Allendale to Ntsikeni (via Centacow)
96km, 2480m ascent
Day 2 into Ntsikeni has some tricky navigation and difficult terrain with a notoriously challenging exit from Allendale farm into Donnybrook. Dave offered to show the way on this section and the rumour quickly did the rounds that Dave is leaving at 6h00 and he would leave his wife behind if she weren’t on time. Needless to say by 5h55 everyone was lined up in fear of not being able find their way out of the farm yard. In previous days some groups had taken 40 minutes just to get onto the trial. We were also to learn later that Dave is a real stand up gentleman and would never leave his wife behind .. but we didn’t know that then. Dave made the perfect exit and we cruised into Donnybrook still in the dark making our way down to Centacow where more tricky navigation awaited. Temperatures never really got above Zero Celcius this morning. Biggest scare of the trip happened when Dave hit an invisible 2 strand farm wire full on, got the fright of our lives but fortunately Dave is built from Tungsten and was good to go.
Centacow is a stunning stop and like all the other days the soup and bread went down well. Trouble started as we left Centacow and hit the first big climb of the day that only ended much later and after we had pushed bikes up too steep to ride district roads, my legs did not enjoy this pushing, perhaps under prepared for walking and pushing, it was going to be a difficult day. We progressed well through the Boshelweni forests until we hit the mother of all climbs before Ntsikeni, it was push a bike for probably another hour. My personal light started fading and I hit a really bad patch and struggled to keep up with the group.
The first signs of a group camaraderie started showing this day when everyone waited when one member had a mechanical and all waited up, then later on told a straggler (me!) not too worry, we’ll wait for one another. It is important to note this is not a group race, its an individual race and groups form for specific purposes. It turned out we had a great group that rode and socialised well together and we ended up sticking together till the end.
It is very difficult to explain how steep these roads are, perhaps on a Saturday group ride our Alpha male ego’s will have us ride them to the top, I somehow doubt that, even on fresh legs. Strong and weak alike simply have to push to fight the gradient and often rough terrain. Being on the feet also take sits toll on strength when one starts pedalling again.
This was my hardest day out and seeing Nstikeni Lodge on the stunning plains was a very welcome sight. It is a truly amazing spot, as remote as you can get with a wonderful staff under Mr Nqcobo making our stay a pleasant one. His impromptu story telling over dinner under the watching eye of his wife and sister in law proved very special for us all.
A very hard day out with a beautiful end to the day. We all slept like babies.