Sometimes one needs a change of scenery, even if you live in paradise.
Whether it’s an actual holiday or just a different "office view”, nothing beats the anticipation of hitting the road, a vague idea of a date that becomes a booking that becomes a trip. Loaded with bikes, too many camera attachments and some good coffee, the rest is left to where Imagination takes us.
I was given a lucky chance to follow the
Absa Cape Epic 2017 for a few days, document the human moments of the “toughest mountain bike race in the world”, and watch The World’s Best charge through the bush like zebra's getting chased. And some even don the kit to match this metaphor…
Apparently “great things don’t happen in your comfort zone”. And this race isn't comfortable by any means. The “zone” would be red. The inspiring sight of these marathon junkies as they kick up dust and traverse rocky mountains in the early morning sunrise is only surpassed by the way they disappear so fast that you end up second guessing your eyesight…was that really The legend Hermida, sporting his famous bigote, chatting non-stop as his wheels crunch up the sandstone?
Who doesn’t want to be an Epic groupie, and go tripping with my trusted Thor, the RM Thunderbolt, and hit the road to the unknown but famous epic wilderness?
The prologue day saw us doing some footwork frenzy as the riders bunched up for the start chute. Celebrity riders mingle with the commoners as they line up for the happy snappers to take their photo’s, languages from all over the world become a common voice of anticipation and apprehension in the start block.
Even fanatic fans do get hot and tired after crashing through dusty thorny bushes, and running up hills with swinging camera bags, and so by lunch time we set off to the cooler ocean air of Hermanus, the start of the official first day of this Epic Race. This whale watching town is also well known for the bike trails in the Hemel en Aarde Valley, where the racers will traverse some steep and dusty climbs in the early morning sunlight. As soon as our epic chasing was done, we set off on our own little spin. I took Thor back down to Hemel en Aarde Village, where you buy your permit, and the fun begins with our own taste of Heaven on Earth offerings. The meandering trail snakes up alongside the tar road to Greyton, through a blue gum forest with fun little dips and turns that took our minds off the slow cooking heat-pot that gently simmered all around us. After taking a wrong turn and spinning in circles for a while, we managed to find the "missing sign” ;) that led us out of the valley and towards the mountains littered with farmsteads and vineyards.
Beautiful sandstone rock formations makes for interesting riding with a few challenging bumps, but nothing overly technical. An interesting climb alongside a waterfall (still flowing impressively in this drought) forced me to stop and breathe as I portaged a steep incline and marveled at the trees curling around rocks as they hang onto the rock face. Time for a selfie.
An unexpected challenge was finding a wine farm that serves lunch on a Monday, esp. after hundreds of Epic Groupies already had breakfast and deserted the valley! Much to our relief, the stylish and lush garden at Sumaridge Wine Farm served a sumptuous platter (can be paired with wines) and they didn’t seem to mind our sweaty and dusty grinning faces either. From here, my bae’ke and I were already looking forward to rolling down the hill all the way to cooler Hermanus; only it wasn’t quite as “downhill” as I thought. Valleys seem to dip and climb, and somewhere near “The End" I finally plucked up the courage to check my Garmin - 40 degrees. It was the perfect excuse to try out my new 30T chainring. And I’m keeping it! ;)
After a refreshing splash in the pool of our guesthouse, only the pleasant memories of a beautiful ride remained, as we prepared for more epic chasing the next day.
The plan was to follow the upper loop of the black route after shooting, but temperatures soared before we even finished. Tempted but not stupid, we opted for the scenic coastal drive around the Kogelberg Nature Reserve back to Cape Town instead. When you open your eyes and observe your surrounds, there is always something to learn, something new to absorb and relish. At Koëlbaai, we just had to drink in the view, and were greeted by a school of surfers sitting on a wave. From our perch, it was the perfect opportunity to learn and observe how the old bullets catch a wave, and watch those who know more, do it with ease and precision. This is how you learn. Whatever your sport or hobby.
Adventures never really end. My Bae’ke and I will be back for more, the black route has to be explored. Wine2Whales waits for no one.