Day 14 & 15

I was treated to a cup of coffee in bed … a bribe to get me to cycle all the hills (jokes!) Suzann’s knee has been giving her a bit of trouble of late, especially on those long climbs. So I volunteered to take on most of the climbing work for the day.

After a hearty breakfast of ‘ground’ (chocolate FutureLife) – doesn’t it look just like a bowl of ground though, hey? Anyway, it may not taste that fantastic but it gives one legs … and I’d need all I could get later.

We again had to drive to the point we left off the day before but all the way there I was on Google maps, trying to find an alternate route to the N2 for Suzann’s knee (less hills). Google said to go via Hankey to Thornhill but I wasn’t so sure about that. Suzann seemed keen though. Anyway, it ended in a coin toss … when I could find the coin that had dropped between the seats in the first toss. Heads was Hankey, tails N2 … and heads it was. So we headed off the N2, direction … Hankey.

After about 2km I knew we’d made a horrible mistake. The road started climbing drastically and the tar was rough with a high rolling resistance, making it harder to pedal. With hardly any yellow line to speak of, I was forced to drive slap-bang in the middle of the road behind a sweating Suzann, standing on the pedals despite her dicky knee. Thank goodness the road wasn’t very busy though.

A consolation prize, a massive decent into the valley near Hankey town. Here I found myself gearing up to fourth and reaching over 60km/h behind the bike. But what goes down must come up … and so it also was. But just as we entered the town roadworks knackered us again. Forced to stop in town to load the bikes, we got stuck behind a big truck loaded with oranges. The road was just one long climb with turn upon turn, blind rises, and no yellow line. There was no way we could get out of the queue of cars that had become backed up behind the orange truck … and there was no way I was going to be able to ride this climb safely on a bike. Right then and there, we made the decision to retrace our steps to the N2, measure out the kilometre distance Suzann had done … 25km, transfer this distance to the N2 route, and pick up from there. It so happened that 25km along the N2 from the Humansdorp off-ramp was exactly at the Jeffrey’s Bay / Mondplaas off-ramp. We stopped there for an energy bar, and to offload my bike and I for the rest of the way in to Port Elizabeth.

With the miscalculation and consequent Hankey detour, the traffic on the N2 had ramped up considerably … especially since it was Friday afternoon and the beginning of the weekend. So we stood before yet another awkward decision … take the N2 or the ‘old road’ over Gamtoos River.

By that time I was a smashing candidate for a Valium, but Suzann was confident. She kept telling me, ‘you can do it … you’ve climbed worse hills before’ but I was not so sure I’d make it out Gamtoos hill, especially on the ‘old road’, yet I was too scared of the hectic N2 traffic. There was nothing for it but to get on the bike and start pedalling. As hard as I pedalled so hard I prayed. My nerves were frayed from the whole morning’s mishap, I didn’t even take in the lovely old single lane bridge over the Gamtoos River.

Steadily the climb started, and the wind had come up as well, blowing from the front. My legs were spinning but the average speed kept bleeding. Heart racing in my ears, breath rasping, sweat dripping from my nose, I just kept the image of Jesus running out in from of me beckoning me to keep coming, in my mind.

I was ever so grateful for our country’s traffic laws as well … You see, bicycles aren’t allowed on freeways, and the freeway into Port Elizabeth starts just were I crested the final hill … Now we could legitimately port into PE, all the way to our uncle’s place where we’d enjoy another rest day and pick up our new driver. Cousin Kevin will be the official Cross Africa driver for the next five months. Welcome to Team Cross Africa Kev …

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