Today saw the arrival of the first riders in Rhodes, with most of Batch 1 reaching their final destination. The first arrivals were Nigel and Kevin, followed a while later by Roger, Dominic and Keith. For all except Nigel, this was their maiden voyage down the trail, so although fatigued, they were in high spirits when they crossed the finish line. Later in the afternoon, Graham and Sarah arrived, after a more relaxed trip through from Vuvu.
Behind them were the Batch 2 heading to Vuvu: the RTR riders - Mark, Tony, Andrew, Greg, Marius and Johann, together with their RASA companions - Phillip, Cassandra and Andrew W. have ridden together since day 1 and continued that way again today. Conditions out on the route were really good and they enjoyed clear skies, sunshine and great mountain views today. They were joined a bit later by Leon Kruger, who also rode through from Malekgolonyane - he had a bit of fun coming into Tinana via the ‘tiger line’ - something he hadn’t tried before but pulled it off with out any problems.
Batch 3 rode from Masakala to Malekgolonyane today, enjoying the crisp, clear conditions across the Queen’s Mercy floodplains. The group of Chris, Mark, Sarah and Mandy have ridden well together while still taking the time to stop for photos along the way. Trailing them by a few hours were the rookies David and Robert, they’ve been going along steadily and are having a really good first ride. All of them arrived with enough time to go back out and pre-ride a section of tomorrow’s route known as ‘riding the loop’ - solving the tricky navigation in daylight rather than possibly getting stuck in the pre-dawn darkness tomorrow. Joining this group tonight was Trevor (Batch 4), who started his day at Glen Edward today. He rode with Angela to Masakala before carrying on to Malekgolonyane - managing to get down off the tricky Mparane ridge just before sunset - another good day out on the trail for him.
Masakala is a busy place tonight, with riders from various batches meeting up at the support station - this often happens when faster riders jump ahead or slower and struggling riders fall back on their riding schedules. Angela stopped there today to rest up her injured knee - she is making good progress after struggling for the last few days and is in good spirits for the next section tomorrow. Also there tonight is Wikus, who rode through from Ntsikeni - a solid day’s riding for him after taking it easy on the first two days. The other guests are from Batch 4: Grant, Lance, Bruce, Matt, Graham, Estelle, Phillip and Nick, all of whom had ridden through from Ntsikeni without major incident. Also among them were Clive and Riaan but hey have both withdrawn due to injury and will be making their way to Rhodes by vehicle tomorrow. Not to be forgotten are Arno and Eddie, the two RTR racers from Batch 5 - they arrived by mid afternoon after a virtually non-stop ride from the start in Pietermaritzburg. Their plan was to sleep for a few hours before continuing into the night, with a final push to Rhodes, which they are hoping to reach in around 60 hours.
At Glen Edward tonight is Colin, who started with Arno and Eddie yesterday but pulled up the handbrake at Ntsikeni as he was feeling ill. He had a slow day to Glen Edward and will most likely ride through to Masakala tomorrow where he plans to withdraw.
Ntsikeni is also busy tonight, with the all of the Batch 5 RASA riders staying there, as well as Simon (RTR) - they all made steady progress today and were in by dark but after two long days on the trail with a lot of climbing, will be looking forward to the slightly easier day to Masakala tomorrow.
Batch 6 left the City Hall today and made rapid progress through the morning: Andrew and Rowan had crossed the Umko river by midday and after a quick stop at Allendale, continued on to Centocow, arriving in time for supper. Kobus, Leonard and Pierre were a bit more sedate and arrived at Allendale by mid afternoon, where they are staying tonight.
Back in Pietermaritzburg, the final race briefing for Batch 7 has been done and the racing snakes are ready to hit the trail - this batch between them hold 19 finisher’s blankets, compare that to the total of 15 finisher’s blankets for all the other batches together and it becomes clear that there is a wealth of experience about to be unleashed on the trail tomorrow - let the games begin!