Thursday, 16 July 2015

Black Fountain - Part 1

There are a number of sections of the Freedom Trail that stand out. Most for the hardship and commensurate satisfaction derived from conquering them. Black Fountain however is remembered for the splendour and joy derived from kilometres and kilometres of the finest single track that traces its way along the ridge of a mountain chain that starts at the nondescript village of Black Fountain and ends with a challenging 'dismount' off those mountains to get to the ramshackle mission station at Tinana. That joy does come with a 'price tag'. It isn't too onerous, a couple of bite size challenges that start the moment you walk out the door at Malekgalonyane. 

The trip to Malekgalonyane although slowish had been refreshing. The winds that hounded us the day before had abated and it had warmed up. It was a perfect day for riding. We as yet had not cashed in on that promise.

Tim had left just ahead of our arrival and Gawie and Andrew were a little way behind. Gawie arrived a few minutes ahead of Andrew. I don't remember much about the lunch. I do know I had recovered my ability to drain copious quantities of tea and was pleased to indulge in that talent. The food must have been adequate or I would have remembered what it was. The sun streamed into the building as we sat around the long table and simply hung out. I was cognisant of the warm ambiance and cheerful chatter. It was a good day to be out on the trail with friends. Looking back it was the point in the race where my hollow legs filled and my inner furnace caught light. I was on the trail, I was happy and my heart, mind and body synchronised. 

Janine and I left ahead of the other two and took on the first challenge of making our way off the ridge and across the veld to the dirt road near Ongeluksnek. The river crossings were easy and even though I did get my feet wet it didn't matter because although the water was cold the day was warm and I knew my shoes would dry. 

Leaving Malekgalonyane the dynamic between Janine and I changed - our lines on the performance graph crossed. For the first time since the start of the race I got a chance to turn my neck to look behind. I had found my legs and Janine had started to feel the onset of chronic tendinitis in hers - it was an unfortunate coincidence. 

We made good time to the road, walked up the steep climb by Ongeluksnek Reserve and rode through to Thaba Chitja where we contoured around to the cattle tracks leading off the mountain. Crossing the river we looked back and saw Gawie and Andrew climbing down the last cliff just before the river. They caught up quickly and we chatted on the walk up to Kubong village. Once at the village and we started on the track that would take us to Black Fountain village the other pair got into a good rhythm and got smaller by the minute until I eventually lost sight of them as they dropped over a ridge many kilometres ahead. 

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