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!)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Day 4

Feel like a TdF champ
“Steve! I'm awake and going now, you want to come?”

Not exactly a cuckoo clock is it, but that's how I woke up in Masakala. The plan was to start riding at 6, we were now getting ready and it was just passed 4. No rest for the racing. The idea was to do the short stretch to Malekhonyane before lunch and then push on all the way to Vuvu and join up with group 1.

Luckily it wasn't too cold, but it was dark indeed when we got going. After some more soccer field skirting we got onto a dirt road. Clearly this Tim guy was good at recovery as I was battling to stay on his wheel now. I was redlining it for a few kays but could see something was wrong when I realised we weren't going particularly fast. In clearing some mud off, I had dislodged my brake spring, and basically had my front brake half on. At least now I knew why I was suffering for 5 kays!

Malekhonyane Lodge - beautiful

good toyota advert

The early section followed some cattle paths across the floodplains, some of the best riding they said – as long as its not in flood - oh well. Well we managed to escape a thunderstorm without too much damage and pulled up to Malekhonyane (and it is high up) by 10am. If I followed my prerace plan of 1 stage a day till Rhodes, then I could chill out here all afternoon. Instead we were off and starting the big day to Vuvu.

not the best way to come down a hill
looks rideable!

It's a lovely little sidetrack to the black fountain section where the isolation is obvious. There is a store up there for some inane reason, closed made more sense. Then we followed what can only be described as a rough hiking trail down, passing horsemen with shaking heads. We had been dodging rainstorms all day, but got properly wet now.

next santa cruz campaign

time for lunch#2
By the time we hit the bottom and civilisation it was too hard not to pop in at the next little store. We spent a while there, having been on the go for almost 12 hours. 2 rounds of cokes, biscuits, chips and a whole lot of staring. We had a good chat with the owner as the entire horde of kids offloaded his supplies from the bakkie. He holds down a pharmacy job in pretoria and runs this store a weekly 8 hour bus trip away, amazing to see ambition and desire in its purest form.

she just had to ride!

By the time we crossed the swollen river at the Tinana mission the shadows were long, and in hindsight we probably should have stopped there for the night. We pushed on through a really muddy section and got to the 'river singletrack' in the dark. This was just 13km from the end of a really long day, but the locals said that the rivers were too high and the other bikers had taken 'the road'. Tim wasn't keen to do this option, but 26km by road can't be that bad?

Well those 26km took us 4 hours, it went straight up and out the valley in a massive climb. It's hard to do big hills in the dark as you have no idea where you are. We managed to contact race organiser halfway up, only to hear we'd get a time penalty for not following the route. Too bad. At the top we hit some gooey mud. Chocolate Mousse stuff, that was impossible to clean off. I carried my bike through it, and figured with only 7km to go I could walk to the finish/ride the downhills without doing too much damage to the drivetrain. Tim had gone ahead and a bit later the familiar site of a Toyota bakkie perched up the hill greeted me. David had a huge smile on his face, looking at me sukkeling in the dark. To add further insult to injury, I broke a spoke about 2km from the end (crossing the river??).

It was a late finish indeed as I pulled into the Vuvu school hall(why can't all SS have a cell phone mast next to them?!). Food was waiting, shower was rigged up outside and all wanted to hear the stories. By 'all' I mean race support crew, as the whole of Group 1 were already asleep in bed.

I got billeted with David that night, Edina came to walk us to her house (stopping on the way to pick up a grandchild) where we got the best beds in the main room. Oh how well I slept under those blankets!

Maskala to Malekhonyane
56 dkm, 604m altitude gain
~5hrs trip time

Malekhonyane to Vuvu
89dkm, >3000m altitude gain
~11hrs trip time

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