Don't you find it funny how the night before a trip you cannot sleep? Despite all being tired from a busy day (me prepping for tour and others driving to George), none of us could sleep much. Anyway, despite looking bedraggled, we got up and loaded our bikes – some better than others – had coffee, breakfast and enjoyed the view. At 6:40 we set off from Step Aside on our journey. Before I continue: thank you so much to Martin and the Step Aside family (incl the dogs, geese and chickens) for your warm hospitality. Step Aside provided a home away from home with comfortable beds, awesome scenery and just generally great facilities. We wish Step Aside all the best for the future improvements and we can recommend it as a base for any trip of anyone wanting an affordable home away from home in George.
Anyway, we set off down to the base of the pass and were soon met by our George supporters – Celeste and Gale who followed us for the first bit up to the old toll gate. The support for this first bit of this great adventure was more needed and welcome than the 3 of us realized at first. After our farewells, we set off into the unknown, up the pass. At times we thought: “Hey, this isn't as bad as we thought.” Ja, um… that's until we got to a part that taught us a lesson in humility: Riding up this one part was TOUGH!!! Music in my ears, I pretended I didn't have the massive weight on the bike and that it was just a training ride, that was until I heard Tessa say something that sounded serious but I continued, thinking she was just commenting on scenery or something. But as soon as I turned the corner and saw Johan pushing (yep, he too heaved the bike upwards), I killed Queen and thought that Tess may have had something more serious did I decide to stop and wait (turns out she had chain issues). That was just DUMB!!!!!!!!! I couldn't get back on my bike. The gradient was too steep and the road rutted. When I did try ride I ended up using some interesting language as I scrambled to uncleat whilst falling slow motion into an ancient storm drain – ie a pile of rocks. Ok, so after my moment that no one saw, I gathered myself and decided to enjoy the scenery at hiking pace. Onwards and upwards we walked, up to a point where I was wondering what was in my bottle cause there was a sight of Johan standing on the road with a coffee pot on the wall making coffee. Ok, seriously 32Gi this packet is a dud. Then I comprehended…. it was reality. Johan had cycled up rather speedy and put the coffee (filter coffee nogal) on to boil. After a fantastic cuppa, the 3 of us set off on the last part of the Montagu Pass. To the sound of Vangelis playing Chariots of Fire, I made it to the top of Montagu. We had done it in just short of 3 hours. I am not going to lie: it was tough at stages but wow, the scenery made up for it.
With the blink of an eye, we were down the hill and in Herold where we stopped for a tea and scones (well, 2 of us had tea) at the Over the Mountain Tea Garden, which despite having Mr Grumpy as our waiter, is quite a nice stop with quite a nice historical value. In true touristy form, we got books on Montagu Pass, got directions for a better route to Oudtshoon and off we went.
Sadly we were plagued by our first major technical issue not long after our ride on this better route. Before I bore you with details of problems, let me tell you of this awesome route! Its just off the Willowmore / Uniondale road – about 100m from the Herold turnoff – and is such a stunning dirt road to Oudtshoorn. Ok, so a few kms in, I felt my back wheel washing out and knew my rear tire was pap. After unsuccessfully pumping it, we realized it was a flat. Now, on the other 2 bikes this isn't a problem because of how their pannier racks are fitted but on my bike, its a major issue. But, Johan is a genius and flipped the bike (and Rex) on its head and we (well he) sorted the tire. After a disgusting clearing of the tubeless sealant which was rather snotty and gross, I felt the thorn. Stupid little thing! Then came the entertainment… I whipped out my tube which I have had for a year and never needed only to discover it was the wrong one but not a problemo, Tessa has one! Um, cough, splutter, Linden Cycles you need to send your sales people to an optometrist cause despite having had her bike in front of you (and for the record, my tube was sold to me a year ago for Sani2C with the bike having been there at the same time too), you still managed to sell Tessa a 29er tube for a 26 inch wheel. Major fail!!! Think Cycle Lab will be gaining customers as a result of today. After the bike shop muttering, a plan was made and I now ride a 29er cause that's what my tube is.
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful with some rather bitey little pimple hills and some corrugation. (Mom, I did think of a certain conversation at that point.) The funny highlight of this section was the ostriches – we found 2 that were rather dof and just as francolins do in the bush, these 2 ran in the road until we forced our way past them. Rather stupid chickens but at least they provided entertainment for us.
At 1pm Johan found a single tree by a farm where he declared it lunchtime. We had a chilled lunch of ham, cheese and tomato rolls under the doringbome. Those were good rolls. The road into Oudtshoorn was blegh and boring as we tried to find smooth road. Then came the need for liquid – by this time I had gone a good 4 or 5km with no liquid in my bottles so the thought of Coke was getting strong. Fortunately for us, Pedro’s Take Away was just up the road and ice cold coke was the order of the day, however by this time Tessa was tired and grumpy and I was not in the mood for stupid kiddies begging cause as we exited the shop a teeny tot asked for money and much to his surprise, instead of handing him my coke, a chocolate or money, I offered him something unexpected: I offered him a “snot klap” if he begged from us a bit more. Well, little whatever his name was stopped begging near us and let us enjoy our cold drinks. *Please note that for honesty and transparency I had to add this in as the others wanted one thing from them in the blog today. (I would easily have left this as a legend.)
Oudtshoorn this week is madness with the KKNK but we made our way through road closures (you gotta love a bicycle) and on to Ton’s bicycle shop where we were met with warmth and knowledge. I spent some but not lots of money on 3 tubes (the right ones this time) and asked where we could get simple foam camping mattresses, this had the store getting their driver and offering to drive the 3 of us to the co-op and letting us cycle from there. We objected but Johan and I accepted the offer of the drive to the co-op whilst Tessa was able to enjoy a milkshake at Oudtshoorn’s slowest coffee shop whilst guarding bicycles. After finding basic mats, we were delivered back to the store and our bikes and allowed to continue on our way – oh, the driver even took us to see where our next turnoff was. Such a fantastic experience at a bike shop. For less than R200 goods we were treated like royalty.
The next 12 or 13kms went by faster than expected and I think the stop did Tessa some good cause she was doing a lot better despite tired legs. Around a few corners,up a hill and before we knew it we were taking the turnoff to De Denne Guesthouse where we would be spending the night. As we made our way up the long driveway we wondered how far it was to the house. Then came Marko who asked if we were the 3 cyclists coming to stay and told us it was 400m. Dude, you were a lifesaver!!
After an ice cold beer or 2 we were served a feast! A salad and garlic roll starter, followed by the most amazing braaied ostrich steak with veggies and potato! I never thought ostrich could taste so nice. Just when we thought it was maagies vol, oogies toe time, Yolandi our waitress brought out ice cream and tipsy tart. Please can I roll over and die of happiness?
Tomorrow is a long day but we get a sleep in – 8am breakfast so we can take it easy – and I don't think its going to be as tough as today because despite 1 big pass, its a tar road day. The biggest battle is going to be over who loads my tourer. After all, I did carry cheese curls (which were not as squished as we had thought they would be), a mojito and whatever else I could strap on. But, Johan and Tessa say that riding behind me was entertainment as my load wobbled (odd cause I didnt feel it, all I know is that my cheap township motorhome was so cool!)
Link to route and our pictures will be posted a bit later as its taking ages to upload.