The penultimate day! This morning, for a change, it was cloudless and warm.
At the briefing, Hardy let the teams know that there was almost nothing between the top teams with everything to lose. All 7 teams this year are very strong. There are no passengers.
There is a great sense of team. They may very well be up against each other officially, but there’s a good bond that’s developed across all. Every morning so far, someone is presented with a large wooden spoon – it’s an honour to win it as it’s the “Spirit of Quest” according to the other riders. The other, a clown tie is a fun one, given for doing something silly or embarrassing.
Today’s route started as soon as we left Perdekloof with a tough navigation exercise; the Tankwa Karoo National Park is littered with trails, the ones we travelled on were vague and little visited. The Tankwa can be at times surreal with another worldliness to it. Dark shale fields between weathered red hued sedentary mountains with the pastel blue Cederberg Mountains beckoning us to join them off in the distance. In this harsh world, an Ostridge and Gemsbok raced across our path to add to the occasion. It’s a very special place.
Making the R355 we turned temporarily North to make our way to the Biedouw valley. We’d been warned that the Doring River was in flood and the crossing would not be navigable.
Considering that we’d just come through the furnaced shales of Tankwa Karoo, it was a bit surreal wading into the refreshing river not 40 minutes later, floating a bike across with a homemade pontoon just enough to carry one bike.
This is was an exercise in teamwork across the teams. At this late stage, sinking a bike would be a disaster as the team’s chances of winning will almost certainly be lost.
The Cedarberg is a craggy, rough, eminently picturesque backdrop to the final stretch to camp. The mood was high and despite a few more punctures, riding into camp was both high with accomplishment and a little sad that this would be the last evening together.
Tomorrow, in just over a 100km, Honda Quest winners will be announced. It’s been an absolute epic!
And so all good things must end… Possibly, if only to start the next good thing.
This morning, unlike every other, we have time. A very precious commodity that has been scarce since we left Cape Town. By design, the rhythm this morning has slowed to have those most important conversations before the outside world comes flooding back in. A decompression process of sorts.
As per tradition, the crew left the competitors to head to the prizegiving venue where it all started at Bootcamp just a month ago at the Kaleo Guest Farm. The three instructors stayed close for a while before stopping the group to say their words.
The group were then left on their own to privately say what needed to be said to each other to be complete with the journey. It’s a precious time.
Then, after a short 100km stage through the Southern End of the Cedarberg, they rolled dustily into Kaleo. Just 9 days previously they were relative strangers, polite and formal around each other. Now they were unrecognisable. It wasn’t the dust and travel grime that did that, it was on the inside; Their true adventure journey had irrevocably changed them.
After a heartfelt welcome back by Yuishi Fukuda, president of Honda Motor Southern Africa, Ruan Ueckermann & Neil Rieck were declared the deserved winners of Honda Quest 2021.
The final tally was so very close amongst this great group who really are the winners in this Grand Adventure. However, both men’s infectious energy, bringing a smile to everything they did and their consistency both on and off the bike saw them richly deserving of their prize of keeping and riding home on the very Honda Africa Twin that they competed on.
“Instead of being afraid of the challenge and failure, be afraid of avoiding the challenge and doing nothing.” Soichiro Honda