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Happy Birthday Meryl

Hi Meryl. In Allendale at 16h00. Broken. Staying”. For most riders on the Freedom Trail, this may be the first of the many mandatory update messages they send to Meryl along their journey.

It’s Meryl’s birthday today and she got more tweets than the riders, which says something about Meryl and justifies a bit of a tribute. For those who do not know Meryl, she is the heart of the Freedom Challenge, Ms Race Office and an angel for all the riders. Nothing is ever too much for her no matter what the time of day and she makes every rider feel like he or she is the only one out there. She has coached fallen warriors back onto their feet and has witnessed her share of trials and tribulations over the years. Meryl owns a bit of every blanket, whip, windmill and gate earned on the Freedom Trail.

Happy birthday Meryl. All the riders wish you many more years as our “Trail Angel”.

The Battle of Stetteynskloof

 “The Kloof” hosted no fewer than seven visitors today, all leaving from Trouthaven in the early hours. Six of them headed up the normal route while Marnitz Nienaber attempted the lesser used route up the high left ridge, providing a nice benchmark for others to use in future. He took a bit longer but will be sure to share his views on his blog in coming days.

All seven arrived at Diemersfontein during the afternoon to earn their well-deserved finisher’s blankets. Tim James in 13 days (7th blanket), Marnitz Nienaber in 14 days (7th blanket) and his best ever finish time, Mike Potgieter in 14 days (2nd blanket). Gavin Robinson (2nd), Bugs Du Toit (2nd) and Andrew Ryan (1st) all finished in 18 days with Gerard Dreyer (1st) in 20 days. The pizza and wine will be finished tonight long before the trail stories run out.

At Trouthaven the next batch of challengers are lined up tonight for their final battle and finish tomorrow. Kevin Meier, Francois du Toit and Dirk Botha left Montagu this morning for the 150km ride to Trouthaven and sadly had to say goodbye to Derrick Bingham who had to withdraw due an injured Achilles. Derrick messaged “Will be back next year to collect my blanket”. There will be a few nerves tonight but they have worked hard to get to this point and nothing will stop their advance to Diemersfontein tomorrow.

Alex March and Gary Preston of Batch 3 left Anysberg heading for McGregor today and after getting stuck n Montagu for a bit, made their way through to Pony Cottage this afternoon. They were joined later by Sean Privett, Andy Wonnacott and Estelle Labuschagne who also rode through from Anysberg today. En route early evening to join them is Ingrid Avidon who left Rouxpos this morning and caused her supporters’ a few anxious moments when she missed a left turn and headed off towards Laingsburg. Given the sense of humour she has shown over the past two weeks it would not come as a surprise if she did this on purpose. The McGregor crowd have a comfortable 108km ride left to Trouthaven tomorrow to position for a Wednesday finish.

Shane Little is making the most of his adventure and while many others are driving for home, he is taking life on the trail one day at a time enjoying the sights, scenes and hospitality along the way. Shane is at Montagu tonight together with brothers Nigel and Adrian Payne and team member George Oertel who have ridden a very consistent and comfortable schedule on their appreciation tour. Johnny Anderton of Batch 2 rode from Anysberg this morning and is resting up for his final push. He may well be tempted to join Shane and slow tour their way to Diemersfontein. Also there tonight are Leon Kruger and Mike Nixon who left Anysberg this morning after splitting from Ingrid who has chosen to enjoy some solitude over the final three days of her adventure.

Ray Sephton, Jan van der Putte, Shaun Tischendorf, Brad van der Westhuizen, Trevor Elliot and Greg Simmons left Gamkaskloof this morning for Anysberg and after climbing up Die Leer, enjoyed some waffles at Rouxpos before the six of them hunkered down at Anysberg. They are unlikely to do the 231km to Trouthaven in one go tomorrow, so will probably head for McGregor (123km) and do the stretch to Trouthaven (108km) on Wednesday, setting up for a Thursday finish.

Brothers Anton and Adam Wood, fellow farmer Bruce McQueen and the Talbot family have for several days now kept a solid rear guard to the 2017 event, closing one support station after the other along their way. They left Prince Albert this morning, dropped into Gamkaskloof, cleared Die Leer and have settled into Rouxpos tonight.

Some rainy weather is forecast for the next day or so but hopefully, it won’t affect the riders too much as they head for home. Diemersfontein is waiting.

Carl Scholtz (Statistician, Windmill, Whip and Gate Owner)


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