Jul 20, 2011


Ok so the fat lady has had her last solo and i'm back to studying, kinda. Still struggling to adapt to life back on Mars, food in the fridge, being warm all the time, water coming out of taps, doing 30km in 15minutes and not two hours...

Will do some updates of the previous posts and sort out the things that never got through, photos, equipment review and all the rest over the next two weeks hopefully.

Just a quick shout out to everyone that supported me on the race, it would never have been possible to finish this year without it.

To my main sponsers and support, my mom (sorry for all the grey hairs but thanks for the support allowing me to do this dream ride again) and my dad (i now [hopefully] know the trail well enough for next year so we won't get lost...too badly).
Marnitz, dankie vir die saamry en regruk toe ek dit gekort het, die koffie na die stormreen, die terugry om te sien hoe ek klaar maak...daar is nie rerig woorde nie, die cool ding is dat woorde ook nie nodig is nie.

To Mason's Bike Inn for the bike wich has completed its second freedom with exactly the same failure as last year (a broken bottle cage).

To David for having the vision to create this magical route from Pietermaritzburg to Wellington, Meryl for all the organising and making sure we all had somewhere to sleep at night.

The support stations, looking after us, feeding the hungry bodies and souls and helping us achieve the dream and complete the journey. To the rest of the blanket wearers for the community, support, fun on the trail and so much more. To my friends and everyone else i forgot, thanks a million.

Jul 5, 2011

Cathing up

So the blogs never really caught up to me, blaming the phone,donating my charger and being lazy and enjoying the trail too much. Currently lazing around trouthaven trying to find some stuff to scrounge, seems like i'm here too early,last year picked up at least 2kg of stuff. Anyway, will write update about today later, just occurred to me that my last sunshine day was in willowmore, let's hope that changes. Tomorrow quite sadly the trail ends with two low points, a long tar slog up with litter all over the place and a walk up an extremely beautiful valley that recently got burned down. Lots of mixed emotions of almost being finished,but the fat lady hasn't sung yet...

Anysberg, a farewell ride

Started off in Rouxpos, raining, again. Knowing cape weather got ready for a long rainy day. Met up with Tim, who is back to finish the race after crashing out couple years ago. Going along nicely having fun sliding around and trying to find gears without chainsuck. Heard vicious barking somewhere off to the right, since i was riding through a herd of sheep figured it must be an anotolian seeing me as a major threat, (or a minor threat) with sheep scattering away. With the gate not far away the first thought that flashed through my mind was to go flat out into the gate and hopefully get vaulted over, painful but at least wont get eaten by a dog. Started chasing for the gate. Heard the bark right behind me and paws mashing on the gravel..too late. Turned around expecting the worst and, the vicious monster turned out to be a young one wanting a playmate. Rode the sandy track to start of Anysberg, good thing it was raining, sand bit harder. Rain started clearing up as I headed to the houses. On the way leaving the reserve I went round a koppie and surprised a small herd of Oryx. For a long time we stared at each other only 30 metres apart. Finally one snorted and off they went. Riding through this astonishing landscape, very isolated and super green from the loads of rain we’ve been battling, it almost felt like this was the trails way of saying goodbye with this special encounter. Sure there’s still over 200km to go but from here on mostly it is on good roads with signs of people and cellphone reception all over. For me personally this year with a burnt Stettyns valley the amazing wilderness of the trail ended as I left Anysberg.

Gamkaskloof, a hazy shade of winter

Left the luxury stopover at Dennehof in Prins Albert and started the slow freezing climb up Swartbergpas. When you scrape the ice from your saddle you know its going to be a cold one. Nearing the top of the climb the sun started rising,what a sight, definitely one of the highlights of the trip. From there to the top kept on looking at this amazing sunrise over the mountains and missed the clouds coming over. Suddenly a light shower came down, not rain though but hail. Lying on the ground looking like a slight dusting of salt reflecting the sunrise and breaking into a thousand little rainbows..what a way to start a day. Realised again it is easy to complain,but all the pedalling, suffering and what not, just this one start/moment made it all more than worth it. Since my knee was still not loving walking after the fall decided to ride all the hills, came close just the one before the leer..will have to come back:-). On the way up swartberg pass saw a flash..first thought some crazy tourist out early. Rounded the corner and there was Maartin, a friend who drove out from George just to say hi. Cycled last part up together and had coffee at the turn off to the hell. Maartin tx,really appreciate the effort. People doing this much effort...really makes you think. Started the long fast descent,nice and flowing,lot of fun. Up few climbs and then whizzing down between 40, 60km/h on a disc eating hairraising downhill,almost came short (or very long drop) on section still frozen, someone say adrenaline rush. Good for smiling. The hell is cold. Had icy rain most of day,but was too busy looking around to take notice. Up the leer,nice steep portage. Then some very fun downhills. Big dissapointment, wanted to hit 80down horlosiekrans (fastest speed 78), have been working out how to sit earo with backpack and had a surprise ace up my sleeve. Going to fill backpack with stones. Unfortunately a big headwind
greeted me on the other side. Where i cruised down over 70the whole way last year couldnt even get to 50 this time round. Still i will be back for revenge, even if i need to pay someone to drive me up like a downhiller, i will hit 80down there:-). Got to rouxpos after a fun couple of fast downhills in the dark, almost going straight into a porcupine..quite sure i dont carry enough plugs for that type of emergency

Master of the zinkplaat

Had good weather,slight headwind but sunshine! No one can be the master of the corrugations. Probably crossed the road over 100times,tried picking good lines,tried riding hard and keeping momentum,tried going slow,tried cringing away like a hurt animal in the hope they will leave me alone...all to no avail. Made it through though as everyone does,a few new friends to meet and learn about on the way. Met Johan just before Prins Albert,heard wind was going to pick up, poor guys hitting that. Johan forms part of those elite group of people whose presence of the trail adds spice to the route, driving out to meet the riders giving coffee and rusks, a lot of mechanical expertise and generally just ensuring a challenger will leave Prins Albert with the best chance possible of making it. (few days earlier he drove over 300km just to replace a jockey). What a legend, a true allstar of the freedom challenge. Had an amazing luxury stay at Dennehof, definitely something to touring this route.

Baviaans (hanging tough)

Woke up couple of times through the night from knee, hurt like hell walking,going to be a interesting day. Left a bit after albert and john having to strap knee and quickly sort out some mechanicals. One of the highlight areas of the routes,not even going to try and describe the amazing scenery and beauty of the area,words fail and i'm lazy. Got to top of bergplaas (the mother) just as the sun was rising, stopped for good 10,15min just staring. Just missed a herd of buffalo, other two saw them. Stopped by game rangers asking where our back up vehicles are, since we were in a rhino area, gave organisers number,should be an interesting conversation... Going out of the reserve all the normal crossings which can be done without getting feet wet turned into waist deep hikes. Decided to push on to willowmore while the wind was still quite reasonable,especially after last years experience on this section.

Baviaans, the crossing

Started off quite early, 3.30, from bucklands,fantastic hosts. Something else stuffing yourself 3 in the morning cause you will need the energy. Stuck with the group for a while but not going to wait on descents, sometimes feel like i'm just riding for the amazing downhills. When david describes a descent as a ridiculous 400m drop you know you're in for fun. Up the other side and all of the sudden the mountains drop off to the side leaving the most breathtaking view of the baviaans with the ocean in the far far horizon. Going down osseberg is something else,lot of fine tricky lines down, suuuper cool. Started with the first of 11 river crossings, unfortunately with my size and full river the narritives description of thigh deep with no crocs doesn't really inspire confidence:-). The road being semi non-existing normally was very much hide and seek with all the recent rain and flooding. After lot of fun&interesting crossings made it to the last one. Slipped on a rock about halfway through, lurching around in my best drunk elvis impression. Managed to only solidly hit one part of my body instead of taking a full dunking. Unfortunately it was my knee. Taking into account the full river and the others still needing to cross i figured crying won't be the best option,tempting as it might be. Surprised a few kudu a bit further on. Hidden valleys and the extra bit of adventure definitely add to the appeal of the trail. Made it quite early to kudu kaya,but with knee decided to stay put. Unfortunately two of the group couldnt find their way out and spent the night in there, bad sleeping conditions but unrivalled beauty there.

Addo (who needs tubeless)

Start ed at Toekomst and went round the dam,navigation was much easier in the light and went through with little problems. Stuck with the new group through the gwaas. If i had to draw a profile and map from memory no one would ever attempt (or find) the gwaas, had a nightmare through there last year. Realised how much you miss when racing, again a spectacular valley with amazing riding that david found. Having a lot of fun on the bike. Even though the people in the group are great and it is a big bonus not having to open all the gates on your own, i find myself uncomfortable riding in a big group(4 :-)), need to go at my own rythm and pace, especially with my knee which is about a constant 3,4 now. Decided to go ahead and try and make my tubeless work again,the massive thorns all over made me think twice about not having tubeless. Made it to bucklands in a much better state than last year :-). Played around and eventually got tubeless working again,whoopla!

Jul 1, 2011

Ignitor hunter (The unsung heroes)

Pulled into Toekomst with a stupid "I dont care this was amazing" grin on my face. Got shocked back to reality when an ostrich bolted in front of me and got stuck in the electric fence... anyone say kfc... told owner and eventually bird got loose, must have a really nasty hangover though. Met Craig, John, Albert and Joan. Talked a bit about the race, its future and and. Made me think a bit. If the freedom challenge is the soul of mountain biking then the allstars and not the superstars, aka race snakes, are the soul of the race. Allstars like Craig who quite unasumingly is pushing a 32x16 singlespeed through this race, never complaining and always smiling. Allstars like Joan, taking everyday in her stride and making me feel weak on the climbs just pushing on to finish. Allstars like John and Albert (training on Bloem hills) looking for the next big challenge, Erroll and Estelle coming back to have fun on the trail again.

Allstars most definitely include the support stations, people going out of their way making sure we must finish. Sure, the racers get good exposure for the race, but the real heroes are the ordinary people who take on the challenge of a lifetime and make it all the way to the end of the trail. To the unsung heroes and legends of the trail, Lehana.

Ignitor hunter (Aloes Butterflies and Mechanicals)

Woke up at Struishoek (thanks David and Verity for the hospitality), thought i'll just take easy day to Toekomst, 100km. Got to Van de Venters and immediately changed gear, I was only about 40minutes after Marnitz and Tim (+1 day). Seeing that up to now I've been clocking an hour or two faster per section than them, figured I could do their distance and pull one or two really big days in Baviaans and beyond and catch them. Two hours down the line enjoying the Karoo koppies and a smashing day out this fell apart, as did my bike over the next three km. Bit much to post all details, but had a lovely hour on aloe ridge forcing my disc open and trying to remove jammed pads (very close to being bucked off and super nasty fall), fixed, 500m on, makeshift fixing my wheel, low tech meets high tech (go duct tape and cable ties). Eventually got it fixed after working out that walking home would get me there at 8ish.

Phew riding again no walking. Although without tubeless and last tube in wheel, snakebite would mean walking... slow smooth descending. Was amazing sitting there and could count over 100 aloes around me (had the time). 2km on had to strip and rebuild my rear derailleur. Just about everything had gone wrong, but just cruising through this section looking around with hundreds of butterflies all over the place, made it worth while. If yesterday, with the mud, came close to top ten most interesting rides, this was definitely coming in top ten all time best rides. A 'two' hour section took six but I havent felt this good on my bike for a long time, maybe we need the bad to appreciate the good. But this ride, oh man, just about touching perfect.


Stuttgart to Struishoek. Had a great nights rest and started off aiming for Vandeventers. Immediately reconsidered, the going was at times more of a graceful sidewides slide through the mud than a constructive forward motion. Ended up having to walk almost half the way to the Skurfteberg portage. Going over found some snow of previous day, nice fast descent, stopped halfway to put on my heavy duty gloves, fingers so dead couldn't open the gate. From there things got progressively worse with my bike more than faintly resembling a baby elephant. Rolling and sliding through the mud, most of the 'road' after Coetzerskloof varying between very and extremely unrideable. Eventually got to Grootdam, did a scenic 10km extra searching for the turn off. Set off again hoping for drier sections of road. No such luck. Long slide into Struishoek. One day I want to take a dh bike down there, semi rideable for the most part but with the backpack and no one else around so played it safe.
Made it down with a fat smile on my face, smashing downhill and singletrack. Quickly pulled into Struishoek farm to fill bottels and then push on last couple of hours to Van de Venters, which would help making up time to Marnitz. Got a hose and forced that grey brown elephant off my bike. Took bottles, have to go thanks... ok soup sounds great... sitting down 10, 20 min ok would love to sleep over. People like these just add to the character of the race, thanks a million David and Verity!

The small things

Having made up half a day on Marnitz and Tim, the plan was to push another big day and catch up with them and have a ride down with the legends. So off to bed for an early start, set alarm for 3. Woke up with the sun shining into my room... interesting... probably that cold weather messing with the phone again. Decided to just take easy 100km into Stuttgart today, passing the halfway mark at Elandsberg. The portage this year was much easier thanks to the clear entry to the track and not walking in the field alongside it in the dark. Met up with the dog at Elandsberg again, kept my duct tape stashed far away. For the most part today the riding was scenic and easy, if someone could please just turn the headwind off. Almost got shot making my way through the field to the road, after trying a Carl shortcut, buck was shot to my far left but I dropped down with my bike and pack like a trained pro. Fright of my life and an eventful end to day.

Battle of the storm

After making it to Brosterlea yesterday quite early, the goal for today was always to go at least as far as Hofmeyr, about 140km away. An icy wind was blowing, bottels froze, again, beard toes and all the rest. All along the route there has been a lot of rain and going up stormberg splashed through the ice and puddles... Mistake. By the top my gears were frozen solid, singlespeeding, and my shoes were two solid blocks of ice. Detoured to see the doctor in molteno, lovely tailwind for 10km unfortunately had to cycle it back. No chance of permanent damage, which wouldnt really make a difference at this stage. Also I walk funny and shouldn't run, yebo! Rushed a bit to get back took wrong turn and did a scenic 20km detour, thats how you learn. Mission : get to aasvoelberg and descend in daylight. Got to top just as started snowing, good timing. The downhill is one of the highlights of the route, 12km of technical descending! Next three hours just kept going, headwinds & ice rain. Made hofmeyr at 9.