21 September 2020
13 September 2020
Enough to want get up at 5am and drive an hour, only to park your car at a random campsite, hop on your bicycle and cycle 35km one way to have a pie? And then cycle back.
Well, I like pie… so that’s exactly what I did!
I started to hatch this plan after Facebook told me about the Greyton Pie Run, happening in September. This is an annual event during which people cycle from Greyton to Riviersonderend, and eat pies and drink coffee from the Ou Meul Bakery. Bicycles, pie, coffee, I was keen!
But, the dates clashed with other stuff happening in my life, and while the entry fee was pretty reasonable, it was a rather unnecessary expense (what with these strange times and being unemployed). And then, the cogs started to turn and I realised that I don’t need to sign up for an event to do something like this- I can go by myself!
Spurred on by my genius, and the growing need to escape and take a break, I set about planning my route (there were only two to choose from really), finding a place to camp (only 3 places were in budget and only one responded to my enquiry), and pack (I packed way too much! As usual.).
Plan made, I counted down the days.
Sandwiches made, car packed, and bike loaded, I left Somerset West early on the morning of 23 August. With the radio blaring, Celine Dion’s “I drove all night” was a fitting soundtrack as I watched the sky lighten and transform with the rising sun.
I arrived at the Twin Rivers Campsite a little after 8am, and parked my car out of the way. The campsite owners were kind enough to let me park my car on the property, and worry about checking in when I got back later. The cold hit like the blast from a walk-in freezer when I opened my car door, and I quickly got my bike offloaded so I could get in the saddle and warm up.
Only, the first few kilometers were downhill, which was awesome because I could ease into the ride, but I was frozen within minutes. Despite my gloves, my hands were blue, and I had to weigh up maintaining speed on the downhill’s for the upcoming up hills, or going a little slower and being a little warmer. I sucked it up and embraced the downhills, teeth chattering all the way!
The air was fantastically clear and fresh, with not a breath of wind. I had checked Windy a few days before and saw that I would have a headwind on my way back. I also found the competitive part of me peeking its head up. How fast am I going? How long have I been riding? When will I get there? Am I having fun? And when I asked that last question and realised that no, I wasn’t, I decided to shift my mindset and focus on the NOW.
And that transformed my ride.
The view was to die for. Rolling green and yellow fields, and the most majestic mountains. I passed the odd “plaas bakkie”, a few farm workers, and many sheep. But otherwise, it was just me and my bicycle.
There was a beautiful sweeping downhill where I clocked about 50km/h. I really enjoyed flying down there, but was conscious of the fact that I would have to go back that way!
I rolled in to Riviersonderend just after 11:00, and I was eager for that pie (and even more eager for a big cup of hot coffee!). The last time I visited Ou Meul was probably 2014. But ask any South African who has done a road trip from Cape Town to the east where to stop for “padkos”, and chances are that Ou Meul Riviersonderend will be on the list.
The shop smelt amazing, and it was warm. Pepper steak pie and hot coffee in hand, it was nice to sit on a seat wider than, well, a bicycle seat! The pie wasn’t that peppery, but it was warm, and that’s all that mattered. And, it turns out that I don’t actually like Ou Meul pie’s that much: their pastry doesn’t quite do it for me.
Refueled, I was craving something sweet. Unfortunately they only had bags of cookies, and I realised then that I had forgotten to get a giant choc chip cookie for my trip. Biscuits and bicycles had become the norm when adventuring with friends in Grahamstown, and here I had gone and forgotten a crucial component of the adventure equation!
Fortunately I found a shop selling individual gingerbread cookies and bought one. I nibbled a corner and saved the rest for later.
On the road again, I was slapped in the face by a headwind. You wouldn’t have thought there was wind: the leaves of the trees barely moved, and the air was quiet. But, there was definitely wind! I took a slightly different route back, and once again soaked in the views.
The 50km/h hill turned out to be quite bearable. The view was just so good that I had to stop often to take it all in…
Top of the hill.
My bike seat post clamp also started to slip and I resorted to using rocks to hammer it closed. Well, I tried to. All I managed to do was bend the clamp. Oh well, at least the seat didn’t drop all of the way down.
After a long ascent I took a break at the top and dug in to another Grahamstown-adventure-staple: a fried egg sandwich a-la-Heather: with some ham, Bovril and a cheese wedge. And a nibble of the gingerbread cookie for a sugar boost. Delicious! I also had the bright idea of only eating half the sandwich, and saving the rest to toast back at camp. Good motivation to carry on!
As I took a slightly different route back, I wasn’t too sure of the distance left to go. My initial planning had it at 70km, but I decided to say 75km just to help with the mindset. Counting down the kay’s wasn’t the competitive side of me coming through: I was getting tired, and the wind was getting stronger.
After a beautiful section of sweeping turns and rolling hills, I spied buildings. Greyton! I was almost there. Spurred on by the knowledge that I only had a few kilometers left, I kicked it up a notch and zoomed my way home.
I rolled in at the campsite just before 15:00, having done 76km for the day. Tired, cold, a little sore, but oh so happy to have spent the day outside.
The campsite owners were welcoming and friendly, and helped me choose the best spot to set up my tent.
Home. It’s actually more of a communal area than a site, but it had the most shelter from the wind.
I walked around the grounds both to log my 1 mile walk for the day (since February I have walked at least 1 mile every day, save for 3 days when I was sick), and to stretch out the muscles in my legs and re-establish blood flow to my posterior!
Tent set up, I had a wonderfully hot shower and set about making coffee and toasted sandwiches. I underestimated the power of the gas burner and almost melted through a pot! The sarmies were good, and I washed them down with coffee and the remainder of the gingerbread cookie.
With some daylight to spare, I drove around Greyton, and decided I wanted hot chocolate (along with the biscuits, this is another thing I forgot to pack), but when I saw giant lemon and poppy seed muffins I decided that one of those would be a far better dessert!
Back at camp, I cooked dinner, having applied what I learnt from my Woody Cape Hike in the Eastern Cape, and was soon tucking in to a hot meal of pasta, carrots, onion, and soya mince. The muffin was a good call, and I went to bed full and happy.
Dinner. I love one-pot meals!
Beautiful end to a beautiful day!
Despite how tired I was, I tossed and turned, not used to being on firm ground. However, I woke up feeling pretty well rested, and wasn’t too upset about the pitter patter of rain hitting my tent. I had planned to explore Greyton by bicycle that morning, but with all the rain the roads had turned to mud and I didn’t feel like having to clean all the bearings of the bike. Well, that’s the reason I told myself, but really, I was quite sore.
A slow start, I dragged myself out of bed around 7am and got breakfast on the go. Boiled eggs, carrots, celery and tomato. It tasted better than it sounds! Especially after I knocked the pot over and sent my food into the grass. Well, that’s one way to add fiber!
The morning felt relatively warm despite the gloom, and I geared up in shorts and a raincoat and then drove into town. I spent some time walking around, admiring the quirky houses, lush gardens, and taking in the stillness. Greyton reminds me a lot of Hogsback. Bigger, but still quiet, peaceful, and with the smell of weed lingering here and there!
As the drizzle turned to rain, I grabbed my book from the car and spent an hour reading and drinking coffee at Fiore Garden Centre. Quite content to sit there all day, my stomach had other plans and I decided to drive to Rolandale in Swellendam for one of their giant roosterkoek. I have been craving one since September last year and I decided now is the time!
I drove the same roads I had cycled, and realised how much we miss in the rush of life (and motorized transport). It was gloomy and rained on and off all the way. Lunch was good (but not as good as I remembered it from last year), and I once again found myself craving something sweet. And caramel-y. They didn’t have anything like that at Rolandale so I made my way back to Greyton, once again, taking a slightly different route back (like my cycling and running and walking, I don’t like to do the same route twice when driving).
Back in Greyton, it was still gloomy but the rain had lessened to intermittent drizzle. I Google’d walking routes and headed off to the nature reserve. Wow! A wonderful map was at the entrance and the trails all clearly marked. I opted for the short Platkloof Walk of 3km, and was blown away by the beauty of the area. I decided that tomorrow I would take to the trails and have breakfast somewhere out here.
Cake. Turns out you need cake. My caramel cake craving was still there, and after my walk I set about tracking some down. The first coffee shop I went to had caramel cheesecake. A little extravagant, I decided to rather try find a caramel muffin at the local store (the same one with the delicious lemon poppy seed muffin from yesterday). Fresh outta muffins! You know what, I have done well, and I deserve cheesecake. I went back to the coffee shop and got a slice to take away. Dessert was going to be great.
Still drizzling, I managed to rig my tent up so I had a roof under which to cook dinner, and overall I felt a lot more comfortable and organised in my temporary home.
Oh, and by cook dinner I mean heat it up out of the tin! Packo beef biryani = winner!
An easy day compared to yesterday, I had still worked up an appetite from my walks. And the biryani was delicious! After cleaning up, I made some coffee and got comfortable in my sleeping bag. Book, coffee, cheesecake… Turns out it was a caramel AND peanut butter cheesecake. So good!
I also had a proper mattress, courtesy of the campsite owners, and was a lot more comfortable. Content, I went to sleep with the idea of a 6am wake up to hit the trails at 06:30.
6am came and went. I could hear water dripping on my tent. Another day of rain? I rolled over, cozy and warm in my sleeping bag, and slept for another hour. The mountain would be there when I woke up.
When I did eventually get up, it was to a campsite covered in fog. It wasn’t raining, but it was still gloomy. I got ready for my breakfast walk and left a little after 8am, driving to the nature reserve.
I decided to head to Breakfast Rock, which was about a 3km hike one way. Not even 500m in, I was stopped by a river. With no way to cross without getting my feet soaked, I changed to Plan B and set off on the 1.5km Noupoort route, which linked to the Breakfast Rock one. Once again, I was thwarted by water.
In a valley with no sun, I decided to do the reverse of yesterday’s Platkloof route, and spotted an unmarked path leading up the mountain. I followed it, of course, quads cramping at the mere sight of the ascent. Up and up I went, until I came across a rocky outcrop that looked like a suitable breakfast – uhm, brunch, by now – spot.
I made some coffee, then set about making oats. It was a beautiful day. Turns out only the river areas were foggy, and by the time I had reached my breakfast spot the fog had burnt off. I had the mountain to myself and Greyton at my feet.
This is what it's all about. No people, no rush, no politics, no stress. Just the sounds of nature.
But, all too soon it was time to pack up and make my way back down the mountain; I wanted to get one more cycle in before leaving. Back at camp, I swapped out the stove and brekkie gear for my cycling kit, and set off on the green route of Greyton’s well-marked cycling trails.
Single track and jeep track had me winding through areas of shrubs and forest, and I added an extra few blocks of the town too for good measure. I was a little sore to begin with but the single track was so fun and flowing that I soon forgot about my discomfort.
14km later, back at camp, I began packing up the tent, my heart heavy at the thought of leaving.
The wind had picked up and I was glad that I did my hike (fairly) early.
With thanks and farewells exchanged with the campsite owners, I slowly made my way home, stopping at Houw Hoek and Peregrine for pies. Sorry Ou Meul, they got you beat. And Peregrine Farm Stall’s brownies are amazing!
All too soon, it was back to reality. A world of people and masks and traffic and noise. And already, my heart is longing for the mountains.