We left Shalom Farm in the rain. Once through Greytown itself though, the rain seemed to let up. So we stopped off in a plantation road and unloaded the bikes. Suzann was brave enough to go first. But no sooner had she begun to pedal than the sky began to piddle. She powered on in hopes that it would pass but it never did. In fact, it just began to rain harder and harder. Finally, after only 8km, she was forced to stop. And it wasn’t a moment too soon either. From there the rain just came down in sheets. The mist that hung low over the road didn’t help matters much either. We crawled along at a snail’s pace not wanting to hit anything. Animals and people would just appear before us in the mist. It was no place for speed and definitely no place for a cyclist, even with a back-up vehicle. It was a pity though, since we couldn’t see anything of the surroundings which, we’re sure, were stunning … rolling, green hills …
Anyway, it rained consistently all the way to the coast at Zinkwazi where we were to camp at the Beach and Forest Lodge. Upon arrival we could definitely see why it was called … and Forest … lodge. The place was properly hidden in amongst huge trees and other tropical vegetation. The black earth was littered with debris from the last storm and the groundsmen were having a task to clear and rake all the leaves and palm fronds. There were still pools of stagnant water and here and there cars had made mud out of them.
Although it had stopped raining at that moment, we weren’t going to take any chances and asked for a upgrade to formal accommodation. The lovely ladies at reception didn’t hesitate and handed us the key to one of their hotel rooms, at no charge … wow.
The rest of the damp, muggy afternoon was passed in the confines of our room. When the windowless walls became too much for us we decided to take a walk to the beach. The walk was one thing but the beach another … we hardly made it onto the sand for the wind … We were properly sandblasted! So we headed back to the room and tried to follow some WWII movie on the TV … just to pass the time.
Supper was a rather poor affair of peanut butter buns in our room and when the door finally had to be closed (to keep all the bugs out) the damp smell would begin to worry Lynsey’s sinuses. It was a case of, ‘am I getting sick? Oh no! What if I get a fever? The covid paranoid people won’t let me in! What now?!’ But with the opening up of the door the next morning the damp smell lessened and the symptoms passed. But the rain had not passed and there was a decision to be made.
We couldn’t ride. If we drove to our next destination (only 56km up the coast) we’d arrive far too early … and would have to put up the tent in the rain … only to take it down again the next morning, no doubt sodden. We could also just skip the next place and head onwards to Hluhluwe and Bahati Game Farm and Campsite. We were scheduled for a rest break and would be there for three nights. We figured … it may rain there too but at least the tent stays in one place for a few days. We could try to wait the rain out and do outrides from there when the weather allowed … just to make up some distance. So that’s what we did.
It required some phone calls and a bit of organization but it all worked out good in the end. The friendly owner of Bahati spontaneously upgraded us to a luxury campsite at no extra charge. That would mean that we had our own bathroom and kitchen, as well as a roof under which we could pitch our tent! That just hit the spot since we arrived in the rain. At least we could stay dry while putting up the tent.
It rained on and off the rest of that day but it did give us the opportunity to go and do a last shop in Hluhluwe. There we’d meet a man selling leather goods on the parking area. Lynsey bought a belt and Suzann a wallet, all in support of this guy. But we also took the opportunity to hand out yet another Bible and booklet to this fellow. Then it was on to the butchery. What a place! Ask for any cut and the butcher disappears into the back only to reappear almost immediately with a hunk of meat that he proceeds to dump on a butchers block and starts to cut up right there in front of you. We could really appreciate the art of butchery, watching those guys. Filled up with steak, wors, chops and naturally droe wors too, we’d head back for a braai.
After the wet day everything that crawled and flew was out … and attracted to our kitchen light (despite it being yellow). So we’d sit in the shadow of the tent’s roof and watch the fire on one end and the geckos on the kitchen walls on the other. It became quite entertaining, in fact. We lustily began encouraging the geckos to ‘go for it’ and eat all the insects. But that would get old quickly, especially when the geckos tired of the kitchen and moved into our bathroom. It’s not easy having four geckos stare at you while you go about your business … never mind the fact that they could just fall onto your head while you have your pants around your ankles … try run screaming then!
But we’d survive the geckos to take a nice ride out on the farm the next day. We’d head out on the gravel road in the direction of St Lucia. It was a marvelous ride, until we turned back. Then we could see why it had been so marvelous. The wind had obviously been at our backs, but heading back was another story altogether. The wind was pumping from the front and it felt far further on the way back than on the way out. We’d opted for rides in the near vicinity since the weather was still looking ‘funny’, but it never did rain again that day. Next day was another story though.
We’d wake to the sound of raindrops on the tin roof above our tent. We were meant to do a long ride out in the direction of Sodwana Bay but had to wait out the rain. Despite the weather, we just had to go, and so we did.
It was Sunday and Hluhluwe was deserted. While stopped outside the local Build-It to offload the bikes, a security van pulled up alongside to ask what we’re up to. He’d been sent out since they’d seen us on their monitors. When we explained what we were all about and he realized that we were not in fact, axe murderers come to break in at the Build-It to replace our axe, he was kind enough to radio in our details so the guys could keep an eye out for us on the roads in the area to keep us safe. We again took the chance to hand out a Bible and a number of booklets for him and his colleagues. There he just confirmed what we’d seen evidence of throughout our entire trip, both this one and the previous one through Africa … people are hungry for the Word of God.
The security guard would thank us and say, ‘give me food and tomorrow its up, but give me the Word and I’ll always be fed.’ That is just exactly what Cross Africa is all about and it harks back to the verse on which we are built, Matthew 4:4, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ It was not coincidence that this guy was sent out to investigate us on nearly our very last ride for the trip. Thanks for the reminder of why we do this, God.
That man would wave enthusiastically when we passed the office on our way back from our 94km round trip cycle through the sweet smelling pineapple fields and rural villages of KZN.
The elderly herdsmen on the side of the road, armed with their knob kierries, waved us on while their cattle grazed on the green verge, the kids shouted and the truckloads of young men stared as they sped by. Everywhere washing flapped in the stiff breeze that was giving us uphill. All the way out the wind was directly from the front. When we turned, the drops started to fall, but it wouldn’t be too far when the fickle wind would decide to change direction and begin blowing from the front again. The sky looked ominous, pregnant with a storm, but we’d just make it back to Bahati before it broke.
That put paid to our visions of a braai so we had to make a pasta with the previous evening’s left-over sausage … with cheese on top everything is gourmet … No it actually was very good indeed. Not that that stodge of carbs helped the next day’s gravel road ride. Even though we went out early the wind was already from the front and the wet weather had caused the road to deteriorate overnight. We’d bump and jar over strips of huge corrugations that finally made Lynsey quit. She’d walk and push the bike instead. But we’d make a fair distance before returning to our little campsite and a shower with the geckos. Not that a shower helped very much in the muggy humidity of northern KZN. We’d sit and steam the rest of the day away in a pool of our own sweat. But we only had one more day to go so we were big and we were strong …