D76…..Hartmann’s Valley.

Blog — By on December 7, 2012 9:20 pm

I have exhausted my supply of superlatives. The Hartmanns Valley, en route to Serra Cafima, is from another planet. It is pale yellow, it is pale pink, it pale purple. The endless desert plain is surrounded by mountains of similar hues. The warm wind blows. The wispy grass is golden. The scattered rocks are gentle shades of marble and granite. The plains are home to large herds of magnificent orxy, to groups of Hartmanns zebra and plentiful swarms of springbok. God only knows how they exist, let alone prosper. It is fiercely hot, and there is no water.

The temperature hit 30 degrees at 11am this morning. It is now midday and we are near body temperature. We, the bikers, are resting on a slight rise. It affords a stupendous view of this enormous valley, a full 360 degrees. We are waiting for the cruiser which contains our lunch. But it has not arrived. We are speculating why. Puncture? Stuck in the sand? Mechanical? And the temperature rises. Lloyd Charles and Tim are in the cruiser, enough to change a tyre we think.

We took on the Hartmanns Pass early this morning. It is by far the most technical riding we have done so far. It surpasses the Sani Pass. It is a miracle that the cruiser and trailer got through also. The drop offs, the steepness, the collapsing sides were all exacerbated by the vertical shale which protruded everywhere in big angry shards. It is astonishing just what these BMWs will tackle. You simply just don’t believe it will go up and over some of the worst Africa has to offer, and often your heart is in your mouth, but it always does. It is us that are the weaker link.

We have now been lying waiting under the bikes for over an hour. The bikes provide the only shade in this valley. We despatched Sam and George after 30 minutes to go back and look for the cruiser. George has just returned, clouds of dust trailing in his wake as he snakes around the sandy trail. The cruiser trailer brakes are binding and locking up. Lloyd the guide is travelling slowly. They are still 10k away on a difficult road. Lunch is still a little way off. And we have another 50k to go, over terrain that we are uncertain about. Deep sand for instance takes an hour for 10k and is exhausting. That could well be lying in wait for us as Serra Cafima is in the dunes.

We eventually ‘upped sticks’ and went back to find the cruiser and trailer. It was a long way back. It soon became apparent that we were not going to solve the technical problem. We opted to abandon the trailer, and the 2 bikes upon it, in the middle of the Hartmanns valley. Tomorrows problem.

We set off again. We regained the high ground where we had hoped to have lunch.

The shale and gravel began to give way to sand. Sand is our worst nightmare. It got deeper and deeper.

There is no traction in sand. The drive wheel at the back just spins. The steering wheel just slides off. We got slower and slower. We came to a long drag uphill. The bikes were revving away in first and making little headway. Every few hundred metres we had to stop to regain our breath. It is exhausting work. We discarded jackets and helmets. It was hot and we were travelling at crawling speed. We had fall after fall. Nick had a bad one. He hurt his leg and ankle quite badly. His foot had twisted toes-backwards and the bike had fallen on top. This dented his confidence. The bikes started overheating. Huge amounts of power were being used but no speed generated, so the radiators were not effective. Nicks safety valve blew spewing boiling water in the air from the tortured cooling system. We debated abandoning all the bikes before we destroyed them. But we didn’t.

It took 7 hour of extraordinary effort to cover 50 kilometers. We had 23 falls between us, all on bikes that weigh a qharter of a tonne. We were all utterly exhausted. We didn’t arrive until the sun was setting. Greggs bike finally collapsed just 2k from the lodge. We left it. The desert was littered with our abandoned bikes and trailer!

But it was our best days riding of the trip. By a country mile. And the most difficult by a similar margin. It was an epic day. Hats off to Nick for battling through and never giving in. All the team helped their colleagues, and all their colleagues needed their help!!

It was a very special feeling when we finally arrived at 7pm. It had probably taken 3 hours to complete the last 10 kilometers. And this was after the Hartmann Pass in the morning, which was the most technical riding we have ever done.

We are all here in one piece. That’s the most important thing. A day none of us will forget to our dying day. J

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