Friday, 30 December 2011

Day 423 South Africa 30/12/2011, Kidd's Beach - Fish River Mouth. 46.87miles/76.43km, 5hr42minutes, Av 8.2mph.

It was certainly pretty warm when we set off this morning. After a gentle climb from the camp-site to the main road, we settled down to a comfortable pace. Fortunately we had a large hard shoulder to ride in so we were largely untroubled by the traffic. Or at least we were until we reached the end of the two long climbs. Having got to the summit for the second time, the hard shoulder ended and the traffic seemingly got heavier.

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As we hadn't been able to get any supplies for the road at Kidd's Beach, we were very pleased to come across a restaurant and craft shop just in time for lunch. Just having a light lunch and a break from the traffic, had us feeling much better able to tackle the rest of the journey. What we hadn't allowed for, was the very strong south westerly wind that had got up while we were at lunch. Wind, heavy traffic and no hard shoulder didn't make for ideal cycling conditions and we still had a reasonable distance to go.

Having pressed on for a while a car stopped and signalled us. It turned out to be Larry and Sharon, who we would be staying with. They had seen that the wind had gotten up and decided to come and see if they could find us. Kindly taking our luggage off us, we carried on along the road unencumbered by our heavy gear. It certainly helped and we started to make progress against the wind. Right up until the moment when Larry returned with his pick-up, to give us a lift the final 15km to their cottage.

We are now settled into their very rustic cottage, set amongst the dunes and vegetation of the very pretty Fish River Mouth. The sea is only a short walk away, the beer is cold, the company good and we are already nicely relaxed.


Later on we met Larrys' brother Sean and his two children James and Adrian who are staying as well. New Year may not turn out to be as quiet as we had been told!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Day 422 South Africa 29/12/2011, East London - Kidd's Beach. 20.35miles/33.41km, 1hr57minutes, Av 10.3mph.

Today was a pretty good way of getting back into the cycling after a lay off. The route out of East London was very straightforward, with minimal traffic, and for the main part the terrain was fairly rolling. Even the humid weather that we had woken up to eased and we had a warm yet entirely comfortable ride to Kidd's Beach.

Having been told that the camp-site was full, we were to be staying at the local primary school. The site is opened to campers for the holiday season. It looked pretty closed up when we rode past, but a quick phone call had someone down to let us in and we currently have the playing field to ourselves. Shade is a bit of a problem though, so we will be hoping that it cools down considerably during the evening!

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Leaving our oven-like tent behind, we headed down to the very nice beach. A stroll along the water wading in the rock pools, was followed by a dip in the salt water pool. We haven't spent a great deal of our time on the beach since we arrived on the coast, so it was nice to get here early and have a wander.

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Assuming the service is better than it was at lunchtime, we will probably have dinner at the local restaurant and then have an early night. We have a longer day with a couple of biggish climbs ahead of us tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Day 421 South Africa 28/12/2011 Milkwood Farm, George – East London. Reunited with the bikes!

Despite having to catch the bus at 12:20am, I can thankfully say that I have no need for another rant. It was still a pretty awful journey; we couldn't get a seat together, they played music all night and a force fed child threw up everywhere. It has to be said though that, perhaps through exhaustion, we did at least get some sleep.

Arriving back in East London at just after 11am, we went to get some lunch, checked back into the hostel and arranged to go and pick up the bikes. Kindly the hostel owner gave us a lift to the bikes, which saved us a taxi ride.

As it turned out, any concerns we may have had about our gear proved to be unfounded. It is difficult not to feel protective over our bikes, they have been our constant companions for such a long time! Everything had been safely stored in the garage and after fixing yet another puncture in my front tyre, we were heading back to the hostel.

A quick trip to the supermarket has been pretty much the extent of our exertions for the rest of the day. We have a shortish day ahead of us tomorrow and then ride onwards to meet up with Larry and Sharon (we met in Egypt) for New Years.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Day 416 – 420 South Africa 23/12/2011 – 27/12/2011, Milkwood Farm, George. Happy Christmas with Georgie, Phil, Thomas and their lovely family.

Having spent last Christmas by a lake in Turkey, it was lovely to be invited and made so welcome by Georgie and her husband Philip's family. With a special mention going to Phil and Georgie's very cute and extremely mobile 13 month old son Thomas. His big smiles and impressive crawling have been quite a feature of our stay.

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Spending Christmas when it is the middle of, an albeit wet, summer is still something of a novelty. To add balance we had the Danish traditions of Georgie's aunt Janchen, to give us a taste of the Christmas that we are more accustomed to. Having a proper tree with real candles was very special indeed. This was obviously offset by a braai (BBQ) and a generous amount of time spent in the pool.

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The weather, although generally warm, hasn't always been conducive to getting out and about. We have still managed to visit a large farmer's market, swim in the Pepsi pools and enjoy a morning at the strawberry farm.

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Everyone has been terrific and we are very glad that we made the decision to leave the bikes behind.

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All that is left is for us to say a huge thank you to everyone and a very Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all of our friends and family wherever you are.

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Take care all we hope you had a fantastic time love Matt, Debbie and a very Christmassy Toad.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Day 415 South Africa 22/12/2011, East London – Milkwood Farm, George. A long and slightly disturbing ride on the evangelical Intercape bus.

This morning was all about killing time before we boarded the bus bound for George. Having walked for what seemed like miles down the esplanade, we arrived outside the local Wimpy and had a hearty cooked breakfast to set us up for the journey ahead. By the time we had walked back and watched the hordes starting to gather for a street festival, it was time to board the bus.


It all started so well, the bus was a modern double-decker; we found ourselves a seat upstairs at the front with generous leg room and settled in for the 10 hour journey. What we hadn't expected, was that for the about seven hours of the ten we would be preached to incessantly. I have no problem with anyone choosing to be religious, if you feel that it brings something that is missing from your life, then good for you. What I cannot abide, is having it forced down my throat continually, especially when I am using a public service!

Under the banner of good, wholesome, family, entertainment, we got to watch a succession of programmes each more depressing than the last. Why not ignore the televisions you may say? Well, when the volume is set to such a level that trying to drown it out with your own music is impossible, it makes it very difficult to ignore.

Intercape make a big song and dance of their fine safety record, driver training programmes and continual vehicle maintenance and for that they should be applauded. Especially considering the safety record of most other African transport. But did they really need to effectively re-write the Lord's prayer to include “please protect our passengers as we travel along South Africa's roads” and then lead us in prayer? I personally would rather trust to the driving skill of our assigned driver, than consider that my fate is in the hands of a supposedly omnipotent being!

What made the journey especially offensive though was the subject matter of the supposedly family friendly films and programmes. We were treated to the tale of a young girl who self harmed and made multiple suicide attempts until she found Jesus. This was followed by the life story of a young gang member who having already shown himself to be a thoroughly unpleasant person, suddenly saw the light at the very point he was about to take the life of a rival. Neither of the stories had any great moral about repentance; in the case of the gang member, he seemingly took great delight in the telling of his antics.

Following the real life stories we had a movie about a woman suffering from early onset Alzheimer's; another with a cast of the most stereotypically bigoted people you could ever wish to encounter and a third about a young gang member who discovered he had a terrific voice which lifted him from the American mean streets. To be fair, the final one was at least a little uplifting! Obviously in each of the films somewhere along the line finding Jesus made everything alright.

Even more worrying was an advert for a film about the violent rape of a young woman who, upon falling pregnant from the assault, decides that with the help of her faith she will raise the child and redeem the rapist who she now bizarrely loves. Can anyone see anything wholesome and family friendly about the programming, because I certainly don't.

I could go on forever and to some it may seem that I have already. I will just leave it, that it has to be the most unpleasant, cringe worthy bus journey I have ever undertaken and we still have the return journey to look forward to!

Finally at 10pm they turned the “entertainment” off and we got a little rest before Debs friend Georgie met us at about 11:30pm. Pleased to have escaped the journey we had a brief chat and then hit our beds for the night. It has been a tiring, trying day.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Day 414 South Africa 21/12/2011, Buccaneers – Buffalo Backpackers, East London. 22.82miles/37.11km, 2hr51minutes, Av 7.9mph.

Having said a slightly sad farewell this morning to all of the great people we have met, we set off up the dirt road. The temperature and humidity were through the roof this morning, not a good day to be tackling what turned out to be a very hilly route.


Things certainly improved after the first 2km when we got to the tarmac, but it was certainly a struggle in the heat. Often the shorter days turn out to be more difficult than the longer ones. It is very easy to dismiss them as an easy ride and to be honest we weren't really prepared for the day ahead.


While stopped at a small supermarket, we met a guy who had been camped beside us at Buccaneers. He offered us a lift most of the way to East London, which was nice of him, but we politely refused. By that point we were halfway there, plus there was no point in arriving too early.

Hills aside, the remainder of the journey was pretty uneventful. The road we had been on was quite narrow which made riding in the traffic a little unnerving. More so for Debs, when she was forced to head for the verge when a van came past and gave her no space at all. The same driver then beeped his horn and waved at me, you have to wonder what is going through some people's heads!

At a little after midday we arrived outside Buffalo backpackers and got checked in. Debs then tried to phone the people who would be looking after our bikes while we are away for Christmas. Having tried unsuccessfully, we headed out for lunch to a nearby pub and sports bar. The food was very good and of a suitably cyclist sized portion. By the time we had eaten it all and washed it down with a couple of beers it was all we could do to make it back to the hostel for a rest. Luckily Debs had managed to get through to Serene who would be looking after our gear and she had kindly offered to come and pick it all up. Neither of us really fancied heading out again today anyway.

Rather than hanging around the hostel all evening, we had arranged to join Christine and Jesse at a nearby art gallery. Dragging ourselves out we were picked up at about 7pm and proceeded to have a fantastically peculiar evening. Christine and the wonderfully bonkers Jesse are great.

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It is not every evening that you get to make and wear an ivy crown; read the part of Puck in a scene from 'A Midsummer Nights Dream'; play with sparklers; thankfully not burn the tree down that Chinese lantern crashed into; listen to some poetry; drink plenty of free wine and watch a grown man do a fairy dance!

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Occasionally life takes a brilliant yet surreal turn!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Day 409 - 413 South Africa 16/12/2011 – 20/12/2011, Buccaneers, Chintsa West. A nice place with some great people and a lot of laughs.

Sometimes you end up in a place where you can just relax and have a really good time. For us Buccaneers has been just such a place. We have joined in with as many of the free activities that we could and I have even become respectable at volleyball. There have been no more prizes of free dinner though. Having said that we have been more than willing to help drink the free wine.

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Of the people we have met, special mention has to go to John and his son Alex who we joined for a lovely meal at a a nearby restaurant. They have been very good company even if playing table tennis against Alex proved that it is not just volleyball that I am poor at!

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We also have to say a big thank you to the staff and especially to Lucy who has organised most of the activities. Being South African holiday season means that there have been less backpackers and more families staying. Getting participants for the activities has been a bit of a struggle, as it seems that most South Africans just do their own thing while they are here. I think the staff have quite enjoyed having us around, especially as they think we are mad to have cycled here!

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Talking of mad, to the sound of much hilarity from the staff I signed us up for a three hour mountain bike tour. The first part involved meeting the completely bonkers, 92 year old, Mama Tofo. The lovely local woman explained to us about Xhosa culture and showed us around her home. We may have only understood about half of what she said, but it was both interesting and hilarious at the same time.

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The mountain bike part of the tour turned out to be a bit of a disaster. The main problem was that the bikes were rubbish. Mine was stuck in about 20th gear, Debs chain continually slipped and our guide had forgotten his tools so our seats were at the wrong height. Better still when one of the group got a puncture, I had to take the wheel from the guide as he was trying to put the badly repaired inner tube back in with a pair of scissors! These were the same scissors that earlier he had attempted to undo the hex bolts that held my seat in place with. He was obviously unsuccessful!

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We all managed to lose the guide as he showed no real desire to keep up, and had to find our own way back to camp. Arriving back at the camp we left the bikes and eventually our guide turned up, having got a lift from the transfer guy who had taken us out to the village. He claimed that he had a puncture and had told one of our group to go on without him; which is a lie as there were only five of us and no one had seen spoken to him since the ill-fated puncture repair moment. It looks like in typical African fashion he just didn't want to go to the effort of actually riding. Despite all the disasters, we actually had a pretty good time. Even though the bikes we were on were rubbish, it still reminded me how nice it is to ride an unladen bike. The stupid thing is that we could probably have taken our own bikes with us.


Sleeping in a tent, normally ensures an early start to the day, so we haven't spent too much time in the bar during the evenings. As this is our last night and we don't have too far to go tomorrow, we will have to make a bit of an effort. Before that though we are heading into the village across the way to meet up with Christine and Jesse who we met in Graskop. They had offered their lawn to camp in, but we have become pretty settled here. It will be very nice to catch up with them though.


Our afternoon meet up over a few drinks, set us up well for the rest of the day. There was no volleyball, which was probably a good thing as I pretty much ache all over. Instead we were roped into helping Lucy decorate the bar with Christmas decorations; the payment being more free wine!


Our planned big last night never really came off, as everyone in the bar was treated to probably the two most awful alternative folk singers that we have ever encountered. Considering that they have struggled to get people to come to the bar, booking the spectacularly dreary duo to play can only be described as a mistake. Clearly some people must have enjoyed their music, but from the expressions on most of the people we have met over the last few days, it wasn't very many!

Back on the road tomorrow for the short ride to East London.