Thursday, June 29, 2006

Day 13 - Mountain Zebra Park

After meeting up with Gerrit at the last stop we decided to schedule some double-ups to try and get in before the cut-off on 11 July.

Today was a suitable double up, both stages being about 120km together. The first stretch was straight-forward run into the MOuntain Zebra Park near Craddock, followed by a portgae out the back of the park then an easy ride down the Small Fish River valley to the overnight stop.

We got underway on time after a quick basic breakfast. Godd progress was made until Gerrit had a puncture and a farmer caught us on his land - punishment - coffee and rusks. Gerrits BMX tubes were also a problem to fit onto MTB wheels (he he... he thinks I'm not going to tell anyone). The farmer did show us a more suitable route, and some time was made up. A little zig-zagging and we arrived at the Park, to a delicious omellette and coffee. During breakfast a monkey accosted us and stole some nougat - he saw us conming.

We were expecting a realy tough portage out of the back of the park, and on our way there were stopped by Karoo Cops, who stripped us down in the bush and did lots of test (See Karoo Guinea Pigs below - the guys doing their research).

The portage turned out to be fairly easy with only an 8 foot fence to scale which was done with the aid of a bungee cord. The downhill was awesome - I love downhills that give you cramps in your calves!

The rest of the ride went well with no issues, and arrived at the overnight stop. It is hunting lodge with fantastic decor - animals on the walls, zebra skin carpets, horns for table legs....

I am sold on tubeless and Stans. At one stage I went through a path of dubbeltjies(thorns), and ended up with at least 10 stuck in the front tyre alone, with no pressure loss. At long last - something that works!

T-Bone time for me. Cheers!

Day 12 - Abandonment

I had the mental tenacity of a piece of feta cheese for the first 4hrs today. My knees were sore, my legs were dead, my lungs were collapsing, and at one stage I had triple pneumonia. I even knew how I would get from Cradock to Jhb, when I withdrew.

I left my gracious hosts at about 7:15am, after going back to fetch a forgotten map, then made my way to the days first portage. Thanks to some inside inofrmation from Wil (my host), this went without a hitch, except for huge amounts of mud on the downhill, so much so that I had to walk down hill! I learnt a new trick before walking - how to ride backwards down a mountain, then dismount (elegently). A long gradual uphill on district road followed, but the previous night's rain had turned this into sticky mud, and was exceptionally difficult.

I climbed over a neck and just like that, the mountains were gone. A vast plain lie before me - flat a pancake. After riding across this plain for a while, with the wind at my back, my mentality came back to normal (or what I call normal).

Cruised through a little town call Hofmeyer, stopped at the local tea room and chatted to the locals about the number of abandoned farm houses along the road. Because of the lack of landmarks, I had been navigating by farm names, but just about every house was abandoned and run-down. It seems the farmers need larger lands to sustain the same profits as years gone by, so they buy up the land, then leave the house to fall apart.

Seems there are also a lot of dinosaur bones in the area - didn't see any myself though.

Roade a nice hardpack through to the final navigation section of the day. A stunning rocky jeep track through a kloof, where I saw springbok and kudu.

Got to Grootfontien at 17:45 to find Gerrit still there. He had bike problems, then decided to wait for me - made my day. The tempareture is also picking up - mid-teens during the day.

In Jhb we sneak across farms so that you don't get shot - here you need to hide from the farmers as well 'cos they all want to chat & have coffee. During the day I lost 30 - 45 min chatting to farmers along the way. All exceptionally friendly and helpful. The best conversation was something like this. I ran into a bunch of hunters on the back of a bakkie - you know - the boys weekend away type - all rowdy and brave:

Them: Is jy velore? (Are you lost?)
Me (In all my spandex glory): Nee, ek ry Kaap toe. (No, I'm riding to Cape Town)
T: Is jy fokken mal? (Are you f%#king crazy?)
M: Nee, ek hou daarvan om viets te ry (No, I like riding my bike)
T: Jy is fokken mal. (You are f%#king crazy)
... and about another 5 minutes of abuse...

125km done today.

Thats me for today...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Day 11 - Farm Boy

Slept, ate, slept, ate... feel better will carry on tomorrow. Thanks to Stephanie and Wil Terblance who looked after a total stranger.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Day 10 - Fever!

Oh no! I woke up this morning with a raging fever - I was walking round the cottage in shorts and t-shirt, not feeling the cold, but I could see my breath. Gerrit basically sent me back to bed. I woke about 1.5hrs later feeling a lot better, packed and got going to try and haul the other two in. For about 200m.

Decided to get on the main tar road to the nearest town - only 50km away, to get to a doctor. I was doing about 10km/h, my lungs were bursting, and there was nothing in my legs. I was really struggling, especially out of concern of ruining my race by riding sick, but I had to get to the doctor. Lo and behold my guardian angel helped once again, and added another person to my list of generous people. We are so dependent on the help of others, considering that this is an un-supported race.

Stef owns the guest house where we are staying tonight, and was on the way to get a dress for her daughter - miles aways from where she lives. Justoutside of town she picked me up, took me to the doctor (who is a really good vet MTB racer), and after explaining to him how the race has been going so far, he sorted me out with drugs, and booked me off for a day. Rather lose a day than trash the race.

Stef then gave me a bakkie to drive to the farm with, where I met another MTB enthusiast (Wil the owner of the farm). Immediately showered and got clean - chatted for a while, and they kindly allowed me to use the computer to update all my blogs.

I'll be satying here for tomorrow, but my bike got a good clean, my clothes got a good clean, and I'm going to try and sleep this bug of now.

Day 9 - Don't follow someone elses tire tracks

FUBAR is the key word for today - Google if you are not sure what this means.

Its now 00:20 and we still haven't got to bed. Gerrit is bathing, I'm eating (more), and Xolani has passed out. Not sure if he even had a proper supper. There is no elecricity here, so I can't charge light batteries, or my cell phone - but I haven't had a signal for 3 days, so doesn't really matter. There is, however, hot water and a huge log fire, so its not all bad. Boy is it cold here - I don't think we have had a tempareture higher than 10deg since my antics up in the drakensburg. We are learning to deal with frozen water bottles, and camelback pipes. We generally ride in full leggings, 2pr socks, and over about 4 layers of under-garments our all wether jackets - full gloves the whole day.

Today's route was 2 big navigation sections early in the day, followed by a dirt road grind to the next stop.

We did 2 the 2 navigation sections without becoming too unstuck - a little detour here and there, but we're used to that now. We picked up Ben and Cornel's tire tracks, which we followed - fatal. Unfortunately they took the wrong route, which made the trip about 30km longer. At our late-in-the-day pace, that's about 3hrs riding.

The dirt road to the town was a killer; 75km starting at 3:30 in the afternoon. No intermediate landmarks, rain, cold and windy - nothing to do but turn the legs. After night fall it got even worse. You cannot see if yuo are going uphill or downhill, just change gears till you feel comfortable.

We got here at about 11:30pm - shattered, but happy to be here.

Today's scenery was the best yet - we could see snow covered peaks back towards the Drakensburg, and ahead of us the apparently flat Eastern Cape region - we now know that it is not quite flat. While sitting on the top of one of the peaks Gerrit said, "We MTB for moments like these". Even the rivers look pretty - ice forms along the edges, and long ice crystals form on the reeds.

Tomorrow we'll leave a bit later, as there are no portage sections, and hopefully we'll get there before sun set.

My clothes need a good wash. My bike needs a good wash

I really miss talking to Corrinne when I feel like it - especially when days get a bit long - there is so much I want to share with her.

Day 8 - Forgotten vallies

With the big mountains behind us, it was time to start the slog across the Eastern Cape into the Karoo. Gerrit & Xolani left at 5:30am,
to ensure that they got to the portage section before dark. Grev woke up sick, so stayed in Rhodes. We'll have to wait and see what happens to him. I carried on alone to the next stop Rus de Winter in the Barkly East Area.

I initially expected the terrain to be fairly flat, far from it actually - the climbs are shorter bu steeper, sapping your energy. We spent the day going up river vallies, over the neck, then down into the next valley. The roads generally meander along the river, occasionally climbing up on the slopes if the valley walls are too steep. There was still a lot of snow on the slopes, so the trip was quite spectacular - I even had time to nail Gerrit with a snowball. I had caught Gerrit and Xolani at about 11:30am. I have driven on the main road through this area before, and had no idea that these valleys even existed.

At one point I saw about 30 vultures sorting out a carcass, about 20m from the road - they are huge birds.

We travelled the rest of the way together, and ended the day with quite a harsh portage, over an unmarked neck - pick-up-and-carry for 4km after doing 90km. Ouch.

Rus de Winter is a huge old farmhouse, each room the size of a double garage. The food was excellent, and the hospitality top notch. Elizibeth, our host, came in at 5:30am to cook us a warm breakfast. We had a traditional Greek Bake for supper - nearly like a lasagne, but with a cinammon topping - if any one knows what this, please let me know.

Tomorrow we're of to Smutspas - the race organisers have redirected Xolani to go on district roads, so its just Gerhard and I.

Left Rhodes - 7:00am
Arrived Rus de Winter - 6:00pm
Distance - 112km

Day 7 - R&R

Day 7 - R&R

After a good nights rest we did basic bike cleanups. The bikes were all frozen after spending a night outside, so we had to pour hot water onto the gears to get them working again. Thanks to Gerrit for cleaning my bike, while I was sorting out my saddle.

We hopped on bakkies and were taken back to the race route. We climbed Naude's neck pass, the highest road in South Africa, then cruised down into towm. I could see where I would have joined the route yesterday. It was sickening to see that I was only 1km or so from the road.

Spent the afternoon washing clothes, bikes and posting. A nice quiet day for a change.

The Ride to Rhodes team have finished their ride now, and will be heading home. They have had a tough 7 days, but have faired exceptionally well, considering they are mostly social riders, and have spent 12hrs+ on the bike every day. They are a tough bunch.

Tomorrow we start Karoo slogging - lots of dirt roads. Unfortunately Xolani has withdrawn, so it will be Grev, Gerrit and myself who will tackle the Karoo together. Ben and Cornel are 3/4 days ahead of us now, and doubling up frequently, so there is no hope of catching them.

Day 6 - Snow

Got woken by the chiefs wife with a hot pot of tea, and some water to wash with. Left at first light for an 8km portage up Lahana pass. The going was hard, but I made good progress.

Stopped at a cairn about 3/4 of the way up and took a video. The sun was out, and the weather was good. I could see the top, and left with about 30 min to go. 20 minutes later I was in thick mist and it was snowing. I wqas becoming disoriented, so backtracked all the way down. At one point I took the wrong ridge down, but once I got below the mist line, could get back on track. The snow covers the pathways, so you just have to guess where to go - not good in the mountains, but I got out safely.

I then went up the alterantive longer route, but near the top was told by shepherds to rather go back down, as it was becoming too thick and I was likely to get lost. The snow was falling quite heavily at this stage. Back to the bottom again. I had few options left, so I decided to head to the nearest "town", about 30km away. Took me about 2hrs to get there along a "main" road. The mud on the road was like porridge, and sticky as hell - made for slow going. At one point I decided I was hungry, and stopped to eat 3 energy bars, 2 gels, and 4 small chocolates. That felt good. Nearer to town I stopped to chat to locals, and was then hit by a bakkie - went flying over my handlebars, and my saddle needs some work, but else I was OK. For his efforts the driver was nominated to take me into town.

At Mount Fletcher, I hopped off the bakkie - but this was the first time that I have felt threatened since starting the ride. 2 friendly Indian guys invited me into their shop, and gave me coffee, biscuits and a primus stove to warm myself up with. Phoned Corrinne to track David down, which she promptly did. She cried when she heard my story, but I was OK.

David arranged for a lift for me to a temporary overnight stop, where I was re-united with the rest of the gang - they also had a day in the snow, so a fun day was had by all.

I am humbled by the generosity of the people I have met along the route so far.
1. A school teacher who lent me her cell-phone to reach David. She would not take money, even thought she only had R3.90 of airtime.
2. The young shepherd biys who gave me a place to sleep.
3. Lehana village headman, who treated me like visiting royalty
4. Christoper, the shopkeeper, who made me feel at home, and fed me
5. The 2 Indian guys in the shop.
6. The family who picked me up in the cold and got me to the overnight stop safely.

My feet have got huge blisters, one of my nails is going to fall out, but I feel strong, my spirits are high, and I've had the adventure of my life - so far.

Sorry to everyone for the stress caused, but I tried to behave sensibly in all cases, and not put myself at risk.


Day 4 & 5 - A night out

I left Masakala near Matatiele at 3am. Xolani wanted to join me, but as his map-reading skills are not to good I left him. Thank goodness, considering what was to come. It was a touch cold, and after a while I stopped to make Slush Puppies and an ice lolly (my water bottles froze up, and my camelback pipe was frozen solid). Other than that the route through to Marezel Mission station was uneventful, but again with the most glorius stretches of single-track. Arrived at the support station at 9am, and had a quick breakfast - omellete and steamed bread. Delicious!

Left for Vuvu at 10am. All went well until I could not find the entrance to one of the portage sections, and ended up crawling around the wrong kloof, instead of climbing onto a plateau. In the process I lost about 3 hours - shows what fatigue can do to your logical processes. I re-routed to an alternative, but longer route and rejoined the correct route later in the day. Darkness, however, caught up with me, and I was still up on the mountain on singletrack, and ill defined pathways. I heard a dog barking, and went towards it. It was guarding a shepherd's hut, where two youngsters were living (15 yrs and 19 yrs old). I was to spend the night with them. we played charades for a while (they could not speak english, and I could not speak Portuguese), and I passed out on their only bed (they insisted). Another 2 boys arrived, and the 4 of them heddled on the floor of the hut.

At first light I waited for them to have breakfast, then we left. They soon told me to leave my bicycle and follow them. I thought I was going to be part of tomorrow's supper, but they took me to the most exquisite Bushman paintings. There are apparently lots more, but I did not realy have time to explore. A sure-footed donkey lead the way down, and I was on a known road at about 9:30am.

Another big climb lead me up to a shop where our food supplies were left. I met Christopher the shopkeeper who gave me putu and chicken for lunch - food is tasting better and better as I go along. I also had a wash in a bowl, which caused some consternation, as some of the local kids had not seen a white person before, and even fewer had seen chest hair. After playing the Feely game with my chest hair for a while I got going to the nights official rest stop.

Upon arrival they knew nothing of our impending arriveal, so I continued in search of the elusive school. I finally got to a principal who has a school at the base of the pass I had to climb then next day, and he hooked me up with the area chief. He used to work on the mines, so can speak Fanakalo, so we chatted for ages about the state of the mining economy in South Africa, his kids, and the attitude of the locals to education - not good. He sleeps in his own hut seperate from the rest of the family, and I slept on his spare bed.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The last 2 days

I know that everybody that is watching this blog has not seen any new postings from Andre or I over the past 2 days. That’s because I have been an emotional wife and wanted Andre to give his version of events over the last 2 days but he has been unable to post anything due to signal problems. Once the mail comes through from him, I will post his blog but in the mean time, let me give you an update from my point of view.
I had heard from Andre on Wednesday morning after he spent the night in the shepherd’s hut (he later told me that the shepherd boys wouldn’t let him leave without them showing him some bushman paintings – awesome, hey?). I started to get worried 24 hours later when I hadn’t heard from him but was relieved when my phone rang at 4:45pm on Thursday. The relief didn’t last long because the conversation went something like this:
Me: (no hello) Thank goodness, I was getting really worried :-)
Andre: Sorry babes, listen carefully. You have to get a pen because you are going to have to write this down. I had to turn around on the pass and come back down the mountain because it is snowing heavily and visibility is very poor.
Me: Oh God, are you okay?
Andre: My battery is going flat and I need you to call David (the race organizer) and ask him what I can do. I am freezing cold and can’t stay here tonight. David is staying at the Walkerbout Hotel in Rhodes (I heard Walk About Hotel and spent 15 minutes on the internet trying to find the number). I’m going to try and find shelter because I am standing under a Vodacom tower in the snow. Tell him that I am willing to take a time penalty, but I need to be collected.
Me: Okay, please try and find some electricity for your phone. I will call you back in a minute. Bye.
At this point my stomach tightened and my adrenalin was pumping.
I tried the municipality which was closed because I didn’t know where else to get the number. But then I got help from a guy in the office for some internet assistance and he managed to realize that I’d spelt the name incorrectly. I called the hotel. A lady answered and this is how the conversation went:
Me: Hi, please can I speak to David Waddilove?
Lady: He’s not here yet.
Me: Do you know where I can get hold of him please?
Lady: Oh, he’s with some riders in Vrederus.
Me: My husband is one of the riders and he’s stuck in the snow in Mount Fletcher and I need David to call him because he needs help.
Lady: Oh s***, that’s really bad. The other riders are all safe and sound in Vrederus.
Me: Okay, that doesn’t really help me…do you have a number please?
Lady: No, I don’t…hmmm…that’s bad. Hold on a minute….okay, please call the farm. Maybe they can help you. The number is (blah, blah, blah)
Me: Thank you. Bye

I got hold of the farm and the lady said that David was in a bungalow on the farm. I explained the situation and asked him to call me back urgently. 3 minutes later I called again and they told me David was in the shower and he would phone me back as soon as he was done. I didn’t care if he was on the toilet; I was just desperate to speak to him. I then spoke to Andre and he had found a shop where the very friendly locals gave him a packet of Lemon Creams, a cup of coffee, a heater and electricity. He was absolutely fine and I felt much better. David called me later to explain that Andre would be collected and would be brought to the farm and would be safe. It was then that I burst into tears – I got such a fright and was so relieved that he was going to be safe.
Andre called later to say that he had eaten and was safe again – his legs were sore, but he was going to have a bath. I asked him when last he had had a bath and he replied, “you don’t want to know”. The poor guy that fetched him!

Yesterday (Friday), Andre arrived safely in Rhodes at about lunch time. He found a washing machine, did some bike maintenance and got nourishment and rehydrated. He was in really good spirits though and had decided to stick with the group for few days. So watch this space and hold thumbs.

Till next time,

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Andre didn't make the double shift

I didn't hear from Andre last night and this morning I found out why. He didn't want to worry me and let me know that he didn't make it to the second stop that he had planned for yesterday. Andre got hopelessly lost in the Drakensberg and with the light fading fast, he didn't want to take any chances. So as night fell he found a shepherd's hut and knocked on the door. 4 shepherd boys let him in and in broken dialect insisted that Andre sleep on the one and only skinny single bed and they would sleep on the floor. Imagine riding the whole day and then having to sleep in all your kit because it's so cold...hmmmm.
Anyway, the boys gave Andre a blanket and he slept fitfully. This morning they boiled Andre some water so that he could eat some of his emergency food - Oatso Easy. They promised to show Andre the way down the mountain so that he could get onto the right road. Andre said he could see the mountain he was supposed to be on...but it wasn't close to the one he slept on!
The boys had never seen a camera before and were so excited to have their photo taken because then they could actually see themselves! Bless...
Andre said the day looked clear and he was positive and ready to start the day again. That was at 7 this morning and I haven't heard from him since then. Thank you for all the words of encouragement and support - Andre reads them all and really does appreciate them.
Till next time,

Monday, June 19, 2006

Day 3 - Singletrack heaven

Typed up this whole post then lost it, so here it the short version.

Left at 5:45 and pushed, rode, carried out of the mountains for 4hrs - awesome scenery.

Rode away from Greville at this stage and continued alone. Ate dust on a district road for the next 2hrs - really difficult- big climbs, and a rocky road surface.

Was just starting to fade a bit when i got to some of the best singletrack. 50km/h through villages, dongas, across a plateau. Fast, flat and winding. 2hrs + of this. Thanks to battle and human feet.

Its now after 9. Grev, xolani and gerrit are still out. Must be lost.

Left at 5.45. Arrived at 15.20. 98km.

Leaving at 3am tomorrow - 2 stages 150 km. Expecting to be out for 18 hrs.

Will probably only post on wed. Thanks for the messages of encouragement-they really help. Cheers

My elated husband

Today was day 3 for Andre and I spoke to an extremely elated, relaxed man tonight who is doing really well. Andre is very happy and is starting to eat more and sleep deeper. He arrived in Lesotho at 3pm today to dancing locals, important dignitries and even the mayor. He was a bit overwhelmed but managed to absorb all the attention, hold a conversation and eat not 1, not 2 but 7 vetkoek! He saw some snow on the Drakensberg mountains and has climbed more than he climbed on the Epic. Andre rode for hours on the most awesome single track he has ever been on and said that he rode for 3 hours without seeing a single person, car or animal. The mind boggles, I know, but he is in his absolute element. Andre has been encouraged with all the messages everybody had sent and I get the feeling he doesn't want to come home!
I wanted to know what he was wearing because he has a very important dinner with the locals tonight and not much of a wardrobe to choose from...he had on his cycling shoes (cos he ditched the takkies 2 days ago), a pair of socks, black cycling leggings, a pair of shorts he had packed, 2 jerseys, no deodorant and a beanie. Can you picture it? :-)
Tomorrow Andre is doubling up and will be doing 2 stages so I don't expect to hear from him until Wednesday. As soon as I do, I will keep everyone posted. Until then, please keep the words of encouragement coming because he really does appreciate the support.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Day 2 the first mishap

Ride status: Cornel gone. Ben left at 2am. My spies along the route say that Cornel slept in a shepherd's hut and left this morning. So Ben is about 3hrs behind Cornel.

We (Greville, Gerrit, Xolani and I) left at about 7.30, then spent 2hrs looking for a pathway (you can't miss it). We just got going when Gerrit's shock broke. He is ok, but i'm not sure what he is going to do.

Then we cruised through Creighton and along some dirt road. Think there are lots of carbs and electrolytes in dust, 'cos i sure was eating a lot of it, and going really well. I soon left them and rode on my own. Went through a small town where i was cheered like a Tdf rider, then had a 10min discussion with 20 kids about straight or right. Then hopped off and tried to explain to them what I was doing. I think it went something like this:
Me in Fanakalo. Them in Chinese
Them: where you from?
Me: PMB to CT in 3 weeks.
T: are you stupid?
M: there are two horses coming at me from behind.
T: the white man is stupid. He probably drives a Volvo but he rides a bicycle.
Do you have sweets or money?
M: hamba kahle.

Continued on through a pine plantation then into a magnificent natural forest. Nearly fell off a few times cos i was looking up at the trees.

Came to the major portage of the day. Race director, "You will see 4 Huts. The path runs through the middle of them". The entire hill is dotted with huts! English is not a universal language - I would still be trying to find the huts if i asked. Just went on gut feel and maps and finally got here. Many others will be out in the dark.

Final note. Gerrit got a new shock and is on his way.

Rode 85km today. Climbed 1800m. 8hrs on the road.

Yesterday was 110km. Climbed 2200m. 8.5hrs riding.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Day 1....

Day 1 is over in 8h30 and 110km. We arrived for registration in Maritzburg a little after 5 yesterday to find 1 anxious looking wife, 2 excited doctors taking samples (!) and boxes and boxes of fudge and nougat for the riders. The 5 riders we found had excitement, anxiety and nerves written all over their faces but they all had huge smiles. We had dinner and then a "race briefing" which involved guest speaker, Ian Player, last years winner, Wessel and the race organiser, David, all giving tips on when to ride, when to walk and when to resist more coffee at the stop overs. I must admit that I got nervous when David said he'd had meetings with the Chiefs in Lesotho and if the riders experienced any problems, they were just to ask for the Chief. Goodness.
It was an early night for all but after seeing others' bags only weighing 7kg, Andre only got 5 hours sleep after stressing over the what he had packed. He left some day 1 food and a shirt...and his deodrant. Hmm. But some guys said they weren't even taking toothpaste so I didn't feel so bad after that. Imagine when he gets back....!
We had breakfast early and got to the town hall (starting point) at 6:30am. The multitool was out to fix something or other before the wheels had even been put on.....hmmmm. Anyway, as the clock struck 7am, the group was off.
Andre has just called to say that he has already dumped his takkies and his MP3 player and charger because his backpack is just too heavy. He is now at Allandale farm near Cryton (?) and has been over Hella-Hella pass...he has christened it O'hell O'hell pass....
Andre is in good spirits, got lost for a bit but is feeling good. He says he has already eaten like a horse and the hospitality of the locals has been amazing. Cell phone signal is bad so I might not hear from him for a few days but do log onto the Freedom Challenge website for more updated information. As soon as I hear anything more, I will keep everybody posted.
Please send him comments if you like....he really does appreciate the support.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A word from the wife...

Oh goodness, I thought the training part was hard to deal with but these pre-race nerves are much are my pre-race nerves, not Andre's! With only 2 days to go, the tension at home has mounted slightly and tempers are a little shorter and sentences a little sharper. I'm a worried about the safety of my husband and of course how I will manage to remember to switch on the irrigation at the set times, how I will find the right globe for the right light in the right room and if I can find the dishwasher powder since I never use it.....! But I am very, very proud of Andre and it will be an awesome achievement for him. Good luck, love, I know you can do it. I will be thinking about you all the time and know you will do well. Take it easy out there, relax and remember that you are well prepared.
And if I'm stuck in a domestic crisis, there are many friends to call on....aren't there? Anybody?

A tight squeeze

3 days to go and I finally managed to get all my stuff into the backpack.

The bag weighs about 9.7kg with a full load of water, so after I add the last odds and ends I'll probably get to 10kg. I'll be picking up my big light batteries at one of the support staions, which will add another 0.5kg, so I'll probably end up with around 10.5 - 11kg of kit. Not too bad for 3 weeks of riding - I'll probably have to throw most of the clothes away once I'm finished (or they'll leave on there own accord).

Thanks to everyone who left well-wishes. I'm amazed at how quickly the e-mail network can spread news - I only added the hit counter today, and its already taken 20 hits,

Friday, June 09, 2006

My trusty steed

I recently sold my car, and bought a bike with the proceeds. I didn't have to pay in too much, so I reckon I got a good deal.

Click for big

It weighs just over 12kg, not that that matters much considering I'll be adding another 10-12kg in kit and food.

Many thanks to my two major sponsors for their contribution. Linden Cycles put the bike together, and gave me a really good "newspaper" price. My other sponsor was Corrinne who keeps working hard for bonusses - she paid the very good "newspaper" price.

I do very little to deserve this kindness, but it is much appreciated.

Mapping 101

The course is not marked in any way. We are given 75+ topographical sheets with the route marked on them. From these we do our navigation to the support stations. Possible emergency stops, and a written description of the route is also provided, just to assist in the more diffcult sections.

The green hilite marks the route

Thank goodness I can read a map well, so I'm not too worried about that.

I reprinted a lot of the maps to make them smaller, and I've sent these down to each support station, so I only carry the the maps that are necessary for a particular section.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Guinea pigs in the Karoo

Now we're being used for some scientific study - no not investigations on insanity / cuckoo-ness - something to do with the effects of multi-day sports on the human body. They're going to monitor our weight, hyrdation levels, fat percentage and calorie intake throughout the event. I tried to get them to investigate the effects of a daily massage on us. Sorry for me.

Someone asked me what I've sent down in my support station parcels. Mostly food - energy drinks, sportsbars and nuts. Also some bicycle chains, tubes, refills for toiletries, occasional fresh socks, batteries for my toys. And my maps.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

What to pack when you need everything

So, what do I carry with me - snow, darkness and a broken bike are the main considerations. And I have to carry it all with me, so weight does feature as well, but I'd rather hurt a bit carrying too much, than die of hypothermia, or breaking my neck trying to ride in the dark.

mmm...maybe not

Most of the kit I'm taking along is clothing - I'll follow the layered approach, which means I can progressively ride in temparetures from 35 down to about -5 (maybe a bit less). Then I'm stuffed. The only spare clothing I have is riding shorts, so that I can wash them, and not have to ride in wet kit.

I wish I could take a spare bike, but I've only got the basics - tubes, spokes, brake pads and some smaller bits and pieces. Haven't decided if I'm taking a spare tyre yet. I'll decide once I've packed everything and have an idea of the weight.

Big lights and a heavy battery - this is my only gamble. I really enjoy night riding with good lights, so I've packed these with the aim of doing a couple of night stages through the Karoo.

And a load of other crap - basic survival kit, first aid kit,and my gadgets (phone, mp3 player, camera...).

Haven't packed this lot yet, so I might be scaling down a bit, but that'll be the task for this weekend.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ice-cream anyone?

The aim is to race...mmm...ride from Pietermaritzburg to Paarl near Cape Town on a MTB (human powered device a.k.a. bicycle). The route is mostly off-road with very little tar. There are some hike-a-bike sections where riding is not possible - hopefully not too much of this. The total distance is about 2200km with 80km on tar.

There are support stations set up about 100km apart. I think David (the organiser) is no good at map reading, 'cos I see some stages that are 150km apart. Eish - I'll worry about that when I get there.

We can send a 2 lt ice-cream box to each support station with supplies for each stage. About 3 towns are encountered along the way, so most supplies must be sent to the support stations, carried with us, or stolen along the way (from Ben's report last year, this is an option - see In total I sent about 30kg of supplies down divided into 24 parcels.

PS. I have lots of ice-cream at home if anyone wants some. Many flavours to choose from.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Where in the world is Andre?

Click on the route map for an enlarged view. You can save it to your PC for better view. The letters along the route are the same as my map sections. I'll refer to the letters in my posts, so you'll have an idea where I am (even though I might have no idea where I am!).

My new site

Hi all,

Welcome to my Freedom Ride blogspot. I'll be trying to update this site during the Freedom Ride, so you'll all know what's happening. Corrinne will also post things that we chat about.

For those that haven't been into a blog before, there is a comments link at the bottom. You can leave abuse there, and I'll pick it up when I get a chance.