16 & 17 Nov ’19

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The legend of the To Hell & Back

CS Lewis said that ‘the road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.’ In this case, the road to the Hell is a rocky dirt road with steep slopes, sharp switchbacks, ups and downs, dropping a hair raising 3000 feet down into a valley.

This race proudly is the first MTB stage race in South Africa. The views while riding on these historic roads are extraordinary, jaw dropping and nail biting all in one. It is known as the longest mountain pass in South Africa.

The overnight stop in The Hell means everybody stays together, which makes for a great atmosphere. The uniqueness of the race village is ‘captured’ within the shear remoteness of Gamkaskloof, no electricity, no cell reception, no TV, not even radio reception.

It was in 1995 that the first To Hell and Back took place. It came about from the love of riding and to popularise The Hell. Due to limited accommodation and facilities in The Hell, only 500 participants are allowed.

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3 weeks ago

To Hell and Back MTB Stage Race

What a great way to sum up an awesome weekend!🚵‍♀️🚵‍♂️⛰️TO HELL AND BACK (GAMKASKLOOF) – November 2018

If you ever want to experience nature at its finest you have to do this route. Not necessarily on a mountain bike like hubby, but you will definitely need a proper off road vehicle. Preferably a 4wheel drive with diff lock and traction control. Please be aware that this is a very long post.

On Friday we only managed to get away late as we still needed to pick up our Ford Ranger 2.2 Double Cab 6speed Bakkie for the trip. We did not want to pack this on with the normal town car that I drive and my hubby’s long distance road car is not made for this type of off roading.

We arrived at De Hoek Mountain Resort at about 19:00 and had to quickly make sure hubby is registered and set up camp for the night before the dark set in. We had an enormous tent that housed our 2 single bed blow up mattresses, 1 bag with some clothing, and obviously the cherished mountain bike that was chosen for the race. The rest of the luggage had to stay on the back of the Bakkie as I needed to leave very early on Saturday morning before the first truck left.

We had a little bit of rain during the night, so packing up in the morning was a bit of a schlep as we had a wet tent. We got up at 4:30, packed up, hubby made his breakfast and we were set to be off. After his final check on his bike I was ready to take on this mountain with this really big Bakkie, and a lot of nerves.

As I hit the dirt road I switched on the diff lock and the traction control (not that I have any idea if this was the right thing to do, but hey it got me back alive). The fog was thick, the road was narrow and winding, and I was scared. I put on some tunes to try and calm the nerves but that did not help much.

I reached the turnoff to Gamkaskloof Traveling time 2 hours. I pulled off for a car to pass me and just as I started to drive I noticed a board on the left that said
“Dangerous Road for 48km! Use at own risk!”
As if this was supposed to make me feel any better. But I had no choice. Hubby was on his way and I was to meet him in “The Hell”.

I drove and drove and drove some more. The road felt never ending, probably because I only went at like 20km per hour. But the view was gorgeous. And the stress from the last couple of weeks just blew away with the wind over the open land. I felt calm and relaxed, in a weird way, as I was stressed about the road. Then I reached Heartbreak Hill. Where are the boards? I searched and the more I drove the less I saw. I so wished to see the notorious boards that hubby always talks about. But do yourself a favour and look at the photos taken by Peter Kirk (www.facebook.com/peter.kirk.7393) as he does have some there. (I have also added some of his photos to this post.) And then you reach the terrifying descend into “The Hell”. The narrow, downwards, switch back road that goes down into the valley. It is magnificent. It is scary. It is something to experience.

And there I reach the finish line for the To Hell and Back MTB Stage Race. Glad that I made it down alive. Dreading tomorrow when I need to drive this ginormous Bakkie out of this Valley again.

I make my way into Cape Nature (www.capenature.co.za/reserves/swartberg-nature-reserve/) where we have booked a house for the night. We stay in Freek and Martha house that is a lovely little cottage that sleeps 4 people and has a lot of space. You are very secluded and don’t see the road from the house.

After packing everything off the Bakkie, and opening up the tent for it to dry out, I head back to the finish line to meet hubby. I hope that he makes it down alive, as I know how he loves to fly down hills and these downhills don’t have any barriers to keep him from flying down them literally. 

At 11:16 hubby rocks up at the finish line with a completed time of 4:16:40 and reaching a spot of 168. He bettered his time from last year with about an hour. Sooooooo proud. We spent some time at he finish line. Went back to our house, took a nap and then went to Die Hel - Fontein Gaste Plaas for dinner. We had a braai with 3 meats, 3 salads, and rooster koek. It was divine. After dinner we retreated to our house where we started getting our things sorted for the next morning. Packed all our stuff up and made sure only the necessities were out. The rest had to be on the Bakkie. We needed to be up by 4:00 on Sunday morning.

Early morning rise, pack the last of our things and going over the bike for the last time. We set off for the Fonteine again to pick up our breakfast and then off to the start line. Hubby checked his tyres, made sure his brakes are working and eventually I set off to concur this mountain in front of me. But then it happened, my worst fear, a truck pulls in right as I start to take off and I am stuck behind it all the way to the top, down Heartbreak Hill and then only could he pull over and give me space. It was bad. It was scary. The dust was so much that I had to stop as I could not see where this road is in front of me. But then he pulled off and the road was clear and I could drive. And it was a clear day and I was comfortable. And I had tunes playing. I was going to fight this fear and had a blast. Just then and there I decided maybe I should become a rally diver. I am sure this will be for me. So if you know anyone that needs a second, I am willing to go along for the ride and work myself up to become the next female rally driver. Or maybe I should just get hubby to build me a car. That is if he has time between all the mountain bike riding he does.

I reached the end, parked the Bakkie and then started to wait for the big return. It seems like everyone had a hard time getting back as the fastest rider took over 3 hours back, 16 minutes slower than the fastest rider in. Hubby returned back at 11:45 taking 4:45:54 and reaching 162 place.

We packed up the bike and started making our way back home. We stopped at Headlines Restaurant for lunch in Oudtshoorn. And then had coffee at Donkey Shed in Barrydale. They have really nice date slices.

I hope you enjoyed this very loooooong post, sorry if I bored some of you, but this was such a great weekend and did not want to leave anything out. Please visit and support all the people I have mentioned in this post they were amazing and really worth your time.

Travel love till next time.
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What a great way to sum up an awesome weekend!🚵‍♀️🚵‍♂️⛰️

 

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David Welman Edelweiss Coetzer-Welman Naomi Du Plessisnaomi kyk na die laaste foto. Julle al 3 is daar.

4 weeks ago

To Hell and Back MTB Stage Race

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Results are up 👉 https://www.tohellandback.co.za/#tab-id-10

 

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Grueling race but I loved every minute!!!!! Loved making Heartbreak Hill cry this year! Not the other way around!

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3 JUNE 2019

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