Continuing South, through the rolling hills of Porterville to the beautiful Tulbagh valley. Why do we rarely seem to have a straight forward day in these tours?! It would be nice to get up, cycle 65 miles, finish, eat sleep. But oh no, not us…!
I slept quite well apart from waking at 3.30 am, then being woken at 5.30 am by the dawn chorus, which is lovely but SHUT UP PESKY BIRDS!!! Then again at 6.50 pm by barking dogs. By the time I got up at 7.00 am I was worn out! For some reason, getting up and going is taking longer at the moment! Heavy legs, achy back – a real (plunger) coffee in the room soon helps revive me. I love the kick caffeine gives me, but not often the taste of the coffee. I use it sparingly as an energiser at home and on this trip.
The usual morning routine of sorting out the days’ cycle attire was helped by the fact that today, all of us were wearing the SA tour shirts that Mark kindly gave to us yesterday. We did all look very smart. Mark didn’t have the right size for David, who put on one that was too large, just for the photos, and cycled in a normal one.
At breakfast, around big round table outside in the beautiful gardens overlooking a valley, I learned why the dogs were barking so much. Richard was outside the main building doing his blog and using the WiFi, when two dogs came running up to him, barking loudly. Like me, he is not a dog person so didn’t know what to do and had to take evasive action to escape, using his laptop as a shield! The dogs also found Keith and one actually bit him on his bum! He says no damage was done but no one has volunteered to check!!!
Breakfast was superb – a yummy stack of pancakes with summer fruits and yogurt. I’m thinking about eating less after the lunch yesterday nearly did me in, but sadly I’m not succeeding! The food here is just too good and inexpensive.
Mark had managed to change my pedals onto the spare bike (that he had been riding after his first one broke) over-night, so we needed to make a few adjustments to the spare that I would be riding first thing. After a few stops we got it about right (but more on the bike later!).
The day started with over 4 miles of downhill run. This only came after a half mile of going up which was the final part of, and other side of the summit from last nights’ climb and the reward for that effort (clever that!). We were cycling into a head wind and there were some long sweeping bends on the descent. As I wasn’t yet used to the bike, I was taking it easy, so even though I let the bike run I wasn’t going silly or maximising the speed. Well I was a bit to start with, but then slowed down to be safer and take in the amazing valley we were descending into. The vistas were immense and the valleys changes at each turn.
I’m struggling with typing this – a hard day and a bit of wine with dinner are closing my eyes. I’m going to have to finish this tomorrow…
Well I’m now back on the blog, but it’s not tomorrow but two days after we finished. I’m now touring and driving through southern SA and the garden route with Lorraine. The final day didn’t give me any time for blogging, but you will have to read about that in the next instalment! Anyway, where was I …
Ah yes, it was distinctly cooler than the previous days, there were some clouds rolling through and it was lovely to get some shade. Mark said there had been an African heatwave over the last few days that we had been cycling through. How crazy is that? Something else to put on the achievements list from this tour.
On we went and after about 15 miles my chain came off. Brian (who I don’t think I have yet spoken about, but is an older chap who drives the van, and is a man of few words, mostly
“top up” for water or “Muti” which is a local African word for an energy drink and in our world meant energy additive for the water bottles (it was so sweet and I only used it once but ended up tipping most of it away!). He also says “Full English with cold tomatoes” when ordering breakfast!) put the chain back on for me. At that time we had just started up again from a water stop and I was the last one to set off and the van follows the last cyclist. Anyway, off I went again but then the chain came off again after only about 50 metres. After Brian put it back on, I set off along the rolling road, which was straight and rolling, with say, half a mile up and then similar down, then repeat! It was lovely countryside again, fields and more fields, up and down which could have got a bit boring.
Then just as I was peddling hard on an uphill part my whole chain came off! Now that is generally not a good thing at all, and takes quite some time to repair. We pulled over to the side and Brian tried to fix it. He couldn’t and so called Mark back who was about half a mile further on with the other three. They were sheltering in some shade as the sun was again really hot and beating down.
Mark took charge (I don’t think Brian has much of a clue really) and put the bike onto the rack on the back of van so he could more easily repair it. I knew it would take quite some time so after watching for a bit, sat in the van to rest. Soon it sounded like it was done and they were testing that the gears worked ok, then I heard an “oh no, we will have to do it again”. It turns out they had miss threaded the chain in one tricky place and so it didn’t work properly and had to be re-done. It was so frustrating for us all as it was holding us up a lot. Eventually it was fixed and we got going down the road to meet up with the others. I explained why it had taken so long, we refilled our water bottles, had a snack from the van and set off.
I was being gentle with the gear changing to help prevent the same problem re-occurring but very soon the chain broke again. Aaaaaagghhhh!
Fortunately, it happened where we could stop at a random picnic area by the side of the road. We were in the middle of nowhere, so it was quite lucky actually. We could shelter from the heat whilst we waited. RP seemed to be quite out of energy and so I suggested we all stayed together to help us all through the day, which was now going be very long.
When making the repair, Mark then said he would use a new part to join the chain rather than the old one as that one wouldn’t break! Der…! It took a while and none of us were very impressed to say the least. By now it was also getting near lunchtime, we were feeling hungry, very hot and like it would now be an unnecessarily long day. Later when I was taking with Mark about the bike and chain breaking he did say it was a mistake not to use the new link when he did the first repair and wished he’d done it differently. So do I!
We reached a late lunch in Portaville. Learning form yesterday’s over indulgence we all had an excellent chicken and avocado wrap with a few chips and the compulsory coffee ice-cream shake. I followed that up with a normal coffee.
Ah, I need to mention cake… Strangely we had not had much cake on the trip and for us that’s a big missing element! So, I asked if we could have some to take away and we ended up with two cheesecakes and a carrot cake in the van for later! Well just in case…you never know what may happen!!
The scenery all day was so spectacular. Massive horizons all around, a wonderful clear blue sky with various colour clouds rolling through, cloud shadows chasing across the fields, a strong breeze, cooling at times but generally hot. We were cycling through the middle of broad flat valleys, perhaps 4 miles wide, with mountains on either side and in the distance ahead. Just stunning. Fields of golden corn swaying in the wind. Our guide Mark didn’t ride with cycling gloves and so I tried that too. Surprisingly, it was quite good, didn’t hurt my hands and was less sweaty. I’ll remember to also give that a go at home when its warm.
It was an absolutely fantastic ride after lunch. One of the best I can remember and such a contrast to the first part of the day. The caffeine kicked in for me and I felt really on it, even when cycling into a strong headwind. We were all cycling together as a group,
swapping who took the lead to give others an easier time following in the slipstream. There were the normal rolling roads but we stayed together on the inclines and descents. That’s not as easy as it may seem because the leader needs to judge the speed of those behind. But we got into a rhythm and plodded on. We were really good as a mini peloton and it helped us go faster overall (compared to some going ahead and then stopping for others to catch up). We stopped after 10k but wanted to really kick on.
Unfortunately, due to the repair my chain kept on missing a cog now and then. It was not coming off but slipping so that upsets the rhythm and made it really annoying and difficult to cycle. It was like I was making say seven rotations of the pedals and then then it slipped. And again, and again, I tried to anticipate the jumping bit and lift off from pushing through that part, but it didn’t help much. It did settle down a bit after a while but not completely.
We had about 35km to go after lunch and split it into about three parts. At the second stop we had the take away cakes which went down a treat. Yum.
I was having such a great time I didn’t want the afternoon ride to end! Great cycling, great scenery, cycling as a group, feeling good – it was a superb moment. One of those rare times when for whatever reason, everything just randomly comes together and life is good. Especially given the contrast with the morning.
We arrived at another lovely heritage hotel in the stunning Tulbagh Valley in the late afternoon at about 6.00pm after starting the ride nine hours earlier! We (not RP) did the now customary quick dip in the cold pool to help our legs recover followed by some stretches.
Then we had half an hour to change and meet downstairs for dinner. After the day we had, I fancied a drink or two. A lovely local stout was just right and also some red wine to follow. I think I had another fabulous steak but one meal is merging onto another, almost literally!
That’s it for this one and I’m sorry they seem to be getting longer. Just one more day to go but that’s an epic story too!
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.