13 June - the wheels keep turning

Another day on the trail, another start batch and more finishers in Rhodes.

The batch that left PMB today had some strong RASA and RTR riders with most of these guys having some experience of the route up to Rhodes - despite this, there was a slight nav hiccup going through Thorny Hill farm early on but maybe that was just due to the excitement of finally being on the trail. Their route knowledge was evident from the clean lines through the Umko Valley and with the exception of Mike Devereux, all crossed the river. They arrived at Allendale mid-afternoon and opted to stay. Mike Devereux fell off the pace early on but had a steady day of solo riding and arrived at Allendale in time for supper.

Mr Ngobo at Ntsikeni will be in his element tonight with an audience of 9 riders to listen to his legendary storytelling. Brad, Nicky and Nick, together with Joyce, Pierre, Gaeren and Paul as well as the Talbots, Mike and Ingrid all reached Ntsikeni with daylight to spare - a good effort on such a hard day. There’s some tricky navigation waiting for them on their way to Glen Edward but with experience in the group (Pierre is a Blanket Wearer), they have every chance of getting to Glen Edward for mid morning soup. Then its on to Masakala for night three.

Mike Ward and Andrew Hunt have been going along nicely - they left their group yesterday when they went through to Centocow for the night and stayed ahead by pushing through to Glen Edward today. They should have their sights set on Malekholonyane for tomorrow, which would put them a full day ahead of schedule on the way to Rhodes. Solid navigation and steady riding are the order of the day for these two.

Masakala saw plenty of action today - first there was the broken bike and time penalty for Gary Preston, he had to sit until 13h00 before leaving due to taking a replacement bike. The award for sportsmanship for today goes to Lee Fuller who opted to stay with Gary. Also there was Dave Gace, who took the chance to rest up today. After the bike switch, they left at 13h05, now chasing hard to get over Mpharane ridge before dark. Only five minutes out and Dave turned back, still struggling, so he stays in Masakala tonight. Joining him later were Gary Green, Kemsley Wood and Andrew Green. They made it comfortably in by mid afternoon. Following not too far behind were Beat and Liehann - the latter being quite chuffed to settle an old score getting out of Ntsikeni cleanly - good nav all day from these two. Also at Masakala are the PTA boys, Willie, Gerrit and Fanus - these guys are pretty solid, they make steady progress every day and if they happen to stray from the intended route, they self correct pretty quickly.

Getting back to Lee and GaryP - they hightailed it out of Masakala just after 13h00 and made haste in the direction of Malekholonyane. What would normally be a leisurely day, even a rest day for most, suddenly became a dash to get up and down Mpharane Ridge before The Dark. Well they made it, slicing crisp, clean tracks through the floodplains on the approach and scuttling off the ridge at last light. So that ends the broken bike saga for Gary Preston - hopefully he repays Lee in koeksisters.

Dave Telford’s day was spoiled by a broken seat post but he pressed on regardless. Turns out that the seat post on Gary Preston’s broken bike was a match, so he generously agreed to strip it off his bike and take it through to Malekholonyane for Dave - more koeksister debts to be paid? (No time penalty because nothing was brought in from outside.)

Malekholonyane is also busy tonight - Tracey has been resting up there all day following the unfortunate withdrawal of riding partner John Croasdale - he injured his knee in a fall and is unable to continue. Tracey has a big choice of riding partners for tomorrow: Steve, Ant, Jacques, Stu Brew, Neville, Des and Dane are all there tonight, as well as SS Pierre, who also corrected his earlier out-of-bounds excursion on the floodplains. His Rhodes cutoff is looming, so he’ll have to keep it tidy tomorrow to get to Vuvu.

Up the road at Vuvu tonight are John Loos, Gert, Anton and Tony and Maarten. Arriving at various times but all in daylight, they are sure to get to Rhodes tomorrow. Already in Vuvu before they arrived were Mike Roy and John Bowen. After a night in Setabalaba village, they got up the Vuvu valley without too much drama but the thought of pushing on towards Lehana in the late morning proved too daunting a thought - rather some famous chicken and a cosy bed in Vuvu to build the reserves before taking on the mountain tomorrow. 

Also in Vuvu, albeit briefly, were Arno and Eddie. At a time when most people would be thinking of a shower, food and a warm bed (18h50) these two have decided to take on Lehana, in The Dark…

Neil and Francois started their day at Tinana Mission, got through the Vuvu valley with only a small hiccup and arrived in Vuvu let in the morning. A quick refuel and they were off again - managing to get over Lehana’s just before the light went. After a long day,, they finally arrived in Rhodes just after 9pm, dinner first and then their whips.