Enduro Africa: Part 4

Aug 09, 2013 View Comments by

Enduro Africa: Part 4Day 10, Sunday: Mbotyi to Port Edward, Last Riding Day

This was the last day of riding and it was supposed to be a light day with some demonstrations by the team leaders and the odd technical section thrown in to keep us honest. Unfortunately it was raining, again!

What would normally have been easy and fun riding on goat trails turned into the slickest muck we had so far encountered. I ended up at the back of our group because I’d been helping keep the team going the correct direction along with the team sweep. We arrived at a very extreme descent into a valley where I gather the team leaders had planned to show us their stuff. Another team had been down the trail before us so about thirty riders had preceded me. Some of the trail involved dropping the front wheel off a two-foot or higher ridge into a deeply rutted fissure. One rider simply refused to do it. A lot of my usual downhill technique included using the front brake combined with first gear. It didn’t work!

I crashed my way down the entire slope. At one point I was seriously thinking about throwing the bike down the hill and walking after it. By the time I got down into the valley I was absolutely exhausted, so much so that I could barely stand. The leader and the sweep were really concerned because apparently my face was absolutely white as if I was in shock. Actually, the main problem was that I hadn’t eaten much at breakfast and since I thought it was going to be an easy ride I hadn’t brought any food along.

The whole team got me stuffed full of various foods, drinks, and candies. We had to wait for about 45 minutes while the previous team came back down into the valley because the route out was impassable. The team sweep kept checking on me and when the time had come to try to find a way out of the valley I was feeling somewhat better. The two teams rode along and through the river until we could see a “road” of some kind winding its way up the valley wall. But the first problem was the riverbank that was about 10 meters high at an angle of about 45 degrees and soaking wet. About ten riders made it up the bank in one area before they chewed it up so badly that no one else could make it. Our team sweep spotted an area that looked okay except it was covered in bush. A lot of this growth is thorn bushes, which are really dangerous. These thorns are about two to three centimeters long and razor sharp. One rider actually had a thorn go right through the fleshy part of his hand. The riding docs had to pull it all the way through. Anyway, we all charged this section of the bank and most of us made it. I was so pissed off with my performance on the previous descent that there was no way I was going to get stopped or fall off.

The other five teams never did venture down into the “Hell Valley” so we all met up at a service station in the next town. It was quite a mob scene of roughly a hundred riders, team leaders, support staff, and vehicles all trying to get fuel, food, and cash in the pouring rain. The service station was also jammed with locals trying to do the same thing. Amazingly everyone seemed to get along and everyone got served in one way or another. Also amazing was the ATM that spit out cash drawn on my CIBC account thousands of kilometers away; what a world we live in!

Then we had a long wet ride into a resort called TO Strand, which is on the outskirts of Port Edward. About 10 kilometers from the resort we picked up a police escort, which was great because the road traffic on the highways is very fast and aggressive. When they decide to pass they don’t think twice about simply easing you over to the shoulder. I think that was the most frightening part of the entire trip for me.

As you can imagine the arrival at the “Strand” included hugs, high fives, handshakes, photos, plus a smoking burnout by the crazy team leader who tossed the rider across the bar. Beer and champagne flowed and local Zulus danced for us. Group photos were taken and everyone was happy to be there in one piece. It was great to have made it and of course; our team (Orange) leader and sweep were the best!

The party lasted very late with the riding docs having the “honour” of the traditional “ride the Hondas into the swimming pool” followed by the contest to see which tech could get them running again the quickest after being drowned. The highlight for me was my team leader and sweep seeking me out, asking my age, and then telling me how impressed they were with me; no complaints, no whining, and no giving up. They said they’d never seen anyone “dig so deep” as I had to when we were down in “Hell Valley.” To get that kind of compliment from an Afrikaan is a big deal, mind you, they were pretty drunk by then!

Enduro Africa was the toughest mental/physical thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve had tougher mental challenges and I may have done tougher physical activities, but never combined. I can’t get the adventure out of my mind and I’ve heard from Timothy who says the same. It’s been awhile now and I’m constantly thinking about the next possible adventure. Aside from conquering fears, overcoming obstacles, and the whole Enduro experience; Africa is such a shock. I’m not sure I can say I liked Africa, but it is unforgettable.

Well, that’s the story other than a bus ride and another 12 hour flight back to London. I’ll never forget this adventure and the sights and smells of Africa.

Text and photography by Michael Atkin 

If you missed the previous installments, you can catch up here:

Enduro Africa: Part 1

Enduro Africa: Part 2

Enduro Africa: Part 3

 

 

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