THE hypnotic sound of breathing and a beating heart sent us on our way.
Commentators at the FNB Wines2Whales Adventure last week had cheekily included the soundtrack as our group assembled at Lourensford.
Former Olympian MTB rider Erica Greene and SuperSport presenter Gerald de Kock chuckled and teased as we lumbered over the starting line, part of 1 200 riders taking part in this mini-epic.
Torrential rain was to make the 76km course seem like double the distance through endless wastelands of sludge.
I never knew you could get so many variations of mud.
In the mountains between Somerset West and Grabouw, the typical variant comes from white sandy tracks through the fynbos. As ratings go, this is mild mud. It is mellow mud.
The puddles barely turn any colour. They are often seethrough or off-grey. The sand stays compact, although it sinks with your wheels, creating a wet friction that makes you peddle a little harder.
Along some slopes and jeep tracks, there is red mud. This mud makes puddles orange and opaque, disguising bone-jarring potholes. This mud is loose and gritty. It flies off your wheels like pellets from a shotgun. This mud pulverises your brake pads before your eyes and sprays you from head to foot. But you can ride this kind of mud because your tyres grip the firm ground beneath.
Then there is normal brown mud. This is mud with the consistency of well, mud. This is the kind of mud you may have played in as a kid. This mud makes puddles look like dark coffee. This kind of mud smacks you in chunks as it flies off your wheels, splattering your clothes in lumps and stinging your face. It’s thicker than the other muds, and quite slippery, requiring plenty of stoic peddling to keep momentum.
But the most evil mud – the worst kind of mud in the world – has to be that black forest mud that has the consistency of clay and the chemical makeup of half-set treacle. This stuff has been mixed with as much organic mulch as that evil little forest goblin could muster in the dead of rain-swept night.
This mud clogs every working part, human or mechanical. This mud conspires to hit you square on the eyeball, magically sidestepping your sunglasses.
Black mud is the smoothest and most slippery of all the muds. Black mud wedges in every possible cavity it can find, turning your knobby mountain bike tyres into slicks. You are more likely to win the lottery than control your bike at speed through the black mud bogs found in forest dongas.
When you approach this type of bog, you have to uncleat one foot to temper the yaw and sideslip down a sloshy mud slide. Hit it too fast and you’re wallowing like a warthog at the bottom.
Once you get back on your bike to get out the other side – no momentum here to take you right through – you have zero traction. Your legs spin like a cartoon character. You peddle