Heading further North up the coast to finish on the dunes with a private 15km beach!
I woke at 6.00am to a very noisy pigeon sounding like it was sitting on the roof directly above my head! Out of the windows it was cloudy and very windy. Some flags were really dancing around and I’m hoping if the wind doesn’t calm down, that it is behind and not against us!
My legs felt generally ok when I woke up but then I did some stretches and wow… they were really tight on my thighs and hamstrings!!! It’s to be expected though.
I’m now in my room after another exceptional day. What a country this is.
Actually, I’m in a kind of cottage/room 50 meters from the coast across wild sand dunes and 16km of private beach owned by the hotel. The wind is blowing away outside and I can hear the roar of the sea with the waves crashing. Fortunately, the birds have gone to sleep but I bet they will be back at dawn tomorrow! My room has a large living area with a four-poster bed and lounge area with an open fire. So, I set it going (as one does!) and now have a lovely roaring fire to keep me company. Strange how it can be so very hot when the sun is up and so cool when its gone, but being on the coast that’s understandable.
Anyway, back to today. After breakfast at 7.00am we were going by 8.15am. It had warmed up by then and any earlier thoughts of needing extra layers were gone. I paid 125 rand for my beer from the fridge in my room, which is about £1.35!
We went through the town of Langebaan which was quite big. There were even people around and cars on the streets, which is quite nice to see! There was a lot of industry and new looking housing. This is an area a few hours’ drive form Cape Town, where some people retire to, work remotely from, or have holiday homes to enjoy the nice climate and estuary.
The ride was going to be about 60 miles and quite flat. With the wind behind us we would have a relatively easy time. Out of town the landscape almost immediately changed to very rural and farmland. I love how the places we cycle through change so quickly. The fields were quite brown, a few had cattle, some had just harvested hay, and some looked empty. The views and vistas are often immense here. They are similar to those we saw in America, but more varied and with a far larger sense of scale and much further horizons than at home.
We passed evaporation containers where most of the salt in South Africa comes from. Along the way there were also are ostriches, sheep, cattle and lots of varied rock formations, both near and far away.
Just out of town was an ominous looking and huge complex that could be seen from miles away. It is the Saldanha Bay Smelter Complex which receives iron ore from 750 miles away. The ore is transported on a special 2-mile-long train and then at the Smelter Complex, is converted into iron and steel. The Complex was black looking and quite ominous. Next to it was an oil storage facility, built in apartheid times. This facility could hold 4 years’ worth of oil supply to negate sanctions. Oil was still purchased form some Arab countries, even though it was banned. When the ANC got into power apparently they sold it all off much more cheaply that its value. All along the train tracks, where ore had blown off, everything had turned a rusty red colour; the bridge, railings, ground etc. It was quite odd.
The sky had cleared and it was heating up. We went on some very long and straight roads. There was one mild climb about a quarter of the way through. The way back down was lovely; miles of not peddling and I reached a speed of 35.5 mph as it wasn’t so steep. I really felt good at that part of the day and my knee problem seems to be mainly in the past.
There weren’t so many options for food and we only had van refreshments until lunch at about 1.30pm. We were moving along nice and quickly though. When we arrived at lunch the restaurant had a “sorry closed” notice on the door – Mark thought this was very odd. Someone came to the door and explained that there was no working labour at all in the town, no waiters, no chefs, no workers at all (from the Townships) due to a strike/blockade. The EFF party had called a strike over better housing. They had also burned down a charity soup kitchen that fed the children living the township, which seems rather counterproductive and punishing your own rather than targeting the establishment. There had been no labour to man the hotels, restaurants, shops etc all week (3 days) and the town was pretty much shut!
We were starting to wonder what to do when it turned out they could make us sandwiches and chips, which is what we had as well as the (now almost routine) coffee ice-cream milkshake. That refuelled us and off we went again.
(The wind is still blowing away, the lights are occasionally flashing and I can hear some birds outside…)
Aahhh, I am tired. Its 10.30pm, I need some sleep, and I have to get this done! There’s so so much more to write. Focus Neil, focus…
After lunch it was really heating up into the 30s and I started squirting cold water on my head and shoulders to keep cool. That really does the trick for me and stops me overheating.
The roads were so straight and flat for around 15 miles. There was hardly any shade to stop at for refreshments or to cool down. I had my phone playing music but some of the miles were just a grind to complete. All of a sudden near a concrete bridge Mark just circled back and stopped most unexpectedly. Somehow he had spotted a light on the far horizon, which was the light of a train on the tracks we were crossing. It was the Sishen train (the 2-mile-long one carrying iron ore to the smelter we passed before). He was quite excited, and really for him to spot the train was exceptional, and we were so lucky with the timing of it passing at that moment so that we could see it. So, we waited and after several minutes the train passed.
It took ages. It had two engines at the front, middle and back. I did video most of it but think that word be quite boring to watch back!! Richard actually counted the containers – do you believe that?! All 377 of them. It was definitely something to see and it was quite amazing.
We pushed on along the straight road. (Boy, the wind is really blowing away out there now!). Then we came to a roadworks sign that said 45km of roadworks. 45km! That’s 28 miles. The road was down to a single lane as a result and there must have been sections several miles long all in one go with traffic control at each end. We went through and needed to pull over occasionally to let traffic pass the other way.
At 3.30pm we arrived here; a beautiful oasis on the coast with nothing ether side for miles. A posse of 4 ladies came out to take our cases to the rooms. That hasn’t happened before and it felt odd, I think because it was ladies who were schlepping my big heavy case!!
A quick change and off to the pool. It felt so cold but we used it as a kind of ice bath to help our legs recover. Mark bought some beers which also helped! It was one of those, feet first, then lower legs, then am I brave enough to stand in it, kind of moments. I was and I ended up having a nice swim, ignoring the few dead flies on the surface (I made sure not to swallow any of the water!). Then we did some stretches in the pool and more and a bit of yoga (Lorraine was mentioned!) by the poolside.
Then back to the room for a shower and change.
We met again at 6.40pm to go to the beach for sunset and another beer! It was absolutely spectacular. We were also lucky to see a seal (again something unusual!). We must have disturbed it as it waddled down the beach and into the sea. The beach was like the roads – you could see for miles in either direction and to was deserted. There was the occasional large tanker ship on the horizon – the only other sign of humans to be seen.
It was windy on the beach, and it felt quite cold, even more so when the sun went down.
We went back to the hotel restaurant for another lovely dinner. There was no choice of eateries as there was nothing else for miles and miles. The cooking seems slow in all the places we have been to. Perhaps food is cooked more freshly than at home, or perhaps it is just slow!
I got back in the room at about 9.45pm to do this. It is now 11.10pm and I’m done in. (Note from the editor: it has now taken me an hour to edit this blog so far (and I still have maps and photos to go!) So, for those reading we hope you appreciate the c.3 hours of time per day that go into it!)
For a supposedly flat, and potentially uneventful day, its ben non-stop. What a day – amazing! I am having a great time with the boys here, but also missing the rest of Team Danish who normally come on these trips. Well, we’re only missing them a little!!
I’m sure I’ve missed lots out but it’s enough for today. Until tomorrow… when we are going to be moving inland with a long hill/pass to do and the temperature will be getting hotter still!
Follow all of my travels here on the blog. Thank you to everyone who has donated in support – I’m blown away with the amount raised so far.