Wednesday, January 14, 2009
A day to enjoy
Picture this scene last night...for some unknown reason, Billy decided he had to swop his rims for the ones he had bought from Malcolm. The two of them fiddled and grunted and eventually got the slime in and started pumping the tire. BANG! It explodes off the wheel covering them in grey snot...twice! I believe they went back to square one and stayed with the original rims. Messy, very messy. Nikki, who caught some of the grey fallout, was doubled over in hysterics at these antics. As it turns out, today would be a day for tire problems
At 5 this morning, there were big banks of clouds piling up over to the west and the wind was fresh and mercifully, cool. The weather gods were back and smiling on us.
The 5.30am departure time came and went and two very bleary eyed riders staggered around somewhat haphazardly. Turns out that Nikki had given them sleeping tablets - go figure. Eventually, we got on the road at 6 and headed out from Oestervanger towards Die Fontein farm - a farmer who clearly supports the Freedom Trail effort.
We rode past his sheds and there was a little red cycling sign pointing the way up the powerlines. These powerlines have featured much over the past two days. A very technical jeep track climbed steeply up the ridge - just what I love. Give me rocky stony climbs any day over long gravel roads. About 500m into the climb, Billy got a puncture and while he fixed it, we were content to gaze at the view in the much cooler weather.
What amazed me was that in the space of one valley, the vegetation could change so much. The bush was much thicker, more colourful and there were lots of proteas and grasses and succulents.
Puncture sorted and on we went - most of this section was rideable but still challenging. We followed the powerlines up the ridge until we were at the crest and found the narrow track cut by the Cape Epic organisers for a stage in a recent race. It was here that Nikki had a moment of deja vue and realised that she had indeed ridden this stage.
Down we rode to some ploughed fields and there was a little sense of humour failure from Billy who claimed he would rather walk his dog that push his bike. None of us shared his viewpoint as we were all exhilarated at the change in route and the challenge it posed to our technical skills.
We picked up a farm road that wound through harvested wheat fields that were pale gold in the early sun and we saw many pairs of blue cranes providing a contrast in colour. Malcolm was battling with his tire now which was steadily deflating. He stopped to pump it before a small climb and I rode to the top to wait for him. Billy and Nikki had ridden off the front and that was the last we saw of them for the day.
At the crest of McKays Kop, the view was breathtaking with these enormous mountains surrounding us and green vineyards stretching across the valleys. The Cape at its most beautiful. After we had stopped for the third time to pump the tire, we opted to pull in at Stettynskloof Wine Cellar and work out exactly what was wrong. The receptionist kindly made us coffee and rooibos tea while we spread bike parts on the lawn. Eventually, we found a tiny cut in the sidewall right up on the rim which had probably worsened over the days of riding. Luckily Malcolm's sealant was green and we washed the tire out using the sprinkler and enhanced the lawn colour.
We phoned Eddie to let him know we were delayed and eventually, we were on our way again with a fantastic tailwind. We left the main tar road after 6km and rode on a wonderful dirt road at the base of the mountain range (I really need to find out which they are). This road led to Brandvlei Prison into which we rode somewhat to the bemusement of the inmates and wardens. When the lady warden at the gate could not summon a smile at Malcolm's request for a massage, we realised the a lack of humour was a pre-requisite for being hired.
It was tar from here to Rawsonville and we were clocking 35km hour with the wind. Awesome.
We arrived at Goudini Cellars when Eddie and Vanessa were waiting with the best ham and cheese rolls in the whole world. Sheesh, the lady knows how to hit the spot. We had a tea/coffee at the coffee shop (no wine although Vanessa bought a few bottles) and after a short snooze, we headed off again. This section had been about 71km and very little climbing. Our calculations showed it would be another 50km to the top of Bains Kloof.
As Billy and Nikki had once again left before us, they had to do the tar option. Pity as we saw the most beautiful homesteads and farms in the valleys we traversed as we took the dirt less traveled.
I must say, both of us were feeling really good and we were so enjoying the moment. We realised the tomorrow's ride may be more tar to get to Cape Town so every opportunity to enjoy the mountain biking aspects were grabbed.
We rode through Skilpadfontein Farm and popped out on tar in a real jewel of a valley - backed right up against the mountains and healthy vineyards stretching for kilometers. A quick dunk of the helmet and sleeves in the Breede River where some local kids were swimming and we were off to the base of Bains Kloof.
Neither of us had any idea what to expect and as we turned left to begin the pass, we were assaulted by the thus far tail wind. But...
Within a kay, it was pushing us from behind and we were riding up the tar at 22km per hour. Never would I have expected that but maybe we were also somewhat fitter now, just maybe. For 7 kms we flew up absolutely loving it. Then the road steepened slightly and the river dropped deeper and deeper into the ravine. Only large boulders were between us and the sheer drop into the vallye. Our speed then slowed for a bit. I stopped for some photos and to rest the usual rear end. Eventually, I could see where the pass flattened out and there was Malcolm waiting in the shade by a little stream. I clambered down, dunked, head and sleeves in and just marveled at the joy of riding fast up a hill.
And then we were at the top.
I don't know how long we took but we thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the ascent and all the experiences of this long day - over 6 hours of riding. The distance was about 116km in the end with most of the climbing at the beginning and the end. As Malcolm said as we reached the settlement called Eerste Tol at the summit "Road riding is piss easy"!
We pulled in at the trading post for an end of ride drink and found our way to our accommodation. Oh dear, bring back Calitzdorp Spa. This is an 80 year old shack and it look and feels it. Disappointing after an exhilarating day.
But, tomorrow is the end of a wonderful trip with many, many unbelievable experiences. I am looking forward to seeing the sea but it will be sad to end such an adventure.