Climbing the hypotenuse for 105km

Day 8, 15 April, 110km

The co-writer of this blog is a maths teacher so there is only one way to describe today’s ride from Aliwal to Penhoek Pass, our highest point on the tour. It is up the hypotenuse for about 105Km and then a 5km freefall down to our overnight stay at Hazelmere farm.

The start to the day was a very quiet one with not many words spoken. The cold and the wind were not our friends today. Breakfast on the side of the road was most welcome after a very mean hill. We have one more short day into Queenstown to go. We have gone through some amazing scenery to remind us of the beautiful country we live in. The people hosting us along the route epitomise the saying “n boer maak n plan”. The koeksisters were a blessing – thank you to Johnny and Karen Jelinek for providing them. Penhoek Pass was extremely tough for most of us. With the wind and the incredible amount of road works and traffic, it was a nerve-wrecking experience for all.

The farmers in the area are beacons of hope in many areas where decay is obvious, but we were reminded of how tough and resilient the farmers along the route must be. The lambs have better security fencing than the farmhouses! The veld is in beautiful condition, but in many areas the rain came too late. Dead sunflower and mealie fields aplenty. No bail outs on offer for these hardy farming entrepreneurs. They ultimately compete in the global market without having the protection of many of their counterparts in affluent countries. Tough, but open and friendly people. It must take 30 years from birth to develop a competent farmer in this part of the world. They must be worth their weight in gold.

We cycled with a very interesting, entertaining and energetic bunch of cyclists and very special and amusing support crew and videographry professionals. Entrepreneurs and corporate types, speaking English, Afrikaans and Xhosa; fourteen guys, three ladies (and that is exactly what they are). The youngest person on tour is 28; the oldest 72. Very interesting to hear the 28 year old and a 68 year old discussing their mutual love of rock group Metallica and discovering they were both at the same Metallica concert many years ago. All but three of the seventeen are seasoned cyclists. Special mention needs to be made of these three. With very limited cycling experience these three brave souls set out on this journey. The first day at 140Km was almost three times the distance of their longest previous ride.

Most importantly though mention has to be made of the two special guys who are riding to their 50th reunion. Without Tony Frost this annual event would never have happened. He has had a long and distinguished corporate executive career, author, pilot, consultant and it is something special to see this athlete with national colours chasing down the front pack of riders many years his junior. Rodger Webb is the other cyclist attending his 50th reunion this weekend in Queenstown. Metallica nut, sailor, car collector, runner of many marathons, grandfather, retired after a long corporate career as an executive. He has had both knees replaced, heart bypass and major back surgery but he can still cycle every inch of the way at a solid pace. These two guys are the real stars of the show.

This has been a great bunch of people to get to know, we have cycled through beautiful scenery and the whole tour has been well-hosted and organised. Thankyou so much Jen “the Admiral” Wilson for all you did to make this tour such a success.

And thanks Frik (Peter Bolze) – you were a fantastic roomie on the tour.

Who says you can’t have fun while doing something really worthwhile?

Leon (J) and Shelly

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