(Backup) (Backup) Drakenberg, South Africa

The Baz Bus picked me up at my accommodation in Johannesburg and I requested a drop off at the Ampitheater Lodge in the Northern Drakenberg. About four hours away and over a mountain pass. I was looking for an area to cycle for a few days, not too rugged or too populated and with secondary roads, as the National roads are like our interstate highways and bicycles are not to be there. 
This is the greatest bus service and can take my bicycle. It is a hop-on hop-off bus from Johannesburg to Cape Town, about 1,500 miles along the Garden Route which is near the oceans to the south. They have a list of towns and accommodation where they stop. I just call a day or two ahead to make arrangements. The accommodation is anywhere from one to four star. This lodge has private cabins and rooms and dormitories and fabulous camping. There was a large outdoor kitchen, but you needed to bring your own food. Meals can be reserved in the restaurant and I ordered a packed lunch for cycling. I picked the camping option and enjoyed a meal in the restaurant with a two young Danish women. 

It was a glorious afternoon and evening for lounging in the pool, sipping a Savannah Cider, finishing my book about the Kalahari desert bushmen. There was an option of a day trip to the small mountain country of Lesthobo tomorrow, but it was hours on a bus and I was eager to be riding again, so I passed that with some misgivings. By now I have decided to go to Cape Town, so I need to keep moving. I probably won’t get back here, but you just never know!

Some of the lodge’s buildings under a dramatic sky. It looked like rain clouds, but it all moved on. The women working here spoke to each other in the language with the clicks. That was fun to hear. 

Somehow it is never as quiet as I think it should be sleeping out. There was a flock of gray birds about the size of ducks that were foraging for grass and walking about the campsite clucking most all night. Or so it seemed.

After a nice hot breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and fried potatoes, I am off on my new Bike Friday, custom made in Eugene, Oregon where I live. Everything I brought for the trip for six weeks is here, including a tent and sleeping bag. The front pack holds some food, my iPhone which has maps, and sunscreen.

Along the road are three traditional homes. On the left is adobe with rocks holding down a corrugated metal roof. Being more modern, it looks as though it has electricity. The middle house is all woven reeds and on the right is a round Adobe  rondavel with a thatched roof. Both are very old architecture of the Africa, still useful today.

A selfie for the day.

Rolling countryside and little traffic.


Cycling to Middelburg, bus to Nelspruit, South Africa.


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 in Pretoria to warm up.

Assembling my Bike Friday and taking it out for a spin to make sure everything works, and I am so very pleased it does. It is a new bike and first big trip for it

I took it for a spin to Austin Rogers Bird Sanctuary right in Pretoria. The altitude here is about 4,550 feet so I can feel it. 

A woman I had been corresponding with through contacted me and we met for lunch in a deli at the lovely Magnolia Park. (That is a website dedicated to cyclists.) We shared cycling stories, her latest big trip was taking her bicycle to Japan and solo cycling and camping for three months.
She was encouraging but not so sure it is saife for a woman to cycle solo in South Africa. Which is exactly what I am going to do.

After lunch I cycled to downtown Pretoria to see the city hall and perhaps a museum but things were closing when I got there so I cycled back to my lovely guesthouse. It was an adventure in a totally black neighborhood with people of all ages out and about. One little boy about nine years old followed me through the park, really wanting his dad to get him a bike like mine, but in blue. His little sister just smiled and ragged along. Cute kids! I mostly walked my bike on sidewalks to avoid the busy traffic.
The guest house is more like a home stay as we get to eat with the family at their outside dining table, on a very large porch.
Tonight Delma was a newly arrived guest. She is just finished with her two-year volunteer job with the Peace Corps as a nurse in an area north of Pretoria, and had a month to explore before going back to her home in Queens, New York City. The Peace Corps here is focusing on the very large problem of AIDS.
Our host thanked her more than once for her work, saying we cannot deal with it ourselves.
Tomorrow I start cycling and am looking forward to it.