3 Jun 2008

The DusiMfula

What an experience! To us at the back of the race, this was more than an adventure. Travelling through the valley of a 1000 hills, through rivers which we crossed about 8 times, crawling up Burma Hill, carrying bikes instead of cycling, using brute force to get our bikes over obstacles, surviving all to arrive victorious at the end. Awesome! Maybe only to be done once, unless you have trained numerous, endless hours of single track. But let me start at the beginning.......
We set off in high spirits, some of us in cars, others in planes, but our destination was the same, Pietermaritzburg. We were ready for the DusiMfula mountain bike race.

After a jolly night out, we had our bikes took a closer look at the countryside it was going to cycle through. The day started a bit misty and one could eavesdrop the other riders' conversations about what to wear..is it going to rain, is it going to clear and get warmer?

While I was wandering around looking at rider clothing and bikes and accessories I marveled at the line of Loos. Something that the roadies just don't seem to get right....enough loos for allThe start of Day 1, and the dirt road was jam packed with riders, all ready to go flying when the gun would go off.
Team 178, our friends Lambert and Fanie looked very relaxed, although a bit too warmly dressed. It took them about 1km to get rid of their jackets. That was also the last time we saw them. They were showered and relaxed by the time we came in at the end of the day.
Next to them at the start were us, The Bulla Team, Rodney and Gerda. We took a more scenic approach to the ride.

After the first couple of kilometres, we realised this is going to be one tough ride. From a wide but steep roller coaster start to a single track, to cut-grassed jeep track, all the time, in the now familiar roller coaster fashion. It wasn't long before many a rider had to get off their bikes to push.
Then a steep downhill followed to the first river crossing, The Cascades, where we had to queue in line for about 40min to wait our turn to cross the river. The first of about 8 river crossings.

The route took us through the countryside and next to the river

until we eventually reached, high on the top of the mountain, the water point. By that time some riders have had enough and their bikes were loaded on top of the sweep vehicle, strapped to the roof, with the tired rider hanging over the bonnet.

The view from up there was just so beautiful. While I was taking in the view and got myself photographed and filled my water bottle, the rest of the team made their appearance.

Only 26km to go to the end of Day One. Doesn't sound like a lot, but believe me, there were still a number of climbs, obstacles and dongas to cross. We laboured on and when we finally reached the end and could see the dam, the tents, we knew we finally made day one. We were presented with a snack pack. What a nice surprise! A roll, a fruit, a chocolate and a muffin which were absolutely devoured. I didn't realised how hungry I was. The bulla team took 7hours and 53 min to complete day 1, about 75km.
All the teams had their numbered tents waiting for them, all equipped with two thick sponge mattresses.

............. and the tent inhabitants.........

Day Two dawned a bit cloudy, but not cold. We settled down for a very early breakfast and then the big packing up as our bags had to be with the Crown removals truck by 6:30. The race started at 7:00. After the wonderfully prepared supper the previous night, we slept like logs. Breakfast was an equally sumptuous feast, from cereals to bacon and egg rolls, to muffins and enough coffee to wake up the sleepiest of the sleepers, except for one team who thought that the race only starts at 8 and was therefore an hour late..

With our bags packed and our bikes lubed and checked, we were ready for the second day, or so we thought. They announced that Day One was a technical ride, don't we just know it, and Day Two was to be the adventure. Standing in the chute waiting for the start gun, my eyes wandered to the cyclists legs around me, bruised, scratched, maybe also tired, but also some very strong and lean muscles. STIHL was the company who cut the paths during the previous day and apparently through the night so it was ride-able. I saw a couple of their riders around at the start.

The gun went off and we were on our way with the media helicopter hovering over us, always taking footage of the front runners. What about me! What about me! True to the ride of Day One, Day Two was also littered with uphills, steep hills, out of breath hills. It just gave us enough time to catch our breath and sneak a look down on Inanda Dam, our overnight stop of Day One. What a view! Before we knew it, we were at Burma Hill, the dreaded hill. It was dragging, pushing, shoving, carrying, and more carrying our bikes up, up and up the hill. Nobody seem to be in a hurry. All were just slowly making their way up.While some were admiring the view over the valley from the top, others were still making their way up. The welcoming committee were waiting up at the top in case somebody wanted to hand over their bike and walk the rest of the route. At last the water point. Loud music was pouring out the house and friendly people were clapping as we came round the corner. A very welcome sight. ........Did you see the dog?

Just when we thought we could have it a bit easy, another big hill followed. Our Pink teammates, Pauline and Etienne battled it out on the hill. The previous day, they were the yellow team and they were welcomed in with a huge Mexican wave and fanfare and an interview on TV.
Then the fall... Pauline came down on the single track. "I'm OK, I'm OK". So we left them to the dusting off and checking the bike and went our merry way........

across the bridge
and crossing the river over a bridge. There should be other terms for "bridge".......
and crossing the pipe bridge covered with rickety planks and at a dizzy height!.......and across the bridge built by the army, with some members in a rubber duck in case we decided to take a tumble into the river........and all the way to the end!And it was only at the end that we heard the shocking news, that Pauline's fall was a bit more serious and that "I'm OK" actually means "I'm not OK and that I'm in excruciating pain but I'll smile with my front teeth and grind the back ones." Arm in sling but with a smile on her face we did get to see her at the end too, with a beer.
I'm sad to say, Etienne got hurt too........luckily not seriously..........just a bit........... a small wound.
And so a wonderful, but very tough and tiring, event came to an end. We did celebrate and explore Durban's night life. The smell of the sea, the views. Till next year. ....Maybe