Day 8 – Is there ever any change to this weather pattern? Cool when I started at 5.30am, with the sun rising into a cloudless sky and bringing with it an oppressive heat from which there is simply no shelter. There was little wind to speak of today, which seemed to make the heat even more intolerable. But then, I mused to myself, I seem to complain when the wind blows and to complain even more when it doesn’t. Just what do I want? Well, how about a cool, overcast day with a westerly wind? Just one?
It was a fairly easy ride for the first 115 kilometres from Kimberly. We crossed into the Free State just outside of Kimberly, after which the road went through Boshof – a pretty little village whose residents seem to take great pride in their properties – and on to Dealesville. It is said that the Afrikaner Folk Dances originated in Boshof, and their history is commemorated in the local museum. Indeed, there is even a “Volkspele Monument” not too far to the north of the village.
The road was busy from the time I left Kimberly (it is Easter Monday) and became more so as the day wore on, a bit of a bind for a cyclist as there are no shoulders on the road. The terrain is very flat, with only a few gradual rises and falls, and it is surprisingly arid.
I suffered something of a shock shortly after passing through Dealesville. The road to Soutpan presented as a very rough and badly corrugated dirt road. I was still nursing a slim hope that this would be a tarred road, although it must be said that it was not indicated as such on the map. But this road was really bad. There was no way that I could continue on the road bike. For the first time on the trip the road conditions insisted that it was time for the mountain bike.
A farmer stopped to chat to us as we changed over cycles and he seemed to be very interested in our endeavours, but had a little difficulty in grasping the fact that I was cycling from coast to coast, seeming to be more impressed that I intended cycling to Soutpan that day. He warned us, with an embarrassed smile, that the road to Soutpan was in poor condition.
He wasn’t wrong. These were 30 very rough kilometres. It is a very interesting route, however, taking us through many farmlands, and also through an area dotted with salt pans.
Shortly before reaching Soutpan we passed the turnoff to the mineral springs of Florisbad, where, in 1932 Professor Thomas Dreyer discovered the skull of “Florisbad Man” in peat deposits dating back, by recent estimates, some 260 000 years. Can you begin to comprehend 260 000 years ago? It seemed eerie to imagine Florisbad Man, and presumably Florisbad Woman and Florisbad Children, roaming these plains in search of food, water, shelter and safety.
A few kilometres further on I reached Soutpan, which turned out to be a really small settlement that hardly merited the title “village”. But it was the end of the day’s ride, which made it very popular in my book. We stopped at an intersection that made an easy reference point for the re-start the following morning and loaded up the bike for the long drive back to Kimberly.