Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Day 22 - The final frontier

What a day! The dreaded Stettyns kloof loomed before us at 8am this morning (after an early puncture for Earle, and harnessing our bikes to our packs). To say it is inimidating from the bottom is an under-statement. The neck in the distance (5km or so) calls your name, but you know you are going to suffer to get there.

A path has been cut part way up the kloof, so the going is not too rough, occasional river crossings, and those darn bikes seem to hook onto every single bush. We were just starting to think about an easy day out when we came to a waterfall, which should have been my warning - just when things are going well this race is going to give you that smack against the back of the head again.

We could not find some markers, so decided we would just create our own path for a bit. Within 30 minutes, Andy and I were stuck in the middle of the thickest bush, and Earle was struggling to stay on his stuffed ankle. At one point I made the decision to go back and find the markers - should be easy enough, as I would just backtrack along the path I had just made. Not! When I turned round the path was gone, and I had to remake a path back.

Every now an then we would call each others names, and you would see bushes shaking were that person was. Funny in a strange kind of way. This was the first time I saw Andy lose his rag - I heard a loud kung-fu scream and saw the bushes around Andy rustling with great ferocity. With that one move Andy had manage to progress about 30cm - fantastic. In the end we got back on the right track and started moving again.

The last section out of the kloof was another bundu bash, and a really, really steep climb up onto the neck. We had learnt from our last experience, and all stuck together though this section, which allowed us to take turns at breaking ground (bush). I also found out why no one complains about "Die Leer" in The Hel - its note close to as difficult as this slog. Our legs were scratched to pieces by Hakia, dead ferns, and anything else that could hang on to us, each step forward was agony in some sections.

After so many km the kloof has a way of causing dispair - one moment we were walking along, the next we were being taken captive by the underbrush. We all reported feelings of "Never getting out of here". The fact was that we only lost about and hour messing around, before getting going again. The absolute relief we felt when standing in icy water with those painfully sore scratched legs was phenominal - instant gratification - until your feet go numb!

Once on the top, we were able to sit down an contemplate the Kloof. It is a fitting end to this race - it signifies everything that is the Freedom Challenge. I have no words to decribe the moment, other than maybe "peacefully content".


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