I am amazed how one can ride the same old routes and never discover their true value and beauty. Saturday was no exception. The trusty mates and I headed out to the Cradle for a gorgeous autumn amble. Six kms into the ride, Gadget was writhing in the grass clutching his thighs, then his calves then his hamstrings and then he started all over again. Racked with cramps after completing a tough 9 day ride the week before, he couldn't move whether it be riding or walking. We decided that seeing there was no blood, we could leave him to make his way home. It took him about 2 hours. In the meantime we pushed on. There comes a time in every rider's life when the phrase "Why don't we ride that and see where it goes" can be a gateway to a magical experience or just plain awful and frustrating moments. Our first "Lets try that track" climbed up the hill and ended at a huge game fence and a battered braai. Great views but disappointing result. Although we did wave to Gadget as he gingerly made his way home on the opposite hillside. So we took the tiger line across the veld and picked up the farm road and came to another decision point. You know the one where someone has regularly said, "Next time we must see where that goes" pointing up the hills and fast disappearing jeep track. Game we were and game it was. Probably 500m into the climb we crested the hill and spotted a herd of Eland blending into the gray green landscape of trees and boulders. As they moved off, we pushed on and to our absolute delight, the jeep track turned into stunning single track winding along the base of the hill and dropping down to various river beds before meandering on again. "Shame, poor Gadget" we muttered as we explored. I wished for the thousandth time that I had my camera. A chat and a sticky bar under a spreading tree gave us renewed impetus and we followed the track all the way back to below the mountain with the braai where we startled some more eland into crashing into the game fence before bolting up the hill to safety. Then we circled back to the main farm road. It had been quite a hard effort as the single track had sharp ups and down and had been very rocky but we loved it. We had to cross through several fences on the next section and where we usually manouvered our bikes around the posts, Dave (The Elf) simply threw his bike over onto some tall elephant grass leaving us stunned. He's getting a new bike so I guess he really didn't care. The rest was pretty much the usual until we hit the veggie farm. Bakkie loads of cabbages had been coming out of this farm and there were still zillions of fat and flourishing plants. The bridge over the river had been partially washed away with the heavy rains of the past month which must have made it difficult for the farm trucks but as we rounded the corner - What? More single track! Ok, so we were doing it about face and going up hill when we should have been racing down it but it made for far more interesting climbing. Somewhere in the middle of our happy moments we made a pact not to tell Gadget. It would kill him to know that he missed out. I'm not going to mention how long it took us to ride a mere 40km but the fun factor was off the scale. On a side note, I rode my road bike on Sunday and was astounded to ride up behind a horse and cart going at a helluva clip up Witkoppen Rd in the midst of suburbia. The horse (apparently a Shire) was enormous and the driver of the trap explained in a guttural accent that the horse was well shod in the front and wasn't hurting its legs on the tar. Did I ask a stupid question? Maybe. But I had to ride like hell to get away from this huge, huge beast. If the hill had been longer, I would have lost.