Sunday, September 28, 2014

Stiff and sore (day 2)

Day two is a bugger. One is stiff and sore from day one then you pile on more agony and muscles creak and groan and protest.
All of which means tomorrow everything should start to adapt.
Today was 93km to Ntsikeni Lodge which took us 10 hours 50 mins and the ascent was gained by walking and pushing. Thirty minutes to do 1.5km might give you an idea of the steepness of some of the climbs.
We left Centacow in searing heat again and had no shade as we climbed. The temps peaked at 37 degrees.
Finally some cloud came over and we had twenty drops of rain but the temperature dropped to a manageable 27 degrees.
Reaching Ntsikeni is always a pleasure with wide open spaces, magnificent mountains and sweeping grasslands.
We're back in the lodge I first visited in 2008 and Mr Ngcobo is a delightful host.
Thick soup and homemade bread and a warm welcome makes one feel human again.
So now some rest and we set off again tomorrow for Masakala.

Recovery day? Day 4

So we woke up bright and early again (4.30) with the prospect of a shorter day. The heat rose early but hopefully some of the early photos do the landscape justice.
We flew across the plains to Queens Mercy beating our back up vehicle. This was definitely the fastest I've ever done this section - 2.45.
Next was a visit to the pain cave with hard gravel roads playing havoc with my head and bum. I don't ever remember being this sore all over to the extent where I dread downhills.
Fortunately we had another tea stop with carrot cake which is always a reminder that we are not racing despite wanting to get out of the heat.
So we are now ensconced at Ongeluksnek with a long afternoon to try and recover from the battering.
The region we have traversed is incredibly dry and spring is slow in coming. The heat and remnants of veld fires have made it contrasting beauty.
No matter the failure of the body, it's still a privilege to pass through and be greeted by locals without the angst of the big cities. Nothing but courtesy and interest in our journey.
Day Four : 60km. 7.13h and 1000m ascent.

Vuvu again (day 5)

The sun continued to bake down when we left Ongeluksnek heading for the magnificent Black Fountain.
It has to be the most spectacular riding in the country.
The now rebounding fork made me a little blasé over the technical bits but what joy to ride them comfortably. The old saddle also changed the pressure points and made the riding way more comfortable too
We recorded an incredible 43 degrees at one point and not a lot of shade to shelter under.
The valley was dry and we opted for the high path. Our ride guide Glenn then took us a very direct and steep portage out. 
By then we were all short of energy and were ready to get to Vuvu. We "raced" to get in under 10 hours and made it with 2mins to spare.
10 hours to do 62 odd kms may not sound a lot but the terrain is brutal and the heat debilitating.
A bucket bath followed by a tasty meal made us semi human
Then the local families walked us to their homes where they cleared out of their own bedrooms to host us.
The weather for the next day was looking dicey so an early start was on the cards. Alarms were set for 4am.

Rhodes at last (Day 6)

Its quite weird to wake up and know this is the last day but with a massive mountain to climb first.
But climb it we must if we wanted to get home.
We left just as the sky was beginning to lighten in the east and the huge gusts of wind during the night had died down.
The calm before the storm.
We took a new route up to the ridge which was a mix of pushing, carrying and surprisingly a bit of riding.
I found it easier to carry my bike on my back so I could keep my steps small and the work in the gym paid off in that my legs were comfortable with the extra weight.
We had reached halfway when the wind started and clouds built over the mountains to the right.
Luckily we could stay on the left slopes, which sheltered us from the worst buffeting. The drops down into the valleys below were not something you want to be tossed into by the wind.
The last 700m was difficult as the wind roared over the ridge and the rain started. I had about 300m to go to get out of the  wind but was getting really cold and I needed to waterproof my camera. 
Richmond caught up and was about to help me put my bike on my back when his gloves went bowling down the hill. A longer wait ensued while he scrambled after and I was really miserable.
Then Glenn came bounding back for me, grabbed my bike and started running back to some shelter. I ran after and at 2700m breathing was quite hard and at one point I was running sideways because of the wind.
Out of the wind and the rain squall over, we pushed on for the luxury lodge called Tena Head. Hot coffee and rusks sustained us while some more rain squalls rattled the windows then it was time to drag ourselves off to our final destination  of Rhodes.
What followed was an interesting mix of pedaling hard downhill into the teeth of the wind and being pushed uphill with hard wind at our backs. 
The spectacular switchbacks were made more interesting with the constant changing of the wind but were no less exhilarating.
It was a quiet last 10kms to Rhodes as we thought back over our journey to this point. 
Then it was over with congratulations all round to the finishers. New Whip Bearers were Rob, Fjord, Fred, Ant, Elja, Paul and Maarten.
Welcome to the Freedom Trail family.
I'll post pictures next.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A good night's sleep (Day 3)

After our 2400m of climbing yesterday, an early night was on the cards. This morning we left at 5.30 in cooler weather and it was beautiful out on the plains scattering wildebeest before us.
Someone had cut a new track bypassing slow cattle track and the riding was easier and really pretty. Luckily Doug had told us to follow the road over the climb which dropped us at our destination - a red scar up which we had to portage.
After a shortish soup stop at Glen Edward, we had to gird out loins for some long district roads. They were hard on body and soul but we met an interesting character - Steve Black - when he pulled up next to us for a chat. He sounds like a real adventurer.
The next memorable moment was the spaza shop for anything we could shovel in. Coke, chips and apples in any order. The deep fatigue lifted for a whole and we made good time to the next village.
Coming up the road in colourful traditional dress were singing and dancing locals and it was festive all round and a special moment.
Now we are at Masakala eating vetkoek and drinking tea.
Tomorrow is a shorter day....

Monday, September 22, 2014

Snot klap (Day 1)

My body is busy searching it's memory banks for a way to cope with the huge wake up call when doing an event like ride2rhodes.
Today was tough. We knew it was going to be hot but man alive, my body is heat regulated yet.
On  the final stroke of the town clock we set off. It was still quite cool but a long way to the Minerva soup stop. 50kms or so of almost continuous climbing.
My back said" Howzit", first tightening up horrendously and deep pain then I started to struggle to breathe. 
So there was way more stopping than I had hoped for.
One green and red pill later one problem was taken care of.
More walking followed on every hill which helped the back and breathing but made the day longer than it should have been.
The Umko valley was awesome with the new single track making it much more rideable but a puncture was more delay as the heat built.
A picnic stop and water top up before the notorious Hela Hela climb did a little to help with the heat but a tailwind and 35 degrees plus was brutal. Lots of walking ensued and trying to cool off in the meagre shade.
Once on top the wind cooled us a bit and the last 16k felt better.
10h40m. 106km 2680m ascent

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Only 17 maps this time.

Fourth time around - the maps are for backup.


Its back on the trail again.

My good friends Rob and Aileen are tackling Spring Ride2Rhodes for the first time and I cant wait to join them.

2011 Ride2Rhodes was the last time I did a big ride for myself so its quite fitting to pick up where I left off.

I'm looking forward to seeing how my new approach to training has paid off. It better!

Monday 22nd September is our start day. Bring it!