The day started out well. Blue skies and bright sunshine greeted us as we emerged from the tent. Jerseys were soon off as the temperature rose rapidly. Better yet was the fact that we still had electricity after seven in the morning. (It was supposed to go off at 6am.) So we didn’t have to employ the gas stove to boil the water for our daily dose of ‘ground’. With tummies full of lumpy, chocolate porridge we headed out for a whopper of a cycle … 115km down to Nuwerus.
We hit the N7 with ‘power in the pedal stroke’. We were afraid that the dreaded wind would come up early because the sun had some fierce heat in it already, despite the early hour. But our fears were unfounded. Suzann had hardly taken us out a few kilometers when the clouds began to roll in. By the time that the first leg of our daily relay was over, the sky had darkened considerably and a chill had come to settle over the countryside causing our teeth to chatter. Just when we began to contemplate despondency we had a hilariously uplifting incident with a donkey … well it was funny from our perspective, not so much from the poor donkey’s.
Lynsey was still pedaling along merrily, minding her own business, when all of a sudden a donkey emerged from the stunted bushes on the side of the road. The animal had a wild look in it’s eyes … spooked most awfully … and it took to the road at a gallop. Passing the bicycle Suzann tried to shoo the donkey with the vehicle’s hooter but that just seemed to make it worse. The animal would run ahead of the bicycle at a blinding pace, then suddenly stop in the middle of the N7, turn around and stare us down. As soon as we got close to it, the silly thing would turn and run again. All this was happening in the middle of the N7, the major road connecting the Cape with Namibia. Fortunately for us … and the donkey … the road wasn’t very busy.
After a few minutes of this ‘donkey first, bike second, bakkie third’ business, two big trucks passed us. They hooted at the donkey but that just made the animal run even faster on the opposite side of the road, facing the oncoming traffic. This was getting dangerous. After the trucks managed to pass the donkey, we were still stuck because every time we approached, Mr Donkey would turn tail and run with a loud ‘he-haw, he-haw’ that emanated from it’s lips that were curled back in a rictus of fright.
The truck drivers had pulled off at a picnic spot and were trying to shoo the donkey back onto the side of the road but to no avail. Finally, the animal veered off the road to come to a standstill behind a bush. And then it let us by, staring as we went. Suffice it to say … the one out front rightly stood on those pedals. That donkey wouldn’t catch us again. It couldn’t possibly even if it had tried because we started down a long winding pass that got the speed up nicely. Just a pity it was so freezing cold because the cyclist wouldn’t know she had a nose for quite a few kilometers after that 6km downhill … Yet, as soon as we climbed out of the little valley the sun began to shine again. It was as if a mist had just descended on those few kilometers of road.
As the sun warmed so the breeze began to blow as well. But it wouldn’t be until well after lunch that a veritable gale would blow up. It was also right about that time that we realized that something was very wrong. We had cycled 115km already and the little town of Nuwerus was nowhere to be seen. Could Google maps have been so wrong? Well it turned out that Uncle Google, in fact, doesn’t know all. After we crested yet another rise and still no town, we called it. We struggled to the bottom of the hill against a wind that threatened to blow us away like a dirty old rag and then stopped to load the bikes.
Lo and behold, after calling it at 117km, Nuwerus would appear in the distance after the next rise or two. But by that time it was freezing and we couldn’t get to the Hardeveld Country Lodge quick enough. Thank goodness for the generosity of the owner who spontaneously upgraded us from camping to a self-catering unit. If we’d camped we’d surely have turned to popsicles during the night.
The wind was relentless and didn’t stop like it had done most evenings thus far. We did manage to braai though. There’s always strength for a braai, especially when your host has done you the kindness of defrosting two braai packs for you and bundling up two potatoes in foil to do in the coals. And was that lovely meat … amazing flavour, so tender … that kind of lamb we don’t get along the Garden Route. And that kind of generosity … If anyone gets it in their heads to go looking at the Namaqualand flowers, or decides to head north to our neighbours (Namibia), or just wants a break away from the city … Hardeveld Country Lodge in Nuwerus, people … you won’t get better!