Day 20, 21 & 22

With Anita waving madly in our rear-view mirror, we left a chilly Port Alfred. But not before having another marvelous opportunity to hand out a Bible to a very appreciative cleaning lady at Medolino. Anita said she was nearly in tears when she came to the office with her brand new Bible. It’s this kind of thing that makes all the long hours in the saddle worth it …

We were on a high leaving Medolino but it was not to last. As we left Port Alfred we hit the infamous roadworks. According to the locals, the roadworks have been going on for three years now already. We were fortunate to be able to cycle some way on the new road (without painted lines though), but about 9km into the day’s ride we hit our first ‘stop-go’. Pulling off the road, we stopped to load the bikes so that we could drive through the ‘stop-go’. Stopping on the other side again, we got back on the bikes only to progress a little way before having to stop and load again. Literally, only a few meters down the road, we could get on the bikes again … so it was stop and drop, yet again. And then, all of a sudden, the roadworks ended and with them, the wide road. Now we were back on the narrow, bumpy coastal road with no yellow lines. Yet, this time, the traffic was far less and we could actually settle in to enjoy the ride. It is a beautiful part of our country … green, lush and fertile, with myriad rivers spilling their turquoise water into the ocean amid white sand dunes … tropical.

I was just getting into it, and then … roadworks again. A ‘stop-go’ forced us back into the vehicle, and from there the road narrowed down so much, with twists and turns to boot, we couldn’t dare to cycle through these lot of workings. 16km later and an ‘end, thank you’ signboard signalled another stop and drop. The local kids from the village drawn out along the road came running to wave us off as we set off again.

Having passed the turn-off to our scheduled stop, Hamburg, somewhere amid all the roadworks, we decided to push on to Kidds Beach instead. But now we had a nasty headwind that made the long sweeping downhills feel like uphills. Stopping along the road at a bus stop, we filled our water bottles and got a bite to eat before taking on the last 20km to Kidds Beach … right into the teeth of the wind. Little did we know that we were in for a world of pain … it was just up and up and up … About 1km before Kidds Beach turn-off (I didn’t know it was 1km), I stopped at the bottom of the hill, chest heaving … “I just can’t climb anymore”. This was becoming much like the Calitzdorp Spa, Oudtshoorn day in week one. East London was less than 30km away and we hadn’t reached the Kidds Beach turn-off yet. Loading the bikes we decided to head on to East London and the Areena Riverside Resort. We’d come back to complete the last 30km the next day … and then we passed the Kidds Beach signboard, 1km down the road no less! But we had made up our minds, so we pushed through to Areena. Tired and frustrated, we set up camp, got something to eat and just collapsed into bed. But not after being tested …

Arriving after a very trying day, our patience and love for fellow man was indeed tested to the max. We were parked on the side of a site and were standing on the riverfront checking things out when all of a sudden an old couple in a motorhome came and parked on the concrete slab at the back of the site, and simply went to ‘plug in’. Gob-smacked by the old codger and his wife’s audacity, we sidled off the site not quite knowing what to say (…so we said nothing), and went to search for another place to shack up. The olds had zikked our site right out under our noses … flabbergasted, all we could do was laugh … and then the old birds didn’t even end up staying! Just as we were setting up across the way, they proceeded to pack up and drive off … never to return …  

A new day, a fresh perspective, and only 30km to cycle … bliss for day 21. That was until we encountered the East London traffic … Only getting to our ‘leave-off’ point at Kidds Beach turn-off after 11am, we were quite frazzled by the time we got on the bikes. It’s always a bit frustrating to cycle a route you’ve driven … twice. But we were big and strong, and the wind was but a breeze so we had to take advantage of that. The traffic was a steady stream and I’m not going to lie, I was very glad to load the bikes on the outskirts of East London … we were NOT going to take on the Friday midday traffic through the very heart of East London. Driving in the bakkie was bad enough, with everyone hooting for no apparent reason, parking two deep to the curb, cutting in front of you … and indicators … what are these things you speak about? Passing Steve Biko’s statue at the city hall, the chaos began to dissipate and progress got somewhat faster.

Once on the freeway we headed across town to Beacon Bay where Kevin had to collect a card at FNB. An hour and a half later, having eaten all the Mentos in the cubby-hole (mints for lunch … not ideal), we were battling to exit the parking area in the Friday afternoon traffic. GPS to the rescue, we ran the freeway to earth again and headed for Areena. All I can say is thank goodness the law doesn’t allow us to cycle on the freeway because I don’t want to be on a bicycle in the East London traffic … wow, folks over here can be reckless!

Back at Areena and time for a break … a day off cycling … but then again, we need to do the washing and, of course, the diary must be updated …

We were just settling down to a cup of coffee after a supper of chilli con carne in pitas, when the sky lit up. Uhhh-ohhh … lightening … and that spells only one thing … a thunderstorm approaching. And it was also not a hundred years before the rumbling began and the wind started to pick up. In fact, we just made it to batten down the hatches, so to speak, and get everything under cover before it began to rain. Lying in bed listening to the rain drumming on the tent, I realized that our tent’s little veranda roof was filling with water. Jumping up to rig the poles to create a run-off for the rain, I noticed a rather disturbing sight … little trickles of water had started to appear all along the seams of the tent and were now proceeding to flow down the sides in little rivulets. All that we could do was move everything away from the sides of the tent and go at the trickles with a towel, mopping like crazed cleaning ladies on a handy-andy high … and this all in the middle of the night with the storm raging above our heads, banging and crashing and generally giving us a near stroke each time the thunder crashed. But thankfully the storm passed over relatively quickly and the drips stopped so we could finally get some sleep. It was just the group of conference delegates in the chalets above us we still had to contemplate … partying and generally making one massive racket into the wee hours. Thank goodness we could sleep in the next morning …

Day 22 dawned … wet and overcast. The weather forecast cloud cover but no rain, yet the bruised sky threatened. Over a morning cup of coffee the breeze began to blow, taking the angry clouds with it and soon the sky began to lighten revealing patches of blue. At least we could get the wet washing hung out … all along the guy ropes of the tents … anyone want to buy some underwear?

And the delegates are out again, with raucous laughter emanating from the restaurant over the way. Every so often the cawing of the hadidas drown them out though … enough at least to hear the cry of the fish eagle echoing out across the river.

Standing on the muddy bank you can see all manner of indigenous vegetation on the far bank … I swear I can even see a cycad. The wind is just enough to ripple the greenish water and create a lap-lapping against the wooden jetties below the myriad kayaks and canoes tied up on the bank. Must be paradise in summer … but pretty good right now. Kids are riding their bikes up and down the road and there’s some kind of treasure hunt on the go as well … and one of the delegates actually came up to us to find out about our cause as well. Our signage seems to be attracting attention … The local bunnies and peacocks also seem to like us as they’re all around our campsite, nibbling at the grass (the bunnies, that is). Nearly time for us to have a bit of a nibble as well …  

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