2300km, but where to start?

As you can imagine, a 19day epic generates a fair amount of copy.

You can go right to the beginning of the whole ordeal, or the startline/day 1.

I'm looking at moving from a general ride report to a more up to date what's happening site. Yes, Freedom Challenge doesn't just finish in Paarl! When i get round to it, there'll be a PDF of the 19days reports.

Send some feedback (I'm aware that the whole layout is just, well kinda rubbish!)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 11

ready for ackshin
sirk loots

andrew king

I got out of bed with renewed vigour. Sure I had slipped from 2nd to 5th place in one day, but I had some strong riders to hit the course with and the prospect of some fun times was evident. It wasn't even that cold for once as darkness slowly peeled to daylight. Before long we arrived at the first obstacle of the day, yet another valley dead end where the only forward was mostly up. The jeep track looked much better in real life than on the map and pretty soon the view back was worth stopping for. There came a split where the narrative and the map differed, and we elected to follow the text as we could see the saddle mentioned in it. A few days later, the comedy kings Errol and Carinus took this turn off and rode the whole day ending back up at their starting point, Rietfontein - that has got to hurt, and i can only imagine the language that night.
matt and andrew

we be chillin'

looking back

Even though they had started together in the same batch, the other three hadn't actually spent much riding in each other's company. Andrew sports the legendry #2 numberplate as he was one of the three pioneers of the first race in 2003. This time he'd roped his friend Matt in for the ride, who was more used to a rugby field than a bike but it was obvious he is quite a natural athlete and looked strong enough to go all day long. They were creating awareness for a charity close to their hearts – Walk for Peace. They seemed to like riding during the night, and didn't even stay at one of the allocated SS on the way to Rhodes. Sirk is good friends with the 2007 winner, Maarten van Dalsen, so we knew he'd have some secret race winning tips. He had made his charge a more calculated affair after slowly easing into the race. He was absolutely fearless to the point of insanity on the downhills.
on top of the world
it became a habit
boys still fixing bikes up there

I was feeling frisky and reached the saddle first, so got some great pictures in. We had some good high jinks after conquering the day's first and biggest bump, and on peering down into the abyss we were headed, decided that maybe Matt would need back brakes. Out came another set of brake pads, my V-brake setup had proved that to be a lot more reliable than hydraulics in general. It was indeed another really thrilling fling down. and we regrouped at the bottom to knock off the remaining km to lunch. 'put it in the big one' was the call for Matt to shift into his highest gear and we all did our best to hang on behind. We cruised the slightly undulating roads at an average I surely hadn't hit in the preceding week. Keep this up and the gap to the race leader would shrink by the hour, we dubbed our peleton 'the Tim James train' (I lost my ticket a few days later and got kicked off).
no budget for roadsigns in E.cape
chasing hard

The video crew appeared and soon we got to the station, for a solid meal of left over pasta and a plate towered with delicoious Kudu schnitzel (which was duly replaced when we scoffed it away). It was great to be having an early lunch at a spot we could have been sleeping at, it seems like a kilometer in the malutis is worth two in the Karoo. We'd been warned that the terrain coming up was quite rough, so got going west where we could see a sheer mountain and no sign of a path. The climb up was on a very rocky jeep track. I really enjoy these sections, where its a challenge to keep the bike upright and you end up spinning a low gear and concentrate on the line ahead. Of course its not much faster than walking, but that's not the point.

Once over the top we bid farewell to the TV crew (did I mention I had now joined the upper class with a Toyota Hilux bakkie intercepting our movements?!) and wound through yet another isolated valley. We were looking for another old farmhouse from more prosperous times that had been left derelict probably due to the hardships of ekeing out a living in a remote valley. Funny how city people even the balance by escaping to these places. I overshot the mark to the entrance of the Struishoek descent to scout out the other route indicated on the map. Either way it was dead straight down on a really rough hiking trail. The route had been well marked with white limewash, but it was painful walking down the steep rocky path. Most likely my worst 4km of the whole trail. To add insult to injury I picked up a nosebleed halfway down somehow. There's bar talk of building a downhill route here, lets hope it remains a dream, as I don't think Gregg Minnaar would touch that gradient without a 6 inch travel bike and a full face helmet.there's a kinda path there - struishoek descent

into the sunset

Sirk had bolted for home at the bottom (a familiar pattern, it seemed) and the three of us got into a rhythm of sorts on the decent road to Pearston. That road became tar, which is a godsend when it arrives in small portions. Pearston was my favourite dorpie right now, as the post office there had received my parcel and the farmer had picked it up earlier in the day (I hoped). We didn't actually even go into town, turning off just before it. For such a small settlement they definitely had a cellphone mast to be proud of and Andrew took full advantage to try do a bit of business on his handsfree kit!
bloody hell, not bad photo whilst riding(on tar)
I was losing pressure in my tyre somehow (slimed tubes??) and had to stop to change it with about 15km from the stop. I was quite glad that the boys waited for me, as it meant they weren't pushing all the way to Toekomst and I'd kinda joined the team (for now at least). The nav in the dark was a bit worrying as the distances between turnoffs were huge and markings not really making sense but when we saw a sign with an Eland and the rusty sign with Vandeventerskraal on it there was a collective cry of relief.

The farmhouse was once again a surplus building from a consolidated farm that was rented out to hunting parties and silly tourists like us. We had caught up with the farmers, but the other half of the group were only 50km up the road. The farmer had left us a meal, beer, koeksisters (which rapidly disappeared) and a package for me. I felt like a four year old at christmas as I opened up to reveal a new tyre, sealant, chain and shifter. I got settled on the fluffy carpet next to the fire and got my bike back to 100% working order. It had been a long day starting and finishing in darkness, and tomorrow would be more of the same so a tired body drifted straight to bed.

Rietfontein to Vandeventerskraal via Grootvlakte- ~2120m of climbing
~145km, 13 hours door to door

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