Day 9 – We left Kimberly for the final time, with more than a little regret at leaving our B&B, just a few minutes after 4.00am. We would not be returning, having reached the end of our three day stay, so we have a fully packed car once again. We travelled the 150 kilometres to Soutpan fairly briskly and arrived at our selected intersection in time to start cycling as the night was giving way to the dawn.
I set off on the mountain bike and after just a few minutes I turned onto the tarred road designated as the R700 for a few hundred metres before turning back onto the dirt for the ride to Brandfort. This road proved better than the road to Soutpan although my body grew increasingly uncomfortable with a vague ache that resulted from the continual jarring.
We met the tarred road about 5km before the little town of Brandfort and it was a pleasure to be back on the road bike, on a tarred road. The road was fairly flat to start, with gradual ups and downs, passing through some really good farming land – cattle, sheep, miellies, sorghum, sunflowers – most of it growing without the benefit of irrigation. With an average rainfall of 550mm each year, these crops flourish in the highveld climate, contrasting sharply with the arid terrain that we had traversed only a day or two before.
The road became very rolling towards Winberg, and ran adjacent to the main road, the N1 from Bloemfontein for some time. I climbed Bell’s Pass just outside Winberg, the crest of which must be 1600 metres or more above sea level. This was probably the highest point reached on the trip thus far and the climb was quite challenging. The road dropped down from the top of the pass to the town of Winberg, which is 1400 metres above sea level, providing a very pleasant end to the day’s ride.
We relaxed around a braai in the evening, the fire for which was made with miellie cobs rather than wood. This, we were told, is the local method. Using miellie cobs as fuel turned out to be rather tricky, as the coals are short lived and I had to re-make the fire in mid-stream in order to get our food cooked. One’s never too old to learn, I guess, even about making a fire.