol, one of the TDA staff, that I hadn’t paid my bill at Fish Canyon. When I looked at it none of the stuff on the tab was mine, numerous coffees, coke zeros, and chicken wings. The system is bad – they don’t ask to see the key or any identification when putting stuff on a tab, which is pretty frustrating. I was especially frustrated as these items had clearly been added after I checked my tab was clear and went to bed.

We had a barbecue for dinner with Gerry, Lenore, Fritz, Karl and Terry. Terry is from Australia and joined the ride in Livingston. This is Terry’s fourth go at doing this ride. In 2012 Terry was knocked off his bike in Sudan and came too a few days later in hospital. He has since gone back and done Sudan to Nairobi, and then another year Nairobi to Livingston, and now has come back this year to do the final section.  For dinner we barbecued sausages with fresh bread, baked potatoes, plus a vegetable parcel with whole pea pods, mushroom and baby corn, it was very nice – and a nice bottle of chenin blanc.

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Start of the day riding through Fish River Canyon National Park

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Views from the road

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Views from the road

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Views from the road

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The road today

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Almost at the end of the dirt

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4 May: Seehiem to Fish Canyon Road House

Today there is 93 km to ride with 480 of climbing and 360 down, however the gravel for the first 29 km is going to be very bad, and given that I am dreadful with gravel I have decided to go with the lunch truck to lunch and then ride from there. I wasn’t aware that a number of riders had organised to get a ride with Tallis until the end of the gravel and then ride from there, otherwise I would have taken that option.

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 Tough first 30k today

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Leaving Seeheim Hotel. Hotel being restored after fire.

From lunch the ride was easy to the finish which only took 1 hr 15 and I  didn’t feel like I had gone for a ride at all. Once again amazing scenery.

The place where we are staying – Canyon Road house – is an amazing place, lots of old cars from the 1940s – 1950s, inside and out. At night the headlights of the old cars are the lamps around the outside. The inside is decked out like a 1950s diner. In the bathrooms are a box saying “Pandora’s box” with a sign “do not open” – of course most people do and every time a loud hooter goes off in the bar and the sign from the box pops up “Your shout”.

As it is only just 11 am it’s like having a day off. I got a room which is lovely, with a great shower. I wanted to go to Fish River Canyon which is the second biggest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon. However whilst the lodge has a tour it doesn’t go to the Canyon which is a bit weird but I guess most people who come here come via their own transport, and no many people would turn up via bike. To get there my options are to ride 22 km each way on gravel that TDA advised is pretty horrid, or hitchhike, neither option takes my fancy.

I spent a lovely afternoon reading, having a leisurely restaurant meal, and a nap.

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Canyon Roadhouse

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Canyon Roadhouse

For dinner was a vegetarian cottage pie. I did not eat much due to not riding and I had the roadhouse burger for lunch.

At the riders meeting we were advised that the place we are staying tomorrow for the rest day, the restaurant service there is torturously slow for meals.

The service in Africa can be very frustrating, there doesn’t seem to be any concept that if you know you are going to have 63 riders and staff arriving, plus bus tours, maybe get some extra staff and supplies. Especially as this is an annual occurrence.

We were advised to stop at 129 km on the ride tomorrow and buy food that we can carry on our bikes to barbecue. However a bit of a hiccup – the supermarket at 129 km shuts at 1pm. This is the only place to buy food, and given there is gravel in the morning no certainty of getting there before 1 pm. So we decided I will go in the lunch truck to 80 km and then stop at 129 km to get food for two nights for Brett, Shirley, Dan and me.

We went to the bar to have a drink after dinner and before I went to bed I checked there was no outstanding balance on my tab.

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Coffee and strudel stop. Place set up and run by a couple who previously ran a cattle property. They set this place up alongside the road and, as the guy said, they now farm the tourists.

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3 May: Konkiep Lap to Seehiem Hotel

Today we have 127 km to ride, with only 520 metres up and 920 k down.

It is getting noticeably colder in the morning and darker, so it is getting later as we set off. To start off we have a lovely smooth gravel road for the first 31 km then paved all the way until 2 km before camp.

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Cold morning: fire and toast for breakfast

I rode with Brett and we stopped at the town at 31 km. We went into a shop that is like a 4-Square in NZ and managed to get a SIM card finally, and return the message to my daughter Tracey to ring her as soon as possible. I also got some more money out of the ATM.

There was a very nice cafe next to the 4-Square where we and numerous other riders stopped. We had a very nice cup of tea and carrot cake.

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Old church in Bethanie

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Back on the tar at village of Bethanie

It was a very easy ride to lunch and after lunch we had a bit of climbing but stunning scenery to look at. Amazing mountain ranges as far as you could see.

Nasty 2 km of gravel once we turned off the main road just before camp, but we had made really good time and were in camp by 230pm.

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Dropping down to the Fish River

We are camping by a hotel which is old and historic, and by where the train used to run. However, it was mostly burnt down a year ago by a disgruntled employee and a lot of it is just shell. There is still a bar with a veranda and a swimming pool, and a few rooms have been rebuilt. The TDA riders made the most of an early day and a bar with a veranda to relax in the sun with a cold drink.

I had a swim in the pool it was icy cold but very refreshing.

Dinner was Spaghetti bolognaise. At the riders meeting it was announced that at the next and last rest day we are having TDA riders Olympics in teams. Details to follow.

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Publican and bar at Seeheim Hotel

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