Friday, May 21, 2010

And now for something different?

I am not sure how to write up experiences of the past week. Its been a different mountain biking experience - especially when there is no bike.

On Friday, I zipped to my lbs to collect my bike only to find out there had been a misunderstanding about the spares and some strong advice not to ride it in its current condition. So it was off to the Berg with hiking boots and trail shoes.

We were going to begin planning some trails for a client as well as recce the area for a new event.

It was three glorious days of quiet and fesh air. Tramping all over the mountains assessing grade, fall lines, drainage and routes was a whole new way of getting involved in mountain biking. Alpheus, the hotel guide, had cut about 200 bamboo stakes and painstakinginly painted their tips white - good call else you can't see them in the long grass.  The tractor delivered them in the trailer to a central point and then it was boot camp.

I filled my back pack with stakes and felt like an archer with a quiver of bows. I would have been useless in battle though as I could barely reach around to grab any - none of those Lord of the Rings Elven archery skills. But we hiked to a particularly steep section where we planned to link some cattle paths above us to the trail we were on. It was hard work stamping through the thick grass and hammering in the stakes with a 4 pound hammer.  And we were trekking up the hill.

Once the basic route was in place, it was back to the trailer to mark another section along the edge of a small waterfall. This was a lot easier and the terrain was flatter.  Then it was time for a well earned break.

In the afternoon, we got wiser. We requisitioned the tractor to take the trailer all the way back to our morning's provisional work and bring all the stakes with him.  Better still, he was able to drive up the hillside and drop them off along the way.  So now we had a winding trail of stakes every 2/3m. Finally, we could see the shape starting to emerge.

It was getting dark by the time we had finished and we jolted back in the trailer to save a bit of time and to save our now very sore feet.  One particular gear change squashed my hand against the side of the trailer and I had a cut and immediate bruising to add insult to my already sore legs and would have repercussions the next day.

The next day we arranged for the tractor to meet us closer to the top of the trail where we had run out of stakes. I headed out before the others intent on measuring distances on my GPS as well as to suss out the planned descent.  I hiked down the hill which gives a different perspective and then I hiked back up again. I made some modifications, bashing in the stakes with a stout bamboo cane (the hammer hadn't arrived yet). Eventually Alpheus arrived with a bundle of stakes on his shoulders as the trailer could not be brought close enough.  He also had a spade.

So we finished the last pegging and got to the muddy river crossing which was the cattle drinking spot. Alpheus was keen to dig out the crossing and make it rideable (I don't know if he can actually ride a bike- will have to test him) and I felt bad that he had brought the spade all the way. So the two of us got stuck in and moved rocks and clods of earth to create a temporary stone bridge. It was here that I realised the folly of digging in this mud/dung with a cut on my hand. (I followed up with a tetanus injection the next day).

But it was fun to do although it will have to be contructed better. The upper section of trail was a well defined cattle path and didn't need much marking but we did spot an alternative descent off the mountain which will be better than I had originally planned.

So now, the staff will have to brushcut the route, we'll ride it rough and then begin the hard, manual labour of clearing the trail and building the turns.

It was a tired but happy body that came home to the city.

Posted via email from Go Cycling

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