Thursday, 25 August 2011

Floral fantasy-land at Fynbosvlei

Anniversary time and so time to do something special. What better than a log cabin with a fireplace on a hill overlooking a long lake that flows into the sea. If you find nature orgasmic, then Fynbosvlei is your Casanova – a 40ha stretch of coastal fynbos on the Swartvlei (the largest of the Wilderness lake system).

The beautiful log cabin overlooks a bank of indigenous flowers towards the lake. We timed our visit to coincide with some winter hang-over weather – grey, mist and rain – more excuse to stay indoors of course! So light was not great for wildlife photography – the flash had to work overtime in order to document some of the spectacular array of flowers on show, all accessible through a winding series of trails.

On our last day we also had a break in the weather which allowed me to paddle out onto the Swartvlei on a courtesy canoe to admire the area from a different point of view. 
Hmmm... lunch

I was pleased this came out - since it was cloudy, I was in the forest under-story, and shooting against the light.

The pier at Fynbosvlei

Pied Kingfisher flies low over the water

Red-necked spurfowl sneaking away from the cabin

All in all – highly recommended – for more information visit

On Wednesday we headed home via George to do chores. Back to life. We just got through the Outeniqua pass before further rock slides shut it down completely. On Potjiesberg pass we came across a troop of baboons playing in the road. We did not give this fellow his toy:

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Can't argue with the apricot

The apricot tree is the first in our orchard to decide that it is time to come out of winter hibernation. This seems to have been met with approval by the resident weavers and some stray Southern Double-collared Sunbirds. Actually, I never knew these blossoms had enough nectar to make them attractive to birds - unless they were just smelling the blossoms? I had to take break from chopping wood to catch some of the action:

Proof it wasn't just some coincidental perching!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Baviaans - in and out

On Tuesday Anja, Elena and I headed into the kloof to attend a meeting put on by Willowmore tourism on how to make Baviaanskloof a destination (as opposed to just a drive through route). Water is still up on the western section – the eastern section through the reserve has only just been reopened for 4x4s. The kloof is looking beautiful with Aloes and other flowers along the way.

Euphorbia mauritanica (Melkbos)

We arrived a bit late because there were lots of beautiful birds to distract us along the way.


Cape Batis (female) - actually this was one of only three birds in my mist nets on Monday

Ooooh who's that handsome fellow in the water? this Hamerkop seems to be saying

A relaxed Jackal Buzzard on its perch

No trip into the kloof is complete without a Black Eagle sighting!

One other tourism company, one guide from the Sewefontein community, the reserve manager, and the hosts of the meeting (Pieter and Magriet Kruger from Zandvlakte) and ourselves were the only attendees. Apparently most other kloof residents are busy with their farming now that there have been all these good rains. The meeting was chaired by the mayor of Willowmore, with special guest speaker Trudi Malan from Jeffrey's Bay.

We learnt that we are already a tourist destination. However, Pieter and Boetie Terblanche pointed out they had many cancellations due to the road through the reserve being closed and maybe we need to print bumper stickers saying 'Baviaanskloof – more than a road', although I'd say it should be 'Baviaanskloof – Accessible Adventure'. We should also be working harder to attract tourists other than the 4x4 community. Not that we (Blue Hill Escape) get many of those anyway!

Either way, lunch at Zandvlakte was lovely, and it was a good excuse for a drive through the kloof.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Has Spring Sprung?

Probably not (to answer my self-imposed question), since last night the thermometer hit -3 degrees.

Perfect frosty morning for a walk! Since I'd noticed quite a few things in flower recently, thought I better head out and document some of them. Fynbos contains many entertaining subjects for macro photography.

Frosty leaves
I'm not a plantologist, so some names of things below might be wrong (if you really want to learn latin plant names best buy Plants of the Klein Karoo).

Agathosma recurvifolia - a local kind of buchu


a member of the Compositae family

A pink Erica

A white Erica

Eriocephalus (Kapokbos)


Lessertia microphylla (formerly known as Sutherlandia – Kankerbos)


Leucospermum royenifolium

Muraltia (but could be totally wrong)
Naartjieskloofberg with Protea neriifolia in the foreground

Othonna cyclindrica close macro shot

Othonna parviflora Bobbejaankool 
Struthiola argentea

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Sod’s Laws of Cycle Touring

During my time on a bike I learnt the following things: 

1. The Rule of Traffic Convergence
After travelling on a quiet road all to yourself for an extended period of time 2 car will always appear, travelling in opposite directions, and pass eachother only when they are exactly in line with you.

2. Law of Tranquility
On a quiet road just when one starts to appreciate the beauty and stillness of one's surrounding, one will be passed by a 16 ton truck who, thinking that he is offering encouragment, will indulge in an extended blast on his fog horn.

3. Law of Oxygen
Just when one is starting to appreciate the fresh air, one will encounter one or more of the following:
a. A vehicle emitting large clouds of black smoke.
b. A wood pulp factory.
c. A crop sprayer that starts its run directly over your head.
d. The bloated corpse of some dead creature, which one will cycle over causing its distended rotten belly to erupt foul fluid all over one's bikes and panniers that takes weeks to clean off and will result in one being a magnet for flies for an extended period of time.

4 . Law of the Rest Break.
During a rest break one will be subject to the torment of the following creatures: ants, flies, mosquitoes and large spiders which think that one's nostrils are the ideal place for a nest.

5. Solar Law.
One will run out of sunblock on the hottest, sunniest day of the trip that covers an area devoid of shade.

6. Law of Compass Navigation.
When taking a compass reading one will be in and area of high magnetism that will result in a mythological reading from one's apparatus, which will result in one cycling in the wrong direction for at least 40km.

7. Law of Map Navigation.
The road, town or feature on the map most essential for navigation, does not exist in reality.

8. Law of Preparation.
The piece of equipment left behind while packing is the most important item.

9. Law of Pot-hole avoidance.
Attempting to swerve to avoid a pothole will only result in one hitting a larger one. The same goes for trying to avoid bumps in the road.

10. Law of Puncture Awareness.
Upon realising that one has travelled for an extended period of time without a puncture, one's rear wheel will explode for no apparent reason.

11. Law of Wind Direction.
There is no such thing as a tail-wind.
Observation on this law: It is possible to arrive at your destination simply by heading into the wind. However, if you use this fact as a law of navigation then you will get lost.

12. Law of Public Campsites
There will be no hot water and no toilet paper.

13. Law of Relative Distance.
At the end of a long cycle the last ten kilometers are longer with respect to time, effort and pain than the proceeding 100kms.

14. Law of Fly Management.
No matter how many flies one swots, there is always at least one more. The same goes for Mosquitoes.

15. Sunset Rule.
If you think you have enough sunlight to last you another 10km, it will be pitch black in 15 minutes.

16. Law of Toilet Paper Purchasing.
There is never any when you desparately need it, and when it is available one can never buy just one roll, it is only available in minimim packs of 12.

17. Toilet Paper Distance algorythm.
One's desire for a crap increases exponentially according to the distance to the nearest convinient toilet paper supply.

18. The impenetrable tent myth.
No matter how hard you try one mosquito will always find its way into your tent and head directly for your ear to wake you up at 2am.

19. Law of Equipment Access.
The item you need is at the very bottom of your pack, which will entail you having to unpack everything to retrieve it.

20. Law of Attachment.
Items tied to the outside of one's pack will at some stage fall off and this will not be noticed until one has cycled at least a further 20km.

21. The Shoe-Shaking Rule.
The day you don't shake out your shoes before you put them on is the day a spider or other creature has made their home in it.

22. Law on ShortCuts.
Shortcuts always take at least twice as long as the established route.

23. Law of Fragrance.
There is no such thing as a nice smelling lost distance cyclist.

24. The Raincoat Rule.
The amount of water inside a raincoat soon exceeds the amount of water on the outside of the raincoat.

25. Law of the Remote Accident.
There will always be someone around to watch one have an embarrasing accident, like falling over because one's foot will not detach from the pedal. When this happens you will also be subject to the Law of Impact.

26. Law of Cheap Hotels.
There will be cockroaches.
If they do not reveal themselves to you during the night then they will surprise you by appearing unexpectedly in your sugar or bread in the following days.

27. Law of the Gradient.
One will spend more time pedalling uphill than travelling downhill.

28. The Inflation Deflation Relation.
It takes a lot longer to pump up a tire than for it to go down.

29. The Weekend Wallet Rule.
You will most need to change money when it is the weekend and the banks are closed.

30. The Washing Rule.
The day you choose to do the washing is the day that the rain will set in for a week so that you will have nothing dry to wear.

31. The Hunger to Stability Relation.
The hungrier you are, the more likely it is that your cooker will be unbalanced and fall over resulting in your dinner being mixed with the ground.

32. The Communication Rule.
When travelling in a country and you cannot speak the local language, sooner or later you will end up saying something in English that means something totally different in the local language - saying that you are 'embarazada' doesn't mean that your embarresed in Spansh, it means you are pregnant.

33. The Destination Desparation Law.
The only time when it is quicker to get to a destination by bike is when one is trying to get to that destination by using public transport when it is entirely possible one will have to wait 2 or more days for the next available train or bus.

34. Law of the Cycling Glove.
There can be only one cycling glove. One will always get lost somewhere along the way.

35. Law of Impact.
In the inevitable event of one's falling over: If you are not wearing a helmet you will fall on your head, or if you are not wearing gloves then you will fall on your hands, otherwise any other part of the body which is not protected will be the focal point of impact.

36. Law of the Behemoth Truck.
At some stage of one's trip one will be forced off the road by the relative proximity and/or tailwind and/or foghorn of a large truck passing closely by at high speed.

37. The 'Other' Cyclist Rule.
Should a cyclist be heading in the opposite direction, then a friendly wave or greeting is permitted. If, however, a cyclist is encountered travelling in the same direction, the Law of Passing applies which means the speed of the passing cyclist increases to a sprint and the only possible acknowledgment offered is in the form of a grunt.

38. The Red Traffic Light Law.
Red traffic lights are adhered to only until the touring cyclist sees a local cyclist pass through with impudence, after which traffic lights are ignored except in the face of imminent danger. Please note that this law is not condoned.

39. Law of Chocolate Rationing.
Rationed chocolate never lasts the length of time it is meant to be rationed for, which can lead to painfully long chocolateless days.

40. Law of Road-side Vendors.
The strange items pertaining to be food sold by vendors on the sides of roads and at bus stops are merely nice smelling, foul tasting, laxatives.

41. The Law of the Last Laugh.
He who laughs last is probably slip-streaming. 

An idiot's guide to Cycle Touring

From April to July 2002 I cycled across South America from Buenas Aires, Argentina, to the coast of Peru. It took 3 months and I covered 6500km. I used to have a diary and some other pages hosted on a free website that has now closed down, so to keep the memories alive I've reposted the info here.

The Idiot´s Guide to Happy Cycle Touring

A. Buy a bike.

A fundamental point, without a bike, you can't ride. Should you already have a rideable bike (frame, 2 wheels and a saddle at least), you can skip to the next point.

So the bike you want is the top of the range Cannondale with the suspension in the headset that you can turn off for on-road cycling, and then adjust for off road cycling, because of course you will want to do both at some stage, and the lifetime guarantee that comes with a new, genuine frame will come in very useful. But of course, like most of us, you probably don't have the spare £1000 plus needed for this dream machine, or you wouldn't be considering cycle touring in the first place, you would be flying to the Seychelles to escape the inner-city job with associated stress that gives people that kind of money.

On the other hand, what you really don't want to pick up is a cheap Halford's special for £99 either. Chances are very important parts of the bike, like the frame, are made from plastic that will break after a week's general use entailing a daily cycle to Tescos to get the groceries.

To avoid headaches later I strongly recommend buying a bike from a recognised dealer, as most offer good guarantees and after sales services. End/beginning of the year sales are held by most bike dealers to get rid of last years models when one can pick up a reasonable bike at good value. If you have the time, but don't have the money then is a vast resource. However, trying to find a bargain bike in good condition is like trying to pan for gold - you gotta get through a lot of dirt to find a real nugget.

If you are going to be buying a second hand bike there are several extra things to look at:

Judge a bike by its cover.

Bikes are not like books, firstly they are usually not made of paper, and it is possible to gauge the approximate state of the bike by looking at its 'cover'. If the bike is full of knocks and scratches, then chances are that the all-important components have been through similar treatment and will need replacing when it is most inconvenient for you.

The serial killer.

Don't be surprised if someone you approach for a second hand bike isn't trying to sell an old bike of yours back to you. Make sure that the serial number is intact and has not been filed off so that you can be sure that you are not dealing in stolen products, because if you are the you will receive no pity from me if your bike gets confiscated by police just as you are setting off.

Its also not unheard of for the labels of brand name bikes to be applied to cheap models on the standard assembly line in Taiwan. Be careful you are not paying over the odds just because the bike is covered in Scott or Cannondale stickers.

Otherwise the standard items on the bike need to be checked as if you were buying a bike new:

a. Choosing the correct Size is Wise.

Make sure the frame size of the bike is suited to you. My height of 1.71m suits me ideally to a size 18 or 19 inch frame, but I have done one of my longest tours on a 17 inch frame. If in doubt you should realise that you can always put the saddle up on a smaller bike, and this is better than travelling like a sheep on the spit, which is what you will feel like on a bike that is too big.

b. The Fame of the Frame.

The rhetorical question I have been asked most often while cycling through South America is: What is your frame made of? Aluminium? And I always have to reply 'No, Chromoly'. The wisdom of the streets is that aluminium is lighter and stronger, and although I've never done any tests to prove otherwise, I am sure it is true. However, chromoly frames are pretty good too, and although they may not be lighter at least they tend to be cheaper. When discussing the importance of frame weight, I can never help but be reminded of the most well travelled man in the world, as listed in the Guinness book of Records, who had done it all with a bike that weighs 25kg.

c. Components maketh the Bike.

These days there are a lot of bikes with fancy names, which are suitable only for looking pretty in a shop window and on being ridden will infer the feeling that you are on a date with a mannequin. It looks good, but there is something missing.

Shimano shmanoh.

Virtually every bike on the shelf these days has shimano components. Saying that your bike has Shimano components is a bit like saying that your bike has two wheels. Big Deal - what you need to do a bit of research into the different group sets that are commonly found, and which are one of the determining factors in the price of a bike.

Up Shipman's Peak without a saddle.

As important as the paddle is to the canoe, so is the saddle to the bike. Just try see how far you can cycle before being overcome by the overwhelming urge to sit down - not more than a couple of miles I'll wager.

So now that we have seen how important the saddle is, you'll understand that although it doesn't affect the operation of the bike, its is still very important. The last thing you want is a saddle which can only be sat on for a couple of hours. Generally speaking, one's ass will eventually take on the feel of one's saddle, so if you have a brick for a saddle, then soon your ass will feel the same and although you may be surprised by the answer you receive when you ask your partner when they last had a good feel of a brick, I am sure you will find that having an ass calloused like a brick is not a desirable thing.

Also the effects of too much time in the saddle on one's manhood are infamous - choose your saddle with care.

As for saddle height - a quick way to get your saddle to a comfortable height is simple to put your armpit on the saddle and then with a stretched arm make sure you can touch the base of your crank arm (the bit that attaches the pedal to the bike).

The Wheel Deal

Smooth roads - smooth tyres, Rough roads - knobblies. Although I think that good smooth tyres resist punctures almost as well as knobblies, when it comes to cycling in sand and you have slick tyres then it will be a bit like a car trying to navigate over ice - little control and lots of wheel spinning. Cycling long distances on tar roads with knobblies will ensure that you have a constant humming from the tar throughout your journey, and you will reach your destination just that little bit later due to the almost unnoticeable extra friction. But then again you won’t feel inhibited about going off road for a bit of fun, and will feel less paranoid about cycling down dodgy roads covered in glass crystal.

B. Learn how to ride.

I'm not being facetious! If you really don't know how to ride then don't take off those training wheels for at least a week, but the truth of the matter is that a bike handles really differently when carrying an extra 20+kg of weight. Its a bit like turning a Ferrari into a 6 ton Bedford truck. The brakes which used to send you flying over the handle bars when you first touched them now won't respond without a WakeUp! squeeze. And don't even think of indulging in an out of the saddle sprint that the riders do for the last hundred meters of a Tour de France stage as you, bike and panniers will all end up on different sides of the road.

Remember that it is a lot harder getting up hills with extra weight, but that the speeds descending them will be that much more exhilarating. Just make sure you are prepared for any intersections at the bottom, and that you don't become intimate with the side of a truck because your brakes melted while trying to go from 70 to 0mph in 3 seconds.

Training of some sort is imperative before starting a cycle tour, if it is just basic fitness you are after or hoping to do long distances, in which case endurance training is a must. This takes time and is a step beyond maybe the hour or two that most people are able to donate to this mission while actively employed in a normal lifestyle of working, breathing, drinking. So therefore...

C. On the Road...

Try and make the first day's ride a short distance. This is the day when problems are likely to arise with the fine tuning of the bike, but also on completion you should still feel good and strong which will put you in a positive mind for the rest of the trip. If a long distance is attempted on the first day then one is more likely to feel weary and discouraged.

May I intimate that it is a good idea for beginner cyclists to join a tour with backup vehicles that can provide relief in the case of exhaustion or emergencies. If however one is independent cycling, then a serious consideration would be to mix cycling with doing some legs of the trip by train, bus or automobile. Of course, when this is allowed, either by partners in cycling, or by the bureaucratic institutions under which we live which indiscriminately bar bikes from commercial transport, is another question. Happily, in almost every developing country, carry a bike on a bus is as normal as stacking in the goats and chickens – although these are often a good reason to keep on cycling!

Resting – the heart of happy cycling

It is highly unlikely that the pace you set at the start of a long cycle will be the pace you maintain for the entire journey, given that gradient, wind and road surface remain the same.

However there are steps you can take to try to maintain a constant average speed. Make sure that you take breaks when you feel you need to. Trying to finish a set distance when you are feeling tired will slow you down, and after a break your pace will be quicker than if you don't take one and you will feel a lot better for it.

If you are dealing with steep or long hills, an alternate to taking a stop is to simply get off your bike and walk. The change in position and use of different muscles goes a long way to relieving tired muscles. Don’t let that EGO thing get in the way of having fun. Take breaks in shady areas, preferably where there is a breeze in warm areas, as the absence of the cooling affect of the constant cooling breeze that is encountered while moving will often result in one breaking out in a heavy sweat. Conversely, bear in mind in cool areas that the heat generated from exercise generally dissipates after 10 minutes and that it is a good idea to put a jersey on soon after stopping if you are stopping for any extended length of time.

Cycling Hills

Unless you are in an extreme rush to get somewhere, coasting at the start of a descent and on long downhills is always a chance to stretch, change position and give the knees a break.

Try and make the most of the velocity gained from your downhill to get as far up the next hill as possible. I find that I can often power through smaller hills using the standing position, and then work my way through all the gears to the one that I am most comfortable with for that particular gradient.

Road Surfaces

Over the course of one's journey one will learn that there is not just tar roads and dirt roads, but that each of these has a multitude of different personalities with respect to texture, smoothness, verges, maintenance and lane demarcation in the case of tar roads. Dirt roads tend to be more schizophrenic, and need a lot more care and attention from the cyclist.

Generally, on tar roads, always make use of the smoothest, flattest section you can find. Some tar consists of a lot of gravel, giving it a rougher texture, and are harder on one's tyres and require just the tiniest amount of extra effort to travel over. When the option is available i.e. there is not a lot of traffic, it can sometimes even be worth cycling on the wrong side of the road to make the most of a better stretch of tar. However, of course that is not official advise.

Dirt roads are so diverse in their rideability that each one is unique and has its own personality. Unpaved roads have every possible combination of sand to rock, and we don't even want to throw rain or water into the equation.

Generally speaking, roads that are mostly sand have several aspects one needs to be aware of.

Firstly, even if you have a good sand road (read ´hard and flat) there will often be accumulations of soft sand on verges or corners. Deep soft sand will cause your tyres to loose traction and also result in a rapid loss of speed if approached from a hard surface. This means that your front wheel will often want to start travelling in a new direction, and one has to be very careful to keep one's line i.e. don't try turning or changing direction as even a slight change will be over emphasised by the bike.

So if on a road that is mostly soft sand, cycling is very difficult, firstly because it requires a lot more effort to keep moving. Smooth or road tyres exacerbate this problem, and it really pays to have offroad or 'knobbly' tyres to increase traction. Smooth tyres often just spin in soft sand, making forward propulsion a dream. Secondly, because of the difficulty with steering the bike in a semi-straight line as soft sand tends to overemphasise the slightest motions of the handlebars.

Very sandy roads are also hell on one's components as dust gets into all moving parts and at least makes the bike squeaky and noisy, and at worst destroys bearings, chain links and other important bits and pieces. Washing and drying the bike after a day in the sand is important, and a service of the bearings should be considered after an extensive amount of time on dirt roads.

One might consider that dirt roads with lots of stone or rocks are a lot better - but this of course depends on the size of the rocks. Large loose rocks are very practically impossible to cycle over as they halt movement, and change wheel direction. However, on a good road with occasional rocks then the danger lies in hitting a rock at speed, which could result in an accident, but will more likely result in an impact puncture (where the tube becomes trapped and cut between the rim of the tire and the rock). On rough roads it is usually necessary to travel slowly, and although this will usually be the case, this needs to be born in mind when faced with a speedy downhill.

Dirt roads are also notorious for corrugations, those irritating bumps that are close together and make one's teeth chatter when encountered unexpectedly. Corrugations are normally found on wide dirt roads where traffic travels fairly fast. Although normally there will be some patch of the road free of them, usually at the very edges of the road, the only way to enjoy corrugated roads is to have a bike with really good suspension.

Cycling weather


Wind is usually your enemy or your friend, but rarely anything in between. You will often hear cyclists say that they only ever have the wind from the front, an extra burden in the whole cycling endeavour. On average though this statement is probably true as while cycling you do generate a bit of a breeze. Of course in hot weather this is a ´Good Thing´.

A headwind is one of the most tiring aspects of the weather that can be encountered. Most cyclists over the course of training or trips start to realise what kind of speed they can obtain through different terrain and up different gradients or hills. It is easier to account for one's speed through things that one can see. However, one can't feel the wind, and cyclists often tire themselves out prematurely by trying to attain the speed they are used to for a certain visible environment, not adequately allowing for the equivalent of a hand pushing one backwards. One has to realise that cycling into a wind will reduce one's average speed in relation to the strength of the wind.

Also, there is usually no let up in a prevailing wind unless the direction of the road changes or you are lucky, unlike hills which can go up and down thus giving the cyclists a break between bouts of effort.

When cycling into a headwind try and keep as low as possible, with all equipment well strapped down to offer as little resistance to the wind as possible. But no matter what precautions you take, expect to expend 30-50%, or more, energy on a windy day, or that you will travel a proportionate distance less.

If on the other hand you should be lucky enough to have a tail wind, sit up and enjoy the ride!


Unlike wind, rain is practically never your friend, and is my biggest excuse for taking a day off from the trail. Even with mud guards to protect against spray thrown up from the tyres, you won't stop all the water or rain from flying into your face. And water thrown up by the tyres from any road is always dirty or muddy, so apart from a grimey face at the end of the cycle and mud in one's eyes or over one's glasses, ingesting a fair amount of dirt is also a nasty side effect.

Staying dry in very wet weather is also basically impossible. Even with the most water proof, breathable materials sweat will condense inside a jacket if the water does not get in. Although supposedly there are totally water proof panniers, wrapping up everything like clothing and cameras is very important. There is nothing worse than having to set up camp for the night and having to deal with a wet sleeping bag.

Other hazards of cycling in the rain include:

1. Reduced visibility - make sure you wear high visibility clothing and use your lights so that vehicles will see you, and be extra carefull about running into obstacles along the road.

2. Reduced traction - wet roads are slippery, be really careful especially if you have smooth tyres or are riding on slippery surfaces like over railtracks or cobbled stones.

3. Floods and mudslides in vulnerable areas

4. Extra wear and tear on the bike - make sure every working component is properly lubricated and be aware that a lot of sand or mud will get into joints and bearings.

5. Increased health risks when wet and cold, ranging from increased vulnerability to influenza to more serious problems like hypothermia.


Sun and blue skies, its what most cyclists pray for. And providing you take appropriate precaution for riding on a sunny day, there really shouldn't be too much to worry about.

Use lots of an appropriately factored sun-block, even the brownest skins can suffer under conditions of prolonged exposure to the sun. Light skinned people should be really careful. With the cooling effects of the cycle generated breeze on the skin, one is often not aware of the burning taking place. If in doubt, cover up and wear a cap or hat, especially really sensitive areas like lips, nose, and the back of the neck which often gets most exposure.

In areas with lots of glare, like salt pans or around large bodies of water, sun-glasses can also be a good idea.

The heating effect of the sun also needs to be taken into account. On really hot days the body's need for water can double or triple. Make sure that you are carrying and drinking enough.


Although I have little experience in this area, the experience I have will not be forgotten in a hurry due to the permanent bruise on my ass from getting cocky while doing the La Paz to Coroico road in Bolivia. The pass I was crossing at 4000m was blocked off to traffic by ice and snow on the road. Of course I managed to weave my way through the accumulated cars, and after about 5 minutes of cautious cycling I started to get cocky. That of course was when I hit a patch of ice and my back wheel flipped out from under me depositing me in a painful pile on the wet cold road. From then on I took it very easy, always trying to maintain a straight a line as possible, going very slowly, and often on very icy patches I would lower my saddle and use my feet as skies to keep well balanced.

Otherwise I guess that there are also a thousand types of snow. Of course blizzards will be no fun, but in the light snow that I have cycled in, I would say that was better than rain as at least most of it bounces off and does not make one wet.

Avoiding Punctures

One can always take the Taoist approach to punctures and appreciate them for a break from the slog. Of course the reality is that you are now going to be covered in dirt and probably be sitting out in an exposed position in the hot sun, with loads of passer-byes laughing at your misfortune.

So try and avoid punctures... don’t ride into curbs, rocks, broken bottles or other nasty things lying in the road. Even innocuous looking logs can pierce good tyres, so be careful.

On the other hand, always be prepared for what can only be considered the inevitable event while cycling. Always have a couple of spare tubes and a good puncture repair kit, as there are always nails and other nasty things in the road that are never possible to see.

In the event of a puncture, make sure that the object causing the puncture has been identified and removed from the wheel, as it is silly to pump up a tube while there is still a nail sticking into the tyre.

Also, it is a good idea after cycling through city streets to remove any little pieces of glass that have embedded themselves in your tyres, as they will inevitably work there ways into the tyre, decreasing the life-span of the tyre, and lead to punctures. This should be done at the end of the day, as there is always the chance that a piece of glass has already pierced the tube, and by removing it you are effectively taking the plug out the bath so to say.

On a lighter note to happy cycling-

1. Don't ever attempt a cycle without adequate drinking supplies (And by that I don't mean beer!).

2. Slipstream your partner or random strangers on bikes as often as possible.

3. Carry as little weight as possible (give it all the heavy stuff to you cycling buddies, or get someone with a car to drop it off at your destination. Even better, get in the car and get dropped off at your destination)

4. Reset your cyclometer so that it reads speeds and distances far in excess of what you are really achieving so that you feel good about yourself and you can lie comfortably to your friends about what the computer said you achieved. However, don't then rely on it when you have destinations on your route that you know the distances too because then you'll just get discouraged when according to your computer you have cycled twice the distance needed to reach your destination without the destination actually being anywhere in sight.

5. If cycling with someone fitter or stronger than yourself, secretly tighten their back brakes so that they are permanently on. Then you will be flying ahead while they will be doing extra hard work just to keep up. Don't however do this if you want to remain friends with said person. A more surrepticious method of slowing down your fellow cyclist is the 'Blow Dart' method. Although it does require more skill and you will need to spend a few days practising before attempting this method, what it entails is carrying an Indian blowpipe with darts that you can shoot into the leading person's tyres when you are in need of a break, which you will get when the affected person stops to repair their puncture. You will also need to learn to conceal a 6ft blowpipe. Collapsable blowpipes can be concealed in the cycling shorts, but are bound to raise the eyebrows of your cycling partner, especially if they are of the opposite sex.

6. A large degree of happiness can be obtained when cycling by consuming chocolate. Cycling provides the perfect excuse to binge on the stuff, as the sugar provides much needed energy for cycling. Chocolate also releases natural endorphins, which in turn make you happy. If however you are subject to the aphrodisiacal affects of chocolate you may find yourself developing an unhealthy love for your bike. If this is the case, please make your energy food jellybeans instead, as the last thing this world needs is a Frankenbike story.

7. You should know how to undertake basic repairs on your bike, if necessary take a short bike mechanic course. Knowing about bikes entails a bit more than knowing how to match one's cycling shoes with one's bike colour.

8. Always cycle with the wind at your back. Ideally your cycling holiday should not have any set destinations, as one should be quite happy ending up where-ever the wind happens to blow you. Should you reach a large lake or ocean and the wind continues to blow in that direction, at this stage you should NOT proceed any further, and possibly take a day's break while you wait for the wind to change direction again. 

Friday, 5 August 2011

Pied Drongo – the one and only?

We are lucky to have a resident Fork-tailed Drongo of fairly unusual and striking plumage. I first noticed her last year hawking bees from a wild bee hive in a cliff face. I think it's a she because the females have a less deeply forked tail, but probably more because she's beautiful. For a while she took up residence along a donga that had been cleared of wattle – we'd occasionally see her perched on the telephone lines. At one stage she was being pursued by a normal, black, plumage drongo. I was not sure if this was because of her unusual coloration or because he was interested for other reasons. Despite several attempts to obtain clear photos, she has always been a little wary of my presence.

This winter I was checking out our bee-hives which had been turned over by baboons. It was a windy, overcast day and the bees were having difficulties leaving their hives. Suddenly the dramatic black-and-white flash of colour caught my eye. The pied drongo was present, along with three other normal drongos. They were perched and would now-and-then sally forth and pick an unfortunate bee from the air. Returning to the perch, the bee would be thoroughly beaten and then swallowed. For several days now she has kept the company of one normal drongo – the other drongos were probably another pair, also present to make the most of the defenceless bees, as were Cape Rock Thrush, Lesser Honeyguide and Cape Sugarbirds.

Pied drongo - front...
... back...

and side.

Bee being beaten and eaten

 Of course the drongo is not 'pied' or the result of hybridisation with a Common Fiscal; it is partially leucistic – so it is partially unable to produce the pigments that result in the usual black colour in some areas. I'm personally hoping that she has lots of semi-leucistic babies, it will make a normally common bird a lot more interesting!

The pied drongo with her normal plumage companion

For more on the on Fork-tailed Drongos and their distribution in southern Africa, visit the SABAP2 website.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...