Baviaanskloof II

Creek flooding over trail.

163k on dirt with three big climbs ahead of us so the consensus is for a 3am wakeup and rollout soon after. I stay on Axel’s wheel as long as I can, then lose the thread on the first long pitch, his lamps jerk and flicker into dark ahead. This is the coldest time of the night, hands fisted in the mitts, hood up giving me a disembodied enclosure. Sweat soaked base layer now stabs me betrayal, but it hardly matters or registers. The ridge with the silhouette of the Earth falling away on both sides, galaxies frosting the edges and vacuums between uncountable stars.

From curlicue line on the map in my headlamp I know to expect a long descent. Much of it is along a narrow dirt road, cliff clung but mostly I can’t see the edge. Two strips of concrete—a symbol of steepness and the struggle motored vehicles have coming up. I shift and drift and weave fro and to, nothing to recommend one or the other, just the need to generate some intention or other to emboss attention at high speed, the alternative is dangerous mesmeric haze.

As if the proportion of sensory input shifts from hearing to sight with the lifting magenta day so that by the time sunlight is on the treetops it’s almost deafness. This is just the second of the nearly fifteen hours that I will spend in solitude, the boys behind me that Axel and I passed will pass me back after urgency vaporizes into the canyon. Moving for these days at a racer’s daily pace has given me so much, but the gift is in the freedom to now sweep and unhurry, get blown along by some other force than a plan, and instead just expand.

Jeep track unravels, the lower bits are flooded so I ratchet the cranks to keep my ankles dry. With the contrasty above reflecting in the water, looking up I can almost capture the calm of floating down a river. Moist acacia branches; clicks and echo; rhino dung; a donkey walks the same path that I pedal, wary. At some point I am out of the canyon proper though the walls are always close. Farms on both sides interleave the wild. Late in the day I enter a sinuous cleft in the rocks, a waving streamer of a faith and an onward.