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Extreme Enduro Riding

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Now I know why they call it the Enduro Africa Challenge. It’s a serious test of endurance, it’s a proper ‘dig deep’ challenge that takes you well outside your comfort zone and you end up doing lots of stuff you previously thought impossible.

I’m knackered!

Emotionally: We came across a school on our travels today and stopped for a quick breather. The kids all came over to check out the strange guys on their noisy motorbikes so we got amongst them for a photo. Really lovely, bright eyed, curious, smiley kids. Mike Glover, our big chief, rocks up and starts the kids singing. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I filmed the whole school putting on an impromptu choral performance at the side of the road. Priceless!

Physically: I’ve taken this bike up rocky paths, through rivers, across mountains, through jungle undergrowth and every other conceivable terrain now. We were taken down a bit of a slope on the bikes today. Well, more of a ‘sheer drop’ than a ‘steep slope’ actually. I came off twice. Both times over the top of the handlebars and landing on my head. Each fall hurts, of course, but the immense energy required to recover the bike and get back in control is way beyond my physical training. My neck hurts, my backside hurts, my thigh hurts, my shoulders hurt and… my pride… well that’s just shot to pieces!

Mentally: The levels of sustained, highly focussed concentration required to ride this terrain are way beyond anything I’ve ever previously experienced. Ten hours a day without a single lapse in concentration is nigh impossible but in this lark it could easily mean a serious spill (or ‘off’) with bruises, broken limbs… or even worse! I’m quickly learning to multi-task and chide myself every time I start ‘goofing off’ but there’s always something around every corner to test even the sharpest powers of concentration. Deep ruts in hard dried mud are my worst fear, along with ‘lurkers’ – hidden boulders in long grass. Two members of the group are unable to ride today due to bruised ribs and sprained wrists so I’m all the more determined to stay focussed and stay ‘shiny side up’.

Imagine riding a bucking bronco… on a waltzer… on a tin tray rattling down the Cresta Run… for ten hours a day… and you get some idea of the jolting, bone-crunching, exhausting experience of extreme riding – Enduro Africa style.

I’m starting to feel concerned about having the stamina to see me through to the end of this. Each day ends with me feeling completely spent and the next starts with me having to do stretches to stave off the rigor mortis that sets in overnight.

Charlie Boorman, Ewan McGregor, William and Harry – Respect!

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Awesome Start

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Leisure Bay to Mbotyi – Tuesday October 18th

You know it’s going to be a tough gig when the organisers tell you that we will start every day at 7am and there’s no messing about because we’d all like to be finished before 10pm.

The first day kicked off early at Port Edward and quickly developed into a crash course in extreme motorcycling for the motocross novices (like me) amongst the group.

What a day though! The Wild Coast is one of the best off-road riding environments on earth with its trails, river crossings and steep hills and we hit the road hard with some challenging terrain right from day one.

Ian, our green (intermediate) team leader, explained that we would be taking the bikes “where even the goats are scared to go” and he wasn’t joking. Conrad, our ‘Sweeper’, is also the medic and his job was to travel behind us to make sure nobody gets lost or seriously injured.

River crossings, steep ascents, plunging descents, jungle trails, precipitous gorges and long bumpy cart tracks were all tackled with enthusiasm and innocent glee.

The area is known as the Transkei and the inhabitants are tribal, including the Pondo, Bomvana, Pondomeise, Thembu and Xhosa, all sharing a common language – Isixhosa – the ‘clicking’ one.

First impressions are that the whole area is positively medieval. Goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, chickens and cows wander freely and each mud hut has its own allotment growing all kinds of organic vegetables.

The first thing I had to quickly learn was how to ride single-handedly to free up my left hand so that I could wave back to all the wonderful, friendly smiley people who lined our route.

Despite their incredibly tough life and the obvious signs of poverty, I felt quite strongly that these people had such a relaxed, welcoming demeanour that I couldn’t imagine anyone not immediately warming to them.

What a relief to get to the end of our first proper excursion into the Transkei and check in to the Mbotyi River Lodge. Firstly, I’d survived the ride without any mishaps and, secondly, I’d seen, smelt, touched and experienced so many new and exciting things that my mind was buzzing with it all.

‘Euphoria’ wouldn’t be too strong a word to describe my state that evening. What an awesome start!

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