Sometimes things go better than expected. With a lot of trepidation I joined 3 Smokkelaars, Brenton the beast and Gary who is no longer a ghost on an amazing journey deep in the Fleurieu. I did not look forward to being dropped on every pimple in the landscape but decided to go for it anyway. A solid breakfast and a long driver to Willunga while storing up extra energy with a nutbar and a banana would certainly iron out that part of the mammoth task ahead.
Soon after leaving Willunga the hills appeared. Steep and ruthless. Within the first minutes I was already way behind. I envisaged a sad theme for the day. The one of having my team mates waiting, framing the horizon on top of a hill. Embarrassing, not so much for me but for them. Knowing there's not much point in worrying too much about that I trod on. Gears playing up like mad. I have to invest in a serious bike bag if I want to keep on riding overseas. I reckon my gears, and as it turned out later, my shocks got a real hammering in the cargo of the Air New Zealand airbus.
The climb out of Willunga could have been worse. A massive charge of lactic acid hit the old calves early on. Pushing on because the thought of being left behind for the rest of the day is not an option. I started to notice that I wasn't going too bad. Time to enjoy my company. There's Junior on his road-mountainbike, same posture as on the first TDU ride. Same heavy gears. The Ghost, Gary, finally we have a face and a name to him. Chapeau for the organization Gary. You have done a great job. Cabana Kid without cabanas. No garlic smell around his lean riding. The kid has the supreme build and style of a grand tour rider.
Up to Brett, who told me on a downhill section of some amazing tour rides in East Asia! What a concept and he planted more than one seed. His legs are in the Rowdy category. Say no more! Up to the Gunner. Gunning as always. Freewheeling amongst strugglers. It was beautiful but we missed a few. Certainly the man who made us do what we do. Taking care of our ride without even being able to be with us.
On we went. Lunch at the Inman Valley Town Hall, being renovated, good to see. We indulged in cinnamon coated, and for the brave, sugar coated donuts. Coffee, tea. Thank you Ghost family.
The killer act was waiting for us like a cliffhanger in a soap opera. Mount Alma. 'Anyone ever heard of Mount Alma?' Turkey, Dalmatia, the Karakoram? Nope, Fleurieu. The first hill was a prelude to a 19% ascend. Fair dinkum. While riding up towards the thing I felt a deep sense of having to ride up a wall of concrete. The turn-off at 'Glacier Rock' didn't help much to make us feel more comfortable with this next hurdle. My old Stumpjumper couldn't have been very happy either. Creaking and equalling its rider. I could here the ball bearings I swear. Up we went, through some very steep terrain. As Gary said in the lunchbreak 'this should be in the Tour Down Under'. Willunga Hill, give me a break!'
Trying to find momentum, changing my gears to the smallest blade in front, the large one at the back. Breathing, no time to look around. Finding momentum, meditating, thinking of my past, future and what is there in between. Kangaroos plenty. Grass as green as in Kiwiland. 'South Australia?' 2 rabbits crossing the road, nice stew in a Dutch Christmas feast. 'How am I going', looking over my shoulder. Looking at myself. Old man playing in the fields.
We got there and we marveled at our endurance, awed by the spectacular scenery and the huge ride Mister Ghost had served on our platter. What did he write in the email? 'This is not an easy ride!'
We gathered on top. 'From now on there will be a gentle meandering ride to the Victory Hotel', the Ghost reckoned. I looked at my team mates and we all thought the same. 'There is no truth in cycling'. Down we went but not at all as long and as sweet as we imagined our descent. Another climb waiting. This time on dirt, rough dirt. A beautiful climb. Sweeter than sweet. I managed to ride it up on a decent gear and imagined riding in Paris Roubaix. Just ride hard over the cobbles, keep the speed up as high as you can. The kid thought the same. Great. Motor dirtbikes were around us for a little while and we descended into a tough dirt track from Sellicks Hill to the Victory Hotel where we'd planned a beer. My shocks have carked it I'm affraid. Another visit to my mountainbike repair dude in the city. We decided to ride on to Willunga as darkness on the edge of town seemed too dangerous. We cruised on. Vineyards to the left, olives to the right and we got to the end.
We changed wet and smelly outfits for clothes soon to be as smelly and drank a pint at the Alma Hotel in Willunga. Fitting to our journey. It was a great day out. Thank you guys for making me feel a bit better about my riding.
A mountainbike journey on the Mawson Trail section from Burra up North is on the cards for later this year. We will keep you posted on developments.