Great African Divide Ride: Day 9 : Tuesday 4th October

Zeerust to Swartruggens

Distance: 70kms
Altitude gain: 380
Altitude loss: 290
Difficulty: An easy ride
Temp: 36
Max heart rate: Not measured
Average ride speed: 19.1


We took the “shortcut” out of Zeerust … but it turned out to be better than many of the shortcuts we’ve tried in the past. Just a few kms of dust, rocks and corrugations. It saved us riding through the very congested main road of Zeerust.


I think this was my best day so far. We had a very modest 70kms of riding, no major hills and not too much traffic.
The highlight of the day was peeling off the N4 to ride through Groot Marico. This village will have no significance for most people, but for those of us blessed to have read the Herman Charles Bosman’s stories, it is well known. Riding into the village we passed a few old cottages, now rather dilapidated, with the front stoep (Afrikaans for verandah) almost on the pavement. So many of Bosman’s stories started off with descriptions of discussions of the local folk gathered on one of these stoeps. Patrick and I were enthralled and rode very slowly. Then we saw a hand painted sign saying “Bike Factory”. So, we stopped and went up to the two guys working with welding equipment, and asked if they had any 26” tubes for sale. They said we should speak to the guy next door. Well, that “next door” looked like a pretty run down place, but inside we saw it was a Qhubeka Bike factory. Qhubeka is a charity that has made many thousands of bicycles and then donated them to school children who have a long way to walk to school. It is one of those charities that has REALLY REALLY made a difference to the lives of many. And the particular coincidence is that Patrick’s niece is married to Doug Ryder, who for many years has run the South African cycling team. Whilst Dimension Data were sponsoring the team, they did incredibly well – competing in the top ride events like Tour de France, Giro Italia.


Groot Marico is a special place. If you are anywhere in the area, spend the time to visit. It is quaint, completely off-the-grid, has interesting folk … look at the sign for the restaurant to get a feel.
After the excitement of Groot Marico we rode on to the town of Swartruggens. Our campsite that night was on a dam – soft, green lawns, shade from weeping willows … pretty much idyllic after the dryness of Botswana. The only problem was that there was no water in the taps. However, by filling a bucket with water from the dam, one could trudge across to the ablution block and flush the loo. Not exactly a train smash. But after a hot day in the saddle, I did feel like being clean, and decided to have a swim. I started to get into the dam. Then two young fishermen came over. “Ummm, Oom” they said – for those not familiar with Afrikaans, “oom” is one of those words that is sort of respectful, it means uncle, but it also kind of puts you in your place. Only old men are ever referred to as “Oom”. Anyway, I knew these youngsters were just being very polite. “Does you knows there’s crocodiles in the dam?” they said in their Afrikaans style of speaking English. Well, obviously I didn’t, but being a veteran of places like the Zambezi where there are real crocodiles, I wasn’t’ at all scared. But I thought I’d better ask for a bit more info. “About how big are the crocodiles?”. “Ahhhh, Oom, we just saw one was at least 2 metres big”. It wasn’t hard for me to take my feet and legs out of the dam and get on with other more important things, like pitching a tent.


Its’ Jaime again, with a story of one of our recipients. I do change names for their privacy, but, I’d like to tell you about one of our pensioners, EverMary who has been struggling with breathing. As you know, power cuts are a problem in Zimbabwe. Most of us get irritated when our power goes out and we cannot have a hot bath. But can you imagine being EverMary whose oxygen turns off during each powercut. Her husband called me one day, terrified as she struggled to breathe. One quick call to Andrew and he was in Hatcliffe assessing their house for a Solar system to ensure that EverMary had oxygen. Her husband phoned me the other day saying that she is doing so well and thanking Old Legs Tour so much for saving her life. Thank you for your donations, they really do help us change lives.

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