Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gravel Road Trip, Part 1 - (Tableview to Genadendal)

Bridge over the Sonderend River
When I left home at 7 am the only thing I was concerned about is the "weak cold front" that was lying behind me. With a 30% chance of rain I guess one does not have to worry, but when you are on a bike getting "30% wet" can turn into "100% wet" very quickly. My plan was 3 days of riding on as many gravel roads as I could possibly find, and the first one was waiting for me juts after the Theewaterskloof Dam. By the time I got to the bridge crossing the Sonderend ("Without end") River, I already had my frozen bits and my coffee to recover. Yet again it was bloody cold, and I am sure now that the thermometer on my bike cannot go lower than 2 degrees Celcius. There it stops and flashes, that's all. Like the battery sign flashes on my camera when it is about to die (pun intended). I guess no-one in his right mind sits on a bike when the temperature gets colder than that, or so they thought at BMW. Unfortunately to get as many daylight hours I left early and had to deal with this my way. Getting cold is one thing, but hitting mist and getting wet as well is a completely different story, especially if you are on a gravel road that becomes slippery, you cannot see through your visor and you have no feeling in your hands left. It sounds bad enough to turn around and go home, but I needed a story and was determined to continue.

The road sign I was looking for
Gravel road between R321 and R43
Across the bridge I turned left on my first gravel road. This would take me to the Villiersdorp road going to Caledon, and from there to my second gravel road towards Genadendal. At this point my hands were completely frozen, my nose running and my visor completely fogged up. Fortunately I left the fog soon and from there on it was just cold. At least I could see in front of me again, which is rather crucial when you are on a gravel road. I was thinking back to the first time I hit gravel with my bike and realized that my confidence level was so much higher right now. Once or twice I was swinging the bike around with my body weight just to get that loose feeling on the gravel.  The road was not very wet, despite the early morning mist. So when the sun came out and I could see again I was rather surprized at the good condition of the road. But, I was there to ride gravel roads and didn't say anything about the conditions they have to be in. Here I could enjoy the scenery without having to worry too much about the road. There are some beautiful farms along this road, and towards Genadendal I realized once again what a beautiful country this is. The road runs along the Riviersonderend ("River without an end") River which passes a town on the N2 with the same name. Riviersonderend.

Gravel road towards Genadendal
Riviersonderend River
Even this road was in a very good condition, although at times there were very slippery sections. This comes from water flowing down the mountains and seeping through from the bottom. Once you hit one of these spots you can feel how snotty it becomes. There was a bit more loose gravel than the first road and at some point some construction workers were working on the road making it flat again. One can see where the vehicles have left tracks when it was wet, and these deeper "trences" in the road were quite tricky to avoid. Once your front wheel enters one of these tracks then your bike tends to follow it while your body and mind goes straight forward. This could have disasterous consequences.

Just before I reached Genadendal the road was again tarred. This didn't bother me much as I already had quite a fun ride so far. I turned off into Genadendal to go see the first Moravian church that was built there in 1738. It reminded me a lot of Mamre, also a Moravian Mission Settlement and national monument. I took some pictures of the historical buildings and were approached by an old man who said to me "You have taken pictures of all these beautiful buildings, but do you know what it was that you have taken pictures of?" I could see that the old man was about to tell me the history of this beautiful settlement starting back in 1738 and taking it through to 2010. I realized that if I don't cut his story short I will never be in Bredasdorp before the sun sets. I excused myself saying that I still have long road ahead of me and promised him that I will be back with my whole family to visit his beautiful little town again. (I promised the same to the people in Mamre a couple of months ago). He also asked me if I was journalist and I was rather disappointed that the camera made a bigger impression on him than the bike that I arrived with, especially after I've been working harder on the biker image than the photographer image. From here it was about 5 kilometres to Greytown. I drove through the town and although just as beautiful as Genadendal I never stopped to take any pictures. I wanted to be on the road again and who knows, I might visit these two towns again as I promised.

Moravian Church (1738)
No idea what this is. Should've listened to that old man

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