Friday, October 09, 2009

Out and about in Mpumalanga

I have been alternately looking forward to and dreading this weekend. Looking forward to it because I think it will be a great weekend but very worried about how my knee which has been misbehaving quite a bit lately will stand up to the multi-day abuse.

Thursday rushed by as it always does when one has far too much to do and way too little time to do it in but I finally managed to get around to buying a bike rack which can tilt which means that I will be able to open the back door of the fortuner without taking the bikes off - a major plus! I don't know what I was thinking but for some reason I thought that it would be assembled so it was a bit of surprise when the first thing that fell out of the box was the instructions on how to put it together sooooo ... we were a bit late to pick Carl up and very late to pick Jason up.

As it turned out it didn't really matter and we have a very smooth and uneventfule drive out to Mashishing which, for all you old south africans, is Lydenburg although it was promptly renamed by Hennie to "ama fishing" in honour of the traditional sport practiced in these parts.

We stayed at Malapo Country Lodge which purports to be a 4 star lodge and while it was very nice and comfortable and I really have no complaints at all; 4 stars seems an awful lot for what is essentially self-catering accommodation.

The next morning we were up bright and early to tackle the route shown below; note the altitude climbs and you're just going to have to believe me on this, they're tougher than the graph looks!

Of course we had to have the obligatory group photo while we all looked fresh and cheerful.

It wasn't long before we had our first "incident" of the weekend, the road directly outside of Mashishing isn't great and some moron in an oncoming two ton truck decided to overtake and gave us the choice of becoming roadkill or coward. Jason hung onto the last two inches of tarmac but myself, carl and, I think, hennie took the coward option and bailed off the road and onto the dirt shoulder. Road bikes don't work so well offroad it turns out! Caron, who was following us in the fortuner, was half on and half off the road and although the truck missed her altogether, it was close enough to smash the right hand mirror just from the wind as it went past. I have never seen this before in my life!

We carried on, my knee aching quite a bit, and I kept on aiming for the next 10km to re-assess whether to carry on but it was never quite sore enough to actually give up. Possibly due to the schedule 3 anti-inflamatories that I managed to get hold of. Robbers pass was great but we soon split into two groups, the eager beavers up front (Jason and Carl) and the "I will survive" group of Hennie and myself at the back; far away at the back.

The four of us back together with the pass way down in the distance. The photo lies, it is far down!

Over the top of Robbers pass we went and then we had the exhilarating (73km/hr top speed) downhill all the way into Pilgrims Rest which has so far escaped the fetish for renaming places. We had a brief break at a "creperie" in pilgrims with Carl looking particularly grim although one wouldn't have thought so from his performance on the next hill which was the one out of pilgrims. The start of the hill is really, really steep, so steep that it is difficult to keep the pedals turning even when standing and all I had to say was "only another 10km's of this" to elicit groans of resignation from the congregation. Although the climb out of Pilgrims is steeper it is, mercifully, much shorter and was over quite quickly and then all we had was another great downhill all the way, pretty much, into Graskop where we stopped for the day.

Kirsten was driving out from Johannesburg on her own and only arrived in Graskop after dark so Carl and I went to fetch her from there because finding the silk farm at night wasn't such an easy task. We had supper and retired quite early pretty knackered from the day.

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