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joBerg2c 2011 Day 6: Kamberg to Underberg
Slugging it out
After the tough day yesterday things get off to a bit of a sluggish start. The Glengarry resort suffers from the same sprawling layout problem as Winterton, and the starting area is some distance from the tented village. Time awareness is crucial as the distance means that the announcers cannot be heard from the village at all. Also, once again, our mechanic is at the opposite end of the site.
The starting line is a subdued affair as there is a thick mist in the area. This gives Glengarry a magical feel, especially with all of the autumn hues, and I am expecting fairies and elves to be cheering us away from the start line.
Of Challenges Ahead and Detours Around
Day 6 holds forth real challenges as riders encounter the mountains of KwaZulu-Natal. The first half of the race follows 50km of district road, with the Drakensberg Mountains watching over their foothills. We are in the Loteni area, following the Loteni road, and this is an especially lovely part of the Drakensberg. But not for cars, and due to the poor condition of the Loteni road spectators and supporters are required to take a long detour back to the N3 and then back across to Underberg.
Catch the Bus
The faster riders head out in groups and make short work of the initial sections of the ride. ‘The Giant’ recedes and the riders progress towards the first big climb of the day, a winding section of district road that summits at Snow Top Farm, the highest point on the route at 1864m above sea level. For their efforts riders are rewarded with a 12km downhill, after which the route crosses the beautiful Bushmans River. Unfortunately, the downhill is not ‘All Clear’ and some oxen have wandered onto the road. At the speeds that are likely down this hill this poses a real problem and has organisers scrambling into vehicles and racing down to shepherd riders around these wayward beasts.
Entering the "Valley of Death"
The day’s real challenge lies beyond the Bushmans River crossing. This second climb is a brutal, technical affair on an ancient, broken and mostly forgotten road. It has been aptly name the "Valley of Death", though the day is. A small village has been established at the foot of the climb and this provides a ready source of mystified onlookers and cheerful supporters. Unfortunately the cheers run out all too quickly and then only the silent, serene hill is witness to the uphill toil of the riders passing by.
It is actually great riding. The challenge of getting to the top, choosing ones line carefully through the varied obstacles, having the strength to power over difficult sections, and having enough endurance to keep going up all 8km of beastly hill is fantastic, and actually acomplishing the feat leaves a warm afterglow. Mainly in tired legs.
More to Come
Completing this climb does not signal the end to the days work. The route progresses through pine forest sections and ends on typical ‘Berg ‘roads’ that traverse the rolling KwaZulu-Natal hills. There is the occasional reward of a downhill, some fairly technical stuff, but mostly the route tracks higher. As weariness sets in towards the closing kilometres of the ride the route presents a set of testing, technical climbs that are short and sharp and very eroded. Nasty! In the inaugural event Farmer Glen bet the farm on his belief that none would conquer the last of these challenges. Unfortunately 3 did, but being sports (and not farmers) the farm was safe.
This is certainly one of the tougher days on the route, and it is a great relief to finally reach Hazeldene Farm, the venue for the overnight stop. The race village is set amongst some towering Plain Trees (I think) and is quite lovely.
At the end of this stage I was in agony due to Achilles tendons that were very grumpy about the workload. I found myself in the Medics tent, queuing to get a Voltaran shot and whilst waiting struck up conversation with the medic. It seems that the delay is due to one of the riders having a huge gash in their palm stitched up. He apparently slipped in the showers and cut his hand saving himself from a fall in the narrow cubicle. The wound means that he is likely to miss the remaining days of the race. What a pity and what a horrible way to go out of the event after so many miles of tricky, treacherous, hazardous and down right technical riding!
Once again the school children have been busy and their art decorates the walls of the cafeteria. I can’t wait to hit the sack and wolf my dinner of beef stew down so that I can get a head start on sleeping.
For more information on this wonderful ride check out the joBerg2c organisers website.