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Diamond Coast

Windhoek - Cape Town

03 May - 15 May 

1 563 km

 

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     The Elephant Highway

After the rest day in Windhoek, it was back to the cycling business on 3 May.  The day’s cycling consisted of 155 km, and fortunately we had a strong tail wind all the way.  Randy almost didn’t get to do any cycling, as “Sweetness” took off with him still on the roof busy tying the tarpaulin down.  The only town we passed was Rehoboth, on our way to a bush camp off a side road.  In the evening it got quite cold, probably the coldest since Egypt.  Beanie’s and gloves were seen, and almost all the tents had their fly-sheets fitted.  However, supper was very good and energizing (pasta with a creamy broccoli sauce).

 

On 4 May (another Namibian public holiday) we cycled 175 km, this time into the wind.  On this day I was traveling on the “Van Wijk train”, with the bunch being led by Ruut and his son Michiel.  After lunch the “train” pulled into Mariental for coffee and cake, before proceeding at full speed until Ernest met me (on his bike) with 27 km to go.  We again had a bush camp, where it was cold (but at least the wind had dropped).  Our camp was mainly on a gravel side road, where a local donkey cart driver warned us about the “drunken (donkey cart) drivers” who may pass that way later in the evening.  The night passed without accident.

 

We were fortunate to have the wind behind us again on 5 May.  We cycled about 150 km to a rather weird camp site called Garaspark, 20 km short of Keetmanshoop.  Due to the tail wind we reached camp early, which gave us time to take in our camp surroundings.  The park consisted of some cleared space amongst square rock formations and quiver trees.  There were many examples of “folk art”, much of it made from scrap material.  There was an eating shelter, toilets and a shower with a primitive paraffin heater (which worked well).  That evening we made a braai fire at the bakkie, and many of the other cyclists were drawn to the fire like moths to a flame.  Hendrik (the caretaker at the camp site), was amazed at the distance we were cycling, but his biggest question was “why?”, when he was sure we all had cars.

 

The wind turned, and on 6 May we headed out into a ferocious wind for 155 km, of which 100 km was on gravel road.  The route was in the direction of the Fish River Canyon, and we camped at the camp site next to the Canyon Roadhouse.  The plan was for us to take the trucks to the Canyon view site where we would have supper, but the head wind “threw us a spoke in the wheel”.  Many of the cyclists had to take “Betsie” to the finish, and Ernest loaded up Robin and Francisca (and their bicycles) along the road.  With the wind-breaking assistance of Ruut I managed to arrive at the camp site very tired, but at least I got there before dark.  Those of us who didn’t make it to the view point ended up at the Roadhouse restaurant for a good dinner (and good Cape red wine).

 

On the morning of 7 May certain members of our party felt a bit groggy after a late night in the Roadhouse bar the previous evening.  Fortunately the light breeze was mostly with us for the 80 km or so to Ai Ais.  The gravel road was hilly at times, but the stunning scenery more than made up for the hills.  The racing for the day consisted of a 22 km time trial (won by Kim – again), after which we had a leisure ride the rest of the way into the canyon.  Many people booked into rooms at the rest camp, but we camped in the bakkie (under a big shady tree).  Supper consisted of a braai, with a very nice dessert (thanks Christo).  Later entertainment consisted of a “casino evening”, with blackjack and poker tables.  The chips were wooden beads which we could then use to buy goods at auction (I made a successful bid on a traditional wooden bowl and shaker).

 

8 May was our last rest day (can you believe it!), at Ai Ais.  I had a nice breakfast at the restaurant, as well as a swim in the hot pool.  Most of the cyclists were lying about in the hot water, watching TV, or enjoying a drink on the patio.  We had a whole bag of clothes to wash, so I paid the locals 50 Namibian $ for the laundry (at least for that price they also folded it).  Normally on rest days it is everyone to his own, and Ernest made a braai for supper (it was supposed to be lunch).  I had some 2-minute noodles, which I haven’t had in some time.  The cyclists cleaned out the little shop when they arrived, but I managed to get a loaf of bread (no cheese though).  Earlier in the day Edie and I took a walk, but I rested later as the first stretch of road out of the canyon is straight uphill (we came in that way).

Today, 9 May, we have to climb out of the canyon again.  The route will be about 80 km of gravel road, and then about another 40 km of tarred road to the border post into SA (our tenth country – can you believe it!).  We will have about another 10 km along the river on gravel road to our camp site.  It seems unreal that we are already in SA, and that next week this time I will be at home (we arrive in CT on Sunday, 15 May).

 

On 9 May we cycled about 130 km from Ai-Ais to our camp site on the SA side of the Orange River.  We camped at Fiddlers Creek (about 10 km downstream from Vioolsdrift), a very nice site on the river bank.  Some of us had a swim in the river upon arrival at the camp.  After supper around the fire many of us spent some time in the camp site bar, where they also had music.  I found it unbelievable that I was back in SA already.

 

The cycling on 10 May was a distance of about 130 km to the town of Springbok.  Initially the wind was from the side, but it turned into a good tail wind for most of the ride.  After the initial climb away from the river, the route was gently undulating through the beautiful desert scenery.  The race for the day ended at the first exit to the town, where Ewald (our mechanic) was taking the times.  We camped at the municipal camp site, along the road to the local airport.  In the evening Edie, Colin, Ernest and I had very good pizza’s at the Tit Bits restaurant.

 

We left Springbok on 11 May with a light tail wind, and we cycled a relatively short distance of 115 km to the town of Garies.  We cycled through the picturesque Kamiesberg area, passing the town of Kamieskroon along the way.  The route was rather hilly, but fortunately the last 6 or 7 km to the finish was along a steep winding downhill.  We camped at the municipal camp site in Garies.  Stephan Schlett was so impressed with the view that he entered the camp with the salutation of “hallelujah” (quite appropriate as there was a group of religious campers close by, playing their music rather inconsiderately).

 

Today we cycled 150 km, from Garies to Vanrhynsdorp.  I was rather apprehensive about the ride today, as it was cold, slightly rainy, with what looked like a head wind.  Certain cyclists started cycling in the half-darkness already, in anticipation of a difficult ride.  We were however pleasantly surprised when the wind changed favourably, and it didn’t even rain along the way.  I had a puncture, but Ernest and Colin arrived with the bakkie just as I was about to change the tube (good timing!).  We passed the towns of Bitterfontein and Nuwerus, with some road works closer to Vanrhynsdorp.  Apparently the breakfast in Bitterfontein was very good (some cyclists stopped in there).  In our camp site there are rooms to rent as well, and some of the people have taken rooms.  Tomorrow we plan to cycle to Elands Bay on the Atlantic coast, and it will be the first time we see the ocean since the Red Sea in Egypt.

 

A note to all who may be interested:  We will spend our last night prior to reaching CT (14 May) at the Yzerfontein camp site.  The following day (15 May) will not be a race day, and we will cycle at a leisurely pace along the West Coast Road to Tableview. We plan to congregate in the parking area at the Engen petrol station in Tableview (next to the Tableview police station), from where we will have a police escort to the finish at the Green Point Lighthouse.

 

The weather closed in during the night, and the Tour awoke in the rain on the morning of 13 May.  Fortunately the skies soon cleared, as the 150 km cycle to Elands Bay was already under way.  Lunch was after about 80 km, marking the turnoff to the town of Clanwilliam at the foot of the Cedarberg Mountains.  From there we had to climb out of the Olifants River valley, and we passed the towns of Graafwater and Leipoldville.  Some of the cyclists diverted into these towns for a bite to eat, or for a cooldrink.  By this time we had a slight head wind, slowing us down over the undulating terrain.  At the top of the last hill the view of Elands Bay (and the Atlantic) suddenly appeared, what a good sight to see.  Some people (including Sephan Schlett and Sokkies) couldn’t resist having a swim in the cold Atlantic Ocean.  I booked into the Eland Hotel for the night (right next to the camp site), and had dinner there that evening.  Certain of the Tour members spent the night in the bar, and seemed a little pale the following morning.

 

On the morning of 14 May some of the strategic tour members were either missing or incapable (due to the previous evening’s celebrations). It seems that the end of the tour was being celebrated in stages.  However, we still had a fair distance to cycle on the day, about 145 km in total.  The cycling started off with about 10 km of gravel, before the potholed tarred road started.  By the time we passed Dwarskersbos, Laaiplek, and Velddrif the road had improved dramatically.  However, the South-Easterly wind was picking up, and I cycled behind Eddy the rest of the day.  My sisters Amanda and Karin (and family) stayed with us that evening, and some of them came up the road from the camp site at Yzerfontein to meet me.  I was pleasantly surprised by the posters on their vehicles, welcoming me back home.  We rented a chalet in the camp site where the rest of the Tour spent the night.  Janet and Dave from Meridian Hiking Club also camped there, and joined in the festivities that evening.  This was the final race day, and congratulations to Kim who won the TDA by an overwhelming margin.  Certain TV and other media people were at the finish (I was also interviewed), and some of them spent the evening with the Tour.

 

Yesterday I found it difficult to believe that the final day of the Tour had arrived.  We had a leisurely cycle from Yzerfontein to Sunset Beach, where we re-grouped at the lunch truck for the police escort to the finish line at Mouille Point light house.  Along the way I had a great welcome from the West Coast AC, as well as from the Outriders cycling club who cycled out towards Yzerfontein to meet me (thanks everyone).  We took off on the escorted last leg of the Tour rather late, as certain of the cyclists couldn’t resist a last breakfast along the route.  We had a wonderful escorted ride to the finish, through the harbour area (nobody fell over the railway tracks).  There was a big celebration at the finish, and I had a big welcome from friends and family, the running club and the Meridians (thanks Lois).  There was a big media contingent at the finish, Champagne was being sprayed around (and swallowed), and there were some good snacks to eat.  In the evening we had a great dinner function at Ferrymans, with the necessary speeches, medal and T-shirt presentations.  We also had a very nice slide show, which Colin and Theresa had been working on for a number of days (and late nights).  I went home, but the rest of the Tour stayed at the Lions Head hotel.

 

This morning, 16 May, I woke up in my bed at home, and it took me a few moments to realize where I was.  When I saw that it was light already, my first instinct was to get up and prepare for cycling.  It’s good to be home, but it will take me a while to get used to normal life again.  I’ve made many good friends on the TDA, and I said goodbye to many of them last night.  However, some of them will be around CT for a while (Ernest is going for a game of golf this PM with a bunch of the cyclists). 

 

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