Day 167 & beyond

Date: 30.03.17 onwards
Blog entry date:21.05.17
Distance: 0km
Odometer: 8 544km
Flat tyre counter: 3
Max speed of tour : 72.1km/hr (Day 142)
Longest day: 215km (Day 48)

Renting an apartment in Durbanville, Cape Town.

This blog entry is long overdue, but better late than never.

We have been back in South Africa since 02.04.17, but let me start with the last few days in Kigali.

During our last day at the Mille Collines we slowly started arrangements for the trip home. Our plan was to pack the bicycles and fly Kigali-Johannesburg-Cape Town. Eva scoured the internet for good deals, the “sparfuchs” that she is 😁.

Using a flight search engines we bougt our tickets for Kigali-Jhb. Unfortunately this turned out to be a bad deal. Without boring you with the details, we lost the flight, but at least no money. It did result in a bit of an anti-climax, for our last day at the Mille Collines was spent sorting this out.

We had one last stop to make in Kigali and the next day cycled to Jacques and Hannelie, South Africans who recently moved there. They really spoiled us, but more important, they helped us get onto a flight to South Africa (through a friend who work as a travel agent).

I previously tried to get used bicycle boxes for packing the bikes. In South Africa you walk into any bicycle shop and they gladly give these away. In Kigali, not so easy. After several phone calls I found some at the Rwanda cycling federation. Jacques generously offered to collect these by car.

During our time with them we had great food and we soon realised that suddenly the tables have turned. Instead of burning more calories than what we eat, we were definitely consuming more than what we burn.

We also went for a visit to the genocide memorial in Kigila. This is in memory of the 1994 genocide, whith a strong message, “we’ve moved on but must never let this happen again“. It was moving to see all the exhibitions and it was difficult to imagine this happened 23 years ago. We both agreed that Rwandans deserve massive respect for the way they dealt with this. The country is moving forward and has the highest rate of GDP growth in Africa. One also gets a sense of “I’m proud to be Rwandan”. No one talks of Hutu or Tutsi, except during the week of remembrance when the whole country reflect on the atrocity of 1994.

By coincidence Jacques and Hannelie were on the same flight to Johannesburg as us, as they planned a visit to family. Again, this was of great help for us as we shared transport to the airport, organised by Jacques.

Kigali airport have some of the highest security I have ever experienced. Entering the airport every car is evacuated and luggage and car searched by sniffer dogs. After this and 3 security checks in the airport itself we made it onto the plane, with no time to spare. No extra cost charged for the bicycles.

The flight back was uneventful, but it felt really strange to sit at 30000 feet in the air and in 4 hours land in Jhb. The glossy in-flight magazine felt like something from another world and the artificial nature of commercialism has never been more clear to me.

We landed in Jhb at 23:00 and had to overnight at a hotel at the airport since the first connection to Cape Town was only the next morning.

We arrived in Cape Town the following day. There we were, 6 hours flying, less than 24 hours travel time to what has taken us 5.5 months by bicycle. In one way an anti-climax, but we were also very glad to be back home. In retrospect it would have been great if we could have planned our trip to cycle all the way home. It is a bit of a shock to be thrown back into normal life so suddenly, but ultimately it is inevitable.

We received a warm welcome from friends and family at the arrival hall. Then we went for a hearty wholesome Sunday lunch with the family. A meal we have dreamed of so often during our tour, the food was especially delicious. Besides the food, warm showers and flush toilets are really great 😂.

In the days that followed we relaxed and did a few beautiful hikes in the Cape mountains. I was reminded again why we love this part of the world.

We also visited friends in Knysna and they invited us to the Addo Elephant Park at their expense, very generous!!

At this stage we were slowly getting used to a normal life although we have not started work again. We also had to rent out our house for 12 months and were still bumming with the family.

On 2 May we walked back into the office and it felt a bit surreal. We did however receive a warm welcome which made it easier. Now after 3 weeks back at the desk it sometimes feels like our tour was a lifetime ago, or even that it never happened.

For this reason I’m so grateful that we could have done this together. From time to time when one of us remembers something it helps to be able to talk about it. It makes the whole experience more real, especially now that “normal” activities steal the hours and days.

In the meantime we managed to find a small furnished place to rent close to work.

Oh, I forgot, our two faithful companions, Friday and Uitkyk made trip back in good condition too. I re-assembled them in the first week and we already did beautiful cycling routes around the Cape winelands. We will soon be back on them for our daily commute to work (while staying with the fam it was too far).

For us this tour was a dream come true. We are so privileged to have had this opportunity. On an expedition like this you learn things about yourself you never knew. Some of them not so nice 😬. If we can share one lesson it is: take 1 day at a time, or put differently, break a big task down into small achievable segments. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time 😁.

Thanks for you interest and all the support. In a next post I will say something about the donations and how it will be used.

Willem & Eva

Friday & Uitkyk, packed and ready for the “short” trip home.

Arriving at Cape Town airport.

Hiking in the beautiful Cape mountains.

The Cape mountains are very close, but it looks like a different world, far away from the outside noise.

In Addo Elephant park, the reserve lived up to its name. We saw many elephants and it was a fascinating to observe their social behavior.


Day 12: Springbok to Noordoewer

Distance: 124km tar
Odometer: 748km
Avg speed: 20km/hr
Time on bike:6h15min
Problems: None
Flat tyre counter: 1

Staying in Noordoewer Guest House. For the 1st time we are spoiling ourselves with decent accommodation after a long hot day on the road.

Originally planned to end at Steinkopf (50km). Local advice persuaded us otherwise, saying it is downhill all the way shortly after Steinkopf to the border. However battled a headwind for the last 60km. This effectively removed the benefit of the downhill. Consistently had to peddle and no free-wheeling 😥. Enter the heat. Descended from 950m asl to 140m, had the sensation of riding into an oven. Finally arived, almost exhausted, receiving curious stares, at border control in 41 deg (celsius).

Border crossing was quick and without incident. First stopped at the local Wimpy (with airconditioner!👌) where I tried to order everything on the menu at once 😁. At least that’s how I felt.

Now enjoying a cool airconditioned room and already look fwd to dinner 😱

Think today was the first real test for us and the last 40km was all in the mind. Eva again did very well and proud of her!

Today is also our 1st border crossing and marks our 1st major milestone. So, thanks for all the support. Means more to us than you know, especially on these tough days. Also thanking God for our progress and all His goodness and glory to Him.

Lastly, with this milestone want to ask please consider if you want support our fundraiser.

Thanks for following.
Willem & Eva

Did not take a lot of pictures along the route (sorry) but really wanted to get through the day. Scenery was stunning and looked like the moon. Unfortunately did not get pics of this. Anyway, here are a few. 

Becoming more and more desert like.

A lot of rocky “koppies”. At one point were in between these and I could imagine I was on the moon.

A late morning water break. It looks hot, it was even hotter!

The Orange River at last!

The Orange River

After 120km, Eva could still raise her arms in delight 😁

Days 10 & 11: Kamieskroon to Springbok

Distance: 74km tar
Odometer: 624km
Avg speed: 17.4km/hr
Time on bike:4h15min
Problems: None
Flat tyre counter: 1

Staying in Springbok at Otto’s Residence guest house. Nothing special, but clean and good value for money. Will be taking rest day tomorrow.

Started with a climb from Kamieskroon (725m asl) then long downhill to about 460m. Very strong headwind for a few km’s. Eva sat on my back-wheel sometimes having to brake. I had to work hard to keep going. We then started another long climb up to Springbok (920m).

Impressive scenery. Granite rock domes interspersed with grass and trees. Reminded me of Damaraland and Brandberg in Namibia. For the fist time started to see quiver trees next to the road. Really enjoying the landscapes of the past 2 days.

Looking forward to a rest day tomorrow, the first since Piketberg. Have to ensure we are prepared before going into Namibia where towns are few and far between.

Considering to go all the way to the border on Wednesday. Long distance, but mostly downhill (from 920m to 140m) so should be possible. Warmer temperatures however expected from tomorrow.

Thanks for following.
Willem & Eva

Granite “koppies” reminded me of Brandberg, Namibia.

Typical landscape throuhout the day.

Roadworks on-going but little traffic along the way.

“Dry ravine”. This guy faced reality and shows none of the optimism of Spoegrivier and Graaf Water.

My bicycle posing for a picture.

More landscape

Some Southafrican classics all on the same sign. Krymekaar = Meet each other.

Saw many quiver trees along the route.

Day 9: Garies to Kamieskroon

Distance: 50km uneven tar
Odometer: 549km
Avg speed: 14.2km/hr
Time on bike: 3h30min
Problems: None
Flat tyre counter: 1

Camping at the Kroon Lodge. Good facilities, clean bathrooms. Friendly host. Only downside is they have no grass. Kroon Lodge opened April 2016, so everything new. We are the only guests for the night.

On the bikes at 06:30, very happy to bid farewell to Garies, a town best avoided if possible. Noise kept us awake most of the night and I barely slept a wink. The main road turned into the local racing circuit while drunkards noisily parade up and down the street. Surprisingly there were no fatalities.

Lots of climbing today. Started at 220m and topped-out close to 800m. Difficult, but the scenery was most impressive, keeping us motivated. Close to Kamieskroon a couple stopped to offer us ice-water. They apparently also saw us yesterday. Learning that we attempt to go to Rwanda, they quickly produced further refreshments, 2 apples and 2 packets of nicknacks. Dont think that will get us there 😁 but they were very kind and it’s people like them that makes our trip so much more worth it!

Saw a Black Eagle (relative of the Golden) close to Kamieskroon, another highlight.

Our experience in Kamieskroon is the complete opposite of Garies (dare I write that name 😤). Upon arrival went to the local coffee shop where not only coffee was served but also carrot cake. A real treat and Eva was on cloud-9! We were really impressed with the coffee shop, hospitality and the general concern they showed for our well-being. Next time you come this direction, consider a stop-over here.

Everything going well and we’re looking forward to get to Springbok where we will take a rest day.

The road being re-surfaced, which sometimes made for a bumpy ride.

The scenery today was some of our best on the tour so far, mountainous and rocky

Great scenery!

Our regular mid-morning break

Still some beautiful flowers along our route

Spoegrivier = Spit River 😂 Unfortunately I missed 2 other names, Groot Graaf Water = Large Spade Water and Moedverloor = Hope Lost

Soebatsfontein = Pleading/Begging Fountain

Just a beautiful flower blooming for its Creator, no questions asked. Wish we could always be like that.

The scenery made light of all the vertical climbing today

To get to Rwanda, I just need to convince Eva they have the world’s best carrot cake 😁

Day 8: Nuwerus to Garies

Distance: 81km tar
Odometer: 499km
Avg speed: 18.9km/hr
Time on bike: 4h20min
Problems: None
Flat tyre counter: 1

Staying in Garies guest house tonight. Apparently no camping available here. Feeling spoiled with bed and equipped kitchen.

Best sleep yet at Hardeveld lodge. Ready to go at 06:45. Hosts came out to wish us well and take a photo for their facebook page. Again very hilly. 1st break after 28km. Last break after long uphil at about 70km, then long downhill. Again fortunate with cooler weather. Beautiful landscapes along the way. Interesting placenames too (see pictures).

Upon arival in Garies tried Sophias guest house. Host unfriendly and unwelcoming, had an issue with bicycles and questioned our budget!?!. Before I lost my sense of humour we moved on and ended up at the only other option in town. Had lunch at the local restaurant. Strange setup with one rack full of wool, old books on display, small funny oddities such as little statues and a sign that reads, “smile a lot, it costs nothing” (translated from Afrikaans). Thats the closest we got to friendly service 😟. Could at least get some basic groceries in town, even tomatoes. Initially considered taking a rest day here but unanimously agreed otherwise. In spite of the above, not having to setup camp helps and feel like we’re staying in luxury.

Tomorrow on to Kamieskroon

Thanks for following our progress.

Willem & Eva

Very interesting placenames, uniquely Southafrican. Bitterfontein mean Bitter Fountain

Pofadder, as in the venemous and infamous lazy Puffadder

This area is world renowned for its yearly wild flower display. Flower season is over, but still some late bloomers along the way.

Quiet open road and two bicycles

Mid morning break, resting our sore bottoms.

Stofkraal, meaning Dust Kraal

Our 1st border crossing. Its only provincial, but still a small milestone. Surprising how far north the Western Cape province stretches.

We saw many of these along our way.

Sparkling fountain and Green River

Impressive landscapes

Me, unimpressed with the local restaurant. After dreaming about a coffee for 81km, we decided to rather make our own instant version at the guest house.

Day 7: Vanrhynsdorp to Nuwerus

Distance: 70km tar
Odometer: 417km
Avg speed: 17.2km/hr
Time on bike: 4hrs
Problems: None
Flat tyre counter: 1

Camping tonight in Nuwerus at Hardeveld Lodge. Good clean facilities, very helpful hosts. No one else in camp site besides us. Popular overnight facility with touring cyclists. Our host shared interesting stories about alternative personalities that arrive from time to time. Went for shopping earlier. A bit of a one-horse town, but we’re happy to be here.

On the bikes at 06:50 today. Our routine is getting more streamlined. Riding into a headwind all the way. I was pedalling to stay at 30km/hr on the downhills. The overcast cool weather made for good conditions otherwise. Lot of hills with a generally upwards profile. Landscape becoming drier.

Really grateful for a good 1st week on the road.

Colourful name, but no coffee available

General scenery along this part of the route

Stopping for a mid-morning snack

In case you thought we got a lift, herewith evidence to the contrary.

That’s dinner, pasta, carrot and wors from the local shop. Guten appetite!

Day 6: Klawer to Vanrhynsdorp

Distance: 25km tar
Odometer: 347km
Avg speed: 15.6km/hr
Time on bike: 1h40min
Problems: None
Flat tyre counter: 1

Camping tonight at Vanrhynsdorp Caravan Park. Camp site in good condition. Basic amenities available, without the Sprinbuck 😁 Looks like the local bar is on the same premises. Hope it will be quiet. No one else in camp site besides us.

Woke up at 04:30 when 2 resident roosters had a crowing competition. Decided on a short day to take advantage of cooler weather coming in tomorrow. A couple of long uphils until Vanrhynsdorp. Landscape becoming more arid now. 

Had a late breakfast in town around 10:00 which included milkshake, farmers breakfast and coffee. I could have eaten another plate. Wonder if I will gain weight. I have limited clothing and will be in trouble if they do not fit anymore 😂

Used the time today to wash, fix the tube, answer some messages and relax. Looking fwd to an early night.

Thanks again for all the messages and support. We feel really blessed and priviledged.

Willem & Eva

We helped this little guy to cross the road. See if you can spot him.

Quiet roads

Known as Gifberg, close to Vanrhynsdorp, not sure why.

Improvised washing line. German engineering at its best 😁

Yes, it’s a funnel and I’m also trying to solve the mystery, “why did I carry a funnel on my bike all this way?” Before I dump it, thought I’d check if anyoneoit therecan think of a good usefor this. 😁

Day 5: Marcuskraal to Klawer

Distance: 94km tar
Odometer: 322km
Avg speed: 19km/hr
Time on bike: 5hrs
Problems: Flat tyre #1, minor fall

Camping tonight at Oasis Country Lodge, Klawer. Camping site in good condition and all the basic facilities one would expect. Highlight: 2 tame springboks roam around the camp site. 

On the bikes at 07:15 as we planned a long day. Very hilly, no clouds today, warm day. All going well until 10km before Klawer, our first flat (Eva’s bike). She continued pushing the bike a little forward, lost balance and fell. Nothing serious but a scrape on the arm and knee. I’m very proud of her, she never complains, that’s my job 😁. First cleaned the wound then replaced the tube. Removed a huge nail from the tyre. 

Bought bread, dairy and fresh veggies at the local shop, delicous! Starting to appreciate the little things, like cold yoghurt. Everyday feel like I can eat a whole cow. Even Eva had some smoked chicken 😱

The 2 sprinbok in camp were entertaining, running and jumping (pronk) around. Felt nervous for the tent, but all fine. Wish our rugby team 😥 could display the same kind of energy. 

Typical breakfast, boring but practical

Beautiful valley between Clanwilliam and Klawer

Just to keep things interesting, a flat shortly before our destination. With a loaded bicycle, it takes a bit longer to fix.

Yes, that’s our dinner table, very organised. The nice table cloth was my mom’s bright idea.

Evening quiet settling in

Day 4: Piketberg to Marcuskraal

Distance: 71km of which 68km tar, 3km gravel
Odometer: 227km
Avg speed: 19.5km/hr
Time on bike: 3h40min
Problems: None

Camping tonight at Marcuskraal, about 35km before Clanwilliam. Beautiful location, quiet, good facilities. Highly recommendable.

Weather was perfect for cycling, cloudy and cool. The big challenge for the day: Old Piekenierskloof pass (3km gravel). Access is gained through private land and we asked permission. Steep and rocky, heavy bicycles. 1st class suffering, followed by 1st class enjoyment, a very fast downhill 😆 (55km/hr on tar).

We could have made Clanwilliam but after a little discussion decided to call it a day. Its still a long way and we might as well save some energy.

A very big thanks to everyone who sends messages! They do not go unnoticed and are a great source of energy and motivation to us.

Quiet roads close to Eendekuil

Eva says “Hi!” to everyone 😁

Our bikes look on as we take a quick break. At this location we met our friend Peter McNulty last December. He was eating raw onion on white bread, he is a New Zealander, that might explain it. All of us on a bicycle to the Cederberg.

Old Piekenierskloof pass. It does not look that hard, but looks can be deceiving.

Eva putting in the hard work. No energy to wave now 👋

View from the summit, ala Edmund Hillary

Beyond the pass, this is citrus-heaven

Beautiful valley, new N7 upraded a while ago

Saw this striking translation of 1 Corinthians 13. You have to be Afrikaans to appreciate this. If not, read it in your own language again. We can never hear it enough.

No explanation required 👌

Days 2 & 3: Hermon to Piketberg

Distance: 86km, mostly good tar surface
Odometer: 156km
Avg speed: 18.7km/hr
Time on bike: 4.5 hrs
Problems: None, except 86km on the bicycle

Staying with friends, being treated like royalty.

Woke up with light drizzle, fortunately did not last very long. Had a slow start and thats the story of the day. Was low on energy and never felt comfortable on the bike. Could not get into a rythm. Eva did very well and showed great perseverance. Felt like we did a 1000 hills in a day.

On the up side we had beautiful scenery. We had overcast conditions which kept it a bit cooler. Had a cyclist-appetite satisfied by a huge meal late afternoon.

Looking fwd to a rest day tomorrow.

Willem & Eva

Award winning landscape scenery

1 of a 1000 hills

Eva said they are cute, I was thinking about skaaptjops 😁

No, stretching will not get you there. You actually have to ride the bike

Somewhere, someone is also wondering what to do with only one brand new Croc. The first cassualty of our trip 😳