Freedom Challenge 2015

Freedom Challenge 2015

Highlights from our first Freedom Challenge in 2015

We initially did the Freedom Challenge as our Honeymoon. It was a bucket list event, and at our wedding Mike had announced our intentions of doing this big and scary thing. After months of preparation and excel spreadsheets, we arrived in Pietermaritzburg feeling well enough prepared, having discovered that getting to the start line is 80% preparation and 20% training.

It was an amazing adventure, we generally had good luck with the weather and no major issues along the way. We came into the gates at Diemersfontein after 19d 11h 30m, with mixed emotions, having spent a tough day in Stettynskloof.

A few days before, we said to ourselves we might do it again one day, maybe in 10 years time, see how the country has changed. At the finish line, we said never again!! Not after those last 2 days. Not a chance! But then the 2016 event happened, and we became avid dot watchers. And as we followed the riders moving across the country, we remembered the details, that had been overridden by the trauma that was Stettynskloof...

  1. Dropping down the steep concrete strips into the Umkomaas, holding on for dear life, seeing our first Freedom Bokkie, and a very hot climb up the Hela Hela
  2. Leaving Allendale in the dark with new friends and eventually arriving at Ntsikeni, with a most spectacular view
  3. Our first morning navigating in the dark by ourselves on the way to Politiquekraal. Crossing the Provincial border into the Eastern Cape at midday
  4. Crossing floodplain to floodplain from Masakala, then not being able to find the way down off Mpharane ridge, until the others caught up
  5. Wasting an hour in the dark out of Malekgolonyane after one too many Zamaleks the night before, and the freezing gale force winds as we neared Vuvu
  6. Snowfall overnight resulting in the detour route up Naude's Nek, and not being able to do Lehana's Pass (one reason to go back). And Mike played in snow for the first time in his life!
  7. A muddy ride to an awesome meal at Chesney Wold, working out what layers of clothing to wear, then picking our way over Spitzkop at dusk to Slaapkranz
  8. Started with a frozen ground, which thawed early on, resulting in super slippery descents. Mike's front brakes failed. Two tricky hike-a-bikes and a time trial from Moordenaarspoort to Kranskop
  9. The coldest start at -8deg made our bottles into slush puppies. The dog at Brosterlea peeing on my backpack. The Stormberg ruins and Emdale Road. Feeling like it was post-apocalyptic South Africa, with so many abandoned farms
  10. Super descent over the Aasvoƫlberg, then dropping down from Middelburg into the Karoo and passing the half way point at Hofmeyer. Arriving at Elandsberg to a delightful menagerie of animals
  11. Climbing over game fences at dawn, with the roars of Lions not far off. Superb Kudu pie at Stuttgart, followed by a challenging climb up Schurfteberg. Mike happy to have brakes again
  12. A long portage down Struishoek and windy conditions on the open road resulted in a grumpy pair. Fascinated to see and meet the racing snakes as they came past us. Super scenery in the game reserves and spoilt to stay at Toekomst
  13. Seeing a variety of game as we passed through Darlington Dam / Addo park early in the morning. Bright red aloes before going through Perdepoort, and a long windy ride to Bucklands
  14. A super challenging and exciting day. Zooming down a very overgrown road into the Osseberg and crossing the Grootrivier countless times. Nasty prickly cactuses, but the views were amazing
  15. Gorgeous morning ride through the Baviaanskloof, seeing Buffalo along the way. A long day to Willowmore, finishing in the dark at 7pm
  16. It seems like a boring day - long and flat to Prince Albert - but the scenery was spectacular, and being in familiar territory gave an exciting feeling of getting closer to home
  17. Swartberg Pass and Die Hel are always a sight to see, one cannot get enough of those views and rocks. Die Leer was a challenge, but ably overcome, with a haul in the dark to Rouxpos
  18. One of the most amazing days, going through Anysberg and having a Caracal come cuddle up. Montagu was the start of the end - tar, cars and too many people
  19. Some miscalculations meant the day was much longer than anticipated. Not excited to start through Ashton traffic in the dark. A late finish into Trouthaven after our longest day: 173kms
  20. Stettynskloof. It could be a swear word. There were tears, cursing, bikes thrown, some laughter, and very slow progress. Hours of bundu bashing eventually got us out of the kloof, onto Du Toits Kloof Pass, and saw us bombing down to Diemersfontein, where we were met by family and friends, pizza and, most importantly, our Blankets.

Challenge. Met.