This was in prepartion for the Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa which I completed in June 2014. In May 2014, my wife Sue was diagnosed with breast cancer. This blog will be tracking my effort and preparation to raise R100,000 for Breast Cancer by doing the Big Ride form Beit Bridge to Bloubergstrand for Breast Cancer, a distance of 3,500 kilometres, which I did in April 2016, raising R140,000. I am also doing this in memory of my son who died in a cycling accident on 20/01/2015.
We got up early, got into the car and
drove back to Tenahead, where we left our bicycles and started our descent at
06:06. It all went smoothly and we arrived in Rhodes at 08:15. Forth best finishing time from the 14 people who finished Race to Rhodes. Not bad for a 64 year old!
Here we were informed that our
actions should result in disqualification. Fortunately sanity prevailed, and we
were all penalised with an official arrival time off 18:00 rather than our
actual time of 08:15. My two riding buddies had to sit the day out and were
only allowed to continue after 18:00. They decided that they would rather get
some sleep and leave on Sunday morning at 04:00. As far as I was concerned, I
was demoted as provisional leader of the Race to Rhodes to just a finisher, for
which I am thankful under the circumstances.
What a wonderful experience! I still
am in awe at the "racing snakes" that are doing the full 2,300 km to
Cape Town in less than 15 days and in every woman who actually take this on!
Words cannot describe to effort that goes into an experience like this, the
memories that remain and awesome people you meet along the way.
After two days I thought that my
backside would not last. After four days I had no problems in that area any
My bike's front brakes and rear wheel
bearings started giving problems on the last day, so the finish came just in
It is incredible what punishment one
can subject your body to and its ability to recover.
I never would gave been able to do
this if it was not for the prayer support from my family and friends at home.
I thank Jesus Christ for the incredible
strength He gave me to do this and for the opportunity to experience His
creation in this intensity! Lam 3:25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him. This the "trophy"I received for my efforts!
The decision was made the previous
evening that we do one and a half support stations again and push through to
We left at 05:08 and very quickly
encountered navigational problems in the dark. After doing a full circle and
losing about 20 minutes, we managed to find a route via some tracks between houses
and through the veld to a public road we had to get on. My riding buddies new
this part of the route and by now the sun was up so we moved along quickly.
First along the road and then down a mountain on a good track onto another
public road. This took us to the entrance of the Vuvu valley. The Vuvu valley
is about 20 km long with a river running along it and a number of tributaries
There was some cattle tracks, but most of the way one just have to
find your way up the valley
through some grasslands and follow the general glow of the river with a number
of river crossings. Pushing your bike through while stepping on partly
submerged rocks and not getting your shoes wet above your ankles could do all
of these. This journey took us about two hours and led us go the foot of Vuvu.
To get to Vuvu we had to ascent about 220 meters over a distance of 300 meters.
A very large portion of this involved carrying our bikes.
We reached Vuvu at
11:55 had lunch and pressed on to Rhodes, but to get there we had to scale the
notorious Lehana! It took us about an hour to get to the start of Lehana, an
ascent of 1,000 meters over a distance of 9 km to a container, used but the
shepherds right at the top of the mountain. After 2 km we realised we
were going up the wrong valley and had to turn back, losing about 40 minutes.
We continued our ascent but then realised we were to far down the right hand
slope. To get to the high ground we had to hall our bikes up the side if the
mountain. We then proceeded along the spine of the ridge, but even though the
narrative said keep right we stayed left to ensure that we keep the container
in sight. This made life a little more difficult as the angle was more severe
than on the right. Progress was very slow and we were losing daylight, but were
getting there. We were very tired by this time, which also impeded our
progress. We had about one km to go when darkness overtook us. This entire time
we also had to deal with a strong wind. Once darkness arrived, the temperature
and the wind-chill factor set in. By the time we were level with the
container, we very, very tired and cold. The last couple of meters to the
container involved a virtual vertical ascent again, but there was a longer, but
"kinder" rout around the left, which we decided to take. This was a
mistake. The wind was worse on the left and when we got to the top we could not
find the container or the path down the other side. After walking around in
circles and just about freezing, we stumbled upon the path and started cycling.
I looked at my compass and saw that we were going NW while we should be going SE!
We stopped and turned around. After about 5 minutes of cycling we saw the
container in front if us! (The top of the mountain is similar to Table mountain
with a cliff front but flattop). We decided to see if we couldn’t get into the
container and wait the night out there. This has happened before; as recently as last year. To our
surprise there people in it and some very potent "grass" fumes were
coming from it. We enquired the way down, got directions and were on our way.
We were going very slowly due to the wind and fatigue. To our surprise we heard
voices behind us. The "container guys" were going to escort us down
the mountain on foot and they started walking down the mountain with us in tow.
This continued for about 4 km. We bid them farewell, two Angels who guided us,
and cycled the last km to Tenahead Lodge, where we were sure we could find
accommodation for the night. It was only 39 to Rhodes, mostly downhill, but we
were just too cold and tired. We were very well received and offered a hot
drink, but to our dismay the place was fully booked. We considered the options.
Somebody suggested that we phone the race office and find out if it is allowed
to get a lift to Rhodes, sleep there and come back the next morning and
continued the ride. This was an option as my brother was waiting for me in
Rhodes with my car. At this stage we were so tired and cold that the race rules
did not even enter our mind! We phoned, were incorrectly informed that it will
be fine and arranged to be fetched. As the road is not on a very good
condition, we had to wait an hour for my brother to arrive and another hour to
get down to Rhodes finally arriving there at 22:30. On arrival we were informed
that the fact we received outside assistance, may create a problem. That was
the next day's problem. We had supper and went to bed having done 53 km while
climbing well over 2,500 meter and being on the road for 15 hours.
It was an early start again. The
start out of Masakala us quite easy and we were onto the Kinera Planes in no
time. Navigation through was also easy and we stopped at Queens Mercy, where we
bought the last three cool drinks in the shop. From there we made our way past
the Maria Linden Mission and School to Mphrane hill.
The view from this hill is
magnificent. It was a 360-degree view of the whole countryside. The way was
marked by one of the famous Freedom Challenge bokkies. Two years ago I saw this
bokkie but decided that it was too steep. This year I experienced what is
possible! We clocked in at Malekonyane just before 11:00 and were out of there
just after 11:30 pushing onto the interim support station at Tinana Mission.
Two years ago I spent 33 hours at this support station. This year it was 33
We lost about 30 minutes finding our
way to Ongeluksnek, but got there in good time. We also managed quite well past
the brickmakers to the top of Taba Chitja.
The descent down the other side was
even more scary than the Mhprane earlier in the day, descending 156 meters over
a distance of 880 meters followed by an ascent of 274 meters over a distance of
2.98 km. up the other side towards Black Fountain. Here we once again had an
issue or two with the navigation and lost probably another half an hour. This
loss was to come and haunt us later. From Black Fountain down to Tinana
mountain we were suppose to keep right generally. Unfortunately we did not
stick to this rule and went left at one point. Luckily we realised this very
quickly and found our way back, picking up some bicycling tracks and following
them. It was getting late and we had to push to get to the top of the mountain
as getting down in the dark was an issue. After a while we once again realised
that we were going in the wrong direction! We went further to the right but
could not pick up the right track. By now it was dark and the short route down
the mountain was not an option anymore. We had no alternative but to take the
long route down the left side. Here luck was on our side as this was the route
I took two years ago and sort of knew my way. It all worked out well, even
though we had our doubts and we clocked in at the Tinana Mission interim support
station at 20:30 covering 94 km with an ascent of 1,929 meters in a time of
15:18 of which at least 3 hours was due to navigational problems. Once again we found out how difficult it was finding your way in the dark.
We got going at 05:07. Navigation in
the dark is always a problem and we lost our way to a certain extend, but found
our way out and through to Glen Edward, where had the customary soup and other
We were out of there by 10:30 and onto Taylerville via some
reasonably good gravel roads.
Here took a left turn again and after a short
while went onto some cattle tracks and through wattle plantations and another
shallow river crossing. We were making good progress and arrived at the foot of
another little hill we had to scale. Fortunately this one was not too long and
led us onto a district road.
After a short while we turned of onto some tracks
to find our way through a kloof and onto the Prospect School. Here we took a
quick left and right and down a foot path through Heilbron, over some flood
planes via cattle tracks into Masakala, our over night stop. 93 km; 1,812 meter
climbing; 11:03 on the road with actual riding time of 8:09.
We (Gavin, Henry and myself), left
Allendale at 05:12. The first section was fairly difficult, but we had some old
hands in our group and found our way to the Donnybrook forests without too much
difficulty. We stopped for some water in Donnybrook and continued through to
Centacow. We did turn a little early, but that turned out to be a little short
Here we were treated to some soup
again and quickly set off. The initial section involved a climb and some
undulations up to the next turnoff. We then started a climb of 355 meters over
a distance of 4.72 km.
Once over the top we descended down to a river, which we
managed to cross without getting too wet. From here the rout took us through a
blue gum forest and over the next hill, which was "easy" compared to
what we have gone over before. Down the otherside and onto another "
monster" climb. 3.56 km with 376 meter ascent. This took us 49 minutes.
Once over the top, we had to negotiate the Ntsikeni northern fence. This
consisted of going over a three-meter high fence with a home made
"ladder" made from tree branches. Now it was a relatively short distance
to the over night lodge,or so we thought! We still had to cover a distance of
12 km and it took us 71 minutes.
We arrived at our destination after covering 98 km with 2,621 meter of climbing
and taking us 11:58! Total actual riding time was 8:56. The three hours
variation was due to stops and pushing!
I woke up at 04:00 for breakfast at
04:45. We left for the town hall at 05:15. Everybody gathered there and the
"race" got going at 06:00.
We were escorted through to Bisley
Nature Reserve. I teamed up with Gavin Robinson and Henry Fengove. They were
going through to Cape Town. In the end we stayed together up to Rhodes. The
first section through the Reserve went pretty easy up to 8 km. We then took a
farm road through the cane fields to the Richmond road. We then proceeded down
to Baynesfield. After 14 km we turned left onto a forestry road and the first
climb. This took us through some plantations onto Cunningham Castle, a distance
of 5.28 km and 290 meter accent. After a short descent we were at Minerva where
we were treated to some hot soup and drinks. We then descended down into Byrne
and through to the Umkomaas Valley, which included a crazy descent down a
concrete road at an angle of up to 30%!
We had the option of crossing the
river, which was about thigh high or along the bushes on the left bank. We felt
that it would be better to stay dry and therefore tackled the bushes and
crossing via the road bridge. This led us onto Hela Hela. An ascent of 607
meters over a distance of 5.71 km, taking us about 68 minutes.
top it was a short hall to Allendale and our first support station. Total
distance 109 km; 2,609 meter ascent; time 10:12.
My brother and I left Cape Town on
Saturday 8 June at 06:00. The plan was to drive to where we get and sleep
there. We opted for the N1 and from Bloemfontein onto Pietermaritzburg. We had
supper at Bethlehem at about 18:00 and pushed on. The GPS directed us to a
Caravan park in Ladysmith, which we found, but it was in a terrible state and
very noisy, so we gave it a miss. Next stop was Escourt, which was good and we
got to sleep at about 23:30.
Next morning we took the R103 through
to Pietermaritzburg. We had breakfast along the way and lunch at my cousin's
place in Kloof. He dropped me off at Aintree Lodge at 16:00. I collected my
race number and prepared my kit for the ride. Supper and race briefing was at
Six days to the start of my Ride to Rhodes. We will be leaving Cape Town on Saturday morning driving to somewhere in the Free State, where we will sleep. Sunday through to Pietermaritzburg for a fairly early arrival so that I can have a nice and relaxing Sunday evening. Monday morning 06:00 the action starts! The weather is looking good for the Ride to Rhodes.