Tuesday, June 18, 2013

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.


  1. I thought the use of a GPS was prohibited in RASA and R2R? (According to rule 21.7 it would result in disqualification.) Part of the challenge is to find the route using the maps and narratives.

  2. A Garmin was used to track time and distance. Compas on Garmin was used to track direction. In approriate wording was used!