Day 1

An icy morning greeted us as we emerged from the tent in the Agulhas campsite. Looking across the grassy sites, we could just see the large revolving lens atop the lighthouse. The sweeping beam that flashed out across the ocean since 6pm last night, was off.

Tigged out in our long tights and arm warmers, we waited for the kettle to boil. But before coffee could be served, the farewell party had arrived, all the way from Plett. Now that’s who you’d call friends, or better still, family. These folks had left at some awful hour to make it all the way to Agulhas by 9am.

By the time we’d packed up, we were already starting to peel off the layers. There was some heat in the rising sun.

In the fresh morning light, we stood for a photo at the foot of the iconic lighthouse, wondering how many other epic trips had started from this very spot … and now it was the start of Cross Africa too. Officially the start should’ve been at the southern tip, but we’d done a quick ride there last night to check if the bikes were in good nick after the journey from Plett.

And so it was … there we went … after many hugs and prayer … Cross Africa had started.

The breeze was blowing freshly from the ocean as we skirted the coastline of Agulhas and the little ‘dorpie’ of Struisbaai. Passing the big white wall along the road, we soon knew that we were on the way to Bredasdorp. You’d think that a flat road would be ideal, but the constant pedalling just about undid us in the first leg. Finally we reached the first of many uphills … into Bredasdorp.

Now it was time for a stop, a coke, and to get rid of the arm warmers and lather on the sunscreen. Cycling conditions were ideal … no wind, sunny but not too hot … perfect.

Soon however, we’d be gritting on our teeth as we took on the one hill after the next.

Lunch would be an energy bar and a chip roll with lots of Game. But that didn’t last me long before I had to take another breather. Staring at yet another hill, I had ‘hit the wall’. But after some energy chews and much verbal encouragement from the back-up vehicle, we were off again.

Now we both got our ‘second wind’ and only made one more stop to fill the bottles on our bikes before we finally hit the N2.

Smooth tar and low rolling resistance took us up the last hectic hill before we could coast down toward Swellendam and the Bontebok National Park, smallest National Park in South Africa, and our stop for the night.

Avoiding some cows crossing the road we cycled up to the gate. With no-one there, we were forced to hop back on the bikes only to make a grand entrance at the reception offices. Suzann’s cycle shorts did her in by getting hooked over the saddle somehow and there she went. Since it was just after 4pm, many staff members were on their way home, but seeing this they all came running. Concern was about her ankle that had twisted under the bike, and soon they had her sitting on an office chair in the middle of the gravel parking area outside reception with a dishcloth of ice on her ankle, while I booked us in.

Well that put paid to cycling down to the campsite, so we loaded the bikes and squeezed into the vehicle for the little way down to Lang Elsies Kraal.

There we busied ourselves in setting up the camp amongst the myriad aloes before heading off for a well deserved hot shower.

Thank goodness we didn’t have to make supper since our farewell committee was staying over with us at Bontebok, and they soon had the fire going.

The perfect end to the first day of this epic trip … friends, family, fire and food …

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