After a couple nights at in Franschhoek I joined Grant and Jules for a windy ride through the Overberg toward the true southern most point on the African continent: Cape Agulhas. As the winds blew, little did we know or could predict, a storm brewed that would wreak havoc on the coast and in the mountain hamlets along the wine road (62) and South Africa’s infamous Garden Route. Hundreds would be left homeless, rivers overflowed, flooding and both minor roads and the major highway on the coast (N2) would be closed for several days between George and Knysna.
I got holed up for three nights at the southern most point in Africa at a lovely “backpackers”, Cape Alguhas Backpackers in Struisbaai just 5km from the point. There could be worse places to be stuck for several days. That first night I felt my decision to stay in a dormitory while Grant & Jules opted to camp on the grounds was very lucky as the sky opened up and dumped sheeting rain all night long. And through the next two days. And with the help of Grant & Jules and the local grocery store we cooked baked chicken, mashed potatoes and pumpkin, peas and corn and a tad of garlic bread for Thanksgiving dinner while I explained the origins of this very American holiday to my South African hosts and Australian riding companions.
While the weather forecast painted a somewhat bleak picture, the skies above appeared blue and sunny so we made a break for the Klein Karoo (kind of like the high desert in California and Nevada) and Route 62 – marketed as the longest wine road in the world, but by the time we rode into Swellendam the sky opened up and gave the region another hammering. Stopping for coffee and an excuse to dry off, the restaurant in the hotel we stopped informed us that a large group who had reservations for lunch called to cancel because the road from Barrydale had been closed due to flooding. Exploring our options we donned our rain gear and made for Robertson with the idea we could see if the pass to Montagu was open.
We lucked out the road into Montagu had just opened so we settled there staying in a dormitory style backpackers (the term used for hostels in South Africa) which was actually a converted horse stable during the summer. While Grant & Jules decided to cook their own meal that night, I decided to sample the local color and ate in town. While stopping at the local “bottle shop” for info on where to eat I was surprised to be almost run over by this crazy guy in a Land Rover. Actually it turns out he wasn’t crazy at all, it was Robin, the rider who may join me for my ride into Namibia. He was in Montagu for a huge bicycling event where the following day he rode 200km through the region. He and his wife Renda joined me at Preston’s on Main Street for a post-dinner glass of wine where we continued to make plans to stay in touch as I journey through South Africa, finally connecting again in Cape Town for the Namibian adventure.
As the rain hammered the coast and the mountains, roads like this one in Montagu became impassable and locking in locals and travelers alike while the water level subsided and crews could repair slides and washouts.
For the past several days my bike has been running rather awkward. Actually lackluster would describe it better. Both Shane and I noticed a seeming fuel-starved hiccup in the bike after it was serviced in Cape Town. We both figured it needed to run through the dregs of the last gas I put into it in Brazil. That last gas station was scary and I’ll bet the gas even scarier. But I had now ridden more than a 1,000km and on some of the mountain roads I the bike is struggling. Perhaps the computer that controls the fuel-injection is off due to the flight, or maybe the plugs are badly corroded by the bad Brazilian gas, or the screen in the gas tank is restricting flow to the fuel pump. Whatever it is, I am a bit frustrated because it doesn’t seem consistent. So troubleshooting this is going to be a challenge. I’ll ride on with the thought of tackling this with my exhaust repacking task when I’m back in Cape Town in a few weeks.
The road was open the next day beyond Montagu and the sun gave us a break so we continued down 62 through Barrydale to Warmwaterberg where I camped for the first time in Africa. The route through these small South African towns in stunning. With sheer rock cliffs, winding rivers, impressive gorges and desert-scapes that rival parts of the southwestern states.
Rushing to catch up with this blog I’m sorry that my writing, as it seems to me, has become a bit staccato. But eager to get on a regular and much more current basis, I’m sitting here in Coffee Bay at Bomvu Paradise Backpackers burning daylight and locked up catching up so that by the time you read this I am fully up to date. Once up to date, I will be freer to write, expound and slip back into what I feel is more creative, descriptive and better writing.