Friday, October 10, 2014

Ride to Rhodes Epilogue

I am exactly 2 weeks on from the finish of that epic adventure.  I think back on it a lot.  What a crazy amazing adventure.

So my knee is healing slowly.  I saw the doctor on the Monday (I skipped the emergency room at the hospital!).  I went on 7 days of antibiotics (Augmenton).  It appears I have picked up an allergy to Penicillin as I got a reaction to these antibiotics but more moderate.
Doug cleaned my knee every night and dressed it for 10 days.  It is a really ugly wound - a very deep open wound but it is improving.
I was so tired the week after the ride.  My body was very run-down.  I got mouth ulcers all around my mouth on the one side which made me very miserable.  I dosed up on multi-vitamins and Vit C and slept most afternoons.
This week I have been much more normal in terms of energy and the ulcers have healed thank goodness.

The whip that I had worked to hard for was half eaten by Shilo (one of my dogs).  She LOVED the chewy sticky hide it was made from.  At least she left the pretty bead section for me.

Sometimes I wonder if I will every grow out of these crazy adventures.

I have my doubts........


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Ride to Rhodes - Day 6 - Vuvu - Rhodes

Oh my hat I was here - 55 more kilometres to the end.  This was so do-able.  We set off from Vuvu at just after 5 am.  I was gleefully thinking too myself - this time tomorrow I shall be snoring quietly in bed - he he!  The road out of Vuvu was absolute torture.  My legs wouldn't work.  My hands and arms were so exhausted from the pounding on the road.  My nether region was quietly moaning away.  It was so bumpy and hilly.  I couldn't steer properly coz I was just so tired.  I have to say I cursed my way on those 8kms and was very VERY relieved to be off the road.
Derek and Craig set off on a steaming pace and we didn't see them again for a few hours.  Chris, Lindsay and Colleen were just in front of us and we did eventually meet up somewhere up Lehanas.

Aah Lehanas - I think when this word is spoken some people shiver.  It is hectic, it is steep, it is wicked and it was fu!!@@#**ing windy!  It was so so beautiful and magnificent and so full of God.  It was a 7km climb straight up a mountain to get to the top of the Drakensberg escarpment.  This took 4 hours.  There is a tiny bit of riding but mainly pushing and carrying of the bike.  The wind picked up when we were about 1/3 of the way up.  Wow it was crazy.  I would take a couple of small steps forward and a big step sideways or backwards.  The wind was gusting at about 60kms/hr.  I climbed onto this ridge at one point and this mad piece of wind came rushing towards me.  I tottered and tried to make myself as heavy as possible so that I wouldn't do a Mary Poppins with my bike!  Chris came rushing towards me and grabbed my bike (which I was carrying).  Whoa that adrenalin kicked in again!  Anyway it really was small steps at a time - which I suspect is one of those lessons that can be applied in many situations in life.  My shoulders and neck were so bruised from carrying the bike and I am sure that more screws and sticky-out bits had appeared on my bike overnight - I am sure they weren't there before!            

There is this tiiiiiny blue dot at the top of that mountain where I am pointing to -
that is a shepherds hut and we are heading to just below that

So so beautiful - the mountains and valleys below us and stretching as
far as the eye could see

Snack time amid the beautiful yellow blooms

It was really quite amazing to be near the top and look back and see what we had climbed.  That tiny blue dot at the top of the mountain that was barely visible slowly and surely came closer.  The crazy wind added a different element of excitement to the adventure.  Although somewhere near the top I did lose my sense of humour with it.

Then the inevitable happened - WE GOT TO THE TOP!!

Colleen and I clutching onto each other

The top of Lehanas Pass - 3107m.  4 hours to do 7kms
I knew we were not at the end yet (or even close) but shoo the next section was really testing.  (Like I needed more testing - REALLY!!).
The wind was absolutely insane and absolutely pumping.  If Doug wanted to say something he had to come close to me and shout.  At one point I felt like a dog with my head out of a car window.  My mouth was flailing and flopping around like a dog's mouth does in wind - and I was walking!  We eventually got to a road - which was really horrible and stony and still so windy but at least we were going faster than 3kms per hour.  We took shelter behind a dilapidated building to regroup.  Chris and Doug assured us that Tena Head and the toasted sandwiches were not far away but they weren't exactly sure how far away they were.  As it turned out they were only about 15 minutes down the road.  Tena Head was this luxurious gorgeous piece of civilisation!  Derek and Craig were waiting for us there and had been there for about 1.5 hours!  We had tea and coffee and toasted sandwiches.  They really were not the best toasties around but I didn't care.  I was sitting on a nice chair out of the wind.  Off we set again for the last section - 36kms.  I tried very hard to not look at my speedometer too often - you know watched pot never boils = watched kilometres move too slowly.  The wind kept on changing direction depending on what direction we were heading.  There were a couple of wonderful sections when it pushed us up some hills - wheeee.  There were also some sections where I had to concentrate really hard on not being blown over sideways.  We eventually got to the section that most guys love which is about 10kms of downhill switch-backs.  I said to Doug he was to go ahead and then he could however fast he wanted without constantly looking to see where I was.  I made my way down the switch-backs at my pace - picking up speed, feathering breaks, taking the corners on the inside, feather more, fast fast, slow slow.  I felt awesome.  And then suddenly I was flying through the air and landed so very very hard on my right knee.  I lay there in shock and started crying.  Shit what happened?  I still don't know.  A rock, a sandy patch, braking too sharply, a fierce gust of side-ways wind - who knows.  I have no recollection.  Chris was behind me and helped me up.  I looked down at my leg and started panicking.  I could see a lot of blood and something white.  I was feeling really panicky and I just howled on Chris's shoulder.  He bandaged me up and as he was doing so this farmer came along in a bakkie.  He said to me in a mixture of English and Afrikaans - "Is jy reg?  Are you ok?"  
"No" I wail.  
"My farm is just down the hill why don't you come to it?"
"No I can't" I wail again.
"Where are you going to?" he asked
"To Rhodes" I sob
"Well let me take you...." he offered
"Noooo you can't, I have to go there by myself" I wail even louder.

Doug came sprinting back up the hill.  He was waiting for me a little bit lower ready to take an action shot.  Chris and Doug said I needed to get back on the bike before I stiffened up too much.  I took a goo (thanks Chris for all the goos!).  I really really did not want to get back on the bike.  I had had enough.  I was exhausted and sore and enough was enough.  I sat on my bike and sobbed quietly down the hill and eventually started pedaling.  It was sore and so uncomfortable.  I calmed down I kept on saying to myself "I am NOT done, I am NOT done".  I tried walking up some of the little hills but my leg was so sore that it was easier to just pedal slowly.  Colleen was with us.  Her bike was sounding very unwell.  Every pedal stroke made a screeching whee whee noise.  You could hear when she went into granny-gear as the whee whee got faster and faster.  She was really nursing that machine to the finish.  I started to notice the beauty around me again - the green belt along the river, the soft green gentle Weeping Willow trees, the sheep in the fields with the little lambs, the pretty farms and inevitably and inexorably made our way into Rhodes.  We asked a chap on his quad bike where Rubicon was.  He was so sweet and gave us an escort to the finish.  Colleen, Doug and I rode into the property together.  We had eventually done it - we had reached the end.  Wow.
I fell into Meryl's arms and cried (again!) and there were lots of kisses and hugs going on around.

I had done it, we had done it - Pietermaritzburg to Rhodes on a bicycle over 6 days.

I was put into a bath.  There was a bit of chaos around but I hid away from it.  (The sherry bottle had broken in my bag so most of my kit smelt of Old Brown Sherry and was sticky with the stuff.)  I didn't look at my knee and Doug's face was enough of a story.  He cleaned out my knee in as much as my pain threshold could take.  He didn't ask and I did not remember that I was carrying Anethaine (a local anaesthetic cream) - which would have been really useful.  He wanted to take me for stitches but the closest doctor was at least an hour away in Barkley East.  I really did not want to go as I wanted to stay here with the others and celebrate all that we had achieved.  We agreed on this and decided we would rather wait until we got to Joburg and decide if I needed to do to the emergency room or not.

We had a great dinner together and were handed our whips for finishing.  None of us lasted very long and we all headed off to bed.

Chris and Lindsay gave me some antibiotics - they were the generics of Augmenton.  Within 5 minutes of me taking one of the tablets my hands starting itching hectically.  This spread to my whole body.  At first I thought there were bed bugs but realised Doug was not scratching.  I moved into another bed so that I wouldn't disturb Doug.  He still came and checked on me - firstly that I wasn't running a fever from infection from the knee and secondly that I wasn't reacting in a worse way to the antibiotic.  Poor man he was so worried.

We had an early breakfast then Doug, Colleen and I set off for home sweet home.

  • 54.6km
  • 5:49:05
     Moving Time
  • 1,624m
  • 95W
    Estimated Avg Power
  • 1,984kJ
    Energy Output
Elapsed Time5:49:05

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ride to Rhodes - day 5 Ongeluksnek - Vuvu

We set off at 5am.  Doug, Colleen and I set off first as we are slower than the others.  I gently set my butt down on the saddle and was pleasantly surprised that the strapping tape Doug had put on last night made a difference.  It certainly wasn't mending the damage but seemed to be aiding in preventing further damage.  What a relief!  It was a beautiful sunrise (as most of them have been).  I kept my breathing in tact and knew that if I could make it to the end of this day then, barring any hectic events or broken bones, I would be able to make it to the finish.
Colleen, Lindsay, Doug

Craig and Derek

It was good riding - steep ups and downs and lots of single track.  My technical skills have definitely improved and I managed the single track much better.  There were also a few sleep-pads which I am definitely quite fond of!  We did a few scrambles off the cliffs which I just loved.  On this day I came to the firm and solid opinion that I am a complete and utter NUTTER!

Derek having a little snooze

My sweetie and I

Black Fountain
Black Fountain is about a 6 - 8km section of brilliant riding on single track on a ridge.  We then drop down with quite a hectic scramble and stopped off at Tinana Mission for a break.  It was restful and peaceful.  Some cheeky goats came to see what was to nibble.
Could have stayed under this tree all day....
We set off for the infamous Vuvu Valley.  We had done 36kms so far and had another 30kms or so to go but we were warned that this was going to take a long time - 6 hours or so.  I have to say I wasn't too bothered.  I was in a good space, the legs were turning over, the breathing was controlled and my head was strong (and of course not to mention that magic tape in my nether regions was working wonders!).
The Vuvu valley has the Tina River running through it and is really quite beautiful.  I was very keen on a little swim but sufficed with wetting my feet and legs and splashing my neck and arms.  There are quite a few options of tracks to take and there were a few discussions with the navigators as to which ones we were going to be on.  Apparently it is quite easy to get lost and get into the wrong valley.  There were lots of steep climbs and hoisting of bike on backs.  I nearly took a tumble down something steep when my foot slipped on a very narrow piece of rock.  As I slipped I squealed and dropped to my knees with my bike on my back.  Doug threw his bike down and came rushing over to me to take the bike off my back so I could get myself up and to safety.  Oooh that adrenalin.  Luckily he didn't break anything on his bike.  It was a long trek out of the valley and we made it into Vuvu about 5pm.  Vuvu is a small village set in these mountains.  We set up a base at the school.  There are no shower facilities so the ladies at the school provide a basin and bucket of water and you stand in the basin and pour the water over your body.  Doug and Derek ordered some beers from the shabeen and Derek had a fit of giggles coz I asked for a cider!  I am not a beer drinker but that glass of beer went down an absolute treat!!  Then we all went off in different directions to sleep in people's homes.  We slept in this rondawel that was owned by this lovely lady and a delightful old gogo.  They took such pride in showing us where the lamp was and how to use it and how to lock the door etc.  It was a good night's sleep.  I felt sure no matter what would happen on the last day that I had this in the bag.
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Sleep time
  • 65.9km
  • 9:46:41
     Moving Time
  • 1,625m
  • 57W
    Estimated Avg Power
  • 2,003kJ
    Energy Output
Elapsed Time11:33:41

Ride to Rhodes - Day 4 Masakala to Ongeluksnek

I was very apprehensive when I got up for this day.  The really hard day yesterday was very fresh in my mind and I was nervous of what this new day would bring.  We set off in the dark with lots of discussion between our erstwhile navigators as to how to actually get out of Masakala village and how to navigate across a floodplain.  This very same floodplain earned Doug the name of Shrek as he (on one of his previous forays in this area) went straight through the floodplain until the freezing water reached his manly bits - then it shocked his thinking brain into going back and trying another route!).  There was no water but there were also no paths so it was really bumpy with cattle hoof-prints and short sharp grass.  Anyway there were no Shrek incidents and we got onto the road heading west.  Once again I was feeling strong but held back a little.  I regulated my breathing so that I never got into a panting phase.  Then when I did find my breathing got too irregular I would stop and take 4 deep breaths.  This was the answer - I stayed at a more steady pace on the bike as well as when I was walking or carrying my bike.  All the panicky feelings dissipated.  I also suspect the pace slowed down anyway.

Chris photo-bombing us!
We went through a few small villages.  They were so neat and orderly.  Neatly fenced off properties and neat paths through the villages - I really loved them.  We crossed over the Queen Mercy floodplains.  This picture really does not do them justice.  They were an emerald green nestled in a valley with majestic Drakensberg in the background.  

Tea with Ollie outside the Queen's Mercy shop and off again.  Just past this stop there were these 2 little girls on the road.  They laughed so delightedly and from their bellies at the sight of my little proboscis on my helmet!
This day was heritage day and there were celebrations all around as well as horse-races.  We passed lots of riders decked out on their horses travelling to Mpharane Village.  We also came across this group of girls - the Ngobu dancers.  They were fantastic - and loved the interaction with us.  When I asked them a question they all answered in unison!  They asked Doug to take a photo put them on Facebook as they wanted to be famous!
The Ngobu Dancers

Then we started to make friends with some beeeeeeeeg hills.  It was amazing terrain to be on.  We could see for miles around beautiful mountains and shrouded valleys.  The ground was a rich red colour and made up of sandstone.  We rode along these tracks called "sleep-pads".  They are wide tracks that are made by a span of oxen pulling wattle trees behind them.  I loved them - no skinny single tracks!

Mpharane Ridge

Doug and Derek on a sleep-pad
The ridge is about 4kms long and the track drops and climbs a few times.  Eventually we came to a ridge where we carried and pushed our bikes down.  I loved this part of the adventure.

Straw bakkie at Gladstone Farm

We then headed off to the Maria Zell Mission.  It is a beautiful old mission which has a catholic school and boarding facilities attached.

From there it was about 5kms to Ongeluksnek - our resting place for the night.  It was brilliant to get in early for the day and just spend time chilling and eating!
Vetkoek became a firm favourite of mine.  Doug placed some strapping tape over the chafing as I had opened the skin up and quite frankly anytime on the bike was a form of torture!  I had to laugh as the guys call this a rest day - and it really was.  After all we only did 59kms and were out for 9 and 3/4 hours!

  • 59.2km
  • 6:45:38
     Moving Time
  • 1,027m
  • 62W
    Estimated Avg Power
  • 1,504kJ
    Energy Output
Elapsed Time8:44:09