Sani2C Dry Run 17 – 19 December 2009
Thanks to a little luck & great family opportunities, I was privileged to be one of the 26 crew invited to partake in the Sani2C Dry Run (also the James Taylor Memorial Ride) in Dec 2009, and now have been afforded the honour of sharing a little insight into the people that make it happen and the great adventures we, the riders, experienced! Whenever I mentioned I was off on this trip, the first question that came from many an envious friend was …. how on earth did you manage to wangle this one? All I can say is that there are many wonderful benefits to having a large extended family, including all the numerous connections. In this particular instance my cousin is married to a dairy farmer, also mountain bike enthusiast and living in Underberg….need I say more? Truth be told there was an element of wangling my way in to join this group of people on such an exciting adventure. This opportunity was too good to pass by and accompanied by a beseeching cry from my soul craving a little adventure! Little did I know I would be in for a treat far beyond the best mountain biking in the world (in my humble opinion) but also the opportunity to get to know a truly inspirational and extremely grounded family (Farmer Glen and his troop of Haws) and this amazing crew of mountain bikers aka the SwampDogs led by Wappo, accompanied by the Rhodes Brothers, Jonty and Clinton! I have to say, and of course I am not bias at all, but there is definitely something a little different about mountain bikers! The people I have met so far are all very down-to-earth, easy going and adventure hungry! I suppose, let’s face it, you pretty much have to be considering you spend excessive time hurtling down mountains, down crazy single tracks (varying approaches depending on appetite and ability), bundu-bashing to find new tracks all in search of “the ultimate single track”, covered in mud/dust/grit to the point where your eyes and ears ooze gunk for days! No place for clean, white, neat and orderly! But these guys… well they’re a whole other league! It’s unbelievably refreshing! It was so great to be among some very chilled but super hot riders with this crazy-crazy passion for riding – to the point that their passion spills over to everyone (even me who is already mad for mtb). And they’re seriously down-to-earth, so chilled, hard core, been there since the start, did the 1st Epic, conquered TransAlps and even the madness of Alp d’ Huez (8500ft downhill mountain bike descent: seriously insane) and now …….. transcended trail riders! And then there are the Haws. Anyone who meets them and has the privilege of spending time with them will no doubt agree: what incredible people and a remarkable family. It’s so evident that they put so much back with this amazing passion for life! Can you imagine 26 mountain bikers invading your home, covered in mud and hungry as wolves? Their hospitality was just amazing and their family very special. Their children are certainly testament to that with all three: Bianca, aged 13, Murray, 15 and Tamika, 18 completing their 1st full Sani on the dry run! In true Sani2C hospitality we were spoilt rotten, including chocolate brownies, banana bread, crunchies, fridge cake, donuts and that was just the snacks en route provided by a full support crew led by Mom, Mandy and other wives and family following us from 5am to 6pm through boiling heat and pouring rain – as it goes in Kwa Zulu Natal in December. So the next question from everyone is….what are the changes for 2010, what’s in store for us?? Well Sani2C certainly lives true to its reputation of growing from strength to strength and getting better every year….2010 is going to be awesome! Anyone who has done Sani2C or knows of anyone who has done it will have undoubtedly been told about the adventures of Sani – floating bridges, dam walls and river crossings, endless single track and hospitality that can only be experienced. There is of course the pinnacle of all single tracks….the incredible single track on Day 2 leading down to the Umkomaas Valley. Little do you know, camped out on Day 1, that you’re sitting just a mere couple of kilometres away from what feels like the crest of the Umkomaas valley and arguably one of the best mountain biking single tracks in the world! It really is just indescribable and sheer fun-joy…. It probably sounds totally crazy to explain! I get butterflies in my stomach as I head out of MacKenzie’s, follow a short trip on district roads, past a few locals all cheering away (race time or dry run time!!) and into the forest for a little single track. Then out you pop from the trees, along the track and within minutes in front of you…. BREATHTAKING…..It’s early morning, pink skies and sun rising slowly over the mighty Umkomaas river. Ahead you can see a single track hugging the side of cliff…..and you’re about to head off on 18 kilometres of just the most amazing tracks DOWNHILL! The fun has just begun! If you have a moment to glance back you can see this massive waterfall that you were only meters away from just moments ago. And along the tracks you go, winding, switching back through the hills, through the village, past children and women, the school, past the old “Induna” (village leader) who, with his broad grin, waves furiously with one hand leaning on his walking stick. He, along with his village team, works hard with Farmer Glen and his team to cut and manicure the tracks; and now is clearly so excited to see us riding and loving it! I have to take a moment and think …..This is just the BEST!!! Really, does it get better than this?? Maybe this is best understood through seeing it for yourself….. Mechanic Malcolm shot this amazing footage (see links below)…… or participating; or maybe you know what I am talking about already? Yankee Doodle Opening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Pk1fPmEroc Murray’s Meander to Nick’s Pass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xPb7aREL9E Concrete Strips to Tamika’s Detour: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShxaCuUajDU Ah but you see, there I go, I digress! I was supposed to be telling you about the changes but got swept away in reliving the Umkomaas experience!! But then maybe these changes ARE best left to be experienced! What I can tell you is that there are changes going into the valley, christened at the dry run after Bianca (aka Yankee Doodle), the youngest child and the only one without a track named after her, until Dec 2009! Day 2 climb to the halfway point is also different with a new route across the savannah dry lands, bypassing the district road…yeeehhaaa! Day 3 starts off in a whole new way! I give it the big BIG thumbs up!! I sincerely hope that you get to experience this adventure if not in 2010 sometime soon! If you’re waiting patiently on the Sani2C waiting list, why not try for Joberg2C, it’s 6 days more of Sani adventures and hospitality! It’s on my list for 2011! And if you’re doing Sani2C in 2010, I’ll see you there!