Paul and I attempted the CityScape route the week before. The route is a 428 km bikepacking route with the starting point in Centurion Pretoria, South Africa. Unfortunately a broken rear derailleur pulley ended our journey at kilometer 145 just after we survived a thunder and hail storm. "The perfect story for around the camp fire". Fast forward to the following weekend and we attempted the CityScape route for a second time. Winter was now fast approaching as was apparent from the cold dark morning ushering us to rather "go back inside". It was 4 am Saturday morning, the adventure has begun! Talk, stop, peddle, eat, drink, silence, peddle, pictures, nature... this was the repeated activities over the course of the two days. We reached our overnight destination as darkness fell, and enjoyed a festive dinner before turning in for the night. WHAT!! it was 4 am again the following morning, time to pack bikes and gear. As if waking up at this ungodly hour was not enough it was misty with visibility limited to a few meters and it was WET. We somehow managed to get going, day 2 has begun. Unspoken words swirled in the mist "will they go the distance"!? The first five hours of riding was as if man and machine were being tested. We passed the test and were rewarded with sunshine at 9 am just as we entered a small town. We stopped and unpacked leaving gear scattered to dry, and prepared a hot coffee and breakfast. This was just what we needed to ignite the body and soul again for the remainder of the adventure. Another 155 km to go! The last 90 kilometers were littered with hills and a persistent head wind. And just then something unexpected happened at around 340 km. The more we cycled the less we became concerned with how we felt, it was as if our bodies made peace with what was happening. Helmut, who joined me on this incredible journey was in agreement and optimistically said that we could probably ride another 200 km the following day. Is ultra distance riding really this much "fun"?! 8:30 pm Sunday evening we rode into town as we completed another bikepacking adventure. Both of us concurred that our cycling abilities definitely "leveled up" during the two days of riding. My advice to you - JUST DO IT.
making connections, creating memories ABOUT THE ROUTE: The Silo Wonders Route starts and finishes in the town of Val situated in the Gauteng Province, South Africa. The route can be experienced as an overnight adventure totaling 238 km with 2,210 m ascent. I often call the route the connective route as it connects as many as 14 bikepacking stages . Combine these stages and there are many different route variants to keep any bikepacker busy for some time. If I recall correctly the max distance when all stages are combined is in excess of 700 km. There are a few road crossings on the circle route but essentially the whole route consists of gravel and jeep tracks. It is important to carry enough water on route as there are no towns or water stops between destinations. DAY 1: Saturday: Saturday morning we arrived at the town of Val and was greeted by friendly faces and lovely weather, a good omen for the ride ahead. Gordon and I were in good spirits and looked forward to the first day's 100 km ride.
Even in winter you will have the occasional water crossing and the subsequent wet foot! The first few kilometers from town closely follows the railway responsible for resource transportation. Remember to wave at the trains passing by, they will respond with a HONK . With energetic chatter the first 60 km flew by and before we knew it we arrived at the third silo that marked a coffee break. We enjoyed our coffee and snacks and with only 200 m ascent over 60 km we felt ready for the last 28 km that lay ahead before arriving at Vrede. After a much needed coffee break we were ready for the last push to Vrede. This 28 km stretch will climb 600 m but is rewarded with a downhill section into town.We arrived as planned and rode into town on our iron horses. The Vrede Hotel was friendly and had a safe spot on their premises to park our bikes while we settled in for dinner. Visually we stood out in the crowd like dusty, dirty cowboys. Too tired to care we ate the whole plate and some as we discussed what was and the next day's ride. Hotel accommodation looked inviting but as bikepackers do we chose the camping option. We decided not to make use of our planned camp site but rather used a local B&B that also served breakfast to campers. " BIG shout out to my wife for arranging this last minute, you're the best!" Only a short distance from the hotel we stalked the quiet streets of Vrede looking for our overnight spot. Once found we quickly set up camp and turned in for the night. "Vrede is a town in the Free State province of South Africa that is the agricultural hub of a 100 km² region. Maize , wheat , mutton , wool , beef , dairy products and poultry are farmed in the region. The town lies 60 km south of Standerton and 216 km south-east of Johannesburg . It was founded on the Krynauwslust farm in 1863 and proclaimed a town in June 1879. The name is Afrikaans for ‘peace’, which refers to the settlement of a dispute over the proposed site of the town. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vrede " DAY 2: Sunday: The second day was a 132 km with the worst of the climbs during the first kilometers. If only we knew that the calm weather of that morning would soon transform into a battle against the elements with + 60 km/h gusts that accompanied us head on for most of the day. The slow progress against the wind extended our ride late into the evening. At this stage we were low on water and energy but night time riding upped the adventure to the next level. We enjoyed the total darkness and bright stars, something you do not get to enjoy living in a city. We arrived late that night at the Val, the town's 20 inhabitants were tucked into bed and sleeping long before we arrived to end our journey. Gordon was running on empty and contemplated if not riding his bike for a month was the best preparation for this trip. I quickly packed the bikes and gear into the trusty old Mitsubishi and we were heading back toward city lights, planning our next adventure coming up this October. Until next time, Pack & Ride!