Cycling to Oliphants River Lodge

Perfect cycling weather and road, cool with rolling hills and little traffic. Although the clouds were a little troubled with lightning and I might get soaked.

It was true, life was great down this road. Thank you Uncle Barry!

Cycling to Oliphants River Lodge was a mere 12 miles and should have been easy, but from the map I could see there was a gravel road the last bit. And there was a bit of traffic on the secondary road, with trucks hauling coal. Often I would just pull off the road to let them pass, but sometimes there were passing lanes on the hills. It is all big rolling hills. 

Hills are honest. If they go up, they go down. 
After the turn off the busy road, it was cycle heaven. Until it was not. This gravel road alternates loose red sand with big washboards. Fine if you have big fat tires. But doable with small hardy tires, like my bike. 
So it is about four miles and after one mile I am pushing my bike. A white pick-up stops,  nearly every vehicle here is white. A distinguished looking older man gets out and asks where I am going. I tell him and he wants to know what I am doing there. Camping, they have campsites along the river.
He asked if I would like a ride. Oh, yes I would. 
He loads my bike and I get right in. Nothing like being picked up by a stranger in a strange land!
I ask if he knows Oliphants River Lodge. He says he is associated with it. Which turns out to be a big understatement!
We chat, he wants to know what I am doing on a bike and why.
Oh, to meet people, see and explore and experience the country. 
At the lodge he unloads my bike and I go to the reception to check on. It is a beautiful lodge and conference center, more than I expected. So I am talking to the receptionist and this same man walks in, says something to them in Africaan, and the two of them have stood up and giggle and twitter. He asks if I know what he said, no, I only speak English. He said, it is just like me to pick up a blonde on the road. Now I am 67 years old, but he has a few years on me. 
First thing I noticed was his wedding band!
Then he says something else to the two women and disappears behind them into the office. Linda, who is helping me, said you are not camping, you are staying in a private rondavel. It is totally complimentary, as is all your food. For as long as you want to stay! Everything is complimentary! I was planning on two nights, but Linda suggests I stay three. Of course I must! 
She tells me the man is the owner who designed and built it himself over the years.  Now living nearby in Middelburg, he is turning 76 next week and is called Uncle Barry. 
My rondavel is a replica of the traditional Zulu hut, with an attached bathroom. Nice! I am thrilled, as it is starting to shower and turns into an afternoon drizzle, but a warm one.
Lunch is being served buffet style in a large dining room, to a large group. 

Cycling from Pretoria to Somabula Game Reserve, South Africa.

By 7:30 am my bike was packed, breakfast was eaten, plus a peanut butter and jam sandwich stowed in my front pack for a hunger attack on the road. Using the app I was off. In about five days I would figure out how to let it direct me verbally but with a few wrong turns, like heading onto the interstate highway, where no bicycles are allowed, and backtracking to a stoplight so I could cross the busy street, I was heading out, about an hour later. 

Fortunately it was cloudy and cool, because it had been sunny and really hot the first few days. The Map. Me app has special routing for cycling, which takes one off the busy fast, high traffic roads. For the first ten miles it was only slow, heavy traffic through black municipalities with frequent road construction, causing  traffic snares, which I often walked my bike around. The sidewalks were always crowded, so I would walk my bike there, too, just to avoid the potholes and traffic.
Passing through one community with double lanes in each direction, a bull and cow leisurely strolled across all four lanes without one horn beeping. Drivers wove around them in an even flow of traffic. It was all so casual, I was more of an anomaly than that.
Being the only cyclist and a white granny in a neon yellow cycle top with black cycling shorts on an expensive bike, all bikes here are expensive to the locals, but mine is a new custom-made Bike Friday and quite dear, I drew stares. I tried to nod and smile when I could. Greetings to me varied from Hello, how are you? To Sista! And a hearty cheer Go, go, go as  I cycled up a rolling hill. I felt cheered and welcome.
At one point the misty drops turned into larger splatters, so I pulled off the road and took shelter under a plastic tarp propped up with large branches, occupied by two twentish black men. They made room for me, and asked if I was cold. No, I am warm from exercising. I asked their names and introduced myself. Daniel, One of the young men, was eating a sandwich, so I pulled mine out and ate half. Looking back, I wonder if he bought it from the other man, whose name I simply could not understand, had a loaf of bread there. And perhaps I should have done so also.
Soon it cleared and as I prepared to cycle on, Daniel asked if I was cold. I laughed, no, I am cycling and waved goodbye.
The main, and very efficient, form of public transport here are white mini vans. These can pull over to the curb at any moment to pick up a signaling pedestrian. The vans are cheap, plentiful and vie for passengers by honking, most all the time. Usually only used by black people, and there are only black people here, these are busy picking people up from the road-side markets with shopping bags. Thankfully they are careful not to crowd me and I must watch carefully to avoid them as they start and stop. It was a little disconcerting at first, but I did want to see the everyday life of a black community and soon adjusted. It was just a glimpse but I was happy with only that.
One interesting sight in a field, all this area is strewn with garbage, so not lovely, was a small group of women, children and men standing close together and just in front of them were a few people kneeling before nuns dressed in white habits. 
Shortly after that I saw two nuns in the same white habits walking down a sidewalk, so I was not just imagining the sweet scene.