Wednesday, July 21, 2010

To a funeral via the scenic route

I don't really have the money now for a new GPS so I bought myself the cheaper version instead. A 1: 325 000 map of Cape Town and Surrounding Attraction, 3rd edition. There is something to a map that you don't find with a GPS. It is like reading a newspaper from the Internet. That feeling and smell of the newspaper in your hands just disappears when you try do do it electronically. The same goes for finding your way through some unknown territory with the help of a GPS instead of a map. I remember once I was traveling through the Sahara with a convoy led by a guy that really knew his way around in a place which to me just looked like u huge beach with no sea. When we stopped to have a drink, I asked him where we were. Instead of giving me some coordinations from his GPS, he took out a map and opened it on the bonnet of his 4x4. Apart from the fact that it was probably the closest I ever came to feeling like Indiana Jones, it was much easier to orientate myself in case I had to continue walking from there. GPS coordinations would not have helped. Anyway, so I got the map and what better way to try it out than going to a funeral via the scenic route.

Yes, I went to a funeral of a cousin which I didn't really know. I believe that the rest of the family always appreciates the support more than the deceased, but at the funeral I was thinking that by being there I might've increased the chances of actually having someone at my funeral one day as well. If you ever get time to watch the movie "The Big Fish", then you will know why I would love to have plenty of people at my funeral but that's another topic for later. I am sure I can write many posts about funerals, but I will leave that for a day when I have not seen the heartache of people seeing off a deceased loved-one as recently as yesterday. So, I was on my way to a funeral with my bike and a map. The nice thing about living in a more developed country is that there is usually a well developed road network. The problem with living in a more developed country is that most of these roads are usually tarred. I am more interested in the gravel roads. My new map shows more detail  on gravel roads than my previous Road Atlas so thought I might as well take the scenic route to the funeral and back. Not that I don't have any sympathy with the deceased or the family, but I have learned that if you cannot turn an "uncomfortable" event into an "acceptable" one, then you might as well give up on life too.

Road towards Du Toits Kloof Pass
Disgruntled family members
My trip to Worcester started very early. My plan was to go straight on the N1 across the Du Toits Kloof Pass to Rawsonville, which is close to Worcester. According to my map this is where I could find some interesting undiscovered (for me at least) gravel roads. From my start I had to endure the same cold temperatures I had on Sunday, so going to 3.5 deg C was not a good start for me. When I approached the Du Toits Mountains I was thinking of chickening out and going through the Huguenot Tunnel, but as I was climbing the pass, strangely enough so was the temperature. In my head I was paging around through my old climatology text books that my dad so dearly paid for in an effort to give me an education trying to unravel this strange phenomenon. I eventually came to the chapter on anabatic and catabatic air flow and figured out why. The temp at the top climbed to 16 deg C, but as expected on the way down it went down with me. Just after the small tunnel at the bottom of this pass, I met a few other relatives of mine. Babboons. I stopped to take a family picture but they were not interested, typical of family that you have neglected over the years.

By the time I got to the Rawson turn-off, I was back to nearly a frozen state. The temperature was around 4 deg C. My first gravel road was up Holsloot to the Limiet Berg Nature Reserve. Here I was not only hoping to find a nice gravel road leading up to the reserve, but also checking for any future camping possibilities. To my disappointment the road was closed, with plenty of signs advising NOT to enter. My first gravel road for the morning was a dead-end. A little bit less motivated now due to the temperature effect on my state of mind, I headed for my second road I was planning to do before the funeral. This road, according to my new map, runs around the Bergvlei Dam where it meets up with the Villiersdorp to Worcester road. From there it would be an easy ride to get to Worcester and in time for the funeral.

Bergvliet dam
Bergvliet dam
I was impressed with the size of the Bergvliet Dam as I was heading towards this gravel road. I stopped to take a few pictures of the dam with the sun rising on the opposite side, hoping that the temperature would also rise soon. By now it was around 7 degrees and climbing. A sign next to the turn-off saying "Bergvlei Correctional Services" didn't bother me much, but when I came around a corner and saw huge gates with guards, it did. I stopped to ask what the hell was this in the middle of the road that I am about to take around the dam, and was informed that this was in fact the road leading to the prison, and unless I arrived there for work or in the back of a police van, then I have no business there. Another dead end for me, at least not as permanent as for so many on the opposite side of that fence, but still. By now the motivation was completely lost so I went straight to Worcester two hours early to find the church where the sermon was going to take place. For comfort and to get my blood flowing again I stopped for a breakfast and coffee at the Wimpy.

Theewaterskloof dam
One thing that really caught my attention at the funeral service was the way the deceased were described by the family. A man that was totally obsessed with nature and hunting. I was wondering what people would say about me at my funeral one day. A man that was totally obsessed with the pleasures he could get out life, or someone maybe who could never find the gravel road experience he was obsessed finding? While I sat there I once again realized that time is short and we have to make the most of life while we can. I was sure that my cousin would not have raised an eyebrow if he heard that I took a scenic road to his funeral, so I decided there and then that I will continue my scenic trip back to Cape Town.

More Theewaterskloof Dam
From Worcester I went to Villiersdorp but decided I will skip any more gravel roads and just head back to get back to work. The road is not much longer than the N1, but it has more curves than a California beach babe and with lots of picture opportunities. From Villiersdorp I took the Franschhoek Pass road towards Franschhoek. First I took some pictures of the Theewaterskloof Dam just to show that I was there, and also stopped at the famous lookout point on top of the pass. The Franschhoek Valley that lay in front of me is nothing new to me. I have seen that valley from various heights before. This is a very famous paragliding spot and I used to fly there quite often. But today I was on my bike and I was now in a hurry to get back to work (yeah, I know it sounds like bullshit but I was).

Back of Franschhoek Pass
Franschhoek pass

The couple of kilometres on the N1 back to my office gave me enough time to reflect on my day of  "dead ends". Despite the fact that I was going to a funeral, despite the fact that I reached some dead ends myself, the day turned out to be another exciting one. I have not given up on finding that ultimate gravel road yet, and like the cliched saying says about life, the journey towards the destination should never be ignored. Today was just another stop on my way to find that ultimate road....

Franschhoek Valley

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