Ngulube Classic Mountain biking and Usutu dredging



Usuthu river


Trip Participants


Piers Pirow
Marlise Richter
Scott Davies
Andrew Luke

This past weekend there was a trip to the Royal Kingdom of Swaziland.  There were about 9 ESSA members on the trip and a further 5 or so members of the Pioneers club from Pretoria.  The purpose of the trip was two-fold:  we wanted to go down the Usutu river and we wanted to ride the Ngulube mountain bike race.
However, the excitement started sooner than we had bargained for.  Marlise, Scott, Caryn and Piers managed to make the Oshoek border post by minutes and were the last vehicle to pass into Swaziland.  Unbeknown to us, Frank de Boer, Jason and Andrew Luke were just behind us.  They made it through the SA side, but Africa time only counts when it comes to opening time.  When it is closing time, the border closes at 10.00.00PM exactly!  So the trio spend the night in no-man's land – Andrew finding that the Immigration desk was the first bed he had ever slept on where he could stretch out!   
The next morning we set off for the Usutu.  The usual chaos ensued whilst kit was sorted out and it was discovered that 2 of the crocs were unusable due to leaks.  Jono and Marna selflessly decided to drive down to create space, but we still had to cram 6 people onto 2 of the rafts.  The river was very low and consequently there was a lot of scraping.  But soon enough, we got to a narrower section and the river became a bit more exciting.  Beore long, we could hear "Initiator" - a grade 3'ish rapid.  About 600m below the rapid lies a waterfall so the incentive to stay in your craft is definitely there.  Therefore, there was a good degree of consternation when I flipped my kayak and proceeded to dredge the rapid with my head, making a few audible thuds as I did so!  Despite this, I eventually flipped back up – proving that the helmet is more a fashion statement and doesn't protect anything vital – at least for some members!  Everyone else made it down without problems and we had lunch and finished the day by watching Piers jump off the rocks into the pool below the waterfall.  I think that qualifies as water pollution!? The night was spent sorting out bicycles! ;There were many appreciative remarks about Marlise's quality iron steed from Game complete with rear suspension!  The following morning, we rode to the start of the race about 6 km away. Piers was the only one to compete in the Classic – 65 km over some tough terrain.  Apparently pain excites him?!  The rest of us opted for the shorter courses – 35 or 20 km.  Everyone finished the race – despite the problems.  Examples included the obvious – tyre blow outs, chains coming off – to the more unusual – cleats coming off, and 3m rock pythons in the way.  The course was challenging for most of us and we were looking a little worse for wear by the end.  Unfortunately, the route markers proved difficult to follow and consequently, many riders took incorrect paths.  There was some pandemonium working out who finished where but in the end, Jason ended about 6th in the 35 km challenge and Piers managed 3rd in the Classic.  Well done to all who competed. 
Finally, a word of thanks to Adrian for making all the bookings and arranging many of the logistics, as well as for doing a lot of catering!  All the vehicle owners deserve thanks for carting all the gear and a special thanks to Jono for a lot of the organising in this regard. To the rest - well done and thank you for a good adrenalin weekend with lots of laughs and excitement.


Friday, May 16, 2003 (All day) to Sunday, May 18, 2003 (All day)


Mountain biking