We woke up early on the second day of the tour (click here to read about day 1), ate breakfast at our guesthouse in Cape Town, South Africa and then jumped in the van for a short drive to a trail-head at the bottom of a massive hill. That hill, I would soon discover, was where we would be spending the next several hours.
I had expected our first day of mountain biking in South Africa to start off slowly, eventually building up to something much more serious. But our first day of cycling was nothing like that.
After just a few moments of prepping our bikes at the trail-head, we started a fast uphill climb on a dirt and asphalt road that went up, up and up. This was my first time riding a mountain bike in over a year… and my first time riding this particular bike at all (a Giant full-suspension mountain bike that African Bikers had provided me and some of the other tour participants with for the duration of the tour).
After just a few minutes on the bike I knew that my saddle was set much too far back (I was practically falling off the bike because of this), but once we started climbing there was no time to stop and make the simple (much-needed) adjustment. I had to keep pedaling if I wanted to keep up with the group.
In addition to simply trying to keep up with the rest of the tour participants, I was carrying a heavy backpack filled with camera equipment (which made me hot and certainly slowed me down) and had only one small water bottle mounted to my bike in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
About half-way up the climb people started to drop. Honestly, I felt like stopping myself, but I knew that I could make it to the top – even with my seat horribly out of place and with no water in my possession. Maybe I wouldn’t be the first one to the top (heck, I might even be the last), but I knew that I could eventually reach the summit.
Climbing on my own now (the faster people in our group were far ahead of me) and three individuals from our group now stopped somewhere behind me, I was treated with an incredible view of Hout Bay.
As I neared the large radio tower at the top of the hill and prepared to meet the others (who had surely been waiting for me at the summit for quite some time), Michi, Steve, Harry and Kirsten came racing down the road. They had grown tired of waiting and were ready to go back to the car.
I was also ready for some downhill riding, so I turned my bike around and enjoyed, for the very first time in South Africa, the wind in my face.
After cycling off the asphalt road that led up to the radio tower, we hit a short stretch of single-track trails, which were fun to navigate, but bumpy to ride.
At one point, Steve stopped us and told us to stay together. There were about 20 wild baboons spread out all along the path and Steve warned us that we needed to stay together. “The baboons have associated people wearing backpacks with food,” he told us. “Don’t stop and take pictures. Just keep going.”
And that’s exactly what we did. In a long line, the eight of us cycled straight past a small gathering of wild baboons and then continued on our way down the final stretch of road back to the waiting van.
I thought that after our long, exhausting day of cycling we would head straight back to the guesthouse for showers and some food. Instead, we jumped right back into the van and went for a long drive, with several stops along the way. Our first stop was the African Penguin colony at Boulders, South Africa.
Along this small stretch of beach were dozens (maybe even hundreds) of African penguins – just sitting there, standing there and waddling about.
After gathering a large collection of penguin photos (and memories) we jumped back in the van and drove for quite some time to Cape of Good Hope National Park (the most south-western point of the African continent) where we took our photo in front of the famous sign, walked among the tide pools and even saw an ostrich strolling along the beach.
Back in the van, we drove north along the western shore of Table Mountain National Park and enjoyed spectacular views of the sea and shoreline along the way.
Finally making our way back to the guesthouse, we showered, rested for just a few moments, and then went to out for a well-deserved dinner.
I was exhausted and hungry, but it was a great start to our 14-day South African adventure together.