Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Good Start: The Sabie Experience MTB

So we left our chalet at the bottom of the valley at 7am for a 3km 300m climb up to the town of Sabie. Our Wimpy brekkie bun & a gingerbeer freezo breakfast awaits - We're health nuts man ! 

Our soft option entry sees us start @ 10:30 am & 9 min apart. I'll have to catch Doug now too dammit. Hopefully there's some damsel in distress that needs help so he'll stop or slow down so I can catch him. 

More later...

A Good Start: The Sabie Experience

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 6 - Vuvu to Rhodes

Almost at the top - Lehanna you windy ....!
The two highlights of the short day 6 is the scaling of Lehanna's Pass up poorely defined goat tracks with hundreds of metres of mountainside on either side of the spine one follwows. It's a 4km hike a bike with 1000m of vertical ascent. It's tough enough as is but we were faced with gale force winds the whole way up. 
View from Lehanna Cairn

The winds were apparently gusting up to 80km/h at times which made the climb a scary endeavour to say the least. Hugging the ground with your head and praying for respite whilst clinging desperately onto your bike was the only way we managed not to get blown off that mountain - Holy smoke it was scary !!!

After 3.5 hours of climbing we crested the top a had a fantastic snow fight to relieve the stress - boys will boys !!! Nonetheless it was worth it for the views, the scary adrenaline rushes and the magnificent 10km decent down the other side of Naude's Nek Pass. It's spectacular riding and an adrenaline rush of a different kind.

Great sheets of clear ice hung metres off the roadside cuttings for the first few kilometeres down the mountain.Yep it was bloody cold up there because those sheets were still frozen at midday with the sun out ! The road is a series of switchbacks and you can see your mates whooping their way down at 60+ km/h only to slam on brakes at the hairpins !!!
Snow man at Tenahead Lodge

I wish there was a ski lift from the bottom back to the top. Maybe Dave Waddilove can convince someone to make a plan and then make another day on the Freedom Challenge that requires at least 50 trips down that pass !!!!

Can't wait to do it all over again next year... RASA 2012

Day 5 - Mahlekolenyane to Vuvu

Ongeluksnek - Early morning
It was a memorable day firstly for the extremely cold start, secondly for the fantastic jeep / singletrack riding on top of Blackfoutain and finally for chasing the light through the Vuvu valley. We left early because it is a long hard days riding and one has to get into the Vuvu valley by at least 2pm to make it out before dark.
On Black Fountain
We crossed frozen vlei's, bogs and a river @ 5:30am ! We gingerly pushed on for a while before all of us realized that we could not change gears at all because the river crossings mud and water had frozen the working parts solid. Not only that but our shoes and laces had frozen solid as did the water in our exposed waterbottle tubes !!! Fiona's jockey wheels froze solid too so she couldn't even ride in the gear she was stuck in. No warm wee was available to unstick it so Andries lit some paper and got it unstuck that way !  

On Black Fountain
Black Fountain was AWESOME - It's a spectaclular piece of track on top of a huge mountain. We came off the mountain about 4 kms too soon down a 300m cliff face. It was a scramble of note thru trees, kloofs and wattle donga's to the plain below. From there it was only Fiona's keen navigation skills that got us back onto a track and to Tinana mission. The other group that split from us at the top got there quite a bit ahead of us !

It was still a long way to go with another protage before the Vuvu valley turn off. What an awesome 4km singletrack off a mountainside down to the river ! 
Vuvu Valley
We go tto the turn off very late and decided to risk the 13km hike thru the valley up to Vuvu anyway. It's a maze of valeeys running off the main valley with numerous streams and two main rivers coming into it. Get it wrong and you sleep there ! We were tired but soldiered on and found the right paths, stayed high above the river valley floor and the stubby mielie fields. There is a goat track up on the ridge which is way easier than following the river path. We therefore made good time and climed out onto the donkey track a few kilometers on just as the sun was going down. From there it was a few short km's to the Vuvu school.  
Accommodation is the villagers own huts and one certainly see's how fortunate we all are here in the big cities. Sleep and a few serious snores was a fitting end to a very tiring day... 

Day 4 - Masakala to Mhalekolenyane

Queens Mercy Plains
Day 4 is traditionally a short day at around 56km. After leaving Masakala rural guest lodge one heads down off a ridge towards the main road running into Matatiele. A few kilometers on after turning off the main road we headed onto the Queens Mercy plains/wetlands. It's a spectacular sight looking out across kilometers of grass plains to the snow covered mountains in the distance.

It's also some great mountainbiking and lunch at the Queens Mercy store was a welcome relief after a warm mornings riding. After leaving the store we again headed up a mountain.


   From there it's another short stretch to get onto the ridge from where we bombed down the mountainside on steep hair raising goat tracks followed by a fast rolling "sleep pad" - a wide drag strip track made by the locals when they drag wattle firewood off the mountain.

We crossed more rolling hills, another river and then joined the road up to the Mhalekolenyane rural guest lodge. Nontlanhla makes the most amazing vetkoek for tired and grinning riders alike every year. Hot vetkoek and honey - Wow AWESOME !!!

Day 3 - Ntsikeni to Masakala

Thanks to some fantastic nav and prep by Fiona (Thanks Fi !) we got out of the new Ntsikeni lodge quite easily.We followed a jeep track, skirted a forest and then headed down over a spur to Politique Kraal and onto the jeep track a few km's beyond that. We headed off to Glen Edward farm and once again Sheila made a fantastic soup. With the wind already screening off a snow covered berg it was a welcome respite.

From there it was an absolute haul against a direct frontal headwind up and down a few monster mountains. It's energy sapping stuff. As we headed onto the last single track of the day the temp had already dropped to just 4*C before wind chill. Scratching across a waterlogged vlei wasn't funny in near zero temp's. Once we crossed the mountain it was a 11km trip to the Masakala rural guest house. We got in after dark in biting cold weather.

Wow vetkoek, tea & OB's awaited us followed by a magnificent dinner of chakalaka, pap, rice, potatoes & beef stew !
I'm knackered now so I'm off to sleep... 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 2 - Allandale Farm to Ntsikeni Nature Reserve


In the Ntsikeni Nature Reserve
I had forgotten just what a tough day, day 2 was. This year the logde was also 6km further up the road which made the day quite long for us mortal cyclists - 12 hours of riding ! Sitting is a bit of an exercise at the moment and yes it was a tough day. Blundering through thick sloppy cow poop and muddy mielie fields at 5am and then trekking thru forests up and beyond Donnybrook towards the Centecow mission. We met many friendly smiling people and some really cute kids waving us along...

After a quick bite to eat and a silent blessing from father Ignatious we were off to tackle two bloody high mountains. Lots of walking and pushing up those things. Yeah yeah you're suposed to be riding if it's mountainbiking but then you don't always smell the roses either. Thankfully we got over the game fence into Ntsikeni in the light and only had to cycle the last 6 kms in the dark to a beautiful fullish moon. No looking for that illusive Spotted Ntsikeni night owl hey Morris !

It was amazing to see the lunar eclipse from the nature reserve since there are no lights and the cold clear night sky is ablaze with millions of stars, the moon and the milky way. It was truly beautiful to see... 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 1 - PMB to Allandale Farm

View from Allandale farm house
I've been berated by Fiona for tweeting that today was an easy going day ! Ok so it wasn't a walk in the park but it's all relative. We left our accomodation @ 05:30am for the PMB town hall start and got to Minerva Farm around 11am. Fantastic soup and bread made specially by mother and daughter Belinda and Verna was a welcome respite from the chilli early morning portaging. It was an awesome decent from there into the Bryne village at the bottom of the mountain and then a few rolling climbs towards the Umkomaas river portage. 

Umkomaas river scramble !
There's a fliiippping steep cement track running down to the river - holy crap it's steep and smoking brakes is a real possibility - adrenalin rushing stuff boys !!! We clambered between a near vertical rock cliff and the fast flowing Umkomaas river to pick up the ubiquitous jeep track thru the bush to the Hella Hella bridge, before attempting the 6km climb up the mountain pass. It's a bit easier without a RASA pack but it's still challenging. We were happy to arrive at the Farm to tea, cake, koeksisters and hot dogs for late afternoon snacks - Nyummy !

Tommorrows a big day with two big mountains to get over after the Centecow mission...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pensive ? Nah, Quiet Anticipation !

The last time I was here in PMB at the start of a mountainbiking
adventure I was pensive and I was told to stop fussing and get on with
it !

Well I did just that and eventually got to Capetown after having a
life changing mtb journey. This time we're only going as far as Rhodes
but I must admit that I'm feeling extremely envious of those going all
the way to Capetown. My Freedom Challenge buddy from 2009 is out there
on his own now, 2 days in...

The pre-race briefing is always interesting, what with warnings to
preferably not cross the flooded Umkomaas river or try and summit
Lehanna's pass in extreme snow weather etc. I was watching the new
guys taking this in and it made me smile to see those very pensive
faces & looks that said "Four clubs, what have I gotten myself into !!!"

Well I now know exactly what I've gotten myself into - Another awesome
adventure with my friends where tommorrow will sort itself out...

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm so 'Heppy' !!!

I was having coffee this morning (M&B brand), thinking about our
upcoming Ride to Rhodes and found myself suddenly bursting with

No doubt you're thinking that Gadgets lost his marbles - again ?!
Going to work, it's only Tuesday and the boys feeling "suddenly
exuberant" @ 7am in the morning - Bloody nuts is more like it !!!

Well you'd be right but in the wrong sorta way. I'm probably a bit
whacky most of the time and that's exactly my point - Times a wasting...

We spend our lives striving & working & conforming to society's
notions of being grown up and mostly forgetting what it felt like when
we were carefree, laughing & joking with our school friends around the

Mountainbiking and the prospect of an adventure with my friends across
the Drakensberg to Rhodes in the middle of winter has brought me back
to my boyhood adventures with the school mates.

In short I'm so 'hepppy' I feel like a puppy exuberantly flick
flacking around the yard, throwing himself with joyful abandon onto
the grass and weeeing himself uncontrollably in the process !!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Brief Affair At Hekpoort

It was a bloody cold winters evening as we set out at 6pm last night on
our now weekly night ride at Hekpoort in the Magaliesburg. Crazy to do
a night ride in winter ? Well, it depends entirely on one's star gazing perspectives...

Some of our riding party have temporary riding constraints on the
weekend and since we're trying to get it together for amongst other
things the Ride to Rhodes & the 230km non stop Trans Baviaans in August we need to train. Riding at night is a requirement and being able to test kit & night riding ability is a must.

So as I am won't to do at times, I had a senior moment by being forgetful
again. I packed everything I'd need, duly arrived at Hekpoort from
work and proceeded to kit up - weelllll sort of...

I would forget my damn cycling pants now wouldn't I, that all important
piece of lycra'd chamois for the preservation of the posterier !!!
Here I was 60kms from home, 3 buddy's waiting for me and no essential
cycling kit. Hekpoort is traditionally an extremely rough district
road too, so what to do ???

Well in the true spirit of a rider of the Transvaal chapter of the
'Dikwiel Commando' I went commando in me briefs & a pair of polyester
riding tights amidst howls of laughter !!!

Holy crap it was an adventure of note and in virtual sub zero wind chill conditions
combined with 50km's of damn rocky road, 400m up & down a mountain...

Yeeeeoooouuuuwwww and in the immortal words of Elvis: "My boys are all shook up ! "

Monday, May 16, 2011

Contemplations: The Ride to Rhodes

So here we are a mere 4 weeks away from the start of what promises to
be a very interesting mountainbiking excursion indeed - The Ride to
Rhodes. You'd think that MTB would simply be a matter of getting on
your bike and riding along the trail ? Well you'd be a bit mistaken in
this instance...

Way back in 2009 on our epic race across SA we were thrust into a race
filled with bitterly cold winter weather, days of rain & mud and of
course some very interesting people dynamics. Humans are strange
animals at the best of times, but no less so than when thrust together
in a rather extreme environment with alot at stake.

Without regurgetating the whole saga the group dynamics at the time
resulted in a parting of the ways on the trail and ever since, a
certain male member of the 2009 race has delighted in poking fun at
the rest who had the unfortunate pleasure of having to deal with the
mental strain of a very negative energy first hand.

And thus credance was given to something that should have been allowed
to fade away along with the pains of the 2009 race...

I for one will be devoting my time & energy on the wonder & splendour
of the Ride to Rhodes. No 10kg backpack this time AND at the end of
this ride I'll be getting a whip instead of a blanket - wink wink
nudge nudge !

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Recce ride - Legalameetse & Ohrigstad Surrounds

So last weekend we headed off to the Legalameetse Nature Reserve in Mpumalanga to do a final recce ride for Fiona's soon to be launched Alchemy Trail. Day 2 of the trail needed some route options and so off we went. A small group of us did most of the 6 day, 500+ km trail from Haenertsburg to Bulembu in Swaziland for the first time last September. It's an awesome route traversing many different biosphere's and equally as many mountains and it will be one of South Africa's top ten trail rides when it is launched.

We stayed the night at Makutsi Camp in the Legalameetse reserve. The log cabins are tucked away along the mountain stream in a lush sub-tropical forest environment. Ours had a large rock pool below it and if we had arrived after day one would have made for a fantastic swimming pool.

We left Makutsi at around 05:45am on Saturday and headed up the mountain along a winding rocky 4x4 route. It's a surreal environment with huge ancient trees, numerous birds, baboons and the trickling mountains stream to keep you company as you climb out from the camp. One crosses the stream at least ten times on the way out. Once over the top, it's an undulating ride through lush mountains down towards the Olifants river. Fiona & I arrived at the river settlement at around 08:30. I headed off to see if I could find Ester of the ice cold coke & "I'm soo heppy" fame from our previous trip. She's a delightful local lady who stocks cool drinks in her home spaza and boy are they fantastically cold when its swelteringly hot. Alas she wasn't home...

Nonetheless we needed to move along so we headed off to the 'Indaba tree' (A bloody enormous tree that one can sit under and have morning tea !) near the river to see if we could find the cable car to cross the river. We waded last time but with so much rain the river was flowing rather strongly. The cable car was fantastic fun ! Home made it's more like a 'foofie' slide with a steel box hanging off the bottom than anything else ! WTF, you only live once so being a gentleman I let Fiona go first so I could snap some pics.

Day two was awesome. We were accompanied by a very friendly & able policeman from Ohrigstad who knows both the area and the landowners well. He had managed to arrange a route through two landowners private game farms to get to Crystal Springs resort. It's 32km of the most scenically awesome rugged jeep track riding imaginable through the mountains. We were overwhelmed. Game abounds on the farms and the vista's are fantastic. There's just over a 1000m of cumulative ascent on this stretch but it's absolutely worth the effort. We entered Crystal Springs resort through a gate at the bottom of the reserve and cycled up to the resort. if you've been up Robbers Pass by road then you'll know what the ascent is like to get to the resort from the bottom.
It was a fantastic weekend and I can't wait to do the entire Alchemy Trail !!!