DAY 21 FREEDOM CHALLENGE RACE ACROSS SOUTH AFRICA – 2016 DAY 21
DAY 21 ROUXPOS TO MONTAGU 130KM
The routines were pretty much tuned at this stage of the game and getting up to head out was purely on habit. Rise and shine. Breakfast. Last thank you’s and goodbyes for awesome, unselfish hosting and incredible warm people!
We departed Rouxpos farmstead at 6.30am and made our way though cultivated farmland on farm jeep track dodging sprinkler systems spraying water across portion of land until we reached the main district road.
We would ride a short distance on the main road and then turn off left onto another section of rough jeep track for a number of kilometers to link us to another section of dirt district road. The terrain was becoming a little easier in places but still rough. The frost was thick and the air chilled as we made our way along this section which effectively was along a dry river cutting through the valley.
Somewhere along this section, I went into a small panic as I realized after covering all this distance from the start I was faced with my first mechanical. I had no compression on my gear shifter, hence no gears. My cables were intact but my shifter was delivering no reaction to finger command. I could see myself having to move into a single speed setup and there was still a bit of climbing to be done. This was going to slow me down for sure.
I echoed my nervous aura to Neville and Gerald and realized that I could possibly find myself alone for the first time during the entire race as I couldn’t expect them to wait for me if I was slowed down.
I immediately felt a little hopeless and also realized and felt how dependent I had become on my compatriots throughout this journey and maybe so all of us on each other. I was going through my gears hoping it was all just an over shift or something and that I would have gears. For a few kilometers I rode effectively single speed style whilst Gerald and Neville pushed ahead slightly. My head was registering negative thoughts but I kept trying to convince my mind that all will be ok.
The sun was coming up and then something happened which I am not even too sure of what and how. The only thing that came to mind was dirt and ice that could have made shifting sticky. On one of the climbs, out of habit, I shifted to an easier gear and my gear shifted!
I was so elated but said nothing to the others as to avoid disappointment again should the gears not shift again. I would only go on to use around three gears, carefully for a number of kilometers and I believe by a stroke of luck the gears held. I also believed my shifter was on it’s way out. My gears would eventually return to some form of normality and I would just get on with it, pushing the issue out of my mind.
Once we reached the district road link we rode for a few more kilometres and then took a left
turn onto a really rutted, rocky jeep track that would take us deep into the Anysberg Nature reserve.
My distinct memory was not long after we were in and riding we had a big herd of around thirty Gemsbok with their long straight horns running along side us and eventually branching off to the right away from us up the mountain plateau. Nature at its natural best!
Things were getting warm and with clear skies and miles of nothing before us other that karoo bush, dust, rocks, shale and the target of getting to Anysberg checkpoint lay before us.
Eventually out beyond us on the horizon of the flat land of the karoo we could see a plume of tall trees and a building. Anysberg was coming up!
We arrived at the reserve office at 11.45am, got some cold cokes, rode through to out unmanned checkpoint cottage just a short way from the office and quickly signed in, freshened up, ate up and saddled up to make the dash through to Montagu.
We departed Anysberg at 12.30pm.
The track was pretty much the same that we had ridden on to get to Anysberg. We were headed for another main dirt district road that would take us onto Montagu eventually.
Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere before this, things took a turn when a small accident happened and it happened fast!
I was belting it ahead with my MP3 player blaring the AC DC track Thunder Struck and its amazing how music can take your mind off the fatigue and sore body you may be experiencing. At one stage I looked back to see where Neville and Gerald were and slowed down for them to catch up. When this happened I started picking up the speed again and belted off again. Unbeknown to me a brief few seconds after this, Neville crossed jeep track and his front wheel slipped from under him on the loose rock. He hit the ground hard and instinctively put his hands out to break his fall.
In the very far distance. Neville – man down.
I had pulled about four hundred meters on Neville and Gerald and crossed a small dry river bed and when I looked back, the two of them were sitting down, obviously after the fall and Gerald attending to Neville. I couldn’t see clearly and thought maybe they had just stopped to eat something or fix something quick so I thought I would wait from where I was.
Eventually, they came riding along and I realized something had happened and it wasn’t a sit down lunch snack. Neville didn’t look good. He had split his hand open right though his glove and was bleeding pretty badly. This would later earn him four stitches. The hand all strapped up and pain meds retrieved from a medical bag, we needed to get to Montagu quickly so Neville could get some medical treatment.
The pace definitely quickened and we set off, all the while keeping check. By late afternoon we were outside Montagu with the Ouberg pass seperating us from isolation and civilization. The Ouberg pass was an incredible twenty five kilometre plus descent and in some places a real blitz of a descent. You practically did not have to pedal, hardly ever until reaching the bottom of this incredible descent. Clocking close to just under a 100km/hr on one section of the pass, this rare moment was more than exhilarating!
Getting near to Ouberg Pass
Sadly, Neville did not get to share the same sensations as with one hand immobilized it was only one hand on the handlebars effectively steering him. His descent was approached with caution.
We rode into Montagu and immediately saw a hospital signage that indicated where the nearest hospital was. Neville moved on in the direction of the hospital. Gerald and I moved onto the stop over for the night as moving onto McGregor was not on the card and we were not going to leave Neville behind.
After asking for a few directions in the town, a 130kms and 10.5hrs of riding later,we rode into out establishment, Die Bos at 17h00 with a misty, cold scene engulfing the mountains around us and the town of Montagu….