That’s the Freedom Challenge catch phrase. They guarantee an adventure!! Wow, pretty confident of them I thought. What if everything goes according to plan and we have a smooth run? Will it still be an adventure?
21 days. That was our plan, and that’s what it took us. One or two minor mechanicals on our bikes, a sprinkling of snow, a puff of wind and a few drops of rain. No major health issues. Only one small, very small, deviation from the route as we took a wrong turn! So a smooth run in anyone’s books. We were lucky. They say you make your own luck, but we were lucky. Was it still an adventure………..You can bet your house, car and life savings it was. When they say adventure guaranteed, they mean it!
As a very proud blanket owner, I feel I need to give all you mountain bikers some advice on Freedom Challenge.
Stop umming and aahhing. Ride it.
“Is it hard?” you ask. Yes it is.
“Is it very hard?” No it’s not. There are some long portages that are physically taxing, especially because you are used to having your bike under your bum, not on your back. It is along ride, and you will be sore at some stage. But it’s not very hard.
“Will I make it?” Yes you will. Provided you can confidently tick the boxes below:
1. You will make it if you are an average mountain biker.
2. You will make it if you know how to read a map and navigate.
3. You will make it if you know your bike and have a good understanding of the possible mechanicals, and how to fix them.
4. You will make it if you have the right clothing. The weather is a big variable. “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”.
5. You will make it if you have a very understanding family back home, it’s a long time away.
6. You will make it if you train to ride, walk and carry your bike. Be prepared for being out there the whole day.
7. But most importantly you will make it if your mind is strong, your attitude positive, and your will unwavering. There is no place for doubt and negativity.
“Is it expensive?” No, it is the best value-for-money bike ride on the planet. You do the maths. The cost per day, considering the amazing accommodation, wonderful food, awesome scenery and fantastic riding, is excellent value for money.
We live in an incredible country. Full of incredible people. We are all too hasty to climb on a plane and visit far flung corners of the globe, in search of beauty and splendour and unique cultures. There are places on our doorstep that are breathtaking. There are people that are so warm and generous, you feel embarrassed that you’re passing through so quickly. They are all genuinely proud South Africans, and that makes you very happy. The overnight stops are called “Support Stations”. The lunch stops are called “Emergency Stops”. They should be called “Warm Comfortable Homes Away from Home”. They’re a highlight. They vary from very comfortable B&B’s and guest houses, to remote farm homes, to Zulu homesteads. Each stop as unique as the people who care for you. They are all humble, caring, genuine, uncomplicated, proud people. At every stop. Wether you are grabbing a quick bowl of soup and heading on, or enjoying a three course meal, a few beers and comfy bed, each of these places is truly memorable.
You will make mates on the Freedom Challenge. They should guarantee that too. Amazing what a common goal does for a crowd of riders from all walks of life. Riders come from around the world with very different backgrounds and cultures. Great friends you will make. We were a small group of mates which was wonderful. We got to share the experience together. But no sweat if you’re on your own. You will make mates within hours of leaving PMB. And if you want to ride alone, you can do that too.
I really enjoyed the pace of Freedom Challenge. Even the racing snakes are riding the same speed as you. They just sleep less and ride longer every day. It sometimes takes them a whole day to overtake you! You will rub shoulders with the experienced racers who finish in 12 odd days. You’ll hang out with the nervous novices , and the riders who own more blankets than a Basuthu family. And you’ll pass the slower guys who are taking the full 26 day allocation to get there. And it might take you a day or 2 to get passed them!
It’s a wonderful journey. A chance to unplug from the distractions and pressures of the modern world and worry about real problems. Like food and shelter. It’s a journey that is long, it’s a big trip, in anyone’s books. But anyone can make it. You eat an elephant one mouthful at a time, and that’s just how you ride Freedom Challenge.
It’s an adventure, you can be guaranteed of that. So ride it. Entries open 1 August.
I will be there again, guaranteed.