DAY 13 FREEDOM CHALLENGE RACE ACROSS SOUTH AFRICA – 2016 DAY 13

DAY 13 FREEDOM CHALLENGE RACE ACROSS SOUTH AFRICA – 2016 DAY 13

Day 13  GROOTDAM TO GEGUN 85KM
6.10am – 14.30

Tony and Caren had also checked into Grootdam before we had arrived the night before and we spent a brief moment chatting. This was the last time we ever saw them. Day 13, as we left at 6.10am they were already long gone as per the log sheet records in their room. They would go on to finish a few days before us.

True to form as on a winter’s morning, it was bitterly cold as we made our way out the gates of Grootdam and headed for Gegun which was an unmanned intermediate stop. The days aim was to get to Toekomst. We all agreed that our bikes were also in need of some overhaul and TLC. My brakes were feeling very spongy and a sure sign my brake pads were worn down.

We had two portages to conclude for the day and one was rideable, with a little walking and pushing bikes up steep inclines and the other was a real hike a bike session off a mountain through thick vegetation.

We had been fortunate up to this point in the race that most of our above average game fences we had to get over were either low fence lines or open game fences where one could just unlatch and move through. This morning was the start of first of a few we had to climb over during the remainder of our journey.

With Neville perched at the top of the gate, Gerald and I on either side, it made for easy going, passing bikes and gear over the high rises. How the guys on their own do it, would take some doing. There was also fair humor with this first crossing. 

Before we had decided to climb over we had heard lions roaring somewhere close to our left and because of thick bush, we could not see much, even in the breaking dawn. So concerned were we for this crossing, Gerald went back to a nearby farmhouse to get some clarity on the matter only to return to be informed we are on course and not to worry about the lions as they are in their own enclosures.

We scaled the fence and I didn’t know if I imagined it or not, the pace of the riding was rather hasty as we took and followed jeep track off to our right up the mountain, hearing yet more roars again!

Once through this section and a couple of lion jokes passed we were basically over and through this jeep track section heading for the next. With the sun warming things up, rough, rutted tracks and stunning desolate countryside within a valley, we eventually arrived at the vicinity of the farm Monteaux which was also the close proximity of our portage off the mountain. This was made easier by the local farmer having got his workers to paint a number of rocks white that would become our beacons and lead us on a path all the way down and through the thick vegetation we had to get through. The farm workers alongside the farm pointed us in the right direction as we were passing through and clue to where the start of the painted rock beacons would be.

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There was absolutely no riding done off this portage and must say rather warm as well. I remember thinking how happy I was with the choice of mountain bike boots I had chosen for this race and the amount of support it delivered to my ankles as well while rock hoping from one to the next. Once through and off here we managed to find a farm road which would take us off to a main tar road further on.

On reaching the tar we headed in a somewhat southerly direction and on approaching the town of Pearson which was about two kilometres ahead of the left turnoff we were to take, we decided to ride into town and see what refreshments we could obtain from the local shops. Cold coca-cola was definitely on my mind. Well! we found more than just that! Red bull, chocolate, biscuits, energade, lucky seven sardines for Gerald, potato crisps and the likes. It was like absolute heaven when, as most full days out, you don’t have a lot of access to this stuff!

Red Bull gives you wings!

Lucky 7!!

After our frenzied indulgence we headed back out of town the way we had come and took the right turn onto district road that would take us to Gegun.
We decided collectively that we would most probably spend the rest of the day and night at Gegun. The riding was all district road and different scenery as would match the Karoo district description. The Karoo is semi arid and the roads can stretch for endless miles going up and down as well as generally undulating. 
We eventually took the turn off to the left at the sign post indicating Gegun, a lone farmhouse situated in the middle of no-where with its own sense of beauty and peace that only those that appreciate this atmosphere would come to appreciate.

We arrived at Gegun at 14h30
The house, unoccupied and key hidden in a place known to us, was well stocked. We decided and confirmed with race office that we were staying and that we needed to run some maintenance as well on the bikes.
I calculated that I had done over one thousand kilometres plus already and hence my rear brake pads needed replacing as I was down to less than a millimeter of pad before I would be touching steel. Some of those steep descents and gnarly terrain all the way from Pietermaritzburg to here, to this point had certainly played a role.
So there we all were! Outside in the farmyard, late afternoon sun slivering down, pulling water in a watering can from the nearby reservoir and washing bikes along with replacing spare parts as well as tightening up bolts that needed attention and the likes! 
Thereafter it was settling down again for the evening, all prepping done and a plan in motion for the next few days decided on.

There is something about the Karoo and it’s silence. Its a place where at times, everything seems to stand still, a moment in time, under an early evening orange lit sky, which brings along a sense of peace, its own landscape peace….

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