Slow Riding - Amathole Adventure
After the game supper was served and that really filled a spot.…and now it’s time to hit the sack……gonna sleep well tonight!
Day 2 - Monday 29th April
Thomas River via Gubu Dam, Keiskammahoek to Cata - 60km
Was up early – wanted to sniff the breeze, walk a bit and loosen the legs before hitting the saddle for today’s stretch. Had breakfast, dumped our bags on the luggage van and hit the track as the sun tipped the tops of the gum trees on the roadside. We soon got back into the rhythm and rode on over cattle grids and past fields of sheep to the gate of Ailsa farm. Here we had a change of pace – single track through the grass field camps, a scramble over the rocks of the narrow river crossing – a 6km stretch of off-road riding that demanded our attention, or it would be a case of up and over and off. Lots of photo stops as the path turned and wandered across the landscape on and up to the base of Mount Thomas. We stopped to admire the view of the Gubu Dam over the treetops of the Kologha Forest Reserve and then gingerly tackled the 800 meter drop down the firebreak to the forestry road that brought us to the refreshment tables set up in the shade on the side of the road at the entrance gate to the Gubu Dam. Some of the riders decided to go in to have a look, but we decided to carry on.
Riding a road is to really see the road – a kaleidoscope of colours, smells and sounds. The “ups” are where you catch up with new friends, or they catch up with you – where you strike up a conversation with people you have never met – it’s instant and easy – and it’s a memory that will last forever.
Cata is a wow! Cata Guides welcomed us at the Museum, and helped arrange our shuttle rides up to our overnight accommodation. Our tent camp has been set up right at the top, in the grassed lapa area overlooking a beautiful crescent valley and the village below. We dumped our gear in our tent on our camper beds, showered (lots of hot water from the solar heating system) and set off to look around. Cata was the site of brutal apartheid-era forced removals in the 1960’s. Today it is a thriving model of integrated community-driven development which includes an agricultural co-operative, forestry, nature and bird projects and a modern rural tourism offering.
Drum beats called us back and we headed for the covered lapa area. A braai for supper and an evening of drumming, dancing and fireside fun with our new friends. And then, later, we just sat and looked at the stars.
Day 3 - Tuesday 30th April
Cata to Hogsback – 56km
The last day of our ride. Didn’t want to leave. Will have to come back and spend more time here. There is so much to do….. It was sad to ride out of the village, but soon the fresh clean air put a rosy glow on the cheeks. The enormous grassy slope of the Cata Dam wall was now on our left as we pedalled n our way, saving our energy for the last haul - the climb back up to Hogsback. Through Keiskammahoek and on to the Sandile Dam road that runs over the top of the dam wall. What a sight – the water of the Sandile Dam winds around hilly outcrops in a series of s-bends and it gleams and glistens where it lies in the deep ravines of the Wolf River Valley.
Then it was time to climb. It doesn’t matter whether you are a doctor, a mechanic, an ex-accountant, or a teacher – what matters is whether you have a granny gear, whether the wind is behind you, and whether it’s time to walk! A lift over the worst of the gradient on one of the support vehicles that have followed us on our ride was tempting, but, after a rest next to the road, re-energized by a piece of chocolate, we got back on our bikes, and made it over the steepest part.
The route carried on up under the canopy of the indigenous forest, and we could hear the shout of the loeries, the gurgle of the little streams that clattered under the ferns, and the chirrup of the monkeys as they watched us from their tree highways.
And then we left the forest behind and rode up and over the crest – the Hogsback Mountains – Hog 1,2 and 3 on our right. Onwards and upwards into the Hogsback Village to rest and recover before leaving the magic. It’s the end of our ride. It’s the end of our adventure.
But we are hooked, and back at work, we can’t wait to tell people that we pedalled 200km through the Amathola Mountains….that we visited places and people that we will remember forever.