Hi, my name is Leon Erasmus and I am a Freedom Junkie.
My first Freedom was in 2016. Back then I called it by it's other name RASA (Race Across South Africa). RASA is the name used it you have never done this sole changing journey through you inner self.
My journey started on the 12th of July 2016 with my buddy Vaughan. We planned this challenge together and were going to finish in under 15 days. My second and third attempt was with route knowledge and much more preparation and planning than my rookie year. But let's keep those stories for another day. I want to focus on the spot in my soul (daar waar die botter smelt) that this Freedom journey unlocks.
Every time I crest the saddle on top of Stettynskloof I look back at what was a massive challenge that took me days to struggle through. During my traverse of Southern Africa a thought constantly bugged my mind: “WTF went on the David’s mind to make us suffer this?” But then I realise that we will not want it any easier for the new Blanket chasers. This journey makes you realise how insignificant our over-complicated lives are and how privileged we are to live in the place we call home. The simplicity of the places we visit yet these folk are far richer then we will ever be.
The cold thin air (ja, I live at sea level) that burn your lungs if you don’t wear a buff over your month, the frozen snot if you arrive at Minky’s at midnight, the mud that makes your bike obese, the navigational errors that make you pray and repent aloud, the wind…., the smiles, the Real Double Cream Farm milk, the people, the pain. All this makes you realise that ja, you paid for this and ja, this is what you need to finish now.
I don’t want to spend any time on tell you about the beauty of the country we live in or how wonderful our people are because that is something we all know.
What I do want to do the tell you of the feeling you get once you don a freedom blanket. I had moments during my Freedom journeys where the mere thought of the blanket made me fight back the tears (and no it wasn’t raining oh Fearless One). This was a weird phenomenon that I did not like in the early days. Eventually I accepted and even welcomed it when the going got tuff. This is no chain store blanket, it’s earned though sweat, shivering and suffering through the 1000 hills of KZN mountains and kloofs of the Eastern Cape and the not so flat lands of the Western Cape.
For the rookie doing the Freedom Challenge for the first time this is Leon’s List:
Don’t trust the narratives.
Don’t listen to the multiple blanket wearers (other than me this one time).
Read your map, then you compass, then your maps again.
Repeat 5 time and only then the narratives. Not in any other order.
Run more when training.
Train caring your bike in your cycling shoes.
Overestimate every difficult section.
Stop and breath.
Wear your blanket with pride but don’t be “windgat”. No-one no one likes a “windgat”.
Don’t speak negatively out loud (you never know who is listening)
Last and very important: never be honest about my singing talent. It made you stay awake on the bike, just be thankful.
See you on the trail
Leon die leeu-welpie