Trans-Afrika 2016 part 3

Was tough to rise out the bed knowing Moteng pass was ahead. This is no pass for the faint hearted. Then there are the many hills of Lesotho. My knee swelling had gone down but was sore until they warmed up. This was the same story all the way to Cape Town.

Nice roll down to boarder post. Knowing the drill now for this boarder. Ran to immigration and was second to the window after the gate opened. Jumped on the bicycle and rolled down to Lesotho side. First there and had to wait for the officials to arrive at immigration. After this point you have to start digging deeper and deeper as the day goes on. Stopping once before the Moteng pass to water some bushes. Tough to find a place with nobody watching you.

 

Look around and you will find a man standing rapped in a blanket, gumboots (wellingtons) and some type of warm head cover. He will be standing watching you and often throwing comments toward you.

Just as the pass starts there were two young boys harassing me for sweets. Even trying to creep up to take a grab at my pockets at the back of my shirt. Which was fill of energy bars. Made as if to chase them and a car came passed, then they left me alone. Was nice cool overcast day, so progress was good up to the summit only stopping three times to take a look at the view and catch my breath.

img_20161008_111459This year pedalled all the way up. The year before I did not think it possible for a human to peddle up some of the steeper sections. I now know with some hill training and a few extra teeth on the gears, make it is very possible. (Now 34 teeth on cassette, last year 30) At the top there was a couple having a good photo shoot. So I asked them to take a photo of me.

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This year the wind was not blowing me up the hill, so had to use brakes on the decent. The brakes took some strain and began to overheat. I am not brave enough to let the bike go and suddenly slow down to 20km/h to take the switchbacks. Would not like to have a brake failure and land up flying over the side of the road. Some nice big drop-offs. If you have wings or parachute it would not be a problem.  I see the roof of the house that blew off on me last year has not been fixed and is abandoned.

Reaching Butha buthe for a late lunch. Opting for some biscuits and milk for lunch and some chocolate for energy in the back pocket. While eating and shopping the rain came in.  So next 50 km to boarder at Ficksberg was in the rain and a strong head wind. At one stage there was a pick up that passed me at a faster than normal speed. Only to find him two valleys away with the front of his pickup smashed and 10 dead sheep in the road with other sheep injured. Would hate to have to explain to the owner. Sure there would be a big price to pay for this. Must be the farmers whole flock gone in one hit. Wonder how they deal with this type of thing. There was no chance for hit and run as there was about 20 witnesses around.

Arrived at boarder post as sun was setting. It was my plan to go on to the next town but been wet hungry and having enough for the day, having done 2798m climbing in 167 km. Chose to sleep in same hotel as last year. Getting a good takeaway from the Spar and had a monster supper. Went to sleep and set the alarm for pm and not am. Andy phoned me at 6am to see if the tracker was right to say I was in Ficksburg and not moving. Thanks Andy for waking me up. What a rush to get going. Was a wonderful day with the wind picking up by mid morning. Arriving at Wepner too early to stop and Zastron would be off the route. Tried to push on. Food was running low and energy starting to lag and the cold was starting to eat at me. Not an easy road in the day and early night because of the traffic. Last time did it in early morning in the dark when traffic was low. Finding I was on my limit so rolled off route into Zastron knowing there was B&B’s. Found a sign with phone number and phoned and the lady from Highlands guest house said no problem for a late book in at about 9pm. She even shared her family’s supper with me.

Next morning she made a full breakfast for me at 5am. Another one of those special places to stay. There are wonderful people all over this country. Stepped out just before sunrise to a -3 degree morning. Put on my yellow rubber gloves and froze all the way to Rouxville stopping there to rub some life into the fingers and toes. After about 15 minutes rolled out of town. About 5 km out of town Andy and Johan met me on the road. Andy had to take a photo of me and my gloves. Desperate times, means desperate measures. 
They said they would have breakfast with me at Aliwal North. There is Aliwal North in the trees just above the dam in the photo.

img_20161010_083935 By the time I got there I said I was not going to waste time at a restaurant and stopped at the shop and loaded supplies. As always never enough space to stash all the food. As normal wind picked up during the morning. Rolled into Burgersdorp at lunch time and stocked up at the Spar. Pushing on to Middelberg and stopping along the road to eat and rest. Around Steynsberg the wind started to blow real bad. It felt like I was standing still. This was the same place as last time. Middleberg started to look very far away as my speed was about 10km/h. Booked into the Karoo Country Hotel at 9pm. This was the only place that takes people after 7pm. Had a good supper at the Restaurant down stairs and off to bed. Leaving again just before sunrise to start the climb to top of Lootsberg pass. From the top it has lots of down hills to Graaff-Reinet. However the wind blew so strong that I had to peddle downhill only reaching speeds of 25km/h. The previous year just hung on the bike and did 60km/h freewheeling. Shows how weather can change a whole race. Flat before Graaff-Reinet only reaching speeds of 10km/h again. At Graaff-Reinet had late lunch at Wimpy and phoned Lyn at Pagel house to say I was planning to be in for supper if the wind permits. Took just over four hours of fighting the wind to cover 56km to Aberdeen, arriving halfway into supper.img_20161011_192638 As always Lyn puts on a good spread. Main course was lamb and veg dish. Must be a fancier name for the dish but it hit the big hollow spot in my stomach. She put me up in a better room than last time. Bathroom fitting looked like the kings thrown and bath with ball and claw feet. Shower could have fitted three people in it. Camera did not want to flash so did not get a good picture.

Lyn set some food out for me to take with when I left early in the morning.

Left around 3:30am to the freezing cold. Pushing on in to the dark. Think this is the best part of the race to do in the dark as it is straight, safe and low traffic density. Can make good time.

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Reaching Willowmore for lunch. There is a nice homemade pie shop in town. Mr Loos this is good food you can stop to eat here. Pushing down sand road to Klaarstroom was a real dream. They had just graded the road leaving a smooth hard shoulder on the one side.  After turning on to the R407 to Prince Albert, Andy, Johan and Johan Rissik stopped to greet me. Here is the video of me at this point. Last time it was well into the night when I got here. The sun had not set yet. That is why I was calling out to them like that.

Video near Klaarstroom

Johan Rissik said there will be a strong tail wind into Prince Albert. It was very gusty and strong. I felt like a motor bike on the flat just before town. Speeding along at 30 to 40 km/h without peddling for the last 10 km into town.

Dennehof Guest house is also another must stop place. They also had a Kings room ready for me. Before I knew it she was asking for my washing. Said all will be ready before I knew it. Had a supper with Andy, Johan and Johan Rissik. Great bunch of men that I have had the privilege of meeting. Johan Rissik met me at 2am the previous year and repaired my bicycle when I was sleeping.

Got up early to a full breakfast at 5am . img_20161013_053734Started out to climb 1000m up the Swartberg pass before sunrise. Weather was good and riding went well. Managed to peddle all the way with only a few stops to take a rest and photos. img_20161013_064724img_20161013_084711img_20161013_085057Rolling into Calitzdorp at lunch time. There was a nice big shop open that had some good food. Resupplied and started for Ladismith. Now it was really hot and had to stop on some of the mountain passes to cool off. Reaching Ladismith just before 5pm. Now had to make a decision to head for Barrydale 80km away or sleep. My wiring on voltage regulator had started to come undone and would have to go on standby light which only has 3 hours power. Then Steward Lombard WhatsApp to me giving weather report and motivation. So I rolled out of town. He is like my coach when I do the Trans-Afrika race.

Luck was on my side. Wind not too bad, shoulder wind and as the night set in the wind died down. Arriving in Barrydale just after 9pm as all the restaurants and bars were closing. Lucky the light held all the way. Landed a room right on R62 next to a bar. Not need to go downhill into town. This gave me a chance to have a good night’s rest and head out just before sunrise again. That was my last planned sleep. Next sleep would have to be Cape Town.

It was a little cool but not like up at Zastron. No shops open to get food at this time of the morning. I had to ride to Montagu to shop at the Spar for breakfast. They had a good spread of takeaway food. Had gone onto my reserve tank, so sat down in the parking and had a good meal. As the night before I had missed out on getting food. Had just eaten some droe worse and cookies before bed. For some reason unknown to me the sleep monster was fighting me into Robertson. So giving in to it I lay down on a vacant piece of land near the main road in town. I said to myself you must sleep for half hour. The reverse psychology worked and only managed to sleep for five minutes and felt I had to go on. Now the smell of Cape Town was in the nostrils. Rolling into Worcester for lunch and eating at a garage to make speed. On to Bain’s kloof pass, however the road to get there was longer than I remembered. Now it was down to google maps as I had erased all my routes and data off my GPS near Wepner. So resulted in me stopping often to make sure I was on track. Summiting just before sunset. Started the decent to Wellington to find my wheel was feeling little flat. Thought might just be the long road and hoped it was not a puncture. So stopped to pump and pushed on.

Much to my dismay near Windmeal it was flat and was forced to change a tube in the dark at the turning to Durbanville. Now down to Durbanville found Marias in the main street. He gave me a few directions to Bloubergstrand. Had to tell him the story of the adventure. This slowed me down little but was glad for the help. Before leaving town I grabbed some chocolates for a boost, as power was now at an end. Knowing it was just about 25 km to go. That can be a long way at the end of the day with no more supplies and body reserves running low. Coming into Bloubergstrand had to stop lots to look at google maps as this part was very sketchy in my memory. Landed up turning one robot to soon and getting stuck in those dumb town planners never ending circles that take you back to where you turned in. Back to google maps and worked the way out of the maze. Eventually arriving before midnight.img_1925 How is that for visibility? Could see the reaction by traffic to me this year was very different. Always passing in night with good distance from me. Ariving to an empty Eden on the bay with only Andy, Susan my sister and Peter her husband. They were the most important people I wanted to see at that stage. Thanks for been patient with me and hanging around. The last few km seemed to drag on.

 

Well Andy Masters hope you do not give up with this race. It is a great service to the cycling community of South Africa. We do not have any thing of this kind here. For us to fly to Europe or the Americas is a little costly for the average man like me. Must say thanks to 4 Mix for sponsoring me four nights accommodation. Thank you to Warden Lodge for giving me a free night. Thank you to Susan and Peter for picking me up at the finish and lodging me, then taking me to the airport. Must say Peter your bike rapping is very good. Bike got home in perfect condition. Thank you to Steward Lombard and Annie for helping me with weather and distances to next town, helped me to make some decisions.

For any future riders the three part blogs I have written will give you a very good idea of what awaits you on the road. If you read between the lines and follow a map you will find tons of info to help. Looking forward to see you all on the start line next year. Does not mean I will be racing.  Register early for the race to make sure you can get in. Hope to see at least 20 riders on the start line. Also gives you time to prepare and focus on the race. Not a race to decide to ride next week. All equipment must be tested and unneeded item left behind. Enjoy your riding.

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Trans-Afrika 2016 part 2

fb_img_1477158122091Now sunset view guest house is check point one. Here all riders have to take a selfie to show they were there. Nice small well run guest house. Everything you need you will find there. They are self-catering units with all the odds and ends you will need. Having purchased supplies for the road from the petrol station in town on the way into Sunset view guest house. I was prepared for a full breakfast with some extras from the guest house. Now the temperature in the early morning was very cool. So I waited for just before the sun touched the horizon. Then hit the road out of town. This is a very beautiful part of the route. Very mountainous. With some lovely down hills. Here I picked up to much speed and burned out a component on my voltage regulator for my dynamo. Only finding it out later in the day. There is a nice long climb that takes very long to get up after the biggest decent.img_20161005_073220 Fortunately the gradient is not too bad. Here school children make their way to school, in school uniforms looking on in wonder.img_20161005_073235 The road then descends down to the Kings Highway. Once on this big smooth road there is a small accent to the border post. At the Oshoek border post there is a good place to purchase food and petrol. Arrived at around 11am.  Well petrol was not needed by me.

 

Border crossing is well run and fast moving. Not long and off you go. Police at border can tell you when the last rider passed before you. N17 is a nice road with lots of traffic. There is a nice wide area next to the yellow line. However once you get halfway to Ermelo the shoulder runs out. Now it gets a little unpleasant. Hopefully in the future this will be better as there are road works to widen the road. Gentle tail winds helped a little but as afternoon progressed the wind turned to a head wind again. This slowed thing down quite a bit. The target of Standerton was starting to slip with every gust of wind. Finally turning head light on for dynamo and find it did not work. Well standby light had to take me into Ermelo. This has only about three hour’s battery life. So had to settle to push for Ermelo and sleep there. Actually was glade as last year some young farm boys coming from the bar tried to run me off the road at 1am in the morning, halfway to Morgenzon. Stopped and phoned Gateway backpackers to make a booking. Lucky to get a room of my own. Rolled into Backpackers at around 7pm. This was the second cheapest place I slept at. It was also the crummiest place I slept at. Do not recommend to take your family there. However I had all that was needed (Hot shower and place to charge all my gadgets). Not prepared to wait for a pizza delivery I rode back to centre of town and ordered takeaways.

Next morning wanted to hit the road early so did not wait for shops to open to repair my voltage regulator. Left just before sunrise finding frost on the grass. Loosing feeling in the fingers very quick. I was not prepared for such cold weather. Last year it was nice and warm. Rode most of the night last year on this stretch. In the day light I found the culvert I had slept in the year before. Only slept there for about two hours.img_20161006_065343 Road is fast moving up to Morgenzon. Then up to Standerton it has gentle ups and downs. Arrived in Standerton and started looking for a TV repair shop. Found one in the main street. They were very helpful. Must say they had a Zimbabwe technician who knows his stuff. He said to fix it would be easier to rebuild it. He said it would take an hour. This was just great. I walked down to the Shoprite and purchased lunch and supplies for the road. Actually got too much, had a problem fitting all into the gaps in my bags and shirt. Only paid R150 for the voltage regulator rebuild. Makes you wonder why they cost R2000 if you import them. Well there is some fine tuning needed on it but it works well.

Hit the road towards Vrede at about 1:30pm. Now the wind was blowing a sand storms across the road. Going was very slow. Some places visibility was very poor. Rode on left side of road but when the trucks passed there would be a gusts of wind that sucked you towards them as they passed.  Then once passed the wind blew me off the road. So changed and rode on the right side of the road. When an oncoming vehicle came I just exited the road surface. This worked very well. Reaching Vrede at sunset. As the dark came in the wind dropped. Now I knew the next town was Warden. However to get there you have to use the R101. This is a very busy road as it is an alternative route for the N3 (main highway). So I phoned Warden Lodge to see if they will accept me if I arrive at about 11:30 pm. He said that would not be a problem. This stretch of the road turned out very nice.  There was not much traffic at that time of night and vehicles could see me from far and gave me lots of space. The flashing red light and the reflective strips on the forks worked very well. Spun very well and landed up rolling into Warden Lodge at 10:30 pm. Just as they were packing up to sleep. Asked to pay my bill so that I could leave early in the morning. Owner said no, he will sort it out in the morning. There was a catch, he will be about at 7 am. That was not good for me but excepted. Pleasant place to stay. If you are there for supper time they make some very nice food. I was too late for supper. Thank goodness for the extra supplies I had got at Standerton.

Found owner of lodge in the passage at 6:30 am. Asked if I could pay. He said no it is for free. He likes my attitude and what I am up to. I said are you sure, I would pay. He said no go. So off I went and found the only shop open at that time of the morning. Only worthwhile food was milk, Marie biscuits and chips. So that was breakfast.

Road to Bethlehem is one of my favourites. It has lots of long downs with gentle ups. As with most days the wind picked up at 9:30 am. Working the wind takes a lot of food. I was starting to run low and feel the power running low in the legs. Knowing the only way to finish this race is to just keep the wheels rolling, so that is what I did. Rolling into Bethlehem just before lunch time. I filled up supplies and ate out of the petrol station shop. This is always the fastest way to get going again.

Down to Fouriesburg the wind was testing me. The back was also getting bit painful. Had a good lay down on a nice grassy patch, at an entrance to a farm. Amazing how nice it is to lay down with a packet of Marie biscuits under my back, in my back pocket, on the sore spot. The pressure on the spot took away all the pains. Would recommend it to any cyclist with a back pain.

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Not far down the road after stopping to taking photos, Andy found me and gave me a Fanta orange. As you can see it was very relieving.
fb_img_1477157888345 Wind was little better now and last roll down to Fouriesburg was easy. Arriving late in afternoon decided to stay at Andy’s accommodation. Actually very comfortable.
fb_img_1477157876773Then Andy and I had dinner at the Fouriesburg hotel. Must admit I was very hungry and ordered a plate of lasagne. It was supposed to be a big portion. Actually the plate was big but portion very small. Then ordered a steak just the same as Andy had eaten. So landed up eating two suppers.

 

By this time Andi had withdrawn from the race leaving me in second place. Johan was some place coming out of Swaziland or going into Swaziland. Think he slept at the police post on the South African side of the border post. No bed, not electricity and no shower as I understand. That is probably why he took a shower at Sunset view guest house when arriving in Piggs Peak and then hit the road again.fb_img_1477157839517

Looks like there will have to be a part 3 for this race.

Trans-Afrika 2016 part 1

 

fb_img_1477158317365One of the fun thing about this race is the preparation. I have already posted a photo of gear and the list that goes with it. This takes months of planning testing and deciding what is worth taking with. This year I spend less time looking at routes. As I was not planning on changing my route much from last year. The plan was to cut 3 days off last years’ time. To do this I would have to drop a day to Swaziland boarder, another to Lesotho boarder and drop a day to Cape Town. Well let me tell you how it played out in the end.

Andy Masters met me at the Engine one stop Kranskop on the N1 going north. Here the competitors had breakfast together at the Wimpy. This was one of the nice things about this race. We got some time to get to know the other competitors. Once you hit the road it is not often that you will see each other. We locals can learn a lot from the foreign riders as they have so much more exposure to this type of racing.

After booking into the Old Mine guest house and having some lunch we bundled into Andy’s pick up and down to the start line at Beightbridge. This part of the race is always escorted by police, as the traffic is heavy and people are normally not allowed on the bridge at the border with Zimbabwe.fb_img_1477158327382 This year we did it in the day time. This gave opportunity for some start photos and make it possible for an earlier start in the dark to try avoid the heat. However this year the weather was rainy and cloudy.fb_img_1477158354289

So off we went and the testing of strengths started. Chris and Andi up front and Johan and I at the back. Brought back memories of Steve and me at the back last year. About halfway Andi dropped back to take some photos of us with his cycle camera. Which he found out later that they did not save. Rain held out for Saturday afternoons spin. The distance from boarder to Musina is only about 16 km.

This gave us time to prep our bikes afterwards. Now the bike bags and gadgets were checked and packed. Johan and I shared a room. Andi was next door so we were back and forth looking at each other’s gadgets and testing weights. Andi said something very true. Many people spend lots of money getting the lightest bike. Then make it heavy with all the gear for the ride.img_20161001_174452 In my case I had my old heavy Titian. Same bike I rode on last year. Now weighing less than last year. Now 15kg because of smaller lighter tyres and no slime.

See all of us had Dynamo hubs and different lighting systems. All had tri bars. Johan and I mountain bikes and Andi and Chris cyclo cross bikes. This is already an advantage for the wind we were to face. I think the gear ratios also have a big role to play. I am not going to tell you what to do. Each race has different gradients, weather, road surfaces and long flats. This is when you have to make the calculations as what to ride and the gears ratios. I am not a big one on names and gadgets. Just use what I got. Chris and Andi were on 36 mm gravel tyres, Johan on 38mm semi slicks and I on 35mm Kenda road tyres. Interesting to note both Andi and Chris had lots of punctures to repair on those fancy tyres. I only had one puncture coming into Cape Town on the last night. Do not know if Johan had any.

After supper I ordered a pizza for delivery for the road/breakfast. Landed up waiting for it so did not get to bed until 10pm. In the night Johan got up to go to toilet. Then I knew he was in trouble. To start with the runs on a long race like this can tap all your strength. He was brave and started with us at 3am. Loading himself with Imodium and Coke to try beat the monster within the stomach. Lucky he had a bag with toilet paper strapped to the back of his saddle bag. Johan I take my cycle helmet off to you. If you are reading this I think you were brave and dug very deep. Hope you give it a go next year.

There was a heavy down pour of rain in the night. Thought the sand section for first day may be washed away. At 3 am we hit the road into the dark, dogging water puddles and trying to keep the BB bearings dry and free of dirt. After all if that starts to grind you have a very unpleasant ride. Chris slipped off into the dark in front of me. I followed that flashing red light almost all the way to Teshipo. Just watching the distance widen over ever rise. Andi had stopped to talk to Andy as he was not tracking. That put him behind me. Johan was behind working out when to use the toilet paper next. fb_img_1477156244369 fb_img_1477157050912

Hit the sand section just at sunrise as planned. Lucky the rain had set the sand harder and riding was much easier than last year even with thinner tyres. At one point it was very nice as there was fresh tracks of wild animal that had crossed the road. There was tracks of Jackal, Duiker, Kudu and Leopard. This point is where there are high game fences and game farms on both sides of the road. For any future riders do not worry it is not dangerous. It is also not darkest Africa. These animals are trying to keep away from humans and do not want to be seen by you.

Came out onto the tar with a good overcast sky. Nice and cool compared to previous years. Now all that was needed is to put the head down and get the kilometres behind fb_img_1477156172146me. Had set target times to points along the road. Hit the top of Soutpansberg on time. Even though Andi cruised passed me halfway up.

Felt much stronger than last year and did not stop going up. Last year it was so hot I had to stop and sit in the shade to cool off. Making good use of the downhill to Thohoyadou. Just witnessing one dog knocked over then the rest of the family of the dog run in front of a bus and get knocked over. Made good use of the petrol station shop at Thohoyadou to resupply and aimed for a late lunch at Giyani.

Now this is when the whole plan started to change. There came up a strong headwind that did not give up all the way to Capetown. This was also Sunday afternoon and every person that owned a car was out on a drive. They also did not think a cyclist should be on their road. To add to it there was road works. Must say the road works did help a little. Now when the cars were pushing me off the road, I had to ride on the gravel next to the road. This was not a good thing as I did not want to sit and peddle, as this would rub the butt too much. Could not afford this on day one of a 2800 km ride. Could also not use tri bars to get out of the wind as it was too bumpy. So landed up standing pushing against the wind. Was not good on the knee and this is when my knee trouble started.

Reached Giyani an hour and half behind target time. Just to find the whole town was out at the restaurants getting a Sunday lunch. So searched around and had to go for Nando’s as there were not many people there. So purchased some takeaways and eat half there and took the rest with me in my back pocket. Pushed on into the wind finding a rock to sit on and have Nando’s at sunset. Andy Masters took this comment on WhatsApp that I was at Giyani eating. Just to find I was halfway to Letsitele. Could see in the distance a dark cloud that was pouring down rain. Found out Andi was caught in it. I rode on into the dark hoping to push on all night so that I could reach the boarder to Swaziland in 36 hours. This was not to happen as the wind with rain started to drive me back. Finally about 8 km from Gravelotte, I chose to cross the railway line and lay down to sleep in my thermal bag in the bush. Not long and it was ripped by the long grass. However bag was enough to keep me dry and break the wind. Lay down trying to sleep with not much success. Finally as the wind and rain started to get less I hit the road. This was at about 2H30. Now the sleep monster and cold started to get to me and had to lay down a few times to take naps. Finally slipped into petrol station at Mica where I got warm and eat some food. Asked for help charging all equipment. As I had not learned what to charge when on my dynamo and had phone battery go flat. I had overtaken Chris and Andi when they were sleeping. At this point when I was in the petrol station Chris must have gone past me.

Got back on the bike as the sun started to rise. Getting to Hoedspruit early and stopping for a KFC breakfast burger. Feeling a little better but knowing the boarder to Swaziland was slipping away and the knee starting to give more pain. Now the plan was changing to sleep at boarder post. As the day went on and the knee not playing the game, it became sleeping at Barberton. Stopping for lunch at Bushbuck ridge at the Chease nyama. What a nice downhill to Hazyview. Reached Haizyview at 17Hoo. Restocked and hit the hills to White river. Arriving at White river just after dark. Now I knew it was downhill all the way to Nelspruit, so I pushed on. That downhill was not fun as the sleep monster was calling. At this stage I knew the knee would not make it to Barberton. I was going to have to stop for the night. I had been planning this ride all year. So there was no quitting. In my mind.

Sleep at Nelspruit would be the best thing to give the knee a rest. Bought some supplies and booked in for the night in a hotel in the centre of town.  Amazing what a good shower, food and sleep with the leg up can do. At sunrise the wheels were rolling out of Nelspruit towards Barberton. Riding was going better now that I was using the knee support. However this knee was not going to make the climb up to Pigg’s Peak Swaziland. Just outside Barberton stopped to get some food at the petrol station. This is when Andi rode up and also restocked. There was no question in my mind, I had to stop at a Chemist (Drug store) for some anti-inflammatory. So I slipped out of the shop leaving Andi there letting him think I was making a run for the climb. However turned into Barberton. Finding the Chemist not open yet. Had to stand 20 minutes waiting for it to open. Got some Valtaren Emergel and put it on.

I may not be the fastest rider but this was a much better ride than last year. Managed to peddle all the way and not have any sleeps up the hill. Did stop for some breathers on the way. One of the nicest boarder post crossings at the top. However the road out to Pigg’s Peak is no toy. Had to go slow on down hills in case damaged rims or rip tyres. Thank goodness no problems and rolled into Sunset view guest house before sunset.fb_img_1477158122091 Booked in and had dinner at the Pigg’s Peak club. This was probably the best meal of the whole race.img_20161004_183056 This is getting a little long for a post so will write another follow on.

Trans- Afrika 2016 race prep

Kit for 2016 Trans-Afrika race.

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People always wonder what to take with. I am not saying this is what you need but it helps to go light when racing. Touring is a different story. You do shorter distances per day and have a few luxuaries. Racing you need to go light and always remember there are shops along the way to get things you may need. Must say I could have taken some warmer clothes. Who would have thought there was a cold front moving past, where as last year there was a heat wave.

 

List of items starting on top left:

  1. Rain shell from Anatomic
  2. Cycling shirt from Enjoy fitness
  3. Reptilia bib from Enjoy fitness
  4. Gillet from Proviz (Reflect 360)
  5. Buff
  6. Black shorts to sleep in
  7. Arm warmers
  8. Cycling gloves with extra gel on palm
  9. Socks
  10. MTB cycling shoes
  11. 2 X water bottles
  12. Reflective vest
  13. Plastic bags for food and warmth
  14. Razor cut short
  15. Tooth brush cut short
  16. Tooth paste
  17. Rehydrate sport
  18. Rain poncho
  19. Shamie cream
  20. Iodine cream for wounds
  21. Plasters and paracetamol
  22. 2 X sunblock
  23. Dettol soap
  24. Thermal blanket bag
  25. 2 litre water bladder
  26. Head lamp
  27. Light
  28. Sunglasses
  29. Red flashing back light
  30. GPS
  31. Saddle bag

Patches

Solution

Spoke studs

Cleat and screws

Multi tool

Lube

Insulation tape

Tyre levers

Gator

Valve adaptor

Spoke spanner and chain breaker

Links for chain

Knife

Sand paper

  1. Knee support
  2. Strapping tape
  3. Bandage
  4. Plastic spoon
  5. Helmet
  6. Frame bag

2 spokes

3 AAA batteries

  1. Tri bar bag
  2. Heart rate monitor
  3. Passports with air ticket and bank card
  4. Spare tube
  5. Small screw driver
  6. Charger for usb.
  7. 2032 battery for heart rate monitor for standby
  8. Cables to charge cell, gps and standby light
  9. Lip balm with spf
  10. Tin can opener
  11. Standby light
  12. On bike

Pump

Voltage regulator

Shimano dynamo

Things wish had taken with:

  1. Leg warmers
  2. Warm gloves
  3. Warmer arm warmers
  4. Extra battery backup for light

Things never used:

  • Rain poncho
  • Bandage
  • Paracetamol
  • 2032 battery
  • Tin can opener
  • Some spares in saddle bag.

Was cool so did not use much rehydrate.

It would be nice to hear some comments on these long lists. Really it all did not take up much space. I did not get the weight but was big improvement on 2015. Will post the race run down in the next few weeks.

Winter training

Normally winter is the time of year when the cold and dark get the best of me. Now with the Trans-Afrika on the horizon and remembering what happened last time. I had to put on the layers of clothes and get on the bicycle. Must say the cold in the morning at 3 am to push for a long day almost beat me.

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There was the trip past Potgitusrus and Vaalwater. The one to Belmoral and lots of short trips.

The regular training included testing out gear and getting their set up right. Then there has been the lighting problem. Have had rechargeable batteries pack up and battery pack go flat. The other night the rechargable battery died, back up two battery pack ran flat and third backup was my led head light which had to take me home.

Have had more flat wheels than have had in my life. Must add that is what happens when you go from tubless Maxxis cross mark tyres to road tyres with tubs. Also using old Maxxis that are getting smooth with tubs. Have decided to wear out all the old tyres that are hanging around. This has given me lots of practice at patching tubs.20140531_133336

Then water systems have been adapted and tested. Nothing like running out of water on a hot day. Plans to get cool water are under way at the moment. Will test that out when days start to get warmer. Nutrition and rides have also changed. Have been testing out few different ideas. Last time my mouth tasted terrible. Cannot live on rehydrate,energy drinks and carbs for so long. The body can only handle so much carbs. Well off to do some riding.

Good strong steel frame

Good strong steel frame is what is needed to face the harsh conditions of Africa. Here is the ride I was tweaking this weekend.

Frans bike labels

  1. Good strong wide saddle for comfort, for long hours in the saddle. No need for cycling pants.
  2. Strong carrier made from a strong 1970 fence dropper. Giving enough strength to load all solar panels and tents needed for the long road.
  3. Big mud guard to keep you clean from mud splatter. Added advantage of keeping carrier load clean from mud.
  4. Back pedal brake to free your hands up for other things like giving road signals and eating.
  5. Good strong bottom bracket that can be stripped and cleaned on the road. Ball bearings can be easy to source anywhere in Africa/India/China.
  6. Rubberised peddles to stop shoes from slipping of in harsh conditions.
  7. Chain guard to stop long pants from getting caught in chain. Added advantage of keeping chain clean from mud and sand.
  8. Dik wheel as we call it in RSA. Thick tyres that can take any road surface. This increases the load capacity to 5 passengers and one driver (As seen in Malawi). For commercial purposes it can carry up to 400kg fertilizer (As seen in Mozambique).
  9. Well shaped handle bars, for agronomic fit of hands. Just take care not to knock knees on bars when taking tight turns this could result in major injuries.
  10. Nice large space for frame bags with double top bars for strength. This can increase capacity of brick load.

Not mentioned before but all this for a really good price. There is also no time wasted waiting for spares. As spares can be sourced on most continents and any rural town. All in all a good all round bike that should be used for any bicycle adventure.

In 1992 I met a Swedish man that had ridden from Switzerland to Kwazulu Natal South Africa in a Year and a half. Stopping at villages and living off the smell of an oil rag. He did this on his steel frame bike. What an adventurer or should I call it an expedition. So no excuses when I am looking for my next riding partner in Africa.Digital Camera

Rookie finnishes Trans-Afrika race

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What an amazing race. Setting high goals can make you achieve more than you ever think you can. To have finished 2800 km with 30000 m accent  in 13 days, 9 hours and 17 minutes,seems like a dream. However I need to write to the honor of those supporters that said just the right thing at the right time to move me along the road. To my surprise some of these supporters where tracking me while the were riding their bicycles on a trail of over 1000 km in Australia. They to are heroes to me. Others that were along the route that said pedal or go go go. Or the team from work at Walt landgoed that put on a going away braai ( BBQ) for me, to show their support. Could I have let them down. Or CSvet that had staff tracking me and reporting back to others on my progress.

I have wondered how to let you feel how it was. The good old travel log might bore you. On the other hand it might make the future races more difficult and tactical. I walked into this very nieve  not knowing that it could have so many tactics. The planning that goes into a race of this natures is very important. The route chosen can make or break you. The gear can be too much or to little. Can the bicycle make the distance, remember it is not only you that has to finnish.

I found out that training and equipment planning was to be very important. As always you learn lessons along the way. A word of advice is to try out supplements, food and equipment before the race. As in my case supplements gave me cramps and head aches. Best was to go back to the basic foods and eat what you normally do. Your body does not need another strange thing to cope with in the race.

As always I over planned on equipment and decided to go with more than I needed which added to my weight. I also like to travel with 4 litres of water. I do not like to have fears of running out of water. This makes me panic and hampers performance. In the past on my tour in Mozambique I had a few close shaves with dehydration and lack of water. I did not have any problems with water this time. Turned out to be the right amount for the distance between towns. Remember the search for water can slow you down. 4 litres is 4 kg but remember that gets lighter as you drink and urinate.20151012_104043

I must thank Gary van der Merwe for the ride up to Musina. Traveling with other riders started off the excitement of the race. At the Old mine house made me realize that I was out of my league with all the experienced endurance riders. This Rookie with 1 X Cape Argus, 1 X 94.7, 1 X Sondela classic, 1 X Sondela MTB, 1 X Druiwe fees and 1 X Druiwe fees MTB. Now faced the longest endurance ride in South Africa. Andy Masters just said to me my experience in long cycle adventuring will come to my aid. He was right it helped me to scratch around for food and accommodation. Time in the saddle is also important. It is easy to get in the saddle and roll off a quick 100 km. However when you have to be in the saddle for 15 hours or more it is a different story.  Must say Andy had more faith and trust in my abilities than I did or was it the way he motivates you to do more than you can.

Looks like the race blog will have to come in pieces. Will spend next few blogs on the roll out of the race.20151015_121115

Tyres

I ordered some tyres for the road. I normally use Maxxi cross mark. This is a good solid tyre that I feel confident in Africa. I have done over 14000 km touring and training and never been up the creek without a paddle. However  there are touring tyres more suited to the type of tour cycling I do. Now that I have written in for the Trans-Afrika I decided to try a narrower tyre more for paved roads. Most of the trans-Africa will be on paved roads.

Off with the Maxxis and on with a 38 mm slick. Thinking this was going to up my average speed. I chose a 47 km route that I had just recently done. However there was a little rain and wind. Using my heart rate I set out to compare the times. Much to my disappointment my average speed dropped by 1 km/h. Thinking this over I upped the tyre pressure to 75 Psi or 5 bar. Next night with conditions near perfect. Did the same route to find my time 1 km/h faster than with Maxxis.

Conclusion: Found handling little more difficult on gravel road up to house. In my mind I thought I was doing way better but in real terms there was not much difference. The weather conditions could make the difference. However if the tyres give 1 km/h better, that will result in just less than one day saving by the end of the Trans-Africa. Only the 38 mm tyres are not so rugged and may result in having to stop for tyre repairs along the way. There are times here in South Africa when the other road users are not so considerate and force you to exit the paving and ride on the gravel, stones and bushes along the side of the road. This my result in some damage to such a narrow tyre. With my Maxxis I will not even think of a problem.

Settlers to Tzaneen and back again via Hoedspruit

What a four day Easter weekend I had. I quickly slapped together a route that should take me about three days if fit enough. Made sure to take all the back roads to avoid the holiday traffic. Only using main routes when there was no other way round. Packed very little in my bags. Only packing a jacket, T-shirt, sweat pants, first aid kit, chargers, solar panels,new sleeping bag, tent just incase I did not land in the right place at the right time.

Starting off on friday with a nice low heart rate making sure that I would be able to maintain it for a few days. First heading in the direction of Marble Hall along my normal training route. Swung left on a gravel road to wards Roedtan.20150403_104154 - Copy

Stopped at Roedtan for lunch. Not really a town. It has more than one petrol station and a few shops. Village is over shadowed by a Grain silo. From here I sped along a flat road towards Zebediela.

As I passed Lebowakgomo people started to pass comments of surprise to find a white man on a bicycle.

Once the sun had set it was quite clear as to where the villages were and the cattle grazing areas lay. Here I picked a nice bushy section that was surrounded by thorn trees to set up my tent. There was a wonderful full moon that made it not necessary to use a torch. Laying on my back with the tent door open, watching the clouds moving in front of the moon and stares.  This made me drift off to sleep with such a relaxed feeling.20150404_063840 - Copy

This is the sunrise next morning back on the road. Slept in the bush on the left of photo.The hills started to rise so that the road had to snake through them.

Coming up one rise I realized that this place is Moria. The place which the religious group ZCC pilgrims to every Easter and Christmas in their millions. The week after I spoke to a fellow worker who went there. He said there were over 13 million people in attendance for the weekend. 20150404_075101 - CopyThe smoke from the cooking fires was drifting on the wind down the valley. The night before I had thought there might be a run away fire as I could smell the smoke drifting on the air. 20150404_090657 - Copy

From here the road rises to the Haenertsburg.

This was the highest point before dropping off the escapement down the Magoebaskloof pass to Tzaneen.

Tzaneen is a very tropical part of the country. Been one of the high rainfall areas of South Africa with a mild temperature. There are lots of road side farm stalls selling the fruits that are grown here. Here is a short list of some of the fruit: bananas,mangoes,pine apples,oranges,avocado pears and grape fruit. See there is a very large tea plantation.

Stopping for lunch at KFC in Tzaneen. Took a little time out and fulled up on water to cross the lowveld. There were more down hills towards Letsitele, Gravelotte and mica. This stretch had lots of orange farms and then the game farms start. 20150404_150104 - Copy

At Mica I found this sign post. If you go down that road you will be entering the Kruger National park in about 60 km. This is one of the world renowned national parks. Home to Elephants and Lions or should I say Africa at its best. 20150405_071058 Also found this sign for Foot and mouth control. This is a disease that is controlled by the government. They try to contain it in the areas were there is a lot of wild animal movement. The movement of wild animals makes it very difficult to control. They need to control this disease otherwise other countries will not import meat products from South Africa, if there is no controls in place.The road down to Hoedspruit is lined with nine foot game fences. Making it feel like you are passing down no mans land at a country border.

Rolled into Hoedspruit not long after dark. Here ordered a pizza and booked into a Hotel. It was good to have a hot shower and scrub two days of sweat and dust off. Washed my cycling clothes, as the cycling kit I had on was the only set I had. Nice to put a clean set of clothes on the next day. Must say I slept just as well on the hotel bed as I did the night before on the ground in my tent, even with out a mat.

Rolled out of Hoedspruit finding there had been a light rain in the night. This gave a sparkling new feeling to the day. Passing fruit orchards and fruit packaging plants with names that I recognize from the supper markets all over South Africa.20150405_070839

Crossing the Blyde river on the way to the JG Stridom tunnel.20150405_073918Looking at the mountains of the escarpment I was getting that hollow feeding in the stomach knowing that I  will have to climb them to get home.20150405_093531 Wondering if I will be able to conquer them. It was a good thing I started early as the road to Ohrigstad had a long climb.  20150405_092105 At the foot of the hill before the JG Stridom Tunnel is the place to stop and take your sun glasses off and wear a pair of gloves with a supper absorbent back, so as to wipe the sweat out of your eyes. This hill is not recommended for beginners unless they plan on pushing for 20 km. I used all those granny gears most of the day. Pushing is not an option if you are training and that was the purpose of this tour.

Just to pop your bubble of conquering the climb (400m to 1200m) the road makes a very steep decent the other side down to Echo caves (700m).Then started climbing again untill reaching Jane Furse the next day at 1350m.

Back to the road. Took the road to Burgersfort just before Ohrigstad. Stopping to take a look at the Voortrekker graves. They must have been some tough people to stop and farm in these hills. Getting their wagons over these hills must have taken some nerve. They were wise to stop in these vallies away from the Malaria and Tsetse fly that killed their oxen and horses.20150405_131538 20150405_131545

Stopped at Burgersfort to have a late lunch and get some supplies for supper as it looked like I was going to sleep in the tent again.

On to Steelport. Well it shows how little I know about my own country. This is a major steel mining area. There were so many trucks transporting steel to the smelters that I had to ride on the sand shoulder of the road. This stretch of road is not recommended for cycling.

Turned off to Jane Furse just as the sun was setting. Could see there had been some protest marches in this area as there was burned tyres that had been pulled off the road. Not far up the hill it was getting dark and seeing I was not going to make it safely along this road I stopped for the night. Crossed some farm lands and found a nice ditch with trees to set my camp up. Had another nice wild camp and set out at sunrise the next day. This was the view at sunrise.20150406_062826

On the top of Dihlabeng mountains I found a real gem of a sight. There were these rocky boulder mounds with bushveld plants that I have not seen in a long time. It was like a rock garden. With a paved road that snaked through the bush like on a game drive farm. Felt as if an elephant was going to step out in front of me at anytime. Must say the wild animals have long last roamed these bushes.20150406_085137 20150406_091039From here the pave roads ended and turned into a loose gravel. Passing two more new dams the government has built to supply water to these rural communities. 20150406_092734From the last dam it was back to paved roads all the way to Marble Hall. Lunch was in the saddle after stopping at the supermarket in Marble Hall.

Last stretch from Marble Hall to home is my normal training ground. Got home at 15H30 monday. With 720 km and over 5000 m ascents. It turned out to be just the training ride I needed for the Trans-Afrika race. May have to do it again sometime.

New Cycle Tour recruits

Last weekend I went with two couples on their first mini cycle tour. They had just got their bicycles and gear together. Now this was their first test to see what they need to carry with them on a New Zealand tour. They did 45 km to Nylsvlei where they camped the night and rode home the next day.

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Must say I think they did very well on a day that reached 42 degrees celsius. The evening finished well with a very enjoyable braai (BBQ). All brought along something to eat. It turned out to be a very enjoyable meal with even a cup of cinnamon milk before bed.

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I wish them well on their tour and hope they find the wonders of the world out there.