Thursday, July 3, 2014

RASA 2014 Conclusion

So we have reached the end and a dream have been realized!

I must firstly thank the lord Jesus Christ for giving me the strength and determination to pull this through to the end. Without His guidance and protection, I would never have made it.

I must also thank my lovely wife Sue for allowing me to do this. She was diagnosed with breast cancer less than a month before I left and had two operations during the two weeks preceding my departure. Whether I was going to be able to leave her was touch and go, but once again by His great mercy and grace, she recovered to such an extend that I was comfortable in leaving her at home. We were also very fortunate in that the cancer was detected at a very early stage, but she is going for her first chemo treatment on Monday 7 July.

I must also thank my family and friends who I know carried me through this with their prayers. Without you spiritual support I would surely not have made it.

I must thank my sponsors: CABS Car Hire; Procraft Interiors; Linear Redd; Ampal Biltong; Pep Stores who all contribute financially to help cover the costs.

Cycle Direct for providing me with a Specialized Stumpjumper 29er, which performed faultlessly. I had to inflate the rear tyre with a CO2 bomb once after coming of a very rough ride down Aasvoelberg and added a little air twice along the way. I replaced the front brake pads at the beginning of the Baviaanskloof and oiled the chain daily. It ran perfectly all the way in spite of all the abuse caused by the rough terrain we went over.

I must thank George for sticking with me, especially after Coen and Con dropped me after Louterbron. It was a real pleasure to ride with you. We really applied the Afrikaans saying “eet ‘n sak sout saam op” to our experience. It even was a special experience to sleep out at the foot of the Osseberg.
Also to Coen who kept us company for those first 8 days and Con who joined us from Ongeluksnek. Thank you to Leon who formed part of the Oupa, Oom and Laaitjie threesome from the beginning of the Baviaanskloof to the end. A special thanks to Francois who joined us from Montague. You added a special dynamic to our team with your presence and clear mind.

Thank to David Waddilove and the Freedom Challenge staff for putting up such and awesome event. I stand in awe at where some of the tracks took us. It was an experience which I will not change for anything.

A great thank you to all the wonderful people at the support stations. We were fed very well. Some were better than others, but we never left hungry and we could get our washing done when required. We were also always welcome with open arms.

Total distance: 2,170.21 km; total riding time: 193:13:39; total ascent; 42,836 meters.

RASA Day 22

The end of an amazing experience is in sight, but the mighty Stettynskloof still has to concurred! The initial 10 km to the dam is easy cycling with a couple of fairly difficult climbs and then the difficult monster of Stettynskloof. We therefore decided not to start too early, as that would mean tackling it in the dark. We had the additional problem that the section of road from the manager’s house to the top of the dam wall, about 2 km, has been washed away. When we got there we were told it is best to follow the pipeline to the dam wall. That was also fine, but the pipeline ended about 50 meters below the dam wall and we had to carry our bikes up the side of the dam wall climbing 50 meters over a distance of 200 meters. Once at the top, we were nice and hot and it was time to start shedding some of the excess clothing.

The first two kilometers was reasonable terrain where we could easily push our bikes with the occasional requirement to carry it. That was until we reached the river. From here it was a case of carrying most of the time. We also had to cross the river a number of times and get through some dense reeds as we moved up the valley. We generally stayed on the right of the river and had to cross over a number of spurs as we moved along. I did this section with my bike in a recci in 2010, but I could not remember that there were so many spurs to cross. Every time I was convinced that we have cross the last spur, another appeared ahead. There was a footpath here and there, but most of the time we just had to find our way through the undergrowth, which was very rocky. To make matters worse, the rocks were mostly about as big as footballs and fairly loose. The result was a real burden on the feet and ankles. While going through one of the small ravines, George also managed to get a nasty scratch on his nose. It was bleeding quite badly and “doctor” Francois had to do some emergency patching up to stop the bleeding. Every now and then we also came up against some very dense reeds, but always managed to find where somebody had gone through before us.

We had a bit of a rest at the rocky outcrop where a plague has been erected in memory of the people who died in the 1960 Shackelton plane crash. From there down to the river was quite a scramble, but we made it. We then had to go over a rocky outcrop, up the river and out through the reeds to scale another number of spurs. After what felt like an age, we finally managed to get to the bottom of our final major obstacle of Stettyns, a nearly vertical climb over a distance of about 400 meters. 9 hours after we left Trouthaven, we finally reached the top of the climb.

We now had an 11.5 km ride, of which the first 2 km was not ridable, through the Elandspad plateau and past the Fisantekraal farm buildings down to the old Du Toitskloof tar road. This was followed by a 6.8 km climb up the old pass to the top. While cycling down the Elandspad, George picked up a mechanical problem. I though he just dropped a chain, but it turned out more serious. Francois stopped to help him while the old men, Leon and myself carried on cycling to make sure we do not hold up the “procession” up the climbs, which was still ahead of us. Along the way the Di Thomas and Richard Edwards passed us, but then we re-passed them again.

When I got to the tar road, I decided to cycle to top and wait there rather than keep the other guys up while going up this last climb. On reaching the top, I had to wait about 10 minutes for the rest to arrive. Once together, we stating enjoying the final descent to Diemersfontein. What a pleasurable 12 km it was! All downhill. I was filled with euphoria, because I know knew that I have lived one of my dreams, which has been in planning for 4 years. Just after we went through the Diemersfontein gate, we stopped to thank our lord Jesus Christ for being with us for three weeks, for providing us with the most amazing weather and to spare us from any serious injuries or mechanical breakdowns. We crossed the line together after 12:10:35 and a measly 54 km, but it was a hard 54 km! We were warmly welcomed by our families, friends and the Freedom Challenge organisers.

RASA Day 21

We left Montague a 05:30. Even though the ride was not too technical, we had to cover more then 160 km, so we had a long day ahead of us. Around the first corner we also picked up Francois du Toit, who had to sit out a 6-hour penalty I Rouxpos and only got in at 20:05 the previous evening.  I have ridden this section before and therefore knew the way, so I was setting the pace. We were quite surprised at the amount of traffic on the Montague/Ashton road at 05:30 in the morning.  Fortunately we had no “hairy” moments. From Ashton we went down the Zandfliet road and onto Bonnievale, where we took the Vrolikheid turnoff to MacGregor.  The weather was beautiful and we were blessed with the most beautiful sunrise.  In MacGregor we stopped for a coffee, and we had had “proper” espresso coffee for the first time on the trip. From there it was the “drag” out of MacGregor up the hill to the Coenies River portage. In the scheme of things on this adventure, this portage was “a piece of cake”.  Down the other side we had the new for 2014 section to Good Hope farm. We thought that this would go quickly, but was surprised to find that it involved quite a bit of technical riding. Where the old route via Kasra took about 30 minutes, the new route took us probably 90 minutes! When we got to Good Hope, we saw a sign indicating Freedom Riders, but at the dwelling there was only cake and coffee and nobody around. After scouting around, George did find the correct place where all the food and our 2-liter containers were. We stocked up quickly and were on our way as the Trappieskraal portage and more than 100 km to Trouthaven, still lay ahead. A still North Westerly wind was also picking up.

The Trappiekraal portage involves a fair bit of pushing and carrying due to the condition of the jeep track. It is also fairly long and it was past 14:00 by the time we started the descent on the other side. The wind was still a factor, but not quite as bad as we feared it would be. At the Doornrivier store we had some quick refreshments and we back on the road in no time. Over MacKay’s hill, past Stettyns Cellar and a short stretch on the Villiersdorp/Worcester tar road before we ventures of on the Klipbokkop turn off and from there past the Kwaggaskloof and Brandvlei Dams and through the Brandvlei Prison grounds. The roads were in good condition and we were making good time. The gradient was not to bad, but it was a bit of a “drag” to get the distance behind us. With 5 km to go we went past the Trouthaven gate and onto the last stretch for the day. We pulled into Trouthaven at 18:35.

Total distance: 163.48 km; total time: 12:56:27; Total ascent: 2,355 meters; total descent: 2,259 meters.