Cycling uphill on the Umvoti descent

2018-10-10 06:05
Participants in the uphill cycle.

Participants in the uphill cycle.

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OVER the long weekend in September, a group of rough, tough, and hard-to-bluff mountain bikers followed the course of the Umvoti River from source to sea.

The ride was the brainchild of local farmer Mike van den Berg.

As the idea grew into a unruly teenager, Mike realised that he would need help and enlisted the services of Gordon Le Roux and Steve Stamp, both of whom are also saddle -hardened MTB enthusiasts.

Between the three of them, they plotted the course, scouted different route options and negotiated with landowners for passage.

If this could become more than just a one-off expedition, it would be worthwhile, giving it a virtuous mission like raising funds for charities within the Umvoti catchment. And so the “brain child” very quickly grew through the “unruly teenager” stage and into the responsible adult stage.

The charities chosen were the Seven Oaks Conservancy and LETCEE, an NPO that does wonderful work in the Umvoti valley. A date was set and word of mouth advertising resulted in 22 riders pitching up at Mondi Gilboa for the first (probably ever) descent of the Umvoti by Mountain Bike.

The response from the communities all the way down the river was simply amazing. Tripping 200km down the humble Umvoti sounds like a simple, sedate affair. Not by a long way.

Even in the upper reaches of the river, which is characterised by high-end commercial farming operations, the route along the river is gnarly and difficult to negotiate. As it levels out, cattle paths add options to the descent. We even carried our bikes over the R33 at Mispah, so that the entire first day and second day were tar-free.

Further down the river it descended into Mamba country. We carefully picked our way through the bush on cattle and goat paths. When these ran out, we dragged our bikes through the river, over rocks un-countable times. No one emerged un-bruised by the slippery rocks, un-bloodied by Lantana, un-tickled by Bramble or un-moved by the rugged beauty of the humble Umvoti.

In my eyes, humble no more.

One would think that following a river from it’s start to where it spills into the Indian Ocean is easy because it is downhill. Following the Umvoti river as best you can on a bicycle involves more than 2 000 vertical meters of climbing, because of the inaccessibility of some of the parts of the river.

In spite of this, and maybe because of this, it was fun none-the-less and, we raised some funds for worthy causes. I am sure this will happen again and if you would like to join in the fun, you need to be ready.

Toughen up your nether regions, train so that your quads burst out of your boxer shorts, fatten your wallet with R10 notes for charity fines and learn to drink beer out of a quart bottle.

But most of all, make friends with Mike, Gordon and Steve! They make it happen.

— Supplied by Saddle Sore.

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