Somerset East - The tenth step ... SISA Episode II - CycleBlaze

March 11, 2021

Somerset East

When planning our route today was the day about which I was most concerned.  More than seventy odd kilometers of rough road taking in eight hundred meters of climbing was always going to be a tough ask for two less-than-fit older folks following another tough day. 

We woke up this morning to the sound of howling wind and light rain - a cold front had come up from the Antarctic bringing a big drop in temperature and some rain for the drought stricken Eastern Cape.  We dithered  bit, waiting for a gap in the weather but eventually, knowing we had a long day ahead of us, just donned our rain jackets and headed out at about eight o'clock.

The wind and the newly laid tarmac helped us rush through the first twelve kilometers to the little Hamlet of Bracefield whcih is little more than a collection of farm buildings and a tiny school.  Here the road split first to Riebeek East and then Jansenville while carried on northwards to Somerset East

Heavy clouds over the Zuurberg and a cold wind but not much rain to relieve the drought.
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Bracefield's two impressive intersections seem over the top given the lack of vehicular traffic.
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Then we pushed on up a small ridge that took us out of the Kommadagga valley.  The vegetation had changed from fynbos on the Zuurberg to a Karoo interspersed with small trees and masses of Aloe striata.  After sixteen kilometers the tar came to an end and we had a pretty good gravel surface to take us over the ridge.

Lots of Aloe striata.
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Fin del pavimento.
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The weather remained cool but the wind dropped a lot and it was warm and dry enough to take off our rain jackets.
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Once over the ridge the vegetation changed to pretty standard Karoo.
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Aloe striata in flower.
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Just north of the Zuurberg, between Bracefield and Jansenville, lies the Darlington Dam, fed by the Sundays River.  The Sundays River doesn't supply much water so the Skoenmakers Canal was built which feeds water from the Great Fish which lies to the north-east.  Any farms near the canal have an enormous advantage.

Angora goats grazing in an irrigated lucerne (alfalfa) field.
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Fisrt lunch stop on the Skoenmakers Canal.
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Soon after crossing the canal we encountered a gang of road workers grading and compacting the surface.  This was the end of the good surface and from here to the outskirts of Somerset East we struggled along a badly corrugated road.  It also signaled the start of the long climb over a pass from the top of which we had lovely views southwards towards the Zuurberg and northwards to the Bosberg.

Looking south from the top of the pass.
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Looking north.
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The town of Somerset East lies at the foot of the Bosberg.  It is home to Gill College, one of the Eastern Cape's leading schools, established in 1869.  It is my sister's Alma Mater.

Gill College.
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We had booked a cottage just below the Walter Battis Art Museum for the next two nights and had suggested to the host that we would be here by mid-afternoon but we only arrived at half past four feeling pretty knackered.  Thank goodness there is a restuarant near by that does take-aways so we don't have to worry about cooking supper.

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Today's ride: 76 km (47 miles)
Total: 167 km (104 miles)

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