Saturday, 4 July 2015

Ntsikeni or bust! Part 2

The last trudge between us and Ntsikeni generally referred to as The Wall lay 6 or 7 km's ahead down an undulating road. Janine rode some distance ahead, her light 'cocoon' visible every time the road kicked up. The cold headwind made the chase even harder. I finally caught up to her at the last low level bridge that signalled the start of the slow walk up The Wall. I am better suited to portaging than Janine, probably because I tend to walk more than her or maybe she pedals more because she prefers it to walking. In any event, the gnarly climb ahead of us was largely unridable. I put my head down against the strengthening and ice cold headwind and began the mindless slog up the mountain with Janine trailing behind.

An hour later we hit the final plateau before entering the Nature reserve. It was nice to be back on the bike and rolling along at speed. Once again I settled into chasing down Janine. 

I saw she had stopped up ahead - her headlight was shining back toward me. As I got closer I saw something next to the road had her attention. It was Tim's bike. 

We will pause briefly to explain the etiquette of extreme biking. If your intention is to get a fixed period of sleep you remove your bike from view  and snuggle down in the bush. If however you want the riders behind you to wake you up you leave your bike in view. In both cases always making sure your bike is facing the direction you wish to travel when you wake up. Many a sleep deprived rider has pedalled off in the wrong direction. 

Tim's bike was in view. I shone my headlamp into the road side foliage and was rewarded with the sight of Tim, looking every bit like a giant mole, crawling out from between the bushes. 

Janine and I continued up the road and were joined by Tim as we reached the 10 foot high game fence around the reserve. Tim had timed it perfectly. All his kit was attached to his bike which made it cumbersome to man handle over the stye particularly as the stye is a bit rickety and the wind had started to gust. He did say that he had seen our lights in the distance and decided to have a power nap while he waited for us to catch up. 

Getting the bikes over the fence took some effort but soon we were inside the reserve following a new and well used jeep track which I was grateful for as I was running low on energy and struggled to keep up with Tim and Janine. The wind had sucked the last remnants of energy out of my legs. It was probably my now tired and over active imagination but I was so tired that It felt like every time I blinked it sucked a little more power out of my legs. 

Just as I had given up any hope of maintaining the pace required to keep up with the other two Tim started walking and I was more than happy to follow suit. He was in a bad way. Every now and then he would stop and flop over his bike. For my part, I was happy to wait with him. Janine in the meantime rode ahead stopping regularly to wait for us. 

I was desperate to see the lights of the lodge. I became obsessed with one thought - get off this bike and get somewhere warm. Eventually I saw the lodge lights up ahead. And not a moment too soon. Janine had slowed and waited for me while Tim went ahead. She still had some fight left in her, I was envious. A few minutes later I stumbled up onto the wooden deck, leant my bike against the railing and went inside the fire warmed lodge. It was 01:20. Over 19 hours on the trail.  It had been a very long day - but we had made it. 

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