The sun is the master here. It seems far more powerful than anywhere I’ve experienced. The darkness quickly fades at 5AM and the star of frenzied flame explodes into the sky at about 5:30.
Shortly after rising, the sun quickly moves into a relentless combat position where it maintains the upper hand over everything under its gaze. There is little time lapse between the moment when its rays have erased the chill of the desert night and the instant which demands layers of clothing to be shed.
As we left late from Montague, we quickly realized dallying at camp was not something to be repeated. We were departing the mountains and being funneled between ranges into the furnace of the Klein Karoo, an arid inland landscape of scrubbish desert crisscrossed with jagged rocky slopes. After stumbling through its blinding heat, the Karoo proved itself a surreal and beautiful place where nothing becomes something, where fertile oases vibrantly burst in to being from the kiss of ‘fontains’, or springs, that cascade from mountainsides like spigots from the steep ridge walls. While the almighty Ra is the master of this realm, the fontains are its artisans. Meandering streams erupt with dazzling bouquets of strange and wonderful desert plants and floral sculptures that give the impression of floating through a coral reef within a sea of crystal blue skies.
Each day moving in this landscape, we began pedaling earlier in hopes of defying the sun, only to be defeated by lack of shade. However, we were equally rewarded with the beauty of each oasis and the friendly people who congregate around its waters and kindly offered respite and shade.
Ibis gathering adjacent to a large dam (lake) in Montague.
A nice shady picnic spot.
Gerrit and Anneli, fellow touring cyclists, very generously shared their home, dinner, wine and great conversation.
Some freshly picked apricots for the ride.
A beer truck lost it’s load on the roadway from Barrydale. A travesty indeed.
Descending into the Klein Karoo.
Not sure who was moving slower at this point.
About 2PM, the sun was too much and we took shelter at a farm where we accessed a dam and an amazing campsite from a winding farm road.
The Vargo titanium wood stove is working well as a windscreen and pot stand for the Trangia. The tinted blue alcohol that is sold here strangely puts out some very visible flame.
The typical cheap and easy one-pot meal could very well be pasta, curried veggies and cashews. The Central American equivellant was pasta, pouch sauce, veg and eggs.
The ECR looking stoic at the campsite.
Our fine campsite at sunset.
A dung beetle at work.
The area seems to be carpeted with these floral balls.
Not a cloud in sight and no need for the rain fly.
Waking after a night of serenading from the barking frogs of the Karoo.
Here it comes, get ready.
A small band of Gemsbokke (I think).
Coming in to Van Wyksdorp, a quirky little art town only accessible from dirt roads, Gin is greeted by a small band of boys curious about her tattoo.
Post-ride beer: the Caslt Milk Stout. Pretty much the only non watery beer option… not bad, especially at $.80 a pop.
Riding out at 6AM with escorts Nicholas and Nichole from Van Wyksdorp.
Gin and Nicholas talking shop.
A nice descent into a stream crossing, soon to be a hefty climb over the Rooiberg Pass.
Up and down.
Entering the Cape Floral region with amazing plant species diversity.
A slow climb towards the steep final 6KMs of the Rooiberg
Out of the saddle on some steeps.
More of the Cape Floral bouquet.
The ECR at the rock pile atop the Rooiberg Pass. Passers by on this old wagon route carried a rock from the bottom and placed it in this pile once getting to the top. Review/impressions of the ECR next week.
Gin just plopped her Troll down at the top after a nice 3,650 feet of climbing.
A view from the top.
Plenty of eyes on us as we made the descent.
These guys seemed to be everywhere.
Calitzdorp once boomed from ostrich farming and there are still farms scattered across the area with plenty of these strange mouth-breathing creatures..
Gin playing fetch with Bertus’ and Christines dog, Kaiser.
Bertus’ pot-belly pig, Snorky.
Grapevine for the bey; our kind hosts, Bertus ands Christine, offered us a bed for the night and a Braai of boerewors and chicken, not to mention a breakfast of traditional porridge, pap. Thank you much!
Their plump chihuahua reminds us of our own Paco, who we just learned had a heart valve rupture and may not be with us much longer. :(
For more information on this route, including GPS and logistics, click here. Also, check out our growing list of bikepacking and dirt road touring routes.