The first few days...

For 6 months it’s been impossible to visualise what the first few days of this trip would be like. They’ve been the longest yet shortest, hardest and funnest few days.

Day 1

The journey started on the R555. A busy tarmacked one lane artery flowing into the East of South Africa. We quickly discovered it wasn’t the ideal place to be cycling based on the fact that it’s a major trucking route to the heavy industry of Steelpoort, and quarries of the surrounding area.

The alternative was to take the long route, 50km of dirt track, sheer rock and potholes. Quite lively riding!

By 6pm we’d covered 50km of our target 70km. The light fades extremely quickly so we had about 30 minutes to find somewhere suitable to sleep. We spotted a small farmhouse down a narrow dirt track and decided that was the best option. We came to this tiny outhouse where a delightful man called ‘Flox’ lived, who looked after the property on behalf of the owner. Despite an English-Afrikaans language barrier Flox understood our needs and kindly called up the owner for us. We set up camp and slept well. Massive result.

Day 2

Day 2 began with some very tough, steep climbs on dirt tracks, until we rejoined tarmacked roads at midday. We stopped off for lunch at a petrol station where an Afrikaans guy called Rudolph rolled down his window and beckoned us over. He said he’d seen us the day before and ‘was rooting’ for us. He also insisted that to go any further along our route wasn’t safe in that ‘only black people live beyond this point.’ Clearly a shocking thing to hear we really didn’t want to follow his advice based off of a racist comment and got talking to two motorcyclists who had pulled in moments later. They’d just come from the general direction we were headed and offered a different rationale for changing course. This time it to avoid big trucks and lorries.

With two opinions of varying political persuasions and logic we decided to divert the route once again.

What the motor cyclists failed to mention were not only the steep climbs, but the fully fledged mountain pass we’d have to contend with on day 3!

Anyway, by the end of day 2 we got to our destination at about 6pm. We headed straight for the only guesthouse in town, to find that it’s closed on Sundays. Just as we were about to head on into the bush and find somewhere to camp, Charlie halted a white jeep to ask if there was anywhere they could recommend. Their warm reaction of ‘come stay at ours!’ meant that 15 minutes later we were each given our own room with a much appreciated bed and shower.

Day 3

Day 3 was absolutely brutal but it felt like the trip had really got going for the first time.

We spent 9 hours on our bikes and covered 70km. I lost count of the number of climbs but we had 1000m of up and down and reached a peak height of 2254m above sea level.

Feeling our legs is a distant memory of times gone by but the moral in the group is sky high. With a descent of 20 km and our first cooked meal for some time I can honestly say that we’re all getting into the groove.

What we’ve learnt over the last few days:

  • Our bikes and kit weigh more than the moon (50kg)

  • Theo is a machine

  • Water tends to be quite important…. Meaning that Wadi will happily drink water from a mountain stream!

  • We’re pretty self-sustainable with our cooking stoves using petrol and solar panels all we need are the legs to keep churning out those km.

  • London is very flat the route we’re taking is not....

  • We need to start heading North! At this rate we’ll miss Ballule Nature Reserve and find ourselves on the beach in Mozambique!

  • It’s nice not to be on my phone the whole time.

  • The days are so long! It feels like I’ve been here for months.

  • No one understands what we’re doing! (for good reason: we’re insane)

  • Living off chocolate is not sustainable.

#cycling #poaching #rangers #africa #southafrica #elephant #rhino #adventure #explore #cyclingforrangers #forrangers #craghoppers #ortlieb

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