Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Race to Cradock - Predikantskop to Brosterlea.

As we neared the top of the Predikantskop climb we got above the mist and while I hoped we had seen the last of it I knew the road dropped down a few kilometres ahead and the mist was probably up for an encore. Still, I was hopeful. There was nothing to suggest that mist lurked in the valley ahead. And why would there have been any evidence either way? In the city, suburbs, and peri-urban areas we are able to distinguish nighttime visibly based on how light is transmitted. It is fairly obvious when there is mist - street light, house lights, security lights etcetera show as a haze and in extreme cases mist blocks out the light that we expect to see. In the vast expanse of the Eastern Cape there are not a lot of lights. There were certainly no lights ahead of us and I had no expectation that there should have been any.

As the road dipped we dropped into as thick a mist as you can imagine. The road was steep and I struggled to make out a safe riding line. Before long I could see no more that 5 metres ahead. My headlight revealing little more than a blob of brightly illuminated water vapour, and even that was obscured by my clouded up glasses.

Casper, more comfortable in the reduced visibility was far ahead and I hoped he had remembered that we needed to turn right at the bottom of the hill.

I rode slowly, my left hand grasping a chunk of brake lever, my right hand desperately tried to keep my glasses functional and I started wondering about the mist. Or was it fog, what's the difference? I had heard it said that, aeronautically speaking, fog reduces visibility to under 1 kilometre while mist is less dense and reduces it to a few kilometres. Hmm... That all sounds a bit iffy unless you are pointing an Airbus A340 at a runway threshold. Closing at 260 km/h that distinction is significant. For terrestrial purposes the borderline is around 180 metres. At my speed, a paltry 15 km/h, I battled to see the road under my tyres! So this was fog. Bad fog.

The road flattened out and I started looking for the turn. The fog was so thick that it would have been easy to miss the turn. I made a point of riding on the right hand side of the road so that I would see it. A halo of light up ahead resolved into Casper. He was waiting at the intersection.

From the turnoff we climbed sufficiently for the fog to thin out so that visibility improved to almost 50 metres, as long as I kept my glasses clear.

So far we had managed to steer clear of the sleep monsters which was a good thing - the saturating fog would have made a roadside nap as miserable an experience as you could image. Sleep monsters - falling asleep while riding- was a real possibility on the section leading up to Brosterlea. It is a long section of road that requires no thought. You simply pedal along for an hour or two. The lack of stimulation coupled with a lack of sleep the perfect recipe for nodding off. The fog added to the lack of stimulation with only the occasional road sign popping through the curtain of fog.

I am big on navigational detail. As I recalled that section it had two district roads coming in from the left and the right hand intersection at Brosterlea is a short distance after the second left. Well, I got that wrong. I now know that there are three roads joining from the left and the third is a long way from the second. Mercifully, Brosterlea was a short distance beyond the third. The distance between the second and third teased relentlessly. Hopeful glows turned into boring road signs. A left bend here a right bend there and an occasional reflective farm sign. But not a single visible light the whole way.

Casper and I weren't talking much. We were tired and were each doing what we could to keep the sleep monsters at bay.

At the point where tedium had me ready to poke my head through the spokes and give the wheel a good spin to cut off my own head, the sign we sought finally emerged. Minutes later we had our bikes propped up against the wall of the cottage at Brosterlea and thoughts of hot tea and food supplanted the misery of pedalling through the fog.

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