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, September 2, 2008

Day 18

2300km, are we there yet?!
I wake up to the real thought that today could be my last real day of riding. I should be able to do the triple up stage without too much drama as it's all shorter than normal and I know where to go too. From there it's the hike up stettyns and we're home free. It's been an underlying thought for the last few days and is now very much a more real prospect, what happens once you're done? The daily routine has become wake up, get ready and ride. As much as the bike has travelled, how much have I grown and changed as a person over the last three weeks? Is it for the better?

I can't dwell totally on this as I still have the small task of riding through some serious distance and there's a nasty storm brewing overhead. Having my very own TV with satellite in the cottage I know there's an even bigger one hitting cape town too.

Busiest road on the trail is Cogmanskloof which is the road that connects Montagu with the outside world through the Langeberg. I have rain falling and trucks splashing me with each pass, good way to start fast and get the kilometers ticking.

Ashton and the canning factory are familiar to me as I've driven the R60 countless times, but the route through the town is totally different to how I thought we crossed the Breede River towards McGregor. I find myself doubting the options in what was a confident section as we travel eastwards for a section(I'd ridden from McGregor before). After crossing the river on the red iron bridge we do indeed turn west and homewards again. I find my self crossing to the right hand side of the road to avoid some corrugated sections. Not ten seconds later a bakkie tears past without me even hearing him come. The pleasant habit of assuming you are the only road user will have to be kicked soon!

looking down into McGregor

With little fuss I am in McGregor and sit down to a muffin at the coffee shop. The other boys have two hours on me, will I catch them on the route today?Do I really need to? I'm again reminded of the impending rough weather from the locals and make a hasty retreat back into the cold outside. The 24km stage to Kasra is done in just under 2 hours and its a different feeling riding knowing exactly what's coming up and where to go. My maps stay in the bag (is this how Tim rides?!) as my eyes are on the grey clouds in the distance.

a porky welcome

Been here before in MAY

The Oestervanger guesthouse is an unexpected highlight of the trip. The ladies run what you could call a boutique restaurant with a single large diningroom table for guests by appointment only. I plonk down in the kitchen and am presented with a hearty butternut soup (ginger being the secret ingredient) and a juicy lambshank that falls off the bone. You eat three meals a day over a lifetime, but I'd squeeze this one into my top ten all time list. I'm still feeling rather queasy and those who know me will agree that all is not well if I turn down dessert. I turn down the very attractive offer of even just an hours shut eye.
go up there
on this stuff

Belly full to bursting, it's time to move on and do the Trappieskraal jeep track. It's been on the Cape Epic a few times, could be recognised as the really rocky hill that goes on forever under the powerlines. Six weeks ago I mostly rode up it, today I push almost the whole way.

its raining where i have to go

The day passes by slowly, and constantly I see wet grass and clouds up ahead yet only confront slight drizzle. I scream down the Jonaskop road and am very happy to see that the Doornrivier algemene handelaar is open today. I make the obligatory coke purchase (and have now spent almost R100 over the last three weeks) from the tannie who knows me as one of the basutho blanket riders (sounds like Steve and Kevin spent some time there last year). Back on the road, I'm reminded that I'm definitely close to home as I dodge a motionless plaaswerker who has started his friday night at noon. Who cares if papsak is banned if you still have a dop system?
gesuip so 'n demoon-couldn't wake him

The familiar sections roll by without much hassle, I'm even involved in now answering all the messages from friends and family who want to know to the hour when I'll be arriving. The straight reply is 'saturday sometime' and I appoint a PR agent on the spot to handle my social affairs. Before the race I had thumbsucked 20 days as a goal which would be a Sunday finish. A day earlier and i won't even get in the way of the wimbledon mens final!

spot the engineer - brandvlei distribution

For the second time in recent history I roll straight through Brandvlei prison without seeing a warden or prisoner on the grounds (we come in through the very unmanned and totally unfenced back entrance). It really does look like a country club with its sports amenities and clubhouse on the dam, the only reminder of its penitentiary function is trying to get past security as I leave(or is it escape?).
Brandvlei entrance on MAY training ride

Night falls and the mercury follows suit. Friday night round here means dodging pedestrians who stumble on the side of the road with the randomness of final round boxers. I start to celebrate my dry luck too early as it starts raining when I have about three kms to the farm and tonight's bed. And it starts pouring like never before. At least I know where reception is at this place.

Cats and dogs are flying around me as I get to an unmanned reception and owners house (it is friday night). We're out of cellphone range so I rush to the closest chalet to see if its ours. Unfortunately the couple can't help me with any info, but I know there are other cottages further up the road. By now I'm totally sopping, miserable and starting to lose it as the frustration level rises. I should be inside, eating and warm but instead I am looking for the damn house after 13 hours of riding. I follow a MTB sign up a hill to some lights only to realise that I'm at the workers housing and have gone up the farm's MTB route. Finally I find a paper sign with 'freedom challenge' and an arrow on it. The arrow points up a hill, with three route options. Half an hour's searching reveals an empty locked cottage with only the outside lights on, and some wet orchards.

Feeling like a drowned rat I have no option but to return to the only people that seem to be on this farm, the occupants of the first cottage. 'Boy' is a coloured contractor from Piketberg, and opens the door with disbelief that I'm still pedaling outside in this storm. I can't get over how foreign this scene would be just 15 years ago and have trouble addressing my good samaritan with what I thought would be a derogatory term. I get given a drink(whiskey) and food(left over braai) and we jump in the car to see if we can find the designated house. Some really scary driving in a 4x4 on muddy roads follows. Still no luck with the search and the only option is to bunk in one of their spare beds. I'll have to be up in a few hours anyway and can do Stettyns without my maps (maybe?!).

my lucky warm bed

So much for local knowledge, maybe I'll see the other four tomorrow in the valley. For now it's imperative to rest as the hike up the kloof is going to be even harder with all the rain. You can add an extra three kilograms with everything drenched. I don't even bother drying stuff as the deluge will continue for a few days.

Montagu to Trouthaven via Mcgregor and Kasra- ~2518m of climbing
170km 15 hours door to door

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