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 15, 2010

Yskoud innie karooo

The next engagement is a little bit crazy, but I'm only a spectator so not too much to worry about there.

Vic (the chick) has a screw loose and is doing the inaugral Speedo ice swim in Fraserberg. 600m, no wetsuit and the dam is 4'C. Real lunatic fringe, but lewis pugh seems to have made it a bit more mainstream. Expecting some real cheer from the locals, we will probably start braaing at 8am, just to keep warm.

Nicely on my way there, I've stopped in for two days at my old roomie's folks farm. Because it used to be a post office and rewatering station when people went to George by horse you can find Seekoegat on most maps south of beaufort west. Wonderful hospitality as always and such a lekker plek om te kom kuier.

Had plans of doing some plaas riding, but yesterday was miserable. Rained all day and we had three kudus to chop up anyway.

Snowed overnight on the swartberge and hit minus seven. So maybe round noon I'll go for some skaap chasing. Then its off to the metropolis of Fraserberg via the bustling city of Leeu-Gamka.
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Well I've taken a bike rest day, and am shifting focus inland. There be some farms to explore and sheep to dodge.
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Home and dry

Well at the lookout deck, which isn't quite home yet, nor is it dry now that the beach is totally gone!

Another funfilled day with some unexpected surprises.more to come later
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Mini fail times two

So I went east.went through a rad valley, almost canadian with steep cliffs and pines the whole way.

But the R339 sucked with all the traffic.

So I tried an alternate route through uplands(off my maps now, so googling directions for guesswork).ended up being a dead end-the farmer at the end was cool, but said he'd prefer I didn't try go down the bitou river cliffs.

Back to tar. At least I can see home, and the beer at lookout
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Lunch 2

Sitting at diepwalle station, waiting on a cheeseburger and chips from the community restaurant. Awesome sunshine and looking out over the forests to the sea, contemplating the afternoon routes.

So far I've basically done the first half of the knysna mtb long route.two monster climbs that I walked.on race day I'd be done by now, but been stopping for lots of views and pics. And picking up energy sachets.;-( The backpack slows me down too.I asked very nicely if I could go around gouna, but quite glad they said no-it looked rather hectic to say the least chasing up the knysna river gorge.

I can either do the famous petrus se brand and then harkerville red route, followed by some guesswork to plett to avoid the N2. Or go north and along the R339 and pop out in the bitou valley.

Plan a has some lekker singletrack,but I've done it all before.mmm, there's my cheeseburger.time to munch and decide
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Top of the hill

At simola looking back on knysna.bit of a late start(merits of staying at a vibing backpackers??) but still pretty chilly. Frost last night.

Time to go down down down to gouna
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Day 1.....of 2

Early start after a late world cup final. Pity robben chose the wrong time to not fall over for once,that's all I've got to say.

We were on the road by 4 and I found myself alone at the garden route mall waiting for the light(only a dinky headlamp in the bag).

My plan was to do the 'seven passes' old route from george to knysna, with as much legal forestry detours thrown in.
Thing is I didn't even know where to go, as I was starting 'off my maps' and hoping to find signs to saasveld college. When I eventually stopped procrastinating the cold away I found it so damn easily and it was all tar.infact I got worried that the whole route was tarred and my idea was a joke. took me two passes to hit dirt near wilderness heights turn off. The bonus was that the weather circus got the morning showers wrong and it was clear blue sky with snowcapped peaks to the north.

I got to woodville trading store and had a great chat with the engaging owner. My energy efficiency advice on his store and home were compensated with a slice of chocolate cake and a squeegy bottle(my water bottle was near mossel bay by now).

Then it was up the hill to bergplaas forest station to see if I could explore their forests. Turns out its all good and open for just ten bucks,but they just don't advertise it. My other idea was to ride from louvain in the north through the ou voortrekker pass to here, looked much easier on the map. I had a good effort trying to convince a forester that pine trees help cause the area's water shortage. Dead end since they are the largest 'provider' of water in the community.

Surprisingly the tracks on the maps were about 95% accurate which makes forestry navigation doable. The pockets of indigenous forest normally coincided with the really steep bits, and criss crossed the outeniqua trail now and then.

I ended up a little bit adventurous and bombed down a huge valley only to find the road flooded.I half backtracked before canning that idea and getting stubborn. hikeabike of note ensued, with me moving very quickly to avoid detection.

I heard a cat in a tree. Purring away. It was the sillhouette of a loerie, who knew they sounded like that?!I'd like to back it up with proof, but the blackberry doesn't come with a zoom lens.

Now having a lot of fun, but well behind schedule I shifted it down the hill to the forestry village of karatara. Enuff said earlier.

Karatara pass was short but some sweet sweeping turns. Homtini pass a bit later was the deal maker. Plunged down without scrubbing the brakes much.it was a long walk out and I eventually got on top and it was a long gradual fall to phantom pass, the final one. The odd thing is the route is punctuated by tar at its extremities, no doubt from the commuters who escape the rat race, but not as far as hitting the dirt. There are a lot of quirky houses round here, there must be some real characters lurking in these woods.

Phantom pass was another great descent with some blind fast corners. I managed to pull over the knysna bridge in fading light, and hit paydirt at backpackers #2. Recommended island vibe was full, so lake superior it was. No hot shower, but the huge braai made up for it. Great to shoot the sh1t with all the foreign travcellers, but such a pity the locals running the show are so clueless about local issues. Oh the mistruths spread around the globe now.

Tomorrow might be a later start.gonna try old cape road up to simola and then gouna forest to diepwalle for lunch. Then prince alfred pass till the R339 turnoff takes me to plett where my car is chilling.
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Late lunch

Of course I bit off more than was chewable. Took the 7passes route till woodville(what a name for a forestry station). Then hit bergplaas and got a R10 permit to hit their forests. Pointed the bike east and shot.

It was awesome.

Some nice overlaps with outeniqua trail(now on to do list) with amazing indigenous forest. Had to do a semi-legal hike a bike as one road was flooded,didn't fok around with the river crossing.

Popped out at a dorpie called Karatara,appears to be the previous regime's solution to the 'poor white problem'. Lunch is yummy fresh rolls,john west spicy packed tuna and double cheese doritos. Washed down with limited edition fanta kiwi apple and lemon. Champion meal.

Did 3passes before my dirtscursion, and only skipped on, so three more to go.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

On the road

A flippen early start, as the lift was leaving at 4. Meant I had to wait for first light at george mall for about 30minutes.

In the darkness managed to forget waterbottle. Didn't realise that the road to saasveld college has nothing on it, so no bp express for anything till hoekwil I guess.

Taking the 7passes route to knysna,if its tarred and siggnposted the whole way I'll have to find some detours.

First little valley brought me to shivereens at the bottom and reminded me I've done a half marathon on the other side. Oh well!

Here you can see my bike. So far so good.
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Weather report is partly miserable and freezing. With late showers. Attached you can see the snow covered outeniquas. Pic is from near the compass on attached map. Not my main map(I do have the 1:50 000) but is a good reference.
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The ruff plan

After a few weeks of following people riding at different speeds from maritzburg to diemersfontein, I got the urge of the trail tugging at me. I'm doing mba this year, and even though they work us pretty hard, we get a bit of free time now and then. That time is now.

Finding myself in Knysna(more on that later) and needing to be in Fraserberg next weekend(more on that later) I figured some garden route and karoo tripping was in order.

I haven't got a full plan yet, but am seeking out local knowledge first. I threw everything together in about 20minutes but its a little scary how much technical gear I own now.

Being a student and unemployed(12months and counting!) I've toned down the bike arsenal-by adding another bike. I've mothballed the santa cruz for the year and built up a singlespeed, mostly from bits and pieces around. The frame is a Kona Colin Mcrae limited edition, and I kinda reposessed it from a london tube station(more on that later).

Needed to get rid of a drivetrain squeak,and since my time and expertise were running low I took it to my closest bike store. John O'Connor cycles in Mouille Point. Yes I know, a bike store on the golden mile! Got to be the fanciest location(next door to peperneros), but they got it all together chop chop and its now the shiniest bike I've ever had.

On the way I popped into the department of land surveys(see pics) its such a great place and has a cool little museum section of olde equipment. I have all the maps I need, but forestry sections change their roads. A lot!

Still got a few options to play with, but we're looking at 2days, and most likely wilderness to plett, all on back roads and through the rest with a map and a compass.I have my gps; but without maps or tracks on it, its more of a recording than a navigational device.

The weather is not looking very good for monday, so waterproofing is going to be a chief concern. Otherwise the main issue is getting logistics down, but with and a to a to b route I think I'm done.
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Some outback riding

With 6 months of hard mba graft and not much riding, it's time to go explore. Looking at doing 2 or 3 days in knysna/george area. And then some sheep herding in the moordenaarskaroo.

Going with the singlespeed on this trip, time to teach it some manners!

Current plan looks to be george 2 plett,with a stop somewhere most likely knysna. Anyone got some info from epic days of open trails?

Will of course update from here.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 6 - Bringing it home

Well we slept inside for once, even if it was a stationary bus. The perfect timing was that the wind had howled the whole night, and hadn't stopped when the son rose. We had our last breakfast and got an escort through the forest as Kumie and Vera were going fishing(and had a dog to collect).

Hard going into the wind on rough roads

Leaving the bluegum forest we got the full realisation of the wind we had to ride into. The road was a terrible loose shale too. So the going was slow. I think there might even have been looks of lets call for the lift going round the group. We had ridden on the dam shore, and eventually pulled off onto a firebreak. A rough firedbreak at that. Things went from bad to worse to fynbos. The map was a sea of white nothing, but my gps had a track going south through it. Riding became impossible as we pushed through head high fynbos. Trying to find the way through ended up with four long faces and me assuring them it was passable. A compromise was reached with the group sitting and me heading on foot to see what lay over the slight ridge ahead of us. I'd been told the route was simple, it was proving nothing like it.

The fynbos slog

I emerged to a 2.4m gamefence, which was beautifully manicured up to the mountain and down to the road. Crossing it was impossible, as the top third was unsupported and the wire threads were taut. On returning, I found what was left of the firebreak, just sparser fynbos. I gave a few options to the crowd, the main being that just 20minutes through the bundu was our way over a fence. Reluctantly they followed, mutiny imminent. We decided to try follow up the mountain and maybe get away over as the fence became less uniform. A solid post arrived soon enough and I scaled it easily enough, taking the bikes one by one.

don't try this at home

Now that we were definitely looking at a delicate situation, I called David Waddilove(Freedom Challenge founder) to discuss the property and route. Luckily he knew exactly where we were, and gave us the go ahead and the manager's contacts. In passing he told us to watch out for buffalo!

Phoning the boss
We got the group over easy enough, but were very cautious in negotiating blind rises and corners. A small herd of eland stayed ahead of us for the next hour, and we kept our height before running down past the magnificent homestead. Somewhere along the way the wind died to nothing.

The view ahead of the fence

From then on we went out of the Elandsberg property onto provincial roads, and kept an eye up on Groenberg, the conical mountain that looks down on Wellington. We would be passing this on the saddle that seperates it from the aplty named Limietberg range. No doubt a little bored by plugging away on the wide roads we found a shady spot at a farm gate for some brunch. By now we were one meal short of home, so all the leftovers were getting decimated. Tuna sachets that had travelled 500km were demolished in no time.

The riding got a bit more interesting when we turned off through the Rooshoek property. It's a mix of soft sand and gum forest but totally quiet. We found a great stream to refill in the stifling heat before hitting the big climb of the day, the saddle we'd seen from afar. The pecking order had been long established with Damon and Kathy up front and us other three keeping company in the rear.

We emerged to the crest with the Wellington valley below us. To get there it was all downhill. The oakdale equestrian estate was rather special, those horses get some proper TLC. The route took us down to the trailhead of the Welvanpas network. Being a hot day, I demanded we stop in at the cafe and took advantage of the koeksister and coke combo deal. By now we were in a built up area dn flitted between farm tracks and town roads. Finally coming through Wellington itself we turned past the massive NG Kerk and took the final turn to Diemersfontein.

We checked in at security and found our way to a nice shady tree to unwind and finish the rest of the food stocks. What more could we do to pass the time as our lifts arrived than hit the winetasting?

Big thanks go to Dirk and the venture bus, as well as the Smyley bunch for getting us all home. We did consider just bedding down in paarl and riding on into monday!