As the schwack around the Osseberg slipped farther into the past, our days on the Freedom Challenge route started to become more friendly ... dare I say civilized? After we exited the rough doubletrack leading away from The Ladder, our cues prompted us to "turn left ... and now you start the run into Cape Town. Most of the difficult navigation is behind you. You only have three more portages, you have a fair amount of easy riding, and you have a few glorious downhills and the first one starts now."
There was another 18 kilometers of chunder track after Anysberg, and Liehann's rear tire continued to deflate even after he stopped multiple times to spin sealant into the puncture and top off the air. I suggested putting more sealant into the tire; since I had two containers and Liehann had one, we had plenty to spare. For reasons I'm not quite sure about — possibly because pouring sealant through the valve stem can be problematic — he decided to open up the tire. Inside, he found an impressive number of thorns, which would have made switching to tubes difficult, as it's tricky if not impossible to find and remove all of the thorns. But when he added sealant and started pumping it back up, he couldn't get the tire bead to seal to the rim. The air pressure from the hand pump wasn't enough.
These were weak moments, and I was mostly joking. I did want to finish the Freedom Challenge. But I was nervous. Extremely nervous. I advocated for breaking this grueling penultimate day into two days, to shore up needed strength for the Stettynskloof, and also to enjoy the last remnants of civilized living.
"No tiger line," I said to Liehann. "I'm not strong enough for the tiger line." Our cues described a route that was farther up the valley, and longer, but less steep.
I didn't really think I was strong enough for any of it, but I'd never forgive myself if I didn't try.