Monday, June 30, 2014

RASA Day 20

RASA Day 20
We all opted for a 05:30 breakfast and a 06:00 start for the ride go Montague. The first 30 odd kilometers was on farm roads, down a dry riverbed and finishing off with a jeep track. It took us 2:15 to complete this section, which took us onto a top quality district road. After a short while on this road, we entered the Anysberg Nature Reserve. The road through the reserve had sections which was excellent to some very rough and rocky sections. We had a 25 km ride to the office, where we were welcomed by Meisie, who had a meal and some coffee ready for us.

After a stop of about 35 minutes, we were on our way again. The road out the other side was very similar to the road in. Riding on these "twee spoor paadjies" is a real joy and I was enjoying myself. After 27 km we went through the Anysberg gate and onto another district road of top quality. Even though we were generally gaining altitude we managed to maintain a good average speed. We had a "refreshment" at the Die Hoek van die Berg junction.

We got going with a light breeze on our backs. The road took us to a T-junction after 3 km and that was followed by 9 km of real Karoo undulations, which ended at the top of Ouberg Pass. The descent down the Pass was "fast and furious". The rest of the ride into Montague was pleasant with more downhills than uphills and we arrived at Montague Country Hotel at 15:40.

Total distance: 123.03 km; total time: 9:30:48; total ascent: 1,433 meters; total descent: 1,839 meters

RASA Day 19

RASA Day 19
The bus got rolling at 04:45 after an excellent breakfast prepared by Ria. The first couple of kilometers was easy riding until we started Swartberg Pass. It was quite an interesting experience cycling up the pass in the dark. It probably is less intimidating than doing it in the day because you can not see what is still coming. It took me about 2 hours to cover the 17 km from Prince Albert to the top of the pass. We then had a gentle down hill to the Gamkaskloof turn off. At the turn there is a sign which reads "37 km but allow 2 hours for driving". This is because of the difficulty of the road! Initially the road is quite undulating and after a number of smallish climbs and some down hills, you start the last major climb after 21 km. This climb is about 7 km and is as difficult as the Swartberg Pass and this is followed by a difficult and scary descent into Gamkaskloof. I arrived at our midmorning stop at 10:15. Here we had a good meal, freshly backed bread and coffee. We got going again at 10:45.

A 15 km ride up the valley brought us to the foot of "die leer". This was the only route in and out of Gamkaskloof before the road was built in 1962. The people used donkey the bring goods in and take produce out. It is a virtual vertical path up the side of the mountain. It took me 70 minutes to cover the approximately 500 meters! Total ascent was 385 meters.

After we had a breather at the top, we had to first tackle the 10 jeep track which took us to the district road which goes past the entrance to Seweweekspoort. This jeep track is in such a poor state that it took us 90 minutes to cover the 10 km. the initial 7 km of the district road consisted of gradual climbs until we got to the top of what is called Horlosiekrans. This was followed by some wonderful downhills and sone more manageable climbs up to the Rouxpos turn off. The last 10 km to Rouxpos was also a number of gradual climbs followed by some minor downhills up to the last climb, which was a bit of a sting in the tail. From the top of this nasty little it wax all downhill to Rouxpos, where I arrived at 17:35.

Total distance: 123.94 km; total time: 12:51:18; total ascent: 3,385 meters: total: descent: 3,387 meters.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

RASA Day 18

RASA Day 18
We decided to go for a 04:00 start again and actually managed to get going at 04:15. Willowmore was covered in mist, which made the first 10 km quite tricky, but it was not too cold. The road to the first turnoff was as straight as a dye and in a good condition. After 16 km we turned right to go through Leeukloof and onto Strydomvlei. It looked like a road that is not well used with mostly only two tracks being visible, but the surface was excellent and we were able to maintain a good pace. The next turnoff was after 45 km and we covered that in less than 2:45. Here we took a left turn for 7 km and then right for 41 km. Suddenly the temperature dropped to a minimum of -5.5, but it felt like -15! I have never in my life been this cold. Due to this our average speed also dropped because it was just too cold to go fast. At 08:00 the temperature was still at -4.8. By 09:00 it moved into positive territory. With that our average speed also picked up. We reached our halfway stop after 86 km at 10:20. Here we had a nice pasta dish and freshly backed "vetkoek". Total stoppage time was 51 minutes.

The balance of the day's ride to Prince Albert was over reasonably good roads with the odd patch of sand and a fair number corrugations.  We still managed a good pace and pulled into Dennehof Guest House at 14:55.

Total distance:162.4 km; total time: 10:39:55; elevation gain: 1,010 meters; elevation loss: 1,194 meters

Friday, June 27, 2014

RASA Day 17

RASA Day 17
We left Kudu Khaya at 04:00. It was not too cold and we had a clear sky. Leon Kruger joined George and myself. We were onto Combrink Pass very quickly and the other two pulled away from me. I did not try and chase them and went up at my own pace. When I got to Boplaas I stopped and got my music out. If I ride on my own, I may just as well listen to music! Go down the other side was fairly slow in the dark because the road surface is not very good. The sun rose as I was about halfway up Holgat Pass.
George and Leon were waiting there for me and we had sandwiches and coffee. Leon had a small flask which he filled up before we left this morning. Going down in day light was much quicker and I passed both of them on the way down after I lost sone time sorting my music out after our stop. The rest of the way to Dam se Drif, our halfway stop, was much easier, but we still had to master some climbs and undulations. We pulled in at Dam se Drif at 11:00 after 7 hours in the saddle. Here we treated to an early lunch consisting of mince and pasta covered with cheese, pumpkin, potato salad, spicy backed beans, jot bread rolls and Hestelle's famous chocolate pudding and custard. She also gave each of us 4 snackwiches. We spent 50 at the "lunch" stop.

The road from here to Willowmore is not that difficult but generally heads up, so we were spending a lot of time cycle roads with an incline of 2-4%, which is tiring and difficult to maintain a good average speed. After about 50 km we entered the Nuwekloof, which ends with the Nuwekloof Pass. The actual kloof is something out of this world and after riding through the kloof with vertical cliffs on both sides, it ends with the final climb up the pass and the turnoff to Willowmore. From here we had 34 km left, which was better riding but still had a number of hills to over come. We made good time and came to our last obstacle for the day. We had to climb over a 3 meter high fence. George and myself arrived there first, just as we managed to get our bikes across, Leon arrived and Francois Otto, who over shot the turnoff and to come back, also arrived, so we helped them as well to get over. The last 5 km from there to the Willows was N easy ride and we arrived on Willowmore at 16:50.

Total distance: 157.76 km; total time: 12:50:57; total ascent: 2,770 meters; total descent: 2,132 meters.

RASA Day 16

RASA Day 16

The night out in the bush was quite pleasant. I remarked to George that I had quite a good sleep and he remarked back"I could here that"! The sun woke us just before 07:00 and we got our things together and went to look for the track again. George then noticed the orange tape on one of the reeds and that was a sure sign that we were on the right track. I visit did some scouting and noticed that as I went down the stream last night, I should have just crossed the river. So, we were on our way. The old jeep track was clearly visible and we followed it until it disappeared again. After some scouting we found the track through the reeds and across the river. This carried for the next two hours until we reached the final climb out of the river. We stopped and put on our dry riding shoes again and dis some riding again. That was until we encountered the river again. We studied the maps and confirmed that we had to cross it again. Off we the shoes and this time I went through bare feet. The track appeared and disappeared on a regular basis. After about 2 hours 30 minutes, we finally reached the 3 meter high fence we had to get over. That done we were onto a reasonable jeep track until we got to the river again. Shoes off, through, dry feet with bicycle wash towel, shoes on and going. A little on and we finally got to the public road that would take us through to Kudu Khaya. After some discussion, we decided to remain there for the day so that we can recuperate for for the final push through to Diemersfontein.

We had last night supper for an early lunch, got washing done, showered, serviced bikes and "chilled" for the rest of the afternoon.

Total distance: 03:35:18; total distance: 15.19 km; total ascent: 402 meters; total descent: 357 meters.

RASA Day 15

RASA Day 15
We left Bucklands at 06:38 and had a very pleasant ride over farm roads for about 12 km after which we joined up with the district road which would take us through Hottentotspoort and onto the beginning of the Osseberg Pass. Along the way we stopped for coffee and "beskuit" at Hadlee. I also managed to book an entry for the 2015 Attakwas, which opened at the beginning of the week and was filling rapidly.

We road from Hadlee to the Grootriver currently is a bit of a construction site as they are busy laying a water pipe from the valley floor to Streylerville. We encountered lots of construction vehicles and in places the road turned into a powdery dust. Generally the surface was good and we had a good journey into the awesome Grootriver valley.
The scenes from the road made one aware of the might power of the Lord in creating this beautiful world. The ascent on the other side is mostly unridable for mere mortals like we and we pushed our bike up the hill. The work George did on his rear wheel at Bucklands was holding up well and he did not have to pump it again.

We stopped at a Nature Reserve dwelling just before the top of the watershed for some fresh water, but could not find any outside taps and the building was locked with no one at home. I managed to get water here when I recci-ed the route from Kleinpoort to Montague in 2010.

We reached the entrance to the Osseberg at 14:00 and had a little refreshment stop after we crossed the "No Entry" sign, which the beginning. The first couple of hundred meters was completely unridable, but as we moved along we encountered more and more ridable sections. We also had some scary down hills and George managed to "loose it" on one of these, fortunately with more injury to his pride than to the body!
It took us 3:00:53 to cover the 21.86 km to the old neglected camp site, which signaled the beginning off our river crossings.

From here the trail became a "hit and miss" affair with some of the trail clearly visible and the next it just disappears! We took off our riding shoes and put on shoe brought specially for this. I had my doubts about my R79,99 Pep Stores slip-ons and really cursed myself for mot opting for shoes with laces. The shoes did the job, but I had to retrieve them a number of times when they got stuck and my foot slipped out! The going was very difficult, but we were moving along reasonably well. Every now and then we picked up, what obviously was the right track just to come to a dead end again after a while. Nightfall was busy catching us, but we regularly picked up other cycle tracks and obvious thorough fares through the reeds. By about 20:00 we picked up a nice track, which was correct and made good progress again until we came to some reeds again. I went ahead and scouted the route and found what I thought was the correct path. At this point we were under the impression that we were further along the route than where actually were. This resulted in lots of discussions and more scoutings. After a long while, we agreed that we should go through the reeds, but this time I could not find the path I did previously! Back to the entry again! We had more discussions and more  scouts until we decided to call it a day and spend the night at the foot of the Osseberg. In the meantime a light drizzle started. We looked for some reasonable cover, got our space blankets out and settled in for the night. There were no cell phone reception so we could not let anybody know where we were. By now we realised that we were quite a bit further back in the trail than what we thought originally. We got to rest at 23:05. The weather was pleasant with the drizzle falling, but our space blankets was keeping us dry.

Total distance: 83.52 km; total time: 14:51:46; total ascent: 2,072 meters; total descent: 2,244 meters.

RASA Day 14

RASA Day 14
Toekomst to Bucklands. Today was a relatively easy day with no major obstacles. After some district roads we had go navigate our way around the Darlington Dam. There were number of "dicy" turns we had to find, but we got through without too much trouble.

This was followed by a journey down the Gwaas valley. The road started off as a good farm, then it became a rough jeep track and then it turned into a journey up a dry river bed. This was "spiced" with some very rough sections where one just went up the valley. We eventually reached a game fence, after which the road improved significantly. Most of the traveling was up hill and after the previous long day, we found this very energy sapping. George's rear tyre was still playing up and we had to stop every 20 km so that he could pump it.

The Gwaas valley linked up with the district road running through the Perdekloof and we enjoyed a nice downhill leading up to another uphill and the turnoff to Kleinpoort. At Kleinpoort we stopped at the shop for some refreshments. While sitting their, Patrick Gruer walking in. He is the landlord of the Kleinpoort over night stop. We did not even realise that there was an official stop with supplies for the riders! We declined as we have bought some refreshments all ready and needed go push on to Bucklands.

The journey to Bucklands was pleasant, being mostly down hill and we made good time into Bucklands, arriving there at 18:00.

After supper George resealed his rear wheel, putting in new tape and a patch were the broken spoke was.

For some reason my trip meter lost all the data for the day!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

RASA Day 13

RASA Day 13
13 has a stigma of bad luck stuck to it and that applied to us on out 13th day. We did pretty well with the navigation and found all the right turn offs, but George's rear tyre probably cost between an hour and two hours. I will get back to that later.

We got the wheels rolling at 05:30. The first couple of kilometers was district roads and we found all the right turn offs in the dark to arrive at the Thatched gate of the game farm where our journey through the veld started. We initially had some difficulty find the right track because we went through the wrong gate. Once we found the right gate, and saw cycle tracks, we were going. We encountered a steam we had to cross. There was a number of boulders we could step on the get through without getting our feet wet, but there was a small gap so we proceeded to through some big rocks into the gap and managed to complete our "bridge". The temperature did go down to -3.5 From there we had a long "slog" up a jeep track to get over the mountain. Down the other side it was a reasonable ride until we got to the Stuishoek portage. Now this farmer is very supportive and have marked the route with white stones. The actual portage consists of moving down a gorge similar to Skeleton Gorge, but this one is 5.6 km long. This is real hard work. At the bottom we had an easy ride up to the Pearston tar road. From there we had a nice ride down a gravel road until we turned West and had to ride into a headwind. This took us to our halfway stop at Gegun.

After a quick lunch, we were back against the wind for about 7 km up to the Karoopoort turn off. Along the way this road, we were passed by Merle of Karoopoort. She invited us in for coffee and fresh water in our bottles. We then had to go over the mountain behind the farm house. While we were on this, two of the "racing snakes", Graham Bird and Glen Harrison came past.
We managed to get over the mountain and down the other side before it got dark, but with still 20 km to go, we were caught by the dark. The route down the valley was quite quick but fairly rough. Something which can be quite scary at night.

Our biggest problem for the whole day was that George's rear wheel had a slow puncture, with the result that he had to pump it every so often. Have way down this valley he decided he has had enough and put in a tube. This lasted for about 2 km before it was flat too! We tried another tube, which was brand new, but this was leaking even before we put it in. We then decided to go the tubeless option again. All of this must gave taken more than 45 minutes and on the end we only reached our destination for the day at 21:00. That was a long day in the saddle!

Total time: 15:24:18; 129.92 km; total ascent: 1,599 meters; total descent: 2,369 meters.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

RASA Day 12

RASA Day 12
The distance for the day was scheduled to be more than 120 km, so we decided to go for a 05:00 start. In the end we managed to get going at 05:21.

The district road outside Elandsberg was the best we have encountered to date. Our average speed for the first hour was more than 20 kph and that was in the dark! The navigation through to Stuttgart, the halfway stop was fairly easy as long as one kept to the narratives and read them correctly. After the initial euphoria if the good road and high speed, we did encounter some hills and covered the 68.57 km to Stuttgart in    4:54:19. On the way there we passed the farm where my dad grew up. Our "lunch" stop lasted 48 minutes.

The first 17 km was reasonable district roads, but then we were back onto rough jeep tracks, which culminated in an unbelievable climb up Schurfteberg and an equally unbelievable descent on the other side.

Past the Schurteberg farmstead, we were on good farm tracks and district roads again until we got to the Grootdam turnoff. Yhe last 10 km was very rough jeep tracks through the Grootdam farm and game reserve where we had to go through 9 gates, four of which we had to climb over and one game reserve gate, which was 3 meters high, but fortunately had a special small gate on the middle specially made for cyclists to get our bikes through. We reached the overnight stop at 17:15, just before sunset.

Total riding time: 11:55:13; total distance: 132.15 km; total ascent: 1,838 meters; total descent: 2,012 meters.

Monday, June 23, 2014

RASA Day 11

RASA Day11
We managed to get going at 06:20. The previous evening the host showed us the track over his farm to link up with the district road. That was a great help. Like usual it was pretty cold and we did see -9.5 on thermometer. We checked our distances carefully, but did managed to miss a crucial turnoff after about 15 km. George said he did notice it, but ignored it because the distance was incorrect. Fortunately we had lots of people praying for us and the Lord sent an Angle in the form of Erhart from one of the local farms, to stop us and redirect us. Due to his diligence we were back on track without loosing any time. Once we linked up with the correct route, we started with the climb up Aasvoëlberg.
It took us 4:24 from leaving Romansfontein until we reached the farm road on the otherside. During this time we covered 30.47 km and ascended 641 meters and descended 930 meters. The ride from Romansfontein to the beginning of Aasvoëlberg was about 13 km which took us 45 minutes. The rest was spent on Aasvoëlberg. The descend, which down the route used for the annual 100 mile horse race, was something else. It was very rough and very steep, but we did managed to ride most of it.

We then joined the Tarkastad/Hofmeyr main road, and what a road. In some places it looked like a farm track! The other nasty bit about it was that the first 11 km was uphill. The incline was not much, but the constant grinding was energy sapping. Once over the top the road was more "reasonable" and we rolled into Hofmeyr at 13:45. We had some of Hofmeyr's legendary  pies and coffee. The "roosterkoek", which came with the pies was the best!

The 24 km was easy riding, but then we started the Elandsberg portage. The "road" was an old disused wagon trail, which later totally disappeared and was replaced by "hike a bike" through the veld, which eventually linked up with an obscure and faint jeep track. Our navigation did not let is down and we rolled into Elandsberg at 18:15.

Total riding time 11:52:58; total distance 115,96 km; total ascent 1,442 meters; total descent 1,895 meters.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

RASA Day 10

RASA Day 10
George's dad brought him a new tyre from Queenstown and we managed to get it fitted properly on the second attempt. That was a great relieve for George.

The Stormberg area is well for low temperatures and were prepared for a cold start. We managed to get going at 06:20 and the first 20 km was on good district roads with mo major climbs. We covered this in 1:45 and measured a temperature of -11.5! We them turned onto some local farm tracks and had a wonderful time just enjoying the ride through the "veld" on good farm tracks. This was a really beautiful morning and we had a ball. This eventually led us to the track up to Stromberg, a site of one of the major Anglo/Boer War battles. We lost our way a little towards the top where the track disappears, but found our way to the block house where we arrived at 10:15.
From the block house we travelled through the actual area where the battle took place and then onto the R56 for a short while before getting onto another gravel road heading SW some farms to the farm De Rust, where we picked up s farm track again. On this road we encountered a most peculiar sight. At 12:34 in the afternoon there were icicles hanging from the fence and the surrounding bushes. This was because some sprayers were running and the water must have frozen when it came into contact with the fence and bushes. A most amazing sight.

From De Rust we travelled around some "koppies" before reaching a district road, which took us to our next support station at Romansfontein.

Total time: 8:23:47; total distance: 86.05 km; total climbing: 902 meters.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

RASA Day 9

RASA Day 9
Moordenaarspoort to Brosterlea. We rose at 05:00, had breakfast at 05:30 and managed to get going at 06:20.

The road out of Moodenaarspoort to Kranzkop was all good district roads with a number of climbs and we covered the 38.63 km in 2:48. The temperature got down to -1.5 and we had quite a bit of cloud cover. We stopped at Kranzkop for a early lunch of soup, coffee and "beskuit". We also checked through the narratives for the next section. Total stoppage time was 47 minutes.

The 48 km to Brosterlea had quite a bit of tricky navigation, but nothing that could cause any serious problems as long as one read the narratives carefully and followed them. No portaging was involved either. We found our way through all the tricky bits and was on the Burgersdorp road in good time. We stopped along the road for a lunch bite and were on our way again. Om the meantime a north westerly was picking up. We were riding diagonally into it, but at this point it was manageable. We got to the final turn off at the old Gouevlei siding at about 14:00 with only 18 km left. The first 3 km was a steady climb and the top we turned into the wind, which had picked up some speed by now. The road surface was also very rough, which made the going even more difficult. The net result was that it took me 2:30 to cover the 18 km. i sure was glad when I reached the Brosterlea turnoff.

In the end we once again had a shortish day with mot too much difficult riding. We both agreed that it was a good idea to divide these two days into three. Tomorrow it is 82 km to Romansfontein.

Total time 9:12:59; total distance 89.73 km; 1,421 meters of climbing

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

RASA Day 8

RASA Day 8
Day 8 starts with two difficult navigation sections in the first 20 km. We therefore decided to start at 06:30 to ensure we could see where we were going. During the previous evening our hostess warned us that it could be very cold and that it is at the coldest just after sunrise, which was due at 07:06. She even warned us that all the water pipes could be frozen and for that reason she had buckets with water for general use.

When we got up, we found that the water was not frozen, but we all dressed for the expected cold and got going at 06:33. The lowest the temperature dropped to was 5.1!

The route took us over the mountain behind the farmhouse. Most of our progress during the first 2 hours consisted of pushing or carrying our bicycles. We managed to get over the mountain and down the other side in 2 hours covering just under 10 km. This was followed by a short section on a farm road and then we tackled the next mountain. This was longer and higher and the descent on the other side was very tricky. In total it took us 5:06 to cover 20.67 km and we ascended 1,005 meters and descended 940 meters. At the highest point we were at 2,150 meters above sea level!

This was followed by some good farm tracks and district roads. The only problem with district roads are that they go over hills and down valleys, not like modern high ways where all the hills are cut through and valleys filled up. The result is lots of fast down hills and some major climbs. We reach the town of Rossouw at 14:00. With 14 km left, I started contemplating the possibility of stopping of at Moordennaarspoort rather continue through to Kranzkop, which is 38 km further down the road. George's rear tyre was also giving him problems and he had to replace the tube.

Whereas struggling with all the climbing and carrying my bike up mountains, I suddenly started feeling stronger while George was not performing as well as during previous days. I came to the conclusion that I just do not perform that well above 1,800 meters and we now were down to below that level. About 3 km from Moordenaarspoort, George called me. His rear tyre was getting flat again. I suggested that he put some air in with a CO2 bomb. We also started discussing the possibility of stopping over at Moordenaarspoort so that he can attend to that tyre.

As we arrived at Moordenaarspoort, our two riding partners, who dropped us after the final climb, just left for Kranzkop. We were welcomed by Regina Schoeman, wife of Danie Schoeman who the eighth generation of Schoemans who have been living Moordenaarspoort. We were invited in for lunch which consisted of freshly baked "mosbolletjies" and butter nuts soup. Over lunch we mentioned to Regina that we would like to stay for the night and that was that.

We had a very relaxed lunch, cleaned our bikes and converted George's rear tyre back to tubeless with two plugs. The problem is that one of these is next to the beading, so we will have to see how well it works. Currently it is holding the air.

Our strategy from here is to go to Brosterlea tomorrow and Romansfontein the day there after. Two 80 km days with today's 58 km rather than a 90 and 130 km day. In the process we loose half a day, which we hope to make up somewhere along the way.

Total time 8:50; total distance 58.1 km; total climbing 1,924 meters.

RASA Day 7

RASA Day 7
We decided to opt for a 06:00 start and actually hot going at 06:10. The 68 km to Chesney Wold consisted of very undulated district roads and navigation was straight forward. The temperature went down to -9.8 Celsius. At one point it improved to 1.7, but then we went through a valley and within less than 200 meters it changed to -2.7!

Con and Coen really moved and left me and George behind. George was also making better progress than me and left me behind. He did wait for me at the first turn off, but there after decided that "Oupa" is just too slow and I only saw him again at Chesney Wold.

The scenery through which we were riding was awesome. Quite a bit of the route was down valleys with high mountains on either side. There also was some beautiful rock formations.

My three companions were just about  ready to leave when I arrived at Chesney Wold. George wanted to know if he should wait for me, but I declined. A while later he came back and said that he would wait for me. Something I am very grateful for.

We left Chesney Wold at 11:45 with 40 km left, but that included a difficult portage section after Kapokkraal. We took a short cut through the veld to link up with a dirt road, which took us to Kapokkraal. Once again we were riding up a valley with beautiful mountains on either side. The last section to Kapokkraal was very steep and we opted go push quite a large portion. Towards the top the road flattened and we managed to cycle to the beginning of the portage section. At this point we were over 2,000 meter above sea level. This thin air was getting me and I really struggled. It took us more than hour to cover the last 2 km. At the top we picked up an old wagon trail, which later became a jeep and then the path down to Slaapkranz. On one section with some loose gravel I decided to stop, before I managed to get off my bike I lost the front wheel and took a tumble. Fortunately there was no serious damaged and I got going again. In the meantime George was loosing air from his rear wheel. 2 km from Slaapkranz the seal broke and lost all the air. He had no option but to first repair it and we clocked in at 17:20.

Total time 11:20; total distance 102 km; 2,442 meters of climbing.

Monday, June 16, 2014

RASA Day 6

RASA Day 6
Vuvu to Rhodes is only just over 50 km and we all decided not to go for the option of pushing on to Cheswold but stay over in Rhodes and rest up a little, so we opted for a later start again and managed to get going at 06:09.

It took us 48 minutes to cover the 8 km to the beginning of the Lehana climb. The 10 km of Lehana took us 4:06! It was very tough and very tiring! In the first 1:12 we covered 2.7  km and ascended 443 meters. During the next 2:54 we cover 1.1 km and as ascended 895 meters! The weather was perfect and the views were out of this world, but this definately is the toughest physical thing I have ever done. I found this year more difficult than last year.

We stopped at Tinahead for coffee and then made our way to Rhodes, where I arrived at 14:25 with George, who was kind enough to wait for me along the way. Between Tinahead and Rhodes, a distance of 32 km there is one monster climb. The rest is mostly fantastic switchbacks and down hills. I must have lost 20 minutes on the other guys on this hill and was very grateful when I saw George waiting fir me at the top of one of the minor undulations into Rhodes.

Total time 8:13; distance 52 km; ascent 2,130 meters.

RASA Day 5

RASA Day 5
Ongeluksnek to Vuvu. It was the usual early rise for a 05:00 start. We actually got going at 05:09. Con, who started with us but went ahead, had some navigation issues two nights before and decide to lay over and wait for us. Later the evening Kevin Davie also arrived, so our group was five strong now.

We had an uneventful ride past Chaba Chita and up to Black Fountain. On the way to Tiana Mission we missed the second right turn, but fortunately realised mistake  very quickly and did mot loose any time. We also found the correct path down the cliffs at Tiana mountain and stopped for a break at the abundant Mission Station at 11:00.

From here we had to make our way to the Vuvu valley. Half way there a fears head wind picked. In some areas where we normally picked up time, we were now force to push our bikes. This lasted right into the Vuvu valley where we had some protection from the high mountains around us. Going in the valley was slow as there are very few tracks to follow. We got through with about a hour of daylight to spare.

The group picked up some discord with Coen and Con wanting to take the conventional route while Kevin wanted to try the alternative. In the end Coen and Con went ahead and George and myself decided to go with Kevin. Our route was to consist of major climbing and then an easy ride in. The climb once again was a monster and we reached the top just as the daylight started to fade. Unfortunately we could not the "easy" road, but came up against a brand new fence. Fortunately we could see the lights of the Vuvu mast in the distance and headed in that direction. As we got closer we saw a light flashing and thinking that this may be our riding partners, headed in that direction. This turnout to be the school master of the Vuvu school who showed us the way home. We arrived 45 minutes after Con and Coen.

Total riding time was 13:32 to cover just over 62 km!

RASA Day 4

RASA Day 4
Masakala to Ongeluksnek, a total distance on 64 km and a relatively easy day. We therefore decided to only start at 06:00. In the end we got going at 06:09. We started of by missing the first turn at the school within the first 2 km! We realised our mistake very quickly and back tracked to the correct track. Initially it was not to cold, but as we moved down into the floodplain the temperature dropped to -9.2! My hands were freezing. The rest of the body was fine because of the physical effort in peddling. I even was pleased when we encountered a hill due the extra body heat generated through peddling.

Our first turnoff was at 15.5 km, but there was some "disharmony" in the group on which turnoff to take. After some consultation with dome of the locals, we took the next turn at 18.1 km. This turned out to be a dead end, but we could see the clump of wattles we were aiming for so we made our way there through the short grass. There picked the right track and made our way to Queen's Mercy. This was closed so we just took a short break. As soon as we got going, the wind picked up. We were traveling on a NW direction and the wind was NE. We stopped at the Maria Linden School to fill our water bottles.

We once again encountered some problems finding the right track up to Mprhane hill. We managed to get to the right track but not as per the narratives. Fortunately we did not loose to much time. The wind was really pumping now. The route down the mountain was marked very clearly, but the wind was a real problem until we were down far enough not to feel the wind any longer. We made our way to Gladstone farm. From there it was fairly straight forward to the Maria Zell Mission and the new route to Ongeluksnek. We clocked in just before 15:00.

Total distance 64.67 lm; 1,281 meter ascent; total time 8:45.

RASA Day 3

RASA Day 3
The rout out of Ntsikeni has changed slightly do we decided to leave an hour later than normal so that will do less on the dark. This turned to be a good decision and we found the right rout. This was difficult and it took us 2:30 to do the first 9.5 km. the next 10 took about 1:30 and then we were on district roads and made hood time to reach our interim stop at 11:20. We left there after 40 minutes.

After this we were mostly on district roads for the 20 km with a number of big climbs, but not as serious as yesterday. We then took a left turn through some villages and a wattle plantation down to the Little Umzimvubu River. After crossing it we had a fairly rough climb of about 3 km to another district road. We were on this road for 2 km after which we took another left turn. The next 4.6 km was over some undulated ground and through some wet lands and wattle plantations. Here after it was another little monster for the next 4 km which took us about an hour. We finally got onto Masakala at 17:50.

Total distance 93.17 km; total ascent 1,818 meters; total time 11:42

Thursday, June 12, 2014

RASA Day 2

RASA Day 2
We got up at 04:00 for a 04:30 breakfast. In the end we had breakfast at 04:45 and left at 05:20. We managed to get the rout out of Allendale due to help we had from Ian Waddilove the previous evening. We did join the district road a little up from were we should have, but identified our position and found the turn off to the plantation loading site. We had no problem through the Donnybrook forest and made good time. From there went through the forest. There were a number of tricky areas where we had to back track but we got through in the end and for the first time in three attempts I actually join the tar road at the right point. We got onto Centacow at 10:20. We had a leisurely stop and got going again at 11:20.
The next section included two monster climbs. They both were about 5 km and both took about an hour each. We walked more than we rode on those hills. In between we had to cross a river, which we managed to do without getting wet by tip toeing over the rocks, and had a pleasurable ride through a blue-gum forest. We entered Ntsikeni Reserve via the famous Northern Gate by way of the "ladder" over the fence. I clocked in at Ntsikeni Lodge at 16:55, 5 minutes after Coen and 15 minutes before George.

Total distance for the day was 102 km with 2,800 meters of climbing and a riding time of 11:52.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

RASA Day 1

RASA Day 1
Got up at 04:10 this morning for breakfast at 04:30. Had a healthy bowl of Jungle oats. We made our way to the City Hall at 05:30 for the 06:00 start.

We all stayed pretty much together into Bisley Nature Reserve. After 13 km we left the main road and made our way through the sugar cane plantations. Our group of 11 spilt into three here. The fast guys went ahead. Myself, Coen de Bruin and George Wienekus formed the medium group and the rest formed slow group.

We maintained a good pace and arrived at Minerva at 10:10. The fast guys were gone all ready when I got there. I was there first and had to wait 10 minutes for the other two. We had some soup, refilled our bottles and finally got going after 28 minutes. By this time the slow guys had not yet arrived.

We made our way down the hill to Byrne and from there via the Illovo Nek turn off to the Umkomaas valley. The track next to the river was very ridable. This is due to the Hela Hela MTB which was held earlier this year.  After crossing the bridge the Hela Hela climb started. It took me 1:214 to do the 7 km! I only had one word to say when I reached the top - bliksem! The last 15 lm took us 1:10 and we clocked into Allendale at 15:24.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Freedom Challenge minus one day

FC minus one day
Well, here we are again. My second try at doing the Freedom Challenge. I feel better prepared physically and mentally. Currently the weather is looking promising. Everyday is a bit hotter in Pietermaritzburg. Matatiele keeps on hovering between -1 and 17, with the -1 becoming 1 by the end of the week. No rain forecasted at this point, but it still is a long way to Praal!

Arrived in Pietermaritzburg. Checked in and assembled bike. Seems to have made to trip from Cape Town in tact. Tied rain gear to underside of seat and fitted number. Now ready to     go.

Met all the guys I will be riding with at dinner. Seems a very bunch of guys with the same strategy as mine, but no one else, who is going all the way has done it before. Some of the guys who are going to Rhodes have, but I think they will be too fast for the rest of us.

Remember to follow us on the Freedom Challenge website. I am off to bed. Breakfast is at 04:30 and we leave from here at 05:30 for the 06:00 start from the City Hall.