Garden Route – Cape Town

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12th – 17th of June 2024:

After breakfast, we drove back to our bikes, which we had deposited on a farm, in just over an hour. The farmer told us that he owns a total of 1500 sheep and grows rape, among other things. First we pedaled about two kilometers back to the tarred main road and then continued south. With a strong crosswind, we had to hold the handlebars carefully when passing trucks so that we didn’t leave the road.

For the first time we saw a large wind farm and huge farms with bright yellow rape fields everywhere. We took a break in Bedardsdorp before continuing on a dead straight and much flatter road. The sea breeze was already in our noses 30 km from the coast.

Meanwhile, Lilo and Peter got a call from the car rental company to take their car to the airport in Cape Town (over 250 km away). The car rental company had apparently sold their car. They logically refused and told the car rental company to exchange the car at their current location. A few minutes later the whole thing turned out to be a mistake as it was a different car.

During the last hour to the Southern Cape, we were constantly driving past flooded meadows that were still inundated from last week’s heavy rain. Suddenly, a sign appeared, symbolizing that we only had about 10 km to go to our official destination of our project. We enjoyed the last few kilometers along the coast and despite the strong wind, we reflected on some of the most outstanding moments of the long journey. In L’Agulhas, the southernmost village in Africa, we met Fabian’s parents and drove together to the southernmost point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. It was a special feeling to arrive at this point after about 2.5 years, 38,000 km and 38 countries to toast what we had achieved. Of course we were proud of our achievement, but we won’t really realize it for a few days or even weeks.

Our project goal had been reached, but we still wanted to cycle on to Cape Town. A few more scenic and animal highlights awaited us on the remaining 350 km or so before we definitely planned to pack up the bikes.

So we left Agulhas and headed north again. Due to the extensive flooding, our originally planned road was closed. So we had to drive back a little more than 30 km before we could turn off to the west.

The wind had died down and we made good progress in bright sunshine. There was very little traffic on the road, but it was in good condition. We were glad that we were no longer on the N2 national road, as the volume of traffic was much higher there. The Garden Route runs along this N2 from Port Elizabeth to Mossel Bay. We had heard a lot of positive things about this route, but didn’t find the landscape spectacular at all. Many tourists probably like the top infrastructure for Africa and the possible activities in the surrounding area.

About 15 km before reaching our destination for the day, the gear cable on Fabian’s bike snapped. He already had to replace the other gear cable in George and now he couldn’t change gears again. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a spare cable anymore and he had to choose one gear. So he fixed a gear in the middle of the cassette, so that he could at least ride the remaining climb to some extent. We reached Gaansbai and with a quick Google search found a bike mechanic near our accommodation. The store was already closed, but at least it looked like a lucky strike through the windows.

Fabian took his bike to the mechanic before breakfast and he promptly replaced the broken gear cable. After breakfast with delicious bread, the bike was ready to ride. At the start, the sky was overcast and the area was shrouded in fog. After 20 km of roadworks and a moderate climb, the sun came out and we were able to get rid of our jackets.

In the second half of the day, the landscape changed and the road was located suddenly between a relatively high mountain range and the ocean. Every now and then there were small villages and this exciting landscape was a nice change. This was actually how we had imagined the Garden Route.

Hermanus is famous for boat trips to see whales. The best time is in August, when the whales can even be seen from the coast. This town is full of vacation homes. We have never seen this level of upper-class capital anywhere else in Africa. The gap between rich and poor is particularly wide in South Africa and unfortunately only a few benefit from the great economic performance. South Africa has the second largest economy in Africa after Nigeria. South Africa is the only African country to belong to the G20 economic powers and is counted among the BRICS states.

In Betty’s Bay, we showered in the accommodation we had booked and immediately afterwards visited the African penguins at Stony Point. On this beach we saw dozens of these 60-70 cm tall birds at close range, waddling out of the sea to their nests. It was amusing to watch these excellent swimmers struggling to get ashore. The African penguins are highly endangered by the fishing industry and are the only penguins living in the wild in Africa.

The winding and hilly coastal road during the first 30 kilometers was definitely one of our highlights in South Africa. We had a constant view of the foaming ocean, the Cape of Good Hope was visible in the distance and steep cliffs surrounded us on the land side. Not even recurring construction sites and heavy traffic could spoil this sight for us.

After that, the landscape became flatter as we approached the Cape Town metropolitan area. We encountered multi-lane highways and densely populated neighborhoods. The wind was always present and strong, affecting our progress whether it blew head-on, from the side or at our backs.

Just before reaching the sandy coast, we drove past the enormous township of Khayelitsha. In southern Africa, a township refers to a territorial unit planned and developed apart from the core cities dominated by European immigrants. Khayelitsha currently houses around 1,000,000 people, almost all Black. Ironically, adjacent to the township was a sewage treatment plant, contributing to the area’s distinctive smell. This population segment lives in tin shacks, some without electricity or proper sanitation facilities.

Battling strong crosswinds, we passed False Bay and enjoyed the view of the beautiful coastline. Peter and Lilo overtook us just before Muizenberg, and shortly after, we joined them for a meal at a restaurant. It repeatedly struck us how the majority of guests in most “upscale” restaurants were White, while the staff were Black. This may be entirely normal for South Africans, but it was unfamiliar and weighed on our minds daily.

Instead of cycling to the Cape of Good Hope on our bikes, we decided to take a day off and go on a day trip by car. After all, we had been on our bikes enough in the last few days and weeks.

First we drove along the wild cliffs until we reached the entrance to the national park. The region around the Cape of Good Hope is part of the Table Mountain National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Foreigners have to pay the equivalent of CHF 20 per person. First we drove to our second cape on this trip and took an obligatory picture with the sign. Many tourists think this point is the southernmost of the continent, but it is in fact the most south-western point. We then drove along a typical fynbos landscape to Cape Point, where there is even a funicular for a tiny climb. At the southern end of the Cape Peninsula there is an old lighthouse and a newer lighthouse lower down. From the viewpoint at the end of the funicular, we enjoyed the panoramic view of the sea and the peninsula.

From there we drove to Simons Town, where we indulged in something sweet, a coffee and later craft beers with tacos. Sated and exhausted, we relaxed in the afternoon in our accommodation with a perfect sea view.

The last, albeit short, stage awaited us. The destination was Cape Town. We have probably told several hundred people this city as our destination since the start of the trip, as practically all Africans know Cape Town.

Right at the start, we climbed over 100 meters in altitude before the road to Chapman’s Peak Drive began. This 9 km long coastal road winds its way along 114 bends between the sea and steep cliffs towards Cape Town. Due to the high cost of repairing this section of the road, motorized road users have to pay a small fee.

Despite the extremely strong wind at times, we were able to enjoy the impressive coastal scenery as we approached South Africa’s second largest metropolitan region. After two more climbs, we descended into the center of the city, which has a population of 430,000. Unfortunately, we were denied a view of the imposing Twelve Apostles mountain range due to gathering dark clouds. We reached our accommodation for the next few nights at high speed until we left Africa again. We had therefore covered the entire planned route by bike and were able to devote our full attention to sightseeing in Cape Town. We celebrated the successful and accident free completion of our huge project at the Waterfront together.

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