Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Race to Rhodes - Day 6

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 longer.

My bike's front brakes and rear wheel bearings started giving problems on the last day, so the finish came just in time.

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!

Race to Rhodes - Day 5

The decision was made the previous evening that we do one and a half support stations again and push through to Rhodes.

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 flowing it.
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.

Race to Rhodes - Day 4

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 minutes!
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.

Race to Rhodes - Day 3

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 refreshments.
 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.

Race to Rhodes -Day 2

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 cut!
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!

Race to Rhodes - Day 1

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.  
From the top it was a short hall to Allendale and our first support station. Total distance 109 km; 2,609 meter ascent; time 10:12.

Race to Rhodes - Getting there

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 18:30.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Six days to go

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.