Slow Riding - Amathole Adventure
something new.” (83 kms off road effort wise is pretty close to double that distance when cycled on tar). After dinner, a little bit of TLC for cramping legs and sore eyes was efficiently handled by our Hobbiton First Aid support team members – Nell and Tonya had it waxed. And then the pain management maestro – Tony Moody - got busy on the stiff necks and sore arms. Everyone was abed by 8:30pm. Even the bullterrier Zsa Zsa’s snoring didn’t keep us awake for long.
Ride Day 2
Next morning a quieter group of SlowRiders contemplated the day’s route. (Overheard before the start – “Can I please just have a new body!”) But things soon warmed up - being “chased down” - watching the riders closing up on the bakkie tailgate in the rearview mirror on a twisty piece of farm road - a bunch of cyclists cruising at 80km and riding hard was a rather different driving experience! SlowRiders se voet! A rest and regroup - and after some more of Tony’s pain maestro magic, saw the riders start out on the single track grass field section over Ailsa Farm. BMX big bunny hops over the drainage swales was the best fun for the stronger, and younger riders. The others took the slower more elegant approach, until a combination of slippery grass, a steep slope and wet tyres and not enough forward motion, saw a slow muddle of arms and legs lying in a patch of thick grass on the side of the track. Lots of laughing - and on they went, up and up to the base of Mount Thomas, thru’ the gate of Ailsa Farm perimeter electric fence (thank you Charlie for having one of your farm employees waiting for us on a tractor to unlock the gate), and over a section of the Amathole Hiking Trail. The view over the top of the Khubusi Forest Reserve towards Gubu Dam was spectacular.
Then it was time to get serious – riders were warned to take it slow down the fire break – (overheard later –“I was terrified – my hands were sweating on the brakes!”) but all including the bakkies safely reached the bottom of the descent. We missed the turn at the bottom – and chasing a bunch of riders who were swooping along the forest trail, took us 5kms further on the wrong road. But no sweat, bikes and riders were jumped on to the back of the support vehicles, a forestry truck was found, directions were asked, and we were back on the right road in a jiffy. Lunch was eaten lying on the grass at Gubu Dam – and Zsa Zsa the bullterrier kept us all entertained swimming after a ball, pine cones and anything else that floated. The 8km descent into Keiskammahoek was a speedway event – which was soon forgotten – (overheard “Huh! Is this what is meant by a ‘bit’ of a slow climb to Cata”) on the one of the two tough climbs up to Cata. Our arrival was announced by an outrider vehicle waiting for us on the side of the road, and the ululations began as we hit the Cata Village streets. The Cata Chalets are at the top of a long vertical climb – tackled by our 3 climbers - who took the view that if it was drivable, then it was ride able! (On a previous visit our little car couldn’t make it all the way up and some of passengers had to get out and walk!) Our 12 year old lowRider amazed all the local children, adults and all of our SlowRiding participants, as he pulled all the way to the top. What a heroic effort! A rolling wave of children, hand clapping and song carried them up and over into the Cata Chalet precinct. And then it was more singing and dancing to the steady beat of a drum, and hugging and hello’s – WOW! Showers with lots and lots of hot water from the solar powered supply, lovely comfy rooms with sparkling white sheets and duvets on our beds, and a scrumptious inner around the fire made us all feel that we had arrived in heaven! Zanele of BRC welcomed the SlowRiders and so did the Community Property Association epresentatives. It was lovely to see Nokuthela and Pumeza and Luthando, our old Hogsback Guides, who are now involved in the Cata local community affairs and manage he Cata Tourist Chalets and the Cata Tourism Products as a part of their responsibilities in the Cata Community. Cata is a very special place, and all of our SlowRiders are anting to come back and spend time exploring the Cata forest walks, birding routes and mountain bike trails. And of course part of the fun is visiting in the local community.
Ride Day 3
Day 3 dawned hot and clear – and all our SlowRiders were strong! A visit to the Cata Museum and Community Hall was first up on the agenda. Goodbyes were said, and hen we were on our way back to Hogsback – the much feared Wolfridge Road upride was the program for the day. And how easy-peasy that turned out to be – Slowly and teadily the SlowRiders climbed up and up, an ascent of over 600m from the Sandile Dam to Hogsback. A picnic lunch in the forest, the last haul up to the top and the swoop past Robinson Dam, and then the last bit up past Hobbiton, and at Woodlands - the finish line – a 200km SlowRide in 3 days on hitting the tar at the top of Wolfridge Road. At the top - Roadway to Heaven Hey - can we ride here anytime?
Easy Peasy and the question asked by every one of the participants?
When is the next SlowRide going to happen, and where is it going?
We are already working on that – so watch this space.
With grateful thanks to all who helped make this dream come true – (and if I have forgotten a name – please do feel free to contact me so we can fix that asap – Alex)
• Elsa and Josef Steyn – Hogsback accommodation coordination.
• Claire Durow – logo design and T-shirt graphics.
• Elloise and Tarryn at the VIC, the CTO, and others who helped publicize the Tour.
• Neels du Toit of Cycle Roots, who helped with sponsorships and publicity photographs.
• James and Diane Holmes who helped with the route reconnaissance.
• Tonya and Nell – Hobbiton First Aid and a part of the rider support teams.
• James Holmes and Tony Moody (the pain management maestro) - rider support.
• Andrew Reilly – Thomas River Conservancy route planning.
• Charlie and Nadine Shone who opened their farm, Ailsa for the SlowRiders.
• Francois Spargs and Harold Magashula of AFC who arranged permits and indemnities that allowed us to ride the Khubusi Forest Reserve firebreak and trail to Gubu Dam.
• Zanele Semane of Border Rural Committee – who was a key initiator – a year ago in May 2012, asking the question “How do we get more people to visit our Rural Tourism
Destinations?” and who then helped coordinate our visit with the Cata Community.
• Boniswa – Cata CPA Administrator – Cata Accommodation and Catering and everything else coordinator.
• The Cata Guides, the Cata School Teachers and Children, and the Cata Catering Team – who all made us feel welcome, very at home and truly spoilt us.
• Cycle Torque East London – Sponsorship - Bicycle maintenance and emergency repair kit – and SlowRider gifts and prizes – thank you Jeff.
• Helen Crooks Editor – My Weekend – supplement to the Weekend Post. The most amazing editorial support and help in getting it out there.
• Riaan van der Walt Editor – Somerset Budget Group of Local Newspapers – PR and lovely articles in our Eastern Cape Community newspapers – you have done it again for us.
• Colleen Durant – ECTOUR - thank you for all the support at the Cape Getaway Show, and for linking us up on the electronic tourism publications and gateways.
• Jo Ann Jaftha – Copyworld East London – organizing the T-shirt printing in 2 days flat.
• And finally the Johannesburg Electronic Media Magicians - whose work to set up our communications platform, and whose continuing support, unflagging humor and brilliant suggestions, have made SlowRiding Country Cycling Adventures a fantastic reality.
• Bradley Hales - for the high speed website architecture, development, system implementations and feedback integration and total brain support.
• Mandy Morgan – for the social media setup and ongoing support on facebook and twitter – and for her unflagging encouragement, bright ideas and friendship.
• And last but not least – To our brave SlowRiders, who made the leap of faith and joined Tour No. 1.
(Overheard – “Thank you – I didn’t know I could do something like this” – “After this the bread is gone – got to lose this (punching the tummy) – I will be speaking with the wife!” and “Wonder whether there’ll be a next one?”)
“We can only evolve personally when we place ourselves in chaotic territory – the unknown – that tests our bodies and our natural inhibitions” (SN – the Warrior Princess)