Words: Ben Swanepoel
Ten years ago I was invited to ride the inaugural Berg & Bush event. The idea was to start at the back, ride through the field and talk to participants as we went along. I don’t remember all the detail – partly because 10 years is a long time and partly because Castle Light beer was a sponsor of the event back then...
Photo credit: emgatland.com / Nikon/Lexar
However, some lasting memories are all the singletrack we rode and a Zip line crossing across a big stretch of water which was a ball!
Fast forward a decade and Berg&Bush still has copious amounts of Bushveld singletrack but the zip lines have been replaced with several hand built bridges across the Tugela River and its tributaries. Castle Light is still a sponsor but these days the bottomless chocolate milk tank seems to be getting more attention than the golden nectar – except when the Springboks play rugby and they show it live on a big screen in the banquet marquee of course!
I teamed up with Natal farmer Derrin Smith for the race and we had a really good time over the 3 days spent racing around Winterton in Kwazulu Natal. The start was at the top of Oliviershoek Pass and Solly’s Folly descent that took us down the Drakensberg escarpment was so spectacular I decided to buy a small piece of land. Luckily that was the only mishap for the weekend and the rest of the time we battled hard to finish 5th on every stage, bar the last where we were 6th netting us 5th place overall for the event.
1. Brendon Davids & James Reid
2. Waylon Woolcock & Matt Beers
3. Gawie Combrinck & Johann Rabie
4. Andrew Hill & Tyrone White
5. Melt Swanepoel & Derrin Smith
On Friday afternoon after stage 1 there was the minor distraction of the Spioenkop Sprint where riders took on a 1,3km hill climb to the summit of the notorious mountain in search of glory and a pretty big prize purse. All I ended up with was a broken ego and some sore legs, but it was amazing to see most of the participants and other fans come out and cheer us as we struggled up the steep hill. If nothing else, the support made the effort worthwhile!
The riding was spectacular but so was the race village with more than enough good food, clean amenities and a tent village which traced the banks of the Tugela River. (And of course there was that bottomless chocolate milk tank...). It is obvious why this event has grown to the point where they offer 3 versions of it namely the Descent, the Great Trek and the Two day to accommodate the demand.
For the love of me I can’t figure out why it took me 10 years to get around to doing another Berg&Bush, but I do know that I’d like to be back next year to enjoy the hospitality offered by Gary Green and his crew...and that chocolate milk!
Until next time, happy trails!