Woke up to the sun streaming through my window as though it wanted to be let in. Washed down glass after glass of water as for some reason I had an unexplained dry mouth and mild headache. Not sure why. Breakfast was served at 7:30 and ticked requisite breakfast boxes. Do you really want me to talk about scrambled eggs and tiny Lilliputian sausages? Do you?
As has happened every time we started one of these tours, there are some nerves at the beginning. Moments before departing, Dad adjourned to the loo just to be safe. With little fanfare we mounted up and disembarked. The drive out of Bethlehem was peaceful. We appeared to have been something of a talking point among motorists as the site of two men on bikes with panniers solicited hoots and the odd wave. Maybe Bethlehem is just very passionate about cardiovascular exercise? Maybe we were in the way?
We took our turn-off and rattled onto the dirt road. About twenty minutes into my seat playing Kancho with the contents of my descending colon I had a very mean thought about Dad. As though reading my mind he rode up alongside and happily said “you get used to it” before accelerating ahead. I have to begrudgingly accept he was right. The worst part is the first hour, thereafter you do get used to it. Eventually, I was naturally weaving my way through the gravel roads, finding paths of least resistance. My head, in its eagerness not to become personal with the S1047, empties itself of other thoughts.
Except for animal sightings. My head is always keen to spot animals. On this front there were two highlights of the bird variety; several Long-Tailed Widowbirds and twice we spotted a raptor which I am yet to identify.
There was also a very squashed Red Bishop but that was not a highlight.
The temperature was thankfully cool. We were not baked by the heat navigating the roads. About 40km in, I felt a helluva energy dip which was perked by hoovering the squashed remains of a stone fruit into my system. An act which ended with the following exchange:
Chris (throwing stone onto side of the road): “One day, five or so years from now, we will come back here and there would be an amazing Apricot tree.”
Dad: “That’s a peach.”
Chris: “Which would make it more amazing.”
The last twenty kilometers hurt. Make no bones about it. Dad and I realized why peaches are not highlights of endurance foodstuffs. We hit the final 8km of tar to discover that misery loves company and long, endless hills. After emitting enough C02 for Greta Thunburg to haunt us, we arrived in Fouriesburg at about 14:00.
It’s a public holiday. Where you going to find lunch? Huh? HUH?!
We cycled up to Nix’s Tavern, which, though locked, still had an assortment of empty bottles and glasses on the veranda table. Dad resolved that he was done riding and I was to find lunch. This involved me visiting nearly every spaza shop in Fouriesburg looking for coke lite and two pies. I eventually struck some luck, but not before meeting half the town getting there.
Checked in and cleaned the self, the clothing and the soul.
Time to nap son. Which I did for about fifteen minutes before my alarm rudely intruded on the eternal blackness that had engulfed me. I woke up and found Dad loitering around the hotel entrance. I was sent on a mission to retrieve clean bottled water as the towns supply is… not so kosher. Shortly after my return we went for a peaceful stroll through. Fouriesbrug is very much the quintessential small town in the Free State though it does cater to an interesting economic niche – imports from Lesotho. Every now and then a crude hand painted sign would indicate a “clearing agent”. These are businesses where stock is cleared from one country into the next. The dubiousness of this is, more often than not, obvious.
Eventually we found a restaurant that was open. A fairly accurate Boerechique joint where the menu was bilingual and the clientele ascended in weight from the door. I don’t understand that. Farming is a strenuous exercise at the best of times. What do you have to do to your body to grow breasts out of your back and sweat margarine?
Dad and I stared at each other red eyed through a pretty marvellous meal. My entree of snails arrived in a novel fashion (pictured) and Dad’s burger was portioned by someone who believes Coronary Failure is a star constellation. He loved it.
Despite it being light, we returned to our rooms to get an early night. I am munching on pilfered Eat Sum Mors and debating a return to the black void of my afternoon Nap.