First "real" day on the road. - The ninth step ... Somewhere in South Africa - CycleBlaze

November 27, 2020

First "real" day on the road.

Nieshoutkloof to Wolwefontein.

We weren't looking forward to today's ride given that it would be longer and tougher than we are fit enough for and that it would be on a busy road.  The great facilities we had at Nieshoutkloof also made it difficult to leave.  But leave we had to and so we were on the road at about seven o'clock this morning.  We were soon across the Sundays River and the countryside changed from intensive citrus production to arid livestock and game farms.

Once we were away from the Sundays River the veld became more arid.
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The R75 is the main route between Port Elizabeth and Graaff Reinet, the major town in the Eastern Cape Karoo so we knew it was going to be busy.  However, we were pleasantly surprised at how considerate the majority of the motorists were and the ride was stress free.

Turning onto the dreaded R75.
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For much of the twentieth century the state-owned South African Railways was an enormous operation with a legislated monopoly to move goods and people around the country.  It controlled not only rail services but also road transport and harbours.  As businesses globalised in the latter part of the century and as the economy liberalized, the railways mode of operation fell out of favour and we now have a situation where many of the lines are defunct.  The old line between Port Elizabeth and Graaf Reinett runs along todays route and there were a few shops at some of the old railway stations where we hoped to stop for rest and refreshments.  The first of these was Glenconner, but when we got there the shop was shut down, and appears to have been shut for many years.  The next stop would be Kleinpoort, another twenty five kilometers on.

The closed down shop at Glenconner.
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Our route gave us great views of the Klein Winterhoek mountains to the south with the Suurberg mountains to the north.  We would need almost crest the Suurberge before reaching our destination for the day so we had a lot of climbing in store for very unfit legs.

Leigh points out the Cockscomb. At 1768 meters above sea level, it is the highest peak in the Port Elizabeth area. My son and I climbed to its peak many years ago when he was just 10 years old.
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Another view of the Cockcomb from Kleinpoort.
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The last few kilometers to Kleinpoort were hard work but fortunately a fresh south easterly wind had picked up that helped us along the gentle but constant climb.  First task was to get some food and thankfully the store there was open and was also serving fast food.

High calorie lunch.
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The last six kilometers to Wolwefontein started with an effortless and exhilarating wind-assisted downhill and ended with a slog up a short sharp climb.

Wolwefontein is one of the casualties of the railway's demise and is one of many rural villages around the country dying a slow death.  It is home to one of the old railway hotels and this is where we planned to spend the night.  The hotel is a classic and it takes one back to the middle of the previous century.

The Wolwefontein Hotel.
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Our pleasant room.
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The wonderful verandah.
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Unfortunately, COVID-19 has not been kind to it and business has almost dried up.  We are the first guests over-nighting here for a month and the first people to set foot through the door in a week.  A lot of money will be needed to restore the hotel and I just don't see that happening.

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Today's ride: 65 km (40 miles)
Total: 139 km (86 miles)

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