Wednesday & Thursday, 2 – 3 September 2020. Day 4 is a rest day and boy are we grateful. At Coleford Lodge we met Esmarie and Fanie Sadie, our gracious hosts. Their property is situated approximately 30km outside of Underberg in the Southern Drakensberg with the most spectacular views. Fanie bought the farm in 2005, but the couple started actively running the Lodge 7 years ago. According to the title deeds, the buildings, and the farm date back to as late as 1895. The Bergview Lodge, as it was formerly known, dates to 1961 in the visitor’s book. Here they comfortably cater for 30 people sharing in 3 self-catering and 4 non self-catering cottages. A good 90% of their business is generated from overseas visitors, mostly from Belgium and the Netherlands. International tourists usually come in groups and stay 2-3 nights while touring SA, starting in the North or South Coast, traveling to Sani Pass, and through the Midlands up to Golden Gate. The hospitality is great, there are great views all around, they are off the grid, and they can cater to everyone’s needs.
During our stay we visited Underberg and explored the town. The magnificence of this place was in direct contrast to the devastation that the lockdown regulations had on its people – who all depend on tourism to survive. What a humbling experience the last 2 – 3 days were. In both Himeville and Underberg we could see that the local economy took an awfully bad turn. Shops closed doors and many were empty. An outside mall area which houses 20 shops, now only had 2 still functioning. We think about the impact that this has on the local economy in terms of spendable income. So many lives had been affected negatively.
Rest day was also Laundry Day – so that happened, thanks to Drak Dry Cleaning and Laundry. We ended our evening with a braai and braaibroodjies in the cool night air. As we mentally prepared for our day 5 start, head on our way to St Bernards Peak Mountain Lodge, the cold had lifted in the Southern Berg, it was a full moon outside, and you can hear the Jackal calling in the distance.
On a lighter note, we draw from the positive energy of the people we continually meet on route, and the views and landscapes that have become solitary friends. Stopping to appreciate the fact that we are alive and healthy, the team, joined by our amazing MTB technician Lucky, from Hatton’s Cycles PMB, did a “Dirt-road Jerusalema” that we caught on camera for your viewing pleasure.
Day 5 spirits were high, and the sun was out – it would be a warm day. On our way to St Bernards Peak Mountain Lodge we had about about 50.8km to ride and 540m of climbing to do. Sunscreen was required in contrast to jackets against the chill the day before.
As we arrived at Ian and Cheri Warrel’s St Bernards Peak Mountain Lodge, we put a Flyline into the river to clear the mind while we rested our bodies. Leon caught his first Trout on tour, which Gerhard aptly dubbed the “PHAT” FOREL. Catch and release of course. Our thoughts in this moment circled around the beautiful scenery, open farmlands, possibly the most remote place in KZN. The pub is quaint and has a great Scottish feel to it. The owners are caring and go out of their way to make sure you have a wonderful stay.
Thankful for the opportunity, we realise that an expedition like this would not be possible without the people that work in the background to make it happen. People like our wonderful and patient Odea from Rivers Labour Consultants, with no tour job description but rather jack-of-all-trades, managing our admin, bookings, sponsorships, and Gerhard’s home 😊. So happy to have our Lucky’s with us on tour till we reach Rhodes. Lucky Hatton’s Cycles, one of our amazing sponsors who keep our wheels turning, literally – what a God send. Lucky Lythwood Lodge, superstar. Not forgetting oom Willie – riding in our slipstream to keep us safe and motivated.
Finally – we cannot do this without our Sponsors of the Day. For day 5 this was Turtle Creek Clothing in Johannesburg, thank you Graham. Come ride with us!
THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SPONSORS, ACCOMMODATION SPONSORS, AND FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL DONATION MADE. WISH YOU WERE HERE!
Less than 100km away from the towns we stay in – where people are educated about the covid-19 pandemic and how to manage the health risks, we pass through the rural villages where life seemed to have continued as normal. The people in these villages are not aware of what is going on. We see children of 8-9 years old, who can hardly speak their own language, let alone understand Covid, lock-down regulations, and what they should and should not do to stay safe. We realise how much hard work still lies ahead for SA, for us as a country, and for us as communities. To reach out and start educating, helping, and assisting. The question we struggled with was, what do we do to make a difference in this situation. Food for thought as we went on our way.