Surviving the Elements – Tales from the Roof
Hard Enduro – it’s not always just about winning. Sometimes trying to succeed is a victory in itself. The 2013 Roof of Africa is now known for Graham Jarvis’ return to the top step of the podium with Husqvarna. But behind the scenes the stories of survival are beginning to emerge.
Shared through Chris Birch’s Facebook page, this is an account of one man’s determination to try and finish. Soldiering on despite the odds – forced to spend a night in the mountains – this unknown guy did everything in his power to try and stay in the race.
With the rain pelting down, we drop into his story midway through day two. Hard Enduro – nobody ever said it was easy…
“I rode the Pressure Cooker trail quite a few times in my life, never taking more than a few minutes. But the severe wet conditions during Friday forced me to hand out all of my money to helpers – in 2012 I had only used one coin.
“Reaching the summit of Pressure Cooker after 18:00hrs I knew I was in trouble – it was raining hard and any form of traction had now disappeared. Still I pushed on.
“I then met up with Jaco – a Gold rider – and two Toyota Silver riders. Jaco suggested turning around, but with three votes against one we kept moving forward.
“Soon we split with Jaco and myself beginning to make better progress. We were determined to get to finish line. Riding kept us warm and we both had lights so we could still see. But then we found Andreas – a Bronze rider who was very lost and very hopeless. Andreas was drained and with no lights and no energy he found himself on the ground a lot. The progress now was very slow.
“I started to mark the huts we passed on my GPS – making sure we were never further than 2km away to walk back if needed. Eventually at 20:15hrs we made the call to stop. I thought I saw smoke to our right against the black mountain but in the rain and dark it was difficult to see. We whistled and in return heard dogs barking. Riding towards the sound we tried to get as close as we could get before abandoning our bikes – in the end it was very close, only a mere 300m or so. The hut owner could not understand us but with gestures we explained we needed shelter for the night and he very willingly took us in.
“The nomad hut was tiny – stone walls and grass roof. We had to crawl in through the tiny doorway and could not stand upright inside. He offered us his bed – a stone base with sticks on top to soften it. There was one blanket on top to round off the mattress. Jaco took that blanket while Andreas and myself shared the other blanket. My part of the bed did not have sticks – only rock.
“We were offered food. I think it was maize he had made a week ago with some beans. It was horrible but all three of us ate it willingly. It was food. Jaco had one energy bar left and we gave it the nomad. Although we couldn’t figure out his name a friendship was bonded.
“That night was the longest night of my life. We were cold and very wet. The wind was howling through openings in the structure and doorway. I managed to sleep for short periods but my already sore body could just not copy with my bed of stone. Andreas and I chatted most of the night away while Jaco snored. All of the pain pills he had in him from his crash the previous day were a blessing in disguise.
“Although the small fire did not heat us much up, the mere atmosphere of the flames kept me positive. The owner sat and slept and sometimes I saw him lying on the firewood sticks. We decided to leave at first daylight but it was still raining and the wind was blowing hard so we decided to wait another hour.
“Suddenly the welcome sound of the helicopter chased us out to the light. They enquired to our wellbeing, took our numbers and left. I saw the nomads – miraculously there were now three – take at least three dead baby sheep out of the herd that did not survive the cold night. We gave all the cash we had – about R170 – to him, said our thanks and left to finish the last few miles of our Friday loop on Saturday morning. I suspected our late departure at DSP2 was handing me a mammoth task to finish. But I was not time barred and I was not giving up…
Who are these heroes? We want to know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ve since found out Jaco was riding with a broken arm…