Saturday, 4 July 2009

Musing from atop a mountain pass

10h30 Tuesday 30th June. Here we sit on top of the Swartberg Pass drinking coffee. It it amazing how your race can suddenly change. 24 hours ago we were mapping out our final assault on the finish. Today we are chilling in the sun with the finish tucked away in the back of our minds. Our "trusty" Rohloff is broken. We have instituted a rescue plan but it will take time to take effect. In the mean time we are relaxing for the first time since the race started. The mountains around us are truley majestic, regally draped in snow.
The 3 of us travelling together (us and Francois) have come to the same conclusion - this race has not been fun. There has been an hour here or there that we enjoyed but overall it has been arduous. The tandem has been harder than we imagined and the weather has been tougher on us than in the 2007 race. Add the new tougher routing of the race and I would have to say that a par finish to my day 21 finish in '07 would be a day 23 finish.
The race for the podium is over. Tim is chilling this morning after a great race. Andrew has clinched an impressive 2nd spot in the cycle event while he waits for the paddling leg of the Extreme Triathlon. Sure there are clouds over the adherence and application of race rules etc. but the race director needs to tidy those up. We are just hoping to finish to law down a tandem record for others to aim at. Behind us Carl and Marnitz are engaged in there own personal battle for bragging rights. Francois summed it up in 4 words 2 days ago. "this rubbish must end!" (ed. One word changed to make it suitable for sensitive blog readers). I think this sentiment resonates with most riders at this stage of the race.
While I am rambling on I must tell you a little about the changing country side and the economic realities of farming. We have come across no wealthy farmers. At best they live normal middle class lives. There was a time when a livestock farmer could make a living off of 1000 hectares of land, and that in the good grazing areas. The carrying capacity of farms in the Molteno/Cradock region with good grazing is 1 hectare per sheep. As we moved south it changed to 3 hectares per sheep and in the Willowmore area it is 5-7 hectares per sheep. In the 1 hectare per sheep regions the farmers were suggesting that 5000 hectares is the viable size of farm to make a living. So when you need more hectares per sheep you need so much more land. That would explain why the occupied farm houses are many kilometres apart.
Coffee is done. Now to amble along and sleep in Die Hell tonight.

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