Two thoughts consume me today. The first is that RASA only really begins when one leaves Rhodes and the second is how so many navigational mistakes can be avoided.
The art of navigation is precision: Always know where you are on the map at any time and use the tools at your disposal (maps, narrative and compass). So many of the wayward route choices over the past few days and especially today could have been avoided by constant checking against features (rivers, mountains, gullies) and extremely importantly, measuring the distance travelled accurately. The narrative is hugely helpful in this regard but if you don't know where you are on the map, you won't know how far to travel. Knowing where north is, is another imperative.
One hopes that as the race goes on and the navigation becomes somewhat easier, riders will develop the concentration and attention to detail to get them to their destination in the quickest time. For the couch watchers, it will mean the end of schadenfreude.
The first group of RASA riders left Rhodes this morning. It's a strange situation as one leaves behind many of the friends and comrades with whom you've shared a tough week, One can feel anxiety and not a little envy as they put up their feet, job well done. For others, there is impatience to get on with the trip. The group pared down to one or two who face a long arduous journey to Wellington hoping for a blanket. Leading RASA out of Rhodes are Johann Rissik (a staunch supporter of riders as they get close to Prince Albert) accompanied by the Where's Wally group of Ian Verwayen, Alan Haupt and Paul Dalton. Despite the early start they hit Kapokraal portage as it got dark which makes for a very sketchy descent to the farm road which is 10kms from the incredible hospitality of Slaapkrantz. They eventually arrived at 8pm
A mere half day behind are the chasing triplet of Maarten Witters (fat bike), Anton Wood and Gert Peens. They flew into Rhodes just after midday and set off for Chesneywold which sets them up for a very long day as they will probably try and get to Moordenaarspoort if not Kranskop, skipping Slaapkrantz.
John Loos and Tony Roche finished off their R2R and behind them, Mike Roy and John Bowen took the long way around Lehanas but got into Rhodes in time for a late supper. Both of these are going all the way and will have to keep moving at a steady pace to make up for time lost over the week.
There is a big group at Vuvu who will make the assault on Lehana Pass. Only Dane and Des Warden took the classic route out of the valley. The rest...well let's say it was an interesting route choice born out of miscalculating how far they had to go and how many river crossings had to be made. But they are all safely ensconced in the village. Dane and Des have set a fast time to this point in their Race2Rhodes, so it will be interesting to see what time they leave.
It's a relief that they are all there as Jacques Tatersall, Neville Higgs, Gary Preston and Lee Fuller took a major detour after Koareng which used up valuable daylight hours. They heroically caught up with the group in front and joined Ant Jankovich, Pierre Oosthuizen, Stu Brew, Steve Johnston and Tracey Lentin. The group should all make Rhodes comfortably tomorrow and make use of the extra rest time before the RASA guys set off on the next leg. Pierre is the only remaining RASA member of Batch B when Tessa Heese pulled out with chest issues and Rob Alexander, her riding partner, chose to stop as well. Spare a thought for them both as they were only 15km from Rhodes.
Further back down the valley, Gary Green, his brother Andrew Green and Kemsley Wood broke away from their group with a strong ride along Black Fountain to hole up at Tinana Mission. They are hoping to make Rhodes tomorrow as well. Gary is nursing an ailing rear hub which could hamper them but he may be able to find spares in Rhodes - there possibly off the bike of a Race to Rhodes finisher.
Back at Malekolonyane, his companions have settled in and will most likely leave extremely early for Vuvu which seems to be the trend. Liehann Loots, Beat Jegerlehner, Willie Esterhuizen, Gerrit van der Merwe, Fanus Vorster and Dave Gace make up the rest of the group. It should be quite cosy there.
Hopefully there is enough space for RASA riders Andrew Hunt and Mike Ward who are on a mission and arrived in time for supper. They started a day behind this group so are riding very comfortably with only a slight deviation to entertain us through the town of Hebron before Masakala. Andrew has a broken seat post and is hoping to get a replacement in Rhodes.
Hoping to make it across the plains to Queens Mercy tomorrow is another mixed group of RASA and R2R riders. Navigation in this group has been rock solid so there should be no issues for them. At Masakala, near Matatiele, are Joyce Benade, Mike and Ingrid Talbot, Pierre Singery, Brad van der Westhuizen, Nicky Nairn, Nick Taschner, Gaeren Wilkinson and Paul Dumont. This group has stuck together from the beginning and some strong bonds will be forged.
Glen Edward has been busy this year with riders overnighting. Usually a soup stop, a number of riders have made use of the hospitality of Sheila and her husband Charles. Andrew Blackburn, Nick Jordan and Mark Jason and Mike Potgieter had an incredible ride to Ntsikeni forgoing the luxury chalets and pushing on making their serious intentions known.
The other member of this start group going to Wellington is about a day behind having struggled terribly in the forests before Centacow. Mike Devereaux just could not find his way, toing and froing and back tracking to consternation of the tracker watchers. He finally found his way to Centacow where he will lick his wounds and try again tomorrow for Ntsikeni.
The R2R riders of this batch, Steve Kitto, Sean Marsh, John Buchanan and Richard Erasmus are all enjoying Mr Ngcobo's hospitality and warm whistling welcome at Ntsikeni Lodge.
Today's start batch cruised comfortably into Allendale. John Exley, Mike Glover, Nick van Zyl (all RASA), Alan Rainnie, Andy Wonnacott, Mark Smuts and Ian Privett make up this group who had a brief mind lapse losing their way through the farms before reaching Baynesfield but made a good recovery. Nico was later plagued by a bent derailleur hanger which meant he was the last to arrive.
Other riders not mentioned here have unfortunately withdrawn to illness. They are Stephen Kellerman, Jeremy Nel, John Croasdale, Paul Erasmus, Rob Alexander and Tessa Heese. We wish them a speedy recovery.
One final comment: Those leaving Rhodes heading out on the long journey to Wellington - the hospitality you'll encounter is out of this world - enjoy the lamb.
By Blanket Wearer/Whip Bearer/Windmill Keeper Fiona Coward