So with nerves a-plenty we left Pitsane not quite realising what lay ahead. The border fence changing direction left to right, not so favourite right hand turns often catching me unawares. The extra load on the bike getting in my way and the bike having a mind of its own.
Jim's description of what lay ahead
The next scheduled stop was 80 km of all you could wish for Ė fast dry mud plains, loose stones, deep sand, gnarly steep rocky sections, wheel ruts, ant bear holes and overhanging thorn bushes.
I loved the sound of the gutsy little thumpers as we wound them upon the open sections and fast corners.
A few rather steep, very gnarly, rocky sections up and down called for some intense concentration.
Jim had to advised pick a line and stick with it - don't hesitate, momentum is your friend. The theory sounded good so going up was fine - momentum down the other side was another matter all together. Fortunately things happened so quickly I did not have time to think too much and was up and down before panic could set in. From there it got easier - only the odd lurker would cause a sudden adrenalin rush as it grabbed at the sidewall.
Being suited to the riding conditions the smaller bikes pulled away from the rest of the group. We stopped wait for the big boys and enjoyed some of the sights and sounds of the very slow lifestyle of a Friday afternoon living next to a border fence.
With no sign of the rest of the group we pressed on towards the re-group point. Starting immediately with a tricky little rocky descent. The path sort of disappeared and each man was left to negotiate his own way down. I chose a fairly large step down - and hey - momentum is your friend
As we rode along to the re-group, the terrain got sandier and dust was less of a problem - the threesome of little Suzuki's got closer together - fence on the right, bush on the left, sand below and who knows what form of livestock hiding in the bush....
The pace picked up, Jim fast through the corners, me slowing Chris down, the odd cow slowing us all down. The sand on the track getting thicker caused the bikes to start behaving like a 3 year-old at bedtime, there was only one option - weight back and give it horns - and presto well behaved scoots again. The pace was good and the long sandy stretches saw us clipping along around 80-90km/h. Exhilarating stuff.
We came to a particularly sandy section that required much momentum, and here murphy lurked - 8 - 10 cows in the path with thick bush and a fence on both sides.
The cows all looking for an escape route as Jim passed. One particular specimen from the shallow end of the gene pool tried to outrun the fast approaching thumping ponies and when that seemed to be a bad idea he started using up more of the road that he was entitled to. It required some rapid decision making, hesitation here was going to be a seriaas problem. I was forced to pass on the far right off the path, the fence flashing past a few inches to the right. I had chosen my line and stuck to it, even through Murphy's wait-a-bit bush directly ahead.
In his attempt to run me off the road the cow had allowed Chris through with little more than a few slaps from the thorny bushes on the roadside. And suddenly we were through, enjoying the thrill of once again being able to gas it to keep on top of the sand.
All too suddenly we arrived at the re-group. We extracted thorns out of hands and arms having a good laugh as we re-lived the tense moments from a few minutes before.
As we waited for the rest of the group the afternoon shadows grew longer. We waited impatiently, knowing that for the next 100 km we would be riding directly into the sun, the later it got the more uncomfortable that would be.
A few friendly farmers stopped to check that we were alright and swopped pleasantries. After 45 minutes the first of the big boys arrived having chosen to take the main road to reach the re-group point. Renier (bless his heart) suggested the Suzuki 3-some carry on ahead. Unfortunately one of their bikes arrived with a flat front wheel. A quick dose of tyre-weld couldn't sort the problem out so they had a puncture repair to deal with as well.
It didn't take us long to mount up and head onto the dirt road to Bray, 100km away - this should be a doddle I thought, make up some time.... ja right
Jim's description of the road to BrayAt this re-group point (late afternoon) Gods Warrior informed me that this route was not what his group had expected (There had been some falls and a flat tire), and they would not carry on. That left Stevie, Chris (non-dog) and myself to carry on. The 100km to Bray was fast (100km +) with long sections of deep cohesion-less sand. All went well if one kept up the speed. No place for loss of talent.
Talent - what's that
the route description said nothing of talent...!!!!!
The ride was fast and hard. All I knew was that I had to keep my weight back and the throttle open - easy
The sensation of hitting a long patch of loose sandy road at 100km/h and trying to relax at the same time cannot be described. At times the front wheel threatened to climb over the middelmannetije, clawing at the sloping sand on either side of the wheel track.
Again here, momentum, weight placement and correct body position carried the little scoots over these treacherous sections without mishap and it almost became sadistic fun - accelerating when the next patch of sand loomed closer. My brain arguing with the practice
but hey it worked.
I hit reserve with about 20km to go - Gruffy's thirstiness a problem still. I had to stop a couple of times to get the fuel to the LHS petcock.
Just as I hit my own reserve, the pace slowed and we rolled into Bray.
Chris's comment on arrival at the petrol station in Bray thats the scariest f%$##@g thing I've done in my life
We fuelled up and headed to our overnight stop.
OH - by the way Jim doesn't take too much in the way of creature comforts on a HARDCORE ride...
he just drinks yours
And don't be put off by his tough exterior - he is actually a softie
Jim's evening summaryWe camped at a farmers cattle kraal near Bray. A very pleasant night.
Chris's summaryOur first night we camped on the farm of a Doctor in Bray. What a wonderful host he was. However the most interesting information that came out while sitting around the fire was how many adventure riders he attends to each year due to injury. I enquired as to what he thought the problem was. He said guys came out here on huge bikes with wrong tyres and terribly overloaded, without any skill. They also didnít understand the riding conditions and headed for disaster. Anyway after a most enjoyable evening by a gracious host, we turned in to ready ourselves for the following day of a 350km section from Bray to Van Zyls rus along the Botswana Border fence.Day 2
We met up with the big boys the following morning on our way from the bakery in Bray. They had toughed it out and ridden to Bray into the night - respect boys - it was tough during the day, nighttime would be scary, so they deserved a night in the local B&B. Due to a few mishaps and the difficult conditions the group had decided to take a more direct route and head back to Lichtenburg. We bid them farewell,sorry that we could not have gotten to know them better and swop more stories.
Jim's comment on what lay ahead We went into Bray early to top up with fuel, water and padkos in preparation for the next 350km of fuel-less, water-less gravel roads, fence track and miles and miles of deep Kalahari sand to Van Zylsrus.
Apprehensive after the previous day's conditions, it was with some trepidation that I assumed my protected postion, riding just behind Jim's dust cloud and trying to move quick enough to not frustrate Chris. I was pleasantly surprised when the road conditions were less sandy and we were able to maintain a good pace. Conditions did not permit a lack of concentration as the conditions and road surface changed so often that we had to remain vigilant at all times.
Refuelling 100km from Bray