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Karoo Meander

The Karoo Meander last week was about riding the Freedom Trail from the Stormberg Battle site (halfway between Brosterlea and Romansfontein) through to Bucklands farm on the fringe of the mighty Baviaanskloof Mountain range. The farm is embraced by the Grootrivier at the point where it has carved its way through the imposing mountains.

It was a 513km ride that was traversed over 7 days of riding. There were a number of e-bikes split among the 4 start batches. Our group had 3 e-bikes. None of our riders had spare e-bike batteries and that was never a concern.

Our first day was 96km with almost 1500m of ascent. Our longest day was 98km, which included over 1000m of vertical ascent, and the bikes finished each day with sufficient charge in spite of one of our riders trying to run their battery down to zero. Battery anxiety was never an issue.

I, for one, was impressed by the e-bikes. Both the longevity of the batteries and the way in which they enabled access to the trail for people who may not have been able to cope on the trail had they brought acoustic bikes (non electric).

Our group consisted of 10 riders and a support vehicle. It mirrored the early Ride to Rhodes model that eventually morphed into Race to Rhodes. Each day was handled with relative ease by most riders with one or two having to dig a little deeper than a trundle would have offered. That said, each of these riders coped well with the challenges they faced and our group rallied to provide support. Meeting our support vehicle for drinks, snacks and hot coffee each day along the route made a welcome break.

Navigation was handled in many ways. That’s the beauty of this type of tour. You can engage in it in a manner that suits your riding ambitions. Some rode with maps. Others with GPS. One with a combination of maps and GPS. Finally we had a couple of riders who chose to not bother with the navigational challenges and simply rode each day marinating themselves in the beauty that surrounded them. Each person took away from the ride what they wanted from it.

There were two overnight stops on the ride that are not official Freedom Challenge support stations—the start and the stay on night one. All the others are where race participants stop during the various events. That gave our tour group riders a good sense of what it’s like to race. That said, we started each day in daylight and got in well before sunset.

As an experienced Freedom Trail campaigner I was surprised by how much I enjoyed riding with the others. It was probably the best week of riding I have ever done on the trail.

Emotions ran deep at the end of the ride as members of our group reflected on the special week we had spent pedalling over the scenic Karoo.

It’s a great way to experience the Freedom Trail. It’s something I’m looking forward to doing again, and again.

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