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Volunteer and Intern Abroad since 1997
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The Challenge – The Full Story, from Start to Finish

By 6 years ago
Categories Cape Town

Amazing!! I can’t actually believe I managed to cycle and walk 350km in 5 days and finish it off with a hike up Table Mountain. It was tough and there were some tears and moments when I felt I wouldn’t finish but being as stubborn as I am I refused to give in! And although there were some tears there were definitely many, many more laughs and fantastic memories. We had the most amazing team of people who were constantly upbeat and positive even when we were all completely shattered and in pain!! And the fact that we have collectively raised over £10,000 is just tremendous. I can’t describe what a huge difference that money will make.
So Day 1 we set off excited and positive with singing and laughter! We planned to complete the most miles on the first day, a whopping 110km on bike. However it proved to be a much tougher day than anyone had anticipated…
Firstly we had 4 punctures in the morning and this wasn’t helped by the losing of the bike pump!! We had used the last of the spare bikes on the trailer when by some amazing fortune in a remote village we just happened to stumble across a couple of kids sitting with a bucket of water and an inner tube fixing their own puncture. With a little negotiation we had ourselves a puncture repair team and were up and running again!

Secondly, the wind was against us – head on and very, very strong. It was relentless for most of the day, so strong that we actually had to pedal downhill. We also had to cycle a lot on gravel which is much harder than on tarmac. We battled on and got off the bikes to complete the 5km killer hill that we encountered. Towards the end of the day it became clear that we wouldn’t make the 110km point before sundown. The team came together to decide if we would allow the fittest (Jim and Nick aka ‘The Machines’) to finish for the team. But team spirit won and we decided that we all finish or none of us finish so we pedalled off with even greater enthusiasm and determination. We completed 90km that day and ended it with most of us slightly delirious! We planned to make up the 20km by adding it on to another day…

My funniest memory of that day was poor Lucy being so tyred that when a big gust of wind hit her side on she just didn’t have the strength to fight it and simply fell into a ditch and just lay there for a few moments before bursting into hysterical laughter… It just shows how shattered we all were! We finally finished in Hermanus and after a quick beer and hearty braai went straight to bed.
We woke on Day 2 to Jim knocking on the door to enquire why everyone had slept through the 5:30 alarm call… Erm maybe because we cycled 90km the day before?!! The first thing we all noticed was the rain… It was pouring!! Not a good start to the second day. We set off with a short run (I swear I was still half asleep) to warm up and then got back on the bikes. The good thing about the rain was that none of us particularly wanted to stop for very long during snack breaks and it was so cold we couldn’t feel the pain in our legs so we actually achieved some of our quickest kms. My trainers were actually filled with water!
We were waved down by a couple in a car at one point to warn us that a baboon had been knocked by a car up ahead and a whole group of baboons were by the roadside… I was so scared of getting attacked by a crazed, angry baboon!! We got off our bikes and walked on the other side of the road making sure we didn’t look any of them in the eye!! Luckily we all survived that little adventure and finished the day in Gordon’s bay. The team had come out to give us a fantastic and much needed warm welcome 🙂
So after two days of cycling we were all hoping for a bit of a rest and to be able to do a few kms by sail boat on Day 3. Now Gordon’s Bay is officially one of the windiest places I’ve ever been to… apart from the one day I desperately wanted wind, it was the stillest day I’ve known! And no wind means no sailing. So those of us with aching knees dosed up on pain killers and we set off once again on our bike. Not too long into the cycle we stopped at a petrol station to refuel (on crisps and chocolate). Happy again we all got on our bikes… except for Jim… whose bike had been stolen!!! Some kid had casually walked up alongside wheeled the bike off! Little bugger. So after some excitement with trying to chase after him, calling the police etc we took another bike off the trailer.
I can honestly say we tackled all terrains over the 5 days including pushing our bikes across a beach for a few kms on Day 3! The end of this day was definitely my worst. My knees had most certainly had enough and I finished the last 10kms into Fish Hoek crying!! But I got there thanks to the wonderful support of the team 🙂 Thanks guys x
I woke on Day 4 worried that I wouldn’t be finishing it on bike because of my knees. Luckily, Rodrigo had some wonderful pain killers and I altered the height of my seat slightly and these things seemed to help. We tackled some serious hills up to Cape Point and climbed to the top where we looked out across the bay to where we had started 3 days ago. I actually could not take in just how far we had cycled. An unbelievable distance already and we still hadn’t finished! We all enjoyed the long wheel back down the hills looking out over the sea and then managed to add on the 20kms that we didn’t do on Day 1, to compete our second longest day of 89kms 🙂 Go Team!
So Day 5 was a lovely change from cycling. I was so happy that I didn’t have to get back on that bike! We walked the 30kms with most of the other volunteers from Gordon’s Bay and Fish Hoek. My legs seemed to stiffen up the further I walked and I definitely wasn’t looking forward to the hike up the mountain with my now dodgy knees. But we managed it and all crossed the finish line together… proud, happy and bloody shattered!!
I have so many fantastic memories of those 5 days. It is so amazing what you can achieve when you put your mind to it along with great team spirit and determination and a small dose of stubbornness!
A huge thank you to all of you for your sponsorship money and kind messages of support. It means so much.
Hazel Thompson – Ikhayalethemba Volunteer