Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ground Zero on the North East Divide

Left Johannesburg for the Haenertsberg start early this morning. It
looked a bit like the great trek what with bikes, bike kit & bulging
bags filled with all manner of 'essentials' like wine, sample tots &

Of course on arrival at Haenertsberg we headed straight for the
nearest pub ! Bugger the lodging & offloading all that kit. We
eventually got to the lodging in the mountains at sunset after
spending a fruitful afternoon 'carboloading' on beer in preparation
for our mountainous ride in the morning.

The lot in the other vehicle went off to the lodge first and Doug
bless him shocked hiself silly on the electric gate trying to
straighten a piece of paper that looked a bit crumpled ! Of course he
had to pay a penalty in the pub.

We've just finished a fantastic lasagne & salad dinner and after
reviewing the topo maps are rearing to tackle that bloody huge
mountain with the Radio tower ontop that looks like a pin rather a
120m high structure !

Can't wait....

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 7,8 & 9 - Underberg to the Sea

Well what can I say except that the last three days of the J2C has some absolutely awesome riding man !!!

The campsite at the Underberg polo fields has magnificent views of the berg. Chris & I obviously made it despite our troubles but to make sure we took precautions and went and got a vitamin B shot each from the race nurse -Yeeow !!! If it wasn't already bad enough having a sore butt from the riding it sure got worse then. Anyway the shot gave us both a much needed immune system boost.

The singletrack is quite legendary once you leave Underberg and it certainly didn't disappoint. We got to ride the bits that the Sani guys couldn't because of the inclement weather earlier in the year. It was amazing riding although quite a tough day 7 to Mckenzie club after the previous days riding through the berg. The weather was bloody hot down in the valley and the climbs were tough as a result.

Mckenzie to Jolivet farm was again awesome riding with fantastic singletrack through the forests. It really was great especially since I had no one in front of me through these sections which meant that I could finally rail it through the trees like a bat outa hell. It sure gets your adrenalin going when you scare yourself silly around those corners with the trees catching your camelback ! When we got to Jolivet farm we saw visitors with some monster burgers and we had to have those. They were of course not on the lunch menu in the tent so we hunted them down and had several. Real meat monster patties with onion and tomato on huge buns ! And then fillet steak for dinner too with ice-cream cones, a flake and a caramel dip for afters !!

Our final day's riding was quite short by comparison and the day ended all too quickly actually. A bit of singletrack to start and then some wonderfull riding through sugar cane farms, the Crookes nature reserve before heading down to Scottburgh at the seaside.

All in all it was an extremely well organised and exceptionally pleasant 9 days riding with the local communities really going the extra mile at each and every water station. It was like the Royal hotel at tea time every day 3 times a day. The atmosphere was superb and the batching ensured taht everyone could ride their ride their way and get to the finish every day having had an awesome day out.

I'll be back next year !!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 6 - Kamberg to Underberg

We both awoke rather early this morning (3am !) and made a bee line for the ablutions praying that there was paper available. You can imagine a camp with 700 odd people in it all using the sparse ablutions and the queue's that form. Having your own private stash of white gold is crucial ! And so started our day on the Wally Crapper and so it continued all day to Underberg.

We must have eaten something funny because Chris and I were prairie dogging all day the whole way to Underberg. It was quite hilarious actually dispite our discomfort. It was a mountainous day to be sure so it was a scream to watch us attack the hills in the hope of finding a bush higher than a grasshopper, dive off the bike throwing backpacks & clothes off in the run before diving behind a tree or bush or ducking down in the veld grass. Bibshorts are great until you need to pooh in a hurry. Chris had the loo roll which we fortuitously lifted earlier that morning from the ablutions and we got the very pained "Pass the boggroll" down to a fine art.

Of course we ended up getting quite dehydrayted and drinking and eating anything just made things worse. So we resigned ourselves to having a crappy day out on the course. We essentially followed the district road out from Kamberg towards Underberg. The views are awesome being in the middle of the berg and teh mountains are seriously high. The ascents were especially interesting when you're already cramping and it's almost impossible to clench your butt and climb 4km's up the side of a mountain ! The descents were an adrenaline rush of note (one was 12km's long - yeeeehaaa) what with the crazy speeds as we bombed down the mountain and trying to clench at the same time. In fact the more scarred you made yourself going down the mountain the better because you naturally clench harder !!!

At the second water stop (70km's) Chris and I had to stop for a long time because we couldn't eat and hydrate properly along the way and so felt seriously faint. We found some immodium which in the end didn't seem to do much good. We would no sooner pass a whole wack of mid fielders then would have to dive for the nearest rock or outcrop if we were lucky only to pass the bewildered bunch a few km's on again. Jokes abounded - natuarally. I would hear Chris encouraging the field to just keep going with a "nothing to see here folks" !

The scenary was amazing today. We cycled through a very picturesque part of the berg and the area abounds with fantastic trout dams and streams. There are some fantastic homesteads in the area and are generally available for weekends.
We eventually made it into Underberg at 2pm, 7 hrs after starting. No doubt our race position is blown to hell - we spent the better part of 90 mins prairie dogging today ! We've both gone and gotten vitamin B shots from the medics and now our butts are properly sore. It won't cure our afflictions but will help with our run down immune systems.

Day 5 - Winterton to Kamberg

Another tough day, but all in all another great ride. We started off on a district road but were soon on a great piece of singletrack which wound its way around and over a good few of those rolling hills in Natal.

More fast district road was followed by a nasty ascent up through a forest to the second water point. It was seriously heart racing stuff but as always the water stop was most welcome. Glen (Forrest) was on hand to take our bikes and lube them whilst we availed (stuffed actually !) ourselves of the refreshments on hand.

Dropping down through a great forest singletrack made the killer hillclimb worthwhile and gave our butts a chance to recover since we had to stand to control the bikes. More rolling farmland was finally followed by teh district road into Kamberg and the Glengarry caravan park.

We came in in 6h23mins eventually ending in 143 place overall for the race - Not shabby.

Monday, April 26, 2010

FW: Day 4 - Sterkfontein to Winterton

Today's stage was a bit of mountain biking nirvana ! 127km's with 1900 meters of climbing. We dropped off the escarpment into a stunning singletrack for a few km's before climbing back up & dropping down again the other side.

The Spionkop traverse was amazing with awesome singletrack down the other side. Equally awesome was the singletrack along the Tugela river - a bit like van Gaalens river section only a 100 times better.

Smooth flowing singletrack through tree lined river banks into an awesome water station made all the pain worthwhile. Puffadder pass was tough & hot especially at the end of the day, but the descent was worth it !

In general the descents today rivaled anything I've experienced before mostly because they were singletrack, technical & steep. It was fantastic to fly down the side of a mountain on twisting goat & Jeep tracks @ over 45 km/h - a heady combination for an adrenaline junky !

The last water station was at 100 km's and had cuppachino's, cool drinks, fruit cake, savoury pastries, boerie rolls and and and !!! Chris & I are positively stuffed.

Lunch (15:30 for us) at the race village was stirfry cooked up for you by farmers manning a gazillion skottle braais. Choose your ingredients & sauce and they cooked it, after which rice could be added. Several servings each later and dinner was a no go. It was just too much.

An amazing day's riding. Our muscles are properly sore as are our butts ! Chris & I had a good ride and are 152/400. We came in in a respectable 08h30min's.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

FW: Day 3 - Reitz to Sterkfontein Dam

Well what can I say except that today was an eventful & long day. 125 km's long. Chris & I finished in 7h27mins.

It was also a bit warmer this afternoon so no repeats of yesterday's antics around cold showers. This morning was still wet & muddy, as were we shortly after leaving. We have traversed the entire country's mielie fields these last three days following mostly cut veld grass tracks that sap your energies.

The water points have been awesome with hot baked potatoes, bananas, soup, coke, rolls, chocolate, biscuits, nuts, raisons etc etc..We scoff a bit of everything which makes for interesting riding later on.The farming community have been awesome all vying to better each other at the water stops !

Swampy sections abounded and the bikes took a pounding. At one point after crossing through a kneedeep muddy culvet it was so bad that Chris and I resorted to weeing on the brakes & cassettes to get the grinding grit out, to much cheering from the rest of the field.

We've developed a unique riding system, Chris & I, to avoid crashing at high speed. "Veer right" usually means 'get out of the slipstream quickly buddy or your'e liable to pass out !' Our tent is a radioactive zone every night and is filled with hysterical laughter & calls of ' I think you need to see the doctor chap' which usualy has the rest of the tented camp hosing themselves. Boys will be boys ....

Despite being tired from the long days in the saddle there is always room for fun and enjoyment. We're camped at the very edge of the Sterkfontein dam and ended the day by riding in over the dam wall. The views are amazing.

Tommorow is another long & way more hilly day - 130km's. Don't think I've got enough zambuk...

Frankfort - It's so cold your towel shrunk !

So last night we got into Frankfort cold & wet. Everyone headed for the showers seeing as how cold wet & muddy is not fun after 7 hrs of riding.

The portable showers hot water is pressure driven to make the gas coil work & there was a niggle yesterday afternoon !

I had just got out of a freezing shower myself when Chris popped out of his cubicle kaalgat except for a handtowel wrapped around half his waist. Of course the long shivering queue was enjoying his discomfort after he commented about his freezing shower.

It had to happen:

"Hey chap look it's so cold your towel shrunk !"

To which Chris duly responds dropping his towel

"Hell yes, look it's completely shrunk my pekker !"

completely forgetting that the queue is full of women too !

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 2 - Frankfort to Reitz

After conking on yesterday's stage today went much better. A good nights sleep, some nutritional supplements and a transact patch for the achy back did the business.

We awoke to rain and Chris & I didn't want to get up ! Wake up was supposed to be @ 5am but the farmers made sure we were awake @ 04:30 ! Still we weren't budging being snuggled in our sleeping bags, but eventually got up @ 05:30 am - breakfast time.

After doning rain kit (those that were prepared that is) we headed off for the next 95 km section. It was bloody chilly but we soon worked some warmth and ended up doing ok.

The course was somewhat muddy but quite reasonable otherwise and we made good time finishing 172 out of 400 teams in a respectable 5h30min's - not too shabby for a couple of old boys !

#herTommorow is 125 km - oh my ass !!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 1 - Heidelberg to Frankfort

I'm lying on my back next to our tent wondering how I'm going to get up for dinner ! We left at 7am & 5'C temp this am, at a hectic pace. Farm roads gave way to bloody muddy grass swamps and we had very wet muddy clothes right from the start !

Got a slashed tyre early on too & had to stop regularly to pump, wasting about 1hr, so I had to resort to a tube to finish. The tyre was covered in mud and so it took a number of attempts to find the slah which was on the bead.

Great riding followed, with the route going through a number of farms but at a pace that was not sustainable for 120 km's. We also rowed ourselves across a dam in genuine dragon boats and then tore off again for the last 60 km's.

We navigated more mielie fields today than I thought existed in the country along mostly thick cut grass tracks !!! Holy crap it chewed our legs and with the hectic pace I suffered badly after 90km's. Chris slowed down a bit and we finally made it in after 7 hrs of hard riding.

Oh and in case you thought the Freestate was flat, think again ! All the hills are at the end too so it was quite tough.

Now we're being seranaded from the grandstand in true Freestate fashion - plateland classics - I think I'll start tomorrow's ride sommer now ! Liewe bliksem !!!

Till tomorrow then lovely people...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

J2C - It Doesn't Fit !

They don't call me Gadget for nothing. Give me space & I can fill it with all manner of cycling parrafanalia, required & imagined !

The J2C crowd said we would get a packing bag that was 86x53x53 cm's & that could fit all our stuff & maybe a small midget to boot. It has to be transported & fit into the shared 2 man team tent at night. You would think that it would be sufficient space for a sleeping bag, some cycling clothes, toiletries, sleeping clothes & some nutritional & basic spare bike parts requirements... Well think again !!!

It took an awefully long time & a number of attempts last night to pack MY STUFF. I had two piles after the first attempt, then three & eventually back to two again. The spare bike had to go, as did the hot water bottle & the damn midget !

Getting from two piles down to one was traumatic & I might need counciling along the race route. Suffice to say that in the end with 'guidance' from the other half & some really difficult choices I have bravely gone where no self respecting Gadget boy has gone before - One bag of kit.

In case your'e wondering, Gadget aka Deidre left the sleeping bag. Yoohoo Chris...!!!

The Joberg2C MTB Race - 923km's

So Chris, a riding buddy & myself entered a team to participate in a fantastic 9 day MTB stage race starting near Johannesburg & ending in Scottborough on the beach _ Hell Yeah !

Entering was challenging because I had a prior team entry for the same race & when Chris & I tried to sign on, the system threw out our entry because my ID number was already there.

Time was running short, as were entry slots so in desperation I gave Chris my wife's ID number. I was away riding some of the Freedom Challenge race route when I got the following sms from Chris:

"Team Gadget #52 is entered for J2C. Unfortunately you will need to ditch the orange cycling top (that one Fiona was rude about!) and replace with a pink one - your ID picked you up as female! They also queried your name so I changed it to Deidre. Hope u don't mind".

Needless to say the ragging hasn't stopped....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Waterval Boven Training Camp

Reminiscing - Karoo Jaunt

This Easter weekend ride on the Karoo section of the Freedom Challenge was in the planning since 2009 and in the end 8 of us made it. Our plan was to ride the Molteno Vegkoppies section on Friday, then head off from Molteno to Hofmeyer on Saterday over the Aasvoelberg portage and from Hofmeyer to Craddock over the Elandsberg portage on Sunday.

Of course we had to get there first ! Needless to say Doug and I of the getting lost in our back yard fame (Couldn't find our way out of Chartwell in JHB one morning) faithfully followed the GPS (Global Positioning Spouse !) and ended up being slated by Fiona ( for ending up on a dirt road somewhere off the N1, well short of a more suitable exit off the same road. Despite our best efforts to suggest that we were taking a scenic shortcut we got an earfull about how it was going to add several hours to our journey time and that we would miss an opportunity to network with the good Doc Rudy & Stephani in Molteno... Deary me, what we have to put up with for good mountainbiking !

Friday was tremendous fun with Doc Rudy accompanying us and relating the area's history on our sojourn over the mounatins (Vegkoppies) towards his farm which by the way is on the FC route. A great farm stop for coffee & Mozzerella hotcross buns was followed by a scenic ride back over the remaining sections of the race route and then into Molteno - about 85km's in total.

Saterday dawned crisp and clear and despite rather sore legs & bums we saddled up and headed out of Molteno for the 100km ride over the Aasvoelberg towards Hofmeyer. The Aasvoelberg portage is awesome fun - a reasonable climb up towards the summit and then an adrenaline filled, sphincter clenching steep descent down the otherside of the mountain to the plain below ! Another farm stop with delicious rusks and coffee was followed by a rather long drag up into the koppies and then down again onto a vast rolling plain. You come out of the koppies quite suddenly and are confronted with a view that stretches to forever in the distance. It's breathtaking to say the least ! Hofmeyer is still a distance away and on a hot day like we had it took a fair effort and many water refills to get there along the dirt roads. It looks deceptively flat from up in the koppies and it's actually bloody hilly. The ride from here brought back vivid memories of just how 'steep' those rolling hills felt during the Freedom Challenge especially since the roads were extremely wet back then.

The Karoobos shop in Hofmeyer is renowned amongst previous Freedom Challenge (FC) participants (Not least of all me) for its pies and roosterkoek rolls (all the better to make slap chip rolls with). We were staying at their guesthouse which is also the emergency stop for the FC race. A great afternoon lunch and then into an ice cold welcoming swimming pool brought our hot hard dusty riding day to a fitting end. Not everyone in our party had done the Freedom Challenge race, so stroies about our individual experiences abounded and it felt like we were doing it all over again.

Sunday was cool and overcast and made for perfect riding conditions especially after Saturday's heat. It was amazing to experience the Elandsberg mountain portage in daylight. It took our group close on five hours to get across in the pitch dark during the race and we managed it now in less than 2 hours ! The elusive jeep track on the mountain is actually very easy to find and makes for easy riding. During the race we hiked across the veld and further up into the mountain than we needed to in the dark (using only a compass heading) to eventually find that damn track - hahaha. The rest of the ride was fast and furious back into Craddock and we were very pleasantly surprised by our lodgings at The Old Victoria Hotel en Tuinhuise. Period homes converted into B&B's. We dined in fine style till late into the evening at the hotel recounting our weekends escapades.

It was an awesome weekend with fantastic company. We will be doing more of the same in future...