Day 9 of our mountain bike tour across South Africa’s Garden Route with tour company, African Bikers, began unlike most other days on the tour. Instead of eating breakfast and then climbing inside the company van and being driven to some nearby mountain biking destination, we started the day with breakfast and then cycled straight out of the lodge into a remote desert-like region accompanied not by just one tour guide (Steve), but by an additional tour guide named Mark – a local who knew the back-roads we would be riding better than most.
The first part of the ride consisted of cycling on dirt and gravel roads. While there were no steep climbs during the day, there were numerous ups and downs.
Flat tires were a common occurrence throughout the day… and some riders in our group were luckier than others.
At several points throughout the day we could no longer ride our bikes, but had to push or carry them over rocks, through tall grass, or even across small streams.
The stream crossings were my favorite part of the day… and (despite my hatred for swimming) I was the first in our group to jump in and take a swim. The others soon followed and we had a good time splashing about in the shallow, warm water.
Our destination for lunch was a small cave where ancient South Africans had long ago drawn elephants on the walls of the cave. “This region,” Mark told us, “used to have a lot of Elephants.”
By the time we reached the cave, most of us were so tired that we could hardly enjoy the cave paintings, but instead wanted nothing more than to lie down and rest. It was super hot outside and we were all very tired.
After our picnic lunch in the cave we finished the day with a short 10 km bike ride through some difficult single-track trails back to the van where Kim was waiting for us.
It was a long, hot day (and I lost my sunglasses somewhere along the way), but it was a fulfilling day. We enjoyed our shower and meal back at the Rooiberg Lodge upon our return and I slept well that night, knowing I would wake up early the next morning and be lucky enough to participate in another incredible day of mountain biking in South Africa.