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, 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!

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