One thing I noticed getting up early hours was the regular pattern. In most cases Gerald was up first, then me and then Neville. Invariably, depending where we were, we would have coffee ready for us made by our coffee maker, Gerald, as he was always the first to the kettle, when there was one. An absolute selfless man!
|Sunrise above Slaapkrantz|
As we gathered on the district road at 5.30am outside the farmstead, Caren and Tony joined us too. As per narratives we were to find a track running just right of the farm house and proceed up the track and find a fence line that would take us up the mountain. We struggled a little in the freezing cold and frosty dark at first but then managed to pick out the route we were to head on.
So became an onslaught that seemed to last forever in the dark until morning's first light. We started heading into a steeper section of the climb. A mini, shallow ravine with vegetated growth on either side, enough to fit a person and slippery with a black clay like mud became our first challenge of the day! We were, all five of us, in single file, mashing our way up trying to find the best footing and at the same time keeping the bike either in front of you or using it as a crutch. At times it was almost one step forward and sliding two steps backwards. The efforts became a mixture of frustration, laughter, cursing and silence. Bike wheels and boots started becoming layered with mud and made for slow going. The beauty about all efforts is when you keep at it and keep moving the obstacles are overcome and you eventually get through it which is what happened. We were eventually over the slip and slide event of the early morning, clearing mud from the bike tyres and shoes with either a small stone or broken branch stick and found ourselves on a plateau just as dawn was breaking.
|Rechecking after the mud and sludge|
Bikes down, packs off, cameras out and some snacks had; again what an awesome view from our vantage point was observed. Tony and Caren were very meticulous with their navigation and narratives and would almost follow it to a tee. I think we had a more casual approach to the whole navigation process.
|Tony and Caren|
|Which way to go?|
We cleared the mountain and took the rough jeep track with very steep descent in places, heading for our next portage for the day. Past Loutebron after another quick snack we arrived at an open valley of cultivated land with a mountain in the far distance which was our next target for the day. It was mid morning and we had a lot of ground to cover. We decided to take the fence line on our left all the way up and in hindsight should have maybe kept right, from the start. We scaled three fences in the process of getting to the summit on a clear sunny day, yet chilled.
|Fresh water at Bontehoek|
The road onward was rather uninteresting and we just tried to maintain rhythm to keep getting ahead even though my right swelling knee was still nagging and reminding me of a problem with the wearing off of the pain medication which I was taking in the morning and evening. We passed through the very small town of Rossouw but stopped at a Spaza shop quickly to buy some.....you guessed it, coco-cola and biscuits!
|Buying refreshments Rossouw Spaza shop|
We eventually arrived at Moordenaarspoort at 17h00. After replenishing lost energy reserves with food organised and left for us we departed for Krantzkop at 18h00 just as Tony and Caren arrived.
The roughly 30km run to Krantzkop was uneventful and all on district road. Up and down we went continuously and as always, more climbing than not. Eventually based on our distance splits we could make out a faint shadow of lights against some trees off the main dirt road we were on and gathered we were close. At seeing the sign board confirming our destination stop, turning off right we hurried along on the jeep track for around 2km to get to the unmanned farmhouse we would be sheltering at.
I had Gerald behind me and Neville ahead pacing it out and eager to get to our stop, when reaching a sandy bend in the track, I lost traction and went down sideways as I lost balance in the slip and slide motion of trying to ride through it. It was a rather soft landing due to the sand but couldn't help thinking;" all this way, a days riding and I come off at the end!" I felt a little foolish but pride and ego swallowed with Gerald asking if I was okay, I managed to laugh a little! All was good. Tired but good!
We arrived at Krantzkop at 21h10, a long day in the saddle by any measure but adventure at its best!
A quick warm shower. Food eaten. Backpack sorting and quick prep for the new day coming, in between Tony and Caren's arrival, it was off to a deep sleep.
The weather looked liked it was starting to turn. The wind from the south was starting to blow again...