Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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 (http://dash4freedom.blogspot.com/2010/04/high-tech-not.html) 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...

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