Thursday, 2 April 2015

Romansfontein to somewhere dark and interesting.

Romansfontein as a support station is a double edged sword. The hospitality and food are fantastic. While that can be said of any number of support stations along the way, there is someone unique about this place. When the kids are home it is even better. It exudes a home-away-from-home feeling. It always makes me home sick because there is something about the place that is uncomplicated and completely welcoming. Will and Stephanie are so chilled. That we managed to get out in under an hour and a half is surprising. We arrived to a warm welcome, were plied with tea and good food and given a bed where we lay out grubby bodies for a 30 minute snooze. As it turned out I only managed about 10. I scratched through the opened resupply boxes hoping to find some AA batteries but it seems AAA are more popular. Will scratched around in a few boxes in his garage and came up with a handful of assorted brand AA's and I fitted 4 of these these in my headlamp. At least I now had a light to make the transition through the Elandsberg portage a bit easier. 
Shortly after 2pm we left the support station and headed toward the next big portage of Aasvoelberg. I was hoping to get to Hofmeyr by 7pm and then on to Elandsberg by just after 10pm. 
During our lunch stop I had read a message Fiona had recently posted about her ride down Aasvoelberg earlier that morning and her group encountered really bad muddy sections. I wasn't looking forward to those. We pedalled along to the farm Gunstelling and after a crazy descent to the farm house started the plod up the near side of Aasvoelberg stopping to take a picture of me sitting on the old rusty shell of a car near the top. I like many others always wonder how it got up there. Last time I posted a similar picture I labeled it "Iconic relic." Dave Bell shot back "Double sided comment 😜".  I am a relic but hardly iconic. 
We popped over the top not quite sure what to expect and were pleasantly surprised to find the 'going underfoot' rather good. We could see where Fiona's posse had bludgeoned their way through some snotty sections but could also see how Alex, like us, rolled over the now firm surface barely leaving any tracks. 
I am a cautious technical rider avoiding any chance of an unscheduled dismount while Casper revels in the challenge. Not having any front brakes made him even quicker. His reward? He got to open and close most of the gates on the way down to Magdala farm. 
We trudged along in the heat to Vlekpoort and stopped at the stone barn to fill out bottles from a tap just behind the barn. 
At this point Casper made a startling confession. He is quicker that me on both uphill and downhill sections but admitted he was not looking forward to the flat stretches in to and out of Hofmeyr because he struggles to keep up with me on that type of riding. I can't figure out how that works but was surprised to hear that. The result is that I made a point of riding behind him on flat sections. That made him quicker. On the odd occasion that I moved ahead of him there was an obvious drop off in his pace. As soon as I backed off and let him go ahead I would have to increase my effort to keep up. 
Before the drop down Vlekpoort pass Casper said his rear brakes were almost gone. We decided he could take his brake pads out his dysfunctional front brakes and swap them to the rear when we got to Hofmeyr. 
Arriving in Hofmeyr we found a spot under a street lamp just outside the hotel and Casper set about sorting out his brakes. The street light would burn for about 5 or 6 minutes and then go out. It would slowly start again and after a few minutes of full brightness would go off again. I called the race office to check in and Glenn asked me what time we expected to get to Elandsberg. I figured on 3 hours from Hofmeyr so I said 11pm. The bike maintenance took 6 light failures (30 minutes) so we only rolled out of town at 10:30. 
With a slight tail wind we 'breezed' out of town at a blistering pace and I though we could make up a big chunk of the 30 minutes we had lost. 
The ride to the start of the portage went faster than expected but it wasn't interesting enough to keep the sleep monsters at bay. Casper was seeing kangaroos and snowmen regularly. A storm was building up ahead and the stars above us were completely obliterated by cloud. Getting to the last gate we turned off left and followed the faint jeep track for 50 metres before is disappeared. 200 metres in I had absolutely no idea what direction I was headed. 
For the first time in many years I dug out my compass to get a heading. 
The night was black as ink. Without a torch visibility was zero. The occasional lightening bolt would show a silhouette of the mountains but fairly soon the lightening would stop altogether. It was the start of an interesting night......

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