As I stab at the keyboard in a beautiful air-conditioned office, I look outside and yearn for the simplicity of the Karoo.
My last blog entry was the failed 1000km attempt in April. Since then a lot has happened – we got our first child, a now 9 month old genius, who we absolutely adore. After his arrival I really I haven’t spent much time on the bike, missing out on range of Audax rides. And shortly before this 1000 we attempted another Everest, but I picked up a debilitating cough less than halfway through and as such also missed out on the subsequent 94.7, the 600km in JHB and a SR. This was unfinished business.
There is only one way to describe this ride:
Basically, we cycled while it turned from day into night and back again (about 4 times, luckily not 5, but certainly not just the 3 that we aimed for).
How does this 1000km differ from something like the Munga? Well, it’s not a race. It is an unsupported solo effort in which you carry what you need with you or acquire same on road, at establishments open to everybody (so no convoy or dedicated support team looking after you as on RAAM). You get a pink slip (brevet card) to complete at various control points, that are usually about 75kms apart on average and have open and closing times based on certain average speeds (30km/h open and 13.33kmh close).
The 75 hour time limit may be too strict for average Randonneurs, on this route. Look at the numbers. Chris did his last PBP in just under 55 hours, and finished the April Cape 1000 with Wimpie in around 67 hours, indicating the latter is more difficult, despite being 230km shorter than the ride in Paris. So if I did PBP in 78 hours then my realistic time for the Cape 1000 should be 78*67/55 = 95 hours. Let’s see what happened.
Only 5 cyclists this time. Four Capetonians (Chris van Zyl, Rob Walker, Theunis Esterhuizen and myself) plus our fellow rider from JHB, Kenneth Wilson. Chris is in a different league to the rest of us (to put things in perspective, he completed a 2200km ride in Italy in 136 hours), so he was always going to have deal with riding alone.
Our control points were as follows, 7 out and 7 back. To help with the timeline while reading, these have been highlighted to show when we passed through.
||Out km||Back km|
0km // Stellenbosch // 18:15 on Fri 9 Dec 2016.
We had a slight delay before we got going – Theunis’s wallet was nicked just before the start – not ideal. He quickly made a few phone calls to cancel his cards and then we were off, 15 minutes later than scheduled.
Everyone was quite cheerful as we rolled out of Vrede, onto the Old Paarl Road and then through the main road of Paarl. Chris mentioned that it is the longest main road (12kms) through any town in South Africa. The sun was setting as we cycled alongside magnificent examples of Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture.
We quickly made our way through to our first control in Wellington and then on to the first of 8 mountain passes, which we’d have to do in both directions.
40km done // Wellington // 19:40 on Fri 9 Dec.
Every time I go over this pass I enjoy it more, especially ascending from Wellington’s side. As always, I was last to the top and made up for it on the way down. Kenneth joined Rob and myself and we picked up Theunis on our way to the second control at Rawsonville.
Off he goes
Chris started late, hung around with us going up Bainskloof and then picked up his pace to reach the 500km mark in Hartenbos in an eye-watering sub 25 hours (included having to wait for the shops to open in Ladismith to get something to eat). While having beers after we finished, he mentioned looking over his shoulder from time to time to try and spot us. Sleep deprivation messes with your head.
Back to us four
100km done // Rawsonville // 23:00 on Fri 9 Dec.
We arrived at Rawsonville, still feeling fresh. After signing controls cards and having a couple of snacks we made our way to Worcester, opting to go through the streetlight town rather than passing its outskirts around Aan-de-Doorns. Theunis had his reservations, but we were soon turning right onto the R60 in Worcester. It was another 45kms to Robertson.
We pedalled into a strong draft and up with felt like a never-ending subtle incline (I checked the map afterwards, it was just 22kms) towards Graham Beck, before going up a sweeping turn to the left and onto the last little climb before Robertson. From here on it was the very familiar and delightful 8kms into town, where we regrouped at the 24hr Shell garage.
166km done // Robertson // 3:20am on Sat 10 Dec.
Rob was in a bad spot and hinted at us carrying on without him. And Theunis had a damaged elbow (after the recent Stellenbosch race) that was starting to act up again, so he was ready to stop if Rob did.
Kenneth and myself were in no hurry and we waited until everyone was ready to carry on. This pit stop turned out to be slightly longer than expected. We eventually rolled out of the Shell garage towards the next control, Barrydale, which was 90kms away and 25% into the total ride – but first we would have to negotiate the seemingly neverending roadworks through Ashton & Cogmanskloof.
Poof, and he’s gone
For all the agony that Rob endured thus far, the last pit stop must have done him a world of good because he blasted away from the rest of us just outside of Robertson and we only caught up with him around Ashton. I was very happy to see his newfound energy and mentioned that no-one who rides like that is allowed to quit.
The sun was out and our spirits were high as we hopped onto the start of Route 62, through the staggering beauty of the Cogmanskloof rock formations and then Montagu – aptly named as the rock climbing capital of South Africa.
Pardon my French, but this is a killer. No wonder the DC races this one coming down, not going up like we had to. It is a neverending slog up from Montagu to get over Wildehondskloofhoogte and then directly on to the next pass the get to the top of Op de Tradouw. This counts as one of my least desired climbs and the mental scars from the failed Cape 1000km still remains.
Man oh man, was I glad to see the guys at the Akkerboom farm stall, where everyone stopped to gather their senses. Peter was in charge of the safety vehicle and it seems that he knows, better than anyone else, what a tired long distance cyclist needs. Legendary. Refreshed and wide awake we set off towards our next stop – a not too distant Barrydale. We immediately reached some top speeds coming down the freshly tarred surface of Op de Tradouws pass.
It didn’t take us long to reach Barrydale and now we were in the Klein Karoo.
250km done // Barrydale // 10:30am on Sat 10 Dec.
This occasion called for celebration and we had our first beers of the ride. After a light snack we set off again, starting with a climb on the outskirt of town, heading towards Ronnies Sex Shop. Just after we got going I headed for the closest shade patch and liberally applied some suntan lotion. It was scorching outside and the last thing you want on a long ride is to get sunburn on day one.
Our humble 4 man peloton stretched out and eventually splintered, with Rob & Theunis sitting in front and Kenneth and myself following from behind, but keeping great rhythm. Not long after we heard a vehicle slow down next to us and when I looked over my shoulder I saw it was Henri & his wife in their Kombi. They came to assist with safety car duties. We carried on till Ronnies Sex shop where Kenneth & myself pulled in for another beer. It was hot, after all.
After the stop at Ronnie’s I felt great and picked up some speed, eventually getting to the front and riding a long stretch in front on my own. I felt like a kid with a new toy and just pedaled towards the horizon. Long while later I took a compulsory break – my front light’s fitting snapped off and I had to stop to mend it.
While I was fiddling around in the shade, Rob appeared from behind, with some bad news. Theunis’ elbow worsened to such an extent that we couldn’t sufficiently grip his handlebar anymore. It wasn’t safe to continue, so his ride ended just before Ladismith. Very unfortunate.
He lent me his O-ring
Suggestive as it may sound, it simply means that now I had a proper working light again. Thanks, Theunis. The last 10kms into Ladismith always feels like a bit of a drag and we were very happy to finally roll into the Steers at the garage. It was wide open for business, unlike the closed doors that Chris encountered (much) earlier on his sprint to the coast.
333km done // Ladismith // 16:40 on Sat 10 Dec.
And then there were two
Unfortunately, Kenneth was also forced to stop in Ladismith. This was a pity, as we have shared many miles together in JHB and I thoroughly enjoy riding with him. This left two of us and just short of 700kms to go. I was very much aware of the upcoming Huisrivier pass, so didn’t linger around for too long before setting off, trying to get a head-start before the limbs, while Rob was still having a nap in the restaurant.
It was just another 50kms to get to Calitzdorp, with the small matter of the Huisrivier pass inbetween. Shortly before I reached the magical descent at the start of the pass, I stopped at out safety vehicle for a quick word with Peter and sent a message to Rob – ‘don’t quit, as you’ll most certainly regret it later on’. Later I learned that Yoli said exactly the same. And he set off from Ladismith to continue his adventure.
The descent down here was something to behold. It was getting dark and I positively flew down the mountain. The road surface was excellent and the sweeping turn kept you entertained all the way to the bottom. I eventually crossed the river and passed the house where I remembered my impromptu cat nap on the previous Cape 1000 attempt.
I felt 100% better than last time, but it was slightly concerning that it took longer to get here this time, despite not having any health issues. And so began my last slog up a steep and straight road that would take ages before it turns to the right to reveal Calitzdorp below.
Not exactly sure what time I rolled into town, but it was dark and just after dinner. I stopped at the first place that looked inviting. Upon sitting down on the stoep outside, I was handed a menu and greeted with a small glass of port – after all, Calitzdorp is the port capital of South Africa.
After the burger & beer I struggled to stay awake while still on the lookout to see when Rob comes through. Eventually his light came down the road and I was happy to see the guy looked much better than last time I saw him (or maybe the sunburn just didn’t look as severe at night).
As he ordered something from the menu I lay flat on the stoep and dozed off into a rhythmic sleep. Until some inebriated fellow from the bar came out to strike up a conversation about the days he still rode the Cape Argus. Not now.
I must have been half asleep but gathered that the owner of the restaurant couldn’t believe we were still on our way to Oudtshoorn that evening and she promptly called her friend over at the newly renovated The Calitz to offer us accommodation.
We gladly obliged and agreed to set our alarms for 2:30am.
This is what happens when you just too tired to think straight. Being a notoriously deep sleeper, it same as no surprise that I hit snooze in a state of zombiness and only woke up when Rob barged into my room at sunrise. He did set his alarm for 2:30am – but for the wrong day. Schoolboy error on both accounts.
Waking up to daybreak, we were over time. Even before the ride we have made a conscious decision to finish no matter what (knowing that the 75hr cut-off might very well be very out of reach). In a sense, this was kind-of-a relief. With no clock to chase, our ride would turn into an adventure. But on the flip-side, why carry on at all?
We both had different reasons for continuing. Rob wanted to test his mental and physical ability for TCR (he passed with flying colours) and I wanted to complete this unfinished business and test out the route for a commercial version of the ride, see www.cape1000.co.za.
Off we went, slightly disappointed about being out of time but all the same excited about finishing what we have started.
This is the act of getting your bruised nether-region back onto the saddle after about 360kms or so. There is no correct way to do this and you have to keep trying until you can imagine hearing a distinct click. Sometimes it takes more than one attempt, prompting a couple of standing strides in between. After Lego-ing in on our 2nd & 3rd attempts respectively, we headed for Oudtshoorn.
The early morning Karoo was glorious. Just a few Parmalat diary trucks on the road. Conversation wad flowing and life was great. We saw a beard on a bicycle approach from the front and we greeted him in passing.
Not the sounds of silence
My bicycle was taking strain and making all sorts of funny noises. It couldn’t have been the bottom bracket, as I had it replaced during a service just before this ride and I was slightly annoyed about it not being in tip top shape. We stopped and applied some chain lube. This altered the subsequent noises and it became clear that the rear bearings were taking strain. It was Sunday morning in the Karoo and the outlook of an open bike shop was bleak.
I remember this Spur advertising board a couple of kilometers before Oudtshoorn for two reasons. Firstly, because it had changed recently – I cycled here just the week prior, when I accompanied one of my best friends Jaco on a trip here. He came to ask permission of his in-laws-to-be to get married to his lovely girlfriend, Neena (while I grabbed the opportunity to come and cycle the glorious Huisrivier pass, getting dropped off in Ladsmith and cycling the 100 kms to Oudtshoorn).
Secondly, because I have now come further than on the previous Cape 1000 attempt. The only thing slightly alarming statistic was that it took much longer to get here this time – without any health issues and even accounting for oversleeping. In any event, we rolled into Oudtshoorn.
430km done // Oudtshoorn // 8:20am on Sun 12 Dec.
We headed straight to Miles Guest House, where we were greeted by Henri & his wife, Andriette. Getting to this control point was another milestone, as I went through a bit of a dip on the way here, cranky bike and all.
Shall I fetch a hammer?
I’ll be the first to admit that I am no handyman. I have two left hands and after 34 years on earth, the only tool that I have (barely) mastered is the hammer. But Henri is a man of many talents and he casually mended my bicycle while we were all sitting outside on the lawn. He opened the hub and lubed the bearings like a boss. Thanks mate, you saved my ride.
After some a shower, fresh kit, breakfast and great coffee, we liberally applied more sun screen (the weather forecast indicating another scorcher), before setting of towards Hartenbos. To say we were mildly excited about the prospect of reach the halfway mark is a complete understatement. We were glowing, and not yet from the sun. Hartenbos, here we come.
Up the R328
It was around 80kms till the halfway mark. The first 20kms went by easily enough. It was somewhere around here where I started tracking the remaining kilometers to by using the white distance markers next to the road – much more entertaining than using a trip computer.
The traffic towards the coast started to increase substantially. Unfortunately we encountered a couple of ignorant or simply downright incompetent drivers out there, spoiling it for the rest. The worst was a chap towing a caravan, who almost wiped out Rob when serving into the left lane prematurely.
Having never witnessed an angry Mr Walker before, the very much justified verbal lashing that followed was new to me. Pity that the driver didn’t hear it – the intended recipient was probably blissfully unaware of the catastrophe he almost caused en route to his holiday.
What if that cyclist was your child? Remember – that guy on a bicycle next to the road also has parents. And a wife. And children. Which makes the fact that our recent passing hell-driver had three children’s bikes on the back of his caravan even more annoying.
Fortunately we survived the holiday motorists, for the time being. Our elevation increased by about 200 meters, followed by a number of rolling hills to took us higher-and-higher each time, until we finally saw the last ever-long sweeping climb that would take us up another ‘Helshoogte’ (about 250 meters) to reach the masts at the top of Robinson pass.
Top of the world
As always, I followed up the climb, to such and extent that Rob only became a little dot in the distance, but then made up for it coming down, passing him before we sped passed Eight Bells. We were now heading down to the coast.
The wind almost blew us back up again. The closer we got to the ocean, the stronger it blew. With no more protection from the mountains around us, we were exposed on the open flats and working hard to make any decent progress. The last bit over the N2 and up the hill was energy sapping stuff.
At some point close to Hartenbos, facebook reminded me that Rob and I have been friends for 2 years. How appropriate, given the fact that we were busy with another joint adventure.
510km done // Hartenbos // 3pm on Sun 11 Dec.
The smell of ocean was oh-so-welcome. I cycled ahead, into town, looking for a pharmacy. It was Sunday and closed till 5pm. The next best thing was buying off-the-shelf painkillers at Pick-n-Pay. They were about as effective as a suicide bomber with a wet fuse.
I met Rob at the Wimpy and we sat on the soft seats enjoying a meal. We were elated by being halfway into the ride and looking forward to the return leg with the assistance of a tailwind. It certainly felt like we deserved it by now.
Irrespective of wind assistance, there was still the small matter of having to go over Robinson pass again. This time we start at sea level and have to climb (for a seemingly non-stop 30 kms) to get to 860 meters above it. It was now 16:30 and we opted not to wait for the pharmacy to open at 5pm to buy the good stuff. Was this the right choice? Only one way to find out – Lego in & off we go.
It must be said, the climb back up didn’t feel nearly as difficult as what we had mentally prepared ourselves for. In fact, I rather liked it. I suspect this was due to numerous factors – the kind wind, the lower temperature, the silent misty conditions and the fact that we were going home.
We did stop at Eight Bells for a quick beer – just because we could. There it was decided that we should have dinner in Oudtshoorn and head back to The Calitz for a couple of hours’ sleep. It was getting darker as we rolled out of Eight Bells and a light mist rain saw us to the top of Robinson pass.
Rob started the descent while I was still taking a picture of my favorite road sign and then faffed around with my handlebar bag for a while. I must have lost track of time for a bit because this time I didn’t catch up to him as soon as I thought – and when I arrived I was positively startled…
The hills have eyes
Freewheeling down the lower slopes of the pass I noticed a house next to the road on the right hand side with the porch light on. There was someone outside and even from afar it looked like an attractive lady. As I got closer I saw this absolutely stunning woman in a dress. I was about to greet when I saw her face didn’t move and realized it was a manikin. F*cking creepy.
A shiver ran down my spine as I went into fight-or-flight mode, ready for action – expecting Leather-face to come running at me with his chainsaw, ready to peel a fresh flesh face mask.
Did your see that?
Granted, we were tired. It was dark. And I do have a bit of a imagination. But Rob confirmed he saw it to. Sigh of relief. We took of our rain jackets and headed for Oudtshoorn.
On this side of the mountain the weather was completely different. Back to normal. It was a typical wind-still, full-moon, South African summer’s evening – the ones especially reserved for December holidays. It is something you just have to experience. Preferably on a bike. There was no-one else around and we were having the time of our lives. I switched off my headlight and continued to ride at speed on the clear moonlit road ahead. I wanted to bottle and savor the moment.
All to soon we reached the lights of Oudtshoorn, happily chatting as we rolled into town. By now all the restaurants were closed (we tried quite a few) and we headed for the Total garage.
592km done // Oudtshoorn // 22:30 on Sun 11 Dec
In a sudden bold move, Rob grabbed the last garage pie.
I, on the other hand, didn’t want tempt fate and chose my dinner based on the furthest expiry date. It turned out to be a less-than-impressive burger, coupled with coffee and crisps. We sat on a wooden bench in a dark corner outside, building up energy for the 50kms to Calitzdorp. I even grabbed 10 minutes of sleep.
Why do you do this?
On that flat stretch of the Route 62 as you leave Oudtshoorn towards the west, we had an epiphany. If someone ever asked you why you cycled long distances into the night, the answer would be in this moment. Sharing a great experience with a great mate on a great road – why would you not want to do this.
We didn’t want it to end. But arriving in Calitzdorp, we experienced another moment of brilliance – our welcome note at the accommodation. Coincidentally we got back to The Calitz at exactly the time we had set our alarms for just 24 hours ago.
640km done // Calitzdorp // 2:30am on Mon 12 Dec.
I was happy to take the sleeper couch and was out for the count. We slept for 4 hours, which is much more than I’d normally budget for on a ride like this. But we had the luxury of being out of time.
This was my slow morning – I took ages to get going. We showered, ate from our bags and set off. Tried to Lego in. Not yet. My timing was out. Had to stand & pedal a little longer. On our way out, we passed the graveyard where our hopes was buried on the previous attempt. How things have changed.
The gradual incline out of Calitzdorp was a great warmup before we got to bullet down the roller coaster downhill to cross the bottom of the Huisrivier. Rob went ahead as I assumed my usual position.
The day was starting to heat up as we climbed out on the other side. It was Monday morning and today my office had a different view, as I pedaled out the sweeping bends of the pass lurking above. We stopped to reminisce at the final viewpoint, looking down into the majestic valley, before cresting the top and heading towards Zoar.
Puncture. Luckily I was rolling into Zoar as it happened. Or maybe because I was rolling into Zoar it happened, because it was glass. I fixed the puncture at my own leisure. The sun was blazing down and I grabbed the opportunity to reward myself and rewarded myself with a coke & packet of Simba crisps in the local shop, before crossing the last couple of rollers into Ladismith.
680km done // Ladismith // 11am on Mon 12 Dec.
This turned out to be a 4 hour stop. We ate and slept under the aircon in the corner of the Steers – a very familiar spot by now – in order to try and skip the worst heat of the day. I’m sure I was ready to go sooner, but with long distance riding we all experience highs and lows at different times and you simply wait for your mate. And while we were resting a breeze picked up.
When I saw the flags outside howling in the wrong direction I was so surprised that I got Forest Whitaker Eye. It couldn’t be. Almost 700 km in and the wind still does not want to cooperate. Henri mentioned that he would rather take a headwind over no wind in temperatures like this. But I was not convinced. It really felt like we deserved some relief from the elements by now.
And I quote
Riding along for 100 hours in extreme conditions leads to bizarre moments. This was one of the highlights. As I rolled out of the Steers in Ladismith I found Rob outside in the wind, standing over his bike, not quite ready to go, with his head slightly tilted and staring into the distance. He slowly murmured, like a deep vein heroin addict,
“This is the fourth time that I’ve tried to quit”.
I almost fell over laughing (not for a moment considering that he might have been serious). Exhaustion leads to miscommunication and wasn’t first or last time we’d have a broken telephone.
We left Ladismith and soldiered into the heat and wind. Just 80kms from Ladismith to Barrydale, then we could grab something to eat, shower, nap and be ready for the last 25% of the ride. Or so we thought.
Running out of water in the Moordenaars Karoo (wherever it may be) during the peak of summer tends to be a bit of a problem. We burned through our sources of energy very quickly. My bottles were empty. We wanted to knock on the door of the closes farm house, but there were none.
We realized that our current pace would see us to Barrydale only after everything has closed. Our only hope was to get to Ronnies Sex shop, which we thought was located more towards Ladismith than Barrydale. How wrong we were. It became like an oasis, never arriving. We finally stopped to check the gps and found it was still almost 20kms away. That was another hour-and-a-half at current pace and we were already on our last legs.
I spotted the dust from a bakkie traveling towards the R62 and desperately chased down the road to arrive at the farm gate simultaneously. The single occupant looked like a Boer-soek-‘n-vrou contestant. I asked for water but he had none.
“Ronnie’s Sex Shop is just 10½ kms down the road”.
He clearly knew the area. And we had no option but to continue, albeit slow. As he pulled away I noticed the picnic basket & beers in the passenger seat footwell. Sonofab*tch, I thought – he didn’t even offer. Standing in his dust, we called ahead to enquire till what time Ronnie’s would be open. But the phone just rang. They were already closed.
A lot depends on the way you see things. Nature highlighted this perfect metaphor just before we arrived at Ronnie’s. On the left of the road there was a broken wind pump, against the backdrop of ominous rain-filled clouds. On the right of the road you could see the last of daylight, and a couple of clouds with literally, a silver lining. Things were about to change.
We pulled into the driveway in front of the Ronnies Sex Shop and made way to the house, willed to do anything for some water. Lo & behold, it was Ronnie’s house (makes a lot of sense, come to think of it) and his wife opened the door. We were invited and he even took us to the Warmwaterberg Spa across the road so we could have dinner while he was having beers and sharing stories.
On our way back to his house we missed a duiker in the road by the narrowest of margins. It was now dark and he offered us beds for the night. When we counter-offered with a request to nap outside on his stoep for an hour before leaving again, he had that ‘I-have-seen-a-lot-of-weird-shit-in-my-life-but-you-two-rank-right-up-there’ expression.
Nevertheless, he agreed and we settled in. It was cold and looked like rain so we tried to get cozy. I grabbed the welcome mat and Rob crawled in under the cat’s blanket. My only concern was that the cat’s blanket was already wet before the rains.
I can sleep anywhere. But this really wasn’t very comfortable. And it was cold. So exactly 1 hour later, without the benefit of any additional rest, we set off into the light drizzle. The drizzle became a proper shower before we reached the end of the driveway and we promptly returned to our respective nests.
Rob saw two gaps. The first was one in the weather – he checked the online forecast and saw a grace period in between another approaching shower. The second gap was and opportunity to pull a fast one – when the shower subsided, he notified me that the rain was over. And like a sheep I obliged and followed him on my bicycle.
Good thing he did though, because I would not have been persuaded easily otherwise. So high five for that. He is a quick learner. We must have finally left there somewhere between 2 and 3am. With only 100km done since Calitzdorp this was our slowest day on any ride, by a very long margin.
My absolute lowest point during the whole ride came there, in the dark, while being rained on, during the cold patch before the sun rises. I walk for a few minutes.
But that was quick to change, as shortly after getting back on, we were flying down the descent into Barrydale, albeit wet & cold. Sure thing, nothing was open in Barrydale. we briefly sat on the stoep of the Backpackers where our drop bags were locked inside, debating what to do next.
770km done // Barrydale // 4am on Tues 13 Dec.
We had different needs at the time. Rob wanted to continue riding, favoring progress. I wanted to wait to get access to my drop bag for a hot shower, fresh kit and accompanying fresh outlook. The thought of this we bib for another 250 kms wasn’t appealing. To be honest, we could both do with a shower – remember the cat blankie?
He decided that he’d carry on. I was only too happy to pull in under the pool table cover the protect me from the oversized mosquitoes while lying on the cold stone floor, waiting for, among other things, better days.
At 5am the owner arrived and within a couple of minutes I felt like a brand new person. It is amazing what a shower a toothbrush and warm, fresh cycling kit can do. I set off with the satisfaction that we both made the right decision. To further enhance this feeling, I was cycling next to a massive rainbow in the valley to my left.
Getting over Op de Tradouw felt almost felt effortless, especially in anticipation of the roughly 45km rolling fast descent into Montagu. Just after summitting the pass, I met up with Peter, who came out for a second time to support us with a safety vehicle. I think he deserves a medal more than we do. His enthusiasm and support of our efforts were humbling.
Peter said that Rob was already in Montagu, well over 1½ hours ahead of me, so I should get a move on. Which I did. Getting to Montagu was fun. But alas, it was hot once again and I pulled into the local Spar to enjoy some fruit, jelly & & custard in an air-conditioned environment.
Getting through Cogmanskloof was a slow affair, as the road works were in full swing and I had to wait for a turn in the busy morning stop and go. In Ashton I grabbed a large Coke at the first garage before making my way to Robertson. This leg was great as the was a hint of a tailwind.
860km done // Robertson // 11am on Tues 13 Dec
I joined Rob, who must have been waiting quite a while. Whether it was the full hour and a half I was behind after leaving Barrydale, I’m not sure. But he was ready to go. I grabbed a quick breakfast, Coke floats, Myprodols (finally!) and went to the loo before we set off again. And how we did.
We were flying
It was great to ride with some company again, as this was a busy road. After we ascended the short hop over the hill at Graham Beck, there was no stopping us. It was an amazing feeling. Over 800 kms in the legs and we were going well above 40km/h. Thanks wind – and about time!
The GPS that Eugene gave me for Christmas had a feature that showed the time for each 5km interval – and it was very refreshing to see them tick by in between 6 & 7 minutes per 5kms a couple of times.
Just before Worcester we saw Jaco at a padstal, who came out to cheer us on. We went through Worcester and decided to alternate things by going on the N1 for a very short while before turning left towards Rawsonville, so not our usual way in.
933km done // Rawsonville // 16:15 on Tues 13 Dec.
I have been craving pizza for the last 900kms and finally it came, just in time. We pulled into one of our regular stops, opposite Goudini Spa. Their kitchen was about to close but it didn’t take too much convincing to push out a last order.
Lying on the lawn under the massive oak trees, sipping beers and waiting for damn fine pizza at the Dam Fine Cafe, I was completely satisfied and completely relaxed. We made it. We are back on home turf. Just a quick hop over Bainskloof. After the meal we pushed our bikes through the sprinklers to cool down and set of into the sunset.
And what a sunset it was. Without a doubt my favourite stint through this valley – and we’ve been down here a lot. I mentioned that I’d much rather retire between the mountains than by the ocean and this looked like as good a place to do so as any.
Irrespective of the fading sun, it was still very hot out and we stopped at the Calabash bush pub before starting the climb up Bainskloof pass. No beers this time, just some Cokes & Grapetizers to cool down.
Going up Bainskloof pass with a tail wind under a clear full moon sky is something to behold. You’ve got to do it at some point in your life. It was also dead quiet, with no-one around. The only car I noticed was just before the summit and it looked kind of familiar. Indeed it was. My mom decided to pop over and see how we were doing ——
There was a report in the local newspaper about leopards being spotted there, after all. I wasn’t concerned about that as no self-respecting leopard with any sense of smell would have come close to these two cyclists. But I was glad about the safety vehicle that now followed us down Bainskloof into Wellington, as it was the windiest conditions I have experienced up there*.
Since then we’ve had even stronger winds up there: Day 5 of the 2017 Tour de Boland was much worse. So much so that another event that was scheduled to go over Bainskloof that day was entirely cancelled. I’m not easily unsettled on a bicycle, but that day even my 115kg frame got blown around, especially on that long descent just before the waterfall bend. And 3 days later the CTCT got cancelled, because of the same wind.
Going through Slanghoek at sunset, then Bainskloof during full moon, and the streets of Paarl onto the road back to Vrede, I didn’t want the ride to stop – fearing that I won’t ever encounter some of these great moments again. We experienced both cycling heaven and hell. But the moments of bliss were so good, that it completely trumped any hardship.
960km done // Wellington // 21.30pm on Tues 13 Dec
I was surprised to hear Chris’ voice behind us. We sat at the Steers in Wellington, having our last chocolate milkshake on the ride, when he showed up in a silver CLC. I thought he was just quickly stopping by, but then I saw he was supporting us all the way home. This was totally unexpected – who would have thought a long distance Rockstar would come and cheer on us mere mortals. And seeing as we were out of time, this wouldn’t impact officiating a BRM.
When we travelled through the long Paarl main road for the last time, restaurants were closing and a few over-exuberant patrons were making their way home. When I heard cheers from behind, I thought it was another one of these – until I recognised Theunis’ car with Yoli in the passenger seat. They were elated. Now our ratio was 3 safety cars to 2 bicycles.
I sensed that the ride was getting a bit long in the tooth now and he wanted to get to the finish line. We had a tremendous amount of fun and for whatever silly events in future, Rob would definitely get an invite. Nothing beats a good attitude & a great sense of humour during tough conditions. What was said on tour, stays on tour. With a chop in each hand. Check out his blog at justkeeppedalling.com.
As we left Paarl on the R101 I had my first ever draught while cycling – slightly pre-emptive at that stage, but I figured the effort so far deserved me a cold one. It didn’t touch sides and was just enough to see me through the last 20kms. Thanks, Theunis. Love it.
We finally reached the end of the road, turning left from the smooth tar of the R304 into www.vredewines.com for the last ½ km through the tree-lined path up to the house. We arrived at 23:59 – in the nick of time, all things considered. Then we sat on the front stoep and had more beers, with Chris, Theunis, Yoli, Arno & Annemarie. It was full moon, after all. Our adventure had come to an end.
1002km done // Stellenbosch // 23:59 on Tues 13 Dec.
We finished out of time. Riding time was 58 hours and total time was 101 hours. So we wasted over 40 hours off the bike. Not having to chase down the clock, oversleeping and running out of food & water just compounds the time spent not cycling. It’s astonishing to see how quickly extra time at each stop adds up to a working week. Maybe 75 hours is doable, with a bit of luck.
Peter (& Bronwen) and Henri (& Andriette), we appreciate you taking the time to come out and keep us safe & motivated, again and again. Chris, Theunis & Kenneth for taking part & cheering on. Jaco, Yoli & other en route. Valerida & my family for running the ship when I’m out cycling.
Not in December, for 3 simple reasons. The temperature is too high. The wind is mad. And there are just too many dangerous drivers, including those towing caravans to holiday destinations. I’m not one to complain, after all, I picked the date.
Will there be another one?
Certainly as a 5 day tour, see www.cape1000.co.za. And in order to get a R-5000 award, we’ll have to complete another 1000km BRM, in time. So watch this space. Whether we stage another all-in-one-go event over the same route for this year is still uncertain. I was also lucky enough to get an entry for LEL (1433km from London to Edinburgh and back), so that covers my long ride for this year.
Highs & lows
I think Audaxing can be summarised as a connection of emotional highs and lows. You never know which comes first and no matter how good or bad it seems at that very moment, over a long enough distance you can be certain that it would change. Chin up, carry on.
Six very distinct highlights
When Rob decided to carry on cycling. // The magical R328 back to Oudtshoorn on a full moon summer’s eve. // The fast stretch from Graham Beck to Worcester where we cycled at silly speeds, with 800km in the legs. // Lying in the shade under the trees outside of Rawsonville, knowing we’ve done it. // Going through the Slanghoek valley at sunset was at the same level as the full moon R328 earlier. // Ascending a quiet Bainskloof pass under a full moon.
Guess which 2 of these rate among my Top 10 Best Cycling Experiences ever? Easy. The R328 return and the Slanghoek Sunset. Pure bliss.
There were only 4, really. And each had a quick solution:
- When we overslept in Ladismith (but then the adventure began).
- Just before Oudtshoorn on the leg out (but the Henri fixed my hub).
- Headwind in Lainsburg on the return leg (but we just soldiered on).
- Before Barrydale, coming back, wet & tired in the early morning hours (but then I had a shower).
What have I learned?
Don’t quit at night, because everything seems better in the morning. Don’t let your fellow cyclists quit when they first mention it, rather help them through their dark patches. Whenever you feel like giving up, just hang in a little while longer, as things change for the better, quickly. The first part is usually the toughest and the longer you go, the stronger you get. This ride was a case in point – we had to endure the worst in the beginning, only to get the best part right at the end. And it was so worth it.
The usual suspects; some bum discomfort and numb fingers. But nothing too serious, as we’ve done this before and each time the recovery seems to go quicker.
Food for thought
Doing a ride report can sometime be tedious. Luckily, I find it very easy to remember the flow of events based on what I ate. Go figure. I had 21 of Pick-n-Pay’s pain pills and they didn’t seem to work at all. But the 6 Myprodols surely did the trick. I tend to steer clear of these lately, as it can’t be too healthy. After the previous failed Cape 1000, I listened to myself and stocked up with Rehydrate – had about 6 of these during the ride. And 10 energy gels.
Try for yourself
We are organising a 5 day tour so you can experience the best of the route, without having to sleep in the rain or reach for the last garage pie. You cycle roughly 200km each day, with others, safety vehicles, oasis-like water points, and enjoy fine Klein Karoo hospitality each night, to leave you well rested and prepared for the next day. As it should be. Check out www.cape1000.co.za
PS, I don’t record things, but here is Rob’s strava entry.