Boet Werrie June 12 Day 2: Allandale to Ntsikeni

Gary and I decided that we’ll get up at 2am to start riding at 3am to get to Glen Edward and maybe even Masakala if we feel good.  Gary’s worries got the better of him and he got up at 11:30pm making a lot of noise, and eventually a fire.

We started riding at 2:30am and tackled our 1st night navigation.  The problem with night nav is that you can only see as far as your bike light.  Within the 1st 4km we got a little bit lost.  We had to cross a dirt road, which was about 50m in front of us.  But never saw it, and mistakenly followed the contours of the hills we were on.  It meant that when we eventually got the dirt road, we were a couple of km off.  I made the mistake of not using my compass and not keeping track of distance between narrative indicators.  I was a bit too confident in knowing the route.

We established on the map where we were and luckily got back on to the route fairly quickly.  We got lost twice more on the way to Centocow, but in the end got there in good time.  The route to Centocow goes mostly thru planted timber forests.  It’s a struggle to keep a sense of direction, and there are quite a few roads/paths & tracks to follow.  Getting lost adds time, spends unnecessary energy and plays tricks on the mind.

Getting to Centocow, I got a message from Elitza to stop riding in circles, get my act together and follow the route.  It was very funny.  How do you know when you’re lost?  Every time we got lost, I told Gary that something didn’t feel right.  This happened normally within the 1st 2km of being lost and I think it was only the case because I’ve ridden this section before.  What about first timers?  

Even experienced riders get lost – Marnitz and I got lost in the same forest 3 years earlier!  Every freedom rider has got maps, narratives and a compass – we just need to bloody use it!
We got to Centocow about 7am.  It was the first time that I’ve seen the missionary in daylight.  It is beautiful.  The nuns take great pleasure in receiving and looking after us.  They always make you feel welcome.  Another first was to see the Ndodene falls.  When you ride at night, you miss a lot of the beauty of the trail.

Centocow Mission
Boshelweni River crossing

The rest of the way up to the Ntsikeni Nature reserve was fairly uneventful.  It was interesting however to see that Gary (aka Worried Gazza) always takes his shoes off before crossing a river or stream.  I’m a basher, i.e. get to the river, get off the bike, pick it up and bash thru the river, and then wait for Worried Gazza…  Worried Gazza however was a much stronger climber than me, always waiting for me at the top of some hill I was battling up.

The route thru the Ntsikeni are grass poll infested jeep tracks, very tough riding.  Going down the hill into the Ntsikeni something gave on my bike and I went tumbling.  I broke my handle bar, bike light, bottle cage and bent my rear derailleur, and bruised some ribs badly.  When I got onto the bike, something wasn’t lekker. 

There was some unidentifiable noise and my saddle bag kept on chaffing on the rear tyre.  I tried tightening the saddle bag, but it had no effect. Eventually I saw that the frame broke just below the shock.  The not-finishing-this-race nightmare flickered on.  I informed Worried Gazza and then had to hike about 1km up the ridge to inform Elitza, the race director and my boet.  Johann told me to see if I can get a frame, but not to organise anything without chatting to him first.  And then I was off to fix the frame.
Broken Frame

I said my goodbye to Worried Gazza, not before I explained the route in detail to Glenn Edward.  His navigation skills suck, but he managed to get there just after 7pm.  Mr Ncobo gave me pliers, a hammer, a bush knife and some wire.  I cut a piece of wattle to fit in the frame's down tube and hammered it in proper.  I took an old table knife and wired in onto the frame that hopefully will support the wattle in stabilizing the frame.  I tested the frame by riding up the ridge to where I can make phone calls again.

Johann (aka Kamp Kommandant) informed me that he organised a brand new PYGA frame.  I just had to get to Glenn Edward around 8am.  The PYGA owner Ollie Burnett will bring a mechanic to help me rebuild the bike.  I was totally gobsmacked!  This was unexpected.  And a mechanic!  Apparently 10 min after I phoned Johann, Ollie walked in at the race office in Pmb, heard about it and immediately started making phone calls to get the frame to me.  It was a Sunday afternoon…  That kind of help is unheard off.  All types of bikes have been and will be broken in future on the Freedom Challenge. The Freedom claimed 3 Santa Cruises, a Gaint and a Scott the previous year as well – no help was received from their suppliers.

I had a wonderful dinner with Mr Ncobo, his wife and his wonderful stories.  I had way too much of his famous bean soup, and spend most of the night (and the following morning) farting like an M270 MLRS Rocket Artillery!  I was a weapon of mass destruction, man that is lethal stuff.

Unbeknown to me, Tony & Caren arrived later in the evening to find my bike pitched up next to the wall.  Much to their surprize!  Not noticing the broken frame, they were very perplexed about my change in racing strategy.

The wattle fix

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