Friday, October 3, 2014

Ride to Rhodes - Day 2 Allendale to Ntsikeni

Us novices were warned that this day was long and brutal with LOTS of climbing.  You know there is no way of really knowing what this means until you have a point of reference.  And quite frankly ignorance was bliss in this case!

We woke at 3am and left at 4am.  I eased my sore backside onto my saddle.  Even though we had done this route in the light a couple of weeks ago we still took a couple of wrong turns coming out of Allendale - it is quite tricky.  I had a great bike torch and a head torch on my helmet but single track in the dark is still pretty scary for me.  There are also these porcupine holes that just suddenly appear which I also found pretty alarming.  I was pretty slow along this section which was for about 6 kms or so.  I ended up with Derek and Chris and the other riders were with Doug.  Doug went on a wrong path and ended up climbing too high.  We stayed lower and Lindsay joined us.  We ended up separating from the others which I found very concerning.  Derek and Chris let me have my worries and concerns and then ignored me - hmph!  Anyway we ended up all joining up which alleviated my worries.

I found the pace of the others very gruelling but was still trying to keep up with them.  They would stop at a point and as soon as I got close to them then they would move off.  This was starting to upset me as I was generally needing to catch my breath.  Doug explained to me that this was an individual ride and they weren't waiting for me per se but were kind of keeping us together.  We met up with Ollie (who was our guardian for days 2,3,4) for an awesome cup of tea and something to eat just after Donnybrooke.

We then went through the Nxumeni Forest.  It is a protected area and has the most magnificent Yellow-Wood trees.  It is a peaceful place but I couldn't really reach that part inside me then.  I was really uncomfortable with the chafing as well as the pace.  Once we left that part it was undulating forest roads in the Nzonzo Forest (which is all cultivated trees - from what I could make out) with some great downhills.  Doug was really sharp with his navigation here and we made our way pretty easily to Centacow Mission.  We got there at about 09:20 and had delicious soup.  I couldn't believe it was so early - but we had been going for nearly 5 and a half hours!

I found this next section really really tough.  I have just never seen inclines like these ones much less ever ridden them.  I was so uncomfortable in so many ways - I huffed and puffed and rode slowly and walked even slower.  It was boiling hot.  My bum was sore.  I kept on hitting my right calf on my pedal when I was walking which was irritating me no end.  But the amazing thing was through all of this my head stayed really steady.  I tapped into the mantra that I used when I was training for Comrades:
I also reminded myself frequently of Fiona's words - "we will get there when we get there".

A gorgeous baby donkey at the top of an insane climb.

Doug pointed out this big mountain in front of us on our right and said we were going to be going around this mountain (keeping it on our left).  I didn't believe him - I never thought we would be able to do that within a couple of hours.  It looked like a 6 hour mission that one.  Anyway he was right (of course!) and we went around the base of it.  Once we crossed the game fence we were in the Ntsikeni Nature Reserve.  It was only 5kms to the lodge but I was absolutely kaput, finished, history... if my legs even smelt a hill they stopped pedalling.  The Ntsikeni Lodge was absolutely beautiful and more beautiful was Mr Ngobo who came to meet us at the gate with a HUGE smile and words of welcome.  And when he offered to push my bike to the room I fell in love a little with him.
I made the error of not taking my recovery drink immediately but had tea and bread first. I suspect this may have affected my recovery for the next day.

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