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Stage 83 (65): Garies to Strandfontein

A great sleep in our Garies guesthouse; and pleasantly surprised in the morning to find that it came stocked with coffee, tea and even milk in the fridge; most civilized.

Overall, a straightforward morning: once again out to the N7 and turn south-southwest. The country this morning while similar to yesterday, is not so rugged. A continuous series of hills all right, but today much flatter and the horizon much expanded. Less evidence of attempted farming, although the bush seems slightly greener? There’s almost no houses or buildings to be seen; it really does seem a remote corner of SA. It has the look and almost feel of the Yorkshire moors, if one can get past the complete and total lack of heather.

The second half of the morning sees us cycling past some open-pit mining operations and then a processing plant of some sort. Lots of dust and some very large bulk carriers cluttering up our road, too. I was wondering what this was all about when I saw the sign telling me that it’s a mineral sands project. Later, a quick Google investigation tells me that the Tormin Mineral Sands Operation consists of a number of high-grade placer beach and strandline mineral sands deposits hosting some of the richest grades in the world of naturally occurring zircon, ilmenite, rutile, magnetite and garnet.

So much for that.

Our lunch stop is just off the N7, where the tarmac ends (at least temporarily) and the dirt/gravel starts. Abandoning the N7, we head southwest across open country and more hills to pick up a quieter coastal road, the R363 headed generally southeast. The corrugated dirt/gravel section reinforces the idea that I will never get into bike-packing as a pastime; I’m most definitely in favour of smooth tarmac. But like all things, it eventually ends. Once on the R363, we benefit from some strong but gusting tailwinds and fly along at a great clip.

But that too ends when we turn again southwest and west into headwinds for the last 30 km or so. Fortunately we’ve now joined Toni-Anne and Peggy, and eventually Greg; the five of us take 2-3 minute turns at the front and the final hour passes quickly. We give quite the whoop when at about 10 km from the end, we come over a rise and see the Atlantic right there in front of us, the breaking surf clearly visible. This is the first open water this ride has seen since the Red Sea back in January.

A final turn to the west gets us into the beachside resort village of Strandfontein.

Camp is a municipal ground right above the beach; the wind is positively chilling although the view is outstanding. Just enough time for a cup of soup, then some tea, and it’s the riders meeting for tomorrow, followed immediately by dinner. David and I jump at the opportunity to go into a shared beach house with three others; it’s out of the wind, and saves dealing with tents in the closing darkness.

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