Thursday, 14 April 2016

Race to Cradock - Brosterlea to Stormberg.

Not long after leaving Brosterlea the fog dissipated and we were able to trundle along without too much difficulty. We zigged and zagged at the appropriate junctions and were soon skirting around puddles and muddy patches on the jeep track beyond Enerdale farmhouse. I have ridden through there 6 or 7 times at various times of the year and it is always tricky. Where it's not wet it's sandy. Where it isn't sandy or wet it's heavily eroded. But the fun didn't end there. Sunrise was an hour or two away so it was still dark. Casper moved along without too much difficulty. The same could not be said for me.

I use a handlebar mounted light powered by a dynohub. That is supplemented with a helmet mounted head light. The blurb for the dynohub says it generates sufficient power at 15km/h to keep your light shining brightly. Not quite true. I suspect that that may be almost true for a 26 inch wheel. A 29 inch wheel rotates 10% slower. It's not significant but it does mean the light is not quite good enough at slower speeds where it tends to flicker. I have a spare battery powered light for situations just like that. Unfortunately, that light was on the fritz. As I wiggled slowly between interesting bits the inadequate flickering glow switched across my path with every turn of the handlebars making it hard to pick a proper riding line. Turning on my helmet light had the visual effect of flattening out the surface so that I battled to make out water puddles, sand patches, ruts, and dips. I had a torrid time of it. Casper got well ahead. Well, at least until his helmet light stopped working. A change of batteries had no effect and we concluded that water from the fog had infiltrated the gizzards of the light. On a positive note it did slow him down sufficiently that I didn't have to constantly charge after him. About two thirds of the way through that section Casper had sleep monsters tugging at his eyelids. We flopped down next to the road and I had the joy of watching Casper snore gently for 15 minutes. He has the enviable ability to fall asleep at will. I need to be falling off my bike before power naps come easily. Monsters banished we got back to the job at hand.

Arriving at the next farm we rode right past the pig slaughterhouse. The pigs in the holding pen were making an unbelievable racket. It wouldn't have taken much to convince me that 100 pigs had their back legs stuck in bear traps, such was the noise. The farmhouse is no more than 50 metres from the pig pen. Had me wondering how anyone could sleep through that commotion. We topped up our water bottles and quickly pedalled off.

The eastern sky showed the first signs of morning as we made our way toward the top of the Stormberg portage. Stopping to pass through a gate I looked back and saw red lights flashing across the horizon. They all flashed in sync and although hard to tell in the conditions it looked like they stretched out for many kilometres. I had no idea what they were. I thought they might have something to do with wind turbines that have sprung up around Molteno in recent years but I couldn't tell. By the time we got to the top of the ridge I could see that the flashing lights were mounted on power lines that strung out across the horizon, the purpose of which I had no idea. I knew what the power lines were for. But the lights?

We were able to turn our lights off at the top of the ridge and easily located and hopped over a style and portaged off the ridge and across to the blockhouse at Stormberg Station. The sun was up and the prospect of breakfast at Romansfontein looked like it might well turn to brunch if we didn't get a wiggle on.

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