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joBerg2c 2011 Stage 9: Jolivet to Scottburgh
I can’t believe that the race is almost at an end! Starting out 8 days previously I was fully of nervous excitement; excited because of the legendary route that lay ahead, full of promise and adventure, and nervous because of the sheer scale of the undertaking. And today it is all over. Damn!
Life's All Downhill
There was a lot of rain in the evening, and on into the early morning. Fortunately the rain has stopped and, according to Farmer Glen, the conditions are all the better for the wash. I am dubious, but hey! Nothing’s gonna stop us now!
Today’s stage is mostly fast roads through the cane fields that are such a landmark of the coastal regions of Natal. (Though they seem to be fast disappearing to make way for housing developments, unfortunately). This is definitely not a day for the technical junkies, although there is a lone, technical climb that will challenge most riders. But more of that later.
Highways & Byways
We start the race with quite some pace and head quickly into the cane fields. It is tricky riding because the cane has done its damndest to grow across the path. And encountering the serrated edges of the long leaves at pace is sore and unpleasant. I try and stay in the middle of the path, dodging the swaying, grasping fingers of the fields. I am not always successful at the dodging…
A highlight of the day is the Vernon Crooke's Nature Reserve, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the reserve is magical. There is always the chance of running into wildlife around the next bend, and this really adds to the excitement. Legend has it that there is a roaming herd of zebra who like to, on occasion, escort riders through the reserve in their own special way.
Secondly, there are three challenging hills to climb, with one being an exquisitely tough challenge! Get that line right everyone!
Then thirdly, it is the first time that you catch a glimpse of the sea. Oh! That is such a sight. It really brings home the fact that this journey is almost at an end.
Climb, Baby! Climb
We leave the reserve through some unspoiled, natural KwaZulu-Natal bush. Its rare beauty leaves me full of regret for the day that they chopped so much of this bush out to make way for the cane. We then make our way back into the cane and towards the last 2 significant climbs for the day, being Baby Heart Rate Hill, and then Big Heart Rate Hill. Baby Heart Rate is not too much trouble and is over quickly. Big Heart Rate Hill is a different matter entirely and seems to go on forever. I dig deep and chase as quickly as I can to the top, as I know that once done it really is all downhill to the finish.
The day finishes with a trek on some single track that culminates in a beach crossing on old conveyor belt. The organisers have added some excitement by building a scaffold bridge across the small estuary that enters the sea here.
And all of a sudden we are done. We have travelled around 930 kilometres, making friends along the way and being spoiled by splendid scenes of the countryside that few will ever get to enjoy. I can’t believe that it is all over. I am both elated and terribly sad. My immediate thoughts revolve around how I can get back next year to undertake the adventure that is the joBerg2c all over again. I will be more prepared I am sure, but I am also certain that the adventure will be just as special a second time around. And a third. And; well lets just take this one at a time.
All I can say is that the organisers have done a brilliant job of creating an unforgettable race. I wish them all the best for the years to come and, who knows, maybe they will invent a new adventure sometime in the future that will both test and nourish the spirits of city-bound mountain bikers like myself.