Friday, 11 December 2015

Racing The Munga - Sutherland to Ceres - Part 2

The road eventually started snaking through some hills. The flat barren landscape giving way to the first orchards. The wind, now funnelled between the mountains, gained in intensity. My progress was pitiful. A roadworks truck parked on the side of the road had a water bowser hooked on the back and I was glad to dump the rusty tasting water I had collected at the last windmill and replace it with cool and palatable water.

Once on tar my progress was slightly better but this lasted less than a kilometre. Back on gravel I found myself battling into the wind again. I even stopped and made sure my bike was okay. It was a slight climb but nothing serious. I just couldn't get going. I was tired and needed to have a power nap. There was nowhere to go to ground. It was a Saturday afternoon. Cars, filled to bursting with weekend revellers, zoomed up and down the narrow road. It was clear that I needed to get out of sight if I didn't want to wake up in just my socks sans bike and all my kit.

It must have taken me 15 or 20 minutes to cover 2 or 3 kilometres as I drifted in and out of hallucinations. It was a proper battle. Eventually the road kicked up toward the top of the hill and left the settlement behind. I found a bush, no more than a metre from the road, that was adequate enough to shield me from view. Setting my alarm for 15 minutes I fell into a deep sleep.

A car roared by and woke me up. I looked at my watch. I had overslept by 5 minutes. Checking my alarm I noticed I had set the time wrong. Instead of 17:10 I had set it to 16:10. Thank goodness for the passing car. I walked the rest of the way up the gravel road which led to a good tar road. My GPS battery was down to 7%. My power banks were completely flat. If my GPS ran flat I was going to be in a proper pickle. Time to get a move on.

The wind was still blowing hard but I found the going a lot easier after shaking off the sleep monsters. Erik Vermeulen was along the road taking pictures. He popped up all over the place at all hours of the day or night. I reckon it's easier to ride a bike in this race than be the official photographer. I stopped for a short chat. I asked him how far the next check point was. He didn't know but thought about 30 kilometres. That tallied with my figuring. For once I wished I was wrong. My GPS was down to 5%. I knew that Erik must have a USB charger in the car. What a difference a few minutes of charge would make I thought. I didn't bother asking him if I could use it or expect that he would say yes if I did ask. I would have to sort this out by myself. That's how we roll. A photographer is a hands off fly on the wall. Their sole offering is a smiley face and encouragement as you ride past.

I started obsessing with the GPS situation, and with good cause. The rules are clear. You can't scribble your way down the route. You must follow the designated route. If you go off track you need to rejoin where you left it. Rejoining was an option if it blinked off. I could find somewhere to recharge and go back once I knew where I was.

Up ahead to my right I saw a group of people standing around a braai fire. They were at a community hall and a quick scan revealed power lines ran to the building. I could get a charge here I thought. 5 or 10 minutes would alleviate my current energy crisis. In an attempt to save precious seconds I decided to take a shortcut which meant following a footpath that ran down a steep bank towards the hall. I am not a great technical rider. My technical skills improve as I get more desperate. I was desperate. I dropped the front wheel over the edge and shot down the bank at high speed. This ought to impress the watching crowd, I thought. I didn't see the barbed wire fence until it was too late. Fortunately it was almost flat on the ground. Instead of shedding me like a carrot it merely snagged a pedal and did a fantastic job of bringing my bike to a sudden stop. A marine aviator would have taken heart at the sensation touching down on the deck of an aircraft carrier. My response was a resigned, "Oh well!" My tuck and roll was of Olympian standard. I retrieved my bike and nonchalantly cycled over to the wide eyed crowd. I was half expecting them to be holding up score boards giving me a perfect 10 for execution. As I was they said nothing. They had power but I didn't have a 3 pin to 2 pin adapter. I was down to 3%.

I hopped back on the bike and rode like a man possessed. As I passed the various workshops and cellars I made a note of them. If I needed power I could always come back here and beg for help. The route had me clambering through a pedestrian gate and over two locked gates. The bike was heavy. I was reminded that the bike configuration was fine for The Munga but would be disastrous for the Freedom Challenge. I could have zoomed out on the GPS and got an idea of the routing for the last few kilometres in case it ran flat but It was down to 1% power and didn't want to give it any cause to consume extra power. It was starting to get dark and I turned on my light desperate to catch a glimpse of my goal.

I eventually saw the checkpoint up ahead. Rolling to a stop I looked down at the GPS - 0% power. That was close. Too close. It was 7:27 pm. 1020 km's in the bag with only 70 km to go. The only business of any import was to get my GPS and light charged.

No comments: