Under police escort out of Port Elizabeth today, we rode to a labyrinthine network of trails that the local riders were kind enough to share, many even offered us technical and mechanical assistance. There were steep inclines and declines, stream crossings, logs, sand, mud, and miles of incredible single-track through the bush.
It was on the first major descent -- long, rutted, and strewn with rocks -- that I had my first fall of the trip. I locked up the front wheel and just dropped the bike without falling to the ground myself. I quickly pulled the bike up, cranked the engine, and finished the hill without incident, proud to serve as entertainment for the crowd.
Around noon, we entered our first game reserve near Addo. Suddenly, we found ourselves on roads being crossed by herds of gazelle, with zebras, giraffes, warthogs, bison, and springbok looking on. Incidentally, a park we later visited in the day deployed a graphic of a bicyclist being stomped by an elephant, all to suggest that it wasn't a great place to pedal around. I began scanning my surroundings with a renewed vigor.
We shut down the bikes near a pond with two huge alligators resting in the sun and did a quick tour of the park in jeeps. The highlight for me was being visited by two-ton rhinos lulled over to the cars with fresh hay.
Our 10-hr, exhilarating day ended after a long slog on roads so dusty that we could barely see. In fact, tonight's pre-ride briefing for the 307-km run to Morgan's Bay tomorrow emphasized the importance of maintaining approriate "dust gaps" (i.e., the amount of space between riders affecting visibility and reaction times), as well as staying hydrated in the hot sun, and riding safely.
We've now been sorted by skill level. I'm on the Orange team, which corresponds very roughly to a middle group of riders on the trip. This comes as a surprise given that my only off-road experience is on mountain-bikes.
All for now.
Photo credits: Andrew Forsyth, Andrew Pawley