How to stay married and other stories

Tony's picture

Points: 16

This is the story of how we got from this

to this

and finally to this.

This is the third trip report in the "Riding solo with pillion" trilogy.

Due to circumstances, not entirely beyond my control devil, the title of this third report had to be changed from the original more upbeat title. The reasons for this are probably self evident from the short photo essay above.

Warning: Although no-one was harmed during this trip, please be advised that the following content may be unsuitable for newbie riders and anxious, edgy, tense, skittish and/or neurotic pillions.

Trip #3 was going to be a little (or so we thought) different to the first two solo ventures. Adrienne was in charge of accommodation and I would plan the route between the selected locations. In addition, this year we would go one step further in our quest to join the ranks of "real" adventurers - we would only stay at self catering accommodation. 

So, after having dispensed with all the usual pre-trip activities (planning routes, packing multiple times, charging all electronic devices, etc) and a sleepless Saturday night worrying about the predicted rain, we were finally ready to set off on our 2015 adventure.

  GSA prepped with just about every piece of gear I have.

Sunday was going to be a shortish 270km trip to our destination, a cottage on a farm about 15km north of the Ceres-Patatsrivier-Matjiesfontein road. We made good time to Ceres where we stopped for fuel and coffee. I had been silently hoping that the rain would only start in the afternoon. Unfortunately my optimism was misplaced and light rain started while we were sipping our coffee.

Heading towards Craig Marshall Pass

We donned our rain gear and headed out of Ceres towards Droelandskloof Pass (aka Craig Marshall Pass) in high spirits ( I'd ridden this route previously from the opposite (East-West) direction and didn't expect any difficulty traversing the 30km detour to the R355. Even the short sandy section, which some riders warn of, appears to have "disappeared". 

We were still joking about the dangerous animals (there's a gate with a warning sign about dangerous animals), when the road surface suddenly changed!!! By the time my brain recognised the road colour had changed from a dark brown/black to a light toffee colour, it was too late. Way too late.

We were riding on teflon coated snot! Not for long though, as the GSA's front wheel instantly washed away and we were unceremoniously dumped into the shrubs next to the road. A soft landing maybe, but still quite a shock to the system.

We righted the bike and Adrienne graciously volunteered to walk until the road conditions were more "pillion friendly". The next 300m were hilarious as I tried to manoeuvre the bike forward in a straight line and Adrienne skated along next to the bike. We were both forced to stop frequently to regain our balance or risk falling again. The soft rain continued falling.

We negotiated the pass and reached the R355 without further incident. The R355 was not in the greatest condition and we gingerly made our way to the R356 turnoff, some 5km down the road. The occupants of two or three 4x4s, warm and snug in their heated vehicles, gave us the obligatory wave as they sped past. They must have thought we were nuts to be riding in the wet, muddy conditions on a fully loaded bike.

At this stage I did momentarily consider changing our planned route and continue past the R356 to the R46. This would have been an easy, safe ride on tar to Matjiesfontein, 90km away. We would have been left with only 30km on wet, slippery dirt to our destination. Without much thought I dismissed this idea and turned onto the R356 and continued towards the Matjiesfontein turnoff.

The next 20km took about 45 minutes - I've seldom struggled this hard to just keep moving at 20-30km/h. We got to the Toorberg turn (just before the Eskom substation) at around 14H00. With "only" 60km to go I was not too concerned, even though the going was slow (ok, very slow). So we swung off onto the tweespoor and headed into the unknown. 

Perhaps now would be a good time to explain that I've not ridden the next section before - it looked like an interesting change from the main Ceres-Matjiesfontein road when I was planning the route. On the day I also thought the tweespoor track would offer better traction than the now almost un-rideable main road. The first 3km, past the back of the substation to the Toorberg farm turn, was not too bad.

The track got worse as we progressed, but we were now committed to the selected route and I was certain that at the next turn things would (somehow, magically) improve. We soldiered on and were making steady, albeit slow, progress. Another sidestand incident occurred as I stopped to check the route at a spot where the tweespoor appeared to go in different directions. My boot simply slid away from the bike in the thick sludge and down we went.

We passed a farm house and turned east when disaster struck! The front wheel once again lost all traction in a completely unannounced, un-sign posted section of particularly deep and vicious mud. Down we went for the third time that day. Adrienne and I went through the all to familiar routine - are you OK?, remove the luggage from the rear rack, take a few deep breathes, smile and pick the 250kg beast up. So far so good.

I pressed the starter button and all I heard was "click - click". I immediately tried again, not believing what I just heard. This time the starter responded with only a solitary "click". No problem I said to myself, I've seen (or should that be heard) this before. The terminal cables have probably just come loose. Alas, it was not to be - the cables were definitely not loose. Minutes passed in silence as finally my brain excepted the fact that we were literally in the middle of the proverbial nowhere with a bike that was not going anywhere soon.

A quick check confirmed that there was no cell phone reception. Thank goodness Adrienne insisted that we take a Satphone with. Tried calling our son. No answer! Called Andre Nel (Geoffrey's father-in-law) and he volunteered to bring the battery from his GSA to us. Gave him our GPS coordinates of our position with a description of where we were, i.e. 30km north of Touwsriver near an unknown farm house. By now it was almost 16H00.

Adrienne and I walked back to the farm house we'd passed earlier and set about finding somewhere to shelter from the elements for the next 3-4 hours. No one was home and all the buildings were locked. The door to this storeroom was thankfully not locked, otherwise we would have been forced to add to the country's crime stats (not that it would have made a difference - to the stats that is devil).

Little were we to know ...

So while we were waiting to be "rescued" we discussed our options:

  • continue to our destination in the dark after the battery transplant
  • go home in the bakkie, leave the bike behind and regroup the next morning
  • or Adrienne would go home and I would stay behind and ride back  in the morning
  • we would both stay over at our new found accommodation and continue the trip in the morning (as if nothing happened)
  • there may have been one or two other options which can't be repeated as this is a PG rated forum

I also fiddled with my GPS and "discovered" that we were a lot closer to Touwsriver than Ceres. A right onto gravel 3km out of Touwsriver, two more turns and Andre and Geoffrey would be with us. This piece of information was duly relayed via Satphone. A 19H00 we got the call. The team was in Touwsriver and their ETA was 30-45 minutes. Wat 'n verligting!

Let me assure you that those first 30 minutes seemed to take forever. When the time had passed there was no sign of the vehicle. And so we continued waiting as 20H00, 20H30, then 21H00 came and went without any sign of a vehicle. There was no way of contacting Andre and Geoffrey as they had no cell reception. I continued trying to call them every 15-20 minutes in the hope that they would stop somewhere where there was a signal.

At about 22H00 we resigned ourselves to staying the night. Adrienne had a pallet to sleep on and I tore up an old cardboard box to provide some insulation from the concrete floor. We had water, food and even red wine and Vodka, so where not too concerned about "dying" quite yet.

Accommodation at the Driekoppe "Lodge"

It seemed that we had no sooner settled in for the night when we heard a vehicle approaching. Neither of us touched the floor as we leapt outside with our torches. Andre and Geoff had spent the better part of 3.5 hours traversing the area trying to find a route to our GPS coordinates. According to Geoffrey they were within 2000m at some point but could not get to us. Many unmapped tracks combined with judiciously located locked gates resulted in a major "search and rescue" exercise. Eventually they found the bike's "snaking" track near the Toorberg turnoff and followed them right to us.

The battery was replaced and connected - after a brief but frantic search for terminal nuts that fitted. The GSA fired first time! What a sweet sound!

Andre offered us sleeping bags they had brought from home. Adrienne accepted without hesitation but I (stupidly) declined because we had no space to pack them on the bike. Without much further ado Andre and Geoffrey said their goodbyes and left for home and a warm bed. They eventually got home around 02H00. Thanks guys! You really went above and beyond AND saved our trip.

After a cold, restless night we were up early and repacked the bike (we left the sleeping bag behind as a gift for a lucky farm labourer).

Karoo mud is special - "sticks" like $hit to a blanket

After a short erm "discussion", we set off along the originally planned route, i.e. further into the unknown. I had no sooner commented on how quickly the tracks had dried overnight, when Murphy struck and we had yet another very close, full contact encounter with the mud monster. A little later while crossing a dry, rocky riverbed the pillion finally "convinced" me that I (changed from "we" under instruction from the proof reader wink) should turn around and retrace our tracks to Ceres. 

By 11H30, after carefully negotiating (translation - ridng at snail's pace) the still treacherous roads, we were safely on our way to Touwsriver via the R46. The astute reader will probably realise that we should have done this 24 hours earlier. Even the last bit of rain didn't dampen our spirits as we stopped at the Total Petroport for a hot coffee and toasted sarmie.

A quick run to Matjiesfontein and once again we were faced with the muddy and slippery road to Ceres. Ons het maar vasgebyt and soon reached the Snyderskloof turnoff.

Another few kilometres of tweespoor, a river crossing and we were there, finally!

Before continuing with the trip, here's a small detour into the theoretical world of accident analysis and epidemics. The advertised program will continue shortly.

Those that know me will know that I enjoy reading books on random, non-work (IT) related topics. I finished reading “Outliers” just before our trip and re-read “The Tipping Point” during the trip. Coincidence?t

“Plane crashes rarely happen in real life the same way they happen in the movies. Plane crashes are much more likely to be the result of an accumulation of minor difficulties and seemingly trivial malfunctions.

In a typical crash, for example, the weather is poor – not terrible, necessarily, but bad enough that the pilot feels a little more stressed than usual. In an overwhelming number of crashes, the plane is behind schedule, so the pilots are hurrying. In 52 percent of crashes, the pilot at the time of the accident has been awake for twelve hours or more, meaning that he is tired and not thinking sharply. Then the errors start – and it’s not just one error. The typical accident involves seven consecutive human errors. One of the pilots does something wrong that by itself is not a problem. Then one of them makes another error on top of that, which combined with the first error still does not amount to catastrophe. But then they make a third error on top of that, and then another and another and another and another, and it is the combination of all those errors that leads to disaster.

These seven errors, furthermore, are rarely problems of knowledge or flying skill. It’s not that the pilot has to negotiate some critical technical manoeuvre and fails.”

Excerpt from: Outliers – The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)

“We need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that sometimes big changes follow from small events, and that sometimes these changes can happen very quickly.”

Excerpt from: The Tipping Point – How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Malcolm Gladwell)


Looking back at the first 24 hours of the trip I can now see these theories playing out in real life. Hindsight really is an exact science! Flying planes and riding bikes are the same.

Exercise for the (keen) student – see if you can identify the numerous mistakes/bad decisions made before the battery failed.

Right, back to the advertised program smiley

This is what we signed up for

Dinner's almost ready

Beats a pallet on a cold concrete floor

Snyderskloof was everything we hoped it would be. We stayed for two nights drinking in the remoteness, the quiet and the peace. We explored the koppies on foot, read books, rested (body, mind and soul) and chatted.

Magnificent Karoo vistas

Chilly Karoo evenings

3D Karoo art

We left on Wednesday morning, rejuvenated and in high spirits. The next stage of our trip would take us to the Botriver area via Touwsriver-Montagu-McGregor-Villiersdorp.

Enroute to Matjiesfontein on a perfect spring morning

The ride from Touwsriver to Montage through the Ouberg Pass was largely uneventful. There were still a few remnants of the mud monster (mostly junior wannabe monsters) here and there, but these were easily dealt with - although the pillion did volunteer to get off and walk for the 1st few. Obviously I insisted it wasn't necessary and after successfully skirting/circumventing a couple our (joint) mojo soon returned.

As it was Adrienne's birthday (and I was in serious brownie point debt) we had lunch at Tebaldis in McGregor.

Birthday girl

GSA in McGregor (a trip report can never have too many pics of your own bike smiley)

After a delicious lunch we stocked up on a few essentials (chocolate, biscuits and Sprite) for dinner at the Deli Girls. A quick dash to Villiersdorp and then onto a short section of Andy's favourite "Intro to off tar ride" route.

R43 just before Villiersdorp

Luscious canola fields, near Van der Stel Pass

A 1.5km ride up a steep,narrow tweespoor (with concrete strips in places) and we were there. Home for the next two days - Sugar Bush - a log cabin with stunning views. Oh, and did I mention the wood-fired hot tub? Just what the doctor ordered for all those "off road" aches and pains.



Indescribable views

This is the life ...

Err no, THIS is the life!

Lunch - more brownie points

Friday morning dawned all too soon and we had to say goodbye to the views and the hot tub. Today we would head out to Calitzdorp via yet another carefully planned circuitous route.

Our morning route headed past Botriver, across the N2, turning off onto gravel to cross the Bot river and then right to parallel the Swart river. After a steep, loose downhill section with a puddle at the bottom (which had me thinking about the chances of coming back up with a fully laden bike if the puddle was too deep), another right toward Black Eagle Lodge.

Not much beats an early morning ride through the Overberg

A couple of km further and Mrs Garmin directed me onto a road past a farm house with a prominently displayed "Private" sign. As we stopped to check our route a friendly farmer walked up to us and asked where we were going. I explained about "the purple line" we were following and the sign, and asked where the road would take us if we continued past the turnoff. He seemed more interested in how the purple line got to follow his private road. A brief discussion on aerial photos and digital maps seemed to satisfactorily answer his question.

With the ice broken (so to speak) he introduced himself and invited us in to have a look at the restored farm house (Die Koringhuis, now self catering accommodation) originally built in the early 1800s. We spent 15 minutes with Xavier as he proudly took us through the house, explaining all the old restored features. After this brief historical interlude we continued to the R320 and over Shaw's Pass.

A right turn along the Hartbees river to the R326 and then R316 and on to Napier. From Napier we zig-zagged our way through the rolling fields towards Swellendam.

Idyllic pastoral landscape

A quick dash through Zuurbraak and over Tradouw Pass to our lunch stop in Barrydale. Diesel and Creme is THE place for milkshakes (and their burgers aren't half-bad either).

Milshake nirvana

We had pre-agreed (more brownie points angel) to not follow the planned 200km offroad route after lunch but instead take an leisurely ride along the R62 to the Matjiesvlei valley (near Calitzdorp) and our next overnight stop.

A mere 7km off the R62 lies a hidden jewel, the Matjiesvlei valley. Three cottages, overlooking the Gamka river, make the perfect base for exploring the surrounding area - Seweweekspoort, Die Hel, Meiringspoort, Rooiberg, etc). Here one can hike, take a trip in a rowing boat or canoe down the river, or simply just chill on the verandah and soak up the natural beauty of the surroundings.

Gamka river and Blouberg (part of the Groot Swartberge range)

Bedroom with a view

I was stung by a bee on Friday morning - the little bugger somehow found its way into my sleeve - and by Saturday morning my forearm was still quite sore and red even though I'd taken 3 or 4 Texa allergy tablets.

Bee sting, 24 hours later

When we got back home on Sunday I discovered that the tablets had expired over a year ago. I'm not quite sure what happens to expired medication - does it magically become dangerous/poisonous or just lose its efficacy. Anyway, yet another valuable lesson learnt on this trip. Who said offroad trips can't be educational smiley. So, note to self (and other travellers), periodically check the expiry date of any (emergency) medication you carry, especially before multi-day trips.

Sunday morning we repacked our kit for the last time. By now I was getting quite good at this and we made an early (08H00, keep in mind this was a holiday not the army) start from Riverview Cottages to Calitzdorp. Due to the previously negotiated route changes on Friday and the discovery of the insane milkshakes at Diesel and Creme in Barrydale, the route home also required some adapting.

Negotiations were quickly concluded, largely due to the power of a positive brownie point balance. We set off out of Calitzdorp on one of my favourite rides - over Rooiberg pass and onto Vanwyksdorp. I  love the start of the pass as it rapidly climbs, in just 2 or 3 switchbacks, to high above the Kannaland landscape.

Kannaland, enroute to Vanwyksdorp

We had an excellent breakfast at Spekboom, prepared and served by a Scottish lady who has lived here for over 20 years. What is it about breakfast in the platteland that makes "ordinary" bacon, eggs and coffee taste so damn good? Adrienne and the proprietress chatted about flowers, marmalade, "supply chain management" and life in a small dorp - good old fashioned  "small town" friendliness. 

Waar's dit lekker? Hier's dit lekker!

We said our goodbyes after a leisurely breakfast and meandered along good gravel roads (past Kromkloof, Voetpadkloof) towards the R62 and Barrydale.

Last flowers, just after the Gysmanshoek pass turnoff

Compulsory milkshake and waffle stop

As the temperatures were now starting to climb into the high twenties we took the traditional, direct route home via Montagu, Robertson, Scherpenheuwel, Rawsonville and Du Toitskloof.

Hunter, happy to see us after 8 days away.

So, in summary, a great trip and awesome time spent together "away from it all".

Would we do it again? Hell ya! tomorrow if we could.

Would I do anything differently next time? Mmmm, maybe devil.

So all that remains is the answer to the question - how to stay married?

Before answering the question, I must say how proud I am of Adrienne who remained (mostly) calm and took everything in her stride when things went a "little pear shaped". Not once did she consider abandoning the trip.

Vroue is soos teesakkies: jy weet nooit hoe sterk hulle is tot hulle in warm water beland nie.

To stay married (we have notched up almost 32 years) one must

  1. simply marry the right person
  2. be willing to compromise occasionally (and take the safer, more travelled, tar route)


Leon1ee's picture
Joined: 2007/12/06

No man. Where is the skinder nuus. How times were you divorced on this trip. What did it cost you at the end......come on I can not wait till the next club meeting

Most motorcycle problems are caused by the nut that connects the handlebars to the saddle

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

If I am to read between the lines of your picture-essay:

  1. The accommodation you booked did not have proper parking, so you had to lay your bike down at the side of the road.
  2. The rooms were somewhat less exciting than the brochure had led you to believe.
  3. So your wife walked home.

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

Mwendo's picture
Joined: 2011/04/13

I'm following this one strictly for the "how to stay married" part cheeky.

Thanks Tony, very enjoyable! Looking forward to the rest.

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

Tony's picture
Joined: 2008/08/24

Leon, there's no skinder nuus - all will be revealed :)

Charles, although the trip did involve walking at times (mainly by the pillion), no one walked home.

Cecil, you'll have to stay tuned, as I'm only just beginning to set the scene.

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

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

This is going to be another hugely entertaining report...............come Tony I have loads of time to read!!!!

Committee: Ride Captain

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

You only made one mistake.  You didn't listen to Adrienne when she said you should take the tar road at the first opportunity.

And you cannot convince us to believe that she trusted you completely and didn't suggest a safer route... ;-)

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

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

The same comedy of trivial mistakes that adds up to catastrophe happens in rock-climing, sky-diving and scuba-diving.  I have cultivated a rule of abandoning a course after too many things go wrong (say 3) - put it down to an off day and take the chicken run out and call a time-out.

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

Tony's picture
Joined: 2008/08/24

Charles, of course Adrienne trusts mesmiley. Besides, geography is not her strong point, so she was blissfully unaware of the R46 option late Sunday morning. Retracing our route was mentioned , but by then we (or should that be "I") were committed to following the tweespoor.

I like the idea of bailing after a certain number of "things" have gone wrong. I think we also did that .... eventually. Your number is 3, mine was probably 5 or 6 (being an eternal optimist). Perhaps I should lower the threshold in future laugh.

PS I now understand why the Club's ride leaders are quick to re-route to tar after seemingly little rain in the Karoo.

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

Tony's picture
Joined: 2008/08/24

Any botanists in the house? Can you identify the following Karoo plants/shrubs/flowers?























If you can identify any of the plants, please post the number and name.


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
Joined: 2007/04/14

12.  Brunia or Berzelia

13, 14 Helichrysum (sewejaartjie or everlasting)

15, 16 Gazania

17 Mesembs

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

Warren Ellwood's picture
Joined: 2007/06/18

Very nice story so far Mr Schlee. Did the actual trip take this long. wink


"Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, and does it improve on the silence?"

Tony's picture
Joined: 2008/08/24

Warren, it was an eight day trip and a LOT happened cheeky.

Besides I'm trying to keep everyone guessing what the answer to the question posed in the title is.

Plus, not all the plants have been identified yet - surely Charles isn't the only aspirant botanist?


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

Mwendo's picture
Joined: 2011/04/13

So it doesn't look like staying married is too much hard work?

All one needs is a knack for trading brownie points?? angel

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

Tony's picture
Joined: 2008/08/24

Cecil, you are on sorta on the right track. Always maintaining a positive brownie point status is important.

But it is not the definitive factor.

The answer will be revealed soon smiley. Stayed tuned.

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
Joined: 2007/04/14

Expiry dates for medication are not magic numbers - it's almost like food.  The medications that need to be kept in a fridge are the really critical ones.

However, bee stings will cause swelling and pain for a few days.  I find that the anti-histamine tablets make me feel worse than the sting itself.  There is a branch of therapy where people activate their immune systems by getting stung by bees (bee venom therapy).  Based on the observation that beekeepers are generally healthy.

So take your medicine and stop complaining... wink

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

Mwendo's picture
Joined: 2011/04/13

Nee Tony, nou weet ek darem nie...

As ek my teesakkie in warm water, wat nie uit haar eie ketel kom nie, laat beland, kan ek vir die volgende millenium van brownie points vergeet.devil

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

Tony's picture
Joined: 2008/08/24

Charles - I guess because I did not remove the stinger quickly, I got an extra dose of bee venom. I've had this type of localised reaction before and therefore carry allergy tablets. I'm wary of antihistamine as one of the potential side effects is drowsiness. Not exactly conducive to operating heavy equipment safely. 

Cecil - ja jong, die teesakkie ding is maar "complicated" en mens moet beslis nie aspris die teesakkie in warm water dompel nie. Dis hoekom ek eerder koffie drink cheeky.


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

Leon1ee's picture
Joined: 2007/12/06

Tony this trip report made me laugh, giggle and laughed even louder. Well done on your marriage and this great trip report.


Waiting on the next one with great

Most motorcycle problems are caused by the nut that connects the handlebars to the saddle

skim's picture
Joined: 2014/12/10

Thanks Tony - this was nice on all accounts - the trip and the "lesson" around mariage as well!


Well done!




AKA Jimmie Louw

R1200GS Adventure

Joined: 2013/01/30

Brilliant report sir.

Serious contender for trip report of the month.

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