20 Dec 2010

New Northern Farms

I know, Northern Farms is not really new but since I haven't been there for quite some time, it was almost having a brand new feeling cycling around. It was nice, with lots of new single track, new routes, rocky at places, sandy at places and some awesome flowing single tracks.
The idea was just to go out and enjoy, so we didn't really watch the distance but rather "lets go left here" or "we've never been here before, lets go up this little path". It made the day so enjoyable.

In the end we stopped after 3 hours of riding having done ups and downs, single track with water running ankle deep, sandy uphills, slow moving through thick long grass next to a canal, switchbacks through a plantation, steep rocky downhill passed the irrigation pivot, and lots more.
At the end we had a lovely rest in the shade of the trees with a yummy Boerie roll. Absolutely worth the ride.
Go, treat yourself!

17 Dec 2010

trail running

It is the end of the year and I'm starting with something brand new, something I've never done before...trail running! Did a lot of reading about it, tried some shoes, watch some TV programmes and got utterly jealous of the people having a great time outdoors. So I'm taking the plunge.
When thinking back on the Freedom Challenge, I know that I wasn't very strong on my feet. As long as I was on the bike riding, I managed ok. But with all the walking and pushing and portaging I know if I want to do the Challenge again I have to be better prepared, on my feet.
So here I am on 17 December and I did my first trail run....well, shuffle, is the better word for my efforts. Locked up and run, forgot to take water, or to put on sunscreen, or to take my Garmin so at least I know how far I went....I did take time to stop and take some pics.
I was greeted by Bull frogs. Hundreds of them sitting on the lilly leaves belching out there chorus. After yesterday's downpour the route was a bit muddy and watery in places but not difficult to negotiate.

That's me at the pond.

The path through the trees. I think I have been bitten by the trail running bug. It wasn't easy, as I'm not at all used to running, but to be out in nature made it easier.
So please add your bit to my training. Good thing? Won't last? Wrong thing? I am feeling a lot stronger already.....hahahaha till I have to get out of bed tomorrow morning. Wish me luck.

10 Dec 2010

Year end celebrations at d'cadence

The tables decorated, chocolates in place and prizes stacked knee high we were just waiting for the arrival of the crowd for our year end event at d'cadence restaurant. 
The crowd arrived and so did Santa and Miss Santa, his little helper.

Now for the opening speech and handing out of prizes. How does one say "thank you" to all that have been supporting the gym in such a wonderful way. Thank you to all and if you didn't get a prize this year, maybe next year I'll think of new categories that might just suite you perfectly.

The winner for the Best Rider in the gym goes to....... Roger! What can we say, if only we can cycle half as fast as you, we would be thrilled!

The winner for the Longest Bulla Supporter goes to......Francois! For those who don't know. Francois is almost like furniture here at the gym, having done spin classes given by my daughter Silke...... many years ago. Thank you for your constant support. Of course all the male winners got a prize and hug and kiss from Miss Santa.

Now, unbelievably as it may sound, spinners actually like the music and try and sing along some of the most familiar tunes. Some of course try harder than others and sing louder than others. Some only grunt out a few sounds...lack of breath, I say.

The second place winner for best spinning singer goes to..... Maggie!

And the winner for best spinning singer is.......Jake! What I like about Jake is, even if he doesn't know the words of the song he keeps on singing and make up words as he goes along. Interesting, to say the least.

The winner of the best support is....Rodney! What can I say, always there for me and the gym, supporting in so many ways. Thank you so much!

The prize for the Gym Mascot goes to........Mario! Such a sport and always ready to do anything... well almost anything. One year he took his shirt off to encourage people to buy raffle tickets. The next year he posed as a paper doll and everyone could dress the doll in his favourite cycling outfit, with hilarious outfits. This year he didn't blink an eye when I asked him to be Santa. Thank you Mario, it is great to have you in the gym.

The last winner is the best Christmas tree decorator which goes to ...... Margie! To keep them occupied while waiting for the kitchen to do their stuff, everyone got a small Christmas tree to decorate. Congratulations and thanks for the help of Gerhard in selecting the best tree.

And so, a lovely evening came to an end, with Santa just peeping around to see if everyone was enjoying themselves.

Just a final reminder: Gym will be closed from 22 December and reopens on 5 January 2011. Have a wonderful holiday season, pick up lots of weight so we can see you all in the New Year again.

From Baviaans to 94.7

 Absence makes the heart grow fonder....

So we were prepared for the Baviaans mountain bike 24hr event, or we thought we were. Teams got together at a farm just outside of Willowmore, and what a lovely stay it was. Enough fresh air for all to breathe in and enough space to pack and unpack the bags and boxes we would use during the event. Even enough packing space for Rodney :-))
Enough sleeping space for all.

Instructions were given by opposition teams, instructions were followed (at the last minute), and bikes were checked over. Hopefully Jake will remember the seat post?
After watching the sun set in a most spectacular way, we were ready for some shuteye and the ride the next day.

Jake and I as the one team and Rodney and Ian  the other team. Lots of drama later, ..... many hours later, Rodney and I emerged from the dusty trails as a new team.
Until next year!

A couple of minor races later we arrived at the annual 94.7 road race in Joh'burg. A very very hot day but lots of smiles at the end.

Hats off to all the "cow riders" raising funds for Choc, arriving at the end in their hot, frumpy cow suits.

This "cow" went one further and made a stand for Movember, the month of moustaches, to create awareness for prostate cancer.

I know, it is impossible to think, but 2010 is going for a nosedive, hopefully ending itself in a spectacular way!

4 Aug 2010

Through my eyes - The Freedom Challenge

Here now, the visuals of the Freedom Challenge. So many times one would look up from pushing the bike just to see the most spectacular scenery. Your mind is in two; if I stop now, I might not be able to get going again, I'll stop at the top. And when you do stop, many times only 50m further, the scenery is just not the same and you've lost the magic of that moment. These are the visuals when I did stop.

Here we are at the start at 6am. Only 4 of us eventually finished. Excited and scared at the same time, not quite knowing what was waiting for me. Looks cool all the shiney bits.
The turn to Cunningham Castle, which is not a castle. Turn left here.
Minerva, the first lunch stop. It's nice and warm and cosy and interesting inside and cold and still a very long way outside.

So many interesting engines and things.....

Crossing the Umkomaas River. I wasn't convinced that that route was the shorter, but they said it was.....Estelle taking the lead.

The Umkomaas Valley. Up Hela Hela...

Tough day in the saddle and still a bit to go.

Freezing start on Day 2. The grass made crackling noises when we cycled over it.

Just pass the little town of Donnybrook on our way to the Donnybrook forest.

The beautiful Donnybrook forest with puddles of frozen water.

Centacow mission.............

......and the church at Centacow..........

...and the inside of the church. A beautiful lunch stop just before very steep hills onto Ntsikeni.

The hills just outside of Centacow........

......and onto Ntsikeni. It is here where I passed three locals sitting on the side of the road. One playing a guitar and the other two harmonising.......One goes so slowly that there is enough time to listen.

Dead tree.......about three hours from Ntsikeni. That was all for Day 3. Wow! I was obviously cycling and cycling and cycling and......

Lots of roads and paths criss crossing the flood plain. I was blown away by it, the vastness of it, the villages scattered around it, the people moving through it. AWEsome....
Through the flood plain with the mountains around it.....
Through the flood plain.....
A close up look of one of the many villages scattered around the flood plain.......
People of the flood plain.....most of them going to the shop at Queens Mercy.
The shop's entrance is to the left and is stocked with most things people around in the area might need, candles, matches, wood, blankets, frozen chicken, polonies, cleaning stuff. We concentrated on chocolates and crisps and coke which we drank there, and then bought some more. I had to empty my extra drink into my water bottles as I didn't had any space in my backpack, so it was a mix of energy drink with coke......great new taste. One actually gets tired of the same energy drinks every day.
Firewood drag....High on top of the mountains where no carts can go, the locals drag firewood through the veld to the villages. It is a huge cause of soil erosion because of plants, grass etc getting ripped out of the ground by the branches. They are making wide roads with the dragged wood and at some places made it very easy for us to cycle. Mostly wattle, which is an alien plant.
In some places remotely far away from anything or anybody you wonder if you are still on the right track, road, path and when you came across a Eland/Arrow you sighed a sigh of relieve. Keep going.....
So many fences to cross, packs over, bikes over, you over and on you went.
Pride owner of the farm.........
On to Vuvu, the next village...
Pass Black Fountain........
.....and the wood carrying woman...
The bridge crossing before Tinana Mission.
The church bell of Tinana Mission. We had a quick lunch stop there but had to press on to try and reach Vuvu before dark.
These kids had fun with us. We were racing and they were racing with their donkeys and they giggled a lot and showed off their riding skills. We couldn't ride all of the path, because of river crossings, rocks in the paths, sandy stretches, but they could ride all of it on their donkeys. Next time I'll do it on a donkey, hhee-hhaaa!
On to Lehana's Pass, then Naude's Neck and then Rhodes. Didn't matter how remote, they all knew about the world cup.
A 360 view of the mountains around the pass.
Top of Lehana...
The Dragon we had to climb to get to the top.
I too made it to the top!
A shephard's hut and kraal on top of Lehana's Pass. Cold, cold place to sleep and live. Coming across some dogs are usually the first sign of sheep, shephards and a possible kraal nearby. If in trouble on the mountain, this is the place to find to try and keep warm.
Through some marsh land, pass the ruins and then the road to Tenahead Lodge.
On Naude's Neck, lots of snow and bitterly cold.
Careful, Careful! Lots of sheep around sharp corners....Mostly downhill now, racing to Rhodes and warmth.
Frozen country to Slaapkraanz.......and then ........
the portage.....mmmmmm..... one can't really miss the sign
At the bottom of the Loutebron portage where we stopped for a short break. And then on to the portage of Bonthoek. 21km in 7hours. I know it was slow, very slow, but they had to wait for me ;-)). For those who would like to attempt this, it is steeeeeeep!
I found this youngster on my way to the farm Vaalbank with his 'bare' bike.
When you see the Eland, pass through the gate, cross the little river balancing on a wooden log and then go right and pick up the track that will take you to the Burgersdorp tar road. I did, and I found it.
Not too far now from Brosterlea with an early full moon rising.
Just to show off the dongas on the way to Stormberg. If you want to end up with a broken neck, ride this at night. By the way, the little flag stayed miraculously on my bike the whole way.
Cross the farm with the beautiful horses to get to Stormberg. The difficult thing about riding the farm roads or the roads on a farm were the up and down of it. Steep up and down, then steep up and down, then steep....I'm sure you're getting it.
If you are faced with many farm roads going in all directions it is normally time to take stock. My phone call was something like: "I'm sitting next to a salt lick and looking at some sheep, where to now" Simple....Highest point to your left, over the mountain........and viola! there it was.

Tigers and Lions?  Meals on wheels? Count me out because I was pushing.....

The Gunsteling portage passing this old wreck.

This was absolutely awesome. I came over the mountain, some downhill switchbacks and all of a sudden the whole country opened up in front of me.
Cross the Fish River.......
Find Coetzerskloof and the right path. These trees looked a bit spooky lining a track going sort of nowhere with abandoned farm houses.......Now if only I could find the right track........"If you go pass the bullet riddled car, you've gone too far" Trust me, that is so right, but I still couldn't find the track.
Instead, I found Alec, with his horse and his dogs, and he knew the land like the back of his hand and he showed me the right way and made sure I followed him all the way to the point where I couldn't go wrong anymore. Bless his soul!
The ladder on the Struishoek portage.......Remember that when you do cycle by yourself, there won't be anybody waiting on the other side to take your bike when you hand it over the fence, or your bag....so it is up and over and back and over and up and over. That also happens when you reach a 3m high game fence or locked gate.

The other side of Struishoek portage with beautiful Aloes in bloom and lots of inquisitive Angoras.

Through the Voelriver valley which was absolutely beautiful. Lots of riding through beautiful rock formations, sandy river beds, and saw so much game of which the baby giraffes were the best.
Had a quick lunch stop almost on the stoep of Koffielaagte farm. We then had to tackle the very steep Perdepoort uphill and the gloriously beautiful downhill through the poort with its huge towering rock walls. On to Bucklands from here.

The back of the Baviaans. It was up and down up and down but if you put a good effort in on the down then you would win half of the up.....do you know what I mean? I suppose only if you cycle.
Our lunch stop at the Groot River. A very long steep uphill from here all the way to the Ossewa Jeep trek, which is mostly unridable and then crossing the river 14 times and then Cambria. Not a lot in one day?
Down the Baviaans towards Geelhoutbos.
Willowmore to Prins Albert. A very long day in the saddle with corrugations, sand and wind. Keep a sense of humour here otherwise you might go under.
Somewhere between Willowmore and Prins Albert. Having a bite to eat and collecting my mind for the rest of the tough day.

My bike under scrutiny by Johan Rissik at Dennehof in Prins Albert. A clean bike with all parts working gave me such peace of mind.
This part of the race was just absolutely so beautiful. I started off with short cycling shorts but quickly had to change to longs at the top of the Swartberg mountain pass.
Of course you can do this at night, but who would want to miss such scenery?
And more of the Swartberg.
And then on top of Swartberg Pass, at the Teeberg view point, Johan was waiting with coffee and rusks. It was so windy and cold that we had to climb into the Landie to get a bit of shelter.
Onto Gamkaskloof. So scenic with such variety of plant species. Travelling time is for cars....ok.
Just look at this weather! It was windy and very cold. Stunning.
This is the Gamkaskloof valley. You are halfway down on the very steep downhill with very sharp switchbacks. Check your brakes before you go down here. The dusty little road stretch all the way to the other side of the kloof with little cottages all along the road.
Beautiful scene! Very tough climb up the ladder which is just rocks, rocks and rocks. The path leading away until you eventually meet up with the district road is also rocks, rocks, rocks, in different sizes.
I had to stop to collect myself, to eat something, to check my maps and to stand in awe of the mountain scenery.
Mrs Fourie who has been dishing out coffee and rusks to all the cyclists passing her house which is on the back of Laingsburg. Remote and far away and yet an oasis, like in a desert. On to Anysberg from here. Sand, and more sand, and lots more sand.....
Such scenic places...only to be seen once?.....
Howzzzat! Rock formations. Almost miss the turn off, but with Keith in the team we corrected ourselves very quickly. So, look out, as you cross the gate, there is a path directly to your left. Follow it.
Lunch stop had to be quick. We still wanted to reach Montagu.
Pass vineyards and onto the Cape. So close and yet still a lot of riding to do.
This was such soothing scenery to my eyes. Soft green and cool and misty and reminded me a lot of Europe. The last gate to open or climb over?
The last two days were misty and raining. Closer and closer we got to the end.
Look at this! This is Stettynskloof. Unbelievably beautiful. How can one ever describe that. You have to see it. Very rugged terrain. Some early snow on the mountains surrounding us, which made the weather extra cold.
With the rain of the past two days this waterfall was just wonderful to see. The rivers are knee high or deeper, no bridges, just rocks.
The scree which had to be crossed. Very slippery and tricky. Looked like truck loads of rocks just got off loaded in the valley. Difficult crossing.
After every beginning there must be an end. This was it. I couldn't believe that I was really there. Reality only sank in the next day.
My blanket!