The plan. In 2013 a couple of us twice did 200km+ mountain bike rides, just to see if we could. We could. So what next? 250 did not seem a significant enough stretch beyond 200 so it would have to be a 300 then. We wanted a destination so there was a carrot at the end and we intended to have support vehicles. Dullstroom has Harries Pancakes and just sounded like a good target to aim for.
The ride. After a few weeks of planning 5 of us (Carl, Alwyn, Bertus, Brian, Monique) eventually set off from Pretoria East on Friday, 8 August 2014 after work, destination Dullstroom. The first 50km was spent breaking the shackles of the city. Just past Bapsfontein, along the railway line, someone shouted “TRAIN” as we could see an approaching light stalking us and slowly but surely creeping closer. Quite an experience to have a 100+ car train come past for a few minutes as we cruised in the dark alongside its snaking and noisy body, the next minute it was gone and the silence of the night settled in.
The night.We had started after work so it wasn’t long before darkness approached, 12 hours of darkness, 12 hours of low temperatures, 12 hours where the unknown lurks just beyond the reach of your light beam. Fortunately we had come prepared so we were not afraid. There were a few of us so we could share lighting duties, we had a full moon and a cloudless sky and then I had my Extremelights Extreme1200 MKII handlebar light. I had used this light for a few months leading up to the ride during frequent night rides at Modderfontein Bike Park and also on the very rough roads during Race to Rhodes. It had become a trustworthy piece of equipment and it again did not disappoint. It lasted through the night on dim setting with the odd bright needed on rough stretches, stretching the light perimeter far enough to keep the monsters at a safe distance. We cruised quiet district roads through the night as we edged past Bronkhorstspruit, Ekandustria, Meulstroom en route to Loskopdam. A special moment was riding under a full moon with our bike lights turned off, simply using ambient light to see our way in the night with an ever present moon shadow as companion. We did this often, to this dismay of our support crew who thought we had gone missing. I’ve always enjoyed night riding and somehow the hours flew past peacefully and quietly. The plan was to ride about 200km through the night and it worked out pretty well. We had a few sleep monsters pay us a visit but there were no incidents and everyone managed to stay upright.
Sunrise. By 6am we were grinding up the Northern boundary of Loskopdam when the Eastern horizon started changing colour and we felt a sense of achievement for having ridden non-stop through the night and reached the 200km mark. Vanessa joined the support crew on Saturday morning and had brought along servings of Steers King Bacon burgers, needless to say these did not last long.
Sting in the tail. The last 100km was a slog to say the least. It was great to know and feel that every kilometre we covered was taking us into territory we had not been in before. Somehow our bodies held up, we felt good and reality set in as we grew increasingly tired under an every warming sun. We knew the last 30km was going to be uphill onto the Dullstroom escarpment and by midday the end was in sight but none of us expected the climbs to be relentless with worn out gravel roads and the end seemed rather distant at times. At around 3pm on Saturday afternoon we rode into Dullstroom and up the main road like it was our Champs Elysees. 310km in 22 elapsed hours. Mission accomplished! Two of us had made it all the way and passed 300km and everyone else had gone further than before.
Thank you support team. Last and most importantly, we had a support crew who followed us all the way from about the 60km mark. Ronel, Heidemari, Aubrette, Matthew and Vanessa. These 5 people are the heroes of this trip to us riders. They stuck with us all the way, carrying valuable nutrition and hydration, making coffee and encouraging us. They shivered in the cold of night, got as tired as us and when necessary shielded us from traffic with their vehicles. I cannot begin to express how we appreciate their efforts. The dreams and adventures we embark on are ours, they are often selfish and yet our supporters and families are unwavering in their support of our causes. It was therefore very special that this time they had the opportunity to be an integral part of our adventure.
Thank you to my riding buddies and our support team. We had a dream, we made a plan and we walked away with everlasting memories. This one was legend!