(71) Plodding to Pretoria
Friday 23rd August
We’d had a great break in Gaborone with Sarah and Alan and managed to get far more done than we could imagine on our ‘to do’ list. Alan had left for work and Dipuo came to say goodbye as she was heading out. She was such a lovely person and they were a wonderful family to stay with. By the time we had the bikes loaded Alan came back to see us off. They had been a massive help in finding a good route to Pretoria and giving us the chance to catch up on loads of jobs. We said our thanks and headed off on the road east to the border to cross into South Africa. It was a long steady climb into the wind and after 10 miles we had arrived. Just as we pulled up a bus full of people got out and headed in, our hearts sank knowing we would have a long wait but finally we were finally stamped out and made our way to the South African immigration office. The officer was a nice guy who popped outside of his office to look at our bikes he was great to chat to and were soon stamped into country 22. We were in and it felt great.
Everyone at the border was nice which put us at ease as we headed on. The road soon turned south-east where we picked up a tail wind helping us pick up speed. We hit a steep climb and although it was tough we were rewarded with a gentle descent with the wind making us go faster. We passed many wart hogs and kudu on the side of the road all scattering as soon as they spotted us making them fun to watch. We had managed to cover 30 miles by 1.30 even with the border crossing. We stopped under a tree with the border hills behind us giving us a great view while we ate our lunch. With the wind still blowing we quickly reached the town of Nietverdiend where we hoped to pick up supplies only to find it was more like a ghost town with everything closed or locked up.
We rode on to the turn off where we would have a short cut to the next town. The road was gravel but we hoped it would give us more of a tail wind and was less distance. It was a good road at first and we covered the first 8 miles with ease – it didn’t last though.
The gravel road stretching ahead of us
We noticed the land either side had security fencing and were starting to get concerned about where we would put the tent that night. As we came over a brow, we were stopped by some guys who were out hunting in a vehicle and they asked where we were going also concerned about where we would sleep. When they discovered we planned to camp in the bush, Kobus who owned the game lodge immediately invited us to their place. It was so kind and we quickly accepted.
Our welcoming committee
Tim decided to pick up some wood for the fire
We were about 10 miles short for the day but as we only had about an hour and a half of light left we realised this would be perfect. They gave us directions and we headed off to find the farm. After about 20 minutes we arrived at what was a stunning hunting lodge. We met the owner’s wife Marita who said we were more than welcome and showed us to a large canvas tent with a bathroom. We looked at each other and wondered how we ended up in these places with these amazing people.
Tim in our home for the night
We headed for a hot shower which sounds simple enough but in the UK the hot tap is on the left, so after nice cold shower Tim’s curiosity got the better of him and found piping hot water in the other tap. Once Tim could feel his fingers again we headed over to where the others were sitting and joined in on the evening. The place was amazing and so were the people. We had been told about South African hospitality and how amazing the people were and this family were a shining example. We sat enjoyed great food in great company sat round a large fire.
An amazing group of people
We were advised not to wild camp in South Africa as unfortunately crime is a big problem. We set about planning stops with our map. After a few beers and whiskey for Tim and wine for Sharon we headed to bed a little wobbly. Our tent looked even cosier at night and the beds were so warm withwhat felt like 2 feet of warm blankets. It reminded Tim of when he would visit his grandparent’s house at home where there would be loads of layers on the bed to climb under in the cold evening.
Saturday 24th August
It was cold in the night but under our blankets we were so snug. We waited for as long as possible before getting up and packing our things. The fire was already lit when we wondered over and sat with Kobus and Marita and enjoyed a nice cupper over breakfast. They told us we were welcome to stay at their holiday home when we arrived in Knysna which is on the coast so we were hoping to take them up on their offer! It would be sad to leave them but we had to keep moving. We thanked them all for inviting us in and rode out to the dirt road.
Saying goodbye to a wonderful couple
They told us that the Tarmac started in 15 miles but that didn’t help us through the deep corrugations and soft sand. It was slow and tiring making us feel we would never get the miles covered.
Slow going in the sand
We finally reached the road and after another 10 miles to the town of Skansdrif we stopped at a farm shop feeling drained. The shop was much like our farm shops at home and Sharon had to pinch herself at the till thinking she was at home when everyone was speaking in Afrikaans. We finished our drinks and got going. We had another 15 miles to the main highway and with tired legs it took a little longer then we hoped. The views however were getting better all the time. With short climbs and descents, we could look down on the large green farms with their long sprayers and herds of cows wondering along a large lake.
The views were improving
We reached the junction and turned off into the small town of Griot Marico. The town had a nice colourful facade with brightly coloured buildings all along its Main Street. We met a few friendly locals while we picked up lunch and a SIM card and rode on a few hundred metres to sit under a tree. After beans on toast with cheese (we haven’t had cheese for ages so were very excited) we headed up the road to re-join the highway. As we reached it we saw the tavern that we had been told about and Sharon went in to fill her water bottles. She commented that if we’d both gone in we’d never have come out as T-bone steak was on the menu and a long list of different beers – we would have needed to sell our bikes.
We continued on the road which climbed steadily with many passing trucks and cars passing waving to us – we felt safe and it had a nice wide hard shoulder. It was hot work and it had started to feel humid making us thirsty.
With 20 miles to cover before we stopped, we finally reached the town of Swaetruggins where we picked up a few supplies in the supermarket. We got chatting to a drunk local guy who was entertaining to talk to while Sharon went in pick up the food. We only had about 2 miles to go to get to the campsite that had been recommended and after another climb we arrived at a quiet campsite next to a lake. We went to book in and met the owner Dawie. He came out to open the gate and saw we were on bicycles. We told him what we were doing and he asked if we would like a room for the same price as camping. An offer too good to pass up, we kindly accepted and were shown to our room.
The view from our home for the night
We soon made ourselves at home and got the stove on when a couple from the kitchen came down bringing us some samosas. It was so kind and we were even offered breakfast on the house the following morning. We relaxed and cooked tea and enjoyed watching a film. It had been a hard day but we were so happy to be South Africa.
Sunday 25th August
We slept well in our hut at the campsite. Sharon was still feeling tired when Tim started to pack the kit and load the bikes. Tim put the kettle when Dawie came down and invited us up to the restaurant to join him and his wife Hannelie. We finished loading the bikes and made our way to the entrance to be greeted by him and a few of their guests. We were then treated to a full English breakfast from the kitchen staff and were asked all about our trip. We were made to feel very special – we’re just doing a bike ride every day and we found it hard to think we were anything other than ordinary. We chatted a while enjoying our amazing meal and went to get our bikes. A few of the guests wanted pictures and a very kind man gave Tim his SA rugby hat which made Tim’s day (and gave Sharon hat envy). It was so strange getting so much attention. They were all lovely and even offered us to stay another night for free but we had to keep moving.
A great bunch of people
We left the campsite and rode into town. We picked up some supplies for the day and met a lovely family who lived in the area. We got going and started the first of many climbs. The hard shoulder was good and gave us room away from the traffic.
A great wide hard shoulder – our favourite!
We got about 15 miles out of town when Tim spotted a broken down pickup. We went over to help and they needed some water as it was overheating. We gave them all of our spare water saving the bottles on our bikes which helped them get going. They were very grateful and during a conversation about safety in South Africa offered us a gun for protection. Happy with our sticks and although would have fun trying to shoot tin cans we declined the offer and rode on for another 10 miles stopping at a garage for a break and to refill our water bottles.
The going was slow and we climbed from 1,100 metres to 1,300 and above only to drop back down for the next long climb. We decided to stop at the top of the next big hill for lunch when a car stopped and asked what we were doing. The driver’s name was Mark and he was with his family – wife Kelly (who was 7 months pregnant) and daughter Mikayla. After a short conversation, they invited us to stay in Pretoria with them. It was incredible. We exchanged numbers and waved goodbye as we continued to the top of the climb. We passed a few silicon mines and reached the sharp summit to find nowhere to stop. We descended a short distance and there was no choice but to stop on the side of the road to eat our cheese on toast. We got loads of waves as the trucks struggled up the climb followed by the inevitable queue of cars behind. We felt like we were on a static carnival float as they all waved.
Our lunch stop
We descended away from the hill and past the next town of Tustenburg. It had an imperial feel to it and sported a pretty church.
We were feeling tired but still had a long way to go to Pretoria. We rode on thinking the turn off for the campsite that had been recommended was about 15 miles away. However after around 5 miles we had reached it. With 70 miles still to Pretoria plus the detour to the camp and needing time to enter a large city the following day it was just too soon to stop. If we carried on we could be in a dangerous area where there had been some recent killings after a miners strike and we had been strongly advised not stop there. However, if we stayed at the camp spot we would arrive late in a city and that could also prove dangerous. This was new territory for us and we hadn’t been faced with such a dilemma before. After some discussion, we opted for the first option and rode on praying we would find somewhere safe to stay. The traffic was getting heavy and we would need to start looking for a way to get to a quieter road that runs parallel. We got within 64 miles of Pretoria when Tim stopped to tell Sharon we could get off the highway soon as we had reached our target. Sharon spotted a building with a thatched roof that looked like a pub so we decided to ask if we could stay there.
We crossed the road to find it was the Scorpio bikers bar and the camping was free. What a result! We learned later that when we arrived, someone had said ‘look at those 2 Harley-Davidsons turning up’! We pitched the tent and had tea cooked before the sun set ready to have a couple of beers before tackling the ride to the big city the following day.
Our safe camp spot for the night
We headed to the bar to meet the owner Kobus and his wife Teresa along with a few locals. We were in a proper bikers bar where the ash trays were made by lifting the motor bikes on to the tables, wedging the front wheel against a pole and doing burn outs to create a dip. We were grateful they let us stay even though we were missing an engine!
Shaz with the owners Kobus and Teresa
We had a great laugh with the guys there and looked at many of the pictures of all the other bikers that partied hard at the bar,it was a great place to hang out and could see why it was so popular. We learned about the platinum and chrome mines that surrounded the area. After a variety of shots and a few beers kindly paid for by Kobus we headed back to the tent promptly passing out after a great night.
Jelly baby shots!
The great guys at the Scorpio bikers bar
Shaz found some new wheels!
Monday 26th August
We slept so deeply anyone could have loaded us and the tent on a truck and driven us 1,000 miles and we wouldn’t have noticed. We had been invited in for breakfast and Teresa prepared us a huge burger and chips on the house. It was just what we needed after few beers the night before and so generous. Kobus arrived to see us off and we said our thanks leaving the Scorpio bikers bar and returned to the highway.
You made Tim very happy Teresa!
The amazing Scorpio bikers bar
We were intending to use the smaller road which ran parallel but we were advised to stick to the highway as it was much safer with the traffic . The guys at the bar had lost a lot of friends in accidents as the road was narrower and gave less room given for 2 wheeled vehicles. The wind had dropped but with a slight head wind we climbed steadily only to descend and climb again. We rode for 15 miles when Tim saw a phone on the side of the road – it was a Samsung Galaxy 3 and looked brand new. We tried to ring the last number on it but it had a low battery so we rode on to a garage where we could charge it. One of the staff there offered us £20 for it but Tim explained that it needed to be returned to the rightful owner and was not ours to sell. The guy couldn’t believe why we would bother returning it. We tried to explain that if someone found our phone we would hope that person would try and return it – he just looked at us in disbelief. The phone was locked so there was nothing we could do for the time being.
We continued for another 10 miles spotting a tree to have lunch. Sharon was feeling tired but with 40 miles still to cover we didn’t stop long.
Leaving our brief lunch stop
Enjoying the scent from these stunning blossoms
Sharon picked up a puncture which didn’t take too long to fix and we rode on along the hard shoulder keeping an eye on the traffic. It remained a single carriage way for most of it but when it turned to duel carriageway we were surprised no one was stopping us as it was marked as a motorway. However, it wasn’t long before a police car pulled over and we thought they were going to redirect us off the motorway. The policeman wound down his window and asked if we were raising money for charity and where were we going? We explained about our trip and they didn’t seem to have a problem with us being there, we said thank you and rode on be before they decided to change their mind.
Tim smiling politely at the policeman
We got to within 5 miles of the N1 going south when we received a call from Kelly to find out where we were. We explained and found that we were just 50 metres past the correct junction – fantastic timing! We followed Mark’s directions to the nearest fuel station where he met us so we could follow him back to the house. We once again found ourselves in great company with amazing hospitality and felt instantly at home. We were soon well fed along with a cold beer and chocolate. It was brilliant. Tim told Mark about the phone and we once again tried a number that was on it after putting Mark’s SIM into the phone but there was no answer and with it being so late we would try again in the morning. We went to bed feeling so good to have made it to Pretoria and the be in the company of another wonderful family.
Tuesday 27th August
Mark and Kelly took us to the bike shop – Bruces cycles – to get Sharon’s bike serviced. The rohloff hub needed the seals replacing as it had been leaking. The guys there were really nice and we knew the bike was in good hands. We had burgers for lunch and it was nice to have a day off. Mark and Kelly run a business called Avalon braais and fireplaces in Eastern Pretoria (Braai’s are BBQ’s to us English folk). In particular we were quite taken by the indoor braais! They are so cool and we would love to get one when we get home as it doubles up as an open fire 🙂
The parliament building in the centre of Pretoria
Tim and the rest of Kelly and Mark’s family!
While we waited for Sharon’s bike to be fixed we were made to feel at home and Kelly and Mark took us out for dinner and enjoy some more delcious South African steak! We headed home and had a lovely evening watching a movie and putting our feet up.
Kelly, Mark and Tim
Wednesday 28th August
We joined Kelly and Mikayla for breakfast. Sharon’s wheel wasn’t going to be ready until 5pm so we took it easy sorting out a few things. Late morning, Tim had a call from the shop asking for the whole bike as they needed to run the hub to clean it. Kelly kindly rang Shane who works with them who came back with the pickup and loaded the bike. We went via the office where Mark joined us and we headed off into town. At the cycle shop Durkie had already taken the hub apart and was busy working on it. We were so grateful to them for making it a priority. We dropped off the bike and headed around town – it was good to get out and have a look around. Tim returned to the office and waited there until Sharon arrived with Kelly and her cousins. We managed to get another blog posted and organise a few things and it wasn’t long before the bike would be ready. Shane needed to drop off a load of bags so we set off early to deliver the load and headed back to the bike shop.
Durkie showed us Sharon’s bike which was not only ready but spotless. It looked amazing and we wished we’d left Tim’s next to it. Not only was the bike clean but we now wouldn’t get covered in oil every time we mended a puncture. Tim didn’t want to leave the shop with all the brand new road and mountain bikes that all looked so light. Tim paid the bill and headed out to load the pickup when the owner came out saying they would like to give us something. Tim went back in to find they were giving us both a cycle jersey. It was so kind of them and was very humbling. These guys all shared the same passion for cycling whether it is mountain biking, road riding or just a short ride to the pub. To be given something just because we were riding a bike everyday was amazing. Tim thanked the guys and headed back with Shane to meet up with Sharon and Kelly back at the house. Sharon had been cooking a steak and ale pie for the evening and the kitchen smelt delicious – she was keen to share a taste of home with everyone. Tim got back and presented her with a gleaming bike wearing the Bruce’s cycles jersey. Sharon’s eyes looked at her bike with joy and then at Tim’s jersey with envious eyes. Tim said it was a present for doing the trip and how proud they were of us. Sharon looked on with ‘that would have looked good on me’ eyes. Tim let her wait a little before presenting her with her very own Bruce’s cycles jersey. She was so pleased and it fitted perfectly. What a great few days we were having. Flight booked, bike fixed, new jerseys and new friends all in 2 days.
Shaz, Kelly, Mikayla and Kelly’s friend from Switzerland who had called over
We were going to miss this little one!
We were soon joined at the house by Shane and Kirk who worked at their shop and enjoyed beef and ale casserole with Yorkshire puddings followed by milk tart made by Kelly (which was delicious)and a movie. We would be on the road the following day and it felt sad to be leaving. We had been made so welcome and it was going to be hard to move on ‘south’ once again.
Thursday 29th August
We got up and packed our bags. Breakfast was ready and we were soon set to leave. We were sad to be leaving but we had to keep moving.
Saying goodbye in our new jerseys!
We waved goodbye and when we got to the bottom of the hill, Sharon noticed that the gear selector wasn’t working. We decided we would ride to Bruce’s cycles to get them to look at it. We could have gone back to Kelly’s but they had been so amazing and had gone way out of their way to help us already. We started climbing the very steep hill that climbs about half a mile and dropped the other side. It was tough but we were soon freewheeling. The next thing we noticed was Kelly in the road waving us down. She asked where we were going as the highway was the other way. We explained there was a problem with the selector and she then insisted on taking us back in the pickup. We rode the rest of the way to their Braai shop where we unloaded Tim’s bike and went off to the bike shop. Unfortunately it was Durkie’s morning off and he was the only one who services Rohloff. They rang him and he said he’d be there in an hour, we felt so bad for disturbing him.
We made our way back to the shop to relax and catch up on a few things. Kelly had managed to fit the sim of the lost phone in her phone and so after a few texts from the people to the owners phone she managed locate the owner who was on his way. It felt good to return it to its owner and when he arrived he was so pleased and surprised to get it back. We found out later it was about £400 worth of phone. Feeling pleased we relaxed at the shop with Shane treating us all to a yummy burger meal before heading back to the house as the bike still wasn’t ready. Tim decided to ride back and with no bags on the bike the race was on. The traffic wasn’t bad and with the mountain to get over Tim was overtaken half way up the climb with Sharon shouting ‘encouragement’. Tim arrived back to find Mark and Shane relaxing on the veranda. With it still being early it gave Tim time to service his hub and change the chain and go out for a drive to a small airport where Mark had to pick up controls for a micro light. We had a call from the bike shop and we could pick the bike up the following morning so we would be on our way once again. Mark had decided to have a braai so after picking up some meat we all sat and relaxed enjoying their awesome indoor braai with a few of Mark’s friends and his brother. It was so good to enjoy other people’s company we would really miss them – they had been amazing support and were ready to start heading south once again. 🙂
Mark, Shane, Mikayla and Tim
Thanks for reading – we are pleased to announce that Kelly had baby Hailey last week – congratulations!