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.

Training weekend in Waterburg

Weekend in the Waterberg with Annie, Steward and David. Finding out on Thursday all accommodation is fully booked in Vaalwater. As there was a Festival at the primary school in town. So I began looking for camp sites. Finding where I normally camp at Bosveldrus had changed owners and no longer has camping. After phoning around I found camping at Vaalwater river oord. Then had to let my fellow riders know that the plan had changed. Now they needed to take kit with for camping. That turned this into a real hard core adventure for two days. Fortunately they had kit for bike packing. However this made their ride heavier and would give them more of a work out. After all it was for training.

They arrived at my house about 6H30 on Saturday. After putting all the bikes together and strapping on all the gear we left at around 7H00. Traveling with gear put more strain on attempting to ride 140 km on rough dirt roads.

After about 15 km the road turned into wash board and stones. Have to admit I knew it was like this. I made an adjustment to my frame bag the night before as it was wearing out after the last year of extreme trips. However the modification did not work. The rough road shook the Velcro undone. Then to top it off the GPS came off and I had to ride back to find it in the road. This is the first time the GPS has ever come off. I must have bumped it when fixing the frame bag back on the bike. We crossed other roads more bumpy than this stretch and it did not come off again.

Hit a luck as we found the farm store open just as we came off the Jasper road on to the old Naboomspruit – nylstroom road. Here they had some fresh vet koek that we slipped into our bags for lunch.  Then we started the pass up to the top of the Waterberg plateau. I seem to remember that it was a lot steeper. After going up to Pigs Peak or Monteng pass this was like going down a flat road. Having said this the heart rate lets you know you are working. Loos stones let the wheels spin out a little. So have to put some weight onto the back wheel to stop it slipping in the stones and gravel.

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Just to make things interesting all three of our GPS did not tell use to turn left. We landed up having to ride back a few Km and took the second left which added about 10 km to day trip.20140418_133307

At this point it was clear that I was riding with some strong riders. There legs were like pistons with no wobbles and regular strong pace. They know what their bodies are asking for. Something to eat at the right time and water as a good backbone to rehydration. With an eye for enjoying the outdoors.

The whole aim of this out ride was to train for the ride to Rhodes. After 70 km Annie’s back was paining from a previous injury. At this point we found a water tank on a farm and filled water bottles from a hose pipe at a cattle drinking trough. I had drunk about three litres out of my 4 litres of water and all the others water was also very low.  Annie called it in and Steward turned back with her to Nylstroom to get picked up by a person from the farm.  So Annie and Steward did about 100 km for the day. David and I pushed on to

Vaalwater on the Melkriveir road coming out at Vrymansrus turning just before Vaalwater. In my view this was the most scenic part of day ones ride. We did 154 km for the day. Lots of sand, stones and climbs. We arrived in Vaalwater as the last light was disappearing from the horizon.

Stopping at a Shop at garage to get a few supplies and rode out of town to the Vaalwater river oord. This is just a few km on the other side of town. They have a few rooms, with a small bar and restaurant with a limited menu. David and I landed up eating steak egg and chips. By this time the temperature started to drop and warm clothes needed to be put on. As we went out to find the camp site Annie and Steward arrived in their car. So off we went and pitched tents. My bike and tent left and David slept in tent right.IMG_20160501_061457

Steward and Annie decided to sleep in back of SUV.IMG_20160501_061506Must say it was very nice to have a warm shower. IMG_20160501_061529To slip into a sleeping bag was very comforting on this cool night. I wanted to travel light but chose not to as the weather forecast was for the arrival of a cold front. Thank goodness I listened to the weather report.

Rising after 6am we rode out at 8am. This time it was Steward, David and I. We rode out to Alma along the dirt road that I had previously vowed never to ride again. Lucky it was in reverse. Gentle downhill helped us over the washboard and deep sand.IMG_20160501_093219 If you wish to see how hard a vehicles suspension works this is the road to ride and feel it. You can also watch the passing vehicles wheels bouncing up and down. Stopping at Alma shop we shared a Coke.IMG_20160501_095817 And headed towards Nylstroom taking the second road right. This led us to a network of roads that I had not ridden before. Must say the road surface was little better here as there is less vehicles using these roads. Seemed that we were just going up and up never getting down hills. Having said this there are some beautiful hills and farms. Very nice to take a step aside from the main roads.IMG_20160501_093233

Finally we found the down hills and began the decant towards Tabo Monate. Then it was my turn to get a puncture. Thought it was from some of the rock ridges down the steep decants. However it was on the side of the rim. Think there was some spokes that must have moved from the strain we were putting our bike through on these rough roads and fast decants. Just as we started ascending out of Vaalwater earlier in the morning Steward had a puncture on the paved road. He also had one on the first day. It was like chocolates to get these nice down hills. We came to the conclusion it needs to be ridden in reverse to train or punish a new comer to long off roads.IMG_20160501_093200

Out of the dirt we slipped down the hill on paved roads stopping at Rocking horse nursery for water refills. With 40 km to get home before the sun set. Passed over the N1 highway and back side of the Kranskop one stop garage. Finding all of us little worn out we opted to take the paved road short cut and finished on the last 10 km dirt road down to the farm.

For my first group ride this was amazing. Felt like Christmas. Need to gather some like minded people together again and do a few loops of the Waterberg roads again. Also Annie decided her back was not ready for Race to Rhodes. Steward and David’s tender parts were tender, giving them a little better preparations for the race. Once the rash and red marks are gone on their butts, they will find less pain on the race. Good luck to them and hope they enjoy the race. David and I did 297 km in two days and the race is 500 km with portage. So think they will be able to finish well within 5 days.

Waterberg dirt roads training ride planned

Waterberg dirt roads is the plan for this coming weekend. Annie and Steward asked me to plot a track on dirt roads so they can do some training for the Race to Rhodes that they will be doing in the beginning of June. This race is a portion of the Freedom Challenge. You can read up more on the web page. I would like to try the Freedom Challenge. It is quite hard core. Temperatures can drop to -15 degrees celsius. It is off road mountain bike one stage race. They say the scenery is amazing. Tracks go places people do not normally get to see. There are no GPS’s allowed. All navigation must be by 1:50000 maps and compass.

I plotted a few tracks for this coming weekend. Finding it would be a little long if I want to find all the accents and keep off tar roads. So finally after sending them two tracks they opted for the two day 285 km route, sleeping at Vaalwater.( Have not learned yet how to copy gps tracks to blog so you can see.)20140531_122309  There should be about 40 km paved roads on the whole trip. I have ridden some of the roads, there are other roads that will be the first time for me. There should be some nice game viewing to be done with one or two good mountain passes to ride. The real challenge is carrying enough water unless you go asking at farm houses or fill bottles at irrigation systems. There will be no support. So clothes for overnight at Vaalwater will have to go with.20140531_13002420140531_130648

Have just confirmed they are on for next weekend. Will be riding out at 6:30 am. They will also be bringing a friend. This will be a new thing for me traveling in a group. Group on dirt roads should be fun. Never can find people to go with me. I am also not used of having to pace in a group. Just normally ride and listen to what my body is telling me. If I feel good I go faster, if muscles want to cramp or feeling low on energy and need some food then I go slower.20140531_123150

If you contact me and say what your needs are it would be fun to ride with somebody. So contact me with the reply on my blog. Then we can see how to match our times up.

From CapeTown cycle tour to the Waterberg.

What an atmosphere grows around the city of Cape Town at the time of the cycle tour. The whole central business district is humming with bicycles and visitors. The bus services are full of cyclists and people sharing stories of previous year’s rides. What a nice way to market a city for good. The cycle tour generates a large income for the city. The local people all add to the atmosphere of the race day. There are the musicians along the road playing music to the passing cyclists. Then there are supporters singing and chanting. Road closers with bicycles having right of way , gives a feeling of cycling freedom. On the other hand it can get a little crowded.7cab3526d153cb331c57250b98de1b9c_DSC_4307

 

What makes it even more special is been able to travel down and lodge with other pig farmers and our vets. There is the constant joking and comradery that goes on between all.

As for my race it was very enjoyable. Weather was perfect. Not much of a wind. I rode in the cool of the day, having an early start time. I had done the 947 race in Johannesburg to get a good seeding to get an early start. If you start after 8 am that means you will land up in the middle of the day on the road. The wind normally comes up later in the day. The heat from the midday sun can fry you a little. Riding over lunch is not nice, you keep getting the feeling to eat something solid, liquid energy drinks do not satisfy. Resulting in you starting to feel weaker. My time was 10 minutes more than my target time but more than an hour improvement on my first Cape Town cycle tour.a54d88a3751a690880ec575c8ad864fb_DSC_8722b9807f5086ac6d07f7f83aa52771532b_DSC_8498

After the race it took more than a week to get the bike back to the farm. Making me very lazy. It had been raining so I had to put my old Maxxi cross marks tyres back on. IMG_20160325_184255 (2)Then I did some turns around the farm. Nice to get off the tar and back into the sand and mud. I was looking at my rainfall for this year, it is now at 450 mm. That is just 25 mm short of the long term rain average. I have been complaining about the drought. The rain finally came however little late for some crops. It looks like we will be able to harvest some sunflower. The sunflowers that the Guinea fowl did not eat, has come up quite nice, especially now that rain fell at critical times.IMG_20160323_181051 (2) Now the Kudu have been helping themselves to the top flower. Thus making some side shoots come out with small flowers. Hope they get some seeds in these small flowers.

Some waterways have been dry for a few years and these had water flowing in them for about two weeks.IMG_20160324_172421_1 (2) I now have hope that we should get enough growth in the grass before winter. This should help to take the cows to next summer.

 

Just finished a weekend on the bicycle. Had a chance to get out and do a loop through the Waterberg mountains. 2016Titan Potgietersrus

I have a problem to get into the mountains as it is very flat on the Springbok flats. I went up the Kloof pass at 35 degrees Celsius, according to my GPS it was 285 m ascent. Kloof pass has a rideable gradient. Not like some sections up to Pigs peak.  Round trip was only 2000 m ascent. This is not enough if you are training for the Trans-Afrika. My idea was to test to see if I want to sign up for the Trans-Afrika. I found that I had forgotten how much pain and pushing through it takes to finish a long day in the saddle. Found that after passing Naboomspruit, Potgietersrus, Kloof pass and getting to Vaalwater my legs did not have enough to go on. Thus spend the night at Vaalwater hotel. Where Titan had his own bed.

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This is the last stretch down to my farm.

Tweeted my trip on my twitter account @kennyfagan. However no nice scenery photos. This time it was focused on my bicycle Titan. You must tell me what type of photos you would like to see. Some people want to see what the area looks like, in case they want to ride in the area. Others want to see what the ride looks like. Others just want to hear the adventure. Some would like an accommodation review so if they do the ride they know where to stop.

Well let me know what you would like to hear by using the reply box.

Cape town cycle tour

 

 

Time to take a rest. Bike is posted to Cape Town, for the Cape Town cycle tour. Too late to do training now. Will have to do some running this week, to stop myself from getting lazy. Looking forward to see what my time will be as I have put some road tyres on and a pair of tri bars. Need to do better than my 15 km/h on the Trans-Afrika. After all it is just a breakfast run. Next time must write in for two laps. Ha Ha.

Looking forward to the weekend. Will be flying down to Cape Town from Johannesburg on the 4 March, with our vets and a number of people from the pig farming industry. CS vet and pharmaceutical companies are sponsoring the weekend. I will be riding in their kit. They have lined up some activities for us.

This is the second time I will be doing it with them. Actually they dragged me kicking to the first one. I had never done a cycle race before. Annie one of the vets gave me her place in the race and she transferred it to my name, as she had decided not to ride. I did not even have a cycle shirt at that stage. Actually bought my first shirt on a special at the expo before the race. That KAWAY shirt that you have got to know me in. This was in 2014. I had only ridden tours in Africa. I had cycled in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi by that stage. Been a tourist on a bicycle is very different to riding the biggest timed race in the world. Think that year there was over 33000 riders. Even now I am not used to having so many riders around me. Very easy to have an accident.

So cycling will have brought me to Cape Town three time in the last few years. Amazing how cycling starts to make a big world smaller. Saying that it makes me realize how small the big cities in Southern Africa are. When I was a child they looked so big and could only be crossed by bus or car. Now on the bike it is less than an hour cross Johannesburg. Cape Town city centre in 15 minutes.

Having said all that I would be ungrateful if did not brag on getting 60 mm rain this week. It rained on three different days. The parched earth sucked up the water as fast as it fell not leaving much to run away. I was wondering what we are going to have for winter grazing. There is a marsh/water way that the farm gets its name from called Meisjesvlei. This is the first time in three years I have seen water running down it.IMG-20160227-WA0000 On the top of the farm there is a quarry that collects water in the rainy season and then it seeps down to the underground supply. Last night I found a puddle of water there for the first time in two years.

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Puddle of water at Dead mans Island

There are two months left in this rainy season. Sure hope this rain keeps up. South Africa is experiencing its worst drought in a 100 years. We have been lucky it is not as bad on the farm as some places. This rain will be enough to take the sunflowers that survived the scorching heat to harvest. Here are some photos at sunset on the farm in the past week.

 

 

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

December 2015

Been off the radar for a short time. Does not mean that I have been up to nothing. Christmas and New Year are a busy time on the farm. The public holidays result in working half staff. With this we have to keep feeding and watering animals. We cannot just close the doors and open in January. If only the people sitting in town knew the long hours and effort that goes into putting food on their tables. It pains me sometimes to see the food that goes rotten and wasted.

We have been in the grip of a drought. We landed enough rain in the first half of December to plant about 400 ha sunflower just to be followed be three weeks of heat wave. This was max temperatures over 33 degrees. This farm is situated on the Springbok flats bio diversity which is basically African Savanah. As the pressure of the drought pushes the wild animals to their limits they turned to the germinating sunflowers. Looks like the animals have eaten any plant that pushed its first two leaves out of the soil. Looks like we will have to plant again. That will also not work if we do not get any more rain.

We have had to continue supplementary feeding cattle. If there is no rain before winter we will not make it to the next summer rains without bringing in extra bales from our other farms where we have stock pilled some hay. Normally it is very dry in February and march with some rain in April. Hope January and April bring good rain. It will be good for the cattle but too late for crops.

The pigs have been under pressure from the high temperatures resulting in lower feed intake and thus growth. I have not spoken much of this part of my life but it is the main activity which I am involved in. All other farm activities are side lines.

Having said that you may have seen on twitter that I have done a few rides. There was the quick weekend to my sister at Belmoral. That was a nice warm up ride of 320 km. I have made two trips down the R101 to Pretoria to see family.

All in all they were very hot rides. Resulting in me looking for times to cool off. There was the dip in the irrigation canal in Rus De Winter.

Two rides home from Pretoria finishing in dipping in the pool with cycling clothes on to cool off.

 There was a comment on twitter saying that I should rather take up swimming. Swimming long distance could be very dangerous when the sleep monsters strike. If you see how slow I ride my swimming is even slower. I would need a life jacket.

As the New Year begins the question all ask is what I am going to do in 2016. That is the same question I ask myself. Is always nice to have a goal to work for. I am in the Cape Town cycle tour. This is just a nice short party trip. A lot of pig farmers and their vets normally go down and do it. Then I am very tempted to ride the Trans-Afrika again to defend my title of Lantern Rogue. I really enjoyed the Trans-Afrika. I am not much of a racer but it was an amazing adventure. I see @BufflSoldier01 is planning a trip to East Africa in December. It would be nice to join him. I have been longing to cross some boarders up in Africa again. There is the element of the unknown. By the way Andy Masters I think you should start a Race from Karonga Malawi to Johannesburg or Cape Town. Call it the Trans-Rift. I would most likely be on the starting line. Well will let you know what I will be up to.

Riding Trans-Afrika part 2

20151010_104422Just for those that do not know Lesotho. It is not called the mountain kingdom for nothing. Check point 2 is at top of Moteng pass (2820 m). I was very lucky to have a tail wind to help me up. However near the top it turned into Gail force.

This meant the decent was into the wind. First 100 m I had to push to get past the gap in the mountain as it was making the wind blow faster as the wind was funnelled between the nick in the mountain. The wind was so strong that I had to pedal downhill. Everybody was saying you will need a new set of brake pads after decent. Well that is not my case.

Out of the pass riding along the valley where there is a ploughed land along the road the wind got so bad that I got off because it felt like I was not making progress. I then decided that this wind could carry on for a long time as some of the front riders had complained about the wind. I started pedalling again finding that the sand was sand blasting me. Thank goodness for sunglasses or I would not have been able to see for all the sand that was flying. At one point the wind was so bad I had decided to get off. Just at that moment the wind blew me off my bicycle onto the road. Laying in the road I looked up and saw a roof coming in my direction looking like it was going to touch down where I was laying in the road. The sharp edges looked like it was going to be on my right. So I rolled left swinging my arm to try deflect the sharp side away from me. My bicycle was laying on the road between me and the roof with its handle bar straight up. The roof landed on the bicycle with the handle bar braking the force. Causing the bar end on the ground to brake. Only after I finished the race did I see that the carrier was also bent. When the roof landed it got dark and light again as the wind picked it up and blew it further. 20151010_154148The wind slowed down just after that then I pushed my bicycle behind the house where the roof came off. FB_IMG_1446841627523Here out of the wind I had to put my front wheel back on. Finding the wheel was not totally straight. However it was good enough to go on till I reached a place where I could work on it. The back disc break was also touching a little. Released the wheel and tightened it a little off centre so that the disc pad did not touch. This held out quite well. Got a scratch down the arm from the roof.FB_IMG_1446841622854

My aim was to exit Lesotho at the Fickesburg boarder post. So I pushed on into the head wind. Stopping to eat KFC at Butha-buthe. Hit the road in rush hour traffic as the sun was setting. There was a high level of traffic and there was no shoulder to the road. Stopping for a little just hopping the traffic would slow. It is interesting to note home traffic then the rush home for supper. After that most roads start to get more quite. Fatigue was starting to get the better of me so I was getting a little wobbly. There came a good Samaritan about 10 km from the boarder. He rode his car behind me with his hazards lights on and head lights on me. I was glade to exit Lesotho at about 11pm. I found a Hotel to sleep and shower. In the hotel I used spoke spanner to try make the wheel run true. Adjusted back wheel again as brakes were dragging again.

Headed out at sunrise to find breakfast and supplies for the road. From here the road is much friendlier. With less traffic and most roads having some kind of shoulder. Finding progress to be much faster. However fatigue started to set in and to keep the eyes open became the biggest challenge. Stopped at Wepener and slept at the Lord Fraser hotel. Rolling out into the dark at about 3am. Making good progress and then finding myself very drowsy having to stop a few times to sleep for a few minutes along the road. The temperature reached 2.6 degrees without wind chill at this time. From this time all the way to the end of the race I could not feel my left thumb. Making it difficult to know if I was changing gears. Had to keep looking down to check the thumb was in the right place. Had a healthy breakfast at Zastron. Filled all the back pockets up with food so that did not have to stop so much.

At Rouxville stopped at a workshop to get a washer to put on my back axel so that the brake would stop dragging. Tough working against brakes. Nice tail wind down to Aliwal North. This road had road works giving me a full lane.20151012_104043 Stopping at Aliwal north for an early lunch at the wimpy. During lunch the wind turned to a hot head wind making it tough work down to Burgersdorp. Along the way my water got so hot it was making me thirstier.  Mid-afternoon there was a nice windmill with a reservoir full of cold water. Nice to splash and full up with cool water. Arrived in Burgersdorp at sunset just in time to book into a hotel and do some shopping for next day supplies at the spar. Went to bed early so could start riding at about 3am. This was a very nice stretch of road to ride. About 10 am took a photo to brag at good progress by the sign for 60 km to Middleburg. 20151013_082528From here the wind came up and it was a fight against the hot wind. Finally my water came to an end. Lucky to find a small reservoir to full up on water again. Arriving about 2 pm for lunch at Middleburg.

This is when supporters from all angles started to motivate me to go on. So up and over the Lootsberg pass I went. Summiting the pass just as the last sliver of light disappeared. Well thank goodness to down hills that rolled me all the way into Graaff-reinet. Rolled me all the way on to Aberdeen. Only problem was the eyes that could not stay open for the last 50 km. This resulted in many sleeps along the road. Thank goodness there was very little traffic. This put extra time on to the journey. Only arriving at 2am for this reason. Let me tell you there is a B&B called Pagel house. Andy told me to phone a head. Well she woke up for me and put a microwave in my room to warm up supper for me. This is a must sleep spot. Nice beds and hospitality. Also good spring board to push all the way to Prince Albert.20151014_08063020151014_080712

Had good sleep and eat breakfast with the other guests. It was a meal fit for a king( Eggs, mushrooms, potatoes, yogurt, fruit, fruit juice). All comes in a three coarse breakfast. Eat so much that I had a stomach ache until 10am. She will even make you a pack breakfast and lunch if you request. Thought she was a bit pricey but when you look at the food provided and the effort that goes into it, she is under charging. You will get pampered into another world and find it hard to get back on your bicycle. From here the road is friendly until just before the climb up to Willowmore. The road is the straightest I have ever seen. The person painting the yellow line must have used a GPS.  If you look into the distance and put a ruler up it will be straight. 20151014_095358Make sure to stock supplies before facing this road as there are no food or water stops. As became the norm I was having trouble staying awake so this cut down the speed. This is when a companion would be nice to talk you awake on such a straight flat road.

At Willowmore I chose to take the dirt road of 100km towards Prince Albert. Nice road with good scenery and only a few places with stones or sand. In my mind this is much faster than taking the tar road around. A farmer along the road stopped me to have a chat. Finding out I was a farmer he really wanted to get talking. We farmers can talk about all sorts of things the town people would not think of. Things like grazing capacities and breeds of animals that survive in different environments. Night came quick and I had not reached the tar yet. This is a nice stretch of road fairly flat with gentle ups and down.

Tar road to Prince Albert is a real dream. The only problem is that it started to rain. I found out later that it snowed on the Swartberg in some places that night. It did not feel to cold. Then fighting off sleep became a big problem. Falling asleep on a downhill cold be very dangerous. On a few occasions almost fell off the bike. I had phoned Johann Rissik for help with my technical problems on my bicycle. He had gone to bed early so that when I arrived in Prince Albert he would help me out. There are amazing people in this world. He really went out of his way to help me. He met me at 2 am and made sure the Denehof B&B food was ready and waiting for me when I came in. He then went off with my bicycle and repaired it when I was sleeping. He replaced a snapped spoke, stripped hydraulic back brake cylinder that had jammed causing it to rub all the time causing drag. This is why I had put a washer on the axel to stop the drag.  He worked on my jockey wheels that looked like they were going to wobble off at one stage. He put some reflectors on peddles to increase visibility. In the morning when I woke up there was a message on my phone to say the bicycle is outside weighting for me. He saw I was sleeping so well he did not want to disturb me. Denehof also had a wonderful breakfast set in a cape Dutch garden. With herbs which look so fresh they must have just been picked from some garden. The B&B has thick walls build by the Dutch over a 100 years back.20151015_08324820151015_074236

 

The push up the Swartberg pass is amazing. The rock formations are crazy. Starting at the bottom in the heat with the sun shining down.

As I progressed higher up the clouds started to cover the top of the mountain. Eventually entering the cloud near the summit of the pass. At the summit the wind was blowing very hard with the wind blowing rain sideways. Some of the rain drops drifted almost like sleet. 20151015_140330Now was the mega downhill with rain and wind. Stopped for food and to warmed up at a fire in a restaurant at the bottom of the mountain. Then took the route with the most sand road.

This is some of the most beautiful area of the whole race. Really enjoyed this ride down hills and valleys with small dairy farms and irrigation ditches.

Sleeping in Calitzdorp and riding out well before sunrise. Route 62 is a nice road with lots of interesting tourist places. There were a lot of motor bikes out on breakfast runs or tours. Route 62 is not flat but has passes and farms along the route with small towns where you can stop to eat or purchase home industry goods.

At one point I thought to try make it all the way to the finish in one ride. However the sleep started to play with me. So stopped to sleep in Worcester and made ride up Bainskloof in the morning. This is child’s play compared to the other mountains.20151017_091326

 

Just before Durbanville Marias met me and then Andy and his team. They escorted me all the way to Bloubergstrand, Eden on the bay.

Finishing in 13 days 9 hours and 17 minutes.IMG_0471

Steff the winner of the race who finished in 8 days handed me my troughy and lantin for been the last in.IMG_0474Writing this makes me tempted to ride next year. Hope to see some of you riding.

 

Riding Trans-Afrika part 1

We started at the Statue of Beit on the middle of the bridge between South Africa and Zimbabwe. As the photo shows it was dark and before 5 am on the 4 October 2015. Eight riders full of hope and excitement. We were police escorted to Messina and hit the open road to start an adventure of survival.IMG_0173

Steve and I started at the back of the peloton. We planned on pacing our selves for the distance. My heart rate monitor was telling me to slow down all the time. I think this is a bit of an annoyance to Steve. I know that if I push to hard my legs will not make the days end. So I was holding back but not enough. As will later be seen. When we got to the Tshipise, Steve decided to stop for something at the shop. I had the race in my blood and rode on. Not far down the road I turned on to the dirt road passing the Nzhelele dam. Now alone as I would be for most of the race. This road tested those 2 inch reverse tread tyres of mine. I could see the faster riders with thinner tyres struggling a little in the loose sand and stoney sections. At some places I could see where they had climbed off and pushed. On reaching the tar road I turned right along the river. The temperature was rising making the body start to slow down and feel heat exertion. To save water I stopped at a place close to the river and splashed my self cool with water from the river. This made a big difference giving me renewed energy to take on the next climb.

Not far up the road Andy Masters team and Casper Venter stopped and refilled my drinking water and gave me a cold Fanta. The cool drink also helped to lower my body temperature. They said to me the next rider was not far ahead. This gave me drive to go on to catch them. Passing Dazinani I stopped at a Tavern and ordered some hot chips and ice-cold water for lunch. All the time watching the road to see if Steve was coming up the road. No there was no sign of Steve.

Not long after lunch the cramps started as a result of dehydration and to fast a start. This is what happens when you do not listen to your heart rate monitor and riding in temperatures of 40 degrees. Just before climbing the big climb up the Soutpansberg the cramps got me straight legged next to the road under a tree. I mixed an Rehydrate for sports and drank it and weighted for the cramps to go. Amazing enough after about 15 minutes the cramps stopped. Also by this time my body temperature dropped to normal again. I then climbed back on my bicycle and started the climb. Having to stop about 3 times to drink and allow body temperature to drop back to normal. At this time the temperature had reached 49 degrees. Not far from the top I received a WhatsApp telling me Gary was not far ahead. So I said I will go on then. What a wonderful find I found on the other side of the pass. A nice shop with ice and a tavern. Something cold to drink is all that is needed to bring the body temperature down. No not a beer. I am talking of cold water. From the top of the Soutpansberg was down down down all the way to Thohoyandou. At Thohoyandou had a good early supper of chicken and rice with a big salad. This helped to take away the sport drink taste in the mouth.

I had planned to sleep near Giyani for the night, so off I went. Making  good time now and feeling much better. At one point a vehicle made me exit the road. I decided to try jump the shoulder back on the road at normal speed. This was not a good idea. There was a nice step back on to the road. I felt the back-end of the bicycle coming up to my shoulders. Landed with all brakes on with my feet on the tar and the handle bars in the groin area . Amazing no injuries. On assessing the damages in the dark. I found front wheel to be ok. Back wheel was out of its place. I think when we were loading the bicycle on to a vehicle to get to the start. We had taken the back wheel off to get it to fit in a car. However I had not checked that the wheel was nice and tight afterwards. Lucky wheel had not come off down one of those hill where I was doing 50 km/h.

About 20 km from Giyani a man stopped along the road and said he would escort me to Giyani. At this time it was dark and about 8 pm. He rode behind me with hazard lights on and his head lights on me. There are really good people out in this country. Not wanting to put them out too much. I rode faster with more determination. When I got into Giyani in a light spot I stopped to speak to him. He said he had seen riders earlier in the day and likes to follow bicycle races. I asked him if he knew of good place to sleep. He escorted me to the B&B called Krematate and made sure there was place for me and the price was good.

Leaving early in the morning to make use of the dark for cooler temperatures and less traffic on the road. Made good time and met Andy along the road again before Mica. IMG_3577Then found Tim just before Hoedspruit. He was suffering from cramps and dehydration. Gave him a little cold water to help lower body temperature. Then went on my way. Later heard he left the race and was getting medical attention for heat stress and dehydration. Not finding the suggested restaurant at Hoedspruit I passed on to Acornhoek, almost running out of water. At the first spaza shop I  stopped and they gave me some rain water. This was a life line. Just a few km down the road I found a big shopping complex. Here stopped for supper at a pizza shop. Put some pizza in the back pockets and pushed on into the night. 20151005_155542Climbing Bushbuckridge in the cool of the night . At this point a cold wind came up from the south.  The head wind did not bother me as it was down hill to Hazyview.

Here made a decision to ride on to Nelspruit as three other riders in front of me had decided to sleep here. This would put me in front of them. Also I would not make the border of Swaziland in time and would lose a day. I have lived in this area before so know the area. Stopped at White river garage to charge GPS and telephone as they had gone flat about 2 hours earlier. Slept leaning against a wall for about half hour. Had some food from the garage shop. After about an hour the gear had charged enough. Free wheeling down to Nelspruit at sunrise. To sleepy to go on found a grassy spot and slept for about an hour. When the rain started I found an open garage shop and got more food.  Pushing on to wards Barberton in the rain.

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Along this stretch Colin and Andrew caught up with me. They were surprised to find it was me. They had heard in White river that there was a cyclist ahead of them. They thought it was Gary. They ride faster than I do so off they went. Entering the bottom of the hill/mountain up to the Swaziland border post near Barberton at 9H05 and reaching the border at 14H00. Not long after starting the climb Colin and Andrew past me again. They had stopped at Barberton Wimpy for brunch.20151006_014849 I was very tired at this stage and had to stop for a few sleeps to keep me awake. There is a forestry workers compound on the way up. I stopped to fill up my water bladders here. There is no other place for water or food on this hill. All vehicles have to ascend in first and second gear to manage to move forward. Had to do a lot of pushing to make sure to save legs/knees for rest of race.20151006_014902

From the border to Pigs Peak the road is very bad. Many steep hills with powder and stones. Found my tyres spinning making it very difficult to cycle up hill. This is when  MTB tyres are needed. Landed up pushing most of the way. Covered 18 km from border to Highlands inn from 14H00 to 17H15.20151006_055623

Had a good supper with Andy, Colin and Andrew at the Highlands Inn. I chose to sleep longer than they did as I had not slept the night before. They entered the road about 2 or 3 am in the morning, I left at 5 am. This put them about 2 or 3 hours ahead of me. From here they put on the speed . I think they were afraid I was going to pass them when they were sleeping.20151007_053544 Just before sunset I stopped at a stop for supplies. The shop keeper let me know how far a head of me they were and they were planning on sleeping in Standerton. This was a long way from where I was and had to push on. In Ermelo stopped at a pizza shop remembering how it helped to get energy to push through the night last time. Except I had to wait 2 hours to let my GPS and Cell charge. This put me more time behind them.

I pushed on into the night to try see if could get past Morgenzon. Just out of Ermelo some youngsters coming from town thought to give me a problem. They harassed me and pushed be off the road with their farm bakkie (truck). I was making good time with a tail wind and down hill. Forcing me to exit road at about 30 to 40 km/h into the veld (grasslands). Lucky they rode off and left me alone after that. Thank goodness no damages only the wind out of my sail. Not long after this I started to look for a good place to sleep along the road. Not finding a good place slept I settled in the entrance to a culvert under the road. Did not sleep well on account of the place not been well concealed. After about 2 hours light sleep pushed on into the sunrise. Before Standerton there was some major road works. This forced me off into the stones or made me have to stop to let cars pass. At Standerton made sure to have a good breakfast of cheese and ham sandwiches. Purchased some supplies for the road and was on my way again.

The Free state is supposed to be flat with rolling hills. Let me tell you there are hills. Together with the heat and gentle head wind this made for some slow progress. Having to stop under the odd tree along the road to cool down. Just before Vrede Andy and team checked in on me.FB_IMG_1446841573702 At Vrede stopped in to see if could get more Rehydrate at chemist. No luck but bumped into the mother inlaw of Petri my boss. She had been following my progress and had wanted to show her support. However I had been to slow in coming and she had gone to the shops. We had a short talk in the chemist and I was on my way again.

The wind was picking up quite bad now. Pushing me to a snail’s pace. Together with heat and head wind the water had turned to tea and was not quenching the thirst. What a luck there was a windmill with lots of cold water to splash over my hot body and to full bladders up with cold water. The road to Warden was very busy. The R101 had lots of heavy vehicles and no shoulder on the road. Thank goodness wind was now from the shoulder. Only gusting causing bicycle to zig zag. Making it even more dangerous not to have a shoulder on the road. At Sunset reached Warden to book into the Warden Lodge. Very good food and good hospitality.  Had a good sleep for the first time in a long time.

Leaving for Bethlehem in the early hours of the morning to make use of less wind in the night. This was the first time it had felt cool in the morning. It is mostly down hill to Bethlehem. Nice wide shoulder on road. Slight tailwind and down hill made for quick work on this stretch. Refilled supplies at Bethlehem, chemist even had Rehydrate sport. That was good news knowing I was facing Lesotho. Road to Fouriesburg had no shoulder and was quite busy. This made slow work having to exit the road for trucks all the time. Finally reaching Fouriesburg after lunch. Making it not worth my will to enter Lesotho. Chose to rest and eat well and have an early night. Border opens at 6H00 this gave me a full nights rest. Had dinner with Colin and Andrew as they had chosen to ride Moteng pass then sleep at Fouriesburg before heading south. This ment they were one day ahead of me now.FB_IMG_1446841580285

Will write second half of race in another post. What a adventure this was. Hope you give it a go next year. If you read between the lines you may find many tips to plan your race.

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