Day 38: Murch Point Peak

20 April

Start 10:30 End 15:30 Distance: 30km Average: 19.5km/hr

Peak: Murch Point (Northern Cape) 2156m

Some schlepping up and down today to locate the starting point of today’s hike. Fortunately once we get going it’s a relatively easy hike despite there being no clear path. Due to some excellent advice (thanks Kobus!), we have brought our trekking poles with us for the first time since we left. These are excellent ground probers, third legs and snake distractors. Fortunately of the last qualification, we have only one encounter with a harmless grass snake (that we are aware of – there are always more snakes present than the ones you see). The first two save me many falls flat on my face. As there’s not a path, it’s a combination of tufty grass, rock scrambling and loose slabs of shale. Rule of hiking: rocks that look stable aren’t always stable.

Murch Point's fallen beacon.

Murch Point’s fallen beacon.

We locate the fallen beacon of Murch Point without too much hassle (if you discount Colin’s GPS telling him to walk to another mountain and mine 600m off the edge of the current mountain). Clear skies and good views all round; we just missed the chance of snow however.

Peak number 8!

Peak number 8!

The Compassberg is easily viewable in the distance. Once it was believed to be the highest point in the Eastern Cape, now they make do with the credit that it is the, “Highest free standing mountain in the Eastern Cape” as if it isn’t surrounded by other mountains. It is impressive regardless and with its steep rocky crown looks a more technically difficult challenge. I am glad we didn’t have to climb that one…

Compassberg spikes in the distance.

Compassberg spikes in the distance.

There’s a short cycle back to Nieu Bethesda after the climb. I was rather dreading it due to the hilly nature of the dirt road but it turns out to be great fun and technically challenging. Fun if you exclude rocks and corrugations so bad they could almost shake the bicycles apart. In fact, Colin’s does shake itself apart – or rather, not his bicycle but his front pannier which carries two bottles and two containers of spares. He lightens the load but we are pursued by an annoying rattle the whole way back.

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Although the cycle was only 30km today, there was a challenging uphill. I decided from the bottom to not be beaten again and have to walk. We both stand and churn our way to the top but make it. It feels like almost as big an achievement as climbing the 8th peak to cycle a big hill without pushing. I will probably pay for this enthusiasm tomorrow on our next century ride.

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