Thursday, August 20, 2015

And so it ends

Eish. The spelling in my previous write-ups...

Bucklands is still as magical as I remember with lush gardens from the rain.  As we arrived, Hannes came out to meet us and shepherded us to have dinner. This was 5.45 - a mere 90 minutes after we had last eaten! 
Well trained support station that it is, Rini has prepared piles of bobotie and veg and pudding for us. 
All of which had been  taken from the farm. They were also on a Banting mission - it's everywhere! I kept my Malta pud and custard for later and we walked across to the renovated cottage for the evening. What a quaint place now with electricity. 
During dinner we spoke about the various farms we'd passed through and discovered that the farmer at Stuttgart had a relapse of cancer but was beating it through his own natural methods. Brave man. 

We left at 7.30 and I became concerned early on. Kelly's knee was limiting her ability to pedal which meant our average speed was low. We thought the day would be about 76k to Mount Ingwe but the ascent out of the Groot Rivier was always going to be slow. The fine drizzle stayed on the surrounding mountains and it was brilliant riding conditions. 
When we eventually turned onto the road towards Hadley, we did Dave The Myth's injury treatment. Double the dose of everything. 
This finally gave Kelly some relief except she complained of sparkling eyeballs. We staggered on with quite a few pushes until the descent to the river. The road was being fixed and was great to this point. We'd already crossed the river on Bucklands farm and it was flowing quite deep and in the valley, it was wet shoe time as the water came to our knees. 

The long push out 
At least 2kms of straight up pushing stretched and strained already tired muscles. It was rocky and stony and the drizzle was now coming down in earnest. There had been quite some rain as the puddles were deep and the mud copious. We slipped and slid our way up every climb and the rain picked up. I finally got cold and had a chance to wear my new improved rain jacket. This one worked. Reaching the plateau was a relief but there was no view of the sea or Baviaanskloof. Just mist and an ever darkening sky. 
In the distance and rich green of the hillside, we could make out the descent to Osseberg. 
It was now about 4pm and there was still far to go. 
We pushed on and up again. I thought the next section would be about 10km and to both of our relief it was only 6km - a gift. 
At the summit of the hill about a km from the t-junction, we called Daleen at the lodge to give her an update and to check how far to go still. 
Bad news.  Another 17km but she said she would send Lukas to fetch us. Instead of waiting we started off and it was fast and exhilarating... Then came the mud.  Black and viscous. I raced straight into a rut and two shakes of the bike and I was flying into the mud bank. As Kelly stopped to check she fell off, unable to uncleat. Cold, wet, hungry and now very muddy. 
We set off again a little more restrained. Another km later was another mud patch with two cows coming for us and a shouting herd boy in pursuit. 
At the same time, Lukas arrived and chaos ensued. He reversed out the mud, we loaded the bikes and headed on down the road, broadsiding at times as the 4x4 slipped through the mud. 
We managed 72km and it had been hard.

Mount Ingwe was a stunning Lodge in completely different terrain and grasslands. 
We decided to call it a day. Kelly's knee wouldn't hold out for the 70km the next day but we were well satisfied with our adventure.

Lukas's farm borders the Osseberg and he has a permit to go in and fix the track to the river. We strongly suggested that he build single track.... 
But what an interesting man. Film maker, farmer, collector of Anglo Boer war artefacts, and now mountain bike route builder. 
He had business in PE so the next morning, we were back in the bakkie with three quad bikes, two mountain bikes and two tired cyclists.

There are more bits to write about and photos to post.

In the meantime, thanks to Kelly for agreeing to come with me. For a novice rider, she was amazing. I think there might be a RASA in her future. 

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lies and deja vue

What a long and eventful day.

When I was prepping my maps and checking narratives, I was somewhat dismayed that the summary distance was still based on the old route. The 105km that had Kelly sleepless -  being 15km further than she'd ever ridden - was going to be way under. Oops. 
I hoped she'd be too tired to do the math.

She had already begun with a knee niggle and despite icing it, it would be a problem. 
We left as it got light and began the tedious route around the Addo Park.  Whilst not bad riding it was still dead straight district road. Once in the park, the route to the dam wall went on for ages too but the view when we reached the small pass above the dam wall was superb. The dam was very full and quite a bit of water was being released. We entered the Gwaas Valley which was green with an abundance of small flowers. 
The day had started overcast with a bit of spitting rain which reminded me of 2009 when we rode the valley with sifting drizzle which had left us frozen and wet then.
The road had been cleared which took a little of the magic away from the days when it was more a country lane.  I felt the same way about the road to Kleinpoort. 
Just before we left the valley, we had our first proper break. The tuna sachet came out and although I wasn't too hungry, I shoved it down knowing the day was still young.

There is something about tuna. I flew up the pass unlike 2009 when it was soggy road and hard riding. The descent was stunning with the folded cliffs towering over us.

By now Kelly's knee was bad.  We had placed some kinetic strapping on it being given fairly certain it was ITB. This didn't last with dust and moisture. So now we tried a bandage to support the knee 
By the time we got to the next Ridge, it was a painful struggle. So then we duct taped it which also came off but helped marginally. We also changed seat height to take some pressure off.

While Kelly was deep in the pain cave, I contended with my tool bag coming loose. An extra 1.6kg went into my backpack which did my butt no favours. Finally we spied Kleinpoort. The pie shop was open again and we sank into their chairs gratefully. 

Kleinpoort Pomp Stal 
Trail angels again. Aletta had more strapping tape and we Googled how to strap ITB. Skin cleaned, we set to work and did it properly. 
This was after I had borrowed the rolling pin and punished Kelly some more on the ITB. Picture a dusty cyclist lying on the floor of the coffee shop writhing in angony whilst her mate stands over her wielding a wooden rolling pin!

 Some Dutch men arrived having just done a 4x4 safari and they told us how much they loved the country and how beautiful it was. They had a hard core Landy outside which had already traveled Africa. They were really interested in our adventures - similar spirits I guess.

An hour later after toasted sammies and pour moi, a kiddies breakfast, cokes, rooibos tea and a whole lot of hurt, we were on our way.

Credit to Kelly, she sat on my wheel and we bolted for Bucklands to make it in the daylight averaging 20km/hour.

It had been a really long day of 118km.

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Moving on

Lood  built us a fire to take the chill off the evening but the wind ensured we were smoked out. I came out of my room to burning eyes and a grey haze. So we were forced to open doors and windows to try to breathe. Our washing was drying in front of the fire with a new brand of stasoft : woodsmoke.

The next morning was leisurely leaving at 8am to do the 52km to Toekomst. We got a little derailed by a pair of Angora kids. Too cute and they liked the paparazzi. Finally we got on the road fairly uneventful until we pulled over for a bakkie coming from Karoopoort.

Merlie was on her way to Cradock for a conference with extra blankets for the cold front that was apparently chasing us. In the space of a few minutes we were educated in the harsh realities of modern day farming and the lot of a farmers wife.

The good news is that she plans to buy a bike and start riding. Seeing two women on the trail on their own was hopefully inspirational. I think we need a mini freedom trail event for the support station farmers who ride. Looking at you Glenn and Meryl.

Karoopoort was spectacular. The views, greenery and flowers were amazing thanks to some unexpected winter rains. On the way down, the game gate was locked so as per the instructions on the narrative, we scrabbled our way through the bush to the dry river bed. There we shimmied under the game fence but saw only warthog and water buck for our troubles.

I am now lying under a mohair blanket in my comfy tent looking out over the Karoo scrub. Below me are Eland and Sable antelope.

The silence hurts. 

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Who's the boss

Not I. The wind bossed us from Struishoek to Gegun with just the 5km on tar to Pearston at our backs. 
Otherwise it was a master class in echelon and wheel sucking techniques. 
But that was later. 
Back at Grootdam we met Tienie when we arrived who dished out chicken soup and crispy vetkoek along with all the gossip. 
There was an American bow hunter, Gene, plus a couple of local hunters who work with boss man Neil. 
The braai was indoors. Next to the pub. I saw a couple of quivering slabs of meat being turned and tried not to wonder. 
The conversation was easy and the company relaxed. Starters were served and it was a plateful of braaied prawns which were dispatched in short order. 
Dinner was next and there were the slabs,  brown on the outside and decidedly pink on the inside. Ooh eh eh. 
The choice was reed buck or fresh eland,  as in hunted that morning by Gene. 
I went with the reed buck and hid the pink bits with mustard and mushroom sauce. Veges made an appearance which were delish. Rounding it all off was creme Brule. After the shortage of sleep, I couldn't stay up to watch the rugby so scuttled off to bed to lie back and stare up into a Leopard's arsehole. 

A leisurely breakfast of bacon and eggs and coffee got us out of Grootdam at 7.30am.

Tollies Torture 
Our first challenge of the day was the clambering over our first 3m fence. The bikes weren't too heavy according to the weigh in at Intercape.  So 14.4kg of carbon Santa Cruz porn went over followed by another. 

 The second challenge was to de-socknshoe or not. The idea of wet feet nixed that so off they came and freezing wade ensued. 
Way above us we could see the road winding it's way up the Koppie. Towards the top we reached 24% gradient then HC. 
I think I'm going to be very stiff tomorrow. After that came more water bars, 5m power intervals that went on and on until we finally got to the top of Struishoek portage and there were all the whitewashed stones in all their glory. Thanks Dave and all the Redcliff staff. 
A short picnic then we started down. One can never explain what these are like to novices so Kelly was left to her own devices to discover for herself. 
At Radcliff farm the family was settling in for a Sunday braai when two sweaty women arrived wanting water. True eastern cape hospitality meant water, homemade lemon juice and fresh oranges. 
Our detour into Pearston was put on hold as time was moving on and the wind had picked up,  ready to bludgeon us on  the last 25km.
Gegun was deserted, my phone died and we were cold and tired. Eventually - only 15min really - we discover the key in the pot plant via a portable charger and calls to race office. The entire region was without power so no tea to revive us. In the freezer was steak and chops and a frozen loaf of bread. The kindling for a braai was prepared outside in the cold strong wind. 
But help was at hand. Lisa and Lood arrived with a cooler box full of roast chicken,  salad,  pasta and potato salad. Topped off with chocolate eclairs. 
The lights have come on and all is good with the world. 

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Finally on the trail

So the trip to Cradock was tedious and more expensive than anticipated. The welcome from Margaret made up for that and it was with a small amount of trepidation that we finally set off. 
There were a few mechanicals to deal with: brake pads that had closed, saddle  again that kept hitting get the rear wheel and a slight adjustment to my saddle. 
A Wimpy coffee sorted out my grumpiness and then we couldn't put it off anymore. Time to commit. 
We crossed the Fish River and began the climb. It's a great route. Gradual ascents of 4-5%.
A lone cyclist came at us head on in his rugby shorts and fleece, intent on having the first of many conversations today. Now we know that most of the Cradock cyclists are at Trans Baviaans,  and that he had ridden out to check on his sheep. With a detailed description of what lay ahead of us, off he sped. 
We rode leisurely and took photos. After all it was only 55km. It was a cool day and joy, a tailwind. When we finally submitted, we tucked out of the wind to snack and enjoy the Freedom of where we were. Cradock lay behind and a vast Valley lay before us encircled by Hills stretching away into the distance. 
A white Bakker pulled up next to us. 
"Why aren't you doing Trans Baviaans? " We explained why? 
"Look where my bakkie turns off, that is where you must turn. Stop at the farm. It's Eldorado." 
We watched from our lofty perch barely able to make out the white vehicle against the sun bleached winter veld. 
Eventually the wind got cold and we headed off down the pass.  As we turned off the full force of it hit our backs and we flew along the road. 
There was a moments hesitation then we swung into the farm, with Pierre Oosthuizen's experiences spurring us on.
Eastern Cape,  Karoo and Farmers. The hospitality doesn't get any better. Water or whiskey? 
Water, whiskey and rooibos tea. 
The parlour was wall to wall hunting and fishing trophies and of course the topic moved to Cecil the Lion.
Much shaking of heads.  "Gives the industry a bad name." Seeing we were in hunting country and would be staying at a hunting Lodge, we agreed. 
With multiple have good wishes and offers of help in PE, we left the Moolman's for a fast 20k downhill with shunting wind at our backs.
Grootdam awaited.  And therein probably lies another story. 

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Docking into Cradock

The bus down to Cradock is not cheap and definitely not fun with a bicycle. After some crazy fly by night volumetric measurements we had some very light pockets. After a crazy week prepping, I passed out for the full 12hr drive.  Fiona did not sleep a wink thanks to crazy loud phone calls at 12am... Bollywood  movies being watched on cellphones (no earphones necessary apparently) and one crazy near brawl over something we've yet to figure out. 

We arrive and thank Bob Margaret was there to save us from the Friday Shell garage jollers complete with milk stout and bloodshot eyes. 

Margaret's home was the perfect pre ride resting place sent comfy beds, hot water bottles, sausage dogs galore..

3hrs of proper sleep later we unbubble wrapped our babies, wrestled with an unwieldy brake pad and hit the local wimpy. Hard. 

It was basically onwards and upwards and upwards and upwards. Pretty Karoo 18k. climb up Swaershoek Pass.  Took some pictures of myself in the pretty Karoo flowers - what an awesome Day! 

- KellyKazi

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Getting to Cradock

Bleh! Bus at night not to be recommended. First we had to pay in for the bikes. Big surprise.  Making this not a cheap option. 
Unless you have a blanket, pillow and eye cover, you won't sleep. 
It was a long night. 
Margaret was there to meet us,  thank goodness. The drop off is very dodgy with late/early revellers accosting one looking for more money to buy milk stout. 
A comfy couple of hours kip in a bed made all the difference. 
Filled with streaky bacon breakfast, we were finally off. 

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Friday, August 14, 2015

People of the Freedom Trail rock

News just through from the race office of Freedom Trail:
Margaret (of Elandsberg fame) is generously and selflessly coming to pick up Kelly and I at 3am and taking us to her house. So we'll have a couple of extra hours of sleep, a homemade breakfast and then we'll set off for the rude 18km ascent up the Swaershoek Pass.
The hospitality of the hosts on the Freedom Trail are legendary and every year, riders are blessed with mothering, cosseting and love before heading out into bitter winter nights and days.
Respect and whole hearted thanks to Margaret for looking out for the two orphans.

3 hours to go

I sit here with random thoughts cascading around my head. Underlying them all is a quiver of nerves for this ride.
On this, there is no safety net of a Freedom Trail race office and its logistical support. They have booked our overnight spots and the rest is over to us. One novice and one more 'experienced' rider on this unsupported lark.
There are vague memories that lurk from 2009 but I realise that much will have changed and it will be focusing from scratch on maps and narratives.
We've made a last minute decision to include our bike lights in case we decide to ride in the dark from Cradock. A four hour wait for the Wimpy to open has no appeal. So there is a possibility that we will watch the sun rise from the top of the Swaershoek Pass. Magnificent!
The clock is ticking.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rule #1

It's best to plan these unsupported events with a little time in hand.

I find I am quite nervous about it because I haven't put in my usual hours of planning and attention to detail. Not having the luxury of 2l tubs also means extra weight of snacks to be carried.

Our late commitment to the ride also meant that we couldn't get on to the Shosholoza Meyl which would have dropped us off in Cradock at the reasonable hour of 5am.

Now we are on the Sleepliner and clamber off somewhere in the town at the ungodly hour of 3am. I am pretty certain the Wimpy isn't open at that hour but I do know the Shell garage has a 24 hour coffee bar.

Going to be interesting!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Two more sleeps

The next adventure is upon me.  This time there has only been a scant two weeks to prepare. 
A five day unsupported ride on another section of the Freedom Trail. 
I have dragged my friend Kelly with me and the tale will begin at 16.30 at Park Station, Friday 14th August. 

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.