Sunday, June 24, 2007

Day 4 - Plain sailing

Today was heaven once again - the plains around Matatiele are made for mountain biking. It is unfair that 90% of South Africa's singletrack is concentrated in such a small area. I was fortunate enough to get one of the local MTB gurus to mark my maps with as much singletrack as possible. Earle, Andy and I left after the main group at 7:30am and were immediately singletracking our way to our next stop at Malekholenyane.

For those who are not used to MTB terminology, singletrack is the be-all and end-all of most MTB fanatics (there are other breeds of animal that prefer steep downhills as well). The tracks are basically made by pedestrians and cattle walking across the veld, and are flat, flowing and as smooth as silk. At one stage we rode on a section that was smoother than tar!

So during the day we suddenly decided that even the marked maps were unnecessary, and just headed in basically the right direction, picking up any and every track we could find. We flew through villages amidst the "how are you" calls again, where there are no roads, just thin trails between the huts, wide enough for a bicycle or two. The different trail options were endless, allowing us to skip long sections of district roads and cruise along like there was no tomorrow.

In a day of 70km we did probably 5-10km of road, the rest was through villages or on track. Oh yes, and the temperature was -4degC this morning.

We had lunch at a place called Queens Mercy, where the shop owner told us about his life being detained in the late 70's by the old SA "regime". He has owned the shop for 34 years, and sat and told us many stories. Also in our stop was another mission station - Marizell, with a staircase carved out of solid stone, and awesome stained glass and murals. It amazes me how much effort goes into constructing these huge mission stations in the middle of nowhere, but they are exceptionally well maintained and good to look at.

I don't really have any info on the other riders, other than there are 7 of them a day ahead of us. Our GPS units are probably working properly now, so you'll be able to see us again on the web.

We're in for 2 really big days, then we're at Rhodes and then the fun can begin. Maybe there are a few racers that I can chase across the Karoo.

P.S. Anyone want to buy a Giant Anthem? (My old geared bike)


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