Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Freedom Challenge 5. Phase Two, if you can call it that

Simply getting to Rhodes in one piece had lifted my spirits, so as the very welcome respite sped past in an evening of watching others receiving their whips, the long trek ahead started to occupy my thoughts.

To be quite honest, for me the next bit was all just a jumble of farm names, portages, legendarily hospitable people and more portages. With the possibility of some rain snow and wind to relieve the boredom....  ;)

Late departure from Rhodes (Image Ian Verwayen)

The departure from Rhodes was later than planned, getting riders out of warm dining rooms is never easy. Somehow the first few hills out of town seemed quite do-able and we found an early rythmn with Rob and Tess setting a cracking pace. Sadly, the wheels came off all too soon. Tess and Rob decided to abandon. I must admit that this shook me up somewhat, two strong riders bailing right in front of us.

We parted on a hill looking back towards Rhodes, knowing that we had lots of work still to do and not a lot of time.
Eating. A lot. Often. (Image IanVerwayen)


Before long we came to the famous Bokspruit turnoff and a memorable tailwind on the sweeping descent. The adventure was off to a good start as we flew down into the Sterkspruit valley, all these places I'd heard of over the years were now unfolding in front of me. The morning's ride down the Sterkspruit valley and on to Chesneywold was a dream and we knew Mienkie would be waiting with her renowned hospitality and even more renowned food. While we enjoyed a very generous lunch, the clock ticked at double-time, so much so that the tracker watchers were concerned about our leisurely approach.

Brimming with confidence and lunch we made haste towards the infamous Slaapkrantz portage. By now we were generally in agreement on the navigation, but that too, was about to change. The light was fading fast as we reached the top of the nek, truth be told it was actually dark. We were fortunate to spot the Cypress trees in the remaining light, giving us a rough bearing on the Spitskop farmhouse.

A rare closeup of the cameraman

There was quite a lot of walking....

This was another ungainly scramble downhill in the pitch dark, offering the usual salutations to a certain David. After finding the farmhouse and confirming it's identity (by the presence of the murals) we blundered our way out of the valley and finally ended up at Slaapkrantz. Warmth, food and hospitality are always a welcome change from cold and dark.

The next morning out of Slaapkranz we made good progress over the Louterbron and Bontehoek portages, not without the by now usual reading and rereading of the narratives. If ever Paul Dalton doubts his patience, he only needs to think back to the n plus 1nth time I asked him to reread a previously reread section of the narrative. I sometimes wonder how I wasn't shot and left next to the road.

After giving the tracker watchers a bit of a scareby veering 180 degrees off course, we pulled ourselves together and headed for Rossouw. Here we finally managed to find some water at the local    SAPS before making for Moordenaarspoort, albeit at a somewhat reduced pace as we were running on reserve.
When we arrived at Moordenaarspoort, well after dark, we discovered that there was a cold front on it's way. That meant wind, so we decided to move on to Kranzkop given that it was a relatively flat and easily navigable section. It turned out to be a good move.

The 38km was covered quite comfortably after the quick supper at Moordenaarspoort. Kranzkop was our first experience of a "self-service"support station, the hosts had everything set out for us. After a late second supper, we all crashed, not knowing what the cold front held in store for us.

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