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!)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 4 - contrasts

Today was always going to be the big one, die groot baas of the trip. By now noone takes my estimates seriously. Everything is either 3 or 20 km. Today was a thumbsuck of 90km. Thank the pope I actually chopped 30km off the end and moved the finish point from eselfontein to matroosberg nature reserve.

Jannie had shown us halfway up the jeep track around the back of the swartberg mountain. It was steep, rocky and a dicey call. I slept on it and decided to rather play it safe with so much more to come in the day, so we went the alternate route on farm roads to the south.

A now clockwork early start and grey skies got us to the tar R318 without fuss and we got the paceline going. A chance meeting along the way and we had hooked up with a cycling Dirk Uys,the owner of Nadini - another prospective stopover in the area. His wife coordinates functions at the nearby Matroosberg station, a restored white elephant with a rail tunnel below it that has escaped its earmarked demolition.

For the first time in days we had signal, a sign that the N1 and civilisation was near. Our crossing point on the great north road was Karoo1.com - another spot with some serious paint thrown at it recently. We were clearly not quite fitting in this 5star spot, but got down to the important discussion of how the hell we'd find a way down the waterfall/kloof that Smuts got his commando through with brits chasing him.

With coffee and full sunshine on the way, I turned down the first offer of breakfast. The second one we took with both hands, and got waited hand and foot for a good half hour. Quite possibly the best scrambled eggs I've ever had, the 2hours old oatso easy a distant memory.

The kloof itself was a bit of a no show in the end. Basically a three stage waterfall, the first two a tight scramble. This ended in a sheer 10m+ drop. Not gonna happen. It did however give view of a dramatic sheer cliff/amphitheatre. There's also a ridgeline across the valley that drops from higher but at a more agreeable angle.

The cliff could be a future option, with the correct equipment this bike abseil would be a feature highlight. The ridgeline was a gamble of an option with some possibly sketchy boulders. To do it unsighted with a bike on your shoulders was just a bit too irresponsible with plenty of kms still to go later.

So it was back to the tar, on the N1 too. Just like the brit troops we'd skirt the hex river mountains and would rejoin at the R46 junction. It flew by, with albino springbok, aquila Big 5 lodge and kleinstraat military base all on the way. It's big mountain country, with sheer faces and peaks all around

We left the tar to find our way up the verlorenvalley. Another stunning property, our second 1812 house. Being midday we ended up waking Tiekie the farmer, but got free hand in the cherry shed. Further up was a huge great dam and the perfect lunch stop. For once we couldn't quite find enough shady trees and gave the customary snooze a miss.

One hallmark of this area of ceres is the multitude of dams, you're never far from the view of water. Makes the nav easier too.

We explored a few interesting approaches to Erfdeel, our camping spot for the night, but ended up using the main dirt access after some bridgeless river crossings.

One of the bonuses of the trip was our resupply at this point. Travelling in isolated spots means you never come past a woolies. Apart from clearing out the tuckshop at Leeuwenboschfontein on day 3, we'd not seen a shop since the Laingsburg OK. Everything had been carried, and we'd cooked pasta, rice, couscous etc on an MSR stove.

Erfdeel is better known as Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve and includes two campsites and a lot of mountain tracks, including the cape ski club area, Waldo had arranged for a braai and breakfast pack from the local pick n pay for us. We felt like kings, with our (warm) coke and chips round the campfire.

We had done a lot of km, over 100, and had a long session. Our reward was the bed of the trip, a large collection of pine needles and oh so comfy.........

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