Its been almost nine and a half months, but finally Cape Town, here I am! When I set off from the UK on May 14th 2014 I hadn’t said I was definitely going to Cape Town, the distance was large and I didn’t want to set a goal that I may not have achieved, I was simply going on a Long Bike Ride I may have got going and found that I wasn’t up to it, there may have been insurmountable problems, I could have been knocked off my bike or I simply may not have enjoyed it.
The ride to Cape Town has taken 294 days and I have pedalled over 11,500 miles (18,500 kilometres), climbed 517,000 feet, almost 98 miles straight up. Blimey it soon adds up..
But before I arrived in Cape Town I spent some time in Franshhoek for the Cape Rouleur and took some time out with my Warm Showers host Emmerentia in Stellenbosch both before and after the Cape Rouleur.
Accommodation in Franshhoek was a campsite, Otters Bend Lodge. Franshhoek being a tourist town the prices were expensive yet the price for camping at Otter Bend Lodge were reasonable. As I free wheeled down the road toward the lodge a big new white wall loomed in front of me and in bold lettering it announced that the property in front of me was owned by Richard Branson, one of his holiday lets/hotels. Very expensive looking accommodation but very plush.
I was welcomed to Otter Bend Lodge by Mary and Mark the owners, both originally from Zimbabwe. Peter gave me a beer on arrival and set about making a braai for the evening meal and I set about pitching my tent amongst the pear trees in the orchard and having a shower.
My home setup and ablutions taken care of I joined other guests around the fire were other visitors, a foursome from South Africa, getting away from Cape Town for the weekend and a German couple, both studying to be doctors. The food and company was very enjoyable, one of the South African girls a keen cyclist, as the whiskey, beer and wine flowed she became more animatedly excited about my bike, she even gave me some lube.. chain lube and offered to show me how to use it in the morning.
On the second night at the lodge more people arrived. One chap a tall blonde haired Dutchmen Pieter had spent some time in Gabon working. Gabon almost 2,500 miles he started to explain about another cyclist he had met and asked me about my trip. After a short while relaying which countries I had been through it transpired that the other cyclist he had met was Wouter, the young Belgian cyclist I rode through large parts of West Africa with and Wouter had told him about me, another amazing coincidence.
The morning I was due to leave Otter Bend I went to pay Mark and Mary, Mark came to the door and when I asked to pay he refused to take payment for either the accommodation or the food I had eaten. Another fantastic display of hospitality in South Africa.
Arriving back in Stellenbosch with Emmerentia someone turned up the thermostat, the weather had been nice, comfortable at 30 degrees, the forecast was predicting the following day to reach over 40! Early in the morning the temperature started to creep up, keeping the doors closed help to keep the heat out delayed the effects of the rising temperature. After a while this seemed to make little difference. Emmerentia suggested we jump in the car (air conditioned) and head down to Gordons Bay beach, only about 12 miles away. The pristine sandy beach surrounded by mountains and hills is on the Atalantic and was much cooler. As we approached the temperature gauge on the car dropped down to an agreeable 30-32 degrees, climbing down the steps to the beach from the car park knocked off a few more degrees.
Previously I had been told by others that the Atlantic was too cold to swim in. When the temperature reaches 42, it certainly felt fine to me, not one to readily jump in the water I didn’t need much persuasion to cool down.
In Cape Town, my final destination and the starting point for the Cape Argus cycle tour, bush fires were raging over chapmans peak and much of the surrounding area. Chapmans Peak is one of the iconic routes down to Cape Point and the authorities were not sure how the fire had started, possibly a discarded cigarette butt or stompie as they are known as here. The smoke could be seen from the other side of the bay.
In Gordons bay for dinner, fish and chips by the sea the sun began to set, looking out over the bay the view was magnificent, one of the bonuses from the fire was that the smoke filled air filtered the last rays of the day further and the colour of the sunset was something I had never seen so vivid before. I even tore myself away from my beer (a craft beer called “Naked Mexican”), to go over the road and photograph the sun as it went down. As I stood near the beach taking photos at the plummeting sun a line of others joined me in capturing the special moment.
As I rode in to the centre of Stellenbosch the next day, thankfully the temperature wasn’t set to get so high. The abnormally hot day previous had been a record, the hottest day for that month in 100 years. The trees had certainly felt it the day before and leaves were rapidly changing colour as Autumn in the Southern hemisphere begins. Oak trees were shedding Acorns at a rate and there quantity and size much larger than their English counterparts. The gutters filled up with acorns that were up to 1.5 inches long.
The colours of autumn start to come out, Autumnal colours in March something I have not experienced before.
I’d ridden into Stellenbosch to have a look around, do my tourist bit. There are lots of art galleries to look at, not normally one for sculptures, however I did find one I liked amongst all the usual African tribal and big game pieces that filled the galleries.
My desire to look at art satiated which took about half an hour or so, the coffee shops were calling. Again so much choice in the area so I went to one I’d already been to before. As I arrived another group of ‘proper’ cyclists arrived. My bike and choice of cycling attire certainly looked out of place in amongst all the plastic and Rapha clad cleat clopping café carnivores. Many of the newly arrived cyclists were European and here on holiday, renting bikes from a company called Cycle Africa and very much kept themselves to themselves, seemingly not wanting to chat to some oddly dressed guy on a bike built like a tank.
After another couple of days in Stellenbosch, it was time to leave. Emmerentia was jetting off to the far east for an exciting trip to Hong Kong, China and other exotic places. My final small ride into Cape Town was waiting..
Not far out of Stellenbosch I spotted another cyclist on the other carriageway. Seemingly oblivious to me I had to whistle to get his attention. We both met on the central reservation. Louis was a Belgian cyclist and unfortunately his English wasn’t very good and my Flemish nonexistent so I am unsure where he had started his trip from, but his original ortlieb bags were sporting new looking baggage tickets from an airline so I presume he had flown to a certain point before starting.
Yay I finally made it Cape Town.. riding around to Green Point and the waterfront I took a photo of myself in front of the iconic table mountain, backdrop to much of cape town, unfortunately I forgot to take my headphones out.. and smile..
Maren and Ralf whom I had originally met in Seaview and again in Knysna travelling by bicycle from Johannesburg were in Cape Town at the same time as me. Maren gave me a call to let me know that the Moonlight bike ride was on that night, something we had discussed previously. Very glad that she had called and I hadn’t missed it, we arranged to meet in town along with Maren and Ralfs host to take part.
Riding along the sea front to the meeting point we couldn’t see any riders, the internet had confirmed the start time which we had arrived spot on, meeting some other cyclists looking equally as confused as us as to the lack of cyclists in the vicinity we all pedalled along further until we found a policeman and enquired “where are all the cyclists?”. Pointing down the road we followed in that direction. Rounding the corner there were blue lights flashing from the police escort vehicles and cyclists everywhere.
The ethos of the moonlight ride is to highlight the fact that Cape Town has an embarrassingly high carbon emission rate that can be offset by using greener transportation methods like carpooling or public transport. There was an eclectic mix of bikes on display, BMX, mountain bikes, old bikes, new bikes, shoppers and even rental bikes. Other participants had joined in on roller blades, skateboards, long boards and even one guy on a segway. Come to think of it the guy on the Segway had a first aid kit, I think he may have part of the logistics along with the Police escort.
As we joined in the police stopped traffic at junctions allowing the group to ride through the city in the night en-masse.
The atmosphere was carnival like as the group cut a swath through the city. Locals seemingly used to this procession once a month, cars and people waited patiently at the side of the road for the riders to move on by.
Saturday, what to do?? Maren and Ralf had suggested going to the Woodstock Neighbour Goods Market, not far from where I was staying with Warm Showers hosts Hanlie, Wym and Eland. There is little point in working out great things to do when in the company of Maren and Ralf, they are typically German, very efficient and knew all the best things to do and see in Town so I readily agreed to join them. During their previous years trip they had already visited the market once before and warned me “come early, don’t eat before”.
On arrival not long after opening at 9:00am the market was already busy, there were food stalls everywhere. Food being prepared from Oysters, a braai, sushi, burgers, paella and all other manner of foods. The smell alone had the taste buds clambering to get at the food.
One of the stall proprietors selling honey and bee products explained that due to the recent bush fire he had been working 72 hours in a row to remove his bee hives from harm. The fire frightened the bees which made them angry making the task of rescuing them much harder. It’s easy to see the damage of the fire to property, to understand that reptiles and other small animals will perish in the flames but there are so many others both human animal and wildlife affected by the fire. The Fynbos that grows on the mountain actually needs fire to germinate and fire is part of the natural cycle, with human intervention or complacency more often than it need be.
After two or three lots of food my stomach stopped complaining, but my throat started to complain about lack of drink. No fear, there were lots of stalls for drinks as well, coffees, teas and more importantly craft beers and ciders. Manouche a local band set up and started to play, sun, food, beer and music. A great way to spend a Saturday morning and afternoon.
Urs from Germany also joined us for the market and in turn invited along some of his Warmshowers hosts that he had met in Botswana, they were in town for the Cape Argus Cycle Tour.
Once again Ralf and Maren had another “to do” worked out and invited Urs and I along. IN the Guguletu township there is a bar/grill with a difference, Mzoli’s
Cycling the 10 miles or so to the bar after completing the Cape Argus Cycle Tour we arrived, music pumping, people everywhere drinking and generally having a good time. The smell of meat cooking and we were ready to eat. Zoleka a local lady offered to look after our bikes in her yard and we set about getting into the queue for the food. It was a big queue, the place is renonwned for its braai and meat.
After about an hour of so of queueing we eventually got into the shop, the queue trailing down the street moved slowly as customers inside chose what meat they wanted.
There was one guy who seemed to be permanently chopping meat with a band saw such was the rate of consumption. One minute he had a carcass in front of him and a short time later ait was cut and ready to be sold, cooked and eaten.
We chose for the four of us a kg of boerewors, 3 Beef Steaks (Very Large) and 2 lamb chops each. The total cost under 200 Rand.
Once you have bought your meat you receive it raw on a metal tray. You then carry this through to the grilling/braai area, hand over your tray and receive a numbered slip. We were told our food would be cooked in an hour and a half. The tray’s then placed down next to the other 50 or so waiting to be cooked.
Finally some 2 hours or so the meat was cooked, Urs bought some Pap and tomatoe/onion salad to accompany the food, it was all worth the wait, meat cooked to perfection and oh so tasty..
Cape Town is full of Craft Beer places, a real treat when only lager is readily available from France to South Africa. Prices for craft beers are about double the price of the bottled lagers so these are still a treat, prices not quite as high as the UK though. Thanks to everyone who has donated on my buy me a beer button, I am pleased to be able to confirm that I’m now putting the remaining money to good use.