The start of day 2 was a pensive one. After a nights rest that can only be described as haphazard to the degree of near insanity, the call was made to not ride up the Swartberg pass, but instead fork out a buffalo each and get dropped at the top, making our way to Ladismith.
On the way up in the car we were asked why didn’t we just take the route through Gamkaskloof, commonly known as De Hel, as it wasn’t that hard, that we would be able to climb Die Leer at the end (an old donkey trail) pretty easily, without getting permission, and that it was only a small way from the top of Die Leer to Seweweekspoort, another lengendary pass.
We made the decision to take the shorter route, about 50km shorter, as Gringo was still a bit man down from Day 1 with his tummy.
The first 15km were amazing, covered quite quickly, until we hit an unexpected pass on the day, the Gamkaskloof Pass, which was gorgeous, stark and didn’t even give a hint of the extreme nature the day would take on a little later.
I did a quick interview on the pass, catch it here.
Over the pass, we headed down the Snake, as its known, which was the most rutted, beautiful piece of road I had ever seen. Simply breathtaking.
We wizzed down the hill into De Hel and opted for an early lunch, consisting of a toasted sarmie, with a coke, on the cash we had left. Its quite tough to find a spot to draw cash in the Klein Karoo, and nobody takes cards, so we put our cash together (not knowing how long the day would get) and went all in. Nom nom.
When we asked which way it was to Die Leer we had news that we needed permission, and that the path would be too difficult to get over with the bikes.
Not great news when you`ve just covered 50km into a valley which only has one road out, so we opted to head to the Cape Nature office, 6km away, and go see what we could organize.
The lady in the office was 100% certain we would not get permission, as the entire family were there, and their pools overlook Die Leer. Linda Zaayman, apparently, is a tough cookie to deal with. Somehow, we struck pot luck and caught her on a good day. We had the combination for the gate, and off we went, in search of the ladder.
People everywhere were warning us, but you know, we`re boooooaaaytjies, and how hard can it possibly be.
By the time we got to the river, we were again toast, and set up an impromptu camp which involved speedos and sitting in the river sharing a packet of chips and pouring water over ourselves constantly.
Gringo’s stomach looked distended and I was seriously concerned about him. We saw a road, and were about to go up it when we saw the farm chief and asked him where this “Ladder” was. He pointed us between 2 trees over the river. A collective “where” erupted from the 3 of us. He pointed at it, and trailed his finger up the vertical mountain in front of us.
There was silence, and I am sure I heard a whimper.
His words were not calming us at all. “No man, its 1000m vertical ascent in 2km. Disassemble your bikes, as its quite narrow. I hope you have other shoes”
O U T S T A N D I N G
I cannot describe the heat, the slope, the loose rocks, the sharp corners, the pain of the bike continuously carving into your back, and flies in your eyes, or the sense that you have bitten off more than you could chew quite well enough. TheHousemate was cruising up the hill with myself following, heels now welting with 2 blisters the size of R5 coins, and Gringo (who tore muscles in his neck 3 weeks earlier) hobbeling up the hill. I could hear him asking himself big questions and was going ahead, then waiting for him, repeating this task until we go to the top, 1 hour 18 minutes later, now with 1 water bottle between the 3 of us, and no idea how far we had to go.
We re-assembled the bikes, and headed off, Gringo keeping the juice as he was most in need of it. We soon realized it might be a long way, as the GPS was showing very little, and the road looked like it had not been ridden in about 10 years.
Desperate for water, we TheHousemate and myself were considering options as we waited for our compatriot, who was in inexplicable variations of ordeal by this point of the day.
The second animal trough we came across had water in it. There were bugs in the water. Had it not been at least an hour in 35 degree heat since we had a drink, we may have skipped it. We pushed the bugs away and consumed litres of the dodgy water, having a laugh (read: nervous laugh) about the situation we were in.
Our first puncture for the trip came about 10min later, just as we could see the tar road for the first time. It took a while, being dehydrated and slightly delirious at this point, for Gringo to get it fixed.
We stopped at a farm and stood in someones garden, taking on more water. By this point very little would have diverted us from our water missions. We were properly in the red.
Down the forever stretching Seweweekspoort pass and we made the call to find out how far, and more importantly at a T-Junction, which way we had to go. TheHousemate estimated with the GPS we had 5km to go, but after the call we realized it was more like 50km, so we made the call to be picked up in Ladismith, 25km away.
We scoured our backpacks and bought a 500ml coke to share at a spaza shop along the way, but all ended up riding our own pace at this point, each of us in a state of disarray. I found some latent form and got my best rhythm of the trip at this point – something I hope will resurface at Cape Epic in a few months.
There was little talking until dinner was in our tummies and personal hygiene, manners and etiquette were of inconsequential by now.
10 hours out there in a day was rough, our average speed almost half of the day before at points, and Die Leer, De Hel and De Animaltrough were all laughed about before we slept like the dead, all in bed by about 9pm.
A truly Epic day, one that will never be forgotten by anyone.