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|
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.