Thursday, July 3, 2014

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.

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