Thursday, July 31, 2008

Themeda 2008 Continued

Something I forgot to mention about our ride yesterday; I really need to buy a handlebar mounting for the GPS, we missed a turn off and rode a steep kilometer long hill only to have to turn around and go all the way back to the bottom. Very frustrating but it was quite close to the start so we didn't take it as badly as we would have if we were at the latter stages of the ride.

While we were on the way home we were discussing whether Jason and I should or could ride down robbers pass and back up to Themeda while still giving everyone enough time to do whatever else needed to be done. Jason wasn't very sure but Cathy was egging him on, not so quietly either I have to add. So it was decided; we were going to ride down robbers pass and turn around and then ride all the way back up.

Sunday morning cracked and we had breakfast as we watched the ruby sun rise in the distance. The first 30minutes of the ride were exhilarating; that was the downhill section. The following 90 minutes was quite hard work. Below is the profile of the ride, not too much flat it has to be said!

I would definitely think twice before tackling this on a road bike even though it is considerably lighter and has no damping to soak up energy; the gearing on a mountain bike over-rides all other factors. I felt absolutely fantastic after the two hours of riding.
We parted company with Jason and Cathy who had to go and pick up Kelly from sun city while we "went to mecca" as Jason was fond of saying. Mecca being our unwanted, unloved piece of turf in white river.
Not much has changed in the estate, a couple more houses but looking at our forlorn bit, we really should get someone in to remove the trees, their stumps and flatten the ground, filling in the ditches and dongas. Very depressing seeing all the work that should be done on a piece of ground one doesn't actually want. Oh, well - there are worse things in life I guess.

On the way to white river we stopped in at the Africa Silk shop in graskop to buy some more mopane worm silk cushions. We bought some a couple of years ago and they have turned out to be great. While we were there Caron got into a bit of shopping frenzy and we left the shop proud owners of a new silk duvet. The outside is cotton but the actual filling is silk and this just has to be the most amazing duvet, it is very thin and light but amazingly warm. Strangely, each duvet has a serial number on it which they keep tabs on so they know exactly who actually has their duvets.

I finish with Carons' version of riding a bicycle.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Themida 2008

We were actually meant to be riding the Jock but I just didn't feel up to 150km of quite hard riding; it's not that we've exactly stopped riding, we're just taking it easy. Very easy!

Since Jason and Cathy had already palmed off their offspring it seemed like a free weekend was too good to waste so we met at Themida near Crystal Springs in Mpumulanga for what turned out to be an absolutely fantastic weekend; I wish they were all like this.

Traveling down to Themida on the friday evening we stopped in Dullstroom for supper at the something pickle which proved to be an inspired choice; roaring log fire, attentive camp waiter and very delicious food. I could have stayed right there for the weekend.

We arrived at about 20:30 having been driving for 4:30, grabbed the keys from Jan the proprietor and gingerly drove down increasingly poor tracks to the huts. We stayed in numbers 7 & 8 which are a little apart from the rest of the huts and the solitude is refreshingly delicious. There is no electricity so everything is run on gas which lends a particular feeling of isolation to the cottages. Jason and Cathy arrived at about 10:30 and I think they were very relieved to have actually found us because the final kilometer really starts to feel like one is totally lost.

Saturday morning we were up moderately early; it's very easy to sleep well at themida because there just isn't any noise at all at night and due to the design of the rondavels, they remain quite dark even at midday. Having learnt from my previous experience where a 3 hours estimated ride turned into an 8 hour epic, we were quite circumspect as to what distance we would do and had mapped out a 32km route with graeme last week. It was just as well, the 32km took us a full four hours to complete which was enough to really feel like one has been on a ride but not so much as to make it start to be an epic.

The ride is shown below in both topography view and profile and is definitely not for the novice mountain bike rider. The logging roads we were on most of the time hadn't been used in quite a while so they were quite difficult to ride on not to mention steep.

At one point you can just make out that we went backward and forth a couple of times trying to find the path that the GPS was leading us on. Blindly following the GPS was quite interesting and a little bit of an adventure because, as we found out last time, something that looks quite innocent on google earth can be quite an obstacle in real life. I could see the hesitation in Jason when we left a perfectly good mountain path to blunder down a very steep pine covered forest slope to emerge a few hundred metres on another, not quite so good, path.

Going down one of the trickier sections I ran the wrong line and a rock stopped my front wheel dead leaving me balancing on the front wheel with my back wheel trying to overtake my front wheel. I'm happy to say that I handled the situation with suitable aplomb and didn't bale like I did later. We didn't see a single person for almost the entire ride and it was only on the last climb that we happened upon a gang of tree pruners and it was right in front of them that I chose to fall off, much to their mirth. Two whities cycling in the middle of nowhere and one of them falls off. Much mirth!

Jason and I in some of the indigenous forest we cycled through, it was fabulous and quite a bit cooler and wetter than similarly positioned pine or gum forests.

Arriving back we spent the afternoon relaxing and sleeping. I woke up at about 16:00 while Caron continued to sleep and spent a very enjoyable 2 hours reading and watching a wild horse have a dust bath in the distance. I really could end every day like this!

We had decided to go down into pilgrims rest for supper expecting there to be numerous restaurants open but there was actually only the hotel which served a buffet for us to choose from. Not bad food but at the price, one felt that one needed to eat an awful lot of food so all the hard work done in the morning was for nothing. The Pilgrims street lights have to be the most eco-friendly in the world - not because pilgrims is particularly environmentally conscious but they are so pathetic that it is not possible for them to actually use any power. I tried an experiment and switched my headlights off and I can truthfully say that I was not able to see anything at all despite the presence of the street lamps.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

While we were riding innocently along ...

Cycling has taken a bit of a back seat of late; I think I overdid it in the run-up to the Sani2C and I've been enjoying being a slacker but it's time to start turning the pedals again. We've never really stopped riding but it's the distance, frequency and intensity that have all gone down several notches.

We've been riding on the road and off the road on alternating weekends which has really been a great was of getting back into it. A couple of weeks ago we did a road ride; it was 4 deg. when we started and 3 hours later when we stopped it was 7 deg. and there was a nasty wind the whole way. I was so cold that I didn't actually warm up the whole day. Thankfully those kinds of rides are the exception rather than the rule.

The next weekend we rode off-road at Northern Farm which is owned by Johannesburg municipality and has something to do with the disposal of processed sewage. Not quite sure what they do with it but I think that they plough it into the fields and then grow crops and breed cows - the point I'm making is that it is a working farm and there's a fair amount of cow dung around. So there we were; barreling down a hill, Jason speaking ten to the dozen as he is wont to do when mid-sentence there is an explosion of hacking, coughing and spluttering from him. A clod of cow-dung had flicked up and landed right at the back of his throat where you put pills so that you can't hack them up. As the coughing and spluttering continued I remarked that he should be thankful that it was only cow-dung at which point he started to look distinctly ill and declare that injections to prevent typhoid, dipthoid and any other kind of oid was going to happen as soon as he got home. Of course I was laughing so much at his antics that I could barely stay on my own bike.

It's now two weeks later and he is still alive and well so I think it was just cow-dung after all!

Of Hips and Femurs

Eish, how life changes! Last thursday my father-in-law was walking around what will be their cottage at Kim's house checking on the progress of the builders when he took a tumble. This is not too unusual but what was unusual was that he broke his hip. It was friday morning before he decided to go to hospital and after a quick diagnosis; a hip replacement was decided as the course of action. These doctors don't hang around these days and by the end of friday the operation was over and a brand new hip installed.

To make things more complicated, they've given notice at the flat that they're renting so they have to have moved house by the end of this month. Clearly father-in-law is not going to be doing an awful lot of moving given that he can barely shuffle along on crutches at the moment.

Every evening he has to have an injection for some reason and all the women are too squeamish so I get to do it. It must be every son-in-law's dream to stick needles into the father-in-law AND get thanked for it.

As a result of the operation, Aldon is recuperating at our house and as a result of that our nice peaceful, serene existence has been eviscerated. Loads of sisters-in-law and their spawn visiting at all sorts of time. Jessie (the psychotic cat) and Caron have taken to hiding in corners to escape the maelstrom.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Afriski Winter 2008

Carl, Kirsten, Caron and I purchased a ski chalet last year in the Lesotho mountains so that we could have a short ski holiday without the expense and time required to go overseas. Although technically true, saying that we own a ski chalet doesn't quite describe it adequately at all. What we actually own is 1/26 of a chalet (4%) so the reality isn't quite as grand as it sounds.

Getting to the ski resort we have to pass over the Moteng pass which is over 3000m above sea level and can be very icy and treacherous so, in lieu of snow tires which would be impossible to obtain in SA, both carl and I have purchased sets of snow chains. It looks really funny putting chains on a 3 series but if we need to use them them we're going to really need them.

Carl wasn't able to ski due to his shoulder operation a couple of months ago but I think that a little missing out now will be much better than taking the chance of damaging his shoulder again. Still, it couldn't have been easy watching the rest of us kit up every day and bugger off to the slopes while he was left to his own devices or worse, left with sick children as happened the one day.

In between the frenetic activity on the slopes there was time to relax in the sunshine, indoors of course, and read a couple of novels. We were there for a full 5 days which sounds a lot given the size of the one and only slope pictured below but it goes quite quickly and the slope is actually perfect for learning or working on one's skiing technique.

I think that both the slope for learning on and the instructors were significantly better than we have experienced in europe. The one instructor in particular whose name was rudi from pitztal was particularly amazing both in how he skied and how he taught. Methinks pitztal is going to feature somewhere in my future travel plans.

Taking lessons turned out to be a great idea because we (kirsten and I) were just about the only ones taking intermediate or advanced lessons so we had individual tuition at the price of group lessons. When I was talking to moritz, the other instructor I had, he said that skiing was just such a new sport in SA that almost everyone was a beginner and most people were just happy to leave it at being able to get down a slope safely. Learning how to ski properly will come but at the moment there aren't that many people going the extra step.

Of course, as with any holiday, there has to be some irritating twit that spoils it and mine was an older, grey haired guy on 2' skis that kept on queue jumping. He didn't appreciate it when I pointed his behaviour out in front of the entire queue and tried to edge closer to intimidate me (I guess) because he was plenty close enough to spar verbally.

All in all; a really enjoyable way to spend a week. Work feels so far away when one is skiing.

Back in the Saddle

Although Jason and I haven't actually stopped riding, the frequency and intensity have gone down to about a 1 out of 10 which has been quite pleasant but the time has come, as they say, to pick it up again. Sunday we did a 70km route which was great albeit exhausting. When we started the ride it was 4.5 deg C but I thought it would warm up quite quickly so I was riding in shorts, my concession to the cold being a windbreaker and some newspaper and long fingered gloves. When we finished the ride three hours later it was 7 deg C which is not a whole lot warmer and I spent the entire day chilled but not quite frozen. It was great being on the bike again in the winter sunshine riding past the lionesses and their cubs and helping some other cyclists who didn't have multi-tools to fix their own bikes.

It was shortly afterwards that I was following one of the previously broken cyclists around a corner and as I was thinking that this was too fast around the corner, his front wheel slipped and he went tip over arse over kettle with me braking hard to avoid riding into him. No damage other than some nasty road rash and some bruising that'll remind him not to take corners that fast for a week or two.

We finished the ride at cycle lab and I was very thankful that I didn't have to ride the extra 10km home. I'm sure my legs will get back into the swing of things quite quickly but at the moment - it's quite exhausting.

We had a very rare family gathering at lunch time at Kirstens place; very rare that all the siblings are in the same town at the same time. Had a very enjoyable lunch with lots of wine before we all settled in to watch some of the tour de france. Carl has obviously become an addict judging from the depression that set in when Kirsten insisted on switching over to watch Wimbledon. Personally, I think she just wanted to watch Rafael Nadal show his biceps off.