Day 4 – According to my planning this was set to be the shortest and easiest day of the entire trip. Less that 85km in total. Nevertheless, I set off at 5.40am while it was still dark in an effort to beat the heat, which had been such a source of discomfit over the past few days. The dark made riding rather difficult because of the narrow road with no shoulder and very broken edges. The panelbeaters had been at work designing roads again. Although the moon was fairly new, it lit the road sufficiently with its reflected glow.
I expected to ride for less than three-and-half hours on this, the fourth day. The wind was light and although it was once again blowing from the east it was hardly a bother. My spirits were buoyant as I cycled into the slowly lightening daybreak and my thoughts turned to some of the vagabonds who roamed the area in the country’s youth. George St Leger Gordon Lennox, better known to his compatriots and to history as Scottie Smith, who lived for a good part of his later life up the road in Upington. In fact he, or at least his mortal remains, will spend all of eternity in the cemetery at Upington. Eternity in Upington. A heavy price, some unkind souls may say, even for his sinful life. A horse thief, cattle rustler and general highwayman, he had a reputation as something of a Robin Hood and seems to be remembered almost as one of the good guys.
I passed through the farming centre of Keimoes – which turned out to be a lot bigger than I expected – about half way through the day’s ride. It is really fun to ride through these little country villages. It is not only interesting to see them at a far less frenetic pace than usual, but it somehow gives one a mental and physical boost. It gives one a few kilometres for free!! It is also amusing to see the bewildered expressions on the faces of the local folk who inhabit the streets when they catch sight of me cycling through their domain. Many of them wave, without the slightest inkling of where I have come from or where I am going. Just a bemused smile and a friendly wave to the idiot on the bicycle.
These country folk, if the few that I spoke to are typical of the breed, are not great on their geography. Tell them that you are cycling to Richards Bay and they look bewildered. Tell them that you are heading for the next town or village and they will grin and nod wisely, usually with some comment about the vastness of the distance and a polite query regarding your sanity.
There are lots of ups and downs between Kakamas and Upington, which were pleasant rather than grinding as they were on previous days, although this feeling is probably influenced by knowing that there are only about 85 kilometres to be cycled today. There is a considerable mental component to fatigue and when one is in high spirits the uphills seem less steep and the kilometres a little shorter.
I reached Upington before 9.00am and we booked into the Island Caravan Park, beautifully laid out on the banks of the Orange River. Upington, like so many of the towns in South Africa, was named after a British politician, Sir Thomas Upington, who was the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in the 1880’s. The Island Caravan Park is very convenient to the N10, which is our route for tomorrow and is wonderfully spacious and clean. Lots of sprinklers going for hours on end to keep everything green. What miracles can be engineered by water.