Day 10 – Today’s route took us into the hills of the eastern Free State. We had moved away from the long, gradual uphills, downhills and the long level stretches of the last week into a region that presented shorter and sharper ups and downs.
It wasn’t quite as hot today, although the east wind was stronger towards the end of the cycling day. With a little bit of luck we may be over the period of intense heat now that we are well into the eastern half of the country.
I made an early start and the sunrise over the Maluti Mountains in the mountainous kingdom of Lesotho to the south-east was incredible. The brilliant fire of the sun, the slowly lightening mountains and the deep, dark shadows of the valleys. At home we see the morning sun emerging from the sea; how wonderful to see it rising over the mountains.
We were travelling along a national road again, after several days on main and secondary roads and the traffic on the N5 was considerable. It is not a bad road, but there is no shoulder and the innumerable trucks moving at high speed do little to engender a feeling of comfortable security. To cycle along the edge of a busy road, with the trucks almost brushing your elbows as they flash past is an unsettling experience. A wobble from you, the cyclist, or a momentary lapse of concentration from the driver could find you both occupying the same patch of tar at the same time. The truck driver may not notice, but the cyclist certainly would.
My legs were tired from the start, not having fully recovered from the previous six days and shortly after leaving Winberg my knees showed signs of soreness for the first time. Well, not actually for the first time. They were sore yesterday as well, but I put that down to the dirt road and the amount of standing that it necessitated. All in all day number seven was a very long day. I was tired, the wind was relentless and I seemed to be very low on energy. It was often much easier to change to a lower gear rather than push harder on the pedals.
About 68 kilometres after leaving Winberg we passed through the farming centre of Senekal, standing on the banks of the Klipspruit River. The road climbed gradually out of the valley that sheltered the town and through an area of flat-topped hills that have come to epitomise the eastern Free State. Another 20 kilometres and the N5 brought us to the village of Paul Roux, and then through a landscape of farmlands and koppies until we reached Bethlehem.