On two non-motorized wheels with a crazy dude through my favourite part of South Africa, the Eastern Free State. That’s the long and the short of it, but there’s a little more to it than just that.
Firstly, the crazy dude, Mr. Iain Peterkin, decided to connect some of his cycling and mental dots by cycling from Gauteng to Cape Town. He succeeded his cycling expedition but unfortunately his mental dots are still few and far apart, so expect some more extremities to follow. Don’t try and follow him though, you’ll probably not keep up. His bicycle weighed close to a ton and he had very little cycling training under his belt. I must just mention that he could possibly outrun a lion at the time, a handy tool when touring through Africa. If that wasn’t enough, earlier that year he felt the need to install a custom stainless-steel plate into his shoulder for added weight. We can joke about it now but it was quite frightening at the time when a car decided to go head-on with Iain on his bicycle and he landed in hospital, not the car, the Iain, so training was obviously halted for a large part of his year. Nevertheless, he ignored some of his physio’s advice and made his dream come true.
Luck came my way when Iain mentioned I’m welcome to join him on his expedition. I told Iain I had a few days to spare in my schedule, obviously a lie as I had the entire December holiday before me. I knew I could possibly get quite hangry for a shower after a few days and I didn’t want that “hulk” to come to the party, so I opted for a shorter version of his tour. My plan was to join Iain for three days tracking through a large part of the Free State and then take a pit stop in Fouriesburg for a few days, leaving Iain to his own company for the rest of his trip. Sound rude though, but we had a good understanding and I knew the alone time would provide its own unique experiences. So that was the plan. The execution, well we didn’t go as slow as I thought we would and I ended up in Wepener after three easy days before my lift arrived. I overshot my target by some 207 kilometers, fortunately.
Ok let’s rewind first, somehow, we managed to get our own personal Public Relations Officer on board and she introduced us as follows; Credit to Jo-Andri Raubenheimer for being our PR Officer.
“This is Iain;
Name: Iain Peterkin
Fav quote: “Fail to plan, plan to fail”
Runner | Cyclist | Swimmer | Talented Athlete | Competitive | Stubborn | Beer lover | Coffee Addict
Embarking on a 3 week bike-packing adventure from Vanderbijlpark to Cape Town – Winging it, roughing it and going for it.
Earlier this year we almost lost this crazy kid when an intoxicated car driver nearly took him out while doing a group ride in the early hours of the morning. He got off with a broken arm, broken shoulder blade and a severe concussion. He now refers to himself as Ironman. Not because of his past Ironman race results, but rather his titanium plate holding his shoulder together.
Iain lives by his inability to be beaten by females, negative splits on Strava and challenging the status quo by baffling brains of fellow passive individuals.
He is stubborn as hell. Refusing to ever give up. For many an inspirational athlete… for most a threat in any race. A good friend and a keen coffee addict.”
And this was my few seconds of claim to fame;
“Name: Louis Le Grange
Bike: BMC Fourstroke FS01
Fav quote: “Your dream is out there, live it”
Cyclist | Runner | Talented Athlete | Competitive | Adrenalin Junkie | Speed Freak | Happy chappie | Best sense of humor |
These two became friends a few years ago and it was inevitable that their mutual love for sport, competitiveness and coffee snobism would make them get on like a house on fire.
Together they have pocketed many KOM’s, analysed and flagged many wishful thinkers on Strava and supported each other on their crazy adventures.
Although Louis prefers tarred roads and 8kg carbon road bikes, he has recently developed a keen liking for dual suspension systems, tubeless tyres and mud.
Always with a smile on his face and unexplainable determination in his heart he is yet to see only the positives in any challenge.”
With that proper introduction done, let’s zoom in on some details and outline what went on in this three-day tour;
- Firstly, it was not a race.
- Secondly, it was the national Free State time trail championships and King of the Mountain points were awarded whenever we found the odd bump in the road.
- Thirdly, no, it wasn’t a race.
- We did not pay millions of dollars to enter, we did not need well stocked water points every 10 kilometers, we did not have route markers apart from the road signs that were probably erected in the eighteen’s century, we did not required timing chips or number boards and we did not get a medal, but that wasn’t the expectation, you get the point, it wasn’t the ordinary.
- The aim was to have some fun.
The first day started off in Vanderbijlpark, a horrible place to start, but we had to start somewhere. We cycled along the R57 into the Free State, the only place in southern Africa that still sells petrol at 8 cents per liter;
We found a fully stocked KFC in Heilbron where we had our first sit down brunch. It is also here where I discovered that we had another race within our race, Iain’s eating habits. Next time I’ll ask the KFC staff to blend the chicken into my water bottles to save some chewing time. Nevertheless, Iain, although annoyed, waited. The waiting game was fruitful as we soon learned that the KFC parking area was where all kinds of weirdness occurred. We had some dad giving a speech to what was presumably the daughter’s boyfriend, we didn’t pay too much attention. Another weirdo waited at the door for quite some time, presumably for his expired chicken. It was time to go.
Destination Lindley, a small little town in the heart of the Free State, where gravel streets roam free and hospitality comes beyond the 5-star rating.
We took the road less traveled and rode on the loneliest little tar road that one could imagine, no cars for kilometers, just freedom.
We had our time trail discussions here but we also took some time to eat cookies and have a bit of fun.
Much to our annoyance the lonely little tar road soon ran out, and then disaster struck. Well not entirely, we still had some beautiful scenery with cows and sheep to keep us entertained. The effort that must have gone in to built some steel bridges crossing lonely rivers boggled my brain a bit, but they were purposely built for a reason, not necessarily in the most cost-effective way, which made it even more special to me. Disaster came in the form of corrugations, and the closer we got to town the worst it got. Now I know I’m not the one to complain here, I was on a dual suspension bicycle having a blast while Iain looked like a dashboard bobble doll. Iain was rattled, properly, and decided that even if we had to take 40km detours, we would be missing the gravel roads for the next few days. To put this into perspective, yes, I was loaded with a bit more than my usual race day necessities, but I suffered from numbness in my left hand for a couple of weeks, an indication of how bad that road was, or how much of a pansy I am.
Nevertheless, we reached Lindley, had lunch outside some local grocery store and phoned up oom Kobus and tannie Petro which went out of their way to accommodate us with five-star treatment for our first night in the Free State. A special thank you for the friendliness, the royal supper, the chocolate sauce with ice-cream, the Rooibos made the proper way, washing of our clothes, warm showers, superb breakfast, and most of all sharing your stories and your travel experiences with us. We have got a lot to learn from people like you. Now I must just add that oom Kobus and tannie Petro are family of mine and we managed by favour to experience a bit of their hospitality, but they don’t own a guest house so don’t try and look them up in the yellow pages if you are planning something similar.
Having had a decent breakfast and opting for the longer detours we were a bit behind schedule to start off with, but the proper Free State breakfast gave us a bit of an extra “oemf” and by the time we reached Arlington we hit top gear. Iain was doing the tuck and flying along the rolling hills that became a bit more rolling than the previous day. Here’s a clip of Iain reaching 64 kilometers per hour on his steel truck. I had to dig deep to catch up again by the way, Iain didn’t wait for handicapped cellphone juggling photographers. Like I said previously, he gets annoyed when going anything below race pace.
Nevertheless, I had fun, Iain had a bit of fun, there were time for cookies and the odd photo for our following group, the odd stop to support local and the screaming at sheep.
The time trail continued and we reached Senekal sooner than expected. A lovely little Padstal named, you’ve guessed it, Senekal Padstal, received us with open arms just as the heavens started to open with some drizzling rain. A Free State scone and cappuccino was well worth it. I’ll recommend Senekal Padstal to anyone passing this town.
We reached the point where we could eat no more and decided to head on to our next destination, Marquard. Marked with a bit of drizzle, a cross wind of some sort and plenty of roadworks, this stretch was not particularly out of the ordinary, we reached Marquard sooner than expected and I started searching for the nearest coffee shop. I soon realized that Marquard is not a particularly large town and finding a coffee shop was in all likelihood not going to happen. Nevertheless, we carried on, without the coffee, and reached our stop-over point for day 2, a farm that had it’s own private camping spots, Iain’s connection of some sort. We were welcomed by this little bugger, the coolest dog on our trip, Weimaraner Labrador cross if I remember correctly.
To bring everyone’s energy levels to par, we had to make a plan with mister dog. This resulted in mister dog chasing sticks, jumping around like a gazelle and swimming laps in the little dam as if he was a duck. The end result, mister dog, due to being on a farm, was way fitter than expected and never gave up. We gave up and opted for a drink with the farm’s owners where we were again treated with the utmost hospitality. A view from the balcony that can’t be explained, a couple of beers and lots of fishing stories, it was a privilege to get to know a little bit of their world.
We sorted out our camping site and made a fire to sort out our food but we soon came to the realization that a fire is a necessity in this part of the country. It became a bit chilly for the up-northers. At least we had some fresh whisky milk (Fresh farm milk in a whisky bottle, with the taste of whisky more than milk) to keep us cosy. Iain pitched his little hang mat of a tent exposed to most of nature’s elements and I opted for my four-season tent rather than to be exposed to those elements. At least Iain was underneath the roof of the shed as it came pouring down with rain that night. The problem was that with this rain came a properly cold Free State wind and Iain’s hang mat was more of a kite than anything else. In the middle of the night I heard something fiddling with the zip of my tent and thought to myself it’s probably mister dog returning the stick, soon to realize it was mister Iain that got fed up with the wind and didn’t want to catch a cold on the second day of his trip already. I left him outside.
Just kidding, I have a heart.
As soon dawn rose, Iain rose. I was left trying to squeeze the sleeping bag into it’s too little bag and afterwards trying to squeeze the tent into it’s too little bag. I’ve always wondered why camping gear never fits into their presumed bags, it’s unnecessary annoying.
We headed into Clocolan for our morning breakfast. We headed out of Clocolan without our morning breakfast. No seriously, not much to see or eat around here. Some elderly sarcastically summed it up as “Dis Clocolan hierdie” when we asked him where we could find a decent breakfast. Nevertheless, he mentioned something about a place approximately six kilometers outside Clocolan on the road to Ladybrand. We didn’t have any other options so we headed there not expecting much. When we arrived, it was quite the opposite, they were closed and we were hungry.
The Cabin, it’s called the Cabin, only opened at 8 O’clock and even if I had to cut Iain’s wheels into pieces I would’ve made sure we stayed right there. Fresh coffee came with warm popcorn, what a cool way to start the morning. We had a proper farm style breakfast, such a pleasure. Oh wait, the chap that worked there also suggested their berry/watermelon smoothie of some sort, it was worth it, every sip of it.
We realized after leaving this little gem that for some odd reason, the road between Clocolan and Ladybrand was built to formula one racetrack standards. Man, it was smooth. We were flying along and didn’t even realize that the scenery became significantly hillier. Oh dear, we were getting close to Lesotho and Iain was on his 40-kilogram bicycle.
Now I forgot to mention, this was my last day out on tour with Iain. Originally, I planned to cycle to Ficksburg and then head back to Fouriesburg for my planned vacation. That plan went south the moment we encountered our little corrugation road before Lindley where Iain decided to skip the gravel roads which meant we also skipped Ficksburg altogether. Our self-proclaimed public relations officer, also Iain’s supply team manager and my lift back, wasn’t too worried about driving a bit further to supply Iain with his stash and give me a lift back to Fouriesburg. I didn’t want to slow Iain down so we had to push on. The problem was that when we reached Ladybrand she was still having breakfast far-far away. I realized that at the speed she was travelling she might not catch up with us before we reach Cape Town and had to bring a little urgency into my voice to try and bring the point across.
Nevertheless, we carried on into what felt like the Karoo, long straight roads and rolling hills that seemed to go on forever. Hobhouse, enough said, let’s move on. OK let’s just pause for a second, it’s supposed to be a town and there’s one street café where one can get some decent slap chips, but in all honesty, I won’t make an effort to go back there. Perhaps I was just being miserable in this miserable little town. I’m sure there’s more to this little town to what I’ve experienced. Let’s leave it there.
Knowing it’ll be my last day on tour I took a bit of wind on the chin to try and help Iain get as far away from Hobhouse as possible. We crossed the Caledon River and took some photos. We also scared some cows rolling a car tire down the embankment. I was surprised in how that tire managed to apply the perfect technique in jumping the fence, heading for the cows. Fortunately, it didn’t get close enough to the cows to have the vegan society on our backs, we didn’t have space for that extra baggage.
Around the corner with Wepener in sight, we heard something that sounded like a military jet coming from behind. My first impression was that it had something to do with the cows and the vegans so I nearly planted a tree for our own safety. Nevertheless, it was Jo-Andri, our PR Officer, my lift and Iain’s backup supply. (Of the record she used my car so I’m expecting a ticket from the Free State traffic department which I will post on here if received. Let’s hope for the best.)
149 Kilometers for the day meant we went way passed my initial target, but we had fun, so I was little worried.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
Iain carried on, knocking on strangers’ and friends’ doors for accommodation, through the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, experiencing South Africa in a way that goes beyond words, with some long days in the saddle and some rest days along the way. He made new friends and presumably lost a few, but all in all he had a great time, and it was fun and a privilege to have joined in on a small part of it.
He has got so much more to tell than I’ve managed to capture here, but this is just a small extract of an example of how to Live a Little.
Iain reached his goal of having fun.
Photo credits to;
Myself, Iain, Jo-Andri, Random Capetonian, Google & Strava
Disclaimer: I’m not anti-vegan and I really love cows and other animals.
Strava Stalker Links;