Cycling around South Africa

If you’ve never been to Africa, you probably have a specific representation of what the continent looks like.  In your mind, it probably looks a lot like many of my past posts – usually out in the bush, in places like Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, or even portions of South Africa.  However, what you probably don’t picture is what the southern coastline of Africa looks like, so, let this be a bit of an introduction to this incredible place.

Welcome to Cape Town:

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Having been to Cape Town previously, I was pretty excited to get back.  It’s one of my favorite cities in the world (along with Sydney and Paris – for those curious), and with work in Johannesburg on both Friday and Monday, I had just enough time to catch the short flight down to the Western Cape to enjoy the weekend.

I booked pretty last minute for the hotel piece (as in, about 4 hours before I landed), but I managed to get a steal on a place overlooking the ocean – which included an awesome looking pool with a view.

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Which…makes up for the lack of view my room had – since my room (not the view above) faced a concrete wall and stairwell.  Not that it mattered too much, I spent virtually every bit of daylight outside.

Early Saturday morning just after sunrise the bike rental place dropped off my ride (well, my two-wheeled ride anyway).  While I’ve brought my bike on past journey’s, I know African commercial aviation and airports well enough to know that the 7 airport journey encompassing this work trip would have resulted in portions of my bike being no longer present or functional…so, I opted for a rental instead.  It was cheap and they even delivered to and picked up from my hotel.  Can’t beat that!  I simply told them which pedals I wanted, and brought my own shoes.  They even had both carbon and aluminum frames.

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With my bike with me I drove a few miles down the road where I unloaded and began my ride.  On Saturday I ended up riding slightly over two hours – but I covered some incredible territory.  My route started along the beach, but quickly climbed along the occasionally perilous roads that dropped upwards of a thousand feet down to the sea.  Ledge to the sea below:

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Luckily, I didn’t have to take my hands off the handlebars to get most of these clips.  I had setup the GoPro HD camera to record the route (results on video btw…are…questionable) – which allowed me to grab a few screen clips:

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I should point out the runner above.  He’s hardcore.  The route he’s running is mind-bogglingly steep (average grade 8-11%), and the direction he’s going mean’s he’s likely doing at least 5-8 miles one way.  And he was flying.

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Speaking of hardcore – the peeps of Cape Town are hardcore into cycling.  When I went out to pick up my bike on Saturday morning within minutes I saw hundreds of cyclists and runners flying along the road in front of me.  That trend would continue all weekend long.  I’d wager on a Saturday/Sunday morning this popular coastal route probably sees a few thousand cyclists…on a slow day.  Really incredible.

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After I was done with my early morning Saturday ride, I went out and explored a bit of the Western Cape.  Given I’d been here before, I was able to cherry pick where I wanted to go back and see.  So, here’s a bit of a photo-stream of the weekend.

Beaches – so.many.beaches!  You’ve got a never ending supply of sand and turquois water at your disposal:

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And then there’s the rocks…or rather, the boulders.  Really big ones – pretty much everywhere.

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But in one place – aptly called Boulder Beach – you’ve got both boulders and penguins.

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Though, these penguins better stay close to shore.  Just a few miles away directly out from them is the infamous Seal Island…and a touch bit further Dyer Island – home to one of the greatest congregation of Great White Sharks around (and the majority of Discovery Channel Shark Week Shows).  While you can indeed go cage diving here, and see them fly through the air like Air Jaws, I opted this time for just checking out the warning sign on the beach:

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One of my favorite things down here has been the sunsets.  Or rather, just how long sunset lasts.  It’s really a multi-hour process, where the light slowly fades until the point when the sun actually goes below the horizon – then you’ve got yet another 45 minutes or so before it’s actually dark.  During this whole slow dance, the opportunity for photos is abound:

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Finally, we should get to Sunday’s ride.  For today’s cycling journey I drove out towards the national park that ends up with the Cape of Good Hope.  This national park area offers plenty of coves and routes to explore – with some nice strong winds to top it off.

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Once in the national park the roads aren’t quite as perfectly smooth as outside – but still fine for riding.  Just not great for handlebar mounted video.  But, I was able to get a few shots off to the side later on.

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My ride would ultimately take me across some pretty amazing territory.  Just outside the park were these Ostriches.

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And just inside the park, I nearly ran into a flock of them on my bike.  There were hanging out just off the side of the road – thankfully content were they were.

Ultimately, I made it down to the “Most South-Western point in Africa”.

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I tried to get a shot without the people, but between the boatloads of German Tourists and the Japanese Tourists…nobody would give me a second to take a picture.

So, I just put my bike off to the side and took a better picture:

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And with that, I wrapped up my weekend in Cape Town and flew back to Johannesburg.  You’ll get the world tour of Africa wrap-up post later in the week covering some of the other countries along the way.  I think I’ve spent more time in airports or airplanes, than actually on the ground in any of these places.

Oh, and just as a final reminder kids – Baboon’s are dangerous:

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And yes, Mr. French Surfer Guy with the Rental Car, that means you too:

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Have a great week all!

21 Comments

  1. Glad that you loved my amazing home city. Cape Town certainly is an active city. Although there noramlly are many cyclists at this time of year there are even more than normal. In early March we have the biggest timed cycling event in the world with over 30k entries! And it passes along your Saturday route.

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  2. I can't believe that you are able to take advantage of your work trips and see some of the most beautiful locations in the world. Not only see them, but ride and workout when you are doing so. This was an excellent post running head to head with the Jordan trip report.

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  3. Glad you enjoyed my city :)
    Sometimes I forget how amazing the place I live is.
    As Alistair already posted, the reason for the extra cyclists is because they are all training for the Argus Cycle Tour (link to cycletour.co.za) and the runners are training for the Two Oceans Marathon (link to twooceansmarathon.org.za).

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  4. French, always the same, everywhere in the world.
    As part of our honeymoon, we went with my wife to NZ, each time that we were ashamed with tourists ill-behaving, it was some fellows compatriots...

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  5. Awesome pictures. Cape Town really looks beautiful, might have to take my wife there some day when the kiddos are grown.

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  6. Beau

    Can we hope to see a posting of this South Africa video sometime in the future? That EZ trainer app is looking more appealing if we get to benefit from your global rides...

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  7. Great write up of Cape Town. It's one of my bucket list of places to visit. I read that you had your GoPro HD with you...review of that coming soon?

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  8. Thanks all!

    RE: The GoPro HD Video

    I havne't quite decided on a full review of it - or if I'll do more of an athletes view of it.

    Regarding posting the video so you can ride using EZ-Trainer (or the like) - that was originally my intention, though, the bumpiness of the video means at least one of the two days is just too rough to use. I do think the first day though, one of the middle 40 minutes (which encompasses the best chunk of scenery) is quite usable. So I'll see if I can get that posted when I get back. Unfortunately, the hotel internets here in Africa have been pretty rough for uploading.

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  9. Gorgeous photos. I may have to put South Africa on the "to visit" list.

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  10. One of my best riding buddies is from SA so I've gotten to hear a lot about it. LOVE all the wildlife photos :-) The coastline reminds me so much of Northern California and then you see penguins!

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  11. my friend studied abroad in south africa and after looking at these pictures as well as hers i must say i want to go. now!

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  12. One of my favorite places, too! I'm glad you got to go back!

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  13. WOW! Beautiful just beautiful!

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  14. I would not want to sit my ass on a plane for 150K miles a year, but damn you have fun.

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  15. MB

    *Loved* Cape Town. I didn't get a chance to ride while I was there, but it looks like we covered pretty much the same places, step for step.

    As always, enjoyed the read.

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  16. How awesome is that! You get to take some of the most amazing bike rides.

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  17. Totally amazing pics, thanks!

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  18. Cam

    hey dc,

    great site and awesome post on your ride in cape town.

    it looks like some of the photos are from your canon slr... how do you carry it around while riding?

    cheers

    Reply
  19. Hi Cam-

    The photos are a bit of a mix of DSLR and small Optio. And those that are DSLR are a mix of backpack with DSLR camera in it - and taken via driving around.

    Thanks!

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  20. Dan S

    Loved the pics. I ended up visiting Cape Town the Following November and had an amazing time. Rented from the same guys has you did and ended up with the same helmet you were modeling above. Wonderful ride turned the Argus route into a true century which was awesome.

    Dan

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  21. Jim Reed

    Love Cape Town! What a fantastic, alive city! My wife & I go every year for the Cape Argus Cycle Tour, mentioned in previous posts. Great event, very professionally run. Going for the 6th time in '14! "Everybody say Hooplaaa!"

    Reply

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