Boet Werrie June 16 Day 6: Tenahead Lodge to Slaapkranz

We left our very cosy residence at around 4 am to tackle the 30km downhill to Rhodes.  Or that’s what the 2 blind mice thought, except that there is a nasty climb to the highest point of the route (2,700m).  When the descent does arrive however, it is an awesome downhill.  But it’s much better to not ride it during a winter cold front.  It took poor Worried Gazza a very long time to ride it.  He had all his clothes on when he eventually got into Rhodes, about 30min later than us.  He just could not fathom how we did it – it’s called vasbyt and get it over as quickly as possible.  It also included a bit of frozen rain and snot on the face…

Glenn Harrison and the Kamp Kommandant were waiting for us at Rhodes, just shaking their heads on our unscheduled stop, wondering if the race participants are getting too soft.  I got a new bottle holder, Worried Gazza a few spokes and Leon handed out mini wine bottles – he had the novel idea to have a glass of wine at every support station to enjoy with his dinner.  Unfortunately for us, the Rubicon kitchen was still closed.  So we had to breakfast on a few cups of coffee and whatever we could raid in the rider boxes.

The route to Slaapkranz is easy navigation, only about 100km from Rhodes.  But you do climb a fair amount, well over 2,400m, and it’s all done at about 2,000m above sea level.  It’s enough to keep any rider busy on a normal day.  To do it on an empty tank is ludicrous.  Needless to say, we all hit the wall on the 2nd climb on the way to Cheneywold (an interim food stop).  Luckily Minkie got us sorted out quickly. 

Here we also met an interesting character of the race – Steven Kellerman.  The previous year, he & Pierre Oosthuizen were the riders most followed by the Spectators (including me).  They got so miserably lost, and slept out so many times, that I actually felt sorry for them.  They were given lee-way on the Rhodes cut-off time (8days), but their bodies were eventually so broken that they had to abandon the race.  Steven had to pull out of the race again, but this time it was due to work commitments.

The route after Chesneywold follows the Rytjiesvlakte valley and then the Kapok Kraal portage.  When your narratives tell you about a car garage where the local farmer leaves his bakkie in snow storms, you know that it gets cold in this part of the country.  It was pleasantly mild however, and the Rytjiesvlakte valley is very scenic.
Spitzkoppe House
The Kapok Kraal portage is fairly easy.  At the bottom of the portage is the old Spitskop farm house.  Apparently inside the dilapidated house are beautiful murals painted by a travelling Italian artist.  We were however cold, hungry and the sun was setting.  From Spitskop there is a boulder strewn farm track, with a stream and krantz on your right, which has to be followed for about 10km to Slaapkranz.  It’s proper mountain biking territory and very beautiful – I’ll be back another day properly fuelled to enjoy this section.

Slaapkranz is the farm of Andre and Joice.  Immediately when you enter the house, you’re made totally at home.  You’re instructed to help yourself in the kitchen – this is your home for the night.  We got on with the hosts like a house on fire, if only the house was on fire.  This place is past cold, i.e. the cold passes through your skin, sinews and muscles, goes straight to the bones and freezes you from inside out.  And you only have cycling clothes to warm you up on the trail.  Ah, the pleasures of the trail.

Back to Andre and Joice.  I was now familiar with the greeting every time I walk into a house of:  “Jy moet Marnitz se broer wees.  Welkom hier!  Jy lyk soos hy, jy het dieselfde sê goed as hy.  Hoe gaan dit met hom…”  It was obvious that he is the rock star of the Freedom Challenge.  This went on all the way to the end, even at farmsteads that are not scheduled support stations.  Even the farmers’ kids on the route missed him this year.  It’s like you are part of one big, happy family

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