I remember leaving my house, riding through Europe and trying to imagine what it would be like to arrive in South Africa, in Cape Town. Could I even do it? It just didn’t seem realistic, soon I’d be riding past the pyramids, through deserts and between giraffe and zebra and wild people. However, the thought would fade quickly and leave my mind, I actually didn’t think I could do it.
In Namaqualand, Northern South Africa on a desolate dry-mud road, 300km from the Cape, the same thoughts run through my mind as I used it as a brake. I’d fallen again, but this time at maximum speed, the front wheel slipping into a deep, narrow and dry wheel rut, twisting the bike sideways violently, flipping me off. Whilst I rolled, and bounced along my mind posed some other queries for me to ponder during my unbridled tumble.
Will I make it up again?
How much is this going to cost?
Is that the bike on my foot?
Am I ever going to come to a stop?
Eventually I did come to a stop and I take a moment to work out which way is up. I examined the damage; a small graze on my shin and a sore foot was all; I was miraculously fine and on top of this (and not me thankfully) so was the ever-trusty Rudolf (the bike!), apart from a few very bent and scratched items!
I rode off a bit wobbly and nervous, the bike felt like it was on two blobs of jelly and not the fancy, expensive Bridgestone tires I was forced to buy in Namibia. I consider how many lives I have used up until this point in the journey, even the last few days, since leaving Andre and Bieke in Namibia?
Leaving their friendly farm I rode south again, via fish river canyon, the riding was fantastic here and I didn’t feel I was missing out too much on the epic five day hike I’d heard of! I see the Orange River ahead, winding through a vast range of mountains, on the other side is South Africa…I hope it’s not too busy and I can find a camp spot?
I camp in Namibia one last time, a fantastic spot near to the Fish river/Orange river confluence. The border crossing is a doddle, and I’m the only one there. I ride through Richtesveld and try my best to stick to gravel roads and away from the N7 tarmac.
I stop to get veggies and see a splurge of oil covering one side of the engine casing….”You have got to be kidding!” I give it a magic clean with my shirt and all seems fine as ride on. But just to be safe I buy a small bottle of oil, I’ll just top it up if it continues to leak, I can’t be bothered to fix it.
As I count down the miles to Cape Town and sing as usual I have a chance to reflect on the trip until now – keeping one eye out for sneaky wheel-ruts. I’m almost there! Can you believe it?! I smile to myself, pleased as punch, I really can’t believe it.
I reach Cederberg Wilderness Park, a place of spectacular warm red, wind carved mountains and I am told by my better self to go look for possible hiking opportunities and am told, not by my better self but a nice young lass about ‘Wolfberg Cracks’.
The day of the hike starts badly, when walking the makeshift bridge back over a flooded river; I fall a bit off balance, then a bit more, go to grab the hand-rope, and swing quite beautifully into the chilly waters whilst a family watch on trying not to laugh, before they too fall in. A quick change of clothes and I’m off again. I find it’s one the greatest hikes, sneaking under boulders, huge vertical walls, precipitous ledges and massive sandstone arches. Of course I get no photos as the camera is wet and not working!
I meet Etienne at the bottom of the hike, a wee chap from Cape town on a short trip on a Honda 125. He joins me on the ride for what is left of the day, eventually camping at a windy, chill spot in the Cederberg massif, before continuing on the next day. For some reason though I can’t tempt him with my rice and potatoes?!
Etienne knows – albeit vaguely – of my website, which throws me a bit and I find myself trying to live up to the stigma of ‘the guy on the website’, I can’t do it and I am disappointed with myself. And at just sixteen years old, I wonder if Etienne is more mythical than I am?!
Thanks Etienne for the nice company!
I leave Etienne in the town and ride on to Cape Town, riding several spectacular mountain passes, time is tight though as I’d already planned to meet another guy in Cape Town. With darkness approaching, my headlight pointing somewhere towards planet Jupiter – after the accident – I race down through Bain’s Kloof Pass and into Cape Town. Consumed with thoughts of impending darkness it is sometime before I realise that, in front of me, raising out of fiery glow of the sunset is Table Mountain! Shivers run down my spine and I thrust my fist into the air ‘I did it!!’. The N1 traffic must have thought me a bit loony.
I didn’t fancy my chances of survival in the big scary city in the dark what with all the stories I’d heard. Luckily Ben was on hand to save me from the perils and provide a roof and a scrummy steak. I’d met him some days earlier, also in the Cederberg. He was waiting for me outside an internet cafe, bought me a whopping tray of lamb stew and invited me to his place in Cape Town. Once settled on his couch, the poor chap couldn’t get rid of me, just as I can’t rid my clothes of their stench! (Not that I try very hard).
We hiked up “Devil’s Peak”, overlooking Table Mountain and the city whirring away below and sleep atop a grassy ledge near the summit. Waking in the morning I knew I’d made it, to the end of the first leg at least….but where now?
A few options in mind, first was to contact the shipping agencies, prices ranged from outlandish to actually unbelievably cheap. So unbelievable they were actually false.
As the days pass and I live in a world where everything is available, tempting you at every step, coffee shops, huge supermarkets, restaurants, bakeries…I find my happiness fade a bit (and my money) as I am tempted beyond my resilience (weakling). though still a happy chap I am terrified by the – still far off – prospect of the end of the trip, especially as I can now already feel the emotion here in Cape Town that as soon as I stop so too will my happiness. Can I be happy ever after?!
As predicaments go though it was a nice one to be in, where should I go? South America, North America, India, Malaysia?? I want to see them all, but there always seemed to be at least one hurdle in the way of each; expensive shipping, no valid carnet for a country, visa issues, budget (of course) or just a big country that won’t allow me in with the bike (China). I want to see them all!
The one consistent problem though, was budget. So I decide I need to gain some money to make the trip last as long as I can!
I don’t recall how but I stumble upon teaching English as a foreign language in Korea. And for the next few weeks I spend my mornings frantically writing emails, sending resumes, applying for jobs and in the afternoon hiking in the mountains surrounding Cape Town.
I somehow secure a job and now I must send five hundred copies of copies stamped by authorities, with verified certificates from authorities verifying the stamps!
Thanks to Soojung Hong at YNG Recruit for helping me find a job!
Hopefully I can make the myth continue a little longer and see all the countries I dream of, just me and Rudolf!
PS – Apologies go to Johann whom I’d hope to meet on the Garden Route, things haven’t quite worked out, sorry Johann but a really big thanks for the original invite – maybe come out to Korea?