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 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.

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.

2016 titan vaalwater hotel2016 titan berlin road

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.

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

Round trip Home-Nylstroom-Vaalwater-Lephalale-Maken-Potgitersrus-Naboomspruit

Did some training for the Trans-Afrika race this last weekend. Left home just before 5am. Saw sunrise near the T junction of Settlers and Marble Hall road (R33).20150829_061047 20150829_085342Just before lunch took this picture unfortunately they ran away. As they were right next to the road looking at me. 20150829_110953Stopping for an early lunch at Vaalwaters new shopping mall. Actually this town has had a little face lift. It was a dusty African frontier town. Now it has something more modern buildings with some paint. Laid bicycle down to get right angle to let solar panels charge phone and gps as I eat lunch. No luxury of dynamo yet.20150829_120222

Using the R33 continued on to Lephalale (Ellisras). Was a good day for game viewing. Started early just before sunrise with a Sable just 15 m from me, behind a game fence. To many Kudu sightings to count. Warthog,giraffe, fisheagle,vultures, impala and not to mention the common cow and horse.

At Lephalale got to stop at KFC just as sun was setting. Relaxed had a good meal and rehydrated. It had been a very hot sunny afternoon which had dried me out. Did find one roadside shop along that road and purchased a nice cold Poweraide. Other wise it was high game fences on both sides of the road. No water in river beds or open farm gates to ask for water. Many signs saying poachers will be shot. So would not recommend trespassing to look for water or stealth camping.

Rode into the night looking for a nice place to stealth camp. Much to my disappointment the game fences did not give way until 60km from Marken. There was a rural area with some Sukelbos. Took some scratches and a thorn puncture one of my water bladders to find a nice resting place. Tested out some camping equipment. Will not go into detail as you will probably laugh at me. Put it this way. I did not use a tent and did use a sleeping bag with some kind of covering sheet. Landed falling asleep looking up at a full moon and waking up a few times just to fall asleep just as fast again. Easier to pack up camp with less belongings.20150830_063226

Set out on the road again before 5 am. Stopping at Marken for some nice toasted cheese and ham sandwiches. Refill water and energy drink and on the road again. On my route plan it looked like it would be mostly down hill. Did not feel like it. However there is a very nice decent passing through a pass that sets you down on the same elevation as Potgitersrus.20150830_110633At bottom of pass there is a hill that looks like a castle. With some breeding sites most likely for vultures. 20150830_111628There is a village at the base. This must have been a sight of some meaning for past generations. There was church music from the village that was echoing through the bush. Giving the feeling as if the mountain was alive and calling out to you. Sure if you pass with a car you would not know of this. Gave some kind of spiritual undertone to the area. Some way down the road found a nice river and cooled off in it. Washed some of the sweat off. Then almost across the road was a small shop. Here I refilled water by getting a bag of ice to put in my bladders

Traffic was heavy on all the roads but as I got closer to Potgitersrus the traffic picked up. At Potgitersrus I had KFC again. Hit the old main road to Naboomspruit . This was very busy road. Landed peddling into Naboomspruit at just after sunset around 6pm. Had arranged to be picked up by Righardt as I knew there was not enough time to get home to have a good sleep before work the next day.

Was really nice to get out to see if can do the Trans-Afrika race. To be quite honest I think I have bitten off a big chunk. Have to replan target towns to be at to make sure reach Cape town at a given time. Looks so easy on paper but get down on the saddle.  It is going to be some long days in the saddle.

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.