2021 RASA | RTP Race report #22 | Mike Roy

Ride to Agadir (Prince Albert) | 18 July | 20h30

The race has moved way down the trail and is fast coming to a close. In two or three days it will all be over. The small matter of Stettynskloof for the last riders. A large collage of eleven riders will start from Trouthaven early tomorrow. Jan van der Putte, Greg Philps, Scott Danoher and Martin Victor are looking to claim their blankets. Aryna Edwards, Carien Visser, Jerome O’Reagen, Ralph Buddle, Rebecca Sands, Stefan Nel and Sean Brown will finish the Race to Paarl, all in four days and change, assuming they all negotiate the last nipple successfully. The lanterne rouge couple (at least geographically) Franci Joubert and Paul Micklewood are in Montagu for the night, pondering whether they get to Trouthaven in one or two days. Good luck to them, they have earned the right for either option and can look forward to a virtual highway carved through Stettynskloof by tomorrow’s avalanche.


My thoughts go back up the trail. To Damsedrif, Willowmore, the road from there to Prince Albert and Prince Albert itself. We escorted (with the help of Tim Lotz from Knysna, the latest Buffalo Herder, many thanks Tim) the last few RASA riders through the Baviaanskloof. I managed to catch up with Hestelle and Rune van Rensburg, owners of Damsedrif (alternatively Golden Crust, you can smell the freshly baked loaf can’t you. Long story.)


When stopping at Damsedrif riders mainly stay in Johnnie’s cottage. The exception is if you aren’t feeling well, like Casper Venter, who spent the night on the sofa in the lounge, thereby earning the privilege of being pampered by Hestelle, a wonderful privilege indeed. Casper recovered remarkably over the next day or two, just like Lazarus all those years back. He finished earlier today at Diemersfontein with Carlo Gonzaga, both looking as fresh as daises and in just over 17 days. The other riders that finished today will be covered in tomorrow's report. Deadlines.


I have always wondered about Johnnie, and nurse Hestelle very kindly filled me in on his history.


Turns out that Johnnie Smith was Rune’s mother’s brother. In other words Rune’s uncle. This rather poignant Facebook message was posted by Johnnie’s son Willie recently:


Johnnie Smith of Johnnie's Cottage


My pa, Johnnie Smith – hy sou vandag 95 gewees het. Al is sy in 1966 oorlede, en ek toe amper 10 jaar oud, het daardie 10 jaar in so baie opsigte ‘n impak op my gehad. As ek die wilde malfas van Kommandokloof ruik, ruik ek sy broekspype soos hy deur die malvas met ou Kennon (sy perd) gery het, so hoor ek sy stem soos die plaasmense pampoene krap en pitte was en onmoontlike ek bo in die wildervyboom sit en mense met vye gooi. Dis nou 55 jaar dat ek jou mis Daddy en al leef jy nog net in my hart bied ek al die kamers aan waar jy jou kan tuismaak.


Thank you for the life influence you projected so well in a mere ten years to still last and will always be remembered and treasured. Thank you for your love, and our time together and the special moments”.


Johnnie died in 1966 from a shooting accident. The trail has echoes from the past for more than just the riders.


Chris Fisher, the Race Director, asked John the Geologist and I to welcome and set off the 2021 Race to Paarl field, a duty which we thoroughly enjoyed. Whilst there we had a proper chance to catch up with and get to know better El-anne and Derek Smith, the hosts at Willowmore Guest House. Incidentally they are not related (as far as I am aware) to the Smith family we spoke about earlier at Damsedrif. They are however connected to the husband of Aryna Edwards, who is about to finish the Race to Paarl. Aryna’s husband is Pierre Edwards, former Springbok and Northern Transvaal full back and former headmaster of Affies in Pretoria. Pierre’s father and Dereck’s father were best buddies back in a day, a fact they only discovered a few days ago in Willowmore. We had the pleasure of meeting Pierre. He looks like he could be a Freedom Rider himself, notwithstanding his 68 years.


El-anne and Derek are superb hosts. El-Anne knows well my hunger for documents from the past and shared the collection she has of historical Willowmore papers. In turn I am going to share some of these with you:






We took up the rear of the field once everyone was through Willowmore. One of the best-kept secrets of the Freedom Challenge is that John the Geologist is slowly, but surely, becoming a Freedom Rider. His previous riding experience includes a personal best of a 5km ride in Botswana twenty years ago. A few days back John managed, with some ease, the first 60km of the route from Willowmore to Rondavel. The 400km Freedom Circuit lies ahead next year, and perhaps whips and blankets thereafter. Good luck bud. Perhaps an event worthy of raising some money for the Scholarship Fund?


Dennehof has new owners. Albert and Inga Terblanche. Our thanks go to Lindsay and Ria, the previous owners, who gave so many years to the Freedom Challenge. Thank you for an outstanding job done. Forever part of the Freedom Challenge community.


John the Geologist and I had an interesting evening with Albert and Inga. Both are riders themselves, and Albert has a RTR under the belt so he understands how the Freedom Challenge works. He was full of useful ideas and there is no doubt in my mind that their partnership with the Freedom Challenge will be fruitful in the years to come. Already we have one potential change as a result of Albert and Inga’s suggestions. Washable laundry bags, the solution to lost socks.


Dennehof is looking magnificent (as is Willowmore Guest House for that matter). Take your partner and family along to experience it and other support stations on your victory tour, they deserve it, dot watching is exhausting.


The incomparable stark beauty of the landscape between Willowmore and Prince Albert in our drive along the route evoked the stirring words and music of the Mike Batt song "Ride to Agadir”. Listen to the song (link provided below) if you have a moment. It speaks to the emotions felt at this stage of the race. Change a word here and there and perhaps we have a new race song. Email me directly if you want to give it a go.


The Ride to Agadir (Prince Albert) – Mike Batt


We rode in the morning, Casablanca to the west. On the Atlas mountain foothills leading down to Marakesh. For Mohammed and Marocco We had taken up our guns For the ashes of our fathers and the children of our sons. For the ashes of our fathers and the children of our sons.


In the dry winds of summer We were sharpening the blades. We were riding to act upon the promise we had made. With the fist and the dagger, with the rifle and the lance, We will suffer no intrusion from the infidels of France. We will suffer no intrusion from the infidels of France.


We could wait no more, In the burning sands on the ride to Agadir. Like the dogs of war, For the future of this land on the ride to Agadir.


Though they were waiting, And they were fifty to our ten, They were easily outnumbered by a smaller force of men. As the darkness was falling They were soon to realize, We were going to relive upon their godforsaken lives. We were going to relive upon their godforsaken lives.


We could wait no more, In the burning sands on the ride to Agadir. Like the dogs of war, For the future of this land on the ride to Agadir.


We rode in the morning, Casablanca to the west. On the Atlas mountain foothills leading down to Marakesh. For Mohammed and Marocco We had taken up our guns, For the ashes of our fathers and the children of our sons. For the ashes of our fathers and the children of our sons.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7_y-F8VtSo

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