Every year a group of 18-24 riders ride from Port Edward to Port St Johns along the beach over 3 days. This year I was fortunate enough to go with on this adventure for my third time with my brother and dad also riding and my mom and sister as part of the back up crew.
The first day of Pondo is always the longest day it covers 72km and takes about 10 hour to complete. With such a large group this year of 24 riders the fitness levels differed tremendously, and we all had to ride at the same speed as the slowest person. Like all Pondo’s day 1 start by riding through the Wild Coast Casino golf course and the straight down to the beach where our first river crossing awaits. (TIP1 – I wouldn’t recommend swimming in tights at 7 in the morning during winter with 10 hours still to go on the bike.) After the first river everything starts to repeat itself for most of the first day. The first 6 hours consisted of riding on the beach crossing 2 more rivers and walking over soft beach sections.
The 3rd river on the day seemed to cause the most confusion, momentarily splitting the bunch up in to 4 groups. The majority of the bunch crosses the river about 500m inland from the ocean and did some hiking up a rocky path, knowing we would need to find our way back down to the beach for our breakfast stop. On top we had discovered that a small group had braved the deeper water at the mouth and where already on the beach, group 1. After a couple of mishaps and a mechanical the remaining bunch split into 3 more group with myself being stuck alone with my brother and not knowing where to go. My brother thought with us being so close to the ocean we could make a B-line for the beach (TIP 2 – never listen to your brother). We ended up taking to a forest and fighting our way through, some how we eventually landed on the beach and slid down a sand dune to find most of the others that had regrouped.
With the each for their own nature the group was taking on, I was happy to eat some breakfast while the remaining two groups made their own way either through or some how around the section of forest. Once regrouped we were able to carry on until one of the riders called it a day and luckily knew someone with a helicopter which was able to fetch him from the middle of nowhere (TIP 3 – when doing a group ride always make sure there is at least 1 person weaker than you). However, it was a two-man helicopter, which meant his bike didn’t fit and all he could take with was his wheels. So after strapping the wheel less bike to Darryn’s back (making him look like Buzz Lighter) with wings and everything (TIP 4 – never offer to help someone carry their bag unless it really is a bag) we were on your way for the last half of the day.
With 1 river remaining the day’s stop never seemed to get closer and the already slow speed seemed to come to a stand still for about 2 hours. We had finally made it to little Goss the last river of the day and an easy 8km to the home stop before we released we had split the group into 2 groups AGAIN and had to wait for 30min for the second group (TIP 5 – Find a team next year who can stick together ) However, we took the chance to do some more eating and talking rubbish like we had done most of the day.
Possible the best part of the day is arriving to the nights stop where our 6 followers had prepare some amazing food and snacks and a bed awaited, for most (TIP 6 – When being added to a group after accommodation already booked don’t expect a bed). After a good dinner with Chicken ala King and Babotie it was off to bed/floor for some much needed rest.
Day two had a nice 8 O’clock start, which allowed for a nice big breakfast and a allowed it to get warmer before we hit the road although by now we had lost 2 team members. Day 2 is known for it’s walking however, it started with a fun 1km single track to begin actual ride. But in no time we were carrying over a few big rocks to start the days’ walking. (TIP 7 – Holding the bike above your head like Absalon doesn’t work when walking more than 10m.)
The first hour of the second day went relatively smoothly and didn’t have too much walking. Then came a few technical sections, which tested our skills and failed therefore resulting in more walking. The real walking then began as we first had to climb up and the down two rocky mountains to be treated to an amazing rocky single track down hill leading onto the beach. With my brother around it always turns into a competition and we tried to see who could ride the technical sections without putting a foot down. (TIP 8 – When your brother doesn’t see something, it never happened…)
The 32km day 2 finally, was near completed after 6 fun hours and some amazing views of waterfalls and some rock formation in the sea. However the day ended with a massive mountain walk/ride then one of the best down hills of the day down to the awaiting followers and delicious food.
Day three was another 8 O’clock start and the hills literally started from the word go after losing yet another group member. The first hill of the day was the first 500m straight up from the campsite where I was the only one able to make it all the way up without walking. (TIP 9 – if you fail at first try again) After the first hill was another amazing down hill with one of the most amazing views in the world. Day three had some of the steepest and hardest hills but all of them are 100% worth it, as they once on top there are the most amazing views of the ocean, rivers and mountains.
Day 3 of Pondo is the shortest and the most relaxed as there is no rush however, there is no race I have ever ridden that has a mountain that can make a man more tired and sore than Goats Hill. The view from Goats Hill it amazing it looks almost vertical and if u jump down u will almost land in the ocean. Coming up the last hill of day three was a race between my brother and myself, which I will happy say I won, pay back for him making me walk through the forest walk on day one. Reaching the top of the last hill is the view that you have been waiting for, for three days as you over look the beach heading straight to Port St John and our final stop.
A few last moments on the bike feel like seconds as we ride to the finish and the Spotted Grunter, arriving to some delicious sandwiches and a nice warm shower feels like home but better. The last night gives everyone time to reflect on the last few days and activities, which made the weekend amazing and can not wait for next year to make some new memories and enjoy new adventures. (TIP 10 – Never leave a man behind)