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I had won first prize: one night in Noupoort, Northern Cape (second prize: two nights). So I board the Greyhound bus that leaves daily at 3.30pm from Johannesburg for Cape Town. We arrive at Noupoort in the early hours. I offload my bike in the dark as the nonplussed Greyhound stewardess mouths a relieved goodbye. Luckily Noupoort’s geography is not hard to fathom, even in the darkness, and I reach my lodging quickly. The town is not a barrel of fun at 2am (or at any time), but then neither am I. There are several guest-houses in the town that will accept late arrivals. Find them on booking.com. I wake to a bright Karoo morning and a huge breakfast. I opt to pack the Vienna sausages and a cheese sandwich into my panniers for lunch. Noupoort, a decrepit railway centre, must be one of the poorest towns in SA. Every second youth seems to be begging. But the town is known for its Christian Care Centre for drug rehabilitation. In the past, tough love (hard labour) was used to chase out d...

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