We left Stuttgart upbeat and ready for the last 70km of which the last 18km were promised as "all downhill". Yeah right, heard that one before.
|Typical Karoo scrub|
My legs were feeling better - not fast - but not as tight so I was happy. We had a tailwind which made the going pretty hot and we'd regroup under the shade of the odd tree that leaned over the road. We reached the bad memories of 09 (Yes, I still recognised it such was the trauma!) and rode comfortably over it. There was really no mud to speak of despite the downpours of the night before.
Thus fortified, we pedaled on to the gate in the fence. It's quite easy to make a mistake here and many have done so. Leon remembered his error clearly from the previous year and my maps read: Go through gate!"
So we did.
|View from below|
I have two photos taken in 2009 which are framed. The one is from the bottom of the portage beside the small lake and the other from the top, looking back and over the ridge into the Karoo with a dusting of snow. I had looked forward to taking a repeat for months already. So I got my picture of the lake and the mountain looming above then pedaled off after the others.
As we hit the base of the mountain and began to climb, the black clouds rolled in and within minutes, a grey sheet of rain descended the mountain and dumped on our heads. Howling wind made it difficult to pull on rain jackets and to pack away phones and camera. Eventually, packs were on and we began the slow plod with rain driving in our faces one way, then pushing onto our backs another. Once again, I was reminded of the distinct lack of waterproofing that my seldom used jacket offered.
|View from the top|
I reached the gate barely able to speak but I was still determined to take my photo looking down the hill. So while the others moved onto the saddle where we would have a brief picnic. Jonathan and I messed around with photos. (I've combined the two pics from above at the bottom of this blog).
|The tuna moment|
Jonathan to the rescue with an extra sachet. Using his spork, I inhaled the contents and my world was was intact again. I was really surprised at the lift it gave me as it wasn't that long ago that we'd eaten well at Stuttgart. Never mind, it was exactly what I needed to get going. Oh, that and the technical downhill that followed!
|Karoo vistas - descent looming|
A strange recollection now was my Garmin which started beeping incessantly. Eventually I figured out there was some dirt or mud jammed in one of the buttons which eventually washed out with the next downpour which came on us with the same rapidity as the dissipation of the previous one.
We were helter skeltering down the road constantly looking over our shoulders at Schurfteberg and when the valley started to blot out, it was time to whip on the waterproofs. Except for Jonathan. It seemed that everyone was trying to beat the rain as three bareback horseman came galloping up the road clearly trying to get home before the rain started in earnest again.
In the small window that was created by my jacket hood and the angle of the road, I watched the white stones bounce crazily before being swept away by the torrent. As we reached the top of the climb, the entire road surface was covered by lakes of water around which there was no riding.
It was exhilarating despite the cold from the wind which drove the rain through our layers. I loved it.
We began the descent hoping that the ruts beneath the layer of water wouldn't be too bad when Leon broke his hangar. We managed to shout the word above the wind and saw a farmhouse not 300m away. Perfect.
Time to leave the RASA route and make our turn towards Cradock. Only the Swaershoek Pass awaited us along with the promised 18km of nirvana downhill.
The rain had softened up the surface of the road so it became a slog and when we reached the pass, only Leon and Craig rode it. For the rest of us, a headwind, the slope and general fatigue from the weather meant a push to the top.
|Top of Swaershoek Pass|
What an awesome way to finish any event. It was almost dark when we arrived but to a warm welcome from Glenn and Meryl of the race office and the other riders who had finished.
How does one end off a tale like this? I'm not sure what is fitting. Perhaps the real measure is whether I would do it again.