4 days, 10 Eastern Cape dirt passes - Day 2

GeelKameel's picture

Points: 4

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 would take us through 6 dirt passes.

Fullershoek pass, Blinkwater pass, Katberg (up and down), Michels pass, Wolfrivier pass, Dontsa pass

We started early with a quick tour of the historic parts of Fort Beaufort.

The town was established around 1800 and was an important military and strategic hub during the Eastern Border wars. I find it tragic that so much of the historic town is simply left to rot. The town could be turned into a wonderful tourist attraction for the visitors that are interested in history. 

The Martello tower and Officers Quarters (20 years ago a pristine museum) are neglected and dilapidated.

We had breakfast at the Wimpy (the only restaurant in town) because we were too early for the Baddafort farm stall in Katriver Valley.

With tanks and tummies filled, we hit the road. From FB we had 20 km of tar up the scenic Katriver Valley to the turn-off to Fullershoek Pass.

The run-up to the Fullershoek pass is an easy, relaxing tweespoor. The pass itself was visible in the distance.

After a few km the gradual climb starts and the vegetation becomes higher and bushier. Trees begin to tower above you. The sun, the twists in the road and the overhanging trees play with shadows as you go along. A very pleasant feeling creeps into your soul.

The climb is about 8km long. Easy, relaxed riding all the way.

At the summit the road splits into three --- I knew which road to take and we started riding, but the GPS insisted on a U-turn. I remember defining a waypoint here, so I did the U-turn, rode 50m back and made a wide turn at the split in the road. Now the GPS was happy to let us carry on riding on the U-turn road. surprise

The only explanation I can think of is that the waypoint I defined was bit off the actual track we traveled and the GPS decided we missed the waypoint. Turning back and doing the wide turn, I passed close enough to the defined waypoint to satisfy the GPS.

Lesson to remember: ensure your waypoint is defined accurately (within 20? meters) or do delete the waypoint before you start riding the route. (I would like to know more on this issue from GPS experts. Is it not time for a GPS training session?)

The climb up the pass and the forest ends at Maqomas Den and the start of the Kroome Heights, a wide plateau that extends Northwards towards Post Retief, Adelaide, Tarkastad and Eastwards towards the Amatole mountains.

Here at the summit you will find the remains of the Fort Fordyce military buttress. This area is extremely rich in history – fascinating to read. Far too much to include in this trip report. In short,  Maqoma was a very cunning and successful leader of the Xhosa warriors who defended their territory and dignity against the British colonial forces. Lt Col Fordyce was the highest ranking British officer who died (1852) during the many skirmishes that occurred from about 1850 over many years. Even if you are not interested in history, reading about this area at that time is worth the effort.

The Kroome Heights was easy enough to ride. Ten km real tweespoor. Dry, no loose rocks or sand, some patches of roughness due to dried vehicle tracks.  Last time I went through here it was bit wet with tricky patches.

Cattle and merino sheep were peacefully grazing, hardly looking up as we went past.

We saw a shady tree and made the short detour for a waterstop. The sun was really scorching us.

The plateau ends where the tweespoor connects with the Post Retief/Adelaide road. Here you could go left (west) towards Bosnek pass and Adelaide, or right (east) towards Post Retief (and Katberg/Balfour). We turned east and after about 6km turned south to the Mpofu Reserve, Blinkwater pass and Blinkwater. (Note: if we carried on on this road, we would have joined the Katberg pass near the summit)

The Mpofu road is easy riding and in very good condition. Winding through the many bends, bushes, trees and aloes passing either side, you get that great feeling of peace and being free of the everyday rush.

Where the Blinkwater pass started and where it ended is not clear. Not that it matters, because the environment changed all the way down and you see many vistas. If you associate a pass with steep mountain sides and deep drop-offs, then Blinkwater pass is not quite that.

 

Another water stop. Today was even hotter than yesterday. By mid morning the water in my tank bag was luke warm. This was the first shade since the end of the Kroome Heights.  Bit of a sidestand incident in soft soil…

The entrance to the Mpofu reserve.

I had a difficult task to choose one picture that represents the ride down towards Balfour. 

Back at the tarred  R67, we turned left and 16km further again left towards Balfour and the Katberg pass.

Past Balfour, at the foot of Katberg, we realised our water was running low and we saw the promising sight of the Katberg Gholf Estate (The Hotel still stands but has closed down. Strikes and labour issued seems to be the root cause).  It was an exceptionally hot day. We were now seriously looking for a cold beer and water. At the boom gate the guards radioed management and we were let in.

We spent two very relaxing and pleasant hours at the main building. Really great hospitality by Linden, manager of the hospitality and Pieter Gunter manager of the facilities. We had (more than one) cold beer, my three young companions went swimming, we had something to eat and from the bar we had a bottomless supply of cold water with lemon and ice. yes

The short ride inside the Estate is a scenic little pass in itself.

Out the gate and left onto Katberg pass.

The huge rock in the road is still there, it has now became a landmark.

 

A water stop at the wooden bridge picnic site. Looking at the dense green vegetation and high trees, one forgets that the Eastern Cape suffers a severe drought, apparently worst in decades.

The pass and bridge was built by Andrew Geddes Bain in 1860. He died shortly before the pass was opened in 1864. The current pass is unchanged from the original built by Bain. The past 30years saw no significant maintenance, yet the pass is still drivable by bike and high clearance vehicle (and rented cars).

Very rough in some sections, especially near the summit. Relatively easy to ride because once you decided on a line to ride, you can keep to it. No loose rocks or stones (or mud) that could throw you off the line. Apart from the bouncing over rough terrain, you just keep your speed, line and nerve.

The views from many vantage points are really something to behold. Near the summit is a short tweespoor that leads to a telecomms tower.

 

It is worth riding in there to look towards the western valleys and far horizon.

Here we saw some of the wild horses that roam the area.

The surface of the road from the telecomm tower to the summit is very rough yet firm. And magnificent vistas to the east and south.

Backtrack and further up the Katberg pass. Quite rough around here. Besides the bumping, it is quite an easy ride because the rocks are firmly embedded.

More fascinating vistas, towards the east.

We turned around on a narrow plateau, at the turn-off towards Tarkastad. The infamous Devil’s Bellows is a short distance further on this road.

Time was overtaking us due to many water stops and the quite long stay at Katberg Estate.

The restless Geo decided to go look what is beyond the hill.

Going down was done in one long bumpy stint, except for one stop I had to do --- one of my side bags gave up and split open. Maybe the two bottles of wine that I had in there were too much for the bag  . . . .

Close to the gate of the Katberg Estate we veered off to left (east). This road down toward Seymour was a typical good dirt road as you would find among farms in that part of the country. Quite dense bush and low (drought resistant) trees and bushes.

We reached Seymour around 16h00.

This building once was a proud shopping centre in Seymour.

The oriinal plan was to go through Seymour, ride past the Katriver dam, through Pefferskop pass and up Hogsback pass entering Hogsback from the Alice side. The plan was to specifically miss Michelspass because of all the bangmaakstories.

Not to be. . . At Katberg Estate the friendly Pieter Gunter told us that Michels pass was not at all THAT bad. He went through it last week with his bakkie. Besides, most of the pass was recently graded. At that point we decided to go through Michels pass because it is a much shorter route to Hogsback.

 

Okey, so what do we make of this sign board at the start of the road to Michels pass? surprise

It is a bit contradictory from what Pieter told us at the Katberg Estate.

Well, if a bakkie can go through, so can we. En daar gaat ons.

Die mooi geskraapde pad aan die begin gee ons sommer baie moed.

Bietjie rof hier, maar nie te sleg. Gelukkig is die rotse stewig en slote is vlak. Hou spoed en hou moed!

Oops, getting a bit worse...

Heelwat moeiliker hier, dit kos stop en beplan. En kyk wat die ou voor jou doen (of nie doen nie)

Hier en daar ‘n omval en optel vir elkeen, maar ek hou die rekord met twee insidente!

Ek het heel goed deur hierdie nogal moeilike stuk gery, maar 20 tree verder (op die geskraapde gelykpad) het ek my vallende waterbottel probeer keer met die knie. Die resultaat was dat ek in die sloot beland het!

Dis nie al nie. ‘n Entjie verder was ‘n lae boomtak. Die ander ouens het wyd om die punt gery maar ek het besluit dis ‘n klein takkie hierdie, ek ry regdeur hom. Hy was toe heelwat groter as wat ek geskat het en ek het so wragtag weer in ‘n sloot gaan le!

Hierdie keer bietjie meer ingewikkeld.

Die voorwiel se vurk was vas teen ‘n boom. Ons kon die Gryskameel nerens heen roer nie. Die enigste manier om los te kom was om die boom af te saag.

Nou was die GrysKameel effens haasbek frown

 

Vele oliekolle soos hierdie sê net een ding: die pad is bietjie te rof vir gewone voertuie. . . .

 

Moenie te skerp omdraai nie, die pad is baie smal.

Amper in die bosse in!

Anderkant die rowwe stukke is die pad weer geskraap. Die rowwe dele is netso gelos. Wat help dit?!

Great to see that this ex-dump site was cleaned!

The ride into Hogsback was a great relief. We were exhausted, thirsty and it was past 18h00. I voted for stop & camp, but the majority decided to get some ice and push on to the Gubu dam, the planned night stop.

So besluit, so gemaak.

From Hogsback to the Sandile dam was the Wolfrivier pass. As in Fullershoek and Katberg, the trees and nature is quite an experience. You can easily mistake it for the best part of the Garden Route.

Beyond Wolfrivier plantations it is more open and clearly very dry.

Peak hour traffic?

Mother pig and baby pig crossing

Sandile dam (the water level is very low)

At the Sandile dam we turned north-west and passed through Keiskammahoek.

I saw they do have fuel here --- during planning I was not sure and planned around the uncertainty.

Then onto the R352. Shadows began to show we were running late.

Fifteen km beyond Keiskamma is the Dontsa pass.  I did not see a particular start and end to the pass (was I too tired or only absent minded?). I had to look at my video clips and photos and maps to recognize it. It is about 6km long with many turns. It climbs quite steep.

Dontsa is not really a pass that I would return to. Passes like Katberg and Fullershoek can be re-visited over and over, you will savour each visit.

The turn-off to Gubu is about 4km beyond the Dontsa pass. It really was a welcome sight. It was now past 19h00 and light was fading.

The camping area at Gubu dam is anywhere among the trees of a large pine forest on the shore of the dam. There were quite a number of tented campers. I expected more campers (it was a Sunday, a week before Christmas) but I think the Gubu dam is a gem not yet discovered.

Oral is daar braaiplekke van baksteen en baie droee denetakke wat rondle. Die takke is dalk nie ideale braaihout nie maar is lekker vir ‘n kuier-vuur. Daar is ‘n primitiewe maar netjiese en skoon ablusieblok en ‘n hengse donkie (so groot soos ‘n olifant!) wat warmwater maak. Hy word bedags gestook en teen sononder is die water kokend warm.

Binne tien minute van stilhou af, was die jongmense in die water.

 

En daarna rustig tente opslaan en vuurmaak.

Vroeg gaan slaap want ons was kis!

Die hitte en die ses passe het hul tol geeis, veral Katberg en Michels!

 

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Link to next days (Day 3  &  Day 4)  http://bmwmotorradclubcape.co.za/four-days-and-10-eastern-cape-dirt-passes-day34doc

 

Back to Day 1: http://bmwmotorradclubcape.co.za/four-days-and-10-eastern-cape-dirt-passes-day1

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Joined: 2007/06/25

Dankie Danie, lekker geskryf.

Think before you ink.

Trust is the most valuable asset.

I have the rest of my life to get old.

Zanie's picture
Offline
Joined: 2013/11/21

Katberg en Michels lyk interessant! Ek's seker julle's baie bly op die ou einde dat julle Michel's getrotseer het? Ek en Lance het heel eerste beplan om 'n Oos-Kaap trip te doen hierdie jaar, maar dis nou uitgestel tot volgende jaar. Hierdie jaar is al klaar vol! So baie plekke om te sien, so min tyd...

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