We were in Still Bay on the Garden Route - a chilled weekend away with friends, Bruce and Sharon, with a spot of ebiking thrown in. We'd already hooked up with local ebikers, Howard and Sanet, to do a really fun ride to nearby Jongensfontein, but the idea was to do something a little longer. As is my want, I had been messing around on Tracks4Africa and Google Earth, looking for rideable routes and found what looked like a really nice 55km circular ride.

I checked the weather forecast and it looked good - around 26°, dropping as the day passed and a little cloud cover moved in, to 23° or 24°. Nicccccce. We had a leisurely breakfast and headed off on the same road to Jongensfontein as we had the previous day, pedalling up onto higher ground. A few kilometres out of town we turned right onto gravel, heading for Vermaaklikheid. The countryside was gorgeous - lazy cattle stared languidly at us cruising past on the ebikes, some bokkies trotted off into the distance and, of all things, a domestic cat jumped up onto a gate post to check us out.

I must say that, at this point, I wondered if it might get a little hotter than the 26° forecast, but how hot could it get? Besides we only had about 40km to go.

The road was long. And hot...

The road was long. And hot...

Mmmmmm.... Onwards we went, following the route that I'd loaded onto the GPS. At some stage we turned off the main road onto a narrow sandy track. At the time I did wonder about the remoteness of it, but we've been on farm tracks like this before, where you come across the occasional gate and you just follow the rule - if it's open, leave it open and if it's closed, close it after you have gone through. It was now properly hot, Bruce saying something about seeing 38° on his GPS. Pat and Sharon were really feeling the heat and scrambled under a low shrub, looking for some shade. Bruce and I toughed it out in the sun, my GPS saying just 17km to go - not too bad because much of that looked like downhill. Having had a handful of "trail mix" and a good swig of water we pressed on, Bruce and Sharon leading the way, disappearing over a low hill. Pat and I found them on the other side looking a little shattered. "There's a gate, a big one, it's locked and there is absolutely no way we can get through!"

We had no choice. Back we went to the main road and took a slightly longer loop up and over some mountains. The 7km detour was definitely not what we needed at this stage and in that heat! There was no turning back at this point - it was shorter to keep going and the last bit, along the Goukou River looked like it was all downhill... How often have you heard that?

In the incredibly hot conditions we thought maybe a swim was in order. Alas, the reservoir was full of Koi fish and we thought they may not like it. This was after our little sandy track detour.

In the incredibly hot conditions we thought maybe a swim was in order. Alas, the reservoir was full of Koi fish and we thought they may not like it. This was after our little sandy track detour.

I must say we all nudged those power buttons up a notch on the climb and the fast, flowing downhill on the other side was very welcome. We turned right onto the final stretch, water reserves in the hydration packs dropping alarming as we rode along. And then, like an oasis in the desert, a tap appeared with a cycling sign above it. Some very kind and insightful farmer has installed a water point at his gate for the sake of cyclists in need of a drink. Thank you brother. Thank you very much. We poured water over ourselves, glugged a fair bit, filled our hydration packs and set off again looking for this downhill, now only about 20km to go.

Well, there were downhills but there were also uphills. A lot of them. Short and sharp, they sapped our energy, draining the last remaining bits of power in our bike batteries. We pressed on, riding slowly now, on the lowest power setting, eking it out, hoping to make it home before the last flashing bar on the battery meter petered out. And we did. Only just.

In retrospect, if you ignore the heat and the dead-end track, it was a great ride. The scenery in places is gorgeous, and while it's never going to be an easy ride (even on an ebike) it's certainly worth doing. And doing it clockwise is easier than doing it counter-clockwise.

Bruce cooling off at "The Tap"

Bruce cooling off at "The Tap"

But the importance of somethings was re-emphasized:

1. Water and food. This is paramount! We would have just made it back to base without the water point but it did make things much easier. Bruce and Sharon also had the good sense to take along an electrolyte solution.

2. Get your facts right. It was about 26° in Still Bay that day but, of course we weren't in Still Bay. It was much hotter up on the high ground.

3. Stick together. When things get tough, work as a team to come up with a solution - support each other all the way.

We stayed at Beach Blessings in Still Bay, a very comfortable 4 bedroom house right on our cycling route. Call Jenny Olivier +27 (82) 565 0979.

Route Distance: 60km

Route conditions: Tar road in the beginning and at the end of the ride with good gravel in-between. As you may have gathered, it gets really hot so best start the ride early in the morning and carry plenty of water and nourishment. Trail mix and wine gums work for us but some say biltong and dates are the ultimate cycle snack.

Beach Blessings rental accommodation: S34° 21.348' E21° 24.738'

The water point: S34° 25.608' E21° 20.266'

Download the GPS track for the Still Bay, Goukou River Loop here