Day 7, 14 April, 70km, Zastron to Aliwal North
First things first – a big thank you to Mountainview Lodge for the excellent braai at the end of day six. After dinner a group of the tougher cyclists enjoyed an intellectual evening of watching and listening to educational videos led by Andrew Nel. The morning dawned with red sky and a complete internet blackout of the Zastron area, rumour has it that this was arranged by the Vrystaat government to keep concealed the state of the road to Zastron, in particular the swimming pool-size potholes.
The group departed promptly at 8am form Mountainview lodge and gathered for the traditional photo shoot, at the intersection of the Aliwal Wepener road. A group of cyclists set of after Radio Cannondale with DJ Danie and his producer Adele in the back seat, as not to be left behind when the down hills started. Leon was assigned as blog correspondent for the front group and Rodger for the tail gunners.
As the front group neared the top of the climbs they were jostling for positions behind the Gautrain and racing to keep up at speeds of more than 70km/h.
As the ride progressed and the promised down hills materialised a vague smile began to crack the face of Lwandile. As a strong tail wind picked us up and pushed us along at a good pace towards Aliwal, Ashley was seen overtaking some of the group with a look of determination reminiscent of the lady shoppers outside Woolies on the morning of the summer sale.
Riding into Rouxville and stopping on the bridge for the traditional photo in front of the Rouxville sign we were reunited with a 1965Ride veteran Brendan Raasch, the expert at missing the first three days of the ride on account of “flu”. Within six minutes Brendan dropped into his role of commentating and marshalling. Brendan brought news of two stop and gos ahead of us at each of which the group gathered and rode through under the attentive protection of the support vehicles.
Tony, Ashley and Leon stopped off at the side of the road at approximately 10:30am for a scheduled radio interview with Cliff Central radio. Unfortunately technical hitches prevented the connection and the three were left with the task of catching up, the catch was made just before the final descent into Aliwal, we all regrouped and the “Parlotone” set of down the hill and over the bridge into the Eastern Cape. For some this was an emotional moment that almost brought a tear to their eye.
As a group we have been greatly privileged to ride though some of the most spectacular scenery South Africa has to offer. On a bicycle one has the opportunity to take in this beauty but when your gaze returns to the road one is appalled at the extent of the litter on the side of the road.
It is hard to believe that this time last week we were gathering at Kloof Lodge Heidelburg prior to the start the following morning, the first time riders with an element of fear and concern of what lay ahead, the old hands looking forward to what lay ahead and the camaraderie that so rapidly develops on the road. Looking forward to seeing you all on the Rec on Thursday and at the start of the 2016 edition of the 1965Ride.
Rodger and Leon (A)