And so it begins; with the back drop of Table Mountain, Brian and I parted ways. I couldn’t dream of a better start for the trip aside from if Brian was in fact Bryony, a six foot leggy blonde. Brian has his concerns regarding the daily planned distance and the frequency of suitable watering holes. I must admit that after 30km of vast empty space I was beginning to wonder if, at least on the second point, he was rightly worried.
I planned to follow the West Coast road north, rather than use the more direct and perhaps less scenic inland route. With a tail wind behind me I was rattling along at a brake neck pace (so much for Brian’s scepticism). Being the first time that I’ve ridden my bike with the full load, it took a bit of getting used to; she handles like a freight train, slow to get momentum but once going she’s pretty steady. Apart from on the hills where she’s slow as f***. Lunch consisted of my inaugural Wimpy Burger, followed by dinner which consisted of pasta, tuna, and source generic; I suspect that I will be reverting back to the students cook book. The first day was a raging success only to be improved further by being offered a free pitch for my tent.
Lessons learned from first day camping:
1) The arid conditions in this prolonged drought prohibit the erection of my tent; I had to waste two bottles of precious H2O to get the pegs in and even then miscellaneous tyres and breeze blocks were still utilised as ballast. It probably should have occurred to me, but you know what they say about hindsight.
2) My multi-fuel stove: its like Dante’s bloody inferno. I thought my tent would go up a flame as a raging fire ball bellowed from the stove. Point to note, don`t over pressurise a canister full of petrol.
Post the catastrophe that was my students dinner and ablutions, I was invited to the neighbours…how civilised! The neighbours consisted of a pair of brothers and their gabble of children on a boys weekend fishing trip. I was invited to join the guys at the beach but late night fishing isn’t my cup of tea, plus I was knackered. An amazing family, they fed me dinner number two from a solid iron cauldron with three little legs which you cook on the fire with; apparently they are used from everything from cooking curry to baking bread; my compliments to the chef. Yet again I was warned of robberies along these roads. Apparently with the rise in youth unemployment there has been an increase in crime. But I remain care free as there is nothing I can do to avoid such drama.
After such a flying start, day two couldn’t have been more different. Of the 60 miles covered every one was hard earned. It was the hardest and most demoralising days cycling I have ever had the misfortune of undertaking. Following the sand dunes up the coast, I was greeted with a slight headwind which built into a continuous and ferocious drag, sapping a good few mph and a tonne of energy. I was at times thinking that if a bandit were to rob me, please, now would be the time. To be fair, my distinct lack of prep for this trip probably hasn’t helped. I made the most of Christmas and opted for eating instead of training in a vain attempt at building some energy reserves. I don’t know why people always complain about holiday weight; try as I might I didn’t gain an inch.
I went into this fully aware that the first leg, Cape Town to Harare, would be tough. My legs are in tatters. I don’t know how long muscle takes to recover perhaps a faithful reader with a background in sports science can take the opportunity to use their degree and let me know (I did geography so am one to talk). After some much needed RNR in Harare I’m sure that I will be in the swing of it.
I’ve been following the West Coast Road barely glimpsing the Atlantic, for it is concealed behind never ending sand dunes. I’ve been told that it’s a surfers paradise and that kite surfing is even more popular . The cool Atlantic forms a blanket of low cloud protecting those beneath from the unrelenting African sun. Fog bellows across the road in streaks, reminding me of times spent on Dartmoor.
Venture just a few miles in land and there is a stark change. The landscape just slightly inland along the western coast of South Africa is barren, more like the American mid west than what I envisaged Africa to be like. As I ride through the plains or prairies, I half expect Butch Cassidy to trot past touching the brow of his stetson in acknowledgement. It makes you appreciate how convenient the UK actually is and how very over crowded. I can’t imagine why one would set up a farm in this unforgiving landscape unless they wish to cultivate sand. Poverty is quite apparent; I passed a few breeze block homes isolated from the coastal towns where the children were running wild, the mother hanging out the laundry and the odd mad uncle rambling on about something. Unless they are in the sand cultivating business I do not know how they sustain themselves, save from a few goats. Yet, out of know where you will stumble across delightful farmsteads with a sizable rustic restaurant, which prove to me a Godsend. After all, I need all the calories I can get…