2018 Diary

GABRAN 2018 – John & Christine Pickup – The Mountain Bikers

“It always seems impossible, until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela

Gabran 2018 will remain etched in my memory forever, long after my sunburnt arms have recovered, the dodgy knee has returned to normal and the chafing has healed.

I am 57 years and my husband, John, is 66 years and we have both, all our lives, loved the outdoors. To go with our love for the outdoors we enjoy challenging ourselves and our bodies to see just how far we can go.

We have used our legs to climb mountains, to make our way along trails and roads either in our beautiful country or abroad. We have had the privilege to see and experience so much, just because we have been places where one can only get to using human power.

So after an eight day walk on the Wild Coast we came home itching to try something different. I had heard of the Gabran sometime in the late 1980s/early 90s, but had forgotten about it until I came across it last year on ROAG.

Wow!! Gabran will certainly be a challenge for us, as we have bikes, just ordinary bikes, that live in the garage, sometimes for up to six months, then we take them out, dust off the dirt and cobwebs, oil the chain, sort of train for an event, complete the event, almost collapse at the end, return home dehydrated and achy, and park the bikes back in the garage.

So before paying the entry I emailed and ask if it will be ok for people our age, with mountain bikes to enter and the answer was, yes of course, Gabran is not about the time you get, it is all about the time you have. Before we could change our minds, we paid our entry fee and started with the “training”, but we do not cycle when it is too hot, can’t cycle when there is frost about, or when it is too windy. So only on days with perfect weather conditions or in between our work schedule, we merrily peddled around the gravel roads, forests and farm tracks in the Karkloof, stopping at the Karkloof Club often because the entry stated compulsory grazing, so we practised eating and drinking while training. We definitely did not over train for the Gabran, but learnt how to enjoy cycling.

We were dropped off at ATKV on the Thursday, gulp, goodbye car and nervously stood at the back of the pack Friday morning listening carefully to final instructions and off we went.
With my music pumping from my phone which was tucked into my back pocket, glorious sunshine, helpful companions, and with the thought that ALL I have to do for the next three days is ride my bike from ATKV to HILLCREST, which I did smiling in my heart all the way, every day.

At the finish line on Sunday, just after noon at Hillcrest I was so excited, we had survived the challenge of cycling approximately 300kms in three days, we had survived the weather and the traffic. WOW!
What made me even more happy was the fact that even though we had played a small part, we had supported CHOC to sweeten the challenge which some unfortunate children and their parents face, a challenge they had not expected and definitely not wanted.

Thank you so much, Kelvin and your team, for allowing us semi-retired farm riders who refuse to wear lycra, to be able to take part in Gabran and for spoiling us with all the delicious food, goodie bags and entertainment. Thank you for taking care of our safety along the way.

A HUGE Thank you, to the CHOC Cows for all your hard work in putting together Gabran. I trust you met your fund raising goal which will help to continue making a huge difference in the lives of children. I am in awe of your generous and kind spirits.

Yours in Cycling, Hiking, Running, Walking, Enjoying Life

Christine & John Pickup

The aim of GABRAN is to raise funds for THE COWS who are the fundraising arm of CHOC (Childhood Haematology Oncology Clinics). The entry fee for GABRAN is used purely for covering costs of the event, with or without a FUNdraising element, the GABRAN will cover its own costs, and GABRAN will continue… from meals, campsite costs, marquees, chairs, tables for the make shift kitchen and communal eating and dance area, the paramedics, safety files, road permissions, and entertainment in the evenings. We are all volunteers, doing what we can, for those, that can only hope and dream of having an active lifestyle, beyond the 4 walls of a hospital room, drips, needles and other medical devices.

As always, planning for the event, commenced months in advance, with a “we know the drill, let’s do it” from Kelvin.

So in the traditional Month of Love, (that would be February) we started. Over 300 emails were sent out to anyone and everyone… if we saw an advert in a magazine, that looked remotely like we could get a prize, or an item for a goody bag, googling began… to find email addresses and contact persons. If we saw a post on social media – the same pattern was followed, and in cases where our detective skills for contacts were tested to the limits, we have ways and means to still try and get hold of “someone, anyone” and mostly it was info@….. Quite a popular name in 21st Century “Info”….

Responses became fewer than previous years, and some that we had banked on from the previous year’s came back with “due to economic ……we are unable…..”. We simply filed those away, to have on record, and moved on to the next batch of emails to personalise with the corresponding letter. Some came back immediately on email, even though it was some ridiculous hour in the very late evening, (caffeine works wonders when consumed constantly in a short space of time, add some match sticks to keep the eyes open, and keep the typing skills up to as many words per minute as possible challenge) only too happy to step up and support the event. Fun email banter was then held between “those that were still awake” on email just before the clock struck 12 and Cinderella had to try and become a Sleeping Beauty…

Westville Cycle Club did not disappoint with the admin side and running of the event – it almost seems as most of it “just happens” and we can happily consult well organised files from previous years for the usual “who, where, what” information that is required in terms of running a safe and smooth event… safety files, road permissions, medics, logistics, catering, and so you can flip further and further through the indexed file.

CMH Datcentre Durban kindly sponsored us the actual goodie bag this year and organised the truck to transport everything including the kitchen sink between the various overnight locations. The goodie bags were filled from numerous donations and other sponsorships that we had received. We managed to pack the bags in record time, as we know knew how to setup the du Sarts garage so that it was ergonomically correct for the task at hand. Various fitness devices vibrated as the individuals achieved their daily goal steps just packing goodie bags… round and round the tables we went!

|Once the packing and then re-packing of the sponsored truck happened on Wednesday night, Thursday morning saw the “riggers” head up to ATKV in the Drakensville, with a stop at Wagondrift dam on route to rig the make-shift Kitchen for Day 1 Lunch and Dinner and the marquee.

Scenes at the ATKV resort were most festive and laughter filled the dining room, after we “took over” once their normal guests had left for “greener pastures”. Certain people’s art talent came to the fore, and Greg Stedman was eagerly colouring in a picture, whilst his built in Garmin, his tongue, moved in the direction that had to be coloured.

The number of First Time Gabraners was our highest yet this year! Think they may have just outnumbered those that have previously participated in the event… this was evident when we had the traditional “Virgin Gabraners Fines”. Would most definitely have been a cheaper round to call up the “oldies”!

Friday registration started with setup at 5:30 am and at 6h30 eager beavers were there ready to get their fantastic goodie bags, and annual event shirt – which we think was very well received this year by the riders and their support crew.

A smaller field of cyclists started the morning compared to prior years, due to many factors, beyond our control, date changes due to big sporting weekends, long weekends where minimum 3 nights were required at each stop (gosh, we would still be cycling for days!!) Back up crews from various “pelotons” did a sterling job making sure everyone was safe on the road, and if assistance was required, they were only willing to lend a hand/a bike rack, or a pump! (and in some cases, bike racks for the 3 days… no names mentioned ;o) )

The first stop was changed to Bergville this year, and those that were there, know we shared “high tea” with the local municipality – something that was unfortunately beyond our control, but in true GABRAN spirit, we once again thank you for seeing the lighter side of “high tea” on Friday Morning.

There was also the unplanned stop in Winterton, as a few of the Ballies decided to go and visit the local agriculture 2018 show… photographic evidence leads us to believe that they most certainly had a whale of a time.
Estcourt Bowling Club is still a must-stop at venue, and they are always ready and waiting to welcome the Gabraners to the club. Beverages ebbed and flowed freely – in fact some flowed so freely, that a return leg was made to go and collect a certain cell phone that was left behind. (Sorry about the self-inflicted double hill climb…. It only makes you stronger!)

Quite a few have decided that “Tent Town” is no longer a hit in their books, and they seek shelter from the elements at various B n B’s in the area… or, go back to their school days, and all share a massive dorm…. One dorm, 20 to 30 people…. There are still campers amongst the tribe that enjoy pitching tents, inflating mattresses and enjoy sleeping under the stars with just a bit of canvas for shelter.
Once again – initiation was the order of the day at the first overnight stop… with the SAME group initiating some of their 1st time GABRANers … yip… they took to the WATERS at Wagondrift… – a full body submersion was required… and on exiting… those that were armed with cameras and cell phones… made a dash for cover as HUGS were exchange with anyone within close proximity! Well done once again for keeping your spirit of GABRAN alive and braving the chilly water!

A early night was had by most, as they ventured back to the “brick and tiles”, getting some rest before DAY 2….the Clicking of Granny Gears and the HILLS!

Day 2 started of very early, lighter than before and a little bit fresh, but nothing like prior years! Breakfast (cooked breakfast was served with bacon, eggs, sausages, potatoes, fruit salad, yoghurts, muesli and steaming hot oats. Tea, coffee, Milo, coffee and some more coffee was also ready to be abused by all) was consumed and enjoyed, before the climbing started… CONCRETE ROAD, WARTHOG/BACON and GRIFFON! …insert song… the road is long….with many a “climbing hills”….

Once the main climbing was over for the day, it was the fast roll down into Mooi River… yip, 2nd Breakfast at the Wimpy. Always a great sight to see more bicycles in the car park vs cars! Mark managed to properly abuse his bike, which saw broken spokes/derailleurs and all the rest of that technical stuff, and he thought “my ride is over”, as it was not a “side of the road” repair that could be performed. Fortunately for him, there were “spare bikes” brought by Sean, and he kindly offered a bike to Mark for the next 1.5 days that were left. Once again, all in the spirit of cycling, and GABRAN – everybody helping anyone and everyone to have a great experience.

The final uphill climb of day 2 awaited, post Wimpy stop, Rosetta! Some caught a lift, and some, just pedalled, and some simply grinded their way to the top, knowing that slowly sl…owl……..llllllly they would get there!
Once at the top …. It was pretty much downhill (in more ways than one) all the way to Midmar Dam, with the compulsory stops along the way. The Sherry Tasting is becoming more popular now, and people are convinced to stop their by default before heading onto the Bierfassl. Craft beers, food, G&T (yip, those PINK drinks), cokes you name it, were enjoyed. Bierfassl became a bicycle park – and it was epic!! The weather gods shone down with bright warm rays, as for once we were able to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine!

Live entertainment was provided by THE GEE JAYS, and we had set up our very own “BUSH STAGE” and marquee. The GEE JAYS were a massive hit, and true to form “that’s when the trouble started”… Post show, they kept the die hards razzling and dancing for a good hour or more! Thereafter, the walk back down to the cottages seemed a bit too far, so we “piled” into the vehicle (note, no S on the vehicle) and played a round of squash… whilst others snuggled under a duvet (where did that duvet come from) in the bin of the Navara….

The weather was still playing ball with us, as people eagerly packed up early, feasted on another awesome breakfast, carbo-loading for the hills ahead! The famous downhill in Maritzburg is a firm favourite (and you hope like heck your breaks will work!!) This year, we were met with a road running race, on the said hill, but were also greeted by the friendly traffic officials, that gave the riders an awesome “blue light” escourt through Pietermaritzburg. The riders that were fortunate enough to part of this blue light brigade thoroughly enjoyed the sights and sounds. It was just a real luck for some of the riders at being “at the right place, at the right time”. Once again, watching this from a back-up vehicle is truly spectacular as you see the team work happening in the peloton, and the work of the boys in blue controlling the traffic.

As the riders approached the Hillcrest Sports Club, the famous “lamb on the spit” greeted them. Before tucking in, each rider was presented with a Hand-made Ngwenya Glass Medal (yip, this is an international number)! These were proudly being displayed – and rightly so, as each one of them has made a difference to a little super hero fighting the big C, just by entering the event, and selling tickets to help us raise the MOOOOO-LAH!
This year we raised R70 000 for The Cows that goes to CHOC, and is well received by them for the various projects that The Cows have decided to raise specific funds for during the year, be it towards the upkeep of the CHOC houses, providing transport to the warriors fighting the fight to name but two of their much needed projects and wish lists.

We also raised close on another R10 000 from various other donations via the entry forms for the Westville Baby House. This home looks after tiny tots from days old, whilst they wait for their special forever home, where someone will love, cuddle and provide for them in a happy family environment. We split the baby house donation into both cash and goodies as we shopped up a storm getting the items on their “WISH LIST” for October. This ranged from baby bath products, to formula and then some food items. We dropped the items with the house during October.

There are so many people to thank, companies to thank and the list goes on – and these thank you’s are currently being sent out, far and wide to them.

Many thanks to you, the participant, the supporter and the Westville Cycle Club. To Kelvin and Corinne, thank you for all you do for the charities, the Cows, Cycling and the Club. Your passion and drive for this sport enables us to enjoy various cycling events! So to everyone that was part of GABRAN 2018, in whichever way, take a bow and THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for helping make a difference in lives of so many people we will never have the opportunity to meet.

GABRAN – It’s not a race, It’s an experience!

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