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!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Day 5

Edina's house where i slept like a log

So I woke up with a mission, I had a spoke to replace and as murphy would have it, it was a drive side one. That means taking off your entire cassette (ie. the cogs). This is a huge schlep, and close to impossible in the field, but I had managed this during the first week, where tools for the R2R guys were handy. Located a cassette lock and a chain whip and we were in business. Tim did similar fixing to his brake pads and we set off from Vuvu at a sedate 10:30am. This was mainly due to our time penalty of 9:30, and the usual phaffing around. Maybe we were just a bit apprehesive over crossing Lehana's pass.

our trusty steeds full of mud
bike TLC, replacing a spoke

The big news of the morning was that the whole of Group 1 had really messed up the nav to Lehana. Instead of the third valley, they took the second. Ouch. And not even a shepherd on horseback with a note could turn them around. We expected to see them somewhere atop, if at all. We had been given a great day weather wise at least, with sunshine all around. There was a quick stop for an interview and then we tackled the morning's ordeal in earnest.

looking down into the start of Lehana's assault

Lehana's is an old shepherd's track and is the alternative to Naude's Nek. Either way it's our path over the Drakensberg. It's probably one of the hardest things I've ever done. My Achilles Tendons had also started to really hurt when walking, most likely from the amount of walking done in mtb shoes over the week. Think of climbing Table Mountain from the Castle with your bike on your back, but your starting point is Joburg altitude. It was a real grind, and the previous long day out and the altitude hurt me as I battled to keep up with Tim. The path followed the ridge line and altitude was quickly gained. After a while the bike on your back really starts to hurt the neck, and any opportunity to walk it along a flat section is most welcome.
looking back, probably 1/3 of the way

halfway up looking at the main buttress, we sneaked up across to the left

on top of the world

We stopped at the top shepherd's hut for a quick lunch with probably a quarter of the climb remaining. It was an amazing vista looking out into the distance and seeing the impossible terrain that we had somehow travelled through was food for the tired body. Crossing the actual peak was a huge disappointment, as we only headed round the precipice and then made our way down the other side. Tim was eager to get passed Rhodes and pushed on whilst I enjoyed the scenery a bit more. With the amount of recent rain, there were a few river crossings which resulted in very cold feet. The impossibly located 4 star Tenahead lodge was on the route and I popped in for a very well deserved cup of very awesome hot chocolate. Go have a look at it!

I forced myself to get a photo at Naude's Nek eastern summit itself, but hardly took a look out into the distance as it was freezing in the wind. I found a sheltered spot in the road and put on almost my entire wardrobe. After a brief downhill there was a nasty climb that topped out with the highest point of the route (~2600m). It was a breathtaking descent on the western side of the pass, 600m drop and endless hairpins. It's got to be one of the most significant stretches of road in the entire country, but very hard to stop and take photos when you are flying and racing sundown.

very cold in the wind up there

Pulling into Rhodes I had no clue as to our actual accommodation, but it wasn't hard to find as it's actually just a one horse town. It's quite a turning point in the entire journey, and I'd now caught up with the group ahead for good. For all the Ride to Rhodes entrants it is the end of their journey and friends and family arrive to see them in and spend the night (and also to come take them home).

I arrived to all these new faces, Tim saying goodbye as he had a fasttrack to Doukrans, and lots of questions about me. It seems I had built up a reputation somehow and there was even talk that I had a R1000 bet of making it in 16 days. I quickly dispelled that and explained that I was actually on holiday and planning on seeing the country.

I got billeted into an old house down the road, for the last time without electricity. I had my first bath (and last till montagu) in candlelight and only now realised how bad my Achilles Tendons were. They made a noise in the bath, and I could feel stuff that had never been there before as I flexed and contracted them. The good news was that it was really sore walking, but riding was manageable.

Soccer on tv just over the road was an opportunity too good to miss, so i popped into the Rhodes Hotel to cheer on my Dutchies against the Ruskies. I was wearing my sat night best – black polartec tights (read ballet pants) and stokies but the locals all knew what I was doing so I made a few friends quickly. Mark who had just done the R2R was the only other cyclist i saw there. As you might know it went into extra time, so i was up till late drinking milk stout and now know all about fly fishing (and that Rhodes has 28 permanent residents – their count)!
look at that climb!
Vuvu to Rhodes
50km, 2208m altitude gain
~7.5 hours

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