Hopefully, at some stage in your life you played snakes and ladders – otherwise this article will hardly make sense. In brief, by rolling the dice you get a number which represents your forward moves on a board. Depending where you land, – a ladder sees you promoted and a snake sees you going backwards.
Landing on any other square allows steady progress. We are 5 days into a long game and there are all three moves are happening in our RASA game which you can follow on https://freedomchallenge2023.maprogress.com/#
Let’s start with those who have clearly played before and are somehow figuring out the combinations. At the front of the field, we have Andy Walker. He’s played this game many times. He's adopted a combination of steady riding and not going for broke. Although he’s had some mechanical issues, he has ridden steadily when the opportunity arises and slower when he feels there is no point in rolling the dice by riding a night section. He started early today and should get to Vuvu before night fall. Hardly a squiggle in his track replay, certainly no snakes to derail his progress.
Behind Andy are the Meintjies couple of Riaan and Ernesta. They too have made steady progress, but they landed on a snake this morning as they left Malekhonyane. They squiggled in the dark and have ended up rolling the dice to get to Vuvu in the dark. Still right in the game, but a move which could prove to be costly.
Brian Kruger is on a charge and he’s had a lot of luck with his throws. He’s had a few ladders and no snakes. He knows his way to Rhodes and he's playing it safe by not tempting the snake that is Black Fountain ridge at night.
Carel Botha and Philippa Crocker landed on a terrible snake early on. They only made it to the Oaks on day1 (halfway). In Carel’s case, he had the excuse of having run the Comrades Marathon the day before. Perhaps Philippa was acclimatising from the UK, because since then she's been very steady and impressive. These two had latched onto the more experienced Pierre Singery who landed on a bad snake and is nursing some injuries back at Masakala where he will be feasting on vetkoek. Let’s hope he is just missing a turn and is still in the game.
Joining Pierre at Masakala, are Mandy Joyce, Sandy-Maytham Baily and June Fabian as well as Rob le Roux. A steady game for all of them today. Unfortunately, their group had the withdrawal of Sarah van Eeden today. A steady game is also being played by Michael Neser, Guy Cluver and Gert Peens, no squiggles, no double sixes, just steady singles as they make their way to Masakala.
The Scoulars and Mike Roy appear to be riding together. Their respective games can be described as anything but steady. It’s not that they have squiggled, the Scoulars are too experienced for that. The explanation given for their haring past Allendale to Centacow and Ntsikeni was to spend time with their host Dalu. Perhaps Daluis working on the helmet prototypes with them. Whatever the case, Gary is experienced enough not panic when after several ladder throws, he is suddenly hitting snakes. They are still very much in the game. Mike Roy has put it all out there in his article (Tilting at Windmills) which is well worth a read. I can only imagine that Mike is hoping for steady progress rather than snakes or ladders. Mike just wants to finish.
Going back up the trail to Two Springs, we have three folk showing serious intent. They are Mark Basel, Grant Hill and one Janine Oosthuizen. They did a day 1 to Centacow and now have settled in for their end of day 2. These rolls of the dice show intent in the region of a 16 day strategy. They risked the snakes of Donnybrook and Centacow forests last night and have reaped the rewards of being able to throw a less risky dice roll today to get them to Two Springs. The time of night or morning that they leave there will tell us if they are ready for next bold move. Joining them there tonight is Andy Stuart.
The big move tonight is Estelle Labuschagne and Aryna Edwards who have left Two Springs and have headed for Maskala. Estelle doesn’t easily get lost, so we can forget about seeing any scribbled looking tracks from anyone riding with her. I think Estelle, after her harrowing medical rescue from Black Fountain last year, knows that it’s not just the route wandering which can sink an endeavour, the Freedom Trail is wild riding at times. Let’s hope they avoid any snakes in what promises to be a long night.
Brad van der Westhuizen is another player who is known for his steady game. He will get to Two Springs shortly.
Ntsikeni hosts Nick Rizzato, Arne de Haas and Nicholas Brouckhaert, with John Bowen joining them shortly. What is remarkable here is John Bowen seems to be gaining confidence and a bit of pace. I don’t want to speak too soon, but I am holding thumbs.
It seems Centacow is hosting Tian Du Pisanie and Shaun Seegers. Shaun has had a short day from Allendale and Tian has landed on just about every snake he could thus far. Tonight is his 4th night on the trail and he is making slow progress. I believe he has been ill.
To be very clear, the Freedom Trail is very difficult. If for any reason, poor navigation, illness, bike failure or a combination of those, a rider will go through all sorts of anguish and potential self-doubt. But like any game where the roll of a dice can decide one’s fate, their fortune can turn around just as quickly, so let’s keep faith while they are still on the board. Similar sentiments are felt toward the Green’s who slept out last night in the Umko. They picked themselves up and have taken on the task of at least getting to Donnybrook tonight. Keep playing Angela and Patrick!
Already in at or heading shortly to Allendale are Philip Riggien, Shaun Knowles, Cindy and Quinton Rutherford and Iain Russel. They have had a big first day and should rest well there tonight. Mark Cowley is there too. He is doing RASA and has been humbly vocal about wanting to go under 16 days. He was quick out of the blocks today and then slowed. He is going to have to get a move on if he wants to use all of his chances today. If he has any issues, he will have to think about the snakes which are Donnybrook and Centacow forests. It is unlikely that he will land on any ladders to get him to Ntsikeni where he needs to be by lunchtime tomorrow.
Lastly Gregory Dames was off the pace early on today and spent a lot of time scribbling patterns and scratching around in the forests near Byrne. He has sensibly headed back to the Oaks to regroup. Although his pace was slow, we should give him the benefit of the doubt and perhaps tomorrow brings a few high dice rolls and some rhythm. While we might not expect a ladder, we can at least hope that he avoids the snakes of the Umko and is picked up by some of the seasoned riders coming up behind him tomorrow.
That’s a wrap for this Saturday, it is all still to play for.