Heading northwards at last - The ninth step ... Somewhere in South Africa - CycleBlaze

December 2, 2020

Heading northwards at last

Willowmore to Rietbron

With the forecast suggesting that the weather would be on our side this morning we decided to once again enjoy the substantial breakfast on offer at the guesthouse before leaving.  We were on our way at about a quarter to eight with a gift from the guesthouse of home baked bread safely tucked into my left front pannier.

At first there was a nice downhill glide but soon we were climbing to over 900 meters to cross the mountains that separate Willowmore from the central Karoo.

The climb out of Willowmore on the N9.
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About fourteen kilometers out of Willowmore we came upon a rather unexciting natural monument - a Gwarrie tree and a Witgat tree where the Gwarrie's stem had grown through the Witgat's stem.  The signage suggested the trees could be hundreds of years old.

The "Wonder Tree".
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The "Wonder Tree".
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We soon reached the top of the pass and enjoyed a magnificent downhill taking us all the way to the turnoff to Rietbron and the start of what will be mostly dirt roads until we get to Upington (assuming we stick to our provisional route).  Here we started a twenty one kilometer slow poison climb.  Fortunately the temperature never rose out of the early twenties and, more importantly, the light breeze was from the south-east and this made for a really enjoyable ride.

The gentle slog at the start of the gravel road to Rietbron.
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We have had views of lots of wildlife on the road so far but today was the first chance to reach out and touch something - a medium sized Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis).  Interestingly this one didn't seem troubled by our close proximity and didn't even retract its head when Leigh scratched its back (I have no idea why we feel inclined to scratch the back of their shells).

Leopard tortoise.
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Leigh helps give a sense of its size.
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Still four more kilometers to the top.
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Not quite there yet.
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Once we crested the rise about twenty four kilometers from Rietbron it was a mostly effortless ride until we reached the little village.

Originating from Turkey, the Angora goat produces the lustrous mohair. Back in 1838, the Sultan of Turkey, Mahmud II, kind of messed up.He sent 12 neutered rams and one female to Port Elizabeth with Colonel John Henderson. The reason the rams were rendered infertile before they left was because the Sultan wanted to protect his country’s powerful mohair empire.However, what he didn’t realise at the time was that the ewe on board was pregnant and, no lies, gave birth to a ram en route to South Africa.Although several further importations of Turkish stock were made up to 1896, the above-mentioned ewe and her kid formed the foundation of the Angora goat and mohair industry in South Africa. (from www.2oceansvibe.com)
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The road wasn't bad but neither was it good.
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We encountered a total of eight vehicles over the last 45 kilometers.  Yes, I did note all of them - four bakkies (South African for a pick-up), two sedan cars (going very slowly), a large truck with a load of Angora goats and a tractor.

We are spending the next two nights in a lovely old cottage we picked up on AirBnb (Lavender Cottage owned by Lynette, if anyone is thinking of passing through Rietbron anytime soon).  We arrived to find the fridge stocked full of beer, wine and colddrinks and were told to help ourselves and the bill could get sorted out later.  To top it, the local lady who looks after the cottage presented us with another loaf of freshly baked bread.  I think we are going to enjoy our stay.

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Today's ride: 66 km (41 miles)
Total: 355 km (220 miles)

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