Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Race to Cradock - Baroda to Newlands

Big trucks passing at speed are intimidating when you have spent two days riding through areas so remote that many hours pass without seeing any vehicles or even people. We rode down the tar keeping an eye out for the rumbling monsters that lumbered passed at regular intervals. As they drew close we slowed down and moved well clear of the road.

The turnoff toward Spekboomberg offered relief from the trucks. We progressed along this dirt track without incident until we had to make our way between the outbuildings and staff housing of a farm. I followed Casper down a road that quickly became a little scratchy. I called him to a stop and after a short consultation doubled back and found the right track that would take us to the entrance of the game reserve.

A sign on the reserve gate warned people entering the reserve to watch out for dangerous animals. I can attest from personal experience that suchlike animals do in fact exist in that reserve. I had an uncomfortable standoff a few years ago in the dead of night. I wasn't looking forward to a repeat performance. My anxiety levels served to keep any thought of sleep at bay. I breathed a sigh of relief when the exit gate closed behind me.

Once through the reserve we had a short section of tar before the last dirt road that would take us to the new support station at Newlands farm. Five minutes short of the support station I started falling asleep. I tried walking a bit to stave off the sleep monsters but to no effect. You would think that you could force yourself to stay awake for just 5 minutes. After all, 5 minutes is nothing. In spite of trying to reason with myself I couldn't move forward. The power nap is the perfect solution for situations like that. But 5 minutes short of a support station - really! The only solution was to flip over and feed the monsters. I gave them a solid 5 minutes at the trough before we got back on our bikes and rode through to the house.

It was 00:50. The first thing we noticed was the array of bikes propped up against the back stoep. It seemed there was quite a contingent snuggled down for the night. The second noticeable event was meeting the support station host. I'm bad with names so I can't remember her name. What I do remember is the fast and friendly service we got. It was efficient and delivered with no fuss. In 15 minutes bottles and bodies were replenished and we were back out on the trail. Try pitching up at a strangers place in the city for 15 minutes the wrong side of midnight and see what the reception is like. The folk who man the support stations along the length of the Freedom Trail are cut from very special cloth.

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