Great African Divide Ride: Day 18 : Thursday 13th October

Volksrust to Seekoevlei Nature Reserve, near Memel

Distance: 41kms
Altitude gain: 580
Altitude loss: 510
Difficulty: A bit of tar, but mostly gravel
Temp: 27
Max heart rate: Not measured
Average ride speed: 15.7


We started the day by riding back from the campsite into Volksrust and then out on the R534 tar road. Not too busy, gentle hills but an annoying headwind. The tar stopped abruptly as soon as we passed an Escom Gasification plant. I’m not sure what they do at gasification plants, but there are huge buildings, no smoke, and not a single human being in sight. Once back onto gravel there was virtually no traffic.


What did start to happen though was topography. Now, for non-cyclists, topography only gets interesting when you enter places like the Great Rift Valley. Grand Canyon National Park, the Rocky Mountains, Swartberg Pass and suchlike. But, for a bunch of aged (pronounced ay-ged) bicylcle riders, topography can mean simple undulations of just 50 metres. The first few are never a challenge, but I’m telling you, as a 73-year old, by the fifth and sixth undulation, they begin to become a challenge.


We were riding to a nature reserve called Seekoevlei (in Afrikaans this means hippo vlei as hippos are called “sea cows” in that language), close to the town (OK, OK, village) of Memel. Memel is about 35kms west of Newcastle, and we had decided to avoid that city, it’s traffic, and the two significant passes on either side of it. We also chose Seekoevlei Nature Reserve because it was a very inexpensive place to camp – less than US$20 for five of us plus vehicle. Hot and cold water, electricity, kitchen etc etc. So Seekoevlei Nature Reserve it was.


Shortly after arriving at Seekoevlei, Patrick’s sister (Lalee) and nephew Sean arrived. They live in Newcastle and came to join us for sundowners and supper. It turned out to be a very social evening, in spite of a wind that made the weather in Volksrust look tame. The nature reserve folk have built wind protected walls that made a big difference. Look at the photos for us huddling campers. Chris put his mattress and sleeping bag into one such place and claimed to have slept right through the night.


Patch and Diana saw wildebeest, zebra, various antelope driving through the nature reserve. I’m afraid that Patrick, Chris and I were so focused on the space two metres in front of our bikes that we saw nothing.

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