Gerty and Claire's Rhino Run Adventure

Gerty and Claire's Rhino Run Adventure

Claire Stevens is no stranger to a long bike adventure. A veteran endurance rider, having completed The Indian Pacific Wheel Race, GBDURO, Scotland’s Highland Trail 550, The Hunt and much more. After a recent long stint working overseas, Claire has settled back into Geelong (Victoria) and it wasn't long before the next big ride called. One of three women to line up for this years The Rhino Run, Claire and Gerty (her ti GMX+) was the only woman full course finisher. Not only did Claire complete the course, she also rode the entrée leg from Stellenbosch to the start line in Plettenberg Bay in reverse as a warm up/bike shakedown.
Below is a diary of Claire's recent ride, in her words.

Part 1. Plettenberg Bay to Stellenbosch (entree)
We were off at 6:22 on a glorious morning. I can’t say that I was really feeling fresh and feisty as my decision to commute the 750 km to the start had taken the edge off. However, it was super exciting to be underway. The familiarity of the route relaxed me completely and I enjoyed having other riders nearby to share the occasional story (and baboon bum sighting). I climbed the rugged and beautiful slopes of Montagu Pass just as the sun set and on arrival into Oudtshoorn had a sneaky 4hr kip in a hotel with 24hr reception. Rooiberg Pass in the mid morning was sweltering (lucky it has fabulous views to distract the sweaty brow!) and by the time I arrived in Van Wyksdorp, I was struggling with the heat, so had a slow late lunch through the worst of it.I continued on through the Klein Karoo and over Garcia’s Pass to bivvy in drizzle somewhere on a high point about 30k out of Suurbraak. It was lovely to see the touring rhinos in Stellenbosch. Much later that day I climbed Rusty Gate Pass in the dark with a massive wind and rain storm encouraging me to shelter in a barn just past the summit and after a water crossing that had me doubting my navigational skills. All was fine in the morning as I realised that some expected hike a bike had been removed from the route and I was quickly on to tarmac. The climb up Franshoek Pass was a delight and I was soon rolling into Stellenbosch with some friendly dot watchers. I was in need of food, a data top up and some new gloves (I had lost one in the rain) before heading out on the main course. I was excited for new roads ahead!
Best bird: Blue Cranes
Favourite food: A PB🌱ch*cken sandwich from George
Best view: looking back while going up Rooiberg Pass. 

Part 2. Stellenbosch to the Namibian Border (main course)
I was soon climbing away from the busy town amongst wineries and farmland (1) and towards Bainskloof Pass. What an amazing pass that was! I climbed it at night and missed the views but it was thoroughly enjoyable under a night sky. I had wasted a bit of time before the pass and felt unhappy with myself for that. The passes and wonderful views kept coming before a long descent into Clanwilliam. The long road climb out of this town was baking even in the early morning. This day was tough for no real reason, but a ripper of a veggie burger in Calvinia was a great mood booster for riding into the night. It was starting to get hotter and sunburn was difficult to avoid, so I decided to convert to afternoon naps on my arrival into Springbok. I stayed in a place with a rather inviting pool and a lovely beer drinking atmosphere. All business for me though, I was soon asleep so I’d be ready to resume riding at dusk. Night riding has a magical appeal.There is almost always no traffic, the stars outside of town are numerous and bright, the wind reduced and the air lovely and cool. Many of my favourite ride moments of all time have been at night. If you haven’t tried it, I thouroughly recommend you do! The Cederberg section was amazing and at times reminded me of the Flinders Ranges but the Cederberg seemed like a bigger, stretched out version devoid of roos. Here I saw multiple birds of prey and wished I had binoculars and the time to peer through them. Nah. Save the slow tour for when maximum volume adventure becomes too tough! The last section before the border was a rip snorter! The few finishers I spoke to did not enjoy this bit, but for me it was brilliant! Gerty got to get loose over some proper rough stuff and it really piqued the interest of my now weary body and mind. The petroglyphs were a terrific surprise too. Woo!

Part 3. Namibia - the finish line 
My goodness, the Namibia leg was a feast of magnificent views. These were quite literally a sight for the sore eyes of this sand beaten weary rider. Much of my ‘why’ is to see landscapes, plants and wildlife. Namibia delivered handsomely and I grabbed out of it all the motivation and forward momentum I could.
It began with a night ride alongside the Orange River, which sparkled under the waxing gibbous moonlight. As dawn broke, I saw a group of Zebra, the pixilated pictures in my stories show only two stragglers. I took this after staring at many more of them in amazement, mesmerised by their presence and then awkwardness as they scurried across the road ahead.

The dusty roads became tarmac and I passed through the very different towns of Rosh Pinah and Aus before tackling Namibia’s dream road, the D707. I did have a short dirt nap in the roadside dunes (very comfy!) but was so tired there was no dreaming. Much like the road itself: bumps and sand and even a dust storm made it rather the opposite. Nice scenery though! I never got to see the elusive Secretary bird or the giraffe. However, I did see hornbills, zebra, oryx, vervet monkeys, baboons, kudu and springbok. Throughout the Namibian landscape, I rode night and day with a few hours kip in the hottest part of the afternoons and only short powernaps to battle the sleep monsters at night (they were feisty by this stage!). The moonlight was glorious and the stars were surely closer to earth in this country. The long gravel road before the descent into Windhoek was a bunch of neverending rollers before finally (or too soon?) it tipped downward, then changed to tarmac before leading into the bustle of town. I was very lucky for the company of 3 riders who by quizing me about the highs and lows of the previous days, kept me distracted from the loose notion of personal space afforded by the drivers. Thanks fellas! I rolled up to the Christukirche in Windhoek grateful and satisfied with an adventure well had. 

- Claire  (follow all her adventures HERE)Claire completed her adventure on out ti GMX+, complete with our carbon 29r Dirt Hoops. 

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2 comments

G’day again Henry! Thanks for your kind words. Great achievement by you and your mates too! Such a great place to ride. Seeing you guys going in the other direction had me thinking of you often for the next few days. I thought that you were wise riding southward, did it feel like going downhill? I am sure it didn’t really. Wishing you more great adventures. Onya.

Claire Stevens

Brilliant achievement Claire and an excellent summary of such an adventure. We passed you in the opposite direction just outside Ceres, and having just ridden the route you were about to enjoy, makes your story so wonderful for us. Take care and once again, brilliant stuff !!

Henry Hodgson

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