Meeting the Indian Ocean again

Dec. 3, 2012 (day 565) South Africa

I filled the form and handed it, together with the passport, to the customs officer. My hopes were low and disappeared after I noticed a long list of countries posted on the wall, where a short “yes” or “no” accompanied every name. Despite a couple of reports I found, that Polish citizens had been let into Lesotho without a visa, it did not work this time.

Instead, I went back to South Africa and followed the border for next three days. My good luck also finished when it came to overnight staying. Farms seemed closed or even abandoned and for next four nights I had to camp wild. This is my favourite form of spending nights on the road, but not in a country where I have to break into someone's property in order to have a peaceful sleep. Fortunately I could find unlocked gates and only once I had to jump a fence. Well, with a laden bicycle “to crawl” would be a better description.

That was a lie

That was a lie

I rode on the edge of a region called Karoo. The stormy weather gave way to clear sky and the sun radiated with unbelievable power. I had never anticipated to experience such heat in a region so distant from the equator. Although I used to ride without a shirt in Zambia and Zimbabwe without harm, here a tho-hour period was enough to burn my back painfully. Even my arms, always exposed and used to the sunshine, ached in the evenings. As usually, it was much better to wake up early and ride in the morning as far as possible. Not only it was cooler, but also the thermal winds which were building up all the day used to blow in my face in the evenings.

The dryness was also reflected in much bigger areas claimed by every farm, which usually hosted huge herds of cows, sheep and goats, while agriculture was almost nonexistent.

Beautiful but hot

Beautiful but hot

The small town of Steynsburg seemed to have gone through a crisis. People on the street – usually black – sat there doing nothing and people in the shops – usually white – warned me about crime and possible danger of robbery on the road. I heard many stories like these in South Africa and did not pay much attention anymore. Although crime is a problem in this country, the exaggeration and racism are too. Officially the apartheid had been abolished two decades ago, but it is still seems to be alive in the form of wealth difference and prejudice. White people often warned me about “those blacks” who allegedly steal, rob and kill. It might be true that crime among black population is more prevalent, but there are reasons for that.

Most of the South African towns consist of big villas with gardens. And most of population is white, although black people are the majority in the country. Usually each of these towns is accompanied by a “township”, consisting of copycat tiny houses, reminding me the most of Polish vegetable gardens. Of course in these poor and densely populated areas no white face can be seen.

Black settlements can look even like this

Black settlements can look even like this

While the education would be probably the best way to help impoverished people, nobody could point out any success of the government in providing it. Recently a scandal erupted when reporters discovered a warehouse with thousands undelivered textbooks, while the money had been officially spent on distributing them among schools. I heard about it many times, as well as about the aid money problem. People living in poverty receive 200ZAR of government aid per month for every child they have. This, of course, leads to intensive breeding of the uneducated class, while the aid supports prosperity of nearby liquor stores. The sum of the money might be higher if the child is born with a disability. Foetal alcohol syndrome is one of them, so you may guess the rest.

Certainly, South Africa is going through difficult times. The miners and farm workers striking all across the country are the best evidence. In the meantime the white farmers often invest abroad, just to have a secure landing place in case the government starts “land reforms” in Zimbabwean style.

Wonders at sunset

Wonders at sunset

Straight ahead!

Straight ahead!

This is how they get water there

This is how they get water there

After the town of Steynsburg my luck began to turn again. At the third farm visited I met a woman coming back home in a car. She invited me inside, poured a glass of orange juice and offered a shower. Before I finished my ablutions, her husband was back at home. Alta and Willem of course agreed that I stay under their roof. A big, delicious supper followed.

In the morning I could feel it would be a hard day. And it was. The road from Hofmeyr winded up the hills, gaining altitude among thorny bushes which gave no shade. In this country most of the roads have resting places every few kilometers (although often exposed to the sun), but there was none. When finally I had crossed the pass and the road went steeply down, I just stopped at the first big tree, flopped down on the grass and instantly fell asleep.

Cradock lay in a river valley and there the climate also changed. There was more moisture but more wind too. Just after the town I turned onto a farm to be instantly seated at the family supper. They were also new in that place, finishing a move from around Bloemfontein, where their farm failed to survive a couple of dry years. The grandmother poured me glass after glass of home-made ice tea, something I craved for after the long, dry ride.

Coffee after lunch

Coffee after lunch

Before me lay the last mountain range on my way, with the culminating point at Olifantskop. It took me two days to get there. Again I found hospitable farms in one of the last villages before the main climb. They ran a dairy farm and hosted me generously.

A slight time-space shift?

A slight time-space shift?

The next day I started quite late. Not expecting so many big hills on the way, I reached the main pass in the evening. On the other side it was also not easy, and while I struggled with a steep uphill, a car pulled over in front of me.
“Hello Michael”, said the driver, who looked a bit familiar.
“Hello”, I answered, wondering how could he know my name.
“I'm a brother of Paul, the one you stayed with the last night. I invite you to our house down there in Paterson.”

Did I mention that South African hospitality never fails to surprise me? That evening I had a bath. A real bath in a real bath tub full of hot water. After the recent hills and two days of cool, windy weather that was almost religious experience. Followed by a delicious supper and a good sleep, it gave me a lot of energy. Much needed energy.

The downhill to the coast was easy and soon I stood again on the shore of long-missed Indian Ocean. The failure with obtaining a visa for Mozambique limited me to Zanzibar, while my original plan included riding along beaches for thousands of kilometers. It was nice to meet the ocean again.

The next stop is Antarctic

The next stop is Antarctic

The wind, however, also enjoyed that day and blew straight into my face. Crawling with speed around 12km/h I rode on the busy coastal highway, having no alternative for a long distance. Even a policeman, who reprimanded me for cycling on a freeway, admitted that there was no other road and let me go. Port Elizabeth appeared on the horizon and reluctantly came closer and closer. Just a few minutes after the sunset I landed in another cosy house with my new hosts, a couple of cyclists whom I had contacted through WarmShowers.

Comments:

ws
ws
5 years, 11 months ago
Misiek, zbliża się Twój trzydziesto-tysięczny kilometr wyprawy. Nie "przegap" go na jakimś podłym zjeździe! :-)
kaha
kaha
5 years, 11 months ago
może się tak rozpędzi że powrót do domu "przegapi" i pojedzie dalej hahaha
mama
mama
5 years, 11 months ago
O zdobywcach ośmiotysieczników mówi się sporo, a o trzydziestotysiecznikach rowerowych? Moze trzeba ogłosić jakąś liste? Naciesz się tym oceanem i wracaj, bo tęsknimy!!! I nie staraj się dociągnąć do czterdziestki na liczniku!!!
jerzyboy
jerzyboy
5 years, 11 months ago
...no,wreszcie moge puścić kciuki-dojechalim-śmy!!!
Luknąłem na globus-łatwizna,ciąg;e w dół,hamować i kierować- łatwizna...w drugą stronę - masakra,chociaż "niema złej drogi do swej..."
Rób to zdjęcie na IGLE i wracaj w blasku sławy!
kolarz
kolarz
5 years, 11 months ago
może Ci się nawet udać przed końcem świata :)
hydek
hydek
5 years, 11 months ago
gratulki emes, tak trzymac ! jesteś wielki ! :D
wojtek
wojtek
5 years, 11 months ago
Wiedziałem ze się uda - gratuluję i cieszę się bardzo. Do zobaczenia zapraszamy
siostra
siostra
5 years, 11 months ago
Brat, w tym tempie to Ty szybciej dojedziesz na Przylądek Igielny niż my dopłyniemy na Karaiby! Utknęliśmy na Wyspach Zielonego Przylądka, walcząc z awarią klimatyzacji. Już się nie mogę doczekać wypłynięcia - w końcu przez Atlantyk! buziaki
Rafał Kitowski
Rafał Kitowski
5 years, 10 months ago
Oj kawy w wykonaniu Michała będę długo mile wspominał - prawie tak pyszne jak etiopskie kawy z ceremoni kawowych :)