Vuvu to Rhodes (via Tenahead Lodge)
55km, 2025m ascent
Day 6 is the last day of Race to Rhodes and such a day always comes with mixed emotions. The Superhero in me knew that after surviving 5 days I was going to make it to the finish to earn my whip, nothing was going to stop me now. The Realist knew there was still the matter of portaging my bike over Lehana’s Pass. The Lazy Man in me didn’t want it to finish and go back to work, he wanted to hang around and enjoy some rays and quiet time.
Lehana’s is a 1000m ascent of the Drakensberg over a distance of about 6 km, most of it has to be done with bike on the back, no other option. Here and there some free yards can be gained by a brief pedal but that is the exception. I am not strong in my upper body nor did I do much training for hiking or carrying. It does not mean I am weak or below average, just not well prepared for such a hike. I also walked with normal MTB shoes which worked fine with some challenges for my feet and heels in particular. I had a restless night before at Vuvu about this section and ended up making some adjustments to my bag for the hike (separate post) which saved my bacon. The portage is spectacular in all ways, one has to work hard to gain the meters but one is rewarded continuously with breathtaking views and vistas. Without a doubt one of the most rewarding hikes I have ever done, worth every drop of sweat. It is precarious at times but a highlight of the journey.
Most difficult part was to get going once at the top, which is just below a well know blue container. Lehana’s is without doubt a significant milestone and one feels like the race is now over. To my surprise I was told we’ll take another 4 hours to reach Rhodes … at that point my body and mind had finished the race so the last 40km was probably the longest of the whole race!
After a quick stop at Tenahead Lodge for hot chocolate and toasted sandwiches we tackled the last 30km to Rhodes which included a few climbing surprises, least of which being the last 200m up to Rubicon Lodge at the finish, a rather appropriate way to top off 6 days of mental and physical challenges. Meryl welcomed us like the mother she is for all the riders, what a lovely sight to see a familiar face.
At dinner Dave, as Blanket Bearer, handed out our finisher whips as part of a very special ceremony and for me this is now a treasured trophy amongst boxes and boxes of medals and old badges. For some the Race to Rhodes may be just another race and an easy journey, for me it has a special place and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be able to celebrate life!
View from the top of Lehana’s Pass