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Finished business!

[Scratched! Part 2]

Winter’s nearly over. It’s Spring. Time to keep our promise to ourselves, to return to finish our Race to Rhodes, to put in that last piece of the puzzle, to finish the only part of the journey that remained unridden from PMB to Cape Town.

We drove up Naudesnek Pass – it felt good to be in the car, marvelling at the distance we had covered on foot in June when riding had been impossible due to the wind.

We reached the culvert we had huddled in, where we had ended our race. Tenahead Lodge is less than 5km from there. I bet every Freedom Challenge rider passingTenahead has wished they could stop here for a bit … it was brilliant to have a reason to stay in this stunning place!

On 1 September at 6am, we left Tenahead with the full moon setting to catch the sun rising at the top of Naudesnek pass. It was warm, bright and windless!

We savoured every moment of the beautiful morning; in two hours we were in Rhodes village settling down to a big breakfast in the sun. The race was done!

But we still had 60 km to get back to Tenahead, via Tiffendell. The Tenahead- Rhodes-Tiffendell loop is about 80km and (weather-dependent) a Freedom Challenge rider’s dream day: two passes (Naudesnek and Carlisleshoek, both above 2500m), mostly ride-able, no navigational challenges, mountains, skies, space – do-able in the light!

From Tiffendell you ride along the highest contour road in South Africa, and it is definitely better to be on a bike than in a car for this.

Following a big hot bath and a five-course meal by the fire back at Tenahead, you retire for the night, knowing you do not have to get on your bike the next day and you will wake to spectacular mountain views from your bed! It all helps to ease the inevitable melancholy that sets in when you finish a Freedom Challenge event.

I didn’t get that fourth badge; I didn’t ride it all in one go and earn a Freedom Challenge blanket, but I have almost finished making my own blanket – in Drakensberg colours, this crochet project has been a joy and journey of its own. We are leaving South Africa to live in the USA for five years in January. But we have ridden across South Africa, and I have the blanket to reflect and remind us of the many many hikes and rides we have enjoyed in South Africa’s spectacular mountains. And I think we will also take a few bottles of Diemersfontein wine…

So, if you find yourself scratched, this is what we have learned: snatch back! Plan your next adventure, and you may just find, as we did, that you wouldn’t have wanted it to end any other way.

With grateful thanks to:

  • Our kids, for managing so well without us when we go riding

  • Their grandparents, for making sure they do, and for so much support and interest in all our journeys

  • The race organisers over the years, Meryl and Glen, and the Fishers – what a special opportunity you create and enable

  • David Waddilove for dreaming up and making this route a reality

  • All the support stations, for warm welcomes and incredible hospitality

  • Fellow riders and dot watchers, for your company along sections of the trail, both those we have met for real and those who share their journeys on the website and whatsapp groups

  • Friends and family for your support and interest in this amazing adventure

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