Since I started cycling, roughly 9 years ago now, I must have heard about GABRAN umpteen times in different conversations. With envy I have listened to tales regaled from all that have been a part of the experience. These stories have been shared by serious cyclists to committed spectators. Fun is probably the most common adjective used in each story told.

Each and every year that has passed there seems to have been some work commitment that has prevented me from taking part. This year was to be different. While driving the back roads from Clarens one weekend early in the year, my husband and I decided this would be the year we too did GABRAN. GABRAN, as we soon discovered is an acronym for Great Annual Bicycle Ride Across Natal.

As the date neared so our excitement built. Bikes and equipment were checked but so too was the weather. Good old GOOGLE weather predicted a cold front was approaching. Cold was to be an understatement.

On Thursday morning, dressed in our warmest winter wear, we loaded up our car and set off on our great adventure. With heaters turned up on max there was nothing going to chill our thrill. Our first stop was Mooiriver for some coffee. When we got out the car it was snowing. Yes snowing, that is how cold it was.

On arrival at ATKV Drakensville we checked into our chalet and waited for dinner where we would meet fellow cyclists. The dining hall filled with laughter as stories were shared and new friendships were formed.

Registration on Friday morning was well organised and we received the most incredible goodie bags that were filled to the brim. Then at last it was time to go. We loaded the provided truck with our bags and with snow on the mountains we headed towards Winterton where a delicious breakfast awaited. Next stop was Estcourt Bowling club where a well-deserved drink was enjoyed by all.  It was incredible to experience how easy it was to fit in with others. Talk of the wind and cold was shared. The last leg towards Wagendrift dam seemed to pass by quickly; perhaps it was the promise of hot showers.

When we arrived at Wagendrift dam there were two big marquees erected. Everything has been thought about by the organisers. There is the option to camp or to use the dormitories. So glad we chose the latter! We retrieved our bags from the truck and headed off for the much needed warm shower. It’s remarkable how hungry the fresh air makes you, and hunger was the last thing we needed to stress about. The catering was remarkable. I think we ate better on the weekend than we do at home.

Huddled together in the marquee that evening, we all enjoyed dinner and the live entertainment. Dancing the night away, one would never say that there were still two days of riding left.

Saturday morning started with a big breakfast and then we headed off again in the cold. There is no set pace to ride and so small comfortable groups are naturally formed. It wasn’t long before we got to the Wimpy in Mooiriver. Coffee never tasted so good. Next stop was the Bierfassl in Nottingham Road. Then for the last leg towards Midmar Dam. Again I was grateful that we had a chalet rather than the tent option. The evening’s festivities within the marquee was filled with warmth though. A delicious dinner was enjoyed by all followed by more live entertainment with dancing. The raffle that was held to raise money for CHOC was done and we won an All Out Adventures King Swing Cable Tour. Yay! More fun to look forward to.

After a really good night’s sleep it was time to again get on our bikes and head towards Hillcrest. This was the last stretch of our ride to get back home where a delicious lamb on the spit was awaiting us. We stopped twice on our way for welcome coffee breaks with new friends. A great sense of accomplishment was felt on the arrival at the Hillcrest Athletic Club in Hillcrest.  We did it. The GABRAN, Drakensville to Hillcrest, in three days. GABRAN should be on everyone’s bucket list to do. Once done I can guarantee you will be back; I know we will.