Monday, February 27, 2017

THE FOUR DAY TOUR

The four day tour – 21 February to 24 February

I decided I needed some time out and what better way to do it than to mount a mountain bike and a backpack and ride across the countryside from one destination to another....

From up country Queenstown to the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Here is an brief account as recorded in my log diary.










Day 1 What a fabulous morning of riding & arrival at my overnight stop early afternoon. It is no secret. It is not all downhill to the coast so I found out today! Some hilly terrain to traverse and some big climbs to add good measure. First half of the morning met with mud and drizzle to later clear up and get rather warm....One small river crossing and relieved to find it not resembling a 'white river rafting launch' even though one of the locals in the village nearby told me it was flooded. I went against it and took the risk. So! Sometimes it pays off.
That's adventure!

Day 2. After a later than expected start, (you just can't seem to get away from good old farm style hospitality) I left the Levy family and their Fairview farmstead. A farm seeped in history and what interesting stories told. Very overcast, wind and drizzle is how the day started, yet a far cry from yesterday in respect of climbing. After the summit of the Winterberg Mountain range I dropped down into the Baviaans River Conservatory and what a thrill of a ride! This valley has so much history and I am told there is a book on it! The descent is every mountain bikers dream!! It just never seemed to have an end. It warmed up pretty quickly as late morning rolled in and to a max temp of 31deg. There are so many building ruins and history lost in this valley and it's such a pity. There were also two small passes I traversed and the views were certainly spectacular!
On Garmin tracker, the family could not track the whole day due to no comms on the ride course. After a 101km stint with two small stings in the tail at the end, I arrived in Bedford for my overnight stop....

Day 3. I left Bedford early hours of this morning in heavy fog for one simple reason and that was to beat the forecasted heat that was to grip this section of the ride. I shy not away from admitting that heat & I do not bode well together! At 10am this morning still enroute to Ann's Villa, my overnight stop, the temps had already soared to 35deg once the mist had lifted. This had me grappling with pace as I found myself stopping numerous times when seeking & finding some shade for a quick reprieve. Signal is weak & I have not been able to upload stats for my only 90km day and well over 1000m of ascent. Today was different to the other days. There were long lonely stretches, yet liberating through some very dry and arid landscape in places but also some lush green as well. There was wildlife a plenty! Treated to a test of strength early morning was a wild cat running for almost a kilometre and a half in the beam of my bike light, ahead of me. Today I saw a total count of seven kudu, the most I have even seen in a days sighting, this along with various other buck. There were monkeys and jackal and it would seem animal life in this part of the world is in sure abundance! Even though green, as well as no sign of human life anywhere, not even a vehicle on the last stretch, I couldn't find water and ran the risk of running “dry” enroute to my stop but made it before then. My GPS kicked out on me due to an apparent corrupt file about two hours before reaching my destination but managed to ride on study memory and sign boards. I am alone at Ann's Villa, an old Inn built in the early 1800. It is fully self catering and so I had to carry a little extra meal replacement for the evening. This establishment is seeped in history with plenty of the original fittings and fixtures still evident. If you looking for five star accommodation, this will not be for you. This is roughing it at its best! Tomorrow my final run and day to end in PE. With around 150km to get through.....I am sure one of the oldest passes, Zuurberg Pass will be a treat!....

Day 4 - Leaving Ann's Villa at 5am, it would take me over 10hrs to do the 147km and reach Port Elizabeth under what I would call extreme conditions. Looking at my stats, I was shocked to see the temp had reached a staggering 48deg for a moment and explained why the heat had me stopping more often than not. The 1st 15km from the base of Zuurberg was rocky, technical and a long pull to the summit but the magical skyline of dawn breaking at the top made it all worthwhile! The pass did not disappoint with clean air, unspoilt nature and the scenery soulful as I traversed this old pass built in the mid 1800. Once passed the Zuurberg Resort at the top of Zuurberg, 30km from Ann's Villa, it was down into Addo for a much needed & required breakfast as I had not eaten properly since Wednesday evening. From there with the temp in their high 30's already it was the onslaught onto Uitenhage and then Port Elizabeth a 100km away. The dirt road to Uitenhage was grueling to say the least. The long endless, lonely roads, with the heat and my mind playing games, sweat pouring off me, there was nowhere to hide on this arid section of the ride. Once at Uitenhage it was mostly tar all the way to Port Elizabeth. With the heat blazing off the tar and stopping continually, at one stage I holed up at a farm stall where I found myself sitting flat on a tiled floor because it was the coolest place to be for longer than I would have anticipated. With the afternoon ticking on I forced myself to get up and get moving and made one last surge to my destination. As I got closer and closer to my destination and then with about 8km to go, hammer down, it is amazing how you can forget all the hardship and reflect on what an awesome journey this has been. I feel blessed I can do this. I feel grateful I could experience it. For those that cycle; never underestimate the experience and moments of where a mountain bike and a backpack can take you....

Zuurberg pass at sunrise



Some interesting stats from the entire trip.

I turned over my pedals roughly 481620 times over the distance ridden. Climbed 4661m
Lowest temp was 11deg
Max temp 48deg!!!
Clocked a max speed 67.4km/h
Burned 14172 calories which explained why I lost 3kgs.

BUT! It's all done!,……………….. now to plan the next one! 😉

Monday, February 20, 2017

WITH A BIKE....

February is past the half way mark and the year tapping along.

My antics over the past month and a half have been, quite frankly, traditional. Work, bike riding, home and one or two minor travel moments etc. After embarking on what I term my 40 day cycle "base train system" which started on the 1st January and ended 40 days later, had been very different to past 40 day programs completed.

After a term off the bike, It was time for me to start getting back into shape. I had piled on the weight after Freedom Challenge race across South Africa in 2016, just letting myself self go sadly. Getting caught up in the rat race again and easing myself off the balance of life, which I only have myself to blame for that, the 40 day plan basically would form the backdrop of my base training to start getting into the sync of things. It entailed a commitment of riding for 40 days, every day, with a set minimal distance, or time and a required ascent as the goal. I had packed on just short of 17 kilos to my skeletal frame since August 2016 and some serious work was required. I only needed to lose 9 kilos to get to my optimum weight I prefer which creates a balance between the power to weight ratio I desire.

My other half who also committed herself to wanting to shed some weight loss was right up my alley. No dieting needed but a required shift in eating habits and lifestyle has become the key and has seen me shed 6 kilos from the 1st of January.

I have found that my commitments to cycle have taken a more laid back approach with very little early morning rises as to what was witnessed in 2016 and more afternoon rides between and after work.

My first little adventure ride about to kick off, planned and structured solely by me, will be a rough maximum 500km trek across the country from my home town Queenstown up in the countryside of the Eastern Cape and end all the way down to the port city of Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape coastline. Taking few, short connecting tar roads but then onto mostly the dirt roads/tracks less traveled and planned over four days, traversing over some new terrain will surely be a challenge when doing it purely solo. The additional challenge will be the day heat and finding accessibility to water if needed as part of the stretches are across some remote barren land with nothing in sight for miles. The risks of adventure are always attractive to some. The elements of the unknown can sometimes be a mystic pull to those who seek it.

 The planned route decided on....
Day 1 

Day 2 - tricky...

Day 3 - long lonely stretches....

Day 4..... enter civilization again...

The hours are ticking down and the packing just about complete, the excitement mounts....I guess then I am ready to roll!

With a bike...........





 


Thursday, January 19, 2017

MOMENTS


2017 is here!

A whole new year with twelve months of adventures to get stuck into, if you wish!

I am not one for making New Year resolutions but rather choose to construct the year with a vision and some goals on what I would like to achieve. At the end of it, it is merely a case of sitting down after it all and comparing notes to see what has been achieved.

Life is not about 'things but rather about 'moments. Well! That is how I see to it.

“Things" just give you temporary pleasure whilst “moments" give you the pleasure of evaluating your soulful achievements and sometimes your failures, but in the end it also give you lasting memories and hopefully some wisdom to go with it.



I harp on it, hinging maybe on the risk of boring some, but the 2300km Freedom Challenge race across South Africa was incredible and definitely a start and hopefully birth of many new moments to come.

For those interested, here is a half hour video on my 2016 Freedom Challenge race across South Africa. Copy & Paste the link into your browser and hit enter...& turn up the sound.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4rOTQEtThyGV2M4M21GT1doTk0/view?usp=sharing

Raising funds for the Carel du Toit Centre in Cape Town where deaf kids are taught to speak was also once again one of my highlights in 2016 and all going well, planning and waiting on feedback for applying the same in 2017.


January is nearly over and in late February all going well, even though the planning is already 99% concluded, the start of some fresh new moments will begin!


 I’m excited!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

LIFE HAPPENS

Like a freight train, 2016 is running, in actual fact, screaming along threatening to slam into the stage curtain walls and rip them off from their fittings.

23 more days and 2016 will be a distant memory of what has been...
Victories and losses. Elation and disappointments. Solitude and adventure. Yet, I feel that 2016 has probably been my most personal best and incredible year to date! It stands out as the year of personal achievements, goals set and goals attained. Its been a year mixed with wisdom and experienced gained. Its been a year of realizing, truly realizing, that if you dream it, you can do it! And if you have enough self belief, you can achieve whatever you set your mind on doing. If you believe you can succeed you will! I've met some incredible people along the way and in some way it has also changed the way I view the world through my own eyes, somewhat.

Coming into 2016, there had been plenty unfinished business and I can settle my mind that the deals were realigned as well as the deals have been sealed. Deep down there are so many people as well as companies and businesses that had an impact on my belief system, changed the way I looked at things as well as assisted me and had me driven to discover my hidden resolves and perseverance. The highlight of  2016, most certainly was racing the Freedom Challenge race across South Africa and finishing the grueling 2300km non stop single stage race. An ordinary working class guy juggling training, work and family commitments, minor setbacks and the normal day to day activities and succeeding in this was an ultimate dream come true and a massive goal achieved.

2017 will bring with it, its own challenges and goals and no matter what comes your way, we must always remember, life happens. You either will or you won't. You either do or you don't. You could succeed or you could fail but the common denominator in it all, is it is about choice. You decide.

I need to mention a special thanks again to the companies that became part of my year in some way and no amount of gratitude would be fitting or enough. The service, the top notch equipment and general involvement went a long way to aid and be part of my 2016 successes. With goals set for 2017 and more crazy adventures planned, it would always be great to have companies like this on your side. A big thanks again to Adventure Inc, Buff SA, Sea to Summit, Osprey, FutureLife, Chain Reaction Cycles, Panda Sportwear, Leatherman and Led Lenser.

As I also moved to raised funds for a deaf school in Cape Town whilst completing some of my 2016 challenges, a big shout out goes out to those that made contributions in 2016! Honoring their confidentiality requests, it is nevertheless, big thank you goes out to them!

After taking much time off the bike, I have had to take stock of where I was at. It is early December and my base training has kicked in for the first time. I had just really taken some time out, indulged in one or two small races, the odd bit of riding but just couldn't get a training program kicked off. So! I took more time off. In this time, the adventurous mind has been skirting the horizon and there are some challenges that I have committed to mindfully, going forward... 

There are some plans, papers, maps, ideas and as mentioned goals on the table. 
Without the goals, there would be nothing. 
All going well, 2017 will be epic.....





Tuesday, October 25, 2016

DAY 24 FREEDOM CHALLENGE RACE ACROSS SOUTH AFRICA - 2016 DAY 24 + 11 HOURS


Day 24 + 11 Hours TROUTHAVEN TO DIEMERSFONTEIN - FINISH 56km

Day 24 had arrived!

I would have been lying if I said I was perfectly fine walking out the door of our lodge... I think I was slightly numb, maybe slightly petrified of the unknown that lay ahead. The short ride up to the dam was strangely quiet and I was trying to picture the beast that would lay before us. I was also excited at the same time about finishing this epic race!

I wrote a short piece from my notes about the experience the day afterwards and the full version went like this....

Leaving 'battle station Trouthaven on Sunday morning at 6am, many before and many experienced, frowned upon this late advancement onto the 'battle ground which was to become the Kloof all known as Stettyns! Our strategy was to arrive at the gateway of this Kloof at 1st light for the simple reason being we were not going to mess around in the dark on foreign grounds we had no inclination of as had been the planning of the Trio throughout our journey together. It was not a late embarkment because of being naive of what was to come, it was just the way it was.

We had heard all the "horror stories" of those who went before us. Those who stumbled. Those who emerged victorious. Those who fought a gallant battle and lost. Those who fought a vicious battle with the 'Kloof and won. The 'Kloof was not to be underestimated and her magical beauty also harbored the ability to bring on unimaginable suffering!




The first of the river bed crossing. The start of Stettynskloof portage 

The Trio had discussed at length 'battle plans and in the end opted to enter the Kloof and go up the middle as per map indications. That was plan A.

Having covered the first 10km in the dark, we opted to go around the dam wall and not over it. We picked up the single track path that would lead us onto the start of this incredible portage and the mouth of the Stettynskloof corridor.

On a clear lit sky, dawn breaking we started at the base at around 8am, standing at the mouth of the corridor staring in awe up the Kloof to a far off saddle silhouetted against the skyline we were to head for around 6-8km away. You could practically pick your own line or use the map as guidance. But one thing for sure, there was no way of finding an easier exit as they were all the same. Looking up the corridor, it looked pretty simple, yet we would later find out it was by no means by any standards.

A lone jet passed over high up in the sky and was almost a trigger the battle had begun! We started out as the instructions given according to map and plan. It was a matter of minutes and we found ourselves in thick vegetated growth. A couple of paths littered the way from those before us. We picked one and a few metres in we were deadlocked. It was like the vegetation swallowed us up! Nervous looks gave way to an almost synchronized thought process. We switched to our plan B almost instinctively! We were going 'high and right' on the eastern slope of the Stettynskloof corridor. We literally started laying our bikes down in the path we were on in thick vegetation, running and throwing body and limbs into what lay in front of us to clear a path for exit to the outside and light. We were not going to cover 1km in 4 hours like some of the previous 'warriors had done. We needed to try move faster as we knew we only had limited day light hours to contend with.



Overwhelmed 


Its a bloody jungle! 

We broke through this thick vegetation, pulling, throwing our bikes forward and started the clamber up the mountain to our right, away from the river and thick vegetated growth! The going was slow as we started to make our way up the 'field and climbing high up onto the side of the mountain, encountering a number of rocky ravines with thick growth one after another. Some of these were also feeding water from high up in the mountain to the main river below. The terrain was wet. The vegetation generally waist high but forever changing in among rocky crops. The mountain tops had sprinkles and dusting of snow in places. The air was constantly chilled in the shadows.

Around late 3pm, the battle having raged on all day, we had made half way. There had been stumbles and small falls as we fought forward. The saddle was closer but still yet so far. Neville trailing a short way behind, let out an agonizing scream just as he had slipped and landed in between some boulders, bearing in mind his injured hand that was continually throbbing with pain. I put my bike down and ran back, thrashing through the thick grass after him to pick him up and check he was ok. The sound of his 'scream didn't sound good and I was praying he hadn't broken anything otherwise we would be in some serious trouble. Relieved he was just bruised and in pain for a short moment. We picked out a dry river bed on the mountain higher up and a point we needed to cross over yet another ravine. We were heavily fatigued. Sitting down, Neville was trying to recuperate lying in the long grass nearly towering over him. We gauged at the time we had around 3 hours of day light left. At our current pace, we weren't going to make our exit point before then! We made a combined call that we were going to bunk down for the night. We had found a somewhat reasonable place to shelter and why not take it than start thrashing around at nightfall.



Halfway 



Cruel valley

We made it to the river bed higher up in the ravine and set about getting ready for a long cold night. Wood stockpiled, a fire pit established we settled down in a somber mood making fire. We were so badly hoping for a Sunday finish! I myself fell into deep silence the rest of the evening feeling dejected. There was no way to notify anyone we were safe and those following the tracker would only see a non moving blip and have to draw their own conclusions.











Dinner coming up!!

The Stettynskloof fell into darkness quickly and so we sat huddled around the fire, sitting on ice cold rocks. There was no real place for a comfortable place to sleep but it was what it was. Between the Trio we shared a 'meal of cup a soup, a few biltong strips and nougat bites along with rationing our water. We were on a dry river bed. We were very far from the river below. We would gather more water in the morning. We donned all the clothes we possessed which wasn't much. Emergency blankets wrapped around our bodies and the fire constantly fed, we sat and tried to sleep in this position throughout the night. The night was long. The night was quiet. The night was dark and like an abyss before us. The sky was clear and one could see forever. A million more stars than you've seen before could be seen in that absolute blackness!

Surprisingly we were kept pretty warm with the fire going all night. There was no violent shivering like the many nights back when we slept out in the Bosholweni forest. We also put it down to choosing a fairly well sheltered spot high up against the mountain and far from the river edge at the bottom. Taking turns through the night, we fed the fire constantly.

Dawn broke as majestically as all the other mornings and with the fire allowed to burn right down, heat minimal, one could feel just how cold it was. 3 mini packets of instant coffee mixed and heated in a tin bowl became our breakfast. We were low on any form of nutrition keeping our packs light the day before and discarding items and much needed food that would weigh down progress....and for a Sunday finish that didn't happen. My energy now was reliant on eight energy gel sachets that I started sucking on every odd hour to keep us going once we started moving.

It would take us another 6 hours to get out the Kloof. Fighting one last mass of vegetation, more ravines and then also finding a literal clear tunnel of overgrown ferns leading us to the 'promised land' right next to the water edge and last river crossing. It was then a steep, I would have imagined 600m, straight line, back breaking portage out Stettynskoof!

We emerged at the summit exhausted and on low energy and being totally sapped from the night out lack of proper recovery. Yet! We felt victorious! a rejuvenated energy source from just that! We made it out!

Looking back from the summit, down the valley to where it had all started, I silently nodded at my thought process, looking down with a probable blank stare and in agreement of what a previous Freedom Challenge competitor had quoted when posting his analogy of the Stettynskloof... "How can so much beauty behold so much suffering!"



The summit 

We made our way off the backside of the mountain, got onto some jeep track and started riding for the first time in nearly a day and half. We snaked through the mountains and eventually ended up on the main route to take us 'home'! The finish line - Diemmerfontein.

The last 6km on tar was a time for real reflection for me. I was exhausted, hungry, bruised. It didn't matter anymore! I had coupled and done this journey with 2 incredible guys, Neville Higgs and Gerald van der Merwe and together we did it our way!

All the pain and suffering gave way to an emotional elation that I had followed a dream, and more than one dream in that my fundraising for Carel du Toit centre was part of this. I had failed on the first Freedom Challenge attempt in 2014 but came back to complete unfinished business and finished it I did! As I found myself reflecting, I was sure that even my mother in-law who was one of those that supported my adventure endeavor and who was cruelly taken from us by the ravage of cancer 10 months earlier, was watching over me with a smile on those last few kilometres.

This journey was just that! An incredible journey of self discovery and learned experiences. Places been and incredible people met. I even lost 12kg in body weight! Stettynskloof broke me over and over but failed to destroy me. The Freedom Challenge race across South Africa had certainly humbled me.

Neville, Gerald and I, un-beknown to waiting family and friends stopped at the gate way before we entered Diemmerfontein after the forest descent exit. We shared a prayer of thanks and a hug. Yes, it was a personal emotional moment for us. A massive milestone. We had come so far together and the journey was about to end. Grown men cry? Embark on a journey like we have and we can talk again!

The power of 3 strangers that came together and became the power of one!

2300km, 33000m of ascent, 24 days, 11 hours, riding into the finish was a radical feeling! From a tearful wife, an in awe son, my own father telling me how proud he was, sisters, friends, it was fanfare all round!



Stettynskloof 



Stettynskloof up the valley 



The morning after my finish, I picked up a piece my twin sister had written and posted on her facebook page while we were stuck out in the Kloof on that Sunday night and very appropriately written which left a lump in my throat.

....."Friends, family, race followers and fellow cyclists who have already completed the race watch with us and each has their own opinion of how they have chosen to approach this challenge. There are those who see this race/challenge as a race to be won with the breaking of records, setting faster times and speeds. There are those that just hope to get as far as the next checkpoint and see what happens from there. Each one has paid their fee and planned as they have seen fit with their own personal goals in mind.

As I have followed Clint’s (and the Trio’s) journey I have been struck by many things. The Freedom Challenge means different things to different folk. To one it means being number one, to another it means testing oneself to see how far one can go, to yet another it is a journey to realizing a dream...

Clint set out to ride this challenge not only for himself but also to raise awareness and funds for Carel Du Toit Centre Cape Town because it is a cause very close to his heart. This was a dream he wanted to fulfill for a while now. As Clint’s twin, I saw first hand what it was like to grow up being hearing impaired and so while I do not know what it is like to be deaf, I understand his passion for this cause...

I have learnt…
- That you have to be brave when you “fall off a saddle” and that just because you may have failed before, does not mean you give up on your dreams.
- That for some; slow and steady wins the prize. Not everyone is built or wired the same. Knowing your strengths AND weaknesses and planning accordingly is wise.

- That being the fastest doesn’t necessarily mean you are the only winner, but that helping someone else reach their goal to make it to the end with you makes you a hero (all three of the Trio fit that bill)

As I wait for the sun to rise and think about the three guys out there in the cold, (the Sweepers as they are now known because they are the last cyclists to complete the 2300km race/challenge) I was reminded of days and how I felt in my own failures. I wish I knew then what I have learnt from my brother today. Being last is not failure – finishing the race is winning. I am so incredibly proud of Clint and what he has achieved. I am also proud of and grateful to Neville Higgs and Gerald Van Der Merwe for the support they offered him and each other." - Jackie Beavers






Before the last climb out - Monday morning 





Victorious!


The finale - riding into Diemmerfontein

The video finish - 4 July 2016 17h00


The Trio!


Finale 

The race, finish and completion of Freedom Challenge race across South Africa was everything I had dreamed about, everything I had wished for and more.....














DAY 23 FREEDOM CHALLENGE RACE ACROSS SOUTH AFRICA - 2016 DAY 23

DAY 23 McGREGOR TO TROUTHAVEN 110KM

We were in some form of jubilent spirit because we knew we were close to "home"! We were saying we could smell Diemmerfontein! We spoke about what the moment would be like and if emotions would run high once we cleared the "kloof" on Sunday, all going well. There was plenty apprehension for the final onslaught onto the finish line and it didn't sound pretty. The three of us had endless discussion about what lay ahead in the next 48hrs. We agreed we would stick together as a unit of three. We would leave no one behind. Even through we would be going into the 'forsaken' Kloof blind, we would be doing so, determined!

We had passed the 2000km mark of this journey and embarking to Trouthaven 108km away where we will spend our last night on the Freedom Trail. We would be prepping everything. Stripping bikes down so there was nothing hampering forward movement while fighting thick vegetation and getting stuck the final leg Sunday morning. We want to be out the Kloof before sunset..... God willing!

We left McGregor at 5am on a dark, freezing cold Saturday morning. The Cape cold is different and it gnaws at you like a throbbing, dull pain. Just before dawn, I swear it must have been the coldest I had felt in a while and may have been reason we blitz the first half the 110km dash to Trouthaven. At sun up, we had the second pit stop but not for long as realized that movement was the best solution to stay warm. I think in the end, the shivering on the bike was the combination of cold and the excitement of finsihing this epic journey! The ride through to Trouthaven was uneventful with the odd dogs getting near to chase us and the majestic beauty all around us with the towering mountains and fresh water lakes all round.


At around 55km - dawn 



2nd Pitstop 


Beautiful surroundings 

We arrived at what I dubbed 'battle station' Trouthaven at 12.30pm after a solid 110km ride in from McGregor. We settled down for the afternoon and last evening and at the same time prepped for the coming final day. I set about removing saddle bags, handle bar ends, map board stands on the handle bars and it would later be the lights and onboard computer all in the effort to aid our trek.


Outside Trouthaven 

This journey I have mentioned more than once, has been incredible. We would all take something away from it in the end. I have had many highs and many lows on the trail. The biggest low, Having being solid in my mind prep and positive outlook coming into Freedom, I had that one very dark day around day 18 outside Willowmore. I was so heavily fatigued having left the Baviaans Kloof at 1am and making a run for Rondawel at 180km away. My mind 'snapped' and it was really touch and go. You don't reason properly. You don't think rationally. I was ready to pull the plug just like that! That day I had Neville to thank! I have really appreciated his no nonsense approach to me! There is no time for pity parties on the trail. You were either in or you were out! Incredibly, he got me going. and I never looked back after that!!

As a Trio we have complemented each other quite well and have shared long days in the saddle and gone through the battles as one. There have been good days. There were also some hard days. We have shared many a laugh and it is so important as an ordinary cyclist attempting an adventure like this to carry a pocket of humour with you.

We had been blessed with good weather even though we had some heavy days with constant headwinds to contend with. Mechanically, our 'machines - and bodies had held together mercifully looking at some of the terrain we transversed with the minor common breakdowns occurring and seen to.


Our humble abode - last night out on the Freedom Trail 




Yes! There was apprehension in the air by late afternoon.

Yet, we all had one thing in common. Determination!
With eyes are on the prize we're going for it!!!





















Friday, October 21, 2016

DAY 22 FREEDOM CHALLENGE RACE ACROSS SOUTH AFRICA - 2016 DAY 22

Day 22 MONTAGU TO McGREGOR 55KM

I awoke early and as we had decided from the night before, we were going to really just take it easy and have a short day, we wouldn't be leaving too early. Neville had arrived back from the hospital just as Gerald and I were sitting down to tuck into some dinner the evening before. All bandaged up and the deep cut accounted for the four stitches he was given, Neville was not completely free of pain. We decided to embrace the day and take a leisure trip through to McGregor and stay over at Pony Cottage.

We had 26 days within to complete the race across South Africa and we still had four days in the bag to cover the next two hundred plus kilometres to the finish. We guessed the race office was not going to be too thrilled with the idea as they would have to sit for a few days more to wait for our arrival and monitor our movement in the process.

I lay awake in the dark of the room with the almost predawn shade of light wanting to start forming. I had had a good night's sleep. The wind was blowing outside but I was no longer apprehensive. I stared up at the ceiling and found myself reflecting on the journey this far.

Each day leading up to now had been different. There were the highs and the lows. The laughs and the sullenness. The endless roads and daunting climbs. The riding and the walking. The animals and the warmth of the people. The friendship and the loneliness. The calm and the rough. The cold and the warmth. The pain and the desires. The encounters of the jungles and the bareness of our countryside. Most of all, there was yearning for my family I had not seen in 22 days even though we had spoken rarely along with a number of messages. All in all, I felt an inner peace and a feeling of pride and privilege that I had embarked on a dream and it was about to conclude with a happy ending, hopefully.


I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity I had been blessed with and the people that had shared my dream, even counting Neville and Gerald.

Once all up and our 'famous coffee maker" Gerald had delivered our coffee in his usual unselfish way as he had done throughout this journey together, we packed up, chains lubed, said our thanks and headed out at 8.30am, destination McGregor.

The trip took us through some tar road sections and through a number of roadworks which proved beneficial to be on a mountain bike as we could get through all the traffic while the actual traffic had to wait at the stop go's.

We passed through some wine-lands and even had the odd farm dogs chase us as we raced away in glee and laughter. The weather was twirling all around and it was almost like having four seasons in one day. Neville, in a little silent discomfort with bandaged hands on the handlebars was pushing on bravely.  

The ride to McGregor was pretty effortless compared to what we had acheived in days gone. There was rain clouds all round not far from McGregor and we eneded up putting on rain jackets but only for a short while. We were graced with an incredible display of natures way in the form of a majestic rainbow appearing.

Not long after this we were heading on the steady descent into the valley that harboured McGregor, a quaint little town establishment. The town itself, clean and quiet was what I noticed. We found our stayover just off the main street and walked into Pony Cottage at 12.30pm





After settling in we decided to go on a walk about into the main street and visit a coffee shop we had spotted. Milkshake and ice-cream celebrations all round! Later, early evening we went on to visit a local pub, ordered dinner and indulged some of the locals about our adventure endeavor. Again! looks of madness as well as in awe of our achievements so far, yet, we felt pretty normal in our madness this far.


Back at the cottage, having prepped for the next day's section of a 110km to Trouthaven we decided to push off at 5am the next morning. It had been a restful afternoon and a happy one too!