Baviaans by two

WarrenParker's picture

Points: 1

This report covers a five day ride in March 2013 from Cape Town to Baviaans over a variety of roads – myself on a R1200 GS and my son, Jethro, on a KLR 650.

Last minute work and preparations led to an afternoon start with a firm plan to end up in Calitzdorp for the night, but looser ideas on how to get there.

Sir Lowry’s Pass offered a good way to transition from the city with a broad vista over the many farms and a last look at Table Mountain. Then through Grabouw with the idea of linking up with Route 62 in Worcester.

It didn’t take long to realize that this option was going to burn a chunk of time and would make for a late arrival so we turned for Caledon at Villiersdorp and headed along the N2 to Swellendam.

It was quite different going at a slower pace for the KLR, but easy enough cruising at 120-130km/h. The GS includes a few additions. A taller ZTechnik screen, which keeps off most of the bugs and makes it easy to ride with specs on and visor up (although down when there’s a risk of dust or stones); Vario panniers and top box – with the Vario’s at the narrower setting for the trip; Protective bits including lower crash bars, cylinder head protectors, and oil cooler protector; a set of GS specific Cruz Tools; and new Anarkee 50/50 tyres. We were also charting our way with a Zumo 660 GPS on the GS, backed up with a good map book.

Getting off the N2 and heading towards Barrydale quickly transformed into the stunningly beautiful rock formations of the Tradouws Pass and then on into the semi-desert feel of the southern Karoo.

Southern KarooSouthern Karoo

We stopped off for a cold drink at Ronnies Sex Shop and spent an entertaining fifteen minutes in conversation with one of the regulars who was nursing a beer and contemplating his circumstances – which now included admiring the new looking GS and discussing our planned trip. Much talk to do with chipping around on a farm bike, and and reflecting on the concept of a father-son ride out into the back of beyond: “Hey, cool.  It’s like, it’s like… bonding”.

He’d spent the past two years working on resurfacing the Tradouw’s Pass road and this lonely labour had now firmly lost it’s appeal: “Two years and no women. Not a single woman in this place”. Ronnie’s is a good bar, but the ‘sex shop’ part is just a way of explaining that you can pick up some very nice branded T-shirts and caps and check out the women’s underwear hanging from the ceiling.

We pressed on through to Calitzdorp, and although the kilometers took longer, it was relaxing riding with time to look around at the mountains, the sheep and the inevitable ostriches.

Somewhere along the way we passed a small village – unnamed on the GPS – where a girl in her late teens flipped up her skirt and walked into the road towards the bikes slapping her thighs… The universal sign for “If you’re looking for a girlfriend, I’m free tonight”? We didn’t have time to stop to tell her about the lonely fellow a long way down the road at Ronnie’s who might be interested.

Calitzdorp sceneCalitzdorp scene

Calitzdorp is a small quaint village with neatly kept old houses nestled in the Karoo hills. We stayed at Karoo Life, a B&B run by Trevor and Tanya – keen road bikers  from up north (big Suzuki’s), settling into retirement after working at banks in Gauteng. Plenty of chats about riding, and a good tip to take a short detour on the scenic dirt road north of the town which heads along the Gourits River. An excellent dinner at the Red Coffee Pot (which also marks the turn for the worthwhile dirt road) and also a good breakfast at the B&B to set us off the next morning.

Parking at Karoo LifeParking at Karoo Life

Dropping back from the dirt onto the R62, we were headed for our start for the Baviaanskloof in Patensie, routing through Oudtshoorn, De Rust, Uniondale, Joubertina and Kareedouw. A relaxing long ride, which we did mostly non-stop, except for top-ups at the filling stations. Nice having the GPS to figure out time and distance for this stretch.

Riding into Patensie there was not much to suggest forthcoming scenery, and the dilapidated station with broken down carriages added scruffiness. We settled into the old-style Ripple Hill Hotel, which was great value, comfortable, and with long wooden floors and dark passages that made us feel we were in another time. We stocked up on apples, dried fruit and water at the nearby Spar, and turned in early with a plan to start out for Baviaanskloof soon after sunrise.

Packing in PatensiePacking in Patensie

It took a while to reach the Baviaans dirt road and then a bit of fiddling to get the ABS properly deactivated. Down to a slow pace, tracking through the loose gravel corners, but nice to be surrounded by forest and undergrowth right next to the road. Baboons and monkeys were a regular sighting, along with duiker and bushbuck.

Getting settled on dirtGetting settled on dirt

Entry into the Nature Reserve part of the Kloof involved filling in a few forms and permits, with a fee of R20 per bike. This marked the start of the 4x4 section and many river crossings. Most of these were over concrete drifts, which were easy enough, although some had big holes washed away, so care was needed.

Look out for wildlifeLook out for wildlife

The longer crossings were through deeper water, over rocks that were rounded and slippery, as well as holes that could easily tip the bikes. It didn’t take long for us to get our feet down and boots filled with water to make it through the harder sections.

Water crossingWater crossing

A nice big leguaanA nice big leguaan

We saw a number of big leguaans, and further on, a pair of Martial Eagles. The driver of a passing 4x4 mentioned rhino’s ahead, but we never saw them – and anyway, on a bike on dirt, one’s focus is pretty much on ‘reading’ the road, so we probably missed the sighting.

Out there!Out there!

In the valleyIn the valley

It seemed simplest for me to take the lead on the GS, swopping now and again for the river crossings, but generally waiting to see each other through the harder sections, and then checking for the headlight of the following bike. Or not…

Crystal clear watersCrystal clear waters

After a river crossing and a twist in the road, it took longer than usual for the catch-up, and then there was stopping and waving which could only mean a problem. And there it was. A flat on the front tyre of the KLR… Which now brought home the extended planning discussion about definitely needing to buy and bring along a patch kit in case of a puncture. I had a kit with gas bombs – but only for tubeless tyres, although had also backed up with two cans of tyre sealant for emergencies.

The tyre inflated well enough with the first can of sealant, but there was the possibility that it wouldn’t hold for long. And we still had more than 100 kilometers remote valley to cover.

The tyre held out for about fifteen minutes, and then it was a stop for the second can of sealant. Even then, we could still hear the air slowly bleeding out. At the exit to the nature reserve we asked the gate guard about likely options for a repair, and a farm about 15 kilometers ahead was suggested. We found the sign to the farm with barely enough air in the tube – luckily bumping into the farm mechanic, who had also just turned in. A fairly deep river crossing led on to some sheds in the distance. And then, with a few seconds of air remaining in the tyre, a miracle unfolded.  A large shed revealed a farm workshop with an air compressor running and three guys sitting together patching truck tyres. If there was any perfect place in the valley to fix a tyre, this was the place!

Tyre patching heaven!Tyre patching heaven!

The Cruz Tools came in handy, with an allen key, shifting spanner to get the wheel off, and vise grip to loosen the speedo cable. Then plenty of good help patching the tube.

Setting off, much relieved, and possibly too relaxed, we promptly tipped both bikes on the loose gravel on the steep slope on the way out. With the stress of the puncture out of the way, we pressed on.

A slower travellerA slower traveller

Around one corner, we came across a huge tortoise and stopped for pictures. Further along, a stop at Vero’s Restaurant and Take Away, which offered a small menu of sandwiches and Coke or Fanta. Alongside our informal outside table, clusters of bright flowers were interspersed with an odd mix of found object sculptures including an old doll tied to a tree stump, broken plastic hub caps, car number plates, and a rusted bicycle. Differently charming and perfect for the hungry and thirsty. Temperatures in the valley were between 35-38C.

VerosVeros

Following our lunch break, the road evened out for longer stretches and soon it was out of the valley to Willowmore – which, at first glance, was way over its quota when it came to ‘drankwinkels’.

With no accommodation booked, we first tried the Old Jail and Art Gallery – which seemed like a good concept. But after being reluctantly buzzed in, it was clear we were in the midst of a boutique hotel conversion that didn’t fit well with a pair of dusty bikers shooting much lower when it came to an overnight budget. We had a friendly enough chat, and the Willow Historical Guest House was suggested as an alternative. We were shown to a room in a row of semi-detached houses with thick walls that was perfectly cool in the Karoo heat. The restaurant provided and excellent dinner among antiques and bric a brac that reminded one of farms a century ago. Meals were delivered covered with silver lids to keep the food warm between kitchen and table. The bar to one side was a little creepy, with various apartheid memorabilia sitting among a mix of tins and bottles and badges (including an old tin for loose tobacco that was as big as a motorcycle pannier).  

Chilling in WillowvaleChilling in Willowvale

The next day we set out for Prince Albert via De Rust and Klaarstroom, including the perfectly scenic Meiringspoort pass, with its narrow roads, concrete drifts and high cliffs. Baboons were plentiful, though a hand on the brake lever was needed at all times, as the younger ones were apt to dart across the road unexpectedly.

After a long wait for petrol at the co-op in Prince Albert, we tried an alternate dirt road south for Ladismith, but as the road got narrower and more farm-like and uncertain, we turned back and opted for the Swartberg Pass to Oudtshoorn instead. A perfect choice as it turned out. The GS was happy to idle along in second or third gear up the steep dusty switchbacks, with the KLR also skipping upwards easily.

Coming down the SwartbergComing down the Swartberg

Once over the mountain, we transitioned to a sky wide view of the patchwork fields and mountains to the south, and then enjoyed some tight corners on the tar road between the Cango Caves and Oudtshoorn.

With Witsand as our next destination, we took the N12 south through George, then the N2 to Mossel Bay, Albertinia, Riversdale, Heidelberg, and then on the Breede River Lodge. There, a good room with a view of the river mouth, with photographs and write-ups on whale calving season in the later part of the year (something to come back for).

WitsandWitsand

Our final day was up early for the ride to Malgas and across the Breede on the hand drawn ferry. We took the long way round, heading north on the tar towards Heidelberg, and then winding towards Malgas on good dirt roads with a few turn-offs to figure out along the way. The GPS wasn’t much help, indicating ‘do a U-Turn’ most of the time (Tracks4Africa is something to look into). The ferry was fun, although the ferry pullers rather stoic as they spun their chains around the cable and pulled us along.  R15 per bike to get across.

Compulsory ferry pic!Compulsory ferry pic!

On to Bredasdorp, where I should have double checked the GPS routing against the map as we followed the suggested deviation north through Napier when the route south along the sea would probably have been more scenic. Anyhow, the wind had picked up quite a bit and it was a good challenge keeping inside the left lane as the gusts pushed and pulled at us between the hills. Lunch in Gansbaai, in the mix of tourists fresh off the shark cage diving boats, and then on to Hermanus. There, serious fire damage to be seen on the mountains and a slow clog of traffic from the road works on the way out of town. The ride along the sea to Gordon’s Bay along sweeping curves and tight corners shifted perspective as we moved into the industrial sprawl along the way Somerset West and then the busy highway into Cape Town. A fine way to spend five days.

Home stretch at GansbaaiHome stretch at Gansbaai

Tony's picture
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Joined: 2008/08/24

Wow! Great trip, thanks for posting.

A bend in the road is not the end of the road... unless you fail to make the turn. ~Author Unknown

Charles Oertel's picture
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Joined: 2007/04/14

What a great trip and lovely trip report.  I'm surprised you managed to post pictures - apparently it is near impossible Foot in mouth Smile.  This is a certain contender for the trip-report-of-the-month award at the next club meeting.

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

WarrenParker's picture
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Joined: 2012/11/06

Thanks. Great to be able to share – I read quite a few blogs on Baviaans which added useful info prior to heading out.

 

WarrenParker's picture
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Joined: 2012/11/06

Thanks for the comment. Putting in the pictures was a bit fiddly. I exported them to an e-mail as low resolution and then copied them into a folder on my desktop. This saved quite a bit of time getting them down to a useful resolution in one step. Glad you liked the report.

Andyman's picture
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Joined: 2007/06/22

Wow Warren, excellent trip report and definietly a great route.

I really like your plan-as-you-go attitude, Reduces so much stressa nd time watching and makes the journey that much more interesting.

Baviaans is very water full at the moment after the rian- so- RESPECT to you and your son.

Heard of two bikers who were doing it West to East and turned around because the water crossings were too long and dangerous.

Well, you got my mouth watering for another trip in that direction.

Thnaks for posting the photos, I learned the same trick of resducing after 5 years of hit and miss resizing.

For me, the Baviaans is so full of wonders you need minimum two days, better three or more to really get the feel.

You stopped right by the hidden waterfall that is right now coming down inside the rocks- you follow a donkey path to get there. 20 metres from where you paid the reserve fee.

Then there's the crocodile rock- all 300 meters of a crocodile in relief  only seen from a certain angle.

And then the honey thieves  rope ladder in the kloof and the Speekhout farm tree house.

The Cambell memorial from the boer war and the 3 geocaches stashed away throuth the kloof.

Baviaans is awesome.

Riding home right into the sun could not have been much fun.

Great trip.

Great route.

Great story.

Waiting for your next one......

Respect!!

 

 

 

Andyman
Anyone can ride a bike fast....   But can you ride your bike real slow???

Geoff Russell's picture
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Joined: 2007/09/25

Thanks for the very enjoyable Trip report.

Committee: Ride Captain

WarrenParker's picture
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Joined: 2012/11/06

Hi Andyman, Thanks for the comments... Your tips for things to see that we missed because of worries about the tyre make another trip inevitable! (and more days in the valley for sure). Going from Patensie allowed for getting the river crossings done while we were still fresh, rather than West/East, but turning around is a better option than dropping a bike in deep water. Being just two made it easier to not always have accommodation or our destination set for some of the overnights. I used Safarinow to get a sense of what was available and pricing on my phone, and arriving with a few hours before sunset gave time to look around. Happy riding and scratching the Baviaans itch. Will get working on another trip... 

Andyman's picture
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Joined: 2007/06/22

Warren, now thats the way to travel, let your trip unfold before you and be flexible with your route choices and not sticking to plan A.

 

We tour like you do, always ready to adopt and adapt to a new plan as events unfold.

Free of eta stressess and chasing deadlines.

Wishing you many many more and looking forward to more trips reports from you....

Andyman
Anyone can ride a bike fast....   But can you ride your bike real slow???

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Joined: 2008/01/28

Great report - thanks.  I must do Baviaans soon.

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