Monday, 16 July 2012

Day 10 - a fortunate encounter

After a good nights sleep I rolled out of Grootdam a few minutes after Chris and Dawn. It was clear that my aching body had not miraculously recovered overnight and even though they were cycling at a moderate pace I couldn't close the gap between us. Eventually they stopped and I was able to catch up. The climb up Grootvlakte and the slow grind up the jeep track through Monteax and on to the start of the Struishoek portage was torturous. If my phone was working I may well have called someone to come take me home in spite of my "can't quit' resolution of the evening before.
My descent to the farm house at Struishoek through the rocky gorge was slow and painful. Not exactly the kind of terrain you would take a broken body for a workout.
However, once at the bottom and onto a fairly level and dry access road where I could ride things started looking up. Rode comfortably from there. A strong headwind while riding toward Pearston did nothing to dampen my new found level of comfort on the bike. The ride to van der Venterskraal is not that challenging and we made good time arriving at 2pm. The drama of the day took place 1 km short of the support station when Chris's freebody gave up the ghost.
Once at van der Venterskraal he was able to remove the freebody simply by pulling it off - thank goodness it was a Hope. All four of the pawl springs were broken. For the less technical folk out there, the pawls are the sticky out bits in the heart of the back wheel that allow you to free wheel when going downhill or not pedalling but the moment you start pedalling the sticky out bits engage and fix the gear things to the wheel so your pedalling action results in the rear wheel being powered forwards. In Chris's case he was free wheeling in both directions and had no pedal connection to the wheel.
So there we were, over a hundred kilometres from the closest bike shop and the bike was as much use as lock-jaw.
The saying "with enough duct tape and cable ties you can fix anything" ran through my mind. As luck would have it a single cable tie was on the kitchen floor. I picked it up and joined Chris outside and figured out pretty quickly that I could make temporary springs from the cable tie. I cut it into 4 small lengths and fashioned 4 rudimentary springs after which I slipped the outer housing back on and it worked! Took no longer than 5 minutes. In less than an hour we had heated and eaten our lunch, refilled our water bottles, replenished our riding snacks and fixed a Hope freebody. Chris went on to ride another 500km's with his cable tie springs before he reached Prince Albert where spares were waiting for him. According to Johann Rissik who opened it up the bits of cable tie were still firmly in place and doing the job. It was satisfying to know that my bad patch the day before had resulted in me riding with Chris at the time he could benefit from my technical expertise.
We left at 3pm wanting to get to Toekomst 50km's down the trail. I was in a bit of a hurry as I wanted to make sure get got a clean line through the river crossings on farm Kuduskop. We bombed through there in double quick time and in the last few minutes before dark crossed the river for the final time emerging at the farmhouse where we were surprised to find ourselves hemmed in by shade cloth. They were preparing to collect all the game on the farm by driving them into the collection "funnel" we had ridden into. Without too much thought we climbed the ramp and dropped through the narrow opening to the ground below. Only then did we realise we could simply have lifted the cloth and bypassed the ramp. Funnily enough, other riders who we spoke to later did exactly the same as us.
Once on the district road for the last stretch to Toekomst we realised how warm it was. A berg wind made it feel like a warm summers evening where normal summer riding kit was adequate. 3 hours 50 minutes from when we had left van der Vensterkraal we arrived at Toekomst having had a good days ride. I felt good for the first time in days. Hot dinner followed by a cold shower (not by choice!) had me in bed icing my sore legs but feeling like I was going to get to Capetown after all. What a contrast to my head space 24 hours before.

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