Day 5 – Chris’s Story
By Day 5, we were all firmly locked into our routine. Unogwaja was the normal, and our real lives were the mystery hanging in the future. After the endless, monotonous, leg- and spirit-numbing straight flats of Day 4, Day 5 was a dramatic change. While we spent Day 4 begging for something new to see or feel, we’d spend Day 5 repeating two motions: pedal uphill, go downhill, repeat ad nauseum. Climb like crazy, descend a little, then climb again, the downhills never seeming like equal reprieve from the ups. It was like those stadium drills you do in high school athletics, where you have someone on your back and you jump up two steps and down one. That was us, all day. We just kept going up. Second breakfast came and went; we kept climbing. Somewhere in there, we passed the half way line, which had been artistically rendered onto the tarmac. As we came to an overlook, we took a moment to regroup. We had one last push before us, then a particularly hectic descent. There was nothing over-the-top different about this descent. Physically it was only that it was very rough road, the winds were relatively high, as we had run out of hills to climb, and therefore out of hills to act as wind block. It was more the history that made this one different. Two years earlier (2014) an Unogwaja experienced a blowout that took the rider down hard. It wasn’t a fear we had, but a respect for the terrain. I think this is something most endurance athletes will understand. You’re never in opposition to the terrain; that would be stupid, because you’d most often lose. However, stories passed down, accounts of tumbles, spills, bonks – these all lead to a reverence of sorts for famous portions of courses. This day, the reverence culminated in respect, but no fear. We made it, intact, down the ascent. We regrouped quickly after, and pushed on. Things were on our side now; we had a tailwind and an overall downhill trend to Cradock.
The rest of the ride was fast and provided a much needed break after the roller coaster of morning. We rode through a good amount of construction and made our way to a huge welcome at the Caltex in Cradock. For the first time, we pushed past our scheduled stopping town and gained some miles for the next days. At this point, we stumbled upon a headwind, and were feeling beat up. We called it a day, and headed to Vukasebenze Shelter in Cradock to settle in for the night. This is an amazing place, with even more amazing people behind it. Gussy and Baba were amazing human beings who truly embraced the Unogwaja spirit and always rolled out the red carpet for us. They are no longer with us but their spirit lives on. We had an amazing evening, awesome food, and great entertainment. Day 5 was done, we were over the hump.