With Thomas Böhm and Sabie Valley Rider Academy
The Ben 10 Eco Challenge is to ride ten specific high-altitude gravel passes within a time frame of no more than seven days, incorporation everything that Adventure biking is about: beautiful Eastern Cape highlands scenery, challenging personal boundaries, shared camaraderie new likeminded riding buddies and comfortable owner run hotels and lodges to enjoy good food and biking banter.
This epic ride started on Lundin’s Neck Pass after a liaison section from Clarens where the group got together. The route follows the Senqu river with flowing corners where Jacqui awaited the group in the shade a huge Blue gum tree with a gastronomic lunch that had the local herds boys smacking their lips when they walked past. After a team effort repairing the only bike puncture on the tour on the climb to the top of the Pass, the group posed for the mandatory photo at the BEN 10 Challenge sign board. All the photos get submitted to earn the successful participant a place on the Ben 10 Hall of Fame on the website https://www.mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za/find-a-pass/ben10.html
After descending the mountain via Wartail we crossed the Bell River to ride the Bottlenek Pass, a substitute for The Ben MC Dui Pass after the Tiffandel Ski Resort another victim of Covid had to temporary close their doors and gates, making the pass inaccessible. Bottleneck was freshly graded with the rain the area had already experienced offering the riders some white-knuckle moments.
With the sun setting a quick blast up and down Barkly Pass the only tar pass on the tour, saw the group checking in at The Mountain Shadow Hotel, meeting up in front of the fire in the bar, new friendship and banter the order of the day.
Bastervoetpad also known as the Lapa Munnik Pass was the first challenge of the next day, with lots of rainfall in the night the riders realised today was the day to dig deep to complete the challenge. Everybody completed the first, very muddy and wet pass of the day but it took too long, forcing some exhausted riders to go straight to the hotel cutting out the muddy Otto du Plessis Pass. The courageous riders that did tackle the pass late afternoon had to use all their mud riding skills and lights on their bikes, to get the reward of the picture and make it to the base before dinner, exceptionally long day!
After not completing Joubert Pass the day before due to the rain, it was decided that instead of only 3 passes today it would have to be 4, after a liaison section to Rhodes our base for that night the first pass of the day was tackled, Naude’s Neck offers switchbacks that makes you feel that you are part of a Hill-Climb Race. After photo’s, the group was spoiled in 5-star luxury at the remote Tenahead lodge for burgers. Sustained the riders tackled the multiple sheep gated Tenahead Traverses also known as the TTT that follows the high-altitude Lesotho border on a rocky track. The riders split in 2 groups on the pass, with the riders still in contention of completing the challenge racing ahead leaving the second group with the competent guide James so that they could enjoy the scenery and make their way down the steep Carlisleshoekspruit Pass back to Walkerbouts Lodge in Rhodes for a well-deserved beer.
After a rapid decent and back up Carlisleshoekspruit Pass the now smaller group of 7 riders negotiated their way to Volunteershoek Pass stopping on route at Tiffandel to look at the famous Ben mc Dui Pass from a distance, hoping that in the future the opportunity will arise again to attempt the 3001m high pass.
After shoving some bank notes in the Wartail Farmers donation bin for the upkeep of the pass, the riders dropped down the steep Volunteershoek Pass that is littered with tyre obstacles that the farmers had tied together and filled with rocks to create a riding surface that combats the erosion. Crossing the river at the foot at the pass, the urge overcame the group for a pint of Allan’s Ale and a slice of pizza at the Bidstone Cottages, what a gem of a place.
The ride back to Rhodes was magnificent even with the rain and sun in the riders’ eyes. Roast Leg of Lamb, good Red Wine saw the last evening culminating in a Sabie Valley Rider academy tour ritual with Thomas handing out either “Straff Dop” or “Prestasie Dop” or sometimes both, for a momentary loss of talent or achievement, resulting in a shooter and shared laughter.
Sunday morning after a famous Walkerbouts breakfast saw the group take on the last pass on the tour no 10, Joubert Pass outside the quant town of Lady Grey, the route started of with dry tracks that degenerated to muddy section that got the better of some riders, reminding them that the challenge is not over until all 10 photos’ have been taken. Slipping and sliding to the town, at the refuel saw handshakes and back slapping, ecstatic having conquered the terrain and whether, that was not kind on this tough Ben 10 Challenge. Join Sabie Valley Rider Academy if this sounds like your kind of ride. https://rideracademy.co.za/services/the-ben-10-eco-challenge/