Friday morning in Rhodes and the it's been raining since before dawn. Not bucketing down, just steady and very wet. Graham Bird strolled in for a late breakfast after leaving Vuvu at 3:30am this morning. He was cold and wet but reported that the rain had only started from the top of Naude's Nek - coming up Lehana the going was still good with dry conditions. He looked very relaxed and took the time to wash his bike, charge his lights and sort out maps for the next stretch. His intention was to push on to Chesneywold and then reassess the situation - mindful that he was riding into some of the worst mud up ahead. But his map board was loaded with the maps for the Kapokkraal portage (after Chesneywold) and it was definately an option he was considering.
Behind Graham, we have Garth Flanders on his way to Rhodes today. He left Tinana Mission very early this morning after being forced to overnight there because of an ITB issue. Crossing Black Fountain with Andre Visser, they arrived at the ridge overlooking Tinana just after sunset and had to descend this tricky section in the dark. It took it's toll and Garth opted to leave a bit later this morning, so Andre went out with the other group of riders staying there instead (Jody, Dino, Shaun & Phillip). They seem to have gone off route on the way to Vuvu though, as Garth arrived before them. He reported that his leg is still a problem due to the ITB strain but not as bad as yesterday, so he was pushing on to Rhodes. He should arrive here before dark today and will most likely stop over to rest and ice his leg.
Just recently (12:30pm) the tracker showed Andre and the group in Vuvu - this gives them enough time to still scramble up over Lehana's portage this afternoon and get to Rhodes for a late supper.
The Freedom Challenge
The Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa is an "unsupported" non-stage mountain bike race of approximately 2,300 km across South Africa. While recent winners have won in around 11 days, the race cut-off is 26 days. The race starts in Pietermaritzburg in early-to-mid-June, and ends in Paarl near Cape Town. Temperatures are known to drop as low as minus-10 deg. Celsius. While there are periodic "support stations" which will feed and accommodate riders should they require, the race is unsupported in the sense that riders must carry their own clothing and equipment, are responsible for their own maintenance and navigation (without the aid of GPS), and there are no marshalls or safety officials on the course (Race monitoring is done by satellite tracking). Estimates of cumulative ascent are around 37,000 metres, and the highest point on the route is approximately 2,700 metres above sea level. See the following link for an introductory slideshow by Mike Roy - http://mg.co.za/multimedia/2010-02-04-extreme-endurance-the-freedom-challenge