Greetings and Salutations,
A thoughtful diary: The Argus in Cape town and Route 62 in the Western Cape.
To Cape Town and beyond
On the 6 March we all tumbled into a little Suzuki Jimney in St. Lucia. Small as these little 4x4 Suzuki's are, 'our little car of happiness' was eager to deliver us safely to our destination. Speeding at 120kmh! Comfortably and economically. A pleasure and with a purpose. One passenger for an eye surgery appointment, one for an international flight, and me for a domestic flight to Cape town. The joys of co-operation! We had all saved and got where we wanted to go. I would say however, with a certain amount of confidence, that an eye op would not be an expressed desire for myself.
Cape Town is always a very pleasant destination after a hot St. Lucia summer. The flight was great. At one stage large summer clouds got the pilot off the auto pilot and onto his sticks. High thunder clouds stood up like giant aerial sentinels. They questioned our flight path. We therefore swung to the port an starboard a couple of times in order to find the safest route to Cape Town. It must be a little boring for the average pilot to have an auto pilot. Just looking at them in their cabins, I am sure they try to find a couple of storm cells and then plot a route to the centre of this meteorological activity, just waiting to take charge of their giant mechanical bird to punch the 'seat belt button' and swing the giant beast a little to the left and a little to the right.
Cape Town and the Cape Town atmosphere is always great. A giant iconic edifice of a mountain, so recognisable and definitely known worldwide. I need to travel, short distance or far, just somewhere over the horizon and back again. Returning is good as well. Happy to be away and happy to be home. Gives us time to think and have some objectivity about away and at home. You can even be away at home, when you have traveled. Just need to think about where you have traveled. We all need to do this, and think about life many years ago when no one travelled. What then? Travel brought a different dimension to our minds. Neither is it about visual perceptions. You can get that from in front of a tv or at a movie. But to experience travel, that is the real pleasure in life.
In Cape Town airport the first stop was luggage and collecting a hire car. Thereafter freedom of the road - off to the Strand, a beach walk and some window shopping. An alternative option for window shopping was the local fish sales area. The fishing boats had returned from a day at sea, so I checked out what was available and fresh. Freshness was in two forms: one was the fisherman's sales pitch, and the other that of my fishing and fish experience, no fish was in any inspirational state, so I opted for a bottle of wine for Dean and Fiona, something that improved with age! Both in taste and aroma!
Strange how an abode of a previous visit can be just as good as I remembered. I suppose we choose a destination that suits us, and, embellished with good friendship, this makes it all the better. The evening with Dean and Fiona was spent catching up on all our varsity friends. Loads to talk about, and Dean is the Gate Keeper of this info. He has the knack of networking. Conversation was garnished good meal and wine. Since the Argus was a couple of days away, I thought it best to abstain from the alcoholic antonym of fish. Sensible and not so strange that my body never desired wine as they were grapes of wrath in the fermented form.
Getting Psyched and roadwise.
Before the Argus, you have to sign in. The Argus expo is a major international bicycle/cyclist event. There is loads cyclist gear to see and buy. Never have I seen so much merchandise disappearing off the shelves. From Gu to tube glue. Frames to footwear. There were endless shoppers, many not even cycling, but mostly cyclists. Weird, as everyone was slim and trim, and well proportioned due to the hours that they had spent flogging the tar. Millions and millions of collective miles to make an event of 35 000 cyclists. Not just the miles, but the equipment, flights, accommodation, just mind-boggling and blogging stuff.
Once in the Argus Expo Hall, you are signed in to the race, and your fate is sealed: a great feeling! Once done, a little break from Zululand was on the cards. So with my bike I headed to Langebaan to knock on the door of a friend who lives along the Atlantic coast. Also a great place to do a little cycling and sight-seeing. As is the case when travelling, cycling in a new destination is good. Travel by car is good, but a cycle is better, although some of the vast distances we desire to travel are just too far for the average lifespan of a bicycle or cyclist. It is essential to go up a couple of magnitudes in speed, efficiency and volume of greenhouse gases to get there. Foot, cycle, drive, fly. Satisfied with a 15km cycle across and back Langebaan Village was sufficient to clean out all the flying cobwebs and head to dinner with Marna at the Mykonos Harbour. Could not understand why I had never been here before! Great dinner destination. Loads of sailing boats in the harbour, a great sunset and a pretty regular cuisine. Often there is a choice when it comes to restaurants. Good food, marginal setting. Good setting, marginal food. Therefore at this point I would like to introduce a third option - price. Good setting, good cuisine, big price. Franchise food is often okay. Not much imagination, but generally edible.
We ate and chatted. Marna organized me with a great self-catering option where it was necessary to drive a short distance along the Langebaan lagoon beach to access my accommodation. Close to Pearlies. Only two units, right on the lagoon beach, where the seagulls and terns fly overhead, and the view of my accommodation was overlooking Schapen Eiland. All good and indecently good value for money. I heard the owners had owned this property from 'before Pa fell off the bus' so they could do what they wanted in the business sense and still make money..
The Day after the Argus Expo and registration
The following day it was back to Cape Town after an early morning trip to the West Coast Park. At a Pearlies breakfast Marna and I chatted about slack packing and other tourism related issues. The setting was great, menu original and price good. But waiting to hit Cape Point in a healthy state never allowed me to explore other parts of their breakfast menu, like cold smoked salmon omlettes and Farmers Breakfast of steak, boerewors and a half dozen eggs. Loaded with my health breakfast I was immenently closer to racing against 35000 other cyclists.
Cape Town was having a little rain, Muizenburg more wind and rain. Going through Muizenburg was necessary as current road works were coming to completion. This meant that the Argus was being re-routed through this charming coastal town. Not knowing the route, I decided it would be prudent to scout out the new and improved cycling section, which would mean avoiding the Boyes drive section. My scouting took a while, as the roadworks are a mess from hell. Residents have complained incessantly about the digging and engineering required to recreate a drivable morsel of road.
So bad were the delays that after one inspection of a short 5km stretch, which took 45 minutes, I decided to escape via Fish Hoek and Ou Kaapse Weg. A little windy, but a view to die for. Back at the Strand I went via a back route that skirted Khayaletsha. At Strand I took on the fish sellers, but not to be outdone by their salesmanship, I inspected all the fish gills, at least all of the yellowtail gills. Dinner would be with Dean and Fiona and they had requested fish. The purchase completed, I headed for Heldervue and my second night in Somerset West. As we were preparing to lay two freshly prepared yellow tail fillets upon the fire, they received a call from their son. He wanted to be collected from Cape Town. This entailed a 45km trip into Cape Town, so the grilling of fish suffered an immediate pregnant teenage pause.
Off we headed into Cape Town, only to discover a slightly drunk and opinionated teenager - "grrrr...". He showed little gratitude, however this was to be expected - red light flashing, called teenage thinking. He had considered a train ride home "a rip off!" Obviously did not want his Dad to shoulder the responsibility of him thinking that he was not considering both options - parents transport and a rip-off train ride! The train ride would have been R17, the car ride cost R120.00 in fuel. There was little point in trying to have an argument. It was a long and tense ride home. Apart from difficult conversation and a couple of drugged people on the highway, we survived. On returning, the fish's pregnant pause ended, and it was loaded onto the fire. Perfectly cooked we scoffed it down with salad and other accoutrements.
The day before Race Day
Writing a diary has intrisic timing often dictated by regular day sessions: all about a day or a moment in a day, sliced between yesterday and tomorrow. It makes it easy to jump back and forth between all this activity, once you have written everything down. A great way to store your life and the small excerpts can bring back great memories. A good diary also acts as a trigger, because sometimes our memory fades, or we think it does. A good diary is like a brain tonic. Your memory jumps to life at the mention of little events that clearly would had been forgotten without the necessary daily diary trigger.
The day before a race day can be more nerve wracking than the race itself. My mind was not really on the race day, as I needed to collect my 'support' crew and head for new accommodation that would accommodate all of us. Accommodation near Koeberg. It always seems strange that people are willing to live next to a nuclear station, especially with all the info available about radio active energy and the effects thereof, although there might be a critical distance that makes it OK. In my opinion, St. Lucia Estuary is about the correct critical distance from Koeberg, about 2000km away. I feel very healthy at that distance, but brief spells under the haunting stare of a nuclear reactor may not be that bad. A nuclear charging for race day?
Tessa, a doctor by profession and progression, drove us to the airport to collect the rest of team Shakabarker: a meritorious team, consisting of Terry and Anel, who arrived with great gusto and fanfare through Arrivals. Suitcases and Anel on the trolley barged into Arrivals, and Terry, larger than life, pushing the trolley. This was our first flying race away, and it seemed the flights got Terry all fired up. He was in fine form and had loads of jokes and humour to be shared with the World, and all those present. After their arrival we headed off into the streets of Cape town back to Melkbos. Fortunately the start of the Argus at Melkbos was closer than the Cape Town Airport. Oops.
Race Day and a mix up of energy drinks
Getting up at 4h20 is never easy. Mixing energy drinks and race fodder for the race before sparrows have woken, is never that easy. One drink turned out to be a cocktail of protein and carbs. I realized this a little late, but decided nothing ventured, nothing gained. During the race the mixed-up drink tasted pretty good and mmm... I thought, I will have to try this again and call it the Cape Town Teenager. I did mix more when I mixed my drinks at a brief stop to tackle Chapmans Peak.
The first race was to get to the start of the Argus. Outside Melkbos there were a few cars, some with bikes attached, 30km from Cape Town. In it was unusual not to see a car without a bike inside or outside the vehicle. Thousands of bikes and cyclists in the early dawn with pre-race nervousness. Once kitted and ready cyclists were guided into the starting pens.A massive moment of anticipation. The babble of cyclists being caged into starting groups, colours aplenty, and loads of excitement. Two helicopters buzzed overhead. Slowly the early morning darkness gave way to dawn. The first cyclists were off to a good start. Soon it was my 'Uplaah!' and we were off. Okay, being the sixth group was great, four hours later the last group departed - teehee! This was mid morning by the time they got away, the sun had it's way with their skin and energy.
The initial surge of adrenalin usually sends every cyclist over the first ridge to Hospital Bend. Thereafter it is strategy, palletons and slip streaming. The wind was particularly strong. Roadside support was good, lots of cheering and clapping, although I guessed that after 35 000 cyclists, the level of enthusiasm would have diminished slightly. The full force of the head wind found us before Muizenburg and obstructed us all the way to Partridge Hill. Group riding was essential on this leg of the race.. After Partridge Hill, a tail wind found us. There is nothing like a good tailwind, although occasionally the wind was tunneled in the opposite direction and a little headwind here and there was sent to test our remaining strength. One break before Chappies allowed for a muscle rest and refuel. Armed with muscle and body refuelled before Chapman's Peak. A single one minute stop seems like eternity, with cyclists zipping past me. However the physiological value of a short stop outweighs a few lost positions. Soon I past them. Cape Town did not seem too far. But reaching Suikerbossie, Cape Town jumped a few kms into the distance. Chapmans was relatively easy, but soon after Chappies followed Suikerbossie. Even though I was stronger than in previous years, the hill worked it's deceptive magic. Finally over the top and away to finish along the Atlantic. Lots of water and liquid energy carried our palleton on home. In the Argus you are the palleton, no one cyclist is known, this final palleton is like a nameless beast. Tyres on the road and cyclist at the top, cranking away, through the palleton you shift, moving to the back and front, a swarm of energy and colour. No names mentioned, you just got to know what to do and where to ride. Relentless riding. Heads down and one common target. A common enemy with unknown comrades, toward the end and elation.
The end is always spectacular, loads of support, you arrive like a giant wound-up spring. Your whole body is still going at full speed and you stop! Like a raging bull with no longer a matador to chase. You've stopped and that's it! Errr... Medals. Thousands of cyclists pushing you forward, wih free energy drinks being pushed into your direction. Slowly you regain a lower heartbeat and the 'bull in a China shop' becomes a meek calf. Lying down and resting. At the end, you are with thousands of cyclists - chilling. Every tree has a little colony of cyclists. Then like perpetual motion, the whole organism starts regrouping, slowly trickling away on the other side of the end, towards Cape Town and their ride home. I did this as well, and found Terry and Anel where I had left them in the predawn dark, but now in the blazing sun.
We tripped back to Melkbos for a quick shower, a power snooze and then the road to Oudtshoorn was ours. First a stop to meet with Terry's cousin Ashley at Bloubergstrand for a late carbo lunch. Lunch and pizza, then off to the airport for a bike drop offand onto the N2! Sir Lowry's Pass always gives parting travellers a great view over False Bay. The falseness of this bay is a bit of a misnomer, as it is a great destination. A certain charm and warmth. The next part of our journey was to see as many craft and curio shops as possible, this we did and then some.
Not far over Sir Lowry pass is Dassisesfontein.. Go there, and you will never need to visit another craft shop again in your life. It is charming and has the most extensive gift, homemade goods, art and hardware selection, I have ever experienced. It is doubtful if ever a successful stocktake could ever be completed (and if a stocktake will ever happen). There may well be staff members that were sent to complete a stocktake and have still not returned from the mysterious depths of this Pandora's Box of crafts, curios, antiques, food fridges, freezers, cellars and pantries A crazy storehouse of stuff. Being there could cause a pathological condition in someone who had to buy or have everything possible that was for sale. An hour later, we were still ferreting out all sorts of weird wrought iron WW2 collectables, and more. On leaving, my comments were that this would be difficult to equal. It was. Other stops were different and we even came across more character than craft. We persisted with stopping for craft and characters and always succeeded. Even came across a whole town that was characterless. Terry in the end was voted Mr Route 62! Not far after Dassiesfontein we decided Riviersondend would be our statement for the most unlikely place to seek and find accommodation. After a short trip into town, we avoided a person with a bottle of Jik offering accommodation, and opted for Lovell's BnB. Cosy and sufficiently three star.
Breakfast was a little eclectic, a rather unusual mix of fruit, cereal and yogurt. The English component arrived with a small bowl of skins on spud wedges. All good and fully loaded with carbs and more, we headed towards Swellendam and Route 62. This route is through the small Karoo. Although we were recommended to stop at the place with animals painted on the roof, there was little shopping potential, as the craft section consisted of shelves of mainly commercially manufactured goods: goods that were manufactured in a craft-like way, but still commercial - untouched by human creativity. The caramel cheesecake was good and Terry amused and was amused by some of the staff preparing for a local function.
From here to Swellendam was not far and a couple of art and pottery stops didn't yield much. Once on the road to Barrydale, we felt we were in better hunting grounds. But we found a strange mix of fortune and fair. Each town along this route was totally different. It was impossible to anticipate anything. Strangely, certain attractions never delivered any quirky value, others were just a straight forward surprise.
Barrydale after all the beautiful mountain passes put the 'e' and the 'l' back in eclectic. In fact all three 'c's as well. There is an interesting collection of shop stops along the R62 in Barrydale. Many of the people who have grabbed opportunity here, are from other cities and towns, bringing new concepts and artistic expression. Nothing existed here before they came, but a catalyst seemed to exist and it inspired the newcomers. Although the recycling shop left a lot to be desired - "a bit rubbish", the rest was on target and each uniquely original for a small town. Concepts and shops ranged from jewelry to weaving, and the eateries were varied and ideal for the foodie craving in you. There were lots of bikers along this route. Harleys to Hondas, loads of travel groups, all enjoying the mountain passes and open roads. Just outside Barrydale there is Ronnies Sex Shop. The story is well known and I have decided to open my own. But since there has been an ex or two along the way in my life, I decided I should call my shop "Matha's se' x shop, nou Kian's se winkel". You need to understand a little Afrikaans here. Or ask a friend!
Not far past the Little Karoo sex shop is Klapperbos Restaurant and Craft shop. Very stately and had only opened a mere eight months prior to our arrival. Beautiful, crafted and renovated from a very posh Karoo farmstead. The effort and thought that went into this operation was remarkable, especially considering the distance - it was half way from nowhere. A great quiche lunch, with a very generous portion of salad. Strange how a salad becomes more of a delicacy in the desert than the flesh of livestock. Everything was good in this place. The owners were also very pleasant and obliging.
Ladismith was the complete opposite. We collectively agreed that if Ladismith went missing off Route 62, no one would be sad or notice. We had three major destination blanks in this town. The famous cheese factory did not allow visitors to tour this facility and the two cheese shops were less than inspiring. The one only stocked Cheddar and Gouda, and the other sold stuff that you could purchase in any regular shop in any major centre for the same price or less. Staff and service were also less than inspiring, although our spirits were slightly lifted by the wine shop.
Oudtshoorn was next, with a couple of spectacular passes and a brief stop in Calitsdorp. We avoided the famous Calitzdorp port and loaded up with dried fruits and goodies just before The Dorp of Calitz. Calitsdorp,.... I think you need a lot of port to live in this Klein Karroo dorp/town. Although it has great Karoo scenery, where your vision is uninterrupted for tens of kms. Totally different to the average politician's vision. We headed onwards. Oudtshoorn was getting closer and it was not always measured in kms, but rather ostrich numbers. I was amazed at the numbers in this area.
The town itself is charming, although our first stop did not require charm, rather a shop for dinner. We had bought lamb and ribs in Ladismith, and the rest of the braai was from the Oudtshoorn Pick 'n Pay. Terry met a long lost friend, then we headed to De Rust and Lidikwe: a great destination wedged in a grand rocky mountain range. In the morning and evening these red rock formations painted the sky red. Rugged and dramatic. A stunning oasis, tame springbok, blue duiker and loads of other animals. Water is the ingredient of any successful operation here, have enough, can do anything. And this operation did well. Needless to say after visiting my ailing Aunt in De Rust, thereafter a quiet braai of Karoo lamb and corn. Perfect weather. Karoo has that meteorological magic. Good stuff.
In the morning after venison pancakes and a continental breakfast, we headed back towards Cape Town, first De Rust for a community craft shop. Zipped through Ladismith, but stopped at Klapperbos for lunch, and took another break in Barrydale to load up on Ostrich biltong and other nibbles. Thereafter over the hills and far away, we landed in Melkbos for the evening with chicken lasagna and homemade ice cream at Tessa's place. We spent the evening regaling our Route 62 encounters and opinions. Breakfast in the morning saw us through to the airport and home. Home sweet home.
Hasta la vista
The cycling Knait whrydah