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.

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