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 -

Friday, 28 June 2013

The skirmish at The Ladder

The top of the Ladder

This year's Freedom Challenge will be remembered for the fine weather and distinct lack of clouds - except for the strange little mushroom cloud that popped up over Gamkaskloof and hovered over The Ladder.

Two members of the Dikwiel Kommando rode out to investigate - Warrant Officer Waddilove and his trusty sidekick, Voorryer Rissik. They smelt a rat, so had the good sense to check in at the Prince Albert police station on their way out and notify the authorities of their plan.

They arrived at the first Big Gate - now electrified, barricaded and very locked! Waiting on the other side was a menacing pack of Mountain Men, intent on keeping them out. Words were exchanged but it was clear that these guys didn't want to be friends... Since the gate was locked and the fence was high, they set about finding a weakness and came upon a ditch through which they could crawl. The Mountain Men scurried to block their way with thorn branches - but unperturbed, the Kommando dismantled their steeds and crawled through. Once back on the road, a stand off ensued. The Mountain Men were led by a particularly fervent young upstart who tried to body block their progress - he managed to succesfully obstruct WO Waddilove but seeing the gap, the wily VR Rissik darted through and rode like hell to the base of the Ladder. He never looked back, so he never saw them 'arresting' his compatriot and escorting him to their lair at the base of The Ladder. In the meantime, VR Rissik arrived at the base of The Ladder to find the way blocked by razor wire. He whipped out his standard issue Dikwiel Kommando fencing pliers and set to work liberating The Ladder! His job done, he returned to the Lair to find his now detained partner.

Voorryer Rissik in detention

Warrant Officer Waddilove waits for tea

With the two of them under house arrest, awaiting the arrival of the local police, it took a woman's touch to ease the tensions - a Mountain Man's wife offered the prisoners a cup of tea and a pumpkin fritter. It was a long wait, punctuated by brief verbal exchanges but I don't think it ever really got to the point of being 'chatty.' Night fell and after four hours, it became clear that the police were not coming, so the Mountain Men spoke and told the captors they were free to go. The ever determined WO Waddilove informed his captors that he was proceeding up The Ladder, which they briefly objected to but realising the futility of further detention, objected no more. (Quite possibly, they realised that if he stayed any longer, their tea supplies would be decimated, so were more than happy to get rid of him). Looking outside, the mushroom cloud had started to disperse but was soon replaced by rain clouds. VR Rissik, returned to home base to report back on the mission, while WO Waddilove proceeded up The Ladder into the cold, wet night. He got through to the first inhabited farmstead on the way to Vleiland, where he was collected by Gerrit Roux (from Rouxpos) and taken home with the promise of waffles and ice cream for breakfast.

With the matter seemingly resolved for the time being, riders have been passing through the Kloof and up The Ladder unchallenged - possibly the Mountain Men are not as menacing as we all thought, or maybe they decided that a few weary cyclists were really not worth the trouble. VR Rissik reported that the pumpkin fritters were delicious, so who knows, the Lair could even become a support station one day... No doubt the Men of Law will have been consulted and have given their opinions and the skirmish may ultimately be resolved by the Men with Wigs but for now there is peace in the valley where, after the rain clouds finally dispersed, only clear skies remained.


  1. Not only can Glen ride a bike...he can write a story!! WoW Glen! Even a non-pumpkin fritter eater like me will eat a pumpkin fritter if you describe it! :-)

  2. Love reading your daily blog Glenn! My boet is Gavin Robinson who has an impeccable sense of humour as well and know that that is what is also getting him through the Freedom.

  3. Rouxpos equals waffles with icecream!

  4. Good to see that WO Waddilove made it up the Ladder. Good for you David. Well done!

  5. You make light of our dreadful incarceration :(

  6. Thanks Glenn, just love reading your blogs. Makes it more real for us at home.

  7. great account of the events