Registration day

Stefan Kellerman was waiting for me at the registration venue with his customary bottle of Vodka and I just had to show up with my Red Heart so we can start strategizing. Got to venue just after 13:00 and after a 5 minute session we had our plan for the next 26 days in place and worked out. I was introduced to the two French riders, Patricia and Hugues that arrived earlier that morning.
 Hugues was busy trying to fix a bend derailleur with brute force and I just had to step in and assist before he breaks something. After some TLC we got the derailleur working properly again. I was taken back a bit by his bike, which happened to be a 26” Lefty with tubes!! But Hugues assured me that his Kevlar lined tyres will not puncture and no need to worry.
The R2R bunch from Limpopo arrived but disappeared again into town to buy stuff!! Hugh and Brett pitched a bit later with their families and the RASA riders for our batch were all accounted for. After a few words from Johann the new race director and a nice meal we headed for our rooms to get ready for the 6am start.
Day 1 – Pietermaritzburg to Allendale

As the town hall bell struck 6 we all set off on our quest to get to Diemersfontein. The R2R riders had their own race plan and we would not see them again. Me and Stefan stayed with the bunch up to the Bisley reserve, where we moved into race mode and fell back. At 8km we decided to stop for photos and an early morning snack when I saw people on bicycles coming up a hill in the distance!! How is that possible, we are supposed to be at the back? The frogs with Hugh and Brett in tow eventually got to us .They missed the turn-off at 6.7km, went down the hill before turning around. We continued on our merry way again stopping frequently for a snack or a photo.
We arrived at The Oak hotel in Byrne for a nice cup of soup and a stiff dop. The manager of the hotel asked if he can join us up to Illovo neck on his bike. He needed to get some training in for a 20km race he will be doing later the month with his sister. Me and him raced up a few hills while Stefan stuck to the original plan and tried not to break a sweat. At the turnoff we parted ways and we realized that the pace needs to up a little if we want to do the early river crossing while there’s still some light.
The sun sets very quickly in this part of the world and I had no plans to spend a night down there again. But a tree branch had other ideas and wedged itself into Stefan’s wheel bending his derailleur out of shape. He had a spare hanger but we decided to just get the bike going again and get out of there. We managed to get him about 5 gears at the back and raced towards the river crossing. I was over the moon when we crossed the river and found the road on the other side with about another 30 minutes of daylight left.
From here is was smooth sailing as far as navigation goes , but with one bike not having all the gears needed to get up Hela-Hela our progress was slowed down a bit . We pulled into Allendale at 20:37 and then went off to find a place to sleep. I found an open bed with Hugh and Brett and Stefan decided to sleep in the living room in front of the fire. We were both happy with our pace and decided that we will fix the bike the next morning since we would only go as far a Centacow.

Our first Bokkie
Tea Break
Umko Valley
Day 2 – Allendale to Centacow

Hugh and Brett left early but the two Frenchie’s could not move as Hugues bike had a faulty freewheel hub and they were going to take the wheel into Maritzburg to get fixed . After replacing the derailleur hanger on Stefan's bike we left at 09:00. We got to Donnybrook in good time and after some shopping at the Spar headed into the forest. On this section my speedo decided to reset itself to default. Unbeknown to us 1km became 500m and this caused us to make a few navigation errors.
At Allendale the rear wheel was fixed and the frogs put the hammer down to try and catch up. They tried to save some time by following tracks and not looking to much at the maps. We met up at the crossing where we left the course not sure to go straight up or retrace our tracks. After taking a few compass bearings and reading the maps we went straight on to meet up with the correct track in the front.
Back on route it was getting dark now and we could not find the turn-off towards Centacow. We decided to take the long route down to the tar and then head down the tar to the mission. All the RASA riders joined at the mission and decided to stay. Brett had some knee issues and wanted to give it a rest. Me and Stefan wanted to get to Nsikini as early as possible and decided to leave Centacow at 03:00.

Lunch Break
We also did some cycling
Somewhere in a forest
Donnybrook forest
Day 3 – Centacow to Ntsikeni
Nobody to ask for sweeties or who want to push your bike that time of the morning and we had a very nice and peaceful ride.Again a few navigational issues up to the river crossing before the plantation. We crossed the river, went up to the jeep track and then found a tree for a break. Frogs and Hugh/Brett slipped past us un-noted. Stefan wanted to go left around the forest and I was happier if we go through the forest, which according to my maps was the correct route.
We decided to go through and after a few minor detours got back on the public road. We started the long climb up to Ntsikeni fence in the heat of the day. On the last climb I was pumping on the pedals up to the top. At the top I stopped to see how Stefan was doing but could not see him. I saw some feet sticking out of the bush! Dropping pack and bike I walked down the hill to find out if an earlier break was called that I missed. But this unscheduled stop was not a photo/food break. Stefan has fainted from the heat and just fell over into the bush. As I got to him he was starting to move again. After some water and a few chewies he was up and going again.
We got to Ntsikeni with some daylight left but found that the place was over booked. The batch that started after us has caught up and we now had 9+ riders there. But plans were made and everybody got plenty of food and a bed to sleep in. Stephan wasn’t feeling well and Brett’s knee was not getting any better. I gave him a spare knee guard I had in my bag , maybe that will help a bit .
Sunrise on top of Centacow climb
Work , Work , Work
Head towards that mountain
The village where we slept last year
Some of those hills !!!
Some fences are easier to cross
Day 4 – Ntsikeni to Masakala
Hugh, Brett, Patricia and Hugues left at 06:30 while me and Stefan decided on the more civilized time of 07:00. Stefan wasn’t feeling any better and it looked like a chest infection got a hold of him. After we turned onto a grass management track I said to Stefan that I am going to pick up the pace a bit and will wait at Glen Edward.
It was very difficult on that uneven surface to keep momentum on the Single Speed. After a few kilometres I caught up to Brett and Hugh and after exchanging a few pleasantries I moved on. I caught Patricia and Hugues before the drop down to Poliquet kraal and asked if I could join them. We cycled together and pulled into Glen Edward at 11:41.
 Race office informed me that Stefan is making his way towards the tar very slowly. I decided to head for Masakala with the frogs as I did not want to lose another half-day. 12:30 we out of Glen Edward on our way to the next stop.
We were on track for an early arrival at Masakala but then hanged right instead of left and ended up in the village next door. After a few door to door visits I was pointed in the right direction but we were about 15km off-course. At 21:47 we pulled into our resting place. Got message that Stefan decided to stay over at Glen Edward.
Catching the Frogs
Just got to love the colours
Day 5 – Masakala to Malekgolonyane
A 06:30 start with the Frogs. This section I knew fairly well as I did a lot of scouting in that area in last year’s race, so a lot of navigation was not needed. We checked in at 14:29 and before I could suggest that we do the extra loop, Patricia was in the shower already and Hugues had a beer in his hand.
So we decided to make it a rest day and chill a bit. Somewhere the big group from batch 8/C got lost and they arrived about a two hours later. At supper we decided to tackle the section towards Ongeluksnek together the next morning at 06:30.
 Further back Brett had to withdraw because of his knee and Hugh put in a big push to catch up to us. He arrived sometime after 22:00 to join us for the trek to Vuvu.  

Snow on mountains
Our home for the night
Day 6 – Malekgolonyane to Vuvu
A big group started out in the early morning and we got to Ongeluksnek all together. Here me, Hugues, Patricia and Hugh spilt from the group as they took a wrong turn and went into another direction. I also made this same mistake last year and was quick to point this out to the rest of the group. There was no discussion about it and we turned left towards Tinana.
We stopped just outside Tinana for a quick lunch and checking maps before pushing for the valleys before Vuvu. Everything went smoothly through the valley up to the point where the two rivers gets together. We could see on the map where they joined and although the narratives said keep right or between the rivers we went left and followed the river on the left.
This took us into the wrong valley miles away from Vuvu and by the time we realized our mistake it was starting to get dark. Hugues starting plotting another route and the quickest way to get out of this mess was straight up the mountain to the village on the other side. By the time we got to the foot of the mountain it was dark and we had to start our climb. I broke a few nails and learned a lot of new French words from Patricia that night.
After a few hours we got to the other side and walked into a village that was still awake. We got directions to get to Vuvu from a few people and they always added “but it is far” at the end. In this case far was about 30km of mostly uphill. Hugh and Patricia was taking strain and Patricia even suggested that she may have to abandon the race. I fell back and cycled with her, encouraging her to continue.
We went past the turn-off to Lehanas that we would take the next day and that was a bit disheartening, but we eventually pull into Vuvu at 10:45. After a nice meal Patricia decided that she will continue after all the next morning. We all skipped the shower. You will notice that for a few days I did not take any photos , I was too busy cycling .
Day 7 – Vuvu to Rhodes
We left at 07:15 on the same road that we came in on. Weather did not look good and when we came around the corner to turn off to Lehanas heavy clouds was rolling over the mountain just left of the container. We took a bearing to the container and decided to give it a go. We stuck to the route on the right and to my surprise I did not find it to difficult. As a matter of fact last year we took the other route on the district road and that was a killer!!
I knew Hugues was in good shape but did not know this dude was related to the Energizer Bunny! He was running up and down carrying first his bike and then going back to collect Patricia’s bike. He did this all the way to the top and still managed to stay ahead of us all.
At the top we were greeted by the usual wind and a bit of rain but it did not slow us down to much. We pulled into Tena Head for some coffee and biscuit. The last bit onto Rhodes went by faster than I could remember from last year.
Patricia headed for a room to soak in a warm bath while Hugh just wanted to get into bed. Me and Hugues had other ideas and got stuck in the bar until they asked (forced) us to go and clean up and get our dirty clothes washed.
That evening we rubbed shoulders with the likes of Martin Dreyer and Anton Mulberry around the table. As much as we wanted to listen to their stories of how they achieved the impossible, they wanted to hear our stories of the race thus far. Was an awesome evening and after a few more diluted cokes we headed for bed.
Day 8 – Rhodes to Slaapkrans
Uneventful all the way to Chesneyworld. Not even a wind blowing. The danger with stopping at Chesneyworld is that you want to stay. If the food was this good so early in the day can you imagine what it’s going to be like tonight?
We reluctantly got onto our bikes to tackle a section that had me running around in circles last year. But this year there was no snow or mud around. It started to get very cold as we got to the top of the hill and seek shelter in the small barn filled with hay. With warm gear on we headed out into the veld looking for the road with the big speed bumps.
We eventually saw the road from the top and Hugues did what he normally does once he can see where he is heading. Go straight down. Hugh took the more sensible route and although he got to the road a bit behind us, he looked in better shape. It was getting dark and we kept on losing the road. Eventually the road improved so much that we could cycle it. Patricia unfortunately hit a rock and went flying over the handlebars. My attempt at doing a bunny hop over her wasn’t successful and I went over her legs. But her handlebar has already done more damage and she complained of sore ribs and difficult breathing. Luckily the farmhouse wasn’t too far away.
Greg Perrett and Richard Cole have just finished supper and on their way to bed when we stumbled in. Patricia was not going to continue. “This is to tough, I am going back “was her final words before she disappeared into her room. We all knew that there will be no convincing her to continue and left it at that. Although we all knew it was coming it was still very sad news and the mood changed a bit.
Everybody went to bed and me and the hostess sat in the kitchen and sorted out all the world’s problems. 23:00 I decided to go and pack my stuff and get ready for the next morning.
Hugues and Patricia seeking shelter
Just follow the arrow
Day 9 – Slaapkrans to Moordenaarspoort
Wasn’t in any rush to get up and jump on the bike but Hugh was in no condition to do it even if he wanted to. I could see he was very sick and whatever he had it has moved into his chest. He was going to stay over to see if it gets any better. He did ask me if I would mind staying as well but I knew I had to move on.
From our batch of RASA riders it was just me and Hugues left. We followed Greg and Richard out of the gate towards the Moordenaars poort portage. It drizzled throughout the night and the footpath up the valley was muddy and very slippery. Once out of the valley Greg and Richard was way ahead of us and we saw that they took the route to the left around the hill.
Me and Hugh decided to take the straight route climbing out of the valley to the top. It was a bit of a scramble to get up to the road but our navigation was spot on and we walked straight into the fence corner where we picked up the road. We could see Greg and Richard coming over the last hill on the road towards us and decided to stop for a break and to wait for them.
Hugues decided to join them all the way to Kranzkop and I also made the call to just go to MoordenaarsPoort for the day. A few km outside Rossouw  I was welcomed by a quick burst of rain that came from nowhere. The road turned from sandpaper to and ice rink in seconds and I lost control going around a corner. The bike went right over a small cliff and did a few summersaults down to the bottom. Going down to retrieve the bike I picked up my speedo, maps and water bottles. Besides the smiley on the top tube everything looked ok, but once at the top I could feel that turning the handlebars was very stiff.
I continued to the farm and had a closer look at the headset and frame. Could not see any cracks or bend parts. Did not want to strip the headset bearings out ,  just in case one decided to split and then I would be in a lot of trouble.
They expected Tim and Mike to also pull in later that evening for a quick nap but they never showed up. 
Day 10 – Moordenaarspoort to Brosterlea
An early start and I stopped at Kranskop 06:50. After a nice breakfast it was on the way to Brosterlea. The speedo wasn’t working properly again. Should really get a wireless unit!! Got to the Cottage just after 13:00 and decided to call it a day. There is no point in rushing; I was still doing well as far as time goes.
After fixing the speedo and a nice shower I went for some soup. I took a little stroll through the farm yard with the dogs before heading back to the house to catch up on some news. The host had to go to another function and I headed to bed for an early night.
Day 11 – Brosterlea to Romansfontein
Started just after 02:00 and this morning I could feel that it was a lot colder than other mornings. Mike Woolnough’t bike was standing outside one of the rooms.  Just after Weltevrede farm I saw an alien craft that tried to land on a koppie. It had a lot of red lights running from left to right and from the distance between the light I could see it was a big one.
I stopped at the reservoir to firstly defrost my water bottle and also to see if this alien manages to land his craft. The sun started to peek over the hills helping with the defrosting of my water bottle but also to shed some “light” on the alien craft. But the red lights disappeared and all that was left on the hill was a lot of power wind mills. Now I can see why he could not land there.
While thinking of alien abductions and brushing up on my Klingong dialect  Mike pulled up. He was chasing Tim at that stage and did not really had time for a full on picnic but we did have a quick chat before he headed for the Blockhouse. I followed soon after.
 I must have taken the wrong way down to the blockhouse. I am sure last year I cycled down to the railway line. Another short day as I got to the farm a bit after 14:00. They were under the impression that I am going to push onto the next stop!! Not likely I told them and they quickly made arrangements for me to have a place to sleep. Apparently a big group was heading that way but nobody was sure who will stay or push on.
A few riders pulled in just before dark and I think Brad VD Westhuizen was in the first group. About 19:00 Bruce Hughes and Theo Van Dyk also arrived. They had no intention on staying long and it was a rush as they tried to get food down and pack bags. But then Bruce got the news that a time penalty was imposed on him and he had to do nothing for 3 hours. Happiness is not Bruce sitting out a time penalty is all I can say.
Time for breakfast
No easy to drink that stuff
Even the backpack needed a break
Another bokkie
Day 12 – Romansfontein to Elandsberg
When I decided to get out of bed for some breakfast there wasn’t another cyclist in sight!! Hope they spread some bread crumbs over Aasvoelsberg. The portage up to the top went according to plan but that downhill on the other side was a different story. Erosion ditches, rocks and loose gravel made the going slower that I would have like to go down there.
When I got to Hoffmeyer the pie shop was closed but that wasn’t a big disappointment but when I heard that the hotel was closed as well I was very disappointed. At least the shop was still open and I could buy their dwindling stock of chocolates up.   As I left town a few of the kids joined me on their bicycles. After a few kilometres one thought it wise to ask me where I was going. Cradock I said. “Nee F@#$ meneer ons gaan nou huistoe “the one youngster replied and they all turned around to rather go home.
I had to pick up the pace as it was very important to get to Elandberg portage section before it gets dark. The road goes all the way to the top of the hill and then ends. From the top you need to find a windmill down in the valley and head towards it where you will find another jeep track. In the dark you will not see this beacon and will get lost.
In the fading light I could see the mills, took a quick bearing with the compass and headed down the hill. Halfway down it was dark but I had my direction and found the jeep track that took me out the other side. Got to Elandsberg as the farmer was getting into his truck to go and hunt. I declined his offer to join him for the hunt as I wanted to start making up some time the next day.
Farmer thinks this is very funny
Get around that little hill
Top of Aasvoel berg
Day 13 – Elandsberg to Grootdam
Left at 05:00 heading for Newlands and then hopefully all the way to Grootdam. The Karoo Coffee shop was still closed, so my next coffee would only be served at Newlands. Saw a lot of animals so early in the morning in the reserve and just before the exit on the other side what looked like a Rhino crossed the road.
 I could hear a hungry lion roar in the distance and knew it was time to get the hell out of that place. But the closer I got to the gate the louder the roar got. At this point I started to look around a lot more while going as fast as I can. This beast was either very, very hungry or sat down in a thorn bush. I was very happy to get onto the tar and out of the reserve.
At Newlands I shared my experience with the farmer and once he managed to compose himself after laughing hysterical, he told me that the lions are on the other side of the road in another game reserve. He did however confirm that where I just came through Rhino’s have been spotted.
Tim Deane was still at Newlands waiting for some spares for his bike. He looked a lot better than the last time I saw him and he confirmed that his flu symptoms have gone and he felt strong.
After a nice breakfast I continued towards Rockdale. As I was sitting under the tree at the De Hoek gate  , Tim caught up to me. A quick hi and bye and he was gone. I decided to get closer to the track that goes up the mountain so I can see how he goes up that pass. By the time I got round the corner to the bottom of the pass I could see Tim climbing up towards the lookout point. I got so tired from looking at him go up there that I had to sit down for another 10 minutes
Eventually got to Grootdam after 20:00 and again there was a big group of riders there. Hugh, Greg and Richard still in one group and then another group that had Brad VD Westhuizen with them. They all were going to leave at 5am and I decided to stick to my normal 06:30 time.
Don't worry I also never heard of this place .
And this one
Heading for the dam
At the top
Day 14 – Grootdam to Gegun
Slowly I made my way up towards the Struishoek Portage section. Looked like some rain up ahead so I stopped to get the correct gear on.
Before the Struishoek portage I could hear a goat in the bush that sounded like it was a bit constipated. I got off the bike to go and see what was going on and found a small goat that had its head wedged between two bushes. As soon as I freed the little bugger his mother (or a family member) came running out of the bush making an even bigger noise. There goes my plan to have somebody to talk to on the way down Struishoek.
Struishoek portage was a bit of a challenge. With the rocks being a little damp and my ankle that was not 100% I took it very slow down there. My plan was to stay over at Gegun anyway so there was no real need to rush.
As I pulled into Gegun at 16:30 the farmer also drove up to the house. He was there to see if they have fixed the water pump. We went to inspect the pump and then retired to the kitchen for some coffee. At about 19:00 Jacques Tattersall and his team popped in for a quick snack before racing towards Toekomst. At 20:00 after a last inspection of the water pump we decided to call it a night.
Goat with no Name - On the right 
A white rock
You really want me to go down there ?
The track improves
Day 15 – Gegun to Kleinpoort
Last year I did the section between Gegun and Bucklands in one day but decided to rather stop at Kleinpoort this year because I have been told that they got some stunning furniture in the Kleinpoort house. I was not disappointed, really a lovely place to stay over.
First I however had to get to Toekomst . Easy navigation , get to the JD Ross sigh and follow the road . Somebody did not want us to go underneath the fence at the game gate crossing . It took me the better part of 15 minutes to go underneath to the other side . 5 minutes to take the rocks of the fence , 5 minutes to crawl underneath with bike and another 5 to replace the rocks . About 6km into the reserve I must have turned right but at first did not think I was going the wrong way . But the further I went the more I had the feeling that I was heading back the way I came . Eventually got to t t-Junction and I saw a lot of cycle tracks on the ground . Unknown to me mine was also there and obviously the freshest tracks . So I looked at my own tracks to determine direction of travel . That is obviously the way I went . Got to the game fence which I thought was the exit gate . Did not bother to look around and climbed over the fence . A short distance later I saw a sign that faced the other way and even before I got to the sign I knew what was on it , JD ROSS !!!! I have done a 15km loop back to where I started . 
Then it hit me !! I followed my own tracks and I have turned my back wheel around when I put the tires on for more traction . Well how many people do get to see the JD Ross sign twice on one day ?
 Got to Kleinpoort at 01:30 and by the time I have eaten and showered it was already 03:00. Got up at 08:30 next morning to a perfect morning and for the first in days I put all the warm stuff in my bag and put on my baggies. 
The Sign
Meals on wheels
Going over 2nd time
Day 16 – Kleinpoort to Hadley
After a quick brunch at Bucklands I was on my way again. I was very keen to get to Hadley as early as possible because I wanted to spend a lot of time on the Ossewa trail maps and also needed to catch up with Bennie. Bennie was expecting me, the Whiskey and sprite was ready when I pulled in.
After supper we moved into the study where the two us went over the Ossewa trail route. The issue of going through Baviaans also came up and he said it would be a very sad day for him if the RASA riders do not go past his farm anymore. I also hope the issues with the authorities gets sorted out and we don’t lose this bit of the trail.
I did not want to repeat last year’s trip through Mordor. Once I was satisfied that I have all the info needed to get through there blindfolded, I packed my bag for an early start the next morning. Last year I started to early and arrived at the “no-Entry” gate before sunrise. 5am start will get me to the start of the trail when the sun is up. Not a lot of sleep that night.
Another lonely road
Day 17 – Hadley to Cambria
A very strong wind made cycling on the ridge line towards the old camping site very challenging and at times I had to get off and walk else I would get blown over. Stopped at the camping site and made sure I got all my maps, photos and piece of string on my right hand. First river crossing was down there inviting me to come down and play in the reeds.
From the top I could see there was a highway through the reeds and that gave me a lot of hope. As soon as I crossed the river I read the narratives again and made sure I knew where on the map I was. The narratives say “follow the river”; well that’s what I read. What it does say is “follow the opposite bank “. After I followed the river for about 10 meters and almost an hour later I knew I was doing something wrong. It was clear to me nobody has followed the river in the last 50 years!! That’s when I saw the “opposite bank” bit in my narratives. After another 30 minutes trying to get to the bank from my current position I stumbled onto a road!!!
A road!!! It looked like a highway! Nobody told me this!! I had sleepless nights about this place and there is a road! I expected Leopard spoor, snorting Buffaloes not a road. I thought Marnitz was being funny when he said to me that navigation through there is easy. He never told me about the road! Anyway I eventually got over the fact that there is a highway inside Mordor and moved on.
At the second camp site I stopped to have a look around and see what facilities they got there for the campers. Not a lot. Smooth sailing all the way till about 1km after the 2nd camping site. Here the “road” disappeared into thin air. I put all my stuff down and walked up and down to try and find it again but nothing.
Then I saw it, a pair of gloves lying on the bank of the river. Very nice pair of Sealskinz!!  Although I could not see a route through the reeds I decided to cross where I found the gloves. NO tracks or road to be found on the other side either. Maps, compass and photo are all out. It must be here somewhere, maybe I need to just make a cup of soup, relax and then go over all this again. As I started looking for my fire bucket and fuel tablets in my bag I looked up at a big bird that was trying to find a landing place in the reeds. And there right in front of me was the road!!!! I stood up and it was gone!! Bend down and there it was! There’s a lot of magic in this place.
As I got close to the Cambria house, Mike Roy was standing at the gate waiting for me with a cold beer in hand!! What a welcome it was. I have just conquered the Ossewa trail and it felt like nothing can stop me now!! I am Christopher Columbus, a navigation genius.
After a few beers Mike warned me that’s it not over yet. There is a place called Stettynskloof that have stopped many riders in their track. It did not say it out load but thought “how bad can it be? “, but more about this later. Mike went to bed early as he again had to get up early to escort another rider through Baviaans. I was still on a high and to celebrate ate all the peppermint tart that was still in the fridge before hitting the sack at 23:30. 
Only 15 more crossings like this
Camp site ablusion facilities
Another high fence
Day 18 Cambria – Willowmore
I departed just after 06:00 and my plan was to try and get to Rondawel in one big push. I think I was being a bit ambitious with that plan but set out to do it anyway. Mike did a fantastic job of getting me between the gates. At no point did I feel like somebody was pushing me along and he stayed way back.
At the gate he pushed on towards Dam se Drif for some coffee. We met again on his way back, in front of the police station.
I stopped at Dam se Drif for a quick meal and to get some snacks for the long push towards Willowmore. I wanted to catch Hugues and his team there and kick them out of bed. It was very difficult to leave again but I had to stick to my schedule.
01:30 I was coming down the main street of Willowmore looking for an open shop. I pulled into a filling station and they opened the shop for me. After another bag of chocolates in my backpack I turned right towards The Willow Guest house. As I neared the guest house 4 lights came towards me!!! Frog and his merry men decided to leave at 02:00am for Prince Albert. Bummer there goes my original plan of sneaking past them towards Rondawel!
Bugger this I decided to stay over and leave early the next morning for Prince Albert.
Few Baviaans photos
Day 19 – Willowmore to Rondawel
I only left Willowmore at 09:00 and I changed my plan, Rondawel will be the next stop. It was a very good call. This was most probably the toughest bit I have done so far on this journey. There are no hills, up or down, just corrugation. For 12 hours you got to pedal. No standing, freewheeling or climbing. Was very happy to find the palm trees in the middle of nowhere, more than halfway to Prince Albert. Watched about 10 minutes of rugby with everybody and then did my famous Houdini stunt and disappeared.
160km of this
My new trip meter
Day 20 – Rondawel to Prince Albert
Departure time 06:30 on the same road I did the previous day, flat!! 20km outside Prince another surprise. Lindsey the owner of Dennehof was waiting for me on his MTB. He cycled all the way out to open the gate for me. Awesome.
Nice and early 12:15 arrival at Prince Albert. Chops and chips on the menu and then again try and fix my speedo. I discover that the cable broke again and Lesley arranged a soldering iron.
I decided to go and see what’s in town and cycled down to the bottom of the main drag, stopped at shop for lots of chocolates, and then went back to the lodge. There really is nothing in town that made me want to stop and have a look.
Gary Scoular arrived late afternoon followed by Carin and Tony about 2 hours later. Had supper early as I wanted to leave for Gamkas at 00:00 and was lying in bed at 19:00 when there was a knock on the door. Caren and Tony had a problem with her rear cluster and needed some help. Everything was rattling and loose on the rear even though the cluster nut was tight. We stripped the whole thing, reassembled and all seemed fine.
Welcome to Dennehof
Day 21 – Prince Albert to Rouxpos
I headed out on time and soon discovered that the wind was blowing in the wrong direction! It made the first bit up the pass slow going, but once I turned towards Gamkas it got a lot better. Heart Break hill again did not disappoint although the wind at that point helped a lot.
Going down the other side a water bottle popped out and landed under my rear wheel. Down we went again. Luckily I fell towards the cliff face; else I would have flew in Gamkaskloof and not cycled in.
Pulled into Sannie’s Winkel after 08:00 for a nice breakfast. These were a few Stan’s refills in the left-overs box and I decided to top up since I had some time on hands.
As I left the shop some clouds came rolling into the valley followed by a light drizzle. The rain stopped before I got the start of the Ladder. I sat behind the poplar trees for about 10 minutes to experience the magic but every time I looked towards the footpath behind the trees the magic disappeared!! Must have something to do with the fact that I knew  I had to go up there .
The light drizzle started again and I had to go very slowly on the wet rocks. Coming this far and then hurting yourself because you in a hurry did not sound like the way to approach this climb.
Legend has it that a group came up or down this section with Donkeys and all their furniture many years ago. A baboon with a walking stick would not get up there, how the hell do you get a fully loaded donkey up there?
About halfway up Gary Scoular caught up to me. He had no idea what happened to Caren and Tony as he also left Prince Albert very early. He was in a bit of a rush to get to Rouxpos as his knees were starting to act up and he wanted to give them a good rest.
Eventually I got to the top of the ladder and I was looking forward towards the gradual climb all the way to the district road. I am still looking for this section of the trail!!! That bloody section is so rocky and rutted that I battled to walk it. I used a lot of the new French words I learned from Patricia on this section.
Once on the district road it was smooth sailing towards Rouxpos and I made it there just in time for the weather report on TV. It did not look good. A cold front was on its way towards Cape Town and it looked like a lot of wind, rain and just plain kuk weather.
Time to push on a bit, I really had very good weather thus far on the trip and would like to keep it that way if I could help it at all.
Gary was already in bed sleeping and I thought I will wait for Caren and Tony to have supper with, but when we looked at the tracking site we saw that they not going to get in very early. I could not wait for my waffle any longer anyways.
 I wanted to leave at 05:00 the next morning but the farmer said I should leave when the sun is up so I can see how beautiful his fields are and see all the nice places in the valley. It was only 125km to Montagu so 08:00 will be the new departure time. 
The sign say it all 
Tea at Auntie Sannie
Start of The Ladder
The two poplar trees
One of the few ridable bits on The Ladder
At top
The Hell is somewhere down there
Day 22 – Rouxpos to Monagu
When I got up at 06:00 I saw that Caren, Tony and Gary have already left and I assumed they would be pushing for McGregor. The road towards Anysberg wasn’t really in any better condition than The Ladder and I cracked a few false teeth on the way to the office.
After a quick coffee and half a bag of chocolate cookies I tackled the road out of the reserve. At some point my tracker went East while I was heading West. Race office phoned me to inform me that I am a few kilometre away from Timbuktu and totally out of bounds. I tried to explain to Meryl that I only went into the bush for a number two and promise not to do it again . I checked my maps again and was happy that I knew where I was going (serious ) so just continued heading west.
About 10km outside Montagu as I came over a little hill I saw a vehicle parked next to the gravel road with its light on. As I got closer the driver got out and started to cheer me on. “Go Pierre go “. What the hell  , how does this dude know my name? Turned out to be Spud, a member of The HubSA forum.  After 30 minutes we parted ways and I pushed towards town.
Caren and Tony were waiting for me with a cold beer and we all had supper together. We discussed the Stetteyns kloof section and they wanted to do the high route on the right of the kloof. They have hiked this section before the race and felt that it was the correct option. I had no cooking clue what would be the best route but at least here was somebody that sounded like they got it all planned and sorted.
I had to get to Trouthaven the next day where I know there would be a big group going through the kloof the day after. It’s going to be another long day and I got all my stuff packed for a 05:00 departure.
No idea what this is - Anysberg
Day 23 – Montagu to Trouthaven
Next morning I first headed into town to the shop at the petrol station before taking the road to Ashton.
The fruit packets turned out to be the fruit canners ,  but this I only discovered after the fruit canners told me the fruit packers are on the other side of town. On the other side of town I did not find fruit packers and went back to the fruit canners where I ran into a SAP vehicle.
They saw two cyclist 10 minutes ago going up this road and besides that, this road will take me to the red bridge I was told. I wasted a lot of time here and got to McGregor at 10:30. Combed my hair had a coffee and left at 11:00.
The road to Trouthaven is long and flat. Lost the plot around the Brandvlei dam a bit but could see the prison from the distance and eventually found the road going around the dam in the dark. Got to Trouthaven at 21:30. Everybody was already sleeping and there was no open bed available. Not wanting to disturb anybody I found some food in the dark and started finding a blanket or something warm to crash onto the couch.
But Hugues heard me stumbling around and pointed me to another little house where I would find a bed and more food. He knew that I wanted to join them and said that they will be leaving at 05:00 the next morning. Hugues, Greg, Richard, Gary, Fanus, Brad, Tony and Caren all made it there for the big trek towards Diemersfontein. 
Day 24 – Trouthaven to Diemersfontein.
This is it!!!! The last stretch and that blanket will be mine, only 54km, how difficult can that be. I think if I knew what lay ahead of me I might have phoned Uber to come and fetch me.
It looked like the first 10km to the dam was flat and fast and I decided to leave 30 minutes earlier to wait for the group at the dam wall. Tony and Caren left at 04:00. After a 40 minute wait at the dam for the big group we all set off on our last challenge towards the finish line. It’s wasn’t long before we caught up to Caren and Tony.
Brad had a problem with his lights and stayed with them. We pushed on following the hiking trail. It did not see a trail of any sorts but we did find the stacked rocks all along the way and followed these. With the dense vegetation it is very easy to loose somebody and the first one we lost was Greg. The rest of us regrouped and started looking around for him. He eventually showed up coming out of another direction.
We could see Caren and Tony way up on the right hand side, they looked way top high but going in the right direction. Brad was coming down the valley next to the river but was a long way off. As you go along the vegetation change from thick bush to small trees and then eventually Protea plants. I can already hear people saying “Oooooh nice, pretty Proteas “.
If I had my way they would be banned from growing in that valley. In parts you can carry your bikes ,  but then the trees get to dense and  you got to try and push it though , then it get to rocky and you carry your bike , then it get to rocky and bushy and you got to pull , throw and drag your bike . As so it continued for 8 hours. In and out of rivers, over cliffs and down cliffs, just a nice relaxing 9.4km hike.
Me and Fanus started talking about sleeping out in the Ossewa trail and he said to me that he had a pair of sealskinz just like the ones I am wearing  that he lost there the night he slept out!! Well this is your lucky day cause these are your but you can only get them in Diemersfontein as mine is at the bottom of my backpack. I did not tell him how close to the trail I found his gloves, but he was 10 meters away from escaping Mordor.
But his ordeal was not over yet. Me and Fanus decided to cross the river earlier  to the other side as it looked easier to walk on the other side. The river was flowing fairly strong and as Fanus gave his second step into the river he lost his footing and into the freezing water he went. Somehow he landed underneath his bike and he looked like a tadpole transforming into a frog . I think I managed a "Are you oke dude ?" before I lost control and bust out laughing . Not cool !!
After the previous days long ride I was starting to feel the strain and it was a real battle to keep up with the group. But in the true spirit of this wonderful race they waited for me every time it looked like I get to far behind.
Once we got to the final climb out I thanked everybody for their company and support and send them on their way. I needed to take a rest and just wanted to sit there on the cliff for a while to take all this in and have a quiet moment. Now I did not really care if I get there the next morning , I will get there !
I eventually started to move again and at the bottom found the farm road. I have run out of water and filled my bottles at the stream. Time to put gloves on and go home. But there are no gloves on the ground. I have left them at the top of the hill. I promised Fanus he can have his gloves at Diemersfontein, so up the hill I went to go and find them. Just another day on the trail.
The sun was starting to set as I got onto the Du Toits Kloof pass and things got a bit sketchy with all the trucks on that route. No real shoulder next to the road to speak of and I was on and off the bike all the way up.
As I got to the right turn of the tar it was properly dark and I started looking for powerlines. You cannot see power lines in the dark so the next best thing was to look for the towers. There are a lot of splits in the road and I wasn’t always sure which one was the main road. I swopped the narratives with the maps and this got me to the gate. But I did not see the gate and followed the road around the left down an awesome hill to the bottom.
But I am definitely on the right route; here is the dam on the map and one in front of me. Just go around the left of the dam and there will be a finish line somewhere. Maybe they switched the lights of to surprise me!!
Call from race office, “where are you going? “. The 2 minute downhill became a 15 minute walk up the hill. Johann was waiting at the gate for me and I crossed the finish line at about 20:00. Stefan Kellerman was ready with Vodka on ice and the rest of the group all waited for me.
As I got of the bike it started to drizzle and the wind picked up. The cold front has arrived!!
After Pizza, soup, few Vodka’s, one cigar and lots of jokes most people decided to go to bed. But not me, as I was presented with my blanket I saw a cake on one of the tables. I am not going anywhere until I find out what’s with this cake.
It turned out that  Di from http://www.daytrippers.co.za/ baked Carin a cake to return a favour. My next question was “do you think she will eat that whole cake by herself?” It then became obvious to Meryl that I am not going to bed until I had some cake, but we will have to wait for Carin and Tony to arrive.
Just before 02:00 a very wet and cold couple got to the finish. The wait was worth it. That cake was awesome.
Stettynskloof from top 
Hugues and Stefan welcomes me
My very own blanket
The end

If you go and read all the other blogs from people who have done the race you will see that there is not a lot more I can add. This race is not for everybody even though a few people would disagree with me. I am not talking about how good you are on a mountain bike or how fast or far you can go.
If you haven’t got the right mind-set and attitude you will not enjoy it and chances are good you will not make it either.
When Fanus fell into the river in Stettynskloof he reacted just like I thought he would. He got out of the water onto the bank and said to me “Dit was nie slim nie “. No tantrum, speaking in a foreign tongue or blaming anybody else. Pick up your gear and try again.
As you meet other competitors on the route you will find they all had the same attitude, from race snakes to the tourers.
But for me the people on the route that fed us , gave us beds to sleep in and in my case , had to listen to me waffle on till late at night , goes the glory .
People who would sit by the fire throught the night to make sure you clothes get dry without burning.
People who tracked you and would wait for your arrival at 02:00 in the morning and welcome you with a cup of hot chocolate and a plate of food.
People packing snack packs with French Toast, Fruit juices, roosterkoek, Fudge and all kinds of nice things.
I had a few partners on this ride. First started off with Stefan Kellerman, and maybe one day we will finish this race together. Then I joined Hugues, Patricia and Hugh. Hugues was really a breath of fresh air. He was always whistling and making jokes. When we got lost he would just pull up his shoulders and say “small mistake, now we go that way “. Not everybody thought that was funny, I thought it was hilarious.
Unfortunately Hugh fell out soon after we started riding together but I would have liked to have gone further with him, he had nice sweets in his boxes.
Patricia at first did not really say a lot but once she realized that I don’t bite (a lot) we cycled together at the back most of the time.

Warning
The withdrawal symptoms are quite severe. The first few weeks after the race you most probably will not get a full night sleep. You will get lost, cross mountains and rivers and spend many hours just thinking about nothing, and then you will wake up.
Eating habits will also be abnormal. In my case I cannot stop eating sweet stuff. Tin of condencemilk here and a slab of chocolate there seem very normal to me. I don’t want 4 slices of bread for lunch anymore, I want eight. But I know it will normalize again after a month or two.

And then finaly thank you for everybody that supported me , even those that think I am insane .