Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Race to Cradock - Elandsberg to Baroda

Before I had completed a single pedal stroke I knew my bike needed attention. The back tyre was flat. Casper unaware of that bolted down the driveway like a kid after an ice cream truck. I pedalled after him and caught him by the farm gate. Before I could say anything he took off like a scalded cat. I shut the gate, inflated the tyre, and followed after him. He was long gone and well out of sight.

The ride from Elandsberg to the Fish River is predominately downhill and therefore fast. After a few kilometres I saw Casper's rear light flashing up ahead. The weird thing is that I couldn't work out how far away he was. It could have been anything from one hundred metres to many kilometres away. The road is long and straight in places and there is no way to get any distance perspective. As it turned out his light was 500m ahead and closing fast. I found him flat out next to his bike. My first thought was that he had been a little too gung-ho and had crashed. That idea did not excite me. As it turned out there was no drama, he was just chilling.

We pedalled along for half an hour before Casper suggested another nap and countered no objection from me. I really thought I was going to get it right this time.

Roadside power naps are very effective if you can fall asleep quickly. I can't, and it's a problem. Casper extracts maximum benefit. It's all well and good to set your alarm for 15 minutes if you can sleep. Laying there staring at the stars only wastes time.

How to power nap. The technique is simple. First, find somewhere out of sight. It would make me very bleak to wake up and find I am one bicycle short of finishing my race. We moved about 10 metres off the road among some bushes. Next, this is very important, place your bike on the ground facing the direction to intend traveling when you wake up. I cannot over stress the importance of this step. Legends of the trail have admitted to going the wrong way after a nap.
Now you need to find a suitable piece of ground. Storm water runoff ditches are best as they tend to have a layer of sand that can be moulded to suit. The slope also makes a nice backrest. If using a backpack then it doubles as a pillow. Once your alarm has been set - usually 15 minutes - simply settle down and enjoy. Hopefully the alarm is a rude interruption which means you managed to nod off. There isn't much to do in a ditch so you waste no time getting back on your bike.

Once again Casper slept and I didn't!

Thirty minutes later we were passing over the fish river. It was running hard. I think we referred to it as restless and menacing. It's the fullest I have ever seen the river. That was a tad troubling as we had to cross the Pauls river a little later and there was no bridge to keep out feet dry. One we reached the tar road we stopped and shared a can of Coke I had in my pack.
We took 10 minutes and lay next to the road and looked up at the sky. Stars peeked out between the patchy shroud of cloud that mantled the heavens. Every few minutes the quiet would be broken by 32 wheelers that rumbled by disturbing the peace of the dark night.

We were exhausted but it was the last thing on our minds. Out in the middle of nowhere we felt the privilege and raw pleasure of crossing that part of the country on our bikes while family and friends far away were tucked up in bed and fast asleep.

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