Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rallye Raid!


I woke the next morning early to voices around camp all complaining about it being bitterly cold.

The view from my tent:

I have to admit that I was not that cold at all. Why? Well, I am "uhm" a little "bigger" than the average person around me, so I never could find a sleeping bag I could fit in. That was until my good friend Fatb told me about the Bushtec Duo Sleeping Bag. This is without a doubt one of the best buys I have made in my Dual Sport Biking career. This sleeping bag is rated for -10ºC and it works! Also, it's BIG. I can "starfish" in it. Here is a pic from back when I bought it:

Yup! Size matters. So I slept comfortably and warm while everybody else was freezing. And they were freezing. We heard later that the temperatures dropped to -9 degrees that night.

Some photos around camp this morning:

(Photo by Matilda)

(Photo by Matilda)

(Photo by Gryph)

After a hearty breakfast we got ready to ride. We decided to do Route 3 for several reasons. (1) It was the most scenic and it included several passes, most of which I have not ridden before. (2) I was stuck with my road biased rear tyre as the Continental guys had no TKC stock in my size. (3) After the long ride the day previous we were all looking forward to a nice relaxed ride in great scenery. According to the briefing Route 3 was it, the one where you could stop and take pictures. Exactly my kind of thing.

The first section from Wartrail towards Funnystone stone was simply breathtaking:

(Photo by Gary)

This is a fertile valley in the heart of the Southern Drakensberg and the farm Funnystone is named after the distinctive rock with the same name. Great scenery around here.

I took the same picture as Gary three pics above (great minds) but by the time I got there I was the only one. Taking photos takes time and around here there's a pic around every corner.

Looking back after I started ascending Bidstone Pass:

Soon I came across a whole group of very worried bikers.

"What route are we on?"

"Route 3."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. That's what the GPS says."

"That's crazy. Did you see this pass?"

Bidstone Pass is very steep with loose rocks that were still wet this time of the morning. Some guys wanted to turn around.

"Don't be silly. Just keep the power and momentum up and you'll be fine."

And off we went.

Unfortunately you cant stop on these uphills so there are no photos, but suffice it to say it was an interesting and exhilarating ride. Especially with a road biased tyre on the rear!

I am so bummed I didn't think of fitting my helmet cam going up there.

The view from higher up. You can clearly see how high we climbed in a very short distance.

Great views from up here!

(Photo by Gary)

(Photo by Gryph)

Some guys were taken out of their comfort zones, but no-one fell and the reward up here was certainly worth it!

The road towards Tiffindell:

In-ride perspective:

(Photo by Gary)

(Photo by Hamster)

(Photo by Gary)

Tiffindell Ski and Alpine Resort was established in 1993 on the slopes of the Ben McDhui peak of 3001 metres, and is the only ski resort in sub-Saharan Africa.

You can see the slope where they ski in winter:

We carry on over the plateau towards Carlislehoek Pass that would take us down to Rhodes.

(Photo by Gryph)

Dropping off the plateau you seem to go into free fall (OK, not litterally, but it's steep!). Carlisle’s Hoek Pass has an almost vertical descent punctuated with dual-track concrete traction strips and multiple switch-backs. This is described in the mountain biking fraternity as one of the hairiest descents in Africa. Over 3km you descend more than 300m, sometimes at a gradient in excess of 1:3. I certainly wouldn't want to come down here on a bicycle that's for sure!

As per usual the video and photos does not do the gradients any justice at all.

GREAT views as you ride down here though.

(Photo by the Sweeper)

In the valley Jaco and I made the most of the ice cold water crossings.

And then we rolled into the delightful little village called Rhodes:

(Photo by Matilda)

Rhodes was proclaimed a town in 1897. Amazingly this little village was invaded no less than 29 times between 24 June 1901 and 7 February 1902 during the Second Boer War.

Local legend has it that it was originally named Rossville after Ds Ross and that the name was changed to Rhodes in the hopes that the mining magnate and then Prime Minister of the Cape, Cecil John Rhodes, would bless the village with his benificence.

Ds Ross, who was based in Lady Grey, ministered to the community, travelling to and fro on horseback. Although of English-speaking origin, he was interned during the Second Boer War. Prior to the war, he conducted his services alternately in English and Afrikaans. Clothed in rags and having walked bare-footed from the Aliwal North concentration camp to his home in Lady Grey after his release, he was thoroughly disgusted with the British and refused to conduct his services in English thereafter.

Everybody wanted to refuel in Rhodes which caught them by surprise I guess because by the time I got to the pump they had run dry. The owner was kind enough to sell me some fuel out of his quad bike though.

(Photo by Gary)

The riders on Route 3 had to be at the lunch spot and ready to leave at 12:30 or be cut off and sent back to camp. With the amount of km's to covered before lunch you'd have to average between 70 & 80 km/h to make the cut-off which in retrospect would take some doing over the passes we just rode. Having covered only about 50km in almost 2 hours this whole group were hopelessly behind schedule. We had a look at the maps and decided to take a shortcut to Barkley East in an attempt to make up some time.

Africa Twins riding together:

This is a wonderfully scenic area. I found it a pity that we had to push push push through here, but it was the only hope we had to catch up. I did get one or two pics though. I was not going to let the opportunity go to waste. Believe me riding in this area is like riding in heaven if you're a Dual Sport biker. I will definitely come back again!

Suddenly I rode up to this scene. Seems like some unfortunate biker had an off.

To my horror it soon became apparent it was my good friend LGF.

Luckily he was in good hands. I have to complement the Rallye Raid organizers in this regard.

Seems like in the rush to catch up more than one biker overcooked it into this corner, LGF was the one that came short. All things considered it turned out well enough though. It could have been much more serious.

With LGF injured and unable to ride some of us decided to stay with him until he and his bike got recovered. Under much protest I might ad, but we'd have none of it. If I came off he would have stayed with me. We're bud's. that's how it works.

Matilda also arrived at the scene. He also had an incident - seems like he diced some KTM's, got lost off route and somehow popped his suspension.

(Photo by Matilda)

And so the waiting game started. We waited and waited... making jokes and telling stories, and waited...

(Photo by Matilda)

Jaco decided to pass the time giving us a show. Without a helmet.

(Photos by Matilda)

Eventually the bike got recovered and we headed back to camp.

Great scenery en route!

The Honda back-up crew in camp:

(Photo by Gryph)

What a sight after a long day!

We also found our friend GlenInk who rode through from Elliott to come and say hello!

Relaxing in the party tent we saw bakkie after bakkie coming in with recovered bikes. Routes 1 & 2 were gnarly I believe, but this is a hard core event. Hopefully the bikes' owners only had minor damage.

We also later learned that not a single rider that set out on Route 3 that morning finished the route.

That night the Rallye Raid organizers had some entertainment organized. Soon the party was in full swing again.

GlenInk said he'll photograph me with the blond girl if I'll photograph him as well. Sure...

Here's my pic:

And here's Glen's pic:

Nah, I'm not that cruel. Here's your pic mate. Enjoy!

I turned in a bit earlier tonight than the night before (earlier, not early...) but the party continued till the wee hours.

Sources: Rhodes


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