(76) Caps off at the cape!
Sunday 13th October
The sun was shining on us in Knysna but it was still windy. We finished loading the bikes and had breakfast. We were really going to miss this amazing place all thanks to Kobus and Marieta. We felt so lucky to have had the break and on top of it we felt lucky we had missed riding in gale force winds and rain. We locked up and started the steep climb up to the gate. The view from the top was great looking across to the town. It was nice to descend the steep hill that had been so hard to climb a few days before. We followed the coast path missing out the traffic and joined the N2 highway on the outskirts of the town.
We started a climb and were met by 2 guys on road bikes out for a Sunday ride. It was great to chat and we looked enviously at their nice light bikes. They shot off up the climb as we slowly turned the pedals. We only had about 40 miles to go to the town of George so took it easy stopping at a look-out down over the lakes where we stopped for lunch.
We rode on for another 8 miles to the town of Wilderness and found it to be stunning – squeezed between a mountain and the sea. We stopped for a cupper and got chatting to three lovely people who lived in the town. We could have chatted to all day and they bought us a cup of tea and shared their pizza with us. They offered us their B & B for free and said we could stay for a few days but already having a place to stay we thanked them for their very kind offer.
We still had 10 miles to cover before George so we said goodbye and climbed out of the town taking in the amazing views back across the bay.
The road was great and we would have loved to have had more time to hang around. We spotted a railway line that hugged to coastline down below us – we asked someone about its history and unfortunately it is out of service due to part of it being washed away in storms a few years ago. The government can’t afford to repair it but there was discussion with the French government who were considering pledging the money to restore it to its former glory making it a beautiful stretch of railway.
We arrived in the town and called Rennie who was a friend of Jono from St Francis. We found the house and had a lovely evening – Rennie and his wife Marietta were a great couple. They cooked us dinner and provided cold beers and we settled down to watch a film.
Monday 14th October
Rennie woke Tim about 6.30 to see if he wanted to go for a surf but as he’d not slept that well and had a sore back and a big climb ahead he declined. It was a real shame and with a little more time it would have been good to have gone. We got up a little while later to have breakfast and see Marietta go off to work. We managed to get another blog posted and loaded the bikes. We could have stayed longer and would have loved to. They were such a great couple but with a hilly route, limited time and not knowing how long our detour through the mountains would take we got going.
It didn’t take long before we left the town and started the climb. The road was quiet which made the first part easier to relax. We reached a sign showing the old pass called the Montago pass. Rennie’s friend had recommended it and after seeing the good condition of the track we had to try it. We were so pleased we did -it was stunning. It had been built by prisoners in the early 1920’s and looked as good now as it would have all that time ago.
We slowly climbed stopping on occasions to take a break and pics. The temperature rose to around 35 degrees and with it the sweat stung our eyes. It was so worth the effort slowly reaching the old railway line that weaved its way along the mountain contours. As we neared the top the gradient increased to an almost impossible pitch but we got through the worst and slowly reached the top at 740 metres.
The descent the other side was just as stunning and after around 5 miles we reached the village of Herold and stopped for a cream tea. Well, more like scones and jam to us Devonians as there was a distinct lack of clotted cream – but it was very tasty.
We were told the dirt road continued to be nice all the way to Oudtshoorn which was our next town so off we set covering another 10 miles before stopping for a late lunch.
By now we were in ostrich farming country. They were great to ride past, some would just watch, some would run away and some would run alongside us but the other side of the fence.
We made good time on the road with the surface being so good and arrived in the town. We picked up a few bits in the supermarket and decided to ride on closer to the caves we were heading to, to make the following day easier. We asked a guy on the road if he knew a place where we could stay. He point towards the mountain range in front of us and said there was a cutting in the road and we should find somewhere behind it. We rode on for about 2 miles and arrived at a farm where we met the owner Olivia and her husband. They said we were more than welcome to camp in the garden and use the bathroom and kitchen. They said later we could sleep in the house but with all our things already in the tent it was easier to stay put. We spent the evening chatting with them about the farming of ostriches and were surprised how big their eggs were. One ostrich egg is equal to approximately 24 chicken eggs. You can’t break them with a spoon – you need to use a small hammer!
They were a really great couple and we felt so lucky to have met more wonderful people.
Tuesday 15th October
Even though we had both slept well Tim found it hard to get up. It was early but we wanted to be there to say goodbye to Olivia. We sat and had breakfast while the tent dried in the sun and made our way outside to start the ride up through the deep valley to the Cango caves. Before we even got to the road Tim found he had a puncture which when one is tired feels like a battle. After a failed attempt with some old glue we finally got going slowly working our way up through the valley. It was very beautiful with the river running alongside us.
With a short steep climb up to the caves we found a place to lock our bikes and booked our place on a tour. It turned out that we were the only ones booked in at 12.30 so had our own guide. The caves were stunning. The extensive system of tunnels and chambers go on for over four kilometres -only about a quarter of this is open to visitors. The first chamber is pretty impressive and is the length of a football pitch. The caves were discovered in 1780 by a local farmer. The cave systems were gradually mapped over the years up until 1978.
We went on an ‘adventure tour’ and with a few interesting tight squeezes (the smallest being just 15 cms!), after 90 minutes we made our way back to the entrance.
One of the caves had been used as an opera house because of the fantastic acoustics but with a thousand people crammed into a cave the heat and humidity was too much and damaged many of the formations. Along with that people used to break off ten thousand year old pieces for souvenirs.
We thanked our guide and went to retrieve our bikes happy we’d made the detour. It was around 2.30 and the temperature was 39 degrees. Tim put in our next destination into the GPS to see how far it was – 42 miles of climbs, descents and dirt roads weren’t going to let us get there today but we would get as close as we could. We slowly started the climb towards the Swartberg pass and before we reached the top of the first small climb we were soaked in sweat. We took it easy and soon reached the turn off for the pass. It was a route we had hoped to take but we were getting a little worried about time so we remained the south side of the mountains and slowly made our way west. Although it was hot the climbs were kind not getting too steep and or too long. The views however were stunning and as the sun got lower there would be deep dark shadows cast into the sharp ravines.
As we knew we wouldn’t make it to Calitzdorp we started to look for a place to camp. We passed a farmer with his sheep and asked if there was anywhere we could camp. He happened to own a campsite 500 metres away. We were so tired we looked forward to stopping and relaxing. We were looking forward to the following day too as we were passing through port country J
Wednesday 16th October
We were woken from a deep sleep by the owner’s puppy jumping on the tent. The puppy was cute but with claws it could damage our tent. It seemed to take ages to get going but eventually we re-joined the dirt track. The views were stunning with the low farmland with the mountains behind. We had 18 miles to cover to get to the tar road and with short yet very steep climbs it was tough going.
Tim was in front descending down to a river crossing and passed a huge snake on the road. He stopped to warn Sharon but as he returned to where the snake was found it to be dead. It looked like it had only just been killed and a local told us it was a deadly Cape cobra. We were also in tortoise country and stopped to watch one ‘run’ down the road.
We rode on through the steep sided valley past a dam and in to the port vineyards. We arrived in Calitzdorp and picked up a couple of pies and went to the supermarket to get a few bits for lunch. We got chatting to the owners who were from Jordan and were very interested in our trip. In true Middle Eastern generosity they gave us some bananas and juice to help us get up the pass ahead of us.
We were now in port country and the thought of missing out on a port tasting and a bottle was too good to miss. The town was very pretty with bright pink flowers in full bloom as we made our way to the winery. It was nice tasting the many ports but after so much climbing it was going straight to our legs!
Even with the small amount we had tried we wobbled up the road back onto the highway. The road slowly climbed giving us a false sense of height them plummeted down to the river. It’s always great to descend but when we had a pass to climb the lower we went the longer we would climb. As we passed through a deep sided valley the road began to climb and with it the wind battered us. Tim ran back the road to collect his hat and start the climb. It was hot but the gradient was kind along with amazing views that rewarded us for our efforts.
Once at the top the road dropped once again then slowly kept climbing all the way to Ladysmith. We had arrived late with a cold wind blowing making us feel chilled. We stopped at a supermarket to get a few things when we were met by a nice guy called Johan. He told us about a place we could camp and that there was a French Canadian couple and their kids staying who were cycle touring. We made our way to the camp ground and met the nicest family who were on 2 hired tandems and a trailer for their things. It was so much fun chatting to Sylvie and Guy. It was so inspiring seeing the whole family on a real adventure. They were on a 6 month trip around southern Africa and one month of that was cycle touring. Their daughters were Angelia (8) and Jandrine (13) and they were being home schooled by their parents and seemed to be really enjoying their adventure. Before we headed to bed, Johan kindly let us use his bathroom for a hot shower – much warmer than the camp site ones!
Thursday 17th October
As the night went on the temperature dropped and the sound of light rain started to hit the tent. It was very fine but enough to get the tent wet. We heard the Canadian family getting ready to leave so got up to say goodbye – they were heading to Calitzdorp. They had been so inspiring and we had really enjoyed meeting them. We were grateful to Johan for introducing us and joined him for a coffee, enjoying chatting with him before we set off.
Although the rain had stopped it remained cloudy with a light head wind but keeping the scenery a harsh but stunning.
We rode the 30 miles to the only settlement on the road which was a bar called Ronnie’s sex shop. It was re-named by the owner’s friend as a joke 16 years ago and has become world famous ever since. It’s a bar and restaurant and the only ‘sexy thing’ about it is it has a few bras hanging from the ceiling! It’s quite a unique place and the owner Ronnie has become famous featuring on TV in various programmes in South Africa.
We met some bikers that had passed us on the road and chatted to them. They were nice guys and were a variety of bike clubs in the Johannesburg area on a week’s trip. We treated ourselves to a burger and a beer and got chatting to Katya who managed the place. She kindly agreed to let us camp in her garden in Barrydale. We rode the final 20 miles into a light headwind and the road remained stunning all the way.
We finally arrived at a bend in the road that revealed the pretty town of Barrydale snuggled in the foot of the mountains.
We headed straight to an Internet cafe and organised ourselves with our friend Sara coming out to see us soon in Argentina. She had already cycled with us in Norway and Denmark and we were so looking forward to seeing her again. We headed to Katya’s around 6 and she cooked a delicious Ostrich egg omelette which went nicely with a glass of port! The egg was similar to chicken egg but richer. We chatted away the evening and went to bed at 9 ready for another climb the following day.
Friday 18th October
As the sun hit our tent we woke to great day and sat in the garden eating toast with Katya. She had been so nice and welcoming and it felt like we were leaving early and not enjoying what the community had to offer. We said our goodbyes which was another goodbye to someone we would have love to be a close friend and re-joined the road. It was so hard to say goodbye knowing we would only ever she a tiny fraction of the amazing people we had met again.
The road was great with a good downhill a slight climb then another descent before the pass. Not sure what to expect we slowly climbed passed by many cars and a van with loads of bikes on the back. As we reached the top we were greeted by a large group from Switzerland on a cycle trip around the western cape. The group leader Jean-Phillipe Patthey holds the unofficial record cycling from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Ushuaia in 4 months – an unbelievable achievement. He completed the challenge in 2008 and had a support vehicle with him. They were such a great group and we took some photos before saying goodbye.
We said goodbye and continued to climb only to find we were soon at the top. We couldn’t believe it – at 345 metres it didn’t feel too much of a challenge but the top came quicker than we expected!
With a nice short descent we stopped on a town for a drink and continued to Swartwelken dam. We turned off into the town to find it was a really pretty town. We stopped in a wimpy to use the Internet and it was a shame we couldn’t have had time to spend there. With a few jobs done we rode on and joined the N2. The road wasn’t as busy as we thought it would be but we looked forward to getting off onto a smaller road. We passed some young boys who were stopped at the side of the road on their way home from school with a soft tyre. They seemed to have the wrong pump so Tim stopped to help them pump it up.
As we reached the junction we saw a sign indicated Cape Agulhas and got very excited. It had been hard for us to appreciate what we had done and how far we had travelled and now looking at this sign it gave a tiny glimpse into the reality. We took some pictures still not really taking it all in and rode on.
As the road went on through endless fields the wind picked up and the clouds moved in – not enough to rain but enough to give dramatic scenery and cold wind. It was beautiful but as the road climbed and fell it became tiring.
As we reached the top of one climb an amazing couple from Germany pulled over in the coolest truck that we had ever seen – it used to be a fire engine and Pascal and Miriam had driven it from Germany. We chatted for ages and agreed to meet in 20 miles time to camp together. After a couple of hours we followed their directions and found them in a great spot off the road at the bottom of a field.
It was so nice relaxing and even gave us chance to enjoy the port we had brought from Calitzdorp. We ended up talking for hours without realising and fell into bed around midnight – we were treated to a bed in the truck as it slept 5 people! Good day 🙂
Saturday 19th October
We headed off around 10am after having a long breakfast of Weetabix and yoghurt with Miriam and Pascal. It had been so great to meet them and we hoped to catch up with them at Cape Agulhus.
There was a cross wind making it hard going but we eventually made it to the town of Bedardale in good time. We stopped to get supplies before riding the 25 miles to Cape Agulhas.
We had a slightly better wind direction but it was surprisingly quick to get to the town with Tim out the front. The sea was stunning and the town pretty and we stopped to take photos of the signs getting excited that we were nearly there.
Miriam and Pascal were waiting for us with a group if people from Cape Town who were visiting the cape. It was an amazing moment as we took our feet out of the pedals and congratulated each other. We had ridden from the tip of Norway to the southern-most tip of Africa – covering 15,939 miles, 19,2128 metres of climbing and through 23 countries, enjoying a year and 5 months on the road . What an amazing experience especially as we could share it with each other.
We took loads of photos before having lunch and enjoyed our bottle of fizzy wine. We called home and spoke to everyone in the Pitts household then Tim’s step-Dad Fred and sister Tracy. We were so grateful for all their support during the trip so far.
We did it!!
We headed into town for a beer at the 3 Oceans pub and the owner Neels kindly bought us a drink after hearing of our achievement. Miriam and Pascal met us for a drink then we headed back to the truck. There was another couple there called Eric and Dalinda and they were in a camper van so we put our tent next to it. They were lovely and invited us all for sausages and we added potatoes. We had a shower in their van before saying goodbye to Miriam and Pascal because they were leaving at 5am to go cage shark diving, something we were hoping to do!
Sunday 20th October
After a good night’s sleep feeling pleased with ourselves we woke to hear Pascal and Miriam heading off to go cage diving. They had been great fun to be around and it was sad to hear friends disappear. We enjoyed a few more hours before getting up. By the time the tent was packed and the bikes loaded Eric and Dalinda had prepared breakfast for us which consisted of avocado, fruit and fresh bread. They were such a lovely couple and great to relax with. We wondered back over to the southern point as a couple of pictures didn’t seem to have come out. We were met by many curious people all amazed at what we had done but somehow we found it so hard to believe it ourselves.
Morning camp at the cape
Eric, Shaz and Dalinda
We headed into town stopping at the lighthouse to meet Maureen the tourist information lady who had been waiting for us – Pascal and Miriam had given them the heads up that we were on our way! She was so lovely with so many stories to tell about the cape – all of which she told with great enthusiasm and was an amazing asset to the information centre.
Cape Agulhus is the geographic southern tip of Africa and the official dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The cape was named by Portuguese navigators, who called it Cabo das Agulhas — Portuguese for “Cape of Needles” — after noticing that around the year 1500 the direction of magnetic north (and therefore the compass needle) coincided with true north in the region. The sea off Cape Agulhas is notorious for winter storms and mammoth rogue waves which can range up to 30 metres (100 ft) high. Fortunately it was calm when we were there! Owing to the hazards and following the loss of several vessels, a lighthouse was built in 1848 which now plays host to a museum.
Shaz, Maureen and a world map!
We rode on stopping at a cafe to pick up a few postcards and stickers for our bike spotting a nice looking carrot cake and sat with some nice guys. We just kept meeting nice people. We rode on another 200 metres to the supermarket and got a few snacks and moved on once again to the 3 Oceans pub to meet the owner Neels and his wife Engeliza who wouldn’t let us pay for our beer. By this time we had covered around 500 metres and it had taken 3 hours –we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves though!
Neels and us outside the 3 Oceans pub
So happy to have arrived!
Too much beer Mr Bridgman??
Cowburt having an ice-cream to celebrate
We had been shown where the backpackers was and headed on the few kms stopping at the harbour for an ice-cream and met more nice people who asked what we were doing. We called into the backpacker treating ourselves to a bed in a dormitory. We met many nice backpackers and spent time talking to home – it was just what we needed. The rain started outside making us happy with our choice and so we spent the rest of the day relaxing.
We felt so happy to be here yet it was so hard to think how long we had been on the road and how far we had come. It felt more like a strange dream then reality – add to this the fact we still weren’t halfway on our journey in terms on latitude and we still had a very very long way to go.
We both felt like we should have been more emotional to reach the southern tip after meeting so many great people and making so many friends, seeing so many amazing places in so many countries. But the fact was we weren’t going home to see family, we weren’t going home to see our friends, we weren’t going to have to get a job and most of all we weren’t going home so not surprisingly we felt a little flat.
On the plus side we were cycling to Cape Town next and were going to be staying with Justin who we had met in Botswana and his wife Chrisna – we were so looking forward to it, staying with a lovely family with normality and finally having the time to rest before leaving for south America and our next adventure.
We hope you have enjoyed traveling with us to the southern tip of Africa and thank you all for your words of encouragement, life feels easier with such great support, which makes us feel even more proud that we can support such a great charity like ShelterBox which we know are so grateful for all the donations that are given to help people that have had everything taken away in an instant.
Thanks for reading!