Our regular contributor KATH FOURIE has been with Full Sus since 2013. This Ezel Enduro report will unfortunately be her last.
2017 has been a tough year. I guess I realised, when I started displaying signs of someone whose experienced maybe a bit too much trauma, that I needed a proper break. I’d had my eye on the Ezel Enduro for over a year, and when the opportunity came up to jump in a car with some friends and road trip it down to Ezel – well I blocked the time off in my calendar and explained to work that if I didn’t go on this trip I would, without a doubt, lose my mind outright by the end of November. The Ezel Enduro is how I imagine fun races in the UK and the US are. All sorts of colourful characters migrating into an unusual environment, pitching tents in a green field, getting cow poo all over everything, sharing porta-loos and porta-showers with limited electricity to charge devices. It was awesome, if you’re into music festivals, craft beer, Western Cape culture and cuisine with a strong thread of full suspension bikes and nonstop good moods. The race started off bright and early at 6:15am, to beat the heat. The ride up to Stage One was tiring, but made quite entertaining by watching the crazy menagerie of bantering cyclists on the way up. Stage One, Stage Two and Stage Three were all super fun, despite the liaison stages. Fast forward an hour and some change, and I am at the top of Stage Four after pushing my bike up and over rocks and rocks and some more rocks. I found an anti-cramp goo on the floor that I gave to a guy behind me who was in dehydration-agony, and I watched people disappear down a rocky shoot off into Stage Four’s moonscape. “Holy hell,” I thought, “time to woman up.” What followed was +- 13 minutes of the most severely arm and hand torturing trail I have ever ridden, which was so much fun I couldn’t stop smiling when I was at the bottom and trying to hide from the sun under a five cm strip of shade cast by a solitary burned Protea bush. The trail changes so many times from top to bottom that it’s hard to describe, if you go faster it’s easier to roll over features, but it’s also much easier to come short – like my friend Syd who has been to hospital twice since the event trying to sort out a severe haematoma, courtesy of a “baby head” rock (one of several billion that one must dodge) that flipped him unceremoniously, like a pancake, onto the floor. End of Stage Four, still feeling okay – I was sure people had over exaggerated how tough this race was. That is, until I was about 200m into the hike-a-bike up Stage Five and the reality of a full hour of slog set in. At the top, thoroughly and irrecoverably thrashed, I ate the last of my snacks and started to feel deliriously happy at the thought of lying down. My dreams were quickly realised, when I found myself horizontal in the rocks not once, but twice mid “race” down the trail. Have you ever had that feeling when riding, that you really, truly honest-toGod hope that no-one can see you hacking? That’s how I felt the whole way down Stage Five. And that is why they call it the toughest Enduro, because it’s heartbreakingly exhausting, cleverly devised to trick you into thinking you’re doing okay, and so much fun that you just want to keep going. Later that night, after a delicious IPA and homemade potjie, I snuck off to my tent and hunkered down in my sleeping bag thinking, briefly before passing out, about how much I love my mom, and that it had been exactly three months since holding her hand for the last time, and how good it felt to be so exhausted from doing something fun for once. A tiny tear, and a realisation that those you love are always within, and I was snoring peacefully. On that note, trips like the above can give one perspective on how to live in a way that places less pressure on oneself. It’s been a pleasure writing for Full Sus since 2013, and I thank everyone at Full Sus for allowing me the space to write down my thoughts every month. This will be my last column, and I hope it’s enjoyable to those who took the time to read it, and all the columns before. Happy riding – Kath.