Saturday, 18 July 2015

Black Fountain - Part 2

The route to Blackfountain from the previous village consists of a slow ride up drag paths and cattle trails. It is a little tedious and takes just under an hour. Along the way we passed a herd of cattle. I rode on ahead and waited for Janine. The herd numbered around 50-60. They were being driven by a single man and his two dogs. The dogs in that part, particularly around Black Fountain which is used for grazing cattle, are not your average skraal mongrel. They are beautiful dogs that look like the average pampered family dog you would find in the suburbs of a city. Except these are working dogs. All appear well fed and the long haired ones well groomed. Whenever I have stopped to talk to people and they have their working dogs with them I notice the dogs sit quietly and fix their gaze on their owners face waiting for their next command. Their loyalty and obedience is incredible to behold. 

After a tight river crossing the cattle started to scatter. The dogs went straight to work and in short order had them moving along in tight rank. Order restored the dogs fell back to take up position beside their master ever alert for an errant cow. 

After riding adjacent to a wattle forest for a few kilometres we followed the jeep track as it turned into the forest where nestled the village of Black Fountain. We rode out of the trees just beyond the tiny village - a handful of huts as far as I could tell - and sat on the grass enjoying the warm afternoon sun. The snow capped mountains of Lesotho jutted out of the land a few kilometres to our west. They are incredibly rugged and form a fortress like wall around that mountain kingdom. Fortunately we were headed south along a mountain chain that possessed none of the protective menace of the Lesotho sentinels. 
Back on our bikes, aided by a slight tailwind we spent the next hour winding our way along the mountain peaks following well used cattle trails - route options abounded. At times we barrelled along at speed and at other times we picked our way carefully down rocky 'staircases'. Apart from the occasional dab it was all rideable - on the edge occasionally, but all good fun. 

At the end of these trails one is faced with an assortment of options on how to navigate off the mountain and down the cliffs to arrive at the Tinana Mission station located in the crease at the foot of those mountains. None of them are easy. Ahead of us Tim, Andrew and Gawie had each opted for a different route as would we. The armchair critics back home tracking our progress on their computer screens had a field day. Times and lines were compared and critically assessed. Janine and I were the last ones into the breach and we were watched closely. I opted for a line shown me by Anton last year - it's a tiger line of note. At best I approximated his route. The starting point is vague and involves just heading down. Once about a third of the way down the mountain a scratchy cattle trail emerges. More of a suggestion than a well defined track. We followed this off the mountain to a dirt track below. It's not a pretty route but it's fast and effective. I did grimace from time to time when I heard Janine's bike take the occasional hit as she dragged if over the gnarly rocks. My bike, as ugly as it is, wouldn't make it through the preliminary round of a bike beauty contest so the odd contact doesn't faze me. Janine on the other hand has a contention bike. The scramble down also did nothing for her ailing tendons. 90 minutes after leaving Black Fountain we wheeled our bike across the rickety suspension bridge next to the mission station. A short while later we joined Gawie and Andrew at our overnight stop at Mrs Kibi's house. It had been an enjoyable afternoon on the bike - for me. Janine on the other hand had fallen foul of her injuries and was on the threshold of a tough finish on the day to follow. 

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