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Cape Town to Durban on a bike

Over Easter 2013 I cycled from Cape Town to Durban via Golden Gate, principally to do something different, plus having 2 weddings to attend in KZN (which were 3 weeks apart) – I figured it was a prime opportunity – Click here to read more about that trip.

The bug had bitten, and I needed to go back, or go on.  But this time some company would be nice, and Kyle as keen as mustard.  Being of similar fitness was important, and so while we lived in different cities (him in Jozi, my in Cape Town) we used training apps to keep in check of each other. I would do something, and he would have to equal or better it.

I had planned all year for a training ride to Montagu and back the weekend before the main ride.  As a climber it seemed an elegant thing to do, more so that in the last ride it took me two days to get to Montagu.  However imagination and reality aren’t always the same, and while descending Du Toits Kloof Pass I collected a rapid puncture.  Riding too fast to control the stop (probably going about 60km/h, I connected a low stone wall!
I was fine-less a sprained wrist, but the bike not so happy.  Fixing the bike’s damage was not possible before my departure to Jo’burg.  So I had 2 choices: quit or by a new bike.  And so I bought “Poverty”.  I knew both the ride and January would now be financially testing, but there was no way I was quitting after months of training, planning and getting psyched.

Kyle was not without his own problems either: a tweaky knee materialized 2 weeks before we started, but he wasn’t quitting before he started either, and so the game of suffering was on!

Cape Town to Durban bike ride

Warren at the Mandela capture site in the Midlands.

 

The plan was a 4 day Jo’burg to Durban via Newcastle, which is 640kms, and at 7am we left the Nelson Mandela Bridge for a 180km day to Standerton. With Kyle’s knee, and my wrist the busy and bumpy R23 road was a test, but we pressed on.

By the end of day 2 it was clear that Kyle’s knee wanted more love than he was giving it, the prospect of more long days was not helping, and so between Newcastle and Ladysmith we split, with him returning home by bus while I continued, much to the frustration of us both.

From there to Durban was not a problem, but the prospect of riding the Transkei alone, on a road bike, in the festive season did not appeal, and a new route was needed, however I lacked the time that any new routes would demand.  Reluctantly I had to accept that linking the three cities would not happen on this tour, and took a lift to Ficksburg.

Cycle touring is adventure travel, and as such one must accept the good with the bad.  To ride from Durban to Ficksburg would involve climbing out of Durban and Town Hill in the first day, looking forward to the Midlands hills the following and finally Oliviershoek.  I could cover this in 3 days going down the hills, but it would certainly add a day riding up them, and getting to Ficksburg would be a week I simply didn’t have.

All went to plan from Ficksburg – in fact they went better as my fitness and desire to get home grew.  I ignored my bodies please for rest, and I simply kept riding until I got to a very wet Montagu 5 days ahead of schedule, after 1200kms over 10 days since Ficksburg.  I figured it would take me the next two days to get to Cape Town whether I road for two, or rested one and cycled the other.
So I rested, and as a bonus I watched the Montagu rivers flooding.

It was most entertaining seeing the anxious car owners stand like penguins on the ice sheet:  everyone watching everyone else, waiting for someone else to go first lest they get eaten by the shark – or in this case taken out by the river.  Eventually it was the Focus that dove in, fording the river as one would expect that Marque to.

Finally I get to do my Montagu to Cape Town day!  The day was unremarkable until riding up Du Toits, were I was disappointed not to be able to see the tops of the mountains due to cloud, but I road on, and on, and after an hour I could see this kloof was not small, and I kept on riding, before finally turning off and climbing further up the pass proper to the summit board that caused me all that woe last time.
Only, on this occasion the last kilometer or so of climbing was in that cloud, making summit photos off the cards but being replaced by a need for a hot beverage, and dry clothes.  Up to this point I had ridden 2100kms on a pair of racing slicks without a single puncture, and was in no mood to change this.  I nannied my tyres down the wet pass never breaking 50km/h, however whilst descending the strap holding my gear bag to the bike snapped!  Not a major disaster, I slowed down skidding a little before re-attaching my gear and continuing to said hot beverage.

Cape Town to Durban bike ride

The Camdeboo National Park is located in the Karoo and almost completely surrounds the Eastern Cape town of Graaff-Reinet.

 

In Paarl a noticed what felt like a flat spot on my rear wheel and upon inspection discovered that the Du Toits skid removed all the rubber on that spot, and the tyre was now hemorrhaging.  I pulled in to find the nearest Fiets Winkel for a new tyre, less than a minute after my arrival the tyre exploded!  It seems Du Toits Kloof Pass doesn’t like me, but I’m getting luckier at least.  I replaced the tyre and got back to an empty digs before sunset, having ridden 210kms in about 8 and a half hours.

There are many things I learnt on the ride, but the biggest was food.  You are probably reading this while living in a city, and have become accustom to the range of choice in retailers close to home.  The general standard of food in the rural areas of South Africa is something these communities need to address urgently, but growing up on white bread, polony, canned food and mielie meal these people know no better.  We live in cities where we complain if our coffee is not single source, and turn our noses at something non-organic, and yet don’t realize what petty people we are.

Having now toured over 4000kms in South Africa I have also learnt a thing or two about how one can do it.  On this trip I carried with me a sleeping bag, stove, and would never tour in this country with them in summer again.  My total packed weight was a 9kg bike with 5kgs of gear.

5 Responses to Cape Town to Durban on a bike

  1. Guardian Jan 15, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Great! Thanks for the writeup!
    A year or so ago I cycled from Aghulas to Ficksburg via PE and Aliwal north. Great time :)
    I agree about the food though, travelling in SA is pretty hard food wise, Europe is much easier with a bakery every 20km :) I had a 14kg Ralley and about 8kg’s of gear including a tent and stoves and it took me a nice 21 days.
    I think South America would be amazing…

  2. Donovan Jan 15, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    Your well mad (!), BUT ones madness can turn one into a LEGEND. Well done.

  3. Matt Jan 16, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    Wonderful and inspiring trip report Warren!

  4. Justin Lawson Jan 20, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    I caught up with Warren when he stopped over in Montagu on this trip – it was amazing to see how ‘not’ tired he was having just ridden in from Barrydale direction (in the rain).
    Well done Warren on completing the trip!

  5. Warren Gans Jan 20, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    I didn’t want to get to caught up in the details of the ride when writing the above, but on the whole I scored good weather- but I use the word “good” loosely: a drizzily 25deg day is great to ride in, and I had plenty of that in KZN. Fortunately there was no wind. Other than a hail storm 20kms from Zastron with resulted in ducking into the nearest farmhouse for some Afrikaaner hospitality, I had heat until Barrydale. I climbed the Troudow pass in the pouring rain which soaked me through, backing off to lighter rain from the otherside until Montagu. My plan wasn’t so pit in Montagu, but to stop in Robertson, and get to CTN the next day, but with that sort of weather…

    Its funny, but I would rather ride in a 40deg karoo day than a 21deg and windy in Cape Town

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