Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 4


We overslept a little this morning and I only wake up at 6am. I suddenly realize never phoned home last night

*Phone rings*

TR: "Morning hun!"

Mrs: "Hello. And in what exotic place did you and Asterix wake up this morning?"

TR: "Well, actually, we woke up on the floor of a bar..."

Mrs: "What??"

TR: Uhm...

Today we tackle the Drakenberg. The Drakensberg ("the Dragon Mountains") is the highest mountain range in Southern Africa, rising to 3,482 metres in height. In Zulu, it is referred to as uKhahlamba ("barrier of spears"), and in Sesotho as Maluti (also spelled Maloti).

Soon we encounter our first pass of the day - Barkly Pass. It takes you over the Southern Drakensberg and starts 10km from Elliot.

The scenery here is nothing short of spectacular! Natural rock sculptures such as Camel Rock, Vulture’s Roost and the Castle, can be observed from quite a few vantage points to the west of the summit.

Once a tricky gravel road, Barkly Pass is now tarred but it did not matter to me. This was one of the most scenic passes we've ridden to date. I love mountains and it does not come much better than this!

We continue towards Barkley East and ride past the Bastervoetpad. I'm bummed we missed this but we really were way behind schedule. I'll be sure to include this road in my trip to Lesotho later.

Barkley East, like Barkley West, is named after Sir Henry Barkly, governor of Cape Colony, 1870-1877. Of course you cant have two towns with the same name, hence the "East" and "West". Barkley West is close to Kimberly and my wife and I stayed there on our Love & War trip.

From Barkley East we hit the gravel towards Lundean's Nek.

A quick rest stop. This day is heating up already.

As we head into the mountains the scenery becomes more and more spectacular. There is no way to capture what you see on film.

The bridge in the distance crosses the Kraai river.

And here it is:

This is a beautiful spot! We spent some time here soaking it all in

We have been on the road now for 4 days and everything is "gelling" extremely well. We have found a rhythm as a group and we get along very well joking around and having a very good time indeed. It could easily have been different. We did not know each other well before the trip started and our sons did not know each other at all. Smidty Jnr is a young man in his last years of high school and he comes from the City. Asterix is in his last years of Primary school and is a country boy. And yet everything just works. We're on this trip together. Through the heat and through the bad patches of road. Through the good and bad. Together. This is how friendships are born. It's also where you see character. I was mightily impressed with both these young men. They carried themselves well and handled whatever got thrown their way.

And the scenery keeps getting better as we head towards Lundeans Nek Pass.

Looking back from the photo above:

You would ride looking around amazed, just to come around the next corner and seeing something even more spectacular.

Look at this!

The scale of this is HUGE. The rocks in that gorge are bigger than houses! Look at the trees on the far side for some indication of the true scale.

You are dwarfed as you ride through a landscape seemingly made for giants. Strong words these and an unfair comparison, but in my opinion the Cederberg doesn't come close to this.

And finally:

This is what the trip was all about. It's all downhill from here

Lundean's Nek connects this part of the Eastern Cape to the Lesotho border at Telebridge. The summit of the pass provides fantastic panoramic views of the Maloti Mountains. You literally feel on top of the world.

An in-ride perspective of the ride down:

We descend into the valleys of the Drakenberg towards the Tele River.

Pack animals are a regular sight around here. I am unsure whether this was a Basotho Pony.

Some more in-ride footage:

As the road progresses towards Telebridge the river to your right forms a natural border with Lesotho. By the time we reach Upper-Tele this welcome sign promises some cold refreshment in the midday heat so of course we stop!

We inquire about some cooldrinks but our questions are answered in a language we do not understand. No-one here understands any English let alone Afrikaans.

Communicating through hands signs and motions we oder something cold to drink. Success! We are presented with 2 ice cold Black Label Quarts.

Well, when in Rome...

As we continue you see houses and huts all over. Look at this:

Seems idyllic, but it is clear that it is not a rich population living here. We find it amusing that this community lives both sides of the river. So half the town lives in South Africa and half lives in Lesotho.

That river there is an international border:

Some footage of the population and huts:

Interesting church along the way:

Some more scenery along the Tele River:

Riding the Tele river road out:

And finally Telebridge. This marks our turning point. From here we head West and eventually home. Lesotho is tantalizingly close, but Lesotho will have to wait for another day.

We hit tar towards Lady Grey and the twins roar with pleasure as they indulge in the opportunity to clear their throats.

I was leading and we rode into a tightish corner at about 130km/h. We had a tight but perfect line, enjoying the wind in our faces. I see a young kid next to the road who seems to want to wave as so many others have done. Then I realize he has a piece of metal pipe in his hand and he's lining us up for the throw. Our line runs right past him and there is no way he can miss... He swings and all I can think at that stage is "Oh no...".

But he doesn't throw it He only motions and I take a few seconds to recollect what just happened (or didn't). I get a shiver down my spine as I think about it now.

I take it a bit slower from here. I am unsure how to feel about this incident. I don't want a single incident to spoil what has been the greatest day so far, but the possible consequences had he thrown is to ghastly to contemplate. I count my blessings and try to put it out of my mind.

The next Pass:

The view from the top. How can anything compare to what we have seen earlier today? Luckily this pass comes with a few drops of rain to cool things down.

As we ride to Lady Gray the fatigue sets in. We had a late night last night. We have no bookings or plans as far as accommodation is concerned and the Lady Grey caravan park leaves much to be desired. We consider getting supplies and riding up Joubert's pass to stealth camp somewhere. But not before we had lunch at the Hotel.

In front of the Hotel I notice this: Is that a Bushlander I see?

The owner comes over to chat with us. They're on their way to the Western Cape where they're going on a ride. His wife rides the Bushlander and he rides the XT.

We talk about the Bushlander and I mention that I once rode one from George to Hogsback. "Hey - you're that guy with the website!" Small world.

While in the hotel the the wind picks up something terrible and the storm clouds gather... Camping, especially stealth camping, might not be a viable option anymore. And so we end up here:

Bwaaahahahaha! We certainly had a variety of sleeping arrangements on this trip

We unpack and have a look around in the town. Lady Grey is a small town with a lot of interesting history. The town was founded in 1856. The first Church, completed in 1860, was built on a hillock in the middle of Lady Grey.

It is interesting to note that all houses were built to face the Church. A Scottish Minister, the Reverend David Ross, settled in Lady Grey in 1863. He became quite anglicized and eventually preached in Afrikaans during the morning service and English in the evenings. At the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War he was quite outspoken regarding his disagreement to the motives of the British Empire and was eventually incarcerated for this. On his release he never preached in English again. He died in 1915.

The storm holds off and we have a nice braai for dinner. We laugh and joke all the while knowing that this trip is nearing it's end. It took us 4 days to get here and we only have two days to get back. Tomorrow will have to be a big day and so we turn in early.


No comments: