Alex to Kosi – Day 51

After a very stormy night, the last day of our epic adventure dawned.  The sun was out and the air was warm.  Slowly, we emerged from the tent to discover that everything was indeed, still intact after the gale that had swept over our camp during the thunderstorm.

We were tired but glad that we’d survived the night to greet our final day.  A final day is always a bitter sweet thing.  You’re glad its almost over, but also a bit sad at the same time.  With that strange sense of the unreal we packed up and left Bahati Game Farm for the last time.

We first would drive the distance we’d cycled on our ‘out-and-back’ days before the cycling started.  But we’d not taken account of the portion of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park that we’d have to drive through.  That would mean 15km where no-one was supposed to walk or ride bicycles.  But apparently, no-one told the local cattle herders because we encountered quite a few patiently watching their animals as they grazed along the verge, right in the wetland park.  The fact that the cops were present with their wretched speed cameras didn’t put those guys off.  Instead, it just made us wary of even thinking to let the speed go over 60km/h.  Somehow we didn’t think that those northern KZN cops would be very forgiving to the two us.

That whole delay caused us to start out rather late … on the bikes, that was.  Anyway, we’d saddle up our trusty steeds for the very last time and pedal out in 37 degree heat with almost 100% humidity.  The weather conditions were not making the last day easy or fun, for that matter.  The locals didn’t seem to like us very much either and there was a lot of shouting and gesturing as we cycled by.  We didn’t understand what they were saying but it didn’t sound very friendly, especially when we caught the one word we could indeed understand … voetsak!

Despite the heat we soldiered on.  But finally we had to admit defeat and get in the vehicle for the last bit.  The heat was one thing but the further north we progressed the more aggressive the locals became.  We were not welcome and we got the message loud and clear.  The entire area exuded an ominous feeling that seemed to build an unhealthy fear within us, as if something bad was going to happen in short order.  It was a very dark feeling.  An oppressive atmosphere hung low over our spirits.  There was a distinct feeling of impending doom.  Yet, we were there to finish what we’d started 51 days ago in Alexander Bay and nothing could undo us in this singular purpose.  We continued on, though with a bit of trepidation.  It felt distinctly better in the vehicle though.

We’d overshoot our turnoff and have to do a u’y right in front of the Kosi border post with Mozambique.  But we’d soon discover the signboard leading us to our lodge, right outside the gates to KZN Wildlife’s sandy access road down to Kosi Mouth.  And that was exactly where we were headed.  That was after check-in and an open-air shower though.

We saw the charm in the open-air shower but with the sun still sitting high in the sky, we were roasting, even though we turned up the cold water.  But we had to try and wash the last of the day’s cycle sweat and sunscreen off.  That would be the last time we’d have to gunk ourselves with factor 50+ in the morning, and also the last time we’d take the bikes off the stand on the back of the vehicle (during the official trip) … we’d still have a few more on and off’s to get home.

But the joy was great and Suzann even found the energy to lift the bike clear above her head in celebration.  We both tried to keep our steeds on high but a mountain bike is rather heavy when it’s above your head.

Congratulating ourselves … cause there was no-one else around with whom to celebrate … we’d head down to Kosi Mouth for the final photos.  That would be a 4X4 challenge though.  The sand was particularly thick and the heat wasn’t making things easier.  The hotter it got, the softer the sand became and the deeper the vehicle would sink in the tracks.  We laboured along in low range trying to keep momentum lest we get stuck.  But we didn’t get stuck.  We made it through one axel twister after another to the viewpoint above the lake system.  And them from there, we’d backtrack to the main route down to the mouth parking (which wasn’t in much better condition, mind you).

Once at the bottom we battled to find a parking space with all the other vehicles that had already arrived for an afternoon of swimming.  There was a particularly rowdy bunch of local men wrestling each other in the sand and shallows of the river, just below the bank.  An old man and his wife sat further back at their bakkie, each on a camp chair, and watched the young ones tackle, splash and yell.  The fact that the cool boxes were loaded with beers and ciders didn’t help matters much either.  In fact, the party was becoming so raucous that we decided to scarper.

Photos in the bag, we had quite a job of it to turn the vehicle around in the small space and the thick sand made it even harder.  But we succeeded and were soon off back up to the gate and the solitude of our lodge.  That very same solitude would become rather disturbing later that night as we spied lights moving in the bush over the village way.  It seemed as if they were slowly approaching our campsite on the edge of the lodge property and with the rather shoddy fence we’d spied earlier on, we didn’t feel very safe indeed.  So we’d end up locking ourselves in the vehicle and turning it around to face the exit.  If anything were to emerge from the bush at 3am, we’d be ready to make a run for it.  But of course, this required us spend the early hours of the morning sitting twisted about like pretzels to keep an eye on the ever present lights.  They did not however, come any closer after we’d started the vehicle, switched on the headlights and did some fancy turning on the sandy site under the big waterberry tree.

And that all after we’d already had a stint in the bakkie earlier that evening.  The thunderstorm was epic and we were petrified so we sought shelter in the vehicle, not wanting to be electrocuted in our little metal cage of a tent.  The lightening was spectacular and after the almighty crash complete with explosive sparks that tripped the electricity twice, we huddled together and hung onto each other, all the while praying for it all to end.

Suffice it to say, the night was one we’d rather forget, and as soon as the sky began to lighten we packed up and got out of there quick smart.  A rather nasty end to a fantastic experience.  But we’d done it.  We’d managed to cycle and run from Alexander Bay in the west, all the way to Kosi Bay in the east … our whole country’s coast.  Even though we couldn’t do every single kilometre on the bikes or on our feet, we still managed a whopping 1861km or thereabouts.  The rest was left to Hamilton, our trusty Hilux.

We’d kept going despite foul weather of rain, wind and thunderstorms.  We’d driven through soupy, porridge-like mud; deep soft sand; over rocks banks and badly corrugated gravel roads; weaved our way along potholed tar roads and pedaled against enormous rolling resistance.  We’d weathered storms, huddling 15 hours in a 2,5mX2,5m tent; put up camp in a thunderstorm; braved the wind that threatened to blow our tent away and sat out the heat and humidity that nearly undid us in places.  We’d met hordes of generous folks that would feed us, encourage us, get excited with us, lift us up, pray for us, joke with us, help us out, connect us with others, give us coffee and cake, invite us into their homes, share with us …  We’d get to hand out over 35 Bibles and countless booklets along the way too.  It was an unforgettable experience.

It will probably be our last epic adventure for a while though.  The down side of everything is that old thing called money.  In this old broken world you can’t help others without some help yourself and with no sponsorships on the horizon or donations to speak of, we don’t know when we’ll be able to get out there again.  But we’re grateful to everyone for their prayers and constant support, and we don’t regret a thing.  If we had it to do all over again, there’d be no hesitation …

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