Monday, July 03, 2006

Day 16 - Knee deep in the ....

Just when I thought I was getting to grips with this race, another curve ball. It was after dark and we were wading knee deep through a river - we had to cross it at least 10 times, some crossings being 100m long.

Today's stage from Bucklands to Cambria is not a particularly long one, but is definitely up there with the harder stages. 12hrs to do 80km gives some idea

Xolani did not come in last night, so Gerrit and I started with a nice eay ride out the back of Buclands, across a few farms then over a mountain called the Perdeberg. We engaged the help of of the locals to where the track started. His words wisdom were, "The path is undetectable, but you'll find it." - Duh! We found what could've been a path during the 1st Boer War, and use that - hard going as it was slippery slate.

After getting to to the top, the path vanished completely, but some good navigation by Gerrit got us back on track. Farmers have no respect for gradient or erosion, but this makes for the most fantastic downhills - rocky, slippery and super fast - you've got to be focus all the time, else you're off the edge. We exited this section at 11:15am with about 60km to go.

The dirt road to our next off-road excursion took us down a magnificent kloof - steep gradients, and lots of fast straights. Unfortunately the drops on the side where 300m straight down, so I wasn't that brave. At the bottom we stopped at a farm and were given some bread - the slices were the size of my hand, and the loaf at least 50cm long - never seen anything like it in my life before - thought I was in heaven - delicious!

The Ossewa (Oxwagon) jeep track was our next off-road trip. I thought it would be one long downhill, but it turned out to be a serious of ups and down's with one major drop at the end. I think the gradient is steeper than the Rhodes cement tracks - without the cement.

The final stretch of the day, in darkness, was a really nice winding section along a wide river, with very steep walls, towering over us - quite dramatic in the moonlight. We had to cross the river a few times, a bit cold, but luckily the tempareture tonight is quite pleasant, so it wasn't too much of an issue. In some places we could not see where the path exited the river, so we just waded until we found the spot. This took us to our overnight stop in Cambria.

We spent the day in the most magnificent mountain ranges, around the BAviaanskloof area. There is plenty of game - at dusk about 10 kudu crossed the path about 30-40m in front of us. The plantlife is varied, and there are lots of species of birds. This must be one of the best wilderness areas in the country - bring 4X4 though.

Tomorrow we will not double up as we originally planned - can be done later. We want to recover a it for the few big days to come especially 150km to Prince Albert. Also too scared to tackle a 180km stage!

Body feeling good, mind still strong - at no stage have I struggled to keep moving - each peddle stroke takes us closer to home.


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