Monday, June 28, 2010

More tracks of confusion

Some more tracks of cyclists in a state on confusion...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Navigation, navigation, navigation...

Gawie, Ray and Scott nearly got Perdeberg Portage all wrong.

Chris and Dave nearly missing the Gwaas valley climb UP to KoffieLAAGTE

Once Alex reached the main road in the Baviaans, it took him another hour to find his accommodation. Problem is it changes every year and you do not really know where you sleep. I remember searching for a long time in 2008 for my accommodation at Cambria...

I will keep an eye open for more of these

Docters and casts

Been to the Doc on Wednesday and he opened the bandages and took off the plasters. The wounds looked very healthy in spite of the lymph edema and the swelling was under control, so he put a cast around the fooy to just under the knee and said: "See you in 4 weeks, keep the leg high and NO WEIGHT on the foot." So here I am in bed keeping the foot high and the weight of the foot waiting for the next 4 weeks to pass... At least I have the fredom challenge to follow and the navigational issues and different strategies keep me amazed and busy.

I am also looking at the route from Beit Bridge to PMB for next year's attempt at the Beit2Cape Freedom Challenge. I want to bypass Penge because of the asbestos pollution. I also want to ride through Swaziland (about 2 days). So I am planning that and will have to do some scouting as soon as I am on my bike again. Can't wait...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Some more "Tracks of the Day"

This is the route that Anthony & Jannie took through the Hlabeni forest just before Centacow. The correct path of course is the track on the left of this picture passing by the + and - signs. They were not even close.

Jannie corrected himself and eventualy did find Centacow, but Anthony went on his merry way and eventualy entered Ntsikeni from the south, and not the north like they were supposed to

Scott and Gawie had a bit of a sight seeing trip this morning before tackling the Aasvoƫlberg portage. I would love to know what made them turn around?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jaco, where are we?

When you get a call at half past ten at night from a good friend asking you: "Jaco, where am I?" then I think it is not the right time to answer: "Lost?" So I started up the laptop and started the process of finding my good frien, Carl and his riding partners in crime, Marnitz and August. Turned out they were very lost and spent nearly 3 hours riding in circles in the Hlabeni forrest on their way to Centacow. There was no short or easy way out of the forest, but eventualy they came across a bigger road that spat them out at Creighton. From there it was not to difficult to find their way to Centacow Mission, but I will keep the laptop running for a bit longer, you never know when the Gost of Donnybrook attacks again and messes with their navigational systems...

Funny Tracks

So here I am sitting in bed whith my very screwd together (10 screws) foot in the air, watching the Freedom Challenge unfold on the laptop.
Fortunately there is a lot happening to keep me amused. I will post some of the "getting lost" tracks of some of the riders from time to time.

The De Decker Brothers spent 3 hours trying to find the road through the Kinira river floodplain (Queen's Mercy)
The next 3 pictures is the different routes taken by 2 sets of riders with the same maps, same narrative, so it must be their compasses that is different. Alex is riding red and the Amusing de Decker brothers is the blue track. This is the section between Malekholonyane and Tinana Mission
The saga unfolds...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blood should be thicker than water

So I was supposed to be screwd back together today, but a blood test revealed that my blood is to thin for the operation and I will have to wait for Thursday.

How does this work?

Since my cancer operation I am taking small quantities of warfarin to help clear a deep vein trombosis (DVT) that formed in my leg jus below the operation region. This drug is messing with the clotting rate of your blood (vitamine K also plays an important role - eat your green leaved vegies). So now my blod will not clot quicly enough and the drug must wear off before I can be operated on.

So here I sit with my broken ankle in a R1500 moonboot and wait for thursday...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Blue Swalows, Wild Horses, and a Rescue

Feeling good Iwoke at 04h30 and got going just after 05h30. Riding through the Blue Swallow reserve, along the narrows on the edge of the escarpment I came across the wild horses of Kaapse Hoop. The sunrise was spectacular in bright orange and cyan and the temperature perfect. I got all the tricky navigational issues correct and the body felt real good after the "easy" day before. There was one last little portage to look forward to and then it was plain sailing all the way to Pietermaritzburg. Then my foot slipped and with the weight of the back pack and Merida on my back my left ankle turned the wrong way. The ugly sound of ligaments breaking was overwelmed in milliseconds by pure pain...
I kept very still for a while and then carefully got up and tried the foot. ABSOLUTELY NO GO it told me.

Fortunately I had cell signal, so I started assembling the troops and pretty soon a full scale recue mission was launched from Pretoria with Ilette commanding the platoon (My brother and Swarry). I realised pretty soon that this will take 3-4 hours for them to arrive and phoned Glenn (Freedom Challenge Tandem Glenn) who is close by in Waterval Boven and knows exactly where I went down, but he was testing his FC Bike at Groenkloof in Pta. Kevin Record was more than willing to detour on his way back from the Kremetart should it be necessary.
Taking the fitness level of my rescuers and the height of the hill I was stuck on into account, I decided that I will try and use the next 3 hours purposefully and lighten the task at hand. Using the bike as a crutch I started hopping down the mountain to the stream. The road to rescue was just opposite the stream.

It took me the full 3 hours to reach the stream and I submerced the ankle into the ice cold bergwater. My recuers did have a bit of trouble finding me as they were scouting the hillside for the fallen wounded. Eventually I thought I heard the hooter of the car and blew my whistle. This had the necessary effect and pretty soon I was made comfortable in the back of the Prado and on my way to Pretoria.

Great to have family and friends to call when in need...
Tomorrow morning first thing we will do the Xray thing and determine the damage, but for now the way the ankle feels, the prognosis is not to promising...

Whatch this space...

Day 8 – 1 long beautiful uphill

45km 1200m Ascent 5h45m on the road

Buns, muesli, yogurt, fruit and juice in the fridge for breakfast. Its 4h09 but I decided to ride only to Kaapsehoop and not Badplaas as originally planned. So I hit the snooze button… This means 45km (But 1200m ascent) for today and 75km tomorrow.

At 06h05 I walked out the door of the bungalow at Mankele into a cold crisp morning. However just an hour on the bike and it was actually warm and I decided to have some dry muesli and packed away the warm clothes. In line with a rest day, I kept my heart beat below 110, saving my strength for the next couple of days.

It’s 08h30 and after the first climb up starvation creek I was rewarded with a beautiful waterfall. Fantastic views but it seems only cattle come up here. I am feeling good and am taking it easy today. A bit further I crossed a small stream and filled my bottles, putting some drops in to give me peace of mind. Hope tomorrow will be mostly downhill.

At Kaapse Hoop I had a pancake with chicken liver for a recovery meal, a snooze in the afternoon and stumbled upon a soup & sherry dinner with a visit from an old lady who grew up in Kaapse Hoop and treated us to a delightful reminiscence and slide show.

Feeling good and rested it was off to bed at 10.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 7 – Plantations

105 km – 2050m assent and more than 11 hours on the road

What a great place, the Royal Hotel in Pelgrims Rest. Great dinner, fruit and yoghurt for breakfast and then sandwiches, potatoes and eggs to take with me today. I left just after 5am and could still see the moon and stars in the sky and no wind but as it got lighter I could see the frost on the ground and a beautiful sunrise.

I have not scouted today’s route but followed the route I have tracked with the assistance of “Google earth”. The road through the plantation was very bushy and after a flat front wheel, I decided to take another road. At one time I ignored a sign indicating a dead end in the road. Fortunately it led to a beautiful clean stream where I filled my empty bottles, and I single track crossing the stream leading back to the contour road.

Just after 10h00 I was on the ridge of the escarpment, thereafter cycled the well known Hartbeesvlakte and jeep track. At 12h34 I reached the Long Tom Pass and hoped that the road surface will be the good and I will not get lost. I cycled more uphill than I expected but this can only mean a great downhill. But it was not to be :(  Too overgrown with hidden holes to negotiate and I cycled down slowly and carefully.

At 16h35 I reached my destination, Mankele, 2km from the Sudwala caves. Waiting for me in the bungalow was lasagna and red wine for dinner, fruit, yogurt and muesli for breakfast. It was a long day and I was tired but - What a great day!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 6 – Recovery Ride - 3rd June 2010

83km - 835m accent 5 hours on the Road

At 7 I was still having a coffee and looking out to the valley and a beautiful sunrise.  Although having a leisurely start, I changed the brake blocks and chain.

After 3km I had to stop to put some more warm clothes and gloves on – it was freezing cold and without a cloud in the sky.

It was great to take it easy after the last 5 days:  540km, more than 8 000m accent and 55 hours on the road!

At 10h00 I was at the top of Kaspersnek, a great downhill and arrived in Pelgrim Rest before 1pm. 

A hamburger for lunch and then putting my leg up for as long as possible. Fortunately it is not sore but if it is not back to normal by tomorrow morning I might consider riding the following 2 days planned route in 3 days.

Day 5 – The mighty Olifants

112Km – accent unknown but a lot! -  12.5 hours for the day

A downhill is a good start to any day, but even I walked down from time to time, it was that scary. The pass was probably an amazing pass to ride at some point in time, but all that’s left now is a cattle track with thorn trees trying to catch you around every turn. With my bicycle on my back walking UP after the downhill – the Oliphant’s River is on the other side of the mountain.

I got my first puncture in the back wheel; the slime wasn’t good enough so I had to plug it.  This also kept popping out so I fixed a bit of duck tape around it and it seems to be holding.

I crossed the Oliphant’s river with a cable car and was on my way to Penge, Steelpoort River and then Orighstad.
After Penge the battle started - trying to get down a valley to the Steelpoort River.  Without success, tired and with cuts in my legs, I decided to take the tar road to the Steelpoort river and from there turn left on a gravel road

At 15h00 I had a brown cow and even Ice tea from a spaza in one of the villages.  Contemplating the 400m accent before me a jackal run across the road.

Arriving after dark I first had a great meal at Orighstad restaurant before going to Helmot’s place for a hot shower and blissful rest. 

Day 4 – Tackling a very wet Mohlapetsi River.

88km - 2130m Ascent – Dawn to dusk
Today it is me and the Iron Crown, Orrie Baragwanath Pass and Camp Mafefe…  Looking back after the first climb I see Haenertsburg covered under a thick blanket of cloud…   a breathtaking site.

 Luckily the day is not as cold as I thought , so with a heavy bag and a full stomach I ride on. Walking up the Iron Crown I start wondering if it truly is the best path to take but I just have to look back over a spectacular view to know it’s definitely worth the effort.  As I start the first climb of the jeep track on my way to the Mohlapetsi River, the sun is high and there’s not a cloud in sight. 

A lot of concentration is needed to get through the last downhill to the Mohlapetsi River.  One certainly can’t get through this river and stay dry. Its wetter than when I scouted and the guys from Nature Conservation and their  4x4’s almost totally destroyed the routes, so a bit of rough riding ahead.

A  brutal day, hardest 90 km so far.  I’m tired but not giving up yet!
Camp Mafefe – well I had a bed and a kettle!

Day 3 – Crossing the Capricorn with a HUGE sting in it’s tail.

130km - 2180m Ascent  - 11 hours on the road

Today me and Kevin Davie will cycle to Haenertsburg and then they all go back to Pretoria, leaving me and my bike alone to soldier on to Cape Town… a tough job I have to do, but somebody has to do it, so I will ;-)
A day of long straight sections, good riding and then… The legs did burn and the climb up to Haenertsburg will not disappoint any mountain goat.  Fortunately we had a great milk cow at Mooketsi.

In one of the villages Flora and me took this photo of the parents working to build a sports ground for the children while they were in the classrooms writing exams!

Jaco and Kevin arrived in Haenertsburg  just after  5 but they actually looked as if they could just as well carry on! However, they could not resist the braaivleis, pap, sous and fresh salad we had ready for them. We left Jaco standing in the doorway at 18h08 and arrived in Pretoria at about 21h30. Then Kevin still had to drive to Joburg but fortunately Flora’s husband Lawrie was waiting for her.
Jaco will be sending me voice mails for the blog and I trust not all will be lost in translation.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day 2 – Crossing the Soutpansberg

100km - 2300m Ascent and 10 hours on the road

Cold, rain, wind and mist. This was how this day started and fortunately only the cold persisted. But the Soutpansberg is not a mountain you cross in a faint hearted easy way. This is a real mountain and need to be treated with the necessary respect. And you don’t ride to the top and then drop down the other side. You ride to the top, drop down into a deep valley, ride up the other side and then you can experience an exhilarating  white knuckle descent! 

And somewhere amongst all of this you come across the Kliphuis, and an ice cream will never taste this good again.

The second night we also slept in Venda at "Lodge" Madyisa and waited in the cold for Jaco and Kevin to arrive! For the two evening meals we had to be completely self sufficient and we made some chicken pasta on a gas cooker.

Day 1 - Day of the Boabab

110km  - 1200m ascent and 10 hours on the road
We left Beitbridge at 06h00on the 29th of May. 

The start of any trip sort of sets the trend for the rest of the trip and if this day is anything to go by… spectacular.  I will run out of descriptive words so I will repeat some of them. Spectacular… To ride for a whole day and experience Baobab country up close and personal. Little gem routes like the ride along the canal, the ride through Greater Kudu land Safaris and the ride through our first Venda villages. Seeing Elephant dung and voetspoor on the jeep track that we were riding on.  Buying coke at a spaza shop that is the last building up the hill on an unrideable little path. Coming across Camp Mangwele…

My friend Flora and I (Ilette)  were waiting at Camp Mangwele, having made the arrangement for a bed, shower (hot water thanks to the donkey) and a hot meal - pap and wors.  We had an amazing time travelling through the villages and seeing such a variety of different shaped Boabab trees.