Saturday, 25 July 2015

Tinana to Vuvu

We planned to get to the start of the Vuvu valley as the sky started to lighten. That way we would be riding into daylight which would aid our navigation. Janine started the day with pain killers to dull the pain in her shins. 

We left Mrs Kibi's house at 04:15 and opted for the longer but simpler route on the road rather that trying to thread out way through the donga littered plain that lay between us and the scratchy bit across to the river crossing and on to the district road beyond. 

We decided to take the lower line which meant we had to stay high against the cliffs on our right to avoid the monster dongas that littered the land below the cliffs. The sides of these dongas so steep that without ropes they are impossible to traverse. It was still dark and we couldn't see them and simply followed tracks. As the tracks split we chose to keep right. Once or twice we abandoned those choices as they petered out and dropped left to pick up the other track. It was cold and the frost sparkled under our lights. We knew that just after a kilometre we could drift left as we would have passed the last of the impassible dongas. Judging distance at night is tricky. We overcooked the distance and took a minute to orientate ourselves. In the hesitation the group split but we came together quickly and made good progress onto the road. Although cold it wasn't uncomfortable and there was no wind. Progress toward Satabataba on the district road was fast and we had another moment of hesitation at the turnoff as it came up quicker that expected. Satisfied we had the right turn we headed up to Setabataba where we would find the jeep track that would lead us to the start of the Vuvu valley. 
Rounding the last corner of the new district road we were confronted with a massive void. The road ended abruptly with a deep dark hole. To say we were a tad perplexed is an understatement, we were completely nonplussed. Last year it was a gorgeous new road. Now it was washed away. The chasm was so wide we couldn't see the other side with our torches. That's when doubt started creeping in. Had we taken the right turn at the district road? I assured everyone that we had. Should we have taken the previous turnoff a kilometre back? Gawie assured everyone that we were on the right track as he recognised a house we had just passed. In daylight it would have been a few seconds delay. In the dark we wasted a few minutes. I rode back and found a route into the chasm. It actually wasn't they deep, 3 or 4 metres, but it was rather wide. Riding out the other side I found the continuance of the road, in perfect order. A huge rain storm had obviously washed the road away. 

We found the jeep track without difficulty and entered the Vuvu valley just as we were able to make out the outline of the mountains surrounding us. Our timing was perfect. It took us only 2 hours to thread our way through the valley. Janine was struggling with the pace especially the portage sections. Climbing up the final cliff face to the Vuvu plateau I waited for Janine to catch up. In spite of her obvious discomfort she wasn't that far behind. 

As I approached the school where the support station is located I heard someone call my name. Looking back I saw Tim exiting a hut and he looked very second hand. He had left Tinana about 12 hours before us and we had caught him in 4. Obviously his night escapade hadn't ended too well. At 8:30 we entered the school where Andrew and Gawie were busy with breakfast. Tim joined us a few minutes later. We had done okay. Another 6 hours should see is in Rhodes and our race complete. We ate up quickly and prepared to take on Lehana's Pass. 

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