Facing the Fear and Finding Friends

Zanie's picture

Points: 9

BACKGROUND

Monsters

Over the past couple of months I have been lying low; keeping mostly to tar, whilst the idea of dirt roads became a monster in my head. It has been almost a year and my foot still doesn’t feel quite right, but at least it is functional now.

While I was down-and-out I noticed Ilse on the Wild Dog forum in a similar predicament (she had torn her Achilles tendon also through an off-road accident) and made contact. Thanks to Wild Dog Forum for a new friend. We went on a ride together as pillions on our respective boyfriends’ bikes.

Me and Ilse with busted feet

The four of us went on another ride about 4 months after my accident. This time we girls were on our own bikes. Standing was painful and I was nervous. All of us also went to one of the legendary Cederberg Oasis spit-braai events. Ilse went by car, because she was sick. On one stretch of dirt I was almost in tears from nerves. After that, I stuck to 40km/h. My previous off overshadowed everything. I couldn’t get it out of my head.

Die Hel

An off-road ride? Eek!

Monsters must be tamed, which is why I decided to put my name down for yet another BMW club organised beginners’ off-road course (I have already attended 2).Then one day Lance and I received an e-mail from Ilse and Gerhard, asking whether we would like to join them on a 4-day off-road ride. The planned route from Cape Town would be via Tankwa Karoo, Sutherland and Ladismith, with notable points of interest being Katbakkies Pass, Ouberg Pass and Anysberg.

Tankwa trip map

I am a strange creature in that my instant knee-jerk reaction to almost anything scary is “no,” but it invariably turns into a “yes.” The next day I put in leave for the 15th June.

Ilse and I are both newbie bikers. I had only recently clocked 10,000 km on my first/only bike (650GS) and was finally feeling relaxed with it on tar, even in the corners. Ilse recently exchanged her Honda CFR250L for a 650GS and was not yet comfortable with the big bike.

I twisted Ilse’s rubber arm to come along on the training course. The course helped immeasurably in building confidence. The fact that I had two “side-stand incidents” without breaking myself or the bike decreased my fear of falling. I had more aggressive tyres installed on my bike just before the training. It made a massive difference to the bike’s handling on gravel.

Knobblies:

Knobblies

We met Jean at the training. We would bump into him on our trip, but more on that later. Thanks to this forum for another buddy.

We watched the weather forecast with angst as the long weekend approached. It did not look pretty on the Tuesday.

Weather forecast

Nonetheless it was all systems go.

The cast

Lance on a BMW 800GSA

Lance on BMW 800GSA

Zanie (me) on a BMW 650GS (Rooikat)

Zanie on BMW 650GS (Rooikat)

Gerhard on a Triumph Tiger 800XC

Gerhard on Triumph Tiger 800 XC

Ilse on a BMW 650GS (Sylvester)

Ilse on BMW 650GS (Sylvester)

Jean on a BMW 650GS Dakar (Blikkies)

Jean on BMW 650GS Dakar (Blikkies)

A few bumps in the road

Lance was still recovering from a broken wrist. This is what he did to it in February:

Lance wrist

He had tried gravel and his wrist appeared fine with the up-and-down motion from riding on rougher roads. Unfortunately the back-and-forth jerk experienced from a simple stall in a driveway one day before our trip gave him a bit of a set-back. There were rumours (which I welcomed at that point, due to fear) that we may have to stick mainly to gravel highway (read: R355) and take the long way round on our second day rather than following the back roads through Tankwa National Park to Sutherland. In hindsight I am soooo glad Lance’s wrist felt better the day we departed.

Ilse had a stomach bug that started the day before the trip. She had a sleepless night before the trip and was drugged up as best as possible the next morning. Gerhard had loads of work to finish and I think he only got to bed at some unholy hour of the morning before the trip.

Zanie's picture
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Joined: 2013/11/21

DAY 1

Day 1: Cape Town-Tankwa (click for Google map of route)

The morning dawned cold and damp. Ilse, Gerhard, Lance and I met up in Table View. We were keen to escape the Cape Town weather.

Wet Cape Town morning

The first stretch up to Malmesbury was not so much rainy as it was incredibly misty. I would later have some experience with serious rain (on day 4) and I definitely prefer rain to mist where visibility is concerned. It is easier to see through drops than a fogged-up visor. I was wiping away at my visor almost every 30 seconds. I was later to find out that I had obviously not used the softest part of my glove. The bottom bit of my visor is now quite scratched and I will either have to replace it or try the toothpaste scratch-removal method mentioned on various forums.

I didn’t really enjoy the first stretch of gravel. Riding on gravel when you are already nervous and cannot see that much thanks to a fogged-up visor is not that fun. When the sun came out, I started relaxing.

Some scenery after Riebeeck Kasteel:

After Riebeeck Kasteel

We filled up with fuel at Ceres. The next fuel station would only be in Sutherland. We were still unsure as to whether Lance, with his sore wrist, would be able to manage the shorter, rougher route planned between Tankwa and Sutherland for the next day. Taking the longer route to Sutherland back via the R355 and then over Ouberg Pass would mean that Ilse’s 2012 model 650 would be on the outer limits of its fuel range, while my 2001 650 (older = thirstier) and the Tiger would definitely not make it. The Tiger wouldn’t even make the shorter route. Gerhard had packed some petrol, but not enough for all 3 bikes. Thankfully Ilse had organised petrol at Tankwa Tented Camp. They allow a quota of 5 lit per bike at R20/lit. You need to alert them beforehand.

After Ceres, we headed in the direction of Prince Alfred Hamlet.

Me on Gydo Pass:

Me on Gydo Pass

Ilse on Gydo Pass

Ilse on Gydo Pass

We took the Touwsrivier/Baviaanshoek turn-off from the R303. 5km later we turned left at the Odessapad turn-off. The road turns to gravel at this point.

Time to let some air out of the tyres:

Letting air out of tyres

This stretch of road is called the Winkelhaak Road. It is amazingly beautiful, featuring lakes and mountains. I would recommend this route if you are on your way to Katbakkies Pass. Lance found it on the Mountain Passes South Africa website.

Winkelhaal Road scenery

Winkelhaal Road scenery

I spotted a whole flock of guinea fowl. Whether I am in a car or on a motorbike or bicycle, I slow down whenever I see these things. They don’t seem overly bright and will kamikaze in front of you right at the last moment. Lance has lost a hand protector (the standard plastic BMW OEM – not very strong) to one of them at 120km/h, but at least his clutch lever was safe.

A close encounter with guinea fowl

A close encounter with guinea fowl

Gerhard off-roading at Winkelhaak

Gerhard off-roading at Winkelhaak

Winkelhaak again

Winkelhaak again

The guys and their bikes at Winkelhaak

The guys and their bikes at Winkelhaak

Lance couldn’t let go of his bike, because the side-stand would just sink into the ground:

That sinking feeling

That sinking feeling

We passed Houdenbek Farm. Lance and I have stayed here before in one of their stables that was converted into a cottage. It is an awesome place if you are into hiking or mountain biking. The mountain bike route was made by a mountain biker for the Cape Epic and is my absolute favourite, with wooden bridges over water crossings and loads of single-track through amazing rock-formations.

Lance and my experience at Houdenbek.

Ilse had never been over Katbakkies Pass before. It doesn’t get old, even if you’ve done it a few times. The vistas are breath-taking. It is actually better to do it from the opposite direction to our route, i.e. rather ride from East to West. If riding from West to East, remember to make use of the viewing points. Look what you are leaving behind. Stop and stare.

Run-up to Katbakkies Pass

Run-up to Katbakkies Pass

It's a sign

It's a sign

Me on Katbakkies

Me on Katbakkies

Katbakkies view

Katbakkies view

The gravel that we had tackled on this day was not difficult, which helped me get into the swing of things. Ilse and I were obviously still in “tar mode” and the road was pretty good, which is why we were sitting on our bikes most of the way. At that point it felt like the safer option. If you are a newbie, being closer to the ground has some appeal, even if not always logical.

Last bit of interesting gravel before the R355

Last bit of interesting gravel before the R355

Every now and then, the guys would wander off the route whenever there was an interesting-looking patch of sand/gravel. I would continue on the normal route, knowing they’d catch up. Ilse was definitely more adventurous when it came to exploring the unknown.

Ilse a bit stuck after following the guys

Ilse a bit stuck after following the guys

We hit the R355; the longest stretch of good gravel highway you can imagine. It may be boring, but it is very good for confidence-building if you are a newbie. We made the obligatory stop at Tankwa Padstal for lunch.

Lance and I meeting a Padstal local

Lance and I meeting a Padstal local

Ilse and I decided to try the home-made ginger beer. Hein from the Padstal warned us that the stuff was pretty violent and you would need patience to open one. He gave us a time estimate of 15 minutes and asked us to please open them outdoors. This ended up being an underestimation! I’d recommend their food. Their ginger beer is fun for entertainment purposes, but a good third of it will end up on the ground and/or table.

Trying to open the ginger beer bottle

Trying to open the ginger beer bottle

It is 64km between Tankwa Padstal and the Tankwa Tented Camp. I was bored after 10km. Who needs confidence-building? I wanted an interesting road! The sun was sitting low, which meant I had to hold my head slightly skew to block the sun with my helmet’s peak. My neck was stiff from holding this pose.

Gerhard on the R355

Gerhard on the R355

Lance and Gerhard both had GPS’s on their bikes. They would learn that they needed to cross-check. Gerhard’s GPS, in particular, was obviously made for another planet. Or perhaps it wanted to take us the “scenic route.” I was at the back of the group when everyone drove past the Tankwa Tented Camp sign. I was the only one that saw the actual words on the sign. None of us have communication devices, so I could not contact anyone. I am also the most navigationally challenged person on earth. I figured perhaps the guys knew what they were doing.

I could thank a nicely placed muddy patch on the road for the fact that we only overshot about 5km. Lance almost lost it on the mud and decided to stop at the side of the road, flagging down us ladies just in case we hit the same slippery spot. At this point I told everyone we should head back the way we came.

Tankwa Tented Camp turn-off

Tankwa Tented Camp turn-off

I have been to Tankwa Tented Camp before, on the Tankwa Bike Burn, before my accident. I remember the road from the R355 to the camp being rough, with rocky and sandy patches. Either the road was very improved or the monsters in my mind were starting to retreat. It didn’t seem that bad at all. It was positively fun after the R355. The guys always drove faster than us girls. This meant that we had obliging gate-openers!

Lance opening one of the many gates

Lance opening one of the many gates

Busy intersection

Make sure to stop at this “busy” intersection

Given the cold, we had decided not to go the camping route on our trip. This also cuts down on the amount of stuff you need to pack. We stayed in the luxury tents. Compared with normal camping, it is indeed a luxury.

Arriving at Tanwka Tented Camp accommodation

Arriving at Tanwka Tented Camp accommodation

The little light in each tent is operated off solar and is switched off at 10pm. Candles should be used after this time. I was perfectly happy to forego a shower if it was too cold to bother or if there were no towels/soap available (Lance and I hadn’t packed any). As it was, there were towels, there was still a bit of daylight and the temperature had not yet plummeted.

Tankwa Tented Camp luxury tent

Tankwa Tented Camp luxury tent

The ablutions are rustic/basic, but contain everything you require. Sometimes the most fancy ablution blocks don’t have any hooks for your clothing, etc. Hot water is available from a donkey, which is heated between at certain hours of the morning and evening.

We had pre-ordered braai-packs for supper. You need to let them know in advance, so that they can defrost your food. We were tired after a long day, so we were very grateful and surprised when one of the staff members said they would make the fire and braai our food for us. The service throughout our whole short stay was excellent. The staff were super-friendly.

The braai area in the light of the next day

The braai area in the light of the next day

A gas heater is supplied in each tent, but they will even provide a hot water bottle on request. Ilse made use of this service. We all went to bed relatively early (roughly 8.30pm), as it had been a long day.

Andyman's picture
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Joined: 2007/06/22

Wow, Excellent report and an excellent trip.

Great you went and slayed the dragons.

 

Well done, looking forward to many more.

Thanks for all the visuals 

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

Zanie's picture
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Joined: 2013/11/21

DAY 2

Tankwa-Sutherland (click for Google Map)

I had sacrificed a considerable amount of space in my soft luggage to pack the warmest PJ’s I own. It meant I could only pack one spare top, but it was worth it. I didn’t need to use the gas heater and I slept like the dead until about 4am, when I started to feel the cold. Apparently the others had heard jackals. I heard nothing. Ilse and Gerhard had tried to use their gas heater, but it ran out of gas shortly after being switched on. I think they had a bit of a chilly night.

Feeling the cold

Feeling the cold

 

Early morning light

Early morning light:

Breakfast was great and included bread, which we had pre-ordered. The reason you need to let them know about the bread beforehand, is because they need to bake it. They only ship in food once a month from Cape Town. Everything that cannot be frozen will spoil.

Breakfast

Breakfast

Tankwa Tented Camp is a fascinating place. It is full of odds-and-ends, including nameless farm implements and strange things created by those attending AfrikaBurn (also hosted by the same venue). It actually needs a bit more time than we had for exploring. We found a “backwards bicycle.” Turning the handle makes the back wheel turn. None of us could ride it, but we had a couple of laughs trying.

Strange bicycle

Strange bicycle

More strange bicycles

More strange bicycles

We moved the bikes into the sun to allow them to warm up a bit before trying to start them. My bike, being about 14 years old, would be the only one that was reluctant to start in the mornings. It never took more than 3-4 tries though.

Warming my motorbike

Warming my motorbike

We decided to explore the Tankwa Tented Camp surrounds and the AfrikaBurn site before heading off. A staff member directed us to the route to a ship structure made out of wood and metal. The route was a bit technical for us newbie girls, but it made the rest of the day seem do-able.

Ilse navigating a narrow gap

Ilse navigating a narrow gap

You have to stay on the narrow path, because the rocks are actually quite sharp-looking.

Single-track

Single-track

Ilse and Gerhard on Titanic on dry land (should have a happier ending):

H.M.S. Tin Titanic

H.M.S. Tin Titanic

The monsters aren’t just in my head!

Tankwa monster

Tankwa monster

AfrikaBurn leaves one large structure standing every year only to be burnt down the next year. We were disappointed that we never got to see the four huge spikes that had dominated the site last year, but this year’s structure was equally impressive.

AfrikaBurn structure

AfrikaBurn structure

A motorbike stall

A motorbike stall

The amount of “nothingness” in the area is mind-boggling.

Wide open spaces

Wide open spaces

Lance’s wrist was feeling much better, so it was decided to take the shorter, more scenic route to Sutherland. I had been worried about the sand.

Sure, there was some sand:

Sand

Sand

And some puddles:

Wet stuff

Wet stuff

But for the first time in what felt like forever, I started really enjoying the ride. I was now standing, as it felt safer than sitting when you hit sand patches. My new knobblie tryes made a massive difference. I used to feel every “middelmannetjie” with my previous tyres. Now it took some serious sand for the back of my bike to start “wandering.” I even relearnt how to change gears while standing, something I haven’t done since my accident. I was relaxed enough to look around and enjoy the scenery.

Having a look around

Having a look around

Lance went off-road for a bit. Spot the two pixels that are bikers.

Spot the bikers

Spot the bikers

Some time out

Some time out

It was at this rest-stop where our group of 4 magically became 5. Jean, whom Ilse and I had met at the off-road training a week before, spotted our group and stopped for a chat. He had planned to do a longer trip with a buddy, but the buddy had a stroke just before the trip. Jean had cancelled/ moved all his bookings for the remainder of his trip (he had been at Cederberg Oasis before he met up with us). He was now speeding through Tankwa, with the plan of being home in Cape Town by evening. We said he was welcome to join, as long as he didn’t mind the slower speed of our group.

Jean decided to join our little group. He said he actually enjoyed taking it slower and checking out the scenery. He could really move if he wanted to and would sometimes join Lance and Gerhard at the front – all the guys would stop and wait for us every now and then (apparently they never really had to wait longer than 2 min) – but in general he drove “sweep.” It definitely made me feel better, knowing there is still someone behind me in case something went wrong. Jean’s fiancé, whom we had also met at the training, was thrilled that Ilse and I were out on a gravel road trip and gave her blessing for Jean to continue shepherding our group.

Next to Tankwa River

Next to Tankwa River

Whenever the guys found anything that resembled a slight bump or ramp, they would spend a bit of time there. Lance had to be careful with his wrist, so he generally abstained from flying and took on the role of cameraman.

Gerhard flying

Gerhard flying

Jean flying

Jean flying

Ilse didn’t know about that particular bump and went over it at a higher speed than she would have liked.

Ilse reliving the moment of semi-flight

Ilse reliving the moment of semi-flight

We had finally reached Ouberg Pass. It had been one of the scary monsters in my head. I had not thought that I would be able to make it. The guys had planned the route to take us from the bottom to the top. Going up Ouberg is easier than going down if you are a newbie. It gets very steep at certain sections. If you are a newbie, you may be tempted to grab you brakes when it feels like you are going too fast downhill. The loose surface would mean that your back wheel could slide out from under you and you would go down. It can also be incredibly windy on Ouberg Pass.

By the sounds of amazement from all the guys (who had done Ouberg a number of times before), we had struck it lucky in that there was not a breath of wind on the pass itself despite some wind on the flatlands below.

The monster ended up being a cute, fluffy kitten. The pass was a breeze (pun intended) for me. The sharp corners were the only places where you may end up on your side if you don’t keep a reasonable speed and look where you want to go. No sweat. It felt like doing switch-backs on my mountain bike. Ilse and I took it slowly, but at least there were no hiccups.

Girls heading up Ouberg

Girls heading up Ouberg

Me on Ouberg Pass

Me on Ouberg Pass

We finally made it to the “top of the world,” where I could stand and take stock of what I had just achieved. It may be an easy road to many, but for Ilse and me it was a revelation that we could do such a thing.

Viewpoint at Ouberg Pass

Viewpoint at Ouberg Pass

Ouberg Pass view

Ouberg Pass view

From left to right: Lance, me, Gerhard, Ilse. Notice the huge smiles from us girls. We made it!

Group photo

Group photo

Group photo with Jean

Group photo with Jean

Motorbikes on Ouberg

Motorbikes on Ouberg

Rest stop after Ouberg

Rest stop after Ouberg

The only side-stand incident of the whole trip would happen here. The Tiger stands a bit more upright than the other bikes when on its side-stand. Ilse had complained earlier how difficult it was to right her 650 when compared to the Tiger. There are disadvantages to this though. The wind blew the Tiger right over!

Getting the Tiger to find its feet

Getting the Tiger to find its feet

When we reached the tar R356 to Sutherland, we saw a bunch of bikers head past. My thoughts: “I bet you my route was much more interesting than your tar route!”

We decided to check out the observatory, despite knowing it would be closed (they don’t do tours on Sundays). We just wanted to have a look-see.

Sutherland observatory

Sutherland observatory

Back in Sutherland, Jean checked with the accommodation he had booked previously. It had already been reassigned, because he had let them know earlier that he wouldn’t make it to Sutherland and he hadn’t planned to be in the area. Sutherland appeared to be fully-booked. Jean couldn’t find a place. Luckily Gerhard and Ilse’s room contained one double bed and one single. Jean would stay with them for the night.

All of us at Jupiter Guest House

All of us at Jupiter Guest House

Jupiter Guest House is a very biker-friendly place, with reasonable rates. Their restaurant/ lapa area was closed for the night and we were told that we could store the bikes there. My bike is used to sleeping outside, beneath a bike cover. I’m sure it didn’t know what hit it, staying in such luxurious accommodation!

Bikes in a lapa

Bikes in a lapa

We went to see the star talk at Sterland from 6-8pm. They usually charge R120, but tonight it was only R100 each. I think it made payment processing easier for them (no change required), considering both their 6pm and 8pm slots were fully booked. The guy giving the talk (Jurg) is no astronomer; just a member of the public that is very interested in stars. The talk was well worth it. It started with a slideshow about the stars, where Jurg pointed out which stars, star formation and planets we would be seeing that night. We were lucky in that Venus, Saturn and Mars were all visible on that particular night.

We were then shepherded outside to the 4 telescopes Jurg owned (buying a similar one today would set you back R120k!). He would point out the star formations with a powerful laser. A group of 12 people were assigned to each telescope (it was a big group that night). Everyone would have a turn to have a look at each star/ planet being shown. All telescopes would be focused on the same star/ planet at any one time. Jurg would just punch in a star’s co-ordinates in each telescope and they would all track to that star. Sirius was amazingly beautiful. Since it was low on the horizon, the atmospheric interference made it seem like a disco-ball, sparkling all sorts of colours.

The five of us went for supper at the Whitehouse Inn. It was one of only two places in Sutherland (the other being the Sutherland Hotel) where you could find food. The owners recognised me despite the fact that I have stayed there only once in August last year. The memories of small town people are amazing! The last time Lance and I stayed here was when we joined a BMW Southern Cape Club weekend ride. I had gone by car, because I had been in my moonboot and on crutches at that time. I would be back again in August this year, hoping to join the same ride in one piece.

Our supper options were limited, as the Whitehouse Inn had run out of burgers and steaks. The remaining options were chops, wors and ribs. Sutherland was obviously packed, considering that the place had run out of food!

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DAY 3

Sutherland-Ladismith (click for Google Map)

Strangely enough, I hadn’t slept that well the previous night, because I had actually been too warm! The rooms each had a wall-mounted heater and electric blankets. Lance liked all the heating devices, but my uber-warm PJs did the job on their own. Together with the heating, it became quite warm.

The weather forecast for tomorrow still looked grim. A decision had been made last night that we would not head back to Cape Town today to try to “beat the rain,” because it had already started raining there. We would be rained on, no matter which day we returned, so we might as well make full use of today. We would, however, head straight home by tar tomorrow. Anysberg in the wet is apparently no place for a newbie or, in the worst case, even an experienced rider may hit difficulties.

Gerhard still had some left-over petrol, which Ilse used:

Some fuel for the bike

Some fuel for the bike

We headed south on the R356 and took the Klein Roggeveld turn-off after 15km, where the road turned to gravel.

Pretty trees

Pretty trees

Angry clouds formed the backdrop to an endless horizon.

Angry sky

Angry sky

Jean in awe of the mountain vistas at the start of Komsberg Pass:

Check out the view!

Check out the view!

Komsberg Pass

Komsberg Pass

More Komsberg Pass

More Komsberg Pass

Then we headed through the Moordenaars Karoo. We mistakenly took the first turn-off to the left, after 29km, rather than the second turn-off (about 50km from the Klein Roggeveld turn-off). This road was rougher than the original planned route, but it was definitely more interesting. I was fine with rough downhills. I would go into mountain biking mode: just stand, lean a bit back and let the bike do its thing beneath you. What I don’t like is rough plus corners. I still do not like corners. Unfortunately we don’t seem to have photos of the rougher bits (though “rough” is definitely relative, considering this is from a newbie’s perspective), only those resembling gravel highway.

Moordenaarskaroo sky

Moordenaarskaroo sky

Bikes in the middle of nowhere

Bikes in the middle of nowhere

Lonely vistas

Lonely vistas

This series of photos below was quite instructive. Lance used them to educate me on the do’s and don’ts of mud-puddles. The safest track is actually through the deepest bits, where cars’ wheels have compacted everything. Driving on the soft “middelmannetjie” may result in the bike sliding out beneath you into the deeper areas or sliding out completely.

Me showing how not to do it

Me showing how not to do it

Ilse on a slightly better track

Ilse on a slightly better track

Gerhard showing how it is done

Gerhard showing how it is done

Slow down for woolly speed-bumps

Slow down for woolly speed-bumps

Lance against a moody sky

Lance against a moody sky

I decided to take a ramp at speed.

Flying?

Flying?

A dust-cloud on touch-down from my back wheel. This “proves” that I was potentially 0.5 cm above the ground. Feel free to roll eyes at this point.

Mini dust cloud

Mini dust cloud

The guys, again, showing how it’s done:

Jean flying again

Jean flying again

Gerhard taking to the sky

Gerhard taking to the sky

Gerhard flying close-up

Gerhard flying close-up

We stopped at Laingsburg for a snack. We didn’t have full-on lunch, as we wanted to have more time to stop at the side of the road. The road-side views would be far more spectacular than the inside of a fast-food shop in Laingsburg.

After Laingsburg, we followed the R323 south through Rooinek Pass. It may be tar, but the pass is spectacular. Pictures do not do the colours justice. Unfortunately Lance (who’s GoPro seemed to show colour better) did not take any footage on this section.

Rooinek Pass

Rooinek Pass

The road turns to gravel at some point after Rooinek Pass. Roughly 2km after the road turns into gravel, we took a right. I do not know what this road is called or the name of the pass through which it takes you, but it is stunning.

Nameless pass

Nameless pass

This was a far better snack stop than Laingsburg.

Snack stop

Snack stop

Bikes and a view

Bikes and a view

Heading onwards through the nameless pass

Heading onwards through the nameless pass

The next pass was Seweweekspoort

The next pass was Seweweekspoort

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

Lance had ridden ahead and had been able to check out a water crossing before we arrived. When I got there, he waved me on, saying it would be easy. He knew if I stopped I may just have second thoughts. I saw the cobbles, but they were small in comparison to those in the Die Hel water-crossings. I went through without a hitch.

Me and water crossing in Seweweekspoort

Me and water crossing in Seweweekspoort

Ilse was expecting a concrete low water bridge, same as all the others, which is why she was going at quite a clip by the time she hit the water. Needless to say she was a bit wet afterwards.

Ilse and the water crossing

Ilse and the water crossing

Ilse had never been through Seweweekspoort. She said it was surreal to be riding through a place she had always wanted to see. It was an absolute highlight. This was also her first water crossing with cobbles. Feel the excitement!

The eyes say it all

The eyes say it all

We finally reached Ladismith

We finally reached Ladismith

Jean managed to find accommodation in town, because the lady who owned the accommodation where Ilse, Gerhard, Lance and I would stay did not sound too keen on trying to squeeze someone else in. We had supper at the only place in town where you can get food at a late hour: Andri’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant.

Zanie's picture
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Joined: 2013/11/21

DAY 4

Ladismith-Cape Town (click for Google Map)

Ilse, Gerhard, Lance and I had stayed in Die Withuisie, roughly 7km out of town. The place was well-priced (R500 for the four of us) and well-equipped for self-catering. There was even a jar full of rusks. There were two single beds in the only bedroom and a sleeper-couch in the living room. I would definitely recommend it as a base from which to explore the surrounding area.

Die Withuisie

Die Withuisie

One of the locals

One of the locals

Packing to leave

Packing to leave

The Tiger had started giving issues yesterday, cutting out every now and then. Gerhard struggled to get it going in the morning. The suspected culprit was the stepper motor; apparently a common problem with Tigers. My bike also took a bit of convincing to get going due to the cold.

Heading out from Die Withuisie

Heading out from Die Withuisie

We had all agreed to meet at Andri’s Coffee Shop for breakfast. I will definitely recommend their food. I had some interesting French toast with blue cheese.

The weather was taking a turn for the worse. We all made sure to wear our rain gear (Lance and my rain layers are zipped in on the inside).

Installing rain gear

Installing rain gear

We would stick to tar on the way home, given the weather forecast. The sky looked incredibly ominous. It was like we were driving towards Mount Doom.

Very angry sky

Very angry sky

About 10km outside Ladismith it started raining. It didn’t let up until Barrydale area. Then it suddenly looked like this:

Blue sky??

Blue sky??

We stopped at Die Boord/ The Orchard, a coffee shop in Montague. I wonder what the local clientele thought about a bunch of soggy bikers huddling around the fire with hot chocolate.

The view at the back of The Orchard

View at the back of The Orchard

Just outside of Robertson the heavens opened up properly. By the time we reached Worcester it was raining cats, dogs and hamsters. People at the Worcester garage, where we stopped to fuel up, were saying that cars were aquaplaning off the road in Bellville area.

We kept the speed to a low 80-100 km/h. Initially Ilse and I gave way for the cars trying to pass, but by the time we reached the stretch heading towards the tunnel we thought “screw them.” The wind was pummelling us. If we kept to the far left-hand side of the road in order to let cars pass, we would run the risk of being blown straight off the road. We needed some tarmac leeway.

Rain!

Rain!

I have seen amazing waterfalls in that area, but never as spectacular as on this day. There was a broad streak of white towards the top of the mountain. My brain could first not comprehend it. The others had felt the same. All of us had thought it was either snow, a landslide scar or an ice waterfall. It just seemed too huge to be an actual waterfall. Coming closer, you could see the broad, white streak extending all the way down the mountain. We all stopped at the side of the road and stared, despite the deluge. Unfortunately none of us thought to take any footage or photos.

The rain became truly terrifying just before the tunnel, sweeping past in horizontal sheets of white. It was a welcome relief to enter, even if it meant that everything (visor and mirrors) fogged up instantly.

Storm before the tunnel

Storm before the tunnel

The other side of the tunnel lent credence to the statement “there’s light at the end of the tunnel!” It was a lot calmer on that side. Jean took the Somerset West turn-off to home. The rest of us headed back to Table View. The storm appeared to have moved on, as Bellville-area was ok. The roads were drying.

Poor Ilse and Gerhard had left their geyser off while away. This meant they had to wait an hour for hot water after getting home. Feedback from the others were that they got wet through. Lance and my rain gear held up really well. Only the tips of our toes were wet, strangely enough. Even my buff had almost dried completely thanks to the fact that the last 50-or-so km home had been rain-free.

I placed all my gear in front of fans to dry them. I got back into them the next day for my work commute. I had not had enough of my bike yet!

Zanie's picture
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Joined: 2013/11/21

CONCLUSION

I had not wanted to do this trip initially, due to an overriding fear of falling and the feeling that the route was beyond my capabilities. When I got back onto my bike after my accident, I had thought “What are you doing?” Ilse had also had her doubts. This trip was meant to answer the question: “Who am I doing this for? Myself or my partner?”

It has now been almost two full weeks since the trip and I am still on an absolute high. I have been on a couple of great holidays, to the Drakensberg, the Caribbean, the Seychelles, but none have led to what I would, in a way, call personal growth. I faced a fear and found peace with gravel. I got home and immediately wanted to turn around and go back.

Ilse has now bonded with her bike, Sylvester. She told me she had still missed Vlentergat, her CFR250, until this trip; like an old ex that is observed through rose-tinted glasses.

So in answer to the question: “Who am I doing this for?”

Ilse and I are unanimous.

“Myself.”

Zanie's picture
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Joined: 2013/11/21

VIDEO

Trip video can be found here.

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

Very nice Zanie - a brilliant story and an epic trip.  Love the pictures and your style  of writing.  Well done on all counts.

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

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Joined: 2008/01/28

What a fantastic report. What a great read. Well done.

Mwendo's picture
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Joined: 2011/04/13

Thank you for a very entertaining report of a super experience Zanie!

Well done to all of you, with kudos to you and Ilse.

--
The only problem with hindsight, is you don't see it coming!

 
Jackie Wiese's picture
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Joined: 2012/02/26

Well done Zanie, making a come back after a "disagreement with one's motorcycle takes guts but it is all worth it in the end.  Enjoy every kilometer and ride salfely.  As my dad used to say, "he who travels slow, travels far".

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Joined: 2011/07/26

Wel done on taming your monsters! You sound like a very brave lady. Thanks very much for taking the time to write such an interesting story, with excellent pics.  You write very well. I enjoyed reading about your adventure and I hope you all have many more safe, enjoyable kms together.

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Joined: 2007/06/25

Zanie, I have been a menber of this club for some years and the most inspiring thing to me is to see how people gain confidence in their riding as well. Your story certainly reflects the above. Well done to you and Ilse, you girls rock bigtimeLaughing

Think before you ink.

Trust is the most valuable asset.

I have the rest of my life to get old.

Tony's picture
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Joined: 2008/08/24

Enjoyable reading!

Thanks for the trip report Zanie.

 

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

Zanie's picture
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Joined: 2013/11/21

Thanks all for the really positive feedback! The off-road bug has definitely bitten. Wish me luck as I head off to Verneukpan this weekend. If you don't hear from me, assume I have turned into an ice-block.

I must say many thanks to this club for all the off-road training courses. I didn't even have 500km under my belt on a motorbike when I attended my first one (had only been riding for 5 weeks). I couldn't do too much, but every time I've attended since (I have done 3 in total), I have been able to do more of the exercises. My motorbike is starting to feel "smaller." It was a terrifyingly large beast when I started riding!

PeterO's picture
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Joined: 2007/09/11

Your house must be really untidy ... you're never there Laughing

Great report, thanks.  Glad you're enjoying it and getting over the mechanical failures!  (yours and the bike's!)

 

If you can dream it you can do it!

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Joined: 2007/06/25

The detour you mention from Laingsburg to Ladismith is the Rouxpos road. Most pleasant to ride through the farming area.Laughing

Think before you ink.

Trust is the most valuable asset.

I have the rest of my life to get old.

Zanie's picture
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Joined: 2013/11/21

Thanks Rene! I have been trying to find the name of that road. Lance remembered something along the lines of "Roux," but wasn't sure.

Jacques Botha R66's picture
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Joined: 2012/10/02

Hi Zani,

On our USA ROUTE 66 trip I was scared to death riding on the wrong side of the road in traffic which made Joburg's peak traffic look like a Sunday  picnic cruise. In New Mexico I found a fridge magnet with a John WAYNE saying. "COURAGE IS BEING SCARED TO DEATH-BUT SADDLING UP ANYWAY"

Well I took on that challenge on the rest of the heavy traffic sections and we made it to the end.

I admire you and well done with a great trip report.

Happy riding.

Jacques BOTHA

 

Garth Hewitt's picture
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Joined: 2011/02/07

Epic stuff Zanie!

Thanks for sharing.

This is what adventure biking is all about.Smile

Garth Hewitt

2010 R1200GSA

 

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