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A bicycle, a tent and a toothbrush: Part 2

“500 kilometers down, 500 kilometers to go. My two-wheeled meander around the Cape continues picking up from sleepy Van Wyksdorp and travelling to the south coast, and eventually… home.”

14 days of cycling, 1 rest day, 1024km…

It was another enjoyable day on the bike, especially the dirt road leading northeast out of Van Wyksdorp, and back onto the R62. Flat, fast and sandwiched between the Rooiberg Nature Reserve and ubiquitous Grootrivier. I was relishing my chosen mode of transport, feeling quite sorry for the few cars that whizzed by, unable to share the same experience.

IMG_0590Rooiberg Nature Reserve

It was great to be able to meet up with Roger and Nicola Ramos (of the Rescued Animal Drive) about 30 km outside of Barrydale, as it meant I could listen to more than just my mind for a change. Despite my body and mind having got used to the intense heat by now, Roger’s promises of a cold beer was too tantalising a prospect not to pedal harder. That, and the fact that we’d be staying at the beautiful Bronze Grove Farm set at the foot of the Tradouw Pass, meant I kept the wheels steadily spinning. If you want to make me a happy man, throw me in a stone cottage on the edge of a river, add in some mountains, a family of zebra, and tell me that there’s good mountain biking nearby. Needless to say, I had a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

I’d been looking forward to cycling through the Tradouw Pass since I was last in Barrydale, and the towering Langeberg Mountains, bisected by the Tradouwrivier, did not disappoint. Neither did the rest of the morning as we wound our way alongside green hills and farmlands, Roger and I testing our birding skills as we meandered through the small farm village of Suurbrak en route to Bontebok National Park. After a short and unpleasant stint on the noisyN2 freeway, we reached our destination with the aim of exploring a bit by bike.

The Bontebok National Park is made up of predominantly Fynbos, and is pretty ideal for exploring by mountain bike owing to its limited size and good road network. If you need to cool down at any stage, there are a few picnic spots where you wash away the hours in the soothing waters of the Breede River. The park is home to a number of resident animal species including Bontebok (obviously), Grey Rhebok, Cape Fox, Caracal and even Aardwolf (if you’re lucky). The park is definitely worth a visit and there are many affordable accommodation options available.

tradouwSomeone to talk to!

With Roger and Nicola having to head back home that evening, I was on my own again for the last few days of the trip. The prospect of reaching the coast the next day was quite exciting. But first I spent the night with my friend Dr Lize Venter and her family in Swellendam. Being a veterinarian, Lize’s family hospitality extended to more than just the bipedal variety, so bottle-feeding orphan Cape Bat-Eared Foxes at dinner and breakfast time was nothing out of the ordinary.

Another set of reluctant goodbyes, and I was back on the road for the 120 kilometers to Struisbaai and Cape Agulhus the following morning. Besides getting glimpses of our beautiful national bird, the Blue Crane, the road was otherwise unspectacular. But the reward justified the journey, and seeing the bright blue ocean again after spending a number of days in the hot and arid Karoo was quite spectacular. It goes without saying that there was little time spared between seeing and being in the water.

My trip thus far had been characterised on a number of occasions by random acts of kindness by complete strangers, and the offer of a private room in the funky Agulhus Backpackers was another one of these moments. With a place to offload my belongings, and thoughts of quiet contemplation at the southernmost tip of Africa, I hopped onto my now much lighter bicycle for a sunset cruise along Marine Drive. Owing to a guy with one of those flying camera drones, and a group of Spanish tourists intent on swimming in two oceans at once, quiet contemplation wasn’t quite on the cards. Despite this, it was hard not to imagine and appreciate the magnitude of it all – an entire African continent behind you, and an expanse of ocean running all the way to Antarctica before you. I was left with my bicycle feeling rather small and insignificant.

IMG_0669Cape Agulhus – the southern tip of Africa

Although I had been looking forward to the following day’s ride, cycling around the boundary of Agulhus National Park to my camping spot about 80 km from Hermanus, it doesn’t stand out as a day I’ll fondly remember. If I were to summarise it in one word, it would be “windy”.

Waking up the next day to the absence of a gale, not even a rain soaked sleeping bag could dampen my spirits and my mood continued to remain jovial for the rest of the next day. This despite the pelting rain, narrow roads, crazy drivers, and by now quite bruised buttocks. Despite the weather, the coastal stretch between the western boundary of Agulhus National Park to Hermanus was particularly enjoyable. Although I couldn’t see much between squinting through the heavy rain and trying to avoid being run over, I could imagine it as being quite a pleasant Sunday morning ride.

A cloudless, beautiful summer’s day greeted me the next morning as I packed my bike for the last time, finally completing my 1000 km meander around the Cape. One tends to switch to autopilot on trips such as these, where your days tend to be dominated by one simple task- wake up, cycle, go to sleep- and life becomes very simple. So the feeling of it ending was quite bittersweet. However, completing a goal and raising money for something you cared about got me straight onto my bike and back onto the road for the last little bit.

IMG_0680Hermanus to Gordon’s Bay

The coastal road between Hermanus and Gordon’s Bay is well-known to any cyclist and for good reason too. Wedged between the Hottentots Holland Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, the kilometers seemed to fly by with more beauty than an eye can behold in a single day.

After a quick breakfast with my family in Betty’s Bay at the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, I could savour the last 40 kilometers ecstatic at the news that the ride had raised over R 70 000 for animal welfare. It had been such a privilege to see so many beautiful places, meet so many amazing people, and do it all in the name of something that so many of us really care about. Seeing my friends and family at the top of the last hill encouraging me, affirmed this feeling.

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Almost Home

I’d just like to make special mention of a few people/companies who contributed to making this trip a success: René Fouché (RFI Attorneys), Lee Siebert (REMAX Helderberg), Elsa Strydom, Dr C Kahonovitz, Avontuur Estate, Advocate VD Barselaar, Joe Hubbart, Professor Laurence Chait, RBF Executive Consultants, Dr Goosen, Bossa Café, Deon Smith, STBB Attorneys, Marko Botha (Vetsbrands), Cottage Veterinary Clinic, Roger Ramos (REMAX Team Roger Ramos) and Nicola Ramos.
Thank you all so much.

Danny Fernandes

Currently in his final stretch of studies in Veterinary Medicine, and with a background in Ecology, Danny Fernandes has a deep love for everything non-manmade (excepts perhaps for books and bicycles). In between studies, he spent nine months working and travelling through Zimbabwe and New Zealand, spending significant amounts of time in National Parks, a tent, and on a mountain bike. Once qualified, he hopes to continue to explore our beautiful planet, ardently pursuing his passion for conservation and animal welfare.

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