Oh Hell!...What a (Baviaans) trip!

Happyfeet's picture

Points: 17

Day 5 - Baviaanskloof

We got ready the next morning to a heavily overcast sky and a light drizzle in the air. Since it had been raining through the night all our gear was still wet, although we had tried to remove most of the mud.

Just after 8 we started the long-awaited Baviaanskloof. Due to our accommodation, we were 40kms in from Patensie. As we rode, the rain cleared and the recently washed vegetation looked lush and lovely.

 

The young leaves of the Acacia Thorn trees had just emerged, giving the whole area that light green tinge only a new leaf can bring.

I was forewarned about the difficulty of the Baviaans' passes, but found the first one not that difficult at all. 

Then again, Toni warned me the worst one was the last one. 

Climbing high into the mountains and then looking down on where one came from gives an absolute thrill. 

Once on top of the plateau. we were greeted with a variety of Proteas all in bloom. 

And the spectacular views of mountains following each other as far as the eye could see. 

A twee-spoor cement road met us on our way down, and since it was a long way down, very steep - and wet, I was relieved for the modern intervention in the middle of nowhere. 

Brutus died when I stopped at the top to take some pics and for the life of me I couldn't disengage the ABS again – something I had constantly been struggling with on this trip. Giving up after 10 minutes I cautiously made my long way down. (No pun intended...).

We winded through and around trees, bushes and puddles of water

 

 

Suddenly there were huge stretches of grass in front of us, almost as if someone had been mowing the lawn - it was short and neat – and an ideal picnic spot. 

 

 

Realising we still had two passes left, we decided to rather have something to eat a little later and set off again.

 

 

The water puddles and crossings (driffies) were quite a lot, but none too difficult to get through. 

 

Our gear was almost dry by now and the ride was lovely. Baviaans surely must be one of the most spectacular places I have visited and in spite of the previous hardships, it was well worth it!

 

Next, we hit a VERY long water patch

Almost as if the river had diverted into the road and next we had to ride in the river. 

Huge round river stones were underfoot and the water was at least knee high. I waited for Toni to get across first (to try and prevent any mistakes he made - I can be sneaky that way!). A quarter way in, his wheel got lodged in the stones and he got stuck. 

The result was that I had to wade in and save the day! 

Boots and pants drenched again (to the thighs), we pulled and tugged and sweated and pushed till at last we got his bike to the other side - more than an hour later.

Thanks to Toni's struggle it helped that I had to walk the 300 metres or so (twice!) through the river. This way I could determine what would or would not work once I crossed. I was a star and managed to get Brutus through without either of us swimming. And in a fraction of the time it took us to get the first bike through.

Tired to the bone and sweat pouring down my face and back, we were once again ready to try and eat something. We had not had breakfast yet and it was past lunch time. As we started talking food, it began raining again and THE pass was still waiting for us, so we decided to try to get further before too much rain caught us. 

Too late… we ended up riding the rest of the trip in pouring rain. Having our boots and pants already wet made getting through the following puddles and water holes much easier, as I would just ride through it. 

I LOVE riding in the rain! My favourite thing about riding in the rain is when you get so wet that you stop caring about trying to stay dry. When you can go right through a puddle or into the river coming your way and know you couldn't get any more drenched. When you actually enjoy the stinging of the raindrops on your face. THAT is when you feel free. A freedom you only experience if you allow yourself to. A freedom you only taste on a bike! 

But today, later today as the ride  progressed, I might have had 2nd thoughts regarding my love of rain...

Another “waterway” we got into consisted of four large puddles of about 70m in total. The 2nd one was so deep the water came right up to my thighs and saddle. I almost lost it there. And then the thrill and adrenaline pumping when you realise you have not dropped your bike for the 4th time in 2 days! You actually made it without drowning your only dry clothes in the non-swimmable panniers. Did I mention it was raining?

We rode up another beautiful pass with easy going roads albeit very narrow. Mist had closed in and in some places restricted the view of the amazing crevices and valleys. 

Reaching the valleys I am informed that that was the last pass and the first one was actually the tough one. Mhmmm....? Except for the rain and mud puddles I had not found any of the riding through the Baviaans difficult at all, not even technical. 

A relief actually, as I was growing weary at the thought of getting over a severely bad pass in this rain and mist! By now I was freezing, as I was not only wet to the bone, but my feet had been swimming for hours (the water that got in there at the river could not get out). I was not wearing my rain jacket, since it was hot earlier and I thought - that kinda thinking is a privilege us women have - that things might dry up as we go on. The twists and turns were plenty, but the road more easygoing and the puddles smaller. It was a relief to get off at the last checkpoint to stretch my legs and get my glasses cleaned.

The road broadened out and we tried going a little faster. I was getting so cold (no windscreen and an open visor did not help) that my shoulders started to spasm. Then a splitting headache and I had difficulty breathing. Unfortunately, at this stage I was only concentrating on trying to keep Brutus up straight and could not appreciate the beauty around us. Fortunately, my Drift helmet cam could enlighten me the following day when I felt normal again.

The cold and pain was more than I could bear. I couldn’t help myself… The silent tears mixed with the icy rain down my face. I had started crying. The day had been too stressful for me. Fearful of dropping the bike, not making one of the 100s of puddles we had to negotiate almost every minute of the day, stress that the wet paths would be too dangerous coming down a pass, not to mention I was so cold I ached everywhere. Mentally I was fried and physically my body would not cooperate. 

Just as I was reaching the lowest point I have ever been on a bike, Toni pulled over in the middle of nowhere - at a little shop called the Baviaans Craft Shop - and ordered me some hot tea. It could not have come sooner! I was desperately trying to get myself together moments earlier and the mental exhaustion would not permit me to think straight. 

Later Toni would tell me that he realised hypothermia had set in when I couldn't talk coherently into the headset and due to his training knew it had become very dangerous. There is a reason why you take riding buddies along on a trip!

As I slowly began defrosting, I noticed the pretty little shop and quaint garden with decorations across the road. We were in the middle of the mountains and had been winding through them without me noticing anything!

Toni changed into dry clothes and his rain gear. I could only put a badly torn (thanks to yesterday's 3rd fall!) rain jacket over my already soaking gear; at least it helped keep some of the wind off me. 

Now that I was warmer, I could appreciate the high and jaggered rocks that stretched to the clouds as we took the short twists and turns through a type of gateway out of the last bit of the Baviaans. It was absolutely beautiful and reminded me of Seweweekspoort or Meiringspoort without the tar.

It had stopped raining, but the road was still full of puddles. As we headed for Uniondale, the road broadened out and we opened the throttles. The next moment we hit some mud – a longish stretch and I was sure I was going to put the bike down as Brutus swerved and bucked all over the place. I made it through by the skin of my teeth, but freaked out and my confidence went for another loop, so we took things slower. 

Again I became so cold I struggled to concentrate. The thought that an hour's ride could change into hours and take us way beyond dark if we were going to hit more of these slippery mud patches stressed me totally. It took everything in me and I had a miraculous mind change. “Stand up. Look up. Open up!!”. “Stand up. Look up. Open up!!”. “Stand up. Look up. Open up!!” I managed to get through the remaining mud patches in one piece and the sun was just about setting as we rode into Uniondale.

We were going to camp in Uniondale, but I just did not have the strength to pitch tents in the rain and dark. I contacted my dad and asked if we could use of his free accommodation in George (pm me if you have your own accommodation and want to know more of this amazing concept). With his OK we left for George as the dark crept nearer. Did I mention it was raining? 

We arrived at the glorious accommodation much later that night. I could not talk and barely walk (let alone untie my luggage) due to the cold. But we were safe and in one piece!

For the second day in a row I could see the devastating effects rain (and the wrong kind of mud) could have on your time and planning. Both days we never stopped for lunch or anything and spent way more hours in the saddle than what we thought we would. Almost 12 hours a day - a half hour road took us over 5 hours to negotiate the previous day and this day a mere 200kms took us 9 hours. Yet, if you take heed to the info boards, they do seem to think it takes ages to do a few kilometers...

In spite of the cold and loosing my (the bit I had left) mind, Baviaans was all it had been hyped to be – and more. Not a particularly difficult road, yet it offered so much. Awesome passes, spectacular views, prolific bird life and Proteas, crags, crevices, valleys and rock formations. From Tsitsikamma to Koroo-like vegetation and everything in between. All this hidden in a valley of less than 200km! Viva Baviaanskloof!

 

Day 1

Well that was the great idea I had for the subject of  this trip – but so many things didn’t work out the way it was planned.  The Hell… was one of them…. 

This (very long overdue) trip report will have to be done bit by bit as I don't have the time to do it all at once. So the rest of the report will be under comments I guess?

Let’s start from the beginning. First our Angola trip had to be put on hold. Then our beautifully planned trip of doing Mpumalanga, Lesotho, Swaziland and back through the Transkei was cancelled due to sickness in the family. So we decided to do a shorter trip to Gamkaskloof, the Hell and Baviaanskloof, so that if we were called back, we were close enough - via as many dirt passes as possible.  

"US" would be my Italian friend Toni, on his KTM 990 - yeah, I cannot account for some friend's (lack of wink) taste  - called Jongosi. And myself, Jinx, on my 650 called Brutus. 

We are both vertically challenged, both prefer picnics in the veld to sit down meals and both love bikes, adventure and riding. This combination worked for us. But would the friendship last after what it get's put through in the following days to come...?

Due to unforeseen circumstances we had a (very) late start. Toni arrived to a cold, wet farm in Montagu and soon we were on our way. At last our forever elusive trip had started.  Because the trip starting almost a day late we decided to go via tar road to Oudtshoorn. Later due to our late start and inclement weather we decided to stay over in Oudtshoorn and not go over the Swartberg pass to Prince Albert. Did I mention it was raining?

There was a music festival on in town, and one of the music groups were staying in the same establishment as us. What a surprise when we went to the bar for a drink, something we very rarely do, and find a band setting up. They were going to “warm up” for later that evening. Now Sakkie-sakkie  is not really our type of music, however we did enjoy the band, but had to refuse all the invites to join them later.. It felt as if we were part of the group, and they seemed disappointed that we would not be joining them. - Must be our irresistible personalities! cheeky

We both retired early and sleep came easy as we had been up early and had a long day on the bike, in the rain. 

Day 2

Getting a late start did not help us the following morning, with thunderous skies and a cold wind greeting us at the foot of the Swartberg. Stunning views were below us – and below the clouds and mist we rode into as soon as we gained altitude.

As we started climbing the winding narrow pass the rain came down harder and a cloud cover descended on us. The few tourists that came past in warm dry vehicles thought we were positively mad. Did I mention it was raining?

The higher we went, the colder it got and by the time we got to the look-out point at the Top, we were frozen to the bone and the wind almost blew us right back from where we came. 

As we made our way down the other side, something that felt like hail hit us pretty hard. The locals later told us it is called ice rain. In spite of the stinging we rode with our visors lifted, as we could not see through them when closed. 

A few bends after the top on the way down the rain stopped, the clouds lifted and we saw blue in the sky. We ended up stopping for almost an hour, drying out in the weak sunlight, admiring the views and taking photos.

The turnoff to Gamkaskloof is about halfway down the Swartberg pass. By now the weather had turned again. Raining...We met up with another biker (who was in a vehicle) at the turnoff to the Hell. Due to the bad weather and dense mist, he advised us to either go with extreme caution or rather not at all.

Not much to be seen in such bad weather, he said. But since we both have “done” the Hell three times before and never manage to get down there; we decided to go in - at least a little way.

The decision to turn around was met with deep disappointment and frustration (something we seem to have to gotten used to lately). But rather safe than sorry and have something go wrong before we even begin our trip. Did I mention it was raining?

We had not gone very far back on the Swatberg pass when the sun suddenly peeked through the dark clouds. 

After a stop at the lookout point, we actually ended up riding the rest of the pass in lovely sunshine! As a tour guide I use to go over this pass so often, but this was my first time by bike – and what an experience! 

The many bends and curves could be followed all the way up to the highest tips of the mountains. The vastness and closeness both get experienced to the utmost intenseness. Somehow living IN the moment and not looking AT it. 

After crossing a river at the bottom of the pass we decide to have our picnic under the trees below the majestic backdrop of Liken-painted rock faces. 

We haul out the (espresso) coffee maker, buns, soup and everything needed to sit down to a feast. As the first cup of water starts to boil, the water from above suddenly comes down again. How we missed to check our backs is beyond me, but the rain caught up and before getting drenched to the bone, we packed up (without eating anything) and headed for the Prins Albert Camp site.

The lousy weather forced our hand and we decided to go for the accommodation instead of trying to pitch tents in the rain - and then get a wet tent down and loaded early the next morning. Unfortunately was it not only a Saturday night, but we were competing with 2 lots of wedding guests – so tenting it would be!

The weather turned out to be quite nice with no rain. Prins Albert’s camping site must be one of the nicest we have ever been to. Extremely reasonable with bathrooms to die for! Not to mention our neighbors. They noticed "wet chickens" would be an understatement and came to the rescue. I was offered a jacket (I had removed mine cause it was so wet and uncomfortable, but had something warmer (deep) down once I could off load my luggage. 

Not to mention an offer for a heater! After freezing by the early hours of the morning I put on the heater-fan and for the first time slept like a baby in my own little “heat-conditioned” tent.  A new but novel and wonderful experience... I’d been thinking all of the next day how on earth I could make extra space on my bike for a heater!

Day 3 - An on-and-off road ride to Steytlerville

Next morning our destination was Steyterville 287km away. We only had a relatively short section of 200km of dirt, and although we were not going fast we maintained a fairly good speed.

For some reason it took ages to get going and by the time we left it had started spitting again. Just before Meiringspoort we tuned off onto an excellent gravel road to Willowmore.

Rain came and went and sometimes just never went. By the evening my wet riding pants must have accumulated a ton of dust. In spite of the rain, the road was dry and dusty. The ominous black clouds brought an eerie sense to the day, yet made for a beautiful setting as our bikes quickly ate up the kilometers.

About 20kms before Willowmore we noticed some abandoned buildings and decided to go and inspect (and I secretly hoped we’d have enough shelter for a cuppa of something warm). 

Turned out to be the Vondeling railway station. In the absolutely middle of nowhere! 

All the surrounding buildings were also vandalized and it was with fond memories I thought back of the gone-by era of where busy railway stations were the business hub - and livelihood of a small town. 

Cuppa soup helped warm up the bones and the sun was shining again.

After refuelling at Willowmore we decided to skip the original dirt road and took the cement road in icy wind and rain to Steytlerville for the night. Somehow, probably due to photo stops and a lunch break, we arrived in Steyterville wet and cold, at about 4pm.

Short of a popsicle,  I cannot remember when last I got so cold and was thankful we did not have to pitch tents in the rain when we arrived. Did I mention it was raining?

I was defrosted only after a long hot shower! And guess what? I had a wonderful day!

Day 4 - The 4x4 track

We left Steytlerville in a light drizzle and very late (what’s new). Partly because we knew we had a very short 86km to do and partly because we were going to have breakfast. Although the food was great, it took more than an hour and we were much later than planned. 

What started as a lovely ride through farms turned out to be one of the most grueling days I had ever spent in the saddle. We would straddle the foot of the mountains all along the outside of Baviaanskloof and then take a 4x4 route directly over the mountain into Antoniesberg pass that would get us to Patensie. 

It had rained a bit and we had to do some dodging of potholes but all went well till we took the turnoff towards the foot of the mountains.

What normally would be a brilliant road had seen more rain than my competency levels were up for. 

The hard road was now one mushy slippery mud pool after another. Both of us have done 100s of kilometres of rainy, wet dirt roads before, but this was different. It was slippery as ice and included maneuvering up, down and around bends. 

I bought my first piece of land at one of the first mud patches. No excuses, I was just not up to keeping Brutus on his wheels. Did I mention it was raining - again - and although there was little mud, the dark black soil was like a leathered up cake of soap. 

Nothing but a bruised ego and bent rear brake peddle, so we headed on. It took the fall to remember Off road training 101 – stand up, look up and open up. Strange how everything seemed to fall into place once I stopped concentrating on where I was sure I was going to plunge next and rather look way ahead of me. 

In spite of not dropping the bike again, it took us over 5 hours to do the 55km to get to the beginning of the 4x4 route over the mountain – so the “hard” part of the day was still ahead of us. 

. It was also at this time we discovered our 86km for the day was actually 250! Must admit, by now I was totally knackered, drenched and ready to rig my tent right there at the river! 

As we stood contemplating what to do, an old bakkie with a friendly young farmer comes through the river and we start bombarding him with questions. His answers convinced us that our weary constitutions were not up to tackle that piece of road on our own - especially without back up. 

After his stories of guys breaking bones and their bikes our only option was to head back the 55kms we had spent half the day getting there. My dream was to do Baviaanskloof and now it seemed the second part of our trip was falling through the mat! Then next the attractive young man offers to help us over. Follow us with his bakkie to make sure we were OK and got to the other side.

Wow! I never saw such helpfulness coming our way and we could not resist the offer. While we kitted up again, he went and fetched his (new) wife and they followed us. 

Not sure if it was the excitement of not missing out or just tiredness, but a few water puddles further, I dropped my bike again. The tyre had caught a rut under the brown water I did not see. Toni was too far ahead to help. 

Fortunately not long after, the bakkie stopped behind me and Alexander came to the rescue – picking my bike up as if it were a bicycle! He offered to take it through some bad patches and I had no qualms letting a total stranger ride my beloved Brutus. 

Maybe it was his long legs or open honest face, but somehow his attitude convinced me he would do a way better job than myself. Besides, I have been battling for hours without a break and as a female was allowed some form of weakness!

The two guys went on ahead as I drove the bakkie with Jeannie beside me. Although people use this road to get to Patensie, it had not been maintained in 8 years and was in a terrible condition. The ruts and dongas were huge and at some places farmers had tried to make a few detours to skip the worst parts. 

Although it was an old bakkie with over a million kms on the clock, I still felt terrible for the ordeal I was putting it through. I ended up getting the diff stuck after catching a rut. Getting stones behind the wheel that was free-turning, I was pulling and pushing as Alex got back to us - me lying on my tummy scooping up mud and trying to dig a hole under the tyre to get something more solid there. My 20 minutes delivered no success and he managed to get the vehicle back on the road in about 5 minutes!?

There was a worried look on Toni’s face by the time we all got together again. More due the huge ruts and rocks ahead than my well being, I’m sure! Here the men decided to change bikes and let Alex with the long legs ride the higher KTM. 

This young chap, kitted out in his vellies, t-shirt and shorts - with no neck brace, jacket, gloves or even a helmet was so comfortable on our bikes it was ridiculous! He has a plastic bike and was thrilled to ride the 650. Not to mention that smile once he swung his leg over the much larger KTM. 

We barely left when I span in the grass with the bakkie and  Toni offered to drive it further.  

Relieved I got back on my beloved Brutus.  I much more preferred (and enjoyed) the ride over the rough technical parts by bike! - And proclaimed that the mud was also much worse than this 4x4 track.

Once we got to safer grounds we parted company as friends and looked forward to them coming to visit. For sure there was no way we could’ve gotten over that mountain without their help. 

The next part was beautiful, with mountains upon mountains as far as the eye could see, showcasing themselves even better in rays of the setting sun. Brutus made it to the top in one piece!

The light drizzle could not dampen my spirits as I drank in the beauty and enjoyed the lovely roads we were on!

The so called easy part was not so easy, as that although it did not have the big ruts or rocky steps as in the “difficult” section, it was again thick black treacherous mud. Back on a larger road a very long muddy stretched appeared. I stopped to watch Toni maneuver his way slowly across. 

For some reason I was terrified to go across, but had to go. Safest part was on the left, but Brutus had a mind of his own and veered to the right.  I also opened the throttle more than intended when I stood, so was going faster than I meant. I started losing control and pulled the throttle even more – by accident. Brutus said enough, and threw me off. Needless to say, I was going way too fast by the time Brutus and I made a spectacular dive for the mud. The result was a very sore me doing backstroke in the mud and Brutus shedding some weight in the form of wind screen and various other body parts after standing on his head in the mud. 

The fall winded me and Toni came running back as I was not moving and the back wheel kept turning. A painful shoulder and broken windscreen seemed to be the only result of my incompetence. This HAS to stop! My dwindling confidence did not help each time we reached a wet patch in the road. Did I mention it was raining?  I was struggling to see, as the front tyre kicked mud past the non-existent windscreen into my face. (I had lost the mudguard on a previous rocky encounter). blush

 With the visor open we managed to reach Patensie just on sunset. We were desperate to find a place to stay and not still have to pitch tents in the rain and dark. Thankfully we found a place towards Baviaans, so after refueling we made our way 40 odd kilometers further to Kudu’s Kaya. 

Once again wet, muddy and frozen to the bone we reached our destination after kilometres of picking our way around mud puddles (and animals) in the dark. Did I mention it was raining? “No night riding and no rain riding” used to be what we said. Now I am entering Baviaanskloof, doing BOTH at the same time, without a windscreen and with a tinted visor full of mud! Mhmmm?

Looking back, I really enjoyed this day, in spite of the hardships. For the 3 times I fell, there were a 100 (or more) times I didn’t. For the pouring rain, there was also sunshine. For a trusty old friend, there were also great new ones. For kilometres of mud, there were many more kilometers of beautiful scenery. And I get to experience this all from a motorbike! Yihaa!

Day 5 - Baviaanskloof

We got ready the next morning to a heavily overcast sky and a light drizzle in the air. Since it had been raining through the night all our gear was still wet, although we had tried to remove most of the mud.

Just after 8 we started the long-awaited Baviaanskloof. Due to our accommodation, we were 40kms in from Patensie. As we rode, the rain cleared and the recently washed vegetation looked lush and lovely.

 

The young leaves of the Acacia Thorn trees had just emerged, giving the whole area that light green tinge only a new leaf can bring.

I was forewarned about the difficulty of the Baviaans' passes, but found the first one not that difficult at all. 

Then again, Toni warned me the worst one was the last one. 

Climbing high into the mountains and then looking down on where one came from gives an absolute thrill. 

Once on top of the plateau. we were greeted with a variety of Proteas all in bloom. 

And the spectacular views of mountains following each other as far as the eye could see. 

A twee-spoor cement road met us on our way down, and since it was a long way down, very steep - and wet, I was relieved for the modern intervention in the middle of nowhere. 

Brutus died when I stopped at the top to take some pics and for the life of me I couldn't disengage the ABS again – something I had constantly been struggling with on this trip. Giving up after 10 minutes I cautiously made my long way down. (No pun intended...).

We winded through and around trees, bushes and puddles of water

 

 

Suddenly there were huge stretches of grass in front of us, almost as if someone had been mowing the lawn - it was short and neat – and an ideal picnic spot. 

 

 

Realising we still had two passes left, we decided to rather have something to eat a little later and set off again.

 

 

The water puddles and crossings (driffies) were quite a lot, but none too difficult to get through. 

 

Our gear was almost dry by now and the ride was lovely. Baviaans surely must be one of the most spectacular places I have visited and in spite of the previous hardships, it was well worth it!

 

Next, we hit a VERY long water patch

Almost as if the river had diverted into the road and next we had to ride in the river. 

Huge round river stones were underfoot and the water was at least knee high. I waited for Toni to get across first (to try and prevent any mistakes he made - I can be sneaky that way!). A quarter way in, his wheel got lodged in the stones and he got stuck. 

The result was that I had to wade in and save the day! 

Boots and pants drenched again (to the thighs), we pulled and tugged and sweated and pushed till at last we got his bike to the other side - more than an hour later.

Thanks to Toni's struggle it helped that I had to walk the 300 metres or so (twice!) through the river. This way I could determine what would or would not work once I crossed. I was a star and managed to get Brutus through without either of us swimming. And in a fraction of the time it took us to get the first bike through.

Tired to the bone and sweat pouring down my face and back, we were once again ready to try and eat something. We had not had breakfast yet and it was past lunch time. As we started talking food, it began raining again and THE pass was still waiting for us, so we decided to try to get further before too much rain caught us. 

Too late… we ended up riding the rest of the trip in pouring rain. Having our boots and pants already wet made getting through the following puddles and water holes much easier, as I would just ride through it. 

I LOVE riding in the rain! My favourite thing about riding in the rain is when you get so wet that you stop caring about trying to stay dry. When you can go right through a puddle or into the river coming your way and know you couldn't get any more drenched. When you actually enjoy the stinging of the raindrops on your face. THAT is when you feel free. A freedom you only experience if you allow yourself to. A freedom you only taste on a bike! 

But today, later today as the ride  progressed, I might have had 2nd thoughts regarding my love of rain...

Another “waterway” we got into consisted of four large puddles of about 70m in total. The 2nd one was so deep the water came right up to my thighs and saddle. I almost lost it there. And then the thrill and adrenaline pumping when you realise you have not dropped your bike for the 4th time in 2 days! You actually made it without drowning your only dry clothes in the non-swimmable panniers. Did I mention it was raining?

We rode up another beautiful pass with easy going roads albeit very narrow. Mist had closed in and in some places restricted the view of the amazing crevices and valleys. 

Reaching the valleys I am informed that that was the last pass and the first one was actually the tough one. Mhmmm....? Except for the rain and mud puddles I had not found any of the riding through the Baviaans difficult at all, not even technical. 

A relief actually, as I was growing weary at the thought of getting over a severely bad pass in this rain and mist! By now I was freezing, as I was not only wet to the bone, but my feet had been swimming for hours (the water that got in there at the river could not get out). I was not wearing my rain jacket, since it was hot earlier and I thought - that kinda thinking is a privilege us women have - that things might dry up as we go on. The twists and turns were plenty, but the road more easygoing and the puddles smaller. It was a relief to get off at the last checkpoint to stretch my legs and get my glasses cleaned.

The road broadened out and we tried going a little faster. I was getting so cold (no windscreen and an open visor did not help) that my shoulders started to spasm. Then a splitting headache and I had difficulty breathing. Unfortunately, at this stage I was only concentrating on trying to keep Brutus up straight and could not appreciate the beauty around us. Fortunately, my Drift helmet cam could enlighten me the following day when I felt normal again.

The cold and pain was more than I could bear. I couldn’t help myself… The silent tears mixed with the icy rain down my face. I had started crying. The day had been too stressful for me. Fearful of dropping the bike, not making one of the 100s of puddles we had to negotiate almost every minute of the day, stress that the wet paths would be too dangerous coming down a pass, not to mention I was so cold I ached everywhere. Mentally I was fried and physically my body would not cooperate. 

 

Just as I was reaching the lowest point I have ever been on a bike, Toni pulled over in the middle of nowhere - at a little shop called the Baviaans Craft Shop - and ordered me some hot tea. It could not have come sooner! I was desperately trying to get myself together moments earlier and the mental exhaustion would not permit me to think straight. 

Later Toni would tell me that he realised hypothermia had set in when I couldn't talk coherently into the headset and due to his training knew it had become very dangerous. There is a reason why you take riding buddies along on a trip!

As I slowly began defrosting, I noticed the pretty little shop and quaint garden with decorations across the road. We were in the middle of the mountains and had been winding through them without me noticing anything!

Toni changed into dry clothes and his rain gear. I could only put a badly torn (thanks to yesterday's 3rd fall!) rain jacket over my already soaking gear; at least it helped keep some of the wind off me. 

Now that I was warmer, I could appreciate the high and jaggered rocks that stretched to the clouds as we took the short twists and turns through a type of gateway out of the last bit of the Baviaans. It was absolutely beautiful and reminded me of Seweweekspoort or Meiringspoort without the tar.

It had stopped raining, but the road was still full of puddles. As we headed for Uniondale, the road broadened out and we opened the throttles. The next moment we hit some mud – a longish stretch and I was sure I was going to put the bike down as Brutus swerved and bucked all over the place. I made it through by the skin of my teeth, but freaked out and my confidence went for another loop, so we took things slower. 

Again I became so cold I struggled to concentrate. The thought that an hour's ride could change into hours and take us way beyond dark if we were going to hit more of these slippery mud patches stressed me totally. It took everything in me and I had a miraculous mind change. “Stand up. Look up. Open up!!”. “Stand up. Look up. Open up!!”. “Stand up. Look up. Open up!!” I managed to get through the remaining mud patches in one piece and the sun was just about setting as we rode into Uniondale.

We were going to camp in Uniondale, but I just did not have the strength to pitch tents in the rain and dark. I contacted my dad and asked if we could use of his free accommodation in George (pm me if you have your own accommodation and want to know more of this amazing concept). With his OK we left for George as the dark crept nearer. Did I mention it was raining? 

We arrived at the glorious accommodation much later that night. I could not talk and barely walk (let alone untie my luggage) due to the cold. But we were safe and in one piece!

For the second day in a row I could see the devastating effects rain (and the wrong kind of mud) could have on your time and planning. Both days we never stopped for lunch or anything and spent way more hours in the saddle than what we thought we would. Almost 12 hours a day - a half hour road took us over 5 hours to negotiate the previous day and this day a mere 200kms took us 9 hours. Yet, if you take heed to the info boards, they do seem to think it takes ages to do a few kilometers...

In spite of the cold and loosing my (the bit I had left) mind, Baviaans was all it had been hyped to be – and more. Not a particularly difficult road, yet it offered so much. Awesome passes, spectacular views, prolific bird life and Proteas, crags, crevices, valleys and rock formations. From Tsitsikamma to Koroo-like vegetation and everything in between. All this hidden in a valley of less than 200km! Viva Baviaanskloof!

 

 

 

Andyman's picture
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Joined: 2007/06/22

Wow, Awesome report. and thanks fopr dispelling all the horror stories that Baviaans is not for bikes or alone or unless there are fifty of you or you have 4 back up vehicles.

If you wanna ride Baviaans, all you need is a sense of humor.

 

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

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Thank you for a very enjoyable read.

Tony
Happyfeet's picture
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I started the ride report of the 4th day at 6pm this evening. Twice now I have lost everything when I was almost done and having to start all over again. I don't have another chance this week and so tired from SUKKEL and losing things with a back space or just pulling in a picture too far and then opening a page I cannot get out without loosing everything.

Is there seriously NO way I can do this report differently and just load it all up once I am done?!?! Or at least let the program ask if I really want to delete everything before Annihilate hours and hours of hard work?!

Sighhh... A very despondent Jinx signing out to start ALL over again!!

cryingcryingcrying

Jinx Louw

I don't suffer from insanity, I love every minute of it!

Charles Oertel's picture
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Hey Jinx

Great report and lovely pictures.  Your trips are inspiring.

I have merged the second part to the first for you.  Sorry you are having such difficulties.

regards

Charles

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

Mwendo's picture
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Fantastic report, thank you Jinx!

It brings back fond memories of our own passage through the 'Poort and over Antoniesberg in Dec 2014, mud-baths included.

Well done for persevering and not losing your nerve - that kind of experience can bring an abrupt end to one's appetite for adventure.

And how about that young couple coming to your rescue? For free, gratis and for nothing to boot! South Africans, despite all our challenges, are "real mensche".

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

 
Stephen Hall's picture
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Joined: 2008/08/25

Briiliant report, Jinx.  Please keep it coming!

Dirt road, clear mind

GeelKameel's picture
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Joined: 2007/06/21

Great report, thanks!

Great adventure!! I can only imagine the tough going!!

 

Your friendly helper is Alex Thompson, farming with tea in those mountains. Physically a very strong young man, I believe. (did he not perhaps carry the bike at any stage?)

You experienced a very typical friendliness and helpfulness of the people in the Patensie valley.

I once got stuck near Hankey with a huge gash in the rear wheel --- within five minutes a bakkie stopped and produced all kinds of tyre repair stuff. It helped me to get to PE for a new tyre.

The farming community there grow up using motorbikes for transport on the farm. All of them that I have met so far are very very capable motorbikers.

 

Geoff Russell's picture
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Jinx for President!!

Committee: Ride Captain

Zanie's picture
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A tip for report-writing: I write everything in Word. Only when finished do I copy-paste into the forum. It is incredibly frustrating to have hours of work vanish! This was my way around it.

Lance and I rode that same route (Grootrivierpoort - part of the T2 Baviaans Route) in December (still working on an RR), but from the opposite direction. The entire time I was thinking we were damn lucky that (a) we rode it from the Patensie side and (b) it was dry as a bone (actually too hot!). I'm not sure if I would have coped in the opposite direction. It is a very lonely road, where things can quickly go pear-shaped.

Kudos for continuing despite mud and misadventures!

Anna-Marie's picture
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Awesome pictures.  Thanks for sharing

Eric Pretorius's picture
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Respect.

 

Tony's picture
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Well done Jinx!

These are the trips and experiences that memories are made of.

PS when writing long reports, Save frequently. Then if murphy interferes you shouldn't lose much smiley.

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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Re writing long reports:

  1. Please avoid Word.  You have to wonder when websites around the world have a function built in called "Paste from Word" with a description of "strip out some of the crap that MS Word injects into your website".
  2. As Tony says, save often.  This is how:
    • with your cursor in the edit box, press ctl-a ctl-c (in the menu edit/select all, edit/copy).  This will select all your work and and copy it into the clipboard.
    • now, put your cursor into Notepad (NOT Word or WordPad - the dinky plain text editor called Notepad).
    • edit/paste or ctl-v
    • save that file.
    • You can do this even with uploaded images.  Yes, you are not saving the image itself (because it is already up on the website).  You are saving the little invocation that makes it display in your report.
    • If you lose your page, you can create a new one and just pasted your saved notepad text back into it.

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

Happyfeet's picture
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Thanks all for the wonderful comments and support on my RR - makes all the hours getting it out there worth while! yes

Charles: Thanks sooo much for getting the 2nd part in the right place, all your patience helping me through the years with your time and valuable insight! 
Will definitely use your last reply to get the (at last) Beviaans-part of the trip out this weekend. A huge help, thanks!

GeelKameel: Alex IS terribly strong! My bike was lying in a puddle and he didn't want to get his shoes wet, so he stood "wydsbeen" at the front of the bike, leaned far over the water and picked the bike up by the handlebar with one hand!
Once he dropped Toni's (heavily laden) bike - stepped in a hole when he stopped  - the dropping and then getting it back up could not have been more than 7 seconds! surprise I was almost right behind him and he had that heavy bike up with one sweep before I even managed to stop! Strongest guy! 

Geoff Russell: Thanks, but like I was denied the Miss South Africa crown due to my length (or lack of it) I believe I would also unjustly be deprived of the Presidency. Besides... what about the poor guy who will have to try and fill my shoes after me! cheeky

Zanie: I had already written it all in Word ages ago. The copy and paste and getting the pics in place took ages and then got lost (on the forum). But I believe with Charles's help I will get it right this time.

Tony: Normally I save all the time when writing in Word etc, but getting it onto the forum I did not want to save and have people start reading half a report as it takes ages to finish. But will follow Charles's advice re Notepad now.

Jinx Louw

I don't suffer from insanity, I love every minute of it!

Zanie's picture
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Sorry for not making it clear: I do copy-paste everything into Notepad before copy-pasting into the forum. This removes any strange formats. Generally I write the entire report and, once happy, start uploading.

During the transfer from Word to Notepad to the forum, I save relatively often (I have also lost everything while in progress), and then just edit the original post when adding more text/photos (which can be done in a ride report, but seemingly not in normal posts). I try to upload in one go, but it does take hours...

Happyfeet's picture
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Charles, could you please delete this?

Jinx Louw

I don't suffer from insanity, I love every minute of it!

Happyfeet's picture
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Oooops! Hope I didn't mess things up?! I moved my day 5 to the beginning of my Ride report, since it has become a really long (and tedious?) affair and I'm guessing most people actually just want to get to the Baviaans section (day 5) of the RR.

Please let me know if this is a problem? 

Jinx Louw

I don't suffer from insanity, I love every minute of it!

Happyfeet's picture
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How do I delete previous comments I made? "Edit" does not allow me to.

Jinx Louw

I don't suffer from insanity, I love every minute of it!

Ilana Kotze's picture
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Awesome Trip Report, thanks for sharing

Charles Oertel's picture
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Comment deleting is verboten to prevent trolls from posting hateful things then deleting them.  But, if you edit a comment and put in there a message to me to delete it, I can do it for you.

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

Happyfeet's picture
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Advice please from people who read ride reports.

We did another day starting in George, going over the Montagu pass, via Uniondale over the Prins Albert's pass (and popped into Angie's G spot) and finished off through the Tsitsikamma forests. I did not post it.

My hubby says my reports are way too long. Must admit, when I thought I could add one day of the trip every week it seemed fine. Not being able to just add a next day as a comment the report just gets longer and longer, and obviously very tedious to get through.

My question: Should one rather do it bit by bit and have more details and pics, or post the entire trip with one go but with much less writing and pictures? What do you prefer?

Jinx Louw

I don't suffer from insanity, I love every minute of it!

Charles Oertel's picture
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I prefer one report in one go, with pictures.  It becomes a bit boring when there are thousands of pictures showing every little detail of the trip.  Seen enough bikes on gravel roads and only want to see exceptional things - definitely NO filling stations, Wimpies, etc.  Certainly no pictures with labels like "a bird sitting on the fence", "a cute cottage", "a sunset", "my dinner" (unless it is roasted cockroaches or something unusual/exotic).

I love a map showing the route, detail of any unusual things.  That said, I enjoy your style of writing so don't become too terse.

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

Mwendo's picture
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Jinx, ask yourself why you're writing the trip report.

    Given just two (out of an infinite number of) variables, a report can be classified into one and only one of:

    1. short and boring
    2. long and boring
    3. long and interesting
    4. short and interesting 

    The writer has total control over the length variable only. The reader determines the other, usually in an extremely subjective manner.

    Personally, I:

    • write trip reports as much for myself as for the forum readership
    • read any and all reports which hold my interest, regardless of length

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

       
      Zanie's picture
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      Joined: 2013/11/21

      I prefer reading everything in one go, even if it is long. Otherwise I have to try to remember what I have read and which bit is new - especially difficult if it was added by editing the original post.

      You have a great writing style, therefore long doesn't equal boring from my perspective.

      jacobsroodt's picture
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      Joined: 2011/01/10

      Brilliant! Kudo's! Well done with such a detailed ride report. And we thought Baviaans was a song☺

      Tony's picture
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      Joined: 2008/08/24

      And we thought Baviaans was a song.

      But it is, as per the well written report .... "singing in the rain".

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

      Happyfeet's picture
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      Joined: 2010/02/12

      Thanks soo much for the nice comments and good advice! Will make use of it for my next report. I really appreciate the support I get from all of you.  yes

      Jinx Louw

      I don't suffer from insanity, I love every minute of it!

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