Friday, May 28, 2010

Time to go...

So the Pajero is packed, mainly with the mobile support station stuff. I am just waiting for Kevin Davie then we will leave for Musina. I am excited, worried, scared (a bit), ready (i think) and feel a lot of different emotions at the moment. The real size of the trip ahead is only now starting to become a reality and I just hope the body and bike last. So wish me luck, don't be afraid to send a SMS from time to time. It might be just what I need when I am sweating up a long hill...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Accommodation planning

Hi all, I will keep the blogg updated while Jaco is on his way to Cape Town. Just a short note on the accommodation. After scouting the route with Jaco and seeing a few possible places to stay,  it took some time to get the accommodation booked. Normally we had only one choice due to the remoteness of the route and the achievable distance that can be ridden per day. Amazingly enough, we even booked and pay via internet for a place such as Camp Mangwepe in the remotest depth of Vendaland. (Communication by cellphone only). Fortunately this camp exsist because there is no other accommodation 50km on route either way! This is for the first night and Jaco and Kevin Davey will have rondavels, beds and running water.

I will (wo)man the first 2 night's mobile support station and wait for them with a hot meal and start the fire in the donkey for a hot shower. At least I will have a Garmin and trust the Pajero will be as reliable as their bikes! 

The second night we stay at Lodge Madyisa. Sounds great but it consist of 1ha dry land without any trees in between villages with about 15 units. Each unit has a double bed and only some with shower or bath and electricity. Nothing more. I still can't figure it out, they have a day and a night tariff? Fortunately, these two days they will be able to buy food from spaza shops.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

4 more sleeps

So on Friday morning we will depart from Pretoria. At this stage it seem likely that Kevin Davie (the Father of the "Spine Run" ) will join me on the first three days from Beit Bridge to Haenrtsburg.

So for the start I will have company, and we will have a "Roving Supportstation". The Pretty One and the Pajero will wait for us at Camp Mangwele and Madyisa Lodge so the issue of food at these 2 places is suddenly less of a headace. If I was riding alone it would have been tins of whatever I could get hold of at the nearest spaza shop, but now it might be "pap en wors" (Maize Porridge and Sausage) or whatever The Pretty One can come up with in the bundus.

When we reach Heanertsburg Kevin and Ilette will depart for Pretoria and for the rest of the way to Diemersfontein in Wellington I will be on my own.

Should have trained a lot harder this week end but I have a bit of a throat infection so I took it easy. I have read that you cannot get fitter in the last 7 days before a race, so this is as fit as I will be. Will have to get fit along the way then ...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 11 - 15

Day 11 Lunaburg to Bloedrivierpoort

A day that undulates upward for most of the day but it is all gravel road riding so I can maybe take it a bit easier on this day. There is not much to say except that you are riding through farmland and end the day at a historical site where the battle of  Blood River Port was fought between Boer and Brit. The small memorial that was set up here id in a sorry state, and it looks as if it was vandalised for the copper plaques that once described the battle. The famous Battle between Boer and Zulu is on the next day's agenda.


The battle took place on 17 September 1901. This battle was fought to prevent Louis Botha’s second attempt to invade Natal. The British were outflanked and in the 10 minute action lost 16 officers, 273 men and 3 guns.

Day 12 Bloedrivierpoort to Rorke's Drift
Another flat day but there is quite a number of interesting thing to see on this day.
The first port of call is the Battle of Blood River. Just type in Bloedrivier into your Google search and the info is immence.

From here you are back in rural country and you leave the farming community behind you. Suddenly you ride past this beautiful old sandstone church. It is worth a stop to have a look inside and visit the grave of the original founder of the church. He was laid to rest in the church.

From here it is a short ride to Rorke's Drift. The same goes for Rorke's Drift as for Blood River as far as internet info is concerned's_Drift

Accommodation here is either in one of 2 very expensive very touristy luxury lodges or a typical Zulu Kraal where you will be treated to real Zulu Culture. From sleeping on the floor on sleeping mat (beds are available if you prefer, to walking the right way when entering the kraal. Women Around the left of the cattle kraal in the centre and men around the right.

Day 13 Rorke's Drift to Kranskop
138 km
A really BIG day with a very BIG profile
That is a 1300m descent in 30km. And then a 950m climb in 24 km! Eish!

The riding is changing every now and then between rural Africa and highly developed sugarcane farming
The big dip is to cross the Tugela river.
Early in the day you ride through the battlefield of Isandlwana and again this is a very well documented battle with lots of info on WWW.
Shortly after this be sure not to miss what looks like a small waterfall (Mangeni) but is quite spectacular.

The day ends near Kranskop. From Wikipedia:

Kranskop is a small town that is situated on the edge of the Tugela River valley in KwaZulu-NatalSouth Africa. It was founded in 1894 as Hopetown but the following confusion with another town of the same name in the Great KarooNorthern Cape, the name was changed. Kranskop was chosen and is named after two cliff faces that rise 1,175 metres above the Tugela Valley near the town. The name is an Afrikaans word meaning "cliff head."
The Kranskop rock formation has major significance in local Zulu legend and folklore, for whom it is called "Ntunjambili". Stories of a forbidden cave, and the hill opening to allow shelter from cannibals only for it to close on those it had lured. Another similar story is about young girls who, weary of carrying water from the river, asked the mountain to give them sanctuary. It obliged by opening a great cavern and tempting them inside with sounds of revelry. Once inside the cavern the entrance closed and they were seen no more.

Day 14 Kranskop to Dalton
Not a day to be taken lightly. The theme of rural and sugarkane mix continue and you are now properly in the Valley of 1000 hills. So the legs will BURN

Day 15 Dalton to Pietermaritzburg
Not an easy ride into town at all, but I am working on taking the sting out of the day...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 9-10

Day 9 Badplaas to Amsterdam
From Badplaas the terrain flattens out and the route takes me past Chrissiesmeer, through Lothair and into Amsterdam.

Chrissiesmeer (Lake Chrissie) is a small town situated in a wetland area of Mpumalanga province in South Africa. The San inhabited this area along with the Tlou-tle people who lived on rafts in the larger lakes. The Voortrekkers established a town here in the 1860s and named it after Andries Pretorius's daughter Christina. In the 1880s the town became an important stopover for wagons travelling to the gold mining town of Barberton. Crissiesmeer is one of the best kept secrets in the Mpumalanga Province, in total there are more than 270 lakes in the immediate area (located not far from Carolina). Every year nearly 20.000 flamingo come into the area to breed.

Lothair I or Lothar I (GermanLotharFrenchLothaireItalianLotario) (795 – 29 September 855) was the Emperor of the Romans (817–55), co-ruling with his father until 840, and the King of Bavaria (815–17), Italy (818–55) and Middle Francia (840–55).

But this Lothair that I am riding through looks like a big railway station and a loading zone for wood harvested in the plantations around this area. Anybody know more?

Amsterdam is a small sheep farming town in MpumalangaSouth Africa. Other than large sheep farms, there are large plantations of gumpine and wattle trees in the area. The town also lies close to the border with Swaziland. Established in 1866 , this small town was known as Roburnia (after Robert Burns the Scottish poet). President Paul Kruger ordered that the name be changed to Amsterdam in 1882.

Day 10 Amsterdam to Lunaburg

From Amsterdam tho route takes me South and riding through Iswepe you get a feeling of deja vou. It is pretty much the same situation as Lothair. You then ride past the Heyshope Dam and then up a mountain that looks like a crater. On top of this mountain is a wetland and this is where the Ntombi river originates.

Ntombi drift - Anglo Zulu War of 1879 KwaZulu Natal South Africa

Ntombi drift (12 march 1879) is the site where the Swazi renegade chief Mbilini ambushed a supply column, under command of Capt. Moriarty, that was heading for Khambula to replenish Col Sir Evelyn Woods No 4 of left Flank Column. With half the wagons over the Ntombi River, if flooded forcing the British to spend several days waiting for the waters to recede. The British laager was poorly fortified and was ambushed by the Zulus at dawn. The British lost 73 officers and other ranks while the Zulu casualties were negligible.

What else is in Luneburg
Filter Larsen Monument
Lüneburg Pirmary School, oldest German school in Northern Natal which has a small museum which can be viewed by arrangement
Lüneburg Cash store - a unique general dealer where close to anything can be bought
Lüneburg Church
Monument at Lüneburg Cemetry for orignal missionary settlers
Braunschweig Church

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Detail Day 5 - 8

Day 5
2km Tar into Ohrigstad
2 BIG rivercrossings - Olifantsrivier and Steelpoortrivier
A day of unavoidably riding through abandoned asbestos mining areas (Penge). A day to ride with a bit of a mask over the face

Ohrigstad is a typical old gold mining town, but does not seem to have the same lure as places like Pelgrim's Rest or Kaapse Hoop.

Day 6
about 4km of tar exit and entry of towns (Ohrigstad/Pelgrim's Rest)
Compared to the first 5 days this will be a rest day. The aim is to ride to Pelgrim's Rest over Caspers Nek Pass. Just before this pass I will cross the border between Lompopo Province and Mpumalanga Province. In 1838 Louis Trichard - in search of a port not under British rule - had reached Delagoa Bay via a particularly arduous route through the Olifants River Valley. This journey was completed at a tremendous cost in lives lost to fever, probably malaria. In 1843 Andries Potgieter - who had just founded Potchefstroom and on the advice of Trichard - took a more southerly route, which turned out to be virtually impossible - let alone arduous!! After negotiating what is known as CASPERS NEK Pass (named after Paul Kruger's father who pioneered this oldest existing road in the region still in use), the party reached the edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment down which there was no possible descent at that point, or - by line of sight - 50km in any direction.

The web has plenty on Pelgrim's Rest, but this is something interesting about a special coin that was minted during the war against the British (Turn of the previous century - 1900)

Day 7
The plan is to ride al along the escarpment to Sudwala Caves and sleep at River Wild or Sudwala or Mankele. This wil be predominantly forestry roads as this area is one of the mainstays of Komatiland. The Sudwala caves are the oldest known caves in the world.

Day 8
Sudwala to Badplaas via Kaapse Hoop

This will be a long day in the saddle and I hope not to sleep in the forrest somewhere. I also have to cross the N4 highway and the entry into badplaas is not the greatest. A bit of narrow tar to negotiate before I can relax in the hot water of Badplaas.

Kaapse Hoop was a town that came to life briefly when gold was dicovered, but better deposits in Pelgrims Rest, Barberton and Johannesburg soon took the limelight. Now Kaapse Hoop like Pelgrims Rest is 100% tourism with it's many period houses (and some strange ones to) and accommodation and eating places. The Kaapsehoop area offers protection to between nine and twelve pairs of the globally threatened Blue Swallow and is designated as an Important Bird Area.
Badplaas is a small town, established in 1876, and is located on the Seekoeispruit in the foothills of the Dhlumudhlumu Mountains (Place of Much Thunder) where a sulphur spring delivers ±30 000L of hot water (@±50°C) per hour.,_Mpumalanga

Ride of Silence

I received this mail and it is DEFINITELY something all cyclists must look at seriously

Every year, hundreds of cyclists [and pedestrians] are being killed on our roads and very little is being done by government and law enforcement to curb the madness on the roads that is ripping families apart. With the cycling community having recently been rocked by the death of rising star Adam Reyneke, even more cyclists are now up in arms and wanting action.

While we all know that getting government to implement change is a slow process, we are working hard to push them into speedier reform... 
as well as appealing to motorists to accept that cyclists have their place on the road and are entitled to road space. At the same time, appealing to cyclists to ensure that they are obeying all the relevant laws and are adequately visible when on the road.

Having been founded in the USA in 2003, the Ride of Silence has spread into a global event held annually to honour those who have lost their lives doing what we all love so much, as well as raising awareness for cyclist safety and to educate all about sharing the road with the proper respect for fellow road users.

The ride follows an easy route of no more than 20km, where cyclists will maintain a speed of no more than 20km/h? riding in single-file in absolute silence. By simulating a funeral procession, we will make an emotional impact on all those we pass and hopefully change their mindset.

Held on 22 May in five locations around the country, we are looking for the support of all to ensure the success. Facebook events have been setup for three confirmed rides in South Africa, and we are awaiting feedback on the other two locations regarding organisers on the ground. A website will also be available online by Monday 19 April, containing all the relevant information about the ride [including the history, mission statement, route maps, registration, etc].

Robbie Hunter [Team Garmin-Transitions] and John Lee Augustyn [Team Sky] have joined us and endorsed the Ride of Silence. We are proud to have two of the biggest names in South African cycling endorsing our efforts and we hope that you, as a fellow cyclist and active member of the community, will join them in endorsing the Ride of Silence and our efforts to make the roads safer for all.

Should you wish to endorse the Ride of Silence, we purely require a mail [or letter on an official letterhead] stating your support of the Ride of Silence and why you believe we need to see change, or what you believe needs to change. This does not need to be a long drawn out letter, and can simply be a one-liner if you so choose. The point is that you would be backing it and would be added to the list of endorsers.

Like the fact that it does not have formal paperwork or registration fees for participants on the day, the Ride of Silence does not have formal sponsors or company branding to go with it. Endorsers are added to a list that is published on the website and on flyers.

However, we hope that endorsers will help us spread the word by doing some [or all] of the following:
  - adding a link to the Ride of Silence website from theirs
  - adding a one-liner to their outgoing e-mails [with a link to the website]
  - putting posters up in their offices, stores, etc to inform staff & customers of the events
  - having flyers available for staff and customers to gain more information and join the movement

I hope that you agree with our goals and that you will join the groundswell and help make a difference on our roads, and help us remembering those who have lost their lives.

Thank-you in advance for your time and effort, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards

Desere Girdlestone
Assistant to:
Ray D. Chaplin
SA Ride of Silence Co-ordinator
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
[m] +27-82 657 4864

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Daily Detail Beit2PMB Day1-4

Detail about each day such as distances, ascent, and possible tar, gravel, single track breakdown is very difficult at this stage, since I have not ridden and recorded the route. But here are detail that I do have:

Beit Bridge to Mangwele
103 km Total
12 km Tar (on the Messina/Tsipese road)

Day 2
Mangwele to Madyisa Lodge(?) in Tshivhade
92 km Total
4 km Tar (Made up of a few short pieces)
Passing by the Sacred Lake Fendutsi: Page 332 - From a thesis about SABC Documentaries.

...historicised description of human sacrifice, “Sacred Lake Fundutsi (?)– the site of an important annual ritual in times gone by. Tribal elders would select a virgin who would sacrifice herself to the ancestors. For her family, her selection would be a great honour... Ritual sacrifice took place all over what used to be rural
Venda” (video9).


Geography: The beautiful subtropical Levubu Valley lies between Louis Trichardt and Thohoyandou, and can be accessed on the R524.

History: The little town of Levubu is situated in a subtropical fruit farming area and caters for the farming community in the district.

Arts & Culture: This area is home to the Venda people, and travellers can soak up their history, myths and art and culture. There are curio shops showcasing local arts and crafts, where many Venda artists display their wares, and tourists can also visit many of the sacred Venda sites in the area.

Science & Nature: The surrounding area has beautiful scenery, and a large variety of birds and trees. There are two major rivers, the Lotonyanda River and the Levhubu River, which are wonderful for bird lovers, as there are over 300 bird species to be seen. Purple-crested Turacos, African-Green Pigeons and Kingfishers are common, while Grey-headed Parrots can be spotted in the summer months.

Entertainment: There is a lot to keep the visitor interested and entertained in the area. The Myths and Legends Venda Tour, as well as historical tours of the Dzata Ruins will prove fascinating, while taking a sunset cruise along the Levubu River will prove to be peaceful and scenic.

Sport: The area is well known for its excellent hiking and walking trails.

Did you know? The Venda are believed to be descended from chiefs who travelled south from Central Africa toward the end of the 17th century.

Day 3
Madyisa Lodge to Haenersburg
128 km Total
Bits and pieces of tar and an obstacle course (Tar and potholes competing for supremacy)

You will be riding through th ZZ2 farms. The largest tomato farm in South Africa.

Day 4
Haenertsburg to Mafefe Camp
84km about 2000m ascent
Wolkberge, Orrie Baragwanath Pass, Mafefe Camp (Ivory Trail)[_id]=137

Haenertsburg/Ohrigstad Scouting

On Friday 14 May 2010 I went on the last trip to scout some "gray" areas and see if the 1:50 000 maps, google earth and camp fire stories from old people all make sense when you are actually on the spot. We drove to Haenertsburg and I had a quick look at the entry into Haenertsburg and realized that I will get my feet wet, no matter what if I want to avoid the Tar from Pietersburg to Tzaneen.

Saturday morning I embarked on the beeline up the Iron Crown to the Wolkberg Wilderness Area office. Here one gets a R20 permit to be able to ride in (through) the Wolkberg. And what a SPECTACULAR ride it is!

Once you drop down onto the Mohlapitse river (and crossing it many times, some rideable, some not) the scenery just takes your breath away. Photos and words don't do it justice.

Over the Orrie Baragwanath pass into Lekgalameetsi and out the south side to the overnight stop at Mafef Camp. I was riding with a "loan" saddle from Carstens cycles and it did not feel to bad after a long day in the saddle. So I was full of hope that my saddle problems was getting solved. We slept in Lekgalameetsi in the Makhutsi Camp and that is an experience all on its own.

Sunday I explored some hazy bits around Penge and looked for a way to cross the Steelpoort River without riding many km's on tar or getting my feet wet, but alas- I will swim...

Yesterday afternoon I went for a Training ride and while showering I discovered a saddle sore. Horror of horrors. My first ever saddle sore! With 2 weeks to go this is not good. I will keep you posted...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Planned route - Day 7 onwards

Day 7 will be a day of Forestry roads. The idea is to reach Sudwala (102km). The trick here will be not to meander up and down the escarpment to much but stick to the contour roads and try and remain as high on the escarpment as possible and only drop down to Sudwala at the end of the day.

Day 8 promises to be a BIG day with the aim to ride through Kaapse Hoop and reach Badplaas (120km)... I might sleep next to a river in a forest somewhere...

Day 9 goes right through the lake area at Chrissiesmeer and the aim is to reach Amsterdam. (111km)

Day 10 From Amsterdam I will head south and aim for Lunaburg. This area is full of German History and one of the colourfull characters is Horst Filter. I am looking forward to meet these people, But before arriving in Lunaburg I will have to scale the mountain at Groothoek.

Day 11 Head for the Battlefields and the aim is to reach Bloedrivier Poort. A battle between Boer and Brit was fought here in 1901 and the british were forced to surrender.
Day 12 Goes through the heart of the battlefields and pass through Bloedrivier, and head for Rourke's Drift.
Day 13 Heads for the valley of a 1000 hills and this is pretty much the theme for day 14 and 15. Hopefully I will reach Pietermaritzburg on day 15.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Saddle saga Continues

So I tried the wider Spesialized, but alas... I rode for about a hour yesterday afternoon but the butt were complaining. Went back to Carstens and got a softer version of the same width and although in the beginning it did not feel as if it made a difference, it got better towards the end of the next three hours. So I will keep an open mind and see this afternoon how much Time In The Saddle I can fit in...

At least this weekend I will have plenty of TITS as I am going scouting. The plan is to scout the route from Haenertsburg to Ohrigstad. Will keep you posted as and when I have comms. I will have my tracking on so if you want to follow the progress, drop me an email and I will send you the login detail.

Must go and do a little bit of work now...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

About saddles and things

The 29th is getting closer at an alarming rate, and my saddle that I used during my recent 14 day 1400km ride around Lesotho got chafed through around the front end. Now of the three contact areas or human/bike interfaces I think the sitbones is no 1 in the ranking importance wise. The feet is no2 and the hands no 3. So if this A-interface is not working well... My favourite is a Fizik Arione (triathlon version) and I hope that fizik will fix it, since it has only done about 2000km. But now I am hunting for a new saddle. I tried a Fizik Tundra but decided after 150km that this is seriously not a plan. Now I am on a Spesialized of sorts and although for now it feels better than the Fizik, it is not perfect... So the search continues.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 2 ...

Day 2 will start with a nice 500m ascent on a jeeptrack that I viewed from a distance. See it was raining and with The Pretty One being a nervous 4x4 passenger we did the wise thing and drove around the mountain. So then it is on to Tate Vondo (Sacret Forrest), then into the Entabeni Forrest to cross the imposing Soutpansberg. Then into the farming community of Levubu and some more Vendaland before stopping at Madyisa Lodge (community run) for the second night (92 odd kms). Again it will be self catering, so I hope that the nearest Spaza shop is not to far.

Day 3. The target is Haenertsberg and it starts with a continuing of the Vendaland theme until the scenery changes suddenly and you are confronted with deproclamated roads, game fences and "no entry trespassers will be shot" signs. Suddenly it is difficult to miss the horrible tar roads and some big "S" curves must be ridden. But it should all be worth it considering how pretty Haenertsberg is, if I can appreciate it after a hard 128km day!

Day 1 starts at 450m above sea level.
Day 2 starts at 760m above sea level.
Day 3 starts at 560m above sea level.

Haenersberg is at 1400m a.s.l. Mmmmmm...

Day 4 starts with a mean climb to the Iron Crown at 2127m. Then into the Mohilapitse river gorge and from what I have heard it must be one of the highlights of the "northern" leg. The Orrie Baragwanath pass awaits and the splendour of the Mekgalameetsi reserve will not dissapoint before bunking down at another community run lodge at Mafefe (83km at a height of 1180m). This is on the Ivory Trail and the 2 roads that it can be reached with is described as bad 4x4 and very bad serious 4x4. So it can only be fun on day 5...

Day 5: After the fun it is a bit of carefull breathing as the asbestos mine community of Penge is negotiated. After Penge I will try and find my way South to emerge at the small village called Ohrigstad (94km at a height of 1100m)

Day 6 will be a easy rest day as the road to Pelgrim's Rest is enjoyed (64km, 1280m asl). But now I must train and eat and sleep...

What is a tar road?

When I hear of the cyclists being knocked down on our roads, I get even more scared to go anywhere near a tarred road. But what to do if you have no choice? The stretch of road that I am worried about is the 11km south of Messina. Here it is not a problem, because I wil be dropped of at Beit Bridge, and then my wife will wait for me in Messina and "escort" me on this nightmare. I will have to find a solution for the future. But when is a tar road no more a tar road? I wonder if this road is a tar road or an obstacle course? The game fence to the left of the Pajero has a lovely quad bike inspection track next to it, but this is where the permission is not granted at present. I will have to see the people, and make a plan.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The planned Route - Day 1

Want to start at 06h00 at the Beit Bridge Border Post. The ride from the border to Messina will be along the railway service road. About 17km. Then there is the R508, a horrible tar road for 12km, but I am working on riding through the Messina Nature reserve and through Maremani. At this stage it does not seem that the tar can be avoided. Something to do with an Elephant cow and baby that is a bit bedonnerd. The next 29km is half gravel and half a service road next to the canal. Did not explore this service road because the bridge was damaged, but this should not be an obstacle for a mountain bike. Then it is over the big 5 property of Howard Knott and into Vendaland. (as long as I don't end up in the lion camp, I should be ok). 45km (103 total) later I should reach a very basic accommodation spot called Mangwele Camp. No electricity, no catering and if i am lucky... a donkey driven warm shower.

Beit2Cape - The Plan

Yes... the plan or rather. THE PLAN.

The idea is to ride the 2010 Freedom Challenge

But... Why start in Pietermaritzburg? Is that not sort of halfway down this gorgeous South Africa?

How about starting at Beit Bridge! So this is the plan. Beit Bridge to Diemersfontein in less than 40 days.

The scouting was done, the route planned, the accommodation discovered, the training plan followed (sort of), the bike prepared and now it is just the final touches before the ride start on 29 May 2010. A significant date, my 51st birthday.