Friday, 18 June 2010

Finally at Rhodes

Today was the last stretch for the Rough Ride to Rhodes bunch. Knowing that it was a short day (if a 7 to 9 hour day can be considered short!) and being so cold we opted for a late start at just after 7. If was a chilly start but our spirits were buoyed by the knowledge that the forecast for the day was good conditions. It is an 8km pedal to the start of the 7km portage up the mountain - a route known as Lehana pass. "Pass" is a rather fancy title for something loosely resembling a little used donkey track. Some early morning cloud obscured the sun except for the mountain peaks of Lehana pass which were bathed in sunlight and glistened bright white with the snow on the slopes. Thirty minutes of trekking up the slopes found us walking through the first scattered drifts of snow. By the time we reached the top we were at times knee deep in snow. However there were only smiles and no grumbling as we slogged on under a cloudless sky with no wind. Anton slipped on some ice and gashed his shin badly. He has battled all day to stem the bleeding without much luck but will push on tomorrow.
The trudge through the snow continued until we hit dirt roads after which it alternated between snow, ice, slush and mud until just 15km's from Rhodes it all dried up to yield a perfectly rideable surface. Riding down the long and steep Naudes pass with snow and ice on the road was a little testing. Francois lost his front wheel and got to inspect the ice at close quarters.
We had an end of ride dinner this evening for the Ride to Rhodes guys also attended by the RASA competitors who are overnighting in Rhodes. The Ride to Rhodes finishers were presented with their traditional herdsman whips and some words of encouragement were offered to the RASA lads who continue on tomorrow. This being the inaugural Rough Ride to Rhodes made for a special time around the dinner table. The Ride to Rhodes guys shared exactly the same conditions with full backpacks and only riding the race route where other softer options existed. The R2R and RASA guys who I shared the trail with over the last 6 days were a great bunch with no complaints or moaning. The whole bunch embracing each challenge and revelling in the beauty of their surrounds - except me. I didn't enjoy the first three days of riding as I felt the pain in my body every inch of the way. The last three days were better. The bunch of guys I rode with however made all 6 days worthwhile as the company was fun and uplifting. Over the last few days we have had a few team races where Andre and I compete to find the fastest way to get to a certain point while sticking within the race options. The others would then choose one team or other and compete to win the mini stage. It all ended in a tie by the end but it was always amusing to see who would back who each time we declared a challenge or Andre or I chose different paths. I guess its never fun to back a loosing horse. We will get up early to wish the RASA guys Bon Voyage before making our way home to watch the rest of the race unfold from the comfort of our heated rooms on the screens of our PC's

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