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South Africa 


DAY 52

Feb. 21, 2000

Hazyview to Barberton 

Hello! I think I may have said that I felt Hazyview to be a rather unsavory place, I felt uneasy there when I went alone to the post office, the ATM machine and the supermarket. That plus all the advice we were given not to ride alone prompted me to find someone to ride to Barberton with when we left Hazyview Monday. She was Jane, a lovely young woman who is a first grade teacher in real life. We agreed to meet in the morning after breakfast. When we set out she went first because of the two of us she is even slower. Thereís not many who can claim that! She had a beautiful bouquet of cut flowers attached to her rear rack which I enjoyed all day. They were sent to her by her sweetheart for Valentines Day, she received them in Johannesburg on the 15th, this was the 21st and they were still pretty. It isnít often you will find someone camping and riding a bike for a week toting a bouquet. Everyone who passed us remarked to her about the flowers. She reminded me about a childrenís book. A Mrs. Mc Gillvary or some such rode a bike too and kept adding things to it to make it more comfortable.

Jane likes to be comfortable so we stopped frequently and she reminded me that day about the importance of stretching. Now Iím trying to remember to do a little each day. Some folks have a regular routine they go through every day and I say good for them, I wish I could too, and I know I should, but so far at least donít have the time and energy.

It was a beautiful morning for a ride, not even raining if I remember correctly. Jane saw a monkey sitting by road which surprised me. The area we were in wasnít populated but it was cultivated. There were thousands of acres of tree farms. The trees have been planted neatly in rows, the branches trimmed to a standard height, the underbrush kept cleared. I didnít expect to see wild animals there.

At 29 km. we stopped at the Braai Shack Store and had a snack. Other Odyssey riders were there because this place was mentioned on the DRG but it wasnít open, disappointing those who wanted a cold drink. But we made do with the food we carried on our bikes. We used the storeís outdoor eating area and noticed the unusual ground covering, macadamia nut shells! Macadamia nuts are grown here and sold at roadside stands, street corners, and wherever people gather or are detained.

We had ridden less than 20 km. more when we came upon several Odyssey bikes parked at a tea house. It looked like a charming place so we decided to stop for lunch. Service was very slow, partly because it is South Africa and the folks here tend to move at a more relaxed pace, and partly because they were overwhelmed by having so many customers in one morning. Eventually though our food arrived and in the meantime we had enjoyed chatting with other riders. Someone had bought and was sharing a chocolate cake so we each ate a slice of that while we waited for our lunches. I had chicken salad, a scone with whipped cream and jam, and a cup of real coffee made in a French press.

It must have been well into the afternoon when we finally arrived at the checkpoint in Nelspruit, a prosperous looking city. There was a SPAR store close by so I hurried over there to buy an adaptor while Jane tried unsuccessfully to send pocketmail.

We still had 50 km to go and it was uphill in a headwind. I suggested that I go first or Ďpullí to break the wind which would make it easier for Jane. We went a litlle faster then but I had to  look back at Jane in my helmet mirror often to make sure my pace was okay and adjust it if necessary.

It was 6:30 when we finally rode into the Barberton Karavaan Park. Dinner would close in 30 minutes but it was growing dark and threatening to rain so we decided to be prudent and put up our tents before giving into our appetites.

When the tents were up we rode our bikes uphill 1.2 km. to the Phoenix Hotel for dinner. We joined the line of people waiting for food and soon realized it wasnít moving. We waited an hour because all the food was gone and more had to be prepared. What a long wait! At times like that I really wish I had my Pocketmail device with me so that I can work at these reports, but I seldom remember to take it. Sometimes I couldnít use it anyway while waiting because it is raining but this time we were indoors. Finally the food was ready and was it good! We had pasta with 3 sauces and tossed salad. The mayor of Barberton gave a speech welcoming us and his assistant told of the gold mining history of Barberton. Both were interesting speakers and raised our interest in seeing Barberton but we wouldnít get that opportunity on this trip. We would have to be up early and on our way to Swaziland in the morning.

 Good Bye, Alice

DAY 53

Feb. 22, 2000

Barberton to Ezulweni, Mbabane, Swaziland   

Of course it did rain and we had to pack our tents away sopping wet. We rode our bikes to the Phoenix Hotel for breakfast and again stood in line  while we waited for more food to be cooked. I guess those folks must have been surprised and probably dismayed at how much we ate. While there we learned that one riderís bicycle had been stolen from the Hotelís courtyard the night before while he was inside having dinner. He had been directed to park it in the courtyard and apparently felt that to be a safe location so didnít lock it. Locking our bikes is just one of those things that has to be endured. It is time consuming and a nuisance but it has to be done unless you take turns staying with the bikes with other riders. Jane and I had locked our bikes to the fence before both dinner and breakfast. I thought it ironic that while we were inside listening to the mayor tell about his fine city, one of its citizens was outside stealing one of our bikes.

The expected result of having a bike stolen is that the poor hapless owner has to buy a new bike from TK&A. But Ken didnít like his Odyssey bike from the beginning so he found an innovative solution. He is going to Ďsití the bikes of people going off route which will benefit both parties. It means that Ken will have a bike to ride and the one who is leaving will not be encumbered by his bicycle during his travels. Last I knew he had appointments through April.

After breakfast Jane and I set out intending to ride together but it was an uphill day and after 20 km or so Jane said she wasnít having fun anymore so we flagged down a sag wagon. The rule is that you should be sick or injured to get sagged but they took her and her bike anyway. I think she didnít ride for the next 3 days. When I asked her why one evening she said she just didnít feel like riding a bike. From the looks of things there are a number of others who feel the same way. For me riding in the sag wagon is so utterly boring that I would never choose it over riding.

I rode alone most of that morning but kept the rider in front of me in sight. I tried to catch him but couldnít make up the distance. I prefer to be alone anyway and this time it was I who saw the monkeys, four of them! They are grey with black faces and cute of course. Three ran across the road while the fourth one waited and watched because I was too close by then. Seeing the monkeys made my day!

The first summit that day had an elevation of 4910 feet and the second of 5098 feet. Some people have a device on their bikes that measures elevation gain, we ride more miles up than the elevation is because the roads are usually graded so that hills are climbed  gradually, not as the crow flies. [With the exception of some roads in Costa Rica that went straight up, too steep for most of us to ride.]

One of the passes was called Badplass, the other Nelshoogte Pass. I think it was the second pass that was bad for us that day however. It was raining, there was major road construction with huge heavy duty equipment and trucks, the traffic was heavy and fast, the edge of the paved road was jagged and broken and there was no shoulder. All in all, a cyclistís worst nightmare. To get through this kind of situation I try to focus on what I am doing, trying not to weave but to hold a steady line, trying not to fall off the edge accidentally which might result in a fall yet assessing the edge to see whether there is anywhere to go if I need to, and all the while keeping an eye on the traffic behind me when I can by glancing in my helmet mirror. I tell myself that the vehicles overtaking me donít really want to run me off the road or run over me. I donít take a dive for the ditch  unless it is the only alternative. But that day Steve, the cyclist I was riding with, and I were forced off the road by trucks twice.

By that time Steve had had it and said he was going to hitch a ride and was I with him. I always hate to give up but as I said before I think when one commits to riding with someone one should stick to it. It was very unpleasant and dangerous riding through that construction anyway so hitching did look rather attractive and I agreed to do it. We tried several times before anyone stopped but finally a small pick-up truck with two black men inside stopped for us. One met us and asked where we wanted to go. He then conferred with the driver and reported back that they could take us part way to our final destination. That was fine with us because we just wanted to get through the construction area. The three of us struggled to get the bikes in because they are heavy and awkward things and because the canopy was low. Then Steve and I climbed in with the bikes and off we went. We were to be grateful for that canopy because it had been raining on and off all day and before long there was yet another deluge. Every time the truck slowed or stopped Steve would say, ďOh no! Do you think they are going to put us out here?Ē Steve was also worried whether we were heading in the right direction so I got the DRG off my bike and could see from reading it that we were. The truck stopped beside the road once and we feared we would be put out there in the downpour, but that stop was for the passenger up front. We continued again and finally when we did get out the rain had stopped at least for the moment. The driver would not take the money we offered. He told us that he is from Kenya, in this country working as an engineer. We pedaled off, the driver having kindly deposited us at a place where we could easily find our way.

Later we learned that two riders took falls on the downside of that construction area. Margherita was ahead and when she fell the rider behind her was too close to avoid her and he fell as well. She fell on her face losing a lot of skin and blackening an eye. He fell on his knees skinning and bruising both. But after a couple of recovery days in the sag wagon they are back on their bikes.

This was the day we crossed the border out of South Africa and into Swaziland. The crossing was as easy as any crossing could be, just filling out the usual forms and getting stamps in the passports. It was pouring rain then too.

As soon as we rode into Swaziland we were approached by women selling roasted ears of corn. Both of us were hungry so we bought the corn. (South African money can be used interchangeably with Swaziland money.) We found it delicious and happily munched away, eventually eating it all. It was somewhat dry and chewy, requiring lots of chewing and making us wish we had something to drink to wash it down. We are almost always thirsty anyway. As Steve and I stood there enjoying our corn we talked several other riders into buying an ear but in the end we were the only ones who liked it. I took several photos there of the ladies roasting the corn before an open fire and selling the corn. Because the camera is digital and has a display feature I showed them the pictures and they were delighted. Everyone gathered round for a turn to see. I am afraid I may lose my camera some day because that is a perfect opportunity for a thief to snatch it and run.

The rest of the ride was unremarkable except for an awesome descent. It was a great road in good condition with wide shoulders and it just went down and down and down. I did some braking but tried not to be too much of a wimp. When I read my Cateye computer that evening I saw that my maximum speed had been 65 kph. Later when we had a chance to ask Trueheart what his maximum speed was on that hill, he replied 94 kph!

This was a very long, 169 km., tough day with major climbing and pouring rain. I wouldnít have finished if the man from Kenya hadnít given us a lift through the construction area.

Once at camp I hurried to put up my tent between downpours, waited in line forever for a shower, waited in line again even longer for dinner and finally having got it, stood to it eat, all of this in the rain, serious rain.

Everything is soggy. Water was standing on the ground, the earth no longer able to absorb it. I was grateful to be able to crawl into my cozy and dry tent. 

Goodbye! Goodbye! Alice

Today's Music 

South Africa    





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