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My Chemical Bromance - Bikepacking trip report


PhilipV
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A while back I won a prize that entailed accommodation for a night at The Trails End hotel in a Bicycle South competition. Luuks.

We have a toddler and an 8month old baby at home, so Wifey said she would stay at home and keep them alive while I go out and scratch the bikepacking itch I have from spending way too much time on Instagram looking at other people's trips. Sometimes I realise that I married well. Or maybe she just got gatvol of me talking about it, mapping out routes and making theoretical plans and wanted me to **** or get off the pot.

 

The obvious choice for riding partners was Coenie and Rigardt (aka Grease Monkey.) Coenie knows nearly every farmer in the area or knows someone who knows them and was the key to unlocking permission for us to ride over all of the farms that would have been off limits to us. On top of that he is always keen for a silly adventure and has a rubber elbow. Rigardt has an even more flexible elbow and said yes before I even had details other than: two days of riding and one night at a hotel in Grabouw. The folly of youth is a beautiful thing.

 

At first the plan was to park on one of the farms in the Elgin Valley and then ride our bikes to Trails End, but while trying to work out our route I gave a sarcastic quip that we can sommer park on Coenie's family farm and then ride our bikes. Coenie agreed and this became the new plan.

Their farm is near Helderstroom prison in the Overberg. Day one would be from the farm to Grabouw via Vyeboom, over Viljoens Pass and then around Nuweberg into the MTO forestry trails and over to Trails End.

Day Two would mirror a lot of the W2W routes and go around Eikenhof dam, across Oak Valle andPaul Cluver, over the Lebanon Plantation to Houw Hoek.  From Houw Hoek we would take the Kat Pass down to Botrivier and then use farm and railway service roads back to the farm. Simple, in theory. The problem was that if we did all the trails in Oak Valley, Cluver and A2Z that I wanted, it would be two days of nearly 100km, This would have been okay if I wasn't averaging 70km’s of riding per month this year. We decided to figure it out as we go using our extensive local knowledge (but not Rigardt's knowledge, he didn't have a clue what he was in for.)

 

We arrived to the customary platteland hospitality at the farm.  Braaivleis, a couple of beers and a whole lot of stories. People that don't know us will probably think that we don't like each other. We really are thick as thieves, but we do rip each other off a lot. Quips range from Coenie being very old (he isn't,) Rigardt being so young (he isn't) that his father had to sign his marriage certificate, and I get ripped off for a lot of things, none of which I can deny. I'm just glad that my wife saw something in me that my friends don't.

Saturday started with Aga bread and coffee. Aga bread is the pinnacle of toasted sarmies, made directly on an Aga stovetop.

Coenie and I strapped our dry bags onto our handlebars. Rigardt only packed a shirt, plakkies, his toothbrush and a credit card, thus he only needed a hydration pack. We are all fortunate to have two bikes, and elected to leave our heavy trail bikes at home. I was on my On One 456C hardtail, Rigardt on his sublime Cotic hardtail, and Coenie was on Groenie die Drakie, his custom painted spez Epic. My bike was shod with knobbly tyres that had a lot of rolling resistance, and Coenie's bike needed a proper suspension service about two years ago already. We reckoned the best bike for a trip is the one you have, so we didn't change anything on our bikes for this trip. Run what you brung.

 

In high spirits we set off into the crisp Overberg morning. Scarcely 15km in we had our first photo and snacks stop when we turned onto gravel for the first time. The Overberg was shaking out it's photogenic feathers. The sun was out, Theewaterskloof dam was glistening in the distance, the canola fields were bright yellow, and we had a tail wind. Life was grand. Rig told us how this was the type of riding that they did a lot when he was living in Pretoria, and it was showing. He was like a diesel train that chuffed along at a steady pace.

 

Going down one of the gravel descents I realised that my fork was still locked out. With the reappearance of the Fox's small bump sensitivity my itch for a gravel bike was magically healed. It was also at this stage that Coenie and I realised that we never adjusted our suspension for the pack weight of our rigs. Amateurs. I had 140mm travel, so it was fine , Coenie however was blowing through his SID's travel faster than the Grease Monkey bought new bikes.

But we still had a nice tail wind and the riding was good. We dispatched the rolling hills without much fuss and reached Vyeboom earlier than we expected.

 In Vyeboom Rig went straight past the turnoff to the only shop in town, so we decided to resupply at the Agri. This was our only resupply stop for day 1, so we had to make it count. With water, coke and the food in our backpacks we sat down for eerste pouse. This was also the only time during the whole trip that Rig took a photo.

 

After eerste pouse we set off down the road and up Viljoens Pass. At the top we caught a head wind for the first time. Our luck had to run out eventually. Fortunately, we hooked a right turn into the Plantation after Nuweberg dam and made our way around the front of Nuweberg. Just before dropping into Elgin we stopped for a quick tweede pouse snack and to peruse our maps. Well technically peruse Komoot on our phones. We didn't carry any paper maps. There was a trail that I really wanted to ride that I haven’t ridden in years. It was overgrown then, and I wasn't sure if it would be rideable now. It was a stupid idea, so we had to do it. To get there we first had to descend a rocky, rutted jeep track. Bombing down it with the heavy bags made me feel naked without the knee guards that I usually ride with, I also reminded myself that it would take a Search and Rescue crew a while to CASEVAC me if I needed an ambulance here. Dial it back down to 7/10 Philip.

 

We managed to find the lost trail with the help of Komoot, and after the fire it was open and running nicely. Happy days. It is an old school, rocky trail that needed a bit of body language to get our rigs through the technical bits, but it was worth the effort to get to. I nearly hung myself on a low hanging branch but fortunately it only claimed one of the shoes I strapped to my backpack. With the shoe recovered we had more of the rutted and eroded jeep tracks to ride down, and here I was happy that I was still on my grippy tyres and not rolling on fast tyres with little grip. Swings and round abouts.

 

We worked our way back to the dam and only took one wrong turn, but no one died, and we didn't meet any hillbillies so it was cool. We did however see a couple of 4x4s, hikers and people walking their dogs around the dam. It's good seeing that this area is again being used for recreation after being razed to the ground. Life goes on.

 Upon arrival at Trails End we dropped our bags, had a beer and then decided that it was time for lunch before we do the A2Z trails. We remounted our bikes and rode down to the Railway market, first stopping at Oak Valley to sort out permits out for the next day.

 The Elgin Railway Market is my favourite market and once again it didn't disappoint.

During lunch we decided to give A2Z a skip for another day as we would rather rest and do more of the Oak Valley and Cluver trails the next day.

At this stage we had already covered about 60km and was ready for the pool at Trails End. We did jump into the pool but jumped out with equal haste. It I was winter in Grabouw. We clearly made a habit of not thinking things through.

We had a chilled arvie, resting and watching the Bok game, followed by dinner. Trail's End makes a mean Venison burger. They also have a nicely stocked library that you can read while there, or you can buy the book you need more time. While watching the Bok game I saw a Clive Cussler that I haven't read yet, and I promptly bought the book along with my next beer. The next morning I regretted it, as I couldn't fit the book and all my clothes into my dry bag. I maxed out the 10L packing volume. Oops.

 

After dinner and a chat in front of the fireplace with some of the other guests, we eventually retired to our room. Rig started watching The Grand Tour (not a cycling stage race, the motoring show featuring Clarkson and Co,) on his cellphone, and after a few cushions was thrown at him we succeeded in turning that very flexible elbow of his so that we could all watch it. My bed was a queen size, so there was enough space for all three of us on it. Sadly, all the proteins and beer we consumed started to conspire against us and the room turned into a My Chemical Bromance faster than a boet can buy his roids from a dodgy trainer at gym. After more cushions was thrown and some bad rucking and mauling, we all went to sleep, in our own beds, with the aircon on max.

 

The next morning Rig woke up with another cushion in the face for keeping Coenie awake with his snoring.  A rather lovely cold breakfast was smashed, and we made sure to eat a lot, as it was a long way to Houw Hoek, and an equally long way to home from there.

 After getting both creative and forceful with my packing everything was somehow ready to go back on the bike. At this point we realised that Coenie not only packed dress shoes for dinner but also had a full toiletry bag akin to the toolboxes used to paint models before photoshoots. Only after he applied his eau de Cologne was he ready to ride. We now know why Coenie is always late.

 After checking out and settling our bill we were only 10minutes behind schedule when we set off and met JP outside, hew was our guide for the first half of the days riding. He immediately led us to the singletrack next to the train track, we would get rather close friends with the train track today. JP took us through the farms around Eikenhof dam, underneath the road and up to the singletrack at the foot of Groenlandberg all the way to Oak Valley. The recent rains have led to some flooding, missing bridges and full dams.

We agreed the previous day that we had to ride the classic lines in Oak Valley and Paul Cluver. so we dropped into Vissie's, and it was as sublime as I remember it. The Lefty Wallride was rather awkward with a 2kg weight on the handlebar, but the flowy trail through the trees brought back all the grins. After Vissie's we hooked a left into JK's edge. JK'S led to Sounds of Silence, another iconic trail. This is one of my favourite trails in Grabouw, a sublime flow trail with a beautiful exit on the weir of the dam wall. Unbeknownst to us this exit was underwater. I came to a skidding halt with my front wheel in the water, managing to not get myself wet and warning the others to not ride into me or into the water. We made our way through the water holding on to the wires on top of the weir
and got through with mostly dry feet.

We quickly rode over to Cluver, climbing up to do Boomslang and Pofadder. After the fire the trail crews put in a mammoth effort, and the trails have been restored to their former glory.

 Unbeknownst to me JP had a habit of engaging riders in conversation, and then upping the pace. With me being a talker, he caught me hook ,line and sinker, and the two of us dropped our compatriots on the sandy climb after Pofadder while having a fat chat about the intricacies of the fruit trade. At the Jakkalsdans dam JP gave us the final directions to get to Houw Hoek, and then bid us adieu. I may have burnt to many matches already, but I was blissfully unaware of the mushroom clouding explosion that was to hit me later in the day.

 

We rode down next to the riverbank towards Houw Hoek, and with the help of Komoot we found the singletrack heading towards the hotel. But alas, it was hit by woodcutters and after trying to hike a bike through it, we cut our losses and took a beeline over a field to the old tar road next to the N2. This was an anticlimax, but there was pies and droëwors with our names on it at the Houw Hoek Padstal.

True to form the Houw Hoek pies did not disappoint, neither did the droëwors or the 3liters of water we refilled with. And I'm pretty sure the Grease Monkey had a Red Bull as well. He loves his sugary caffeine drinks as much as I love my milky caffeine drinks.

Suitably refuelled we hopped back over the N2 and rode down the Kat Pass to Bot Rivier. The Kat Pass is another hidden gem and it was a pleasure to ride down and not be in a W2W hurry. We stopped for photos and had a leisurely cruise down.

At Botrivier we found a locked gate where we were supposed to turn off. This wasn't as arranged, but we decided beforehand not to climb over locked gates We turned back and rode along the train tracks to where we were supposed to get on the Railway service road. Unbeknownst to us, we stopped at the wrong gate and the pre-arranged route turned off a couple of hundred meters down the road. Another oops.

Riding along the train tracks was fun for about thirty seconds, and then it just became a pain. It was rough and the rhythmic pounding had me hating my choice of bike for a while. Riding over the bridges was even more hair raising and by the second bridge I dismounted and walked over. This was easily the second hardest bit of riding of our trip. The worst was yet to come.

After what felt like days, we reached the service road and resumed our downwind ride. The nice thing about railway service roads is that the elevation changes very gradually if at all. We were making good pace again until I hit a snafu. I drained the last sip of water from my backpack, and realised that I only refilled my bottle at Houw Hoek, and not my hydration pack. Rookie mistake. Fortunately, between the three of us we had enough left to go around. From here I ate the naartjies and apples I had been lugging around for two days, and realised that they contained a lot of juice, helping to stave off dehydration and the dreaded bonk,

Our downwind dash turned into a downwind and downhill dash when we road underneath the R43, this was a pleasure. It was a  much needed respite and gave us a chance to rest our legs to all the way to Boontjieskraal. Behind Boontjieskraal we rejoined the farm roads and headed towards Greyton. We also started climbing again. On this section Rigardt was riding on the front, and I was struggling to keep contact, dropping off the whole time, I put in a big effort to catch up again, and Coenie asked me: “kou jy bietjie klippe?" My response was: "Bra, die Grease Monkey is besig om my te breek, ek kou my handlebar." I was paying the price for all those marches I burned while chatting with JP back in the Elgin Valley. Oops. Coenie gave me a bit of a tow and told Rigardt to be gentle with me.

With about 15kms to go we turned into the wind, and promptly stopped for a break.

While resting and eating again Coenie said that the next 15kms would probably be the hardest of our trip. He was right. It was all uphill, into the teeth of the wind, and the wind was howling, as if it was furious at us for all the fun we had at its behest up to now. It was time to dig deep.

We just had to grind it out. No one knows how long it took us to get home. Well strava knows, but strava is a liar, it was much longer than the data says. I was so deep in the pain cave that I needed a headlamp to see the way forward while crawling on my hands and knees. We stopped for breaks. A couple of times. We basically stopped at every turn off or landmark we reached. At one of these stops Rigardt took off his shoes or some obscure reason, apparently his tootsies needed a break from the racing slippers he was wearing. We only judged him a little bit, but I was glad that he took so long to put them back on again. After another seven days and seven nights worth of grinding into the wind we finally crested over the neck of the mountain and had a mostly flat run home. The wind was still pumping, but we only had to pedal to keep our downhill momentum going a few times.

The last bit over the Van Niekerk farm was beautiful, and Coenie not only had enough left in him to tell us about the cultivars they were planting but also to pip us on the sprint finish to their gate. Just like that it was over.

We had done it, and it was good. In retrospect even the last 15km was "fun." Well, it was type 3 fun, but it still counts.

We had learned a few lessons:

You don't need fancy bikes or fancy packs.

Rigardt still went and brought a gravel bike for himself, but that's because he needs help, and not that he needs another bike.

A drybag and a couple of straps will sort you out. If you pack like Coenie, take a bigger dry bag.

Eat real food. The naartjies and apples saved my bacon when I made the rookie error of not checking whether I have enough water.

Local knowledge and a friendly attitude open doors. We were able to take a route over private land, but without permission we would have had to take a longer route via back roads.

Don't underestimate Pretoria Diesel engines. Rigardt might be a slower climber, but he never stops. You need a diesel in your crew. It also helps that he makes a nice slipstream.

Don't think you are going to ride after lunch if it's not necessary. You won't. We'll have to go back for the A2Z trails on another day.

Even for a trail snob like myself, there is a beauty and pleasure to the long gravel roads that makes trips like these magical.

I've already started planning another trip, hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.

 

Saturday started with Aga bread and coffee. Aga bread is the pinnacle of toasted sarmies, made directly on an Aga stovetop.

Coenie and I strapped our dry bags onto our handlebars. Rigardt only packed a shirt, plakkies, his toothbrush and a credit card, so he only needed a hydration pack. We are all fortunate to have two bikes, and elected to leave our heavy trail bikes at home. I was on my On One 456C hardtail, Rigardt on his sublime Cotic hardtail, and Coenie was on Groenie die Drakie, his custom painted spez Epic. My bike was shod with knobbly tyres that had a lot of rolling resistance, and Coenie's bike needed a proper suspension service two years ago. But we reckoned the best bike for a trip is the one you have, and didn't change anything on our bikes for this trip. Run what you brung.

 

In high spirits we set off into the crisp Overberg morning.

Scarcely 15km in we had our first photo and snacks stop when we turned onto gravel for the first time. The Overberg was shaking out  it's photogenic feathers. The sun was out, Theewaterskloof dam was glistening in the distance, the canola fields were bright yellow and we had a tail wind. Life was grand. Rig told us how this was the type of riding that they did a lot when he was living in Pretoria, and it was showing. He was like a diesel train that chuffed along at a steady pace.

 

Going down one of the gravel descents I realised that my fork was still locked out. With the reappearance of the Fox's small bump sensitivity my itch for a gravel bike was magically healed. It was also at this stage that we realised out that Coenie and I never adjusted our suspension for the pack weight of our rigs. Amateurs. I had 140mm travel, so it was fine , Coenie however was blowing through his SID's travel faster than the Grease Monkey bought new bikes.

But we had a nice tail wind and the riding was good. We dispatched the rolling hills without much fuss and reached Vyeboom earlier than we expected.

 

In Vyeboom Rig went straight past the turnoff to the shop, so we decided to resupply at the Agri. This was our only resupply stop for day 1, so we had to make it count. With water and coke and the food in our backpacks we sat down for eerste pouse. This was also the only time during the whole trip that Rig took a photo.

 

After eerste pouse we set off down the road and up Viljoens Pass. At the top we caught a head wind for the first time. Our luck had to run out eventually. Fortunately we hooked a right turn into the Plantation after Nuweberg dam and made our way around the front of Nuweberg. Just before dropping into Elgin we stopped for a quick tweede pouse snack and to peruse our maps. Well technically peruse Komoot on our phones. We didn't carry any paper maps. There was a trail that  I really wanted to ride that I last rode years ago, but it was overgrown then, and I wasn't sure if it would be rideable. It was a stupid idea, so we had to do it. But to get there we first had to descend a rocky, rutted jeep track. Bombing down it with the heavy bags made me feel naked without the knee guards that I usually ride with, I also reminded myself that it would take a Search and Rescue crew a while to CASEVAC me if I needed an ambulance here. Dial it back down to 7/10 Philip.

 

We managed to find the lost trail with the help of Komoot, and after the fire it was open and running nicely. Happy days. It is an old school and rocky trail that needed a bit of body language to get our rigs through the rocky bits, but it was worth the effort to get to. I nearly hung myself on a low hanging branch but fortunately it only claimed one of my shoes. With the shoe recovered we had more of the rutted and eroded jeep tracks to ride down, and here I was happy that I was still on my grippy tyres and not rolling on fast tyres with little grip. Swings and round abouts.

 

We worked our way back to the dam and only took one wrong turn, but no one died and we didn't meet any hillbillies so it was cool. We did however see a couple of 4x4s, hikers and people walking their dogs around the dam. It's good seeing that this area is again being used for recreation after being razed to the ground. Life goes on.

 

Upon arrival at Trails End we dropped our bags, had a beer and then decided that it was time for lunch before we do the A2Z trails. We remounted our bikes and rode down to the Railway market, first stopping at Oak Valley to sort out permits out for the next day.

 

The Elgin Railway Market is my favourite market and once again it didn't disappoint.

During lunch we decided to give A2Z a skip for another day as we would rather do some of the Oak Valley and Cluver trails the next day.

At this stage we had already covered about 60km and was ready for the pool at Trails End. We did jump into the pool, but jumped out with equal pace. It I was winter in Grabouw. Clearly we had a habit of not thinking things through.

We had a chilled arvie, resting and watching the Bok game followed by dinner. Trail's End makes a mean Venison burger. They also have a nicely stocked library that you can read while there, or you can buy the book you need more time. While watching the Bok game I saw a Clive Cussler that I haven't read yet, and I promptly bought the book along with my next beer. The next morning I regretted it, as I couldn't fit the book and all my clothes into my dry bag. I maxed out the 10L packing volume. Oops.

 

After dinner and a chat in front of the fireplace with some of the other guests, we eventually retired to our room. Rig started watching The Grand Tour (not a cycling stage race, the motoring show featuring Clarkson and Co,) on his cellphone, and after a few cushions was thrown at him we succeeded In turning that very flexible elbow of his so that we could all watch it. Fortunately my bed was a queen size, so there was enough space for all three of us on it. Sadly all the proteins and beer we consumed started to conspire against us and the room turned into a My Chemical Bromance faster than a boet can buy his roids from a dodgy trainer at gym. After more cushions was thrown and some bad rucking and mauling we all went to sleep, in our own beds, with the aircon on max.

 

Before my alarm could wake us up with the clamour of a submarine preparing to dive we were all awake the next morning. Rig caught another cushion in the face for keeping Coenie awake with his snoring before we went down to breakfast. A rather lovely cold breakfast was smashed, and we made sure to eat a lot, as it was a long way to Houw Hoek, and an equally long way to home from there.

 

After getting both creative and forceful with my packing everything was somehow ready to go back on the bike. At this point we realised that Coenie not only packed dress shoes for dinner but also a full toiletry bag akin to the toolboxes used to paint models before photoshoots. After he applied his eau de Cologne he was finally ready to ride. We now know why Coenie is always late.

 

After checking out and settling our bill we were only 10minutes behind schedule when we set off and met JP, our guide for the first half of the days riding outside. He led us on the singletrack next to the train track, we would get rather close friends with the train track today. JP led us through some farms around Eikenhof dam, underneath the road and up to the singletrack at the foot of Groenlandberg all the way to Oak Valley. The recent rains have led to some flooding. missing bridges and full dams.

We agreed beforehand that we had to tide the classic lines in Oak Valley and Paul Cluver. So we dropped into Vissie's, and it was as sublime as I remember it. The Lefty Wallride was rather awkward with a 2kg weight on the handlebar, but the flowy trail through the trees brought back all the grins. After Vissie's we hooked a left into JK's edge. JK'S led to Sounds of Silence, another iconic trail. This is one of my favourite trails in Grabouw, a sublime flow trail with a beautiful exit on the weir of the dam wall. Unbeknownst to us this exit was underwater. I came to a skidding halt with my front wheel in the water, managing to not get myself wet and warning the others to not ride into me or into the water. We made our way through the water holding on to the wires on top of the weir and got through with mostly dry feet.

We quickly rode over to Cluver, climbing up to do Boomslang and Pofadder. The trail crews at Cluver has put a lot of effort in to get the trails ready after the fires, and it has been restored to glory.

 

Unbeknownst to me JP  had a habit of engaging riders in conversation, and then upping the pace, and with me being a talker, he caught me caught me hook ,line and sinker, and the two of us dropped our compatriots on the sandy climb after Pofadder while having a fat chat about the intricacies of the fruit trade. At the Jakkalsdans dam JP gave us the final directions to get to Houw Hoek, and then bid us adieu. I may have burnt to many matches already, but was blissfully unaware of the mushroom clouding explosion that was to hit me later in the day.

 

We rode down riverbank heading towards Houw Hoek, and with the help of Komoot we found the singletrack heading towards the hotel, but alas, it was hit by woodcutters and after trying to hike a bike through it, we cut our losses and took a beeline over a field to the old tar road next to the N2. This was an anticlimax, but there was pies and droëwors with our names on it at the Houw Hoek Padstal.

 

True to form the Houw Hoek pies did not disappoint, neither did the droëwors or the 3liters of water we refilled with. And I'm pretty sure the Grease Monkey had a Red Bull as well. He loves his sugary caffeine drinks as much as I love my milky caffeine drinks.

Suitably refuelled we hopped back over the N2 and rode down the Kat Pass to Bot Rivier. The Kat Pass is another hidden gem and it was a pleasure to ride down and not be in a W2W hurry. We stopped for photos, and had a leisurely cruise down.

 

 

My Chemical Bromance.pdf

Edited by PhilipV
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At Botrivier we found a locked gate where we were supposed to turn off. This wasn't as arranged, but we decided beforehand not to climb over locked gates We turned back and rode along the train tracks to where we were supposed to get on the Railway service road. Unbeknownst to us, we stopped at the wrong gate and the pre-arranged route turned off a couple of hundred meters down the road. Another oops.

Riding along the train tracks was fun for about thirty seconds, and then it just became a pain. It was rough and the rhythmic pounding had me hating my choice of bike for a while. Riding over the bridges was even more hair raising and by the second bridge I dismounted and walked over. This was easily the second hardest bit of riding of our trip. The worst was yet to come.

After what felt like days, we reached the service road and resumed our downwind ride. The nice thing about railway service roads is that the elevation changes very gradually if at all. We were making good pace again until I hit a snafu. I drained the last sip of water from my backpack, and realised that I only refilled my bottle at Houw Hoek, and not my hydration pack. Rookie mistake. Fortunately, between the three of us we had enough left to go around. From here I ate the naartjies and apples I had been lugging around for two days, and realised that they contained a lot of juice, helping to stave off dehydration and the dreaded bonk,

Our downwind dash turned into a downwind and downhill dash when we road underneath the R43, this was a pleasure. It was a  much needed respite and gave us a chance to rest our legs to all the way to Boontjieskraal. Behind Boontjieskraal we rejoined the farm roads and headed towards Greyton. We also started climbing again. On this section Rigardt was riding on the front, and I was struggling to keep contact, dropping off the whole time, I put in a big effort to catch up again, and Coenie asked me: “kou jy bietjie klippe?" My response was: "Bra, die Grease Monkey is besig om my te breek, ek kou my handlebar." I was paying the price for all those marches I burned while chatting with JP back in the Elgin Valley. Oops. Coenie gave me a bit of a tow and told Rigardt to be gentle with me.

With about 15kms to go we turned into the wind, and promptly stopped for a break.

While resting and eating again Coenie said that the next 15kms would probably be the hardest of our trip. He was right. It was all uphill, into the teeth of the wind, and the wind was howling, as if it was furious at us for all the fun we had at its behest up to now. It was time to dig deep.

We just had to grind it out. No one knows how long it took us to get home. Well strava knows, but strava is a liar, it was much longer than the data says. I was so deep in the pain cave that I needed a headlamp to see the way forward while crawling on my hands and knees. We stopped for breaks. A couple of times. We basically stopped at every turn off or landmark we reached. At one of these stops Rigardt took off his shoes or some obscure reason, apparently his tootsies needed a break from the racing slippers he was wearing. We only judged him a little bit, but I was glad that he took so long to put them back on again. After another seven days and seven nights worth of grinding into the wind we finally crested over the neck of the mountain and had a mostly flat run home. The wind was still pumping, but we only had to pedal to keep our downhill momentum going a few times.

The last bit over the Van Niekerk farm was beautiful, and Coenie not only had enough left in him to tell us about the cultivars they were planting but also to pip us on the sprint finish to their gate. Just like that it was over.

We had done it, and it was good. In retrospect even the last 15km was "fun." Well, it was type 3 fun, but it still counts.

We had learned a few lessons:

You don't need fancy bikes or fancy packs.

Rigardt still went and brought a gravel bike for himself, but that's because he needs help, and not that he needs another bike.

A drybag and a couple of straps will sort you out. If you pack like Coenie, take a bigger dry bag.

Eat real food. The naartjies and apples saved my bacon when I made the rookie error of not checking whether I have enough water.

Local knowledge and a friendly attitude open doors. We were able to take a route over private land, but without permission we would have had to take a longer route via back roads.

Don't underestimate Pretoria Diesel engines. Rigardt might be a slower climber, but he never stops. You need a diesel in your crew. It also helps that he makes a nice slipstream.

Don't think you are going to ride after lunch if it's not necessary. You won't. We'll have to go back for the A2Z trails on another day.

Even for a trail snob like myself, there is a beauty and pleasure to the long gravel roads that makes trips like these magical.

I've already started planning another trip, hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.

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Riding along the train tracks was fun for about thirty seconds, and then it just became a pain. It was rough and the rhythmic pounding had me hating my choice of bike for a while. Riding over the bridges was even more hair raising and by the second bridge I dismounted and walked over. This was easily the second hardest bit of riding of our trip. 

 

I'm not sure why you are complaining about the railway tracks.  You look really happy in this picture.

 

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In the second picture here you can also see 4 tracks, each at least 6cm wide that you can ride on.  If you were Danny Mac. 

 

post-55150-0-07058500-1570539886_thumb.jpg

Edited by CJ Van
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And as usual, I just tagged along for the ride.

 

Lekker write up Philip - looking forward to the next one :clap:

How does a PhilipV interpretation of a Brewery to Brewery Bikepacking trip grab you?

I'll find two breweries with enough singletrack between them so that you won't want to bring your porker....

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Greasy's Cotic really is sublime. His second job enables him to spend a lot on his bikes. He mostly spends it on colour coding.

 

But Coenie's Spez is possibly even better looking.

 

The Cotic is my baby. Other bikes come and go, but a steel hardtail will be in your garage for life - so it gets a little bit of special treatment when it comes to colour coding and small details.

 

The paint on that Spaz is pretty special though! And Conie even matched his tie downs and helmet to the paint, so extra yuppy points there  :ph34r:

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