Great African Divide Ride: Day 16 : Tuesday 11th October

Chrissiesmeer to Sheepmoor

Distance: 61kms
Altitude gain: 450
Altitude loss: 490
Difficulty: Mostly gravel farm road, some sand lots of corrugations
Temp: 33
Max heart rate: Not measured
Average ride speed: 15.1


We decided that Patch needed an X-ray, so Diana and Patch headed off to Ermelo in the vehicle while Chris, Patrick, and I rode toward Sheepmoor, which was our rendezvous point. The Mediclinic in Ermelo is on the outskirts of the town, which was a blessing because the security of the trailer and Isuzu and all our kit is critical. Some years ago, coincidentally, Patch, Patrick, Mitch Whaley, Diana, and I had been in Ermelo late in the day and stopped at the Spar to buy some food. Mitch was left in charge of watching the vehicle and trailer. He was conned by two guys who came up and started asking about the bikes on the trailer. Being Mitch, super pleasant, he responded decently by going to the bikes on the trailer, explaining to one of the guys how a derailleur worked, that MTBs had disk brakes, etc.… while the other guy went around to the other side of the car, opened the door and removed two cell phones. That had been a very dark moment on that trip, and ever since, Ermelo has ranked low in places we want to visit. Here were Diana and Patch back in Ermelo, needing medical assistance. Sigh – the ironies of life.


Anyway, the Mediclinic had a secure car park. Patch had her X-ray. The staff were excellent. After a bit of a wait, the doctor examined the X-ray and said there were no bones broken, which was good news. The doc said that maybe she would feel better in a few days, but more likely, it would be a few weeks. He said to keep her arm in a sling until the pain went. He was a jolly pleasant fellow but was far more interested in Patch’s sunglasses than her arm. These sunglasses are bright yellow, and Patch bought them at the Argus Expo in Cape Town a few years earlier. The doctor said they must have cost at least R3,000, but Patch said no, just R150. He would not accept this at face value and wanted details on how he could get a pair. This conversation went on as he wrote out a prescription for an assortment of painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and whatever. A nurse administered an injection of some sort, and by lunchtime, Diana and Patch were on their way to Sheepmoor.


Meanwhile, Chris, Patrick, and I had been riding down the gravel road to Sheepmoor. That is not entirely true – we did have a few km on the N17, but we said goodbye to the tar at a T-junction, the road to Mbabane, capital of Eswatini, previously Swaziland. The scenery in that part of the world is essentially “big sky” country – as they call Montana in the US. Gently rolling plains with scatterings of trees and small lakes. Many birds. It would have been idyllic if it hadn’t been for the sand patches and corrugations. But for those who have ridden on corrugations and sand will know that these impediments definitely detract from the pleasure of riding. We were also concerned about Patch.
Somehow, roadkill and other deceased animals seem to attract my attention. I have been accused of being fascinated by dead things on the road – this is certainly not true. Still, if I do happen upon a no-longer living animal, I am prepared to admit that I usually investigate. On this day, not too far from Chrissiesmeer, I noticed a dead fish on the side of the road. The road was about 2kms from the water – so obviously, I was puzzled. How does a 1kg fish get from the water to a roadside 2kms away? After further investigation, I found another half a dozen of these bream-like fish, long dead and desiccated. All we could think was that some guys had been poaching, saw a roadblock up ahead, and dumped the fish. Bizarre. And no, Eric, I did not tie a fish carcass to my handlebars.


On we rode, bumped, swerved, and staggered on the corrugations in the sand. Later in the afternoon, it was a relief to meet up with Diana and Patch and discover her injury was not too serious. We uplifted and drove to Ons-Pan, another lake-side campsite. The owner, Sarita Bosman, of Ons-Pan, was a particularly lovely person. We were the only people there, but she came down and opened up the little shop (we devoured ice creams) and spent quite a while telling us about the area and giving us info on the roads, etc. If ever you find yourself having to be in Ermelo and need a place to stay, do yourself a favor, and drive the 40kms away from that town to Ons-Pan. Idyllic location, a good campsite, well-appointed chalets, and no cellphone thieves. The opiates Patch had been given for pain management worked their stuff, and apart from feeling slightly nauseous, she was in fine fettle – well as fettle as a one-armed camper can be.

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