Sutherland 2010

Warren Ellwood's picture

Points: 0

No thank you! That’s was the reply I got from my wife when I first posed the question of joining the BMW club on their annual trip to Sutherland. “We’ve done that, three times, one of them recently.”

So, no go I thought, but then Gifberg happened and I think it changed things. We had our long time best friends on the trip with us and they seemed to really enjoy the weekend, for us it was one of our best weekends on the bikes and so whilst everyone was still basking in the pleasant memories in the few days immediately after our stay at the Waterfall Resort, I popped the question again, this time I got a maybe. Work to do then.

But I am quite good at nagging (my wife calls it irritating), and so as expected a few days later I was able to book accommodation in Sutherland and once again got my mate Marc, his wife Heidi and daughter Madison involved, this time costing him some gold pennies in the form of new Heidi tyres and a few Wild at Heart bits to spruce the GS up for off road riding. It was funny watching him explain that Wild at Heart is a motorcycle accessory shop and not a house of ill repute when the credit card slips were found. We in turn acquired a whole bunch of thermal goodies from Outdoor Warehouse in the form of glove liners, balaclavas, thermal underwear and skiing socks. We weren’t going to get cold this trip and now I think we have enough bike gear for just about any occasion.

I gave the bikes the usual check up about two weeks ahead of time checking the water, battery, oil, chain, filter, bolts and nuts etc on both bikes and had a new 140 Heidi fitted to Natalie’s bike as the 130 was just about toast after only 6000 km’s. She obviously rides like a hooligan when I am not watching.

The last little obstacle was telling Natalie there was no place in her “preferred” group and therefore this time we were riding with “Catch me if you can”. I was quite relieved and very happy when she said it was okay. So the bikes and we were ready and it was once again onto weather watch.  

95% Of the websites were promising good, albeit cool weather for the weekend from the Monday before the trip, which I reckon is where they start getting sort of accurate so I wasn’t worried at all. This despite getting the same “hoax” email about 5 times from different folk on Friday with photo’s of buildings under half a meter of snow claiming it was Sutherland on Thursday. Thankfully one can just go check the webcam at SALT to see what it looks like.

Friday night, we packed bikes,  a multitude of clothes were laid out ready to jump into like a fireman so we didn’t get cold, the alarm was set and an early night as it was set for 05H30, that’s bloody early for me. Strangely enough, I was fully awake before it even went off and when I did jump out of bed, I noticed it wasn’t actually that cold. By the time we were getting ready to leave the balaclavas and glove liners were in my back pouch on my jacket. Marc and Heidi were on time and we left for the meeting place at the Engen 1 Stop at 06H20.

Good Morning Hein: 06H40 The startGood Morning Hein: 06H40 The start

After a good Wimpy breakfast Geoff got us together for a chat just after 07H30 and by 07H45 we were on the road. The N1 was actually quite busy I thought for this time of the morning and I was quite happy when we took the non toll road exit from the N1 to go over Du Toits Kloof Pass.

Put your liners on: Its always cold in Mitchells PassPut your liners on: Its always cold in Mitchells Pass

We had an un uneventful ride over the pass, though the Slanghoek Valley and up Mitchells Pass, but near the top of the pass there was mist that one could see from a long way off and as we approached it the temperature dropped like a stone off a cliff. Man it was cold and I silently thanked my wife for just about forcing me put the liners in my gloves after breakfast earlier. Not really sure if they helped any though because I don’t know if my hands can get colder than that. They never have been before. I found out later that while I was thanking her she was cursing me for having her balaclava in my jacket. Thank you dear.

Andys Group coming byAndys Group coming by

And it was even colder in Ceres. We re-fueled, waved to Andy’s group as they headed for breakfast, and set off out of town. Theronsberg Pass was really enjoyable this time as to our left there were white peaks everywhere which explained why it was so cold in the little town we had just left. Just after that we stopped, deflated tyres slightly and headed off to where the weekend really started for me, the Ceres Karoo. A place that I have become really fond of exploring in the last year.

Deflating Point: Some snow in the backgroundDeflating Point: Some snow in the background

The first kilometers of road as one leaves the tar are probably boring for some as they are almost perfectly straight, but I love it as one can risk having a good look around as you drive, but soon enough we are stopped at a small turn off and we take the O.G pad to Onder Wadrif. It is my 5th trip down this lesser known road but it always seems like the first. It is just such a nice place to be on a motorcycle. We also had our only side stand incident along here where we stopped in a river bed for a snack. There was a lot of standing water on the rocks in the bed and it had been there long enough to become slimy. I almost fell on my head trying to walk across it and poor Ludwig was trying to turn his bike through one of the pools and his front wheel just shot out. A small fall, one grand for an indicator and mirror, and he must surely have a bruise or two as he fell hard onto the rocks.  

The turn off to Onder WadrifThe turn off to Onder Wadrif

On The O.G Pad: Stunning scenaryOn The O.G Pad: Stunning scenary

Veiws AfarVeiws Afar

First snack stop: Ludwig now owns this rockFirst snack stop: Ludwig now owns this rock

Eventually we get back to the open plains and join the main Tankwa Park approach road again. We stop for “lunch” not far beyond the entrance to the park. It brings back good memories as on my GPS I can see the campsite where Natalie and I spent a night on our last visit. My kind of camping too, just a spot on the map and nothing else. 

Back near the Tankwa RoadBack near the Tankwa Road

Lunch stop: Sluk nou kou laterLunch stop: Sluk nou kou later

After lunch we approach the very beautiful Ganaga Pass. I missed it on a previous trip as Natalie was so ill when we left Sutherland in the morning that I decided to take her straight home via the tar, so it was my first ride up it. It is really stunning and if you haven’t been up, or down it, put it on your list. And it was in brilliant condition as well. I would quite happily drive my wife’s car up there at the moment.

The Cloud Gazer: On his way to Star GazeThe Cloud Gazer: On his way to Star Gaze

The Ganaga: StunningThe Ganaga: Stunning

The veiw from the topThe veiw from the top

At the top of the pass the road became very straight again and might have been a bit boring had it not been for the many mud puddles, some short, some long but all indicating that you perhaps wouldn’t want to be driving down this road on a motorcycle if it was raining heavily as one could often see how the vehicles that had used this road when it was wet had skidded around. But for the most part the road is good and because I could already see Middelpos on my GPS about 10km away and it was fairly early, Nats, Hein, Cloud and myself stopped a few times, took photos and generally just relaxed enjoying the sun shine and vast beautiful landscape.

Speeding towards MiddelposSpeeding towards Middelpos

Hein at speedHein at speed

The writer and wifeThe writer and wife

I haven’t ever been to Middelpos either and I have to say I was a little disappointed as it was not what I was expecting after reading loads of trip reports that included the place. But I suppose one would have to stay there, experience the hospitality and have a look around. Maybe it was because I thought it was just a hotel there, not a small settlement. But anyway, we were there nice and early and folks had a bit of a relax and a drink from the bar. We also bumped in to Rusty & Co who left shortly after we arrived.

Afternoon drinks in MiddelposAfternoon drinks in Middelpos

After his we had only 80 kilometers to go along what starts out as a boring old dirt road but is quite enjoyable for the last half. At one point before you drop down to Sutherland you can see the observatory in the distance. Once again the last four in the convoy slowed down and enjoyed the scenery with a few stops as we realized that getting to Sutherland in a hurry just meant you were going to stand longer in the queue at the petrol pumps and as it wasn’t even 16H00 yet, we had plenty of time.

SALT in the distanceSALT in the distance


After arriving in Sutherland and refueling, I headed to the hotel where we were booked for the night and found that a good old party was already underway in the bar. After having a few drinks and some good chats, my wife chased me upstairs to shower and change and off to the Jupiter for a few more drinks and supper. I’d also seen Rony at the garage in Sutherland on a Big Boy scooter but only found out at the hotel that he had ridden on it from Cape Town. Determined not a miss the party. Supper was good, the barmaid was discussed by some at length quite loudly apparently, and it got quite festive after supper.

Our back up lady and husband: Marc and HeidiOur back up lady and husband: Marc and Heidi

Nats and MadisonNats and Madison

Sunday morning instructions at Supper: The boss manSunday morning instructions at Supper: The boss man

When Geoff talks: Even the All Blacks listenWhen Geoff talks: Even the All Blacks listen

Now unfortunately, what happens in Sutherland stays in Sutherland so I cannot explain everything that happened between after supper and finally going to bed. I hope that the following few photos will give you some idea and you can draw your own conclusions. All I can say is it was a good evening and I am now broke.



Even LaterEven Later

Much laterMuch later

3 AM3 AM

The next morning as suggested we had a few bikes that the overnight cold had got to and were finding it difficult to start, but after some jump starting and one towing all except one bike were ready to go. It seems Hein had blown a seal on his back shock on the 1150 so a nice day in the back up vehicle for him. He had some nice company for the day though, two hot blond chicks.

The usual cold morning scenario: Seans bike in this caseThe usual cold morning scenario: Seans bike in this case

No Hein you still need to wear a helmetNo Hein you still need to wear a helmet

We left Sutherland in the direction of Matjiesfontein but just before Verlaatenkloof Pass we turned off to the left on to a dirt road. This road was the same as the one just above Ganaga Pass and had quite a few large mud puddles on it. One I obviously hit at the deep end and it gave the bike quite a tug and splashed mud so high it was even on the top of my tank bag. There was also a nasty little wind up here. After the Komsberg Pass where we actually got up close to a bit of snow, we turned left off this road and again rode through lesser used farm roads as we made our way to Laingsburg.

The veiw from Komsberg PassThe veiw from Komsberg Pass

Another quick stop somewhere below Komsberg PassAnother quick stop somewhere below Komsberg Pass

Laingsburg somewhere out thereLaingsburg somewhere out there

It doesn’t matter where you are in which Karoo. The next view always seems better than the last one and I never get tired of looking. It is just amazing in every direction and I could use up my entire memory card and not capture everything I would like to share with people.   It doesn’t matter whether it’s massive open spaces or the mountain ranges that run through it, there is just something about it that draws me back time and time again. All I can say is, go see it for yourself, it’s an amazing place. It is also a little sad to see how many farms in the Karoo seem to be abandoned with the houses in bad states of disrepair and no sign of activity. It must be a hard life out there.

Towerkop near Ladysmith in the distance: Approaching LaingsburgTowerkop near Ladysmith in the distance: Approaching Laingsburg

After a brief stop in Laingsburg, our trip got a bit more interesting. After everyone I think was sure we were just going to belt it down the N1 as far as Matjiesfontein, Geoff led us through a small township where there seemed to be some sort of town sermon going on. I saw a pastor in a garden in front of one of the houses shouting at folks in the street over a loud PA system. Half of them were drunk so I am not sure if they were taking it all in but he was trying anyway.

Quick break in LaingsburgQuick break in Laingsburg

Past here we were onto a funny dirt road that had a lot of rock strata sticking out it. We went through a gate that had a sign that warned us not to; we seemed to ride through the front yard of a farm house that was occupied at the time and onto some Spoornet type tracks that ran along the railway line. There was quite a bit of sand, some very rocky sections, loose pebble sections and in some places all of them mixed together. There were also quite a few gates to close so I dropped back to help Marc close a few of them. Unfortunately this exciting little path came to an end at a locked gate and we had to turn around, but quickly found another road which headed in the direction of the N1.

Next to the railway lines near LaingsburgNext to the railway lines near Laingsburg

Interesting riding along hereInteresting riding along here

It spat us out about half way between Laingsburg and Matjiesfontein where we turned right off the N1 and immediately left onto a road I remember from our trip to Oudtshoorn with Andy, although it seems a lot longer going back towards Ceres. It was also now after two and I definitely noticed a pick up in the pace. But the road was very good dirt, many of the corners were slight curves, nicely banked and I found myself really enjoying this stretch, even though it was very dusty at times.

Just before arriving back at the Theronsberg Pass, I am sure most people thought that was it but twice more before we got to Ceres we would think that was it only to be led onto another little dirt road we found thus staying largely on dirt roads all the way to Ceres and also using the Swaarmoed Pass which lies closer to the Matroosberg and is just spectacular. These dirt roads were also all delightful and even though my body was starting to say enough, I really enjoyed the ride through here.

The veiw from Swaarmoed PassThe veiw from Swaarmoed Pass

Swaarmoed Pass with Theronsberg Pass in the distanceSwaarmoed Pass with Theronsberg Pass in the distance

But soon enough we were back in Ceres, refueled, tyres re-inflated and invited for a beer and a pizza at the Calabash just outside Ceres. When we got there the other group was also there so we all enjoyed a drink or two together before setting off in drips and drabs homeward bound over Bainskloof.

The veiw from the CalabashThe veiw from the Calabash

Last drinkLast drink

Pizza anyonePizza anyone

By the time we got near Durbanville we had to stop to remove the sun glasses as it was getting dark and by the time we got home to Tableveiw the last of the light had disappeared showing you how quickly it gets dark now.  No jacuzzi this time as it was only repaired on Friday so only a hot bath after putting everything away, ordering more pizza (might as well stuff the diet up totally for the day) and settling down to watch District 9 on Mnet. Only made 35 minutes of this before realizing if I don’t get to bed immediately, I would wake up some time later freezing cold on the couch.  I fell asleep hoping to dream of wide open spaces with clear skies where one can go for a whole day and see no one else.

One of the stories of the weekend: Big Boy should use this guy for an addOne of the stories of the weekend: Big Boy should use this guy for an add

Quick ten important points from this weekend in no particular order.

  1. I should get a bloody medal for managing to get 140 photographs on a trip led by Geoff Russell.
  2. I can still eat like I did in the Army, sluk nou, kou later. (Geoff’s “lunch “ stops)
  3. I need more than 4 hours sleep a night.
  4. Never moon a camera capable of taking 2 MB photos.
  5. Never book accommodation in the place you’ve been warned to stay away from.
  6. Jagermeister is not a herbal health drink, even though it may smell like one.
  7. For some reason you always need more water on the way back from Sutherland.
  8. Monster Energy is really worth R19.00 per tin, especially after too much herbal health drink.
  9. Don’t ask loudly “who else needs a drink” in a small town bar too often.
  10. A 21 inch front wheel on your bike allows your wife to pass you on tar passes.

I was also very proud of my wife this weekend for stepping up to the faster off road group and riding like she belongs there, no plots at all, not even a cheap one.  I think back to three odd years ago when she did her first 36km in our drive way on her TW200, to literally having to get almost nasty to get her to ride around the dirt car park at the Durbanville Race Course, to her first off road trip to the Biedouw Valley that took almost a day and I am amazed how well she is doing and how determined she is.

As usual, thank you to all involved for another really great weekend.   We are really very privileged to be able to have weekends like this arranged for us and we appreciate all the effort immensely.



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

Great report as usual Warren.

What a great weekend it was.

Committee: Ride Captain

Cloudgazer Steven's picture
Joined: 2007/10/03

Great report as usual.

This made me smile:

I should get a bloody medal for managing to get 140 photographs on a trip led by Geoff Russell.

I was planning on taking many photos and didn't get much opportunity, as I spent most of my time chasing the pack so to speak.

I stepped into the hotel bar for just a moment, only a few minutes behind you, and already your shirt was off.... care to explain that?

There are so many problems in this world. Luckily there's a wristband available for almost all of them.
Warren Ellwood's picture
Joined: 2007/06/18

"I stepped into the hotel bar for just a moment, only a few minutes behind you, and already your shirt was off.... care to explain that?"

Now unfortunately, what happens in Sutherland stays in Sutherland ...............

What part didn't you understand Cloud.Wink

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

HeavyMetal's picture
Joined: 2009/07/22

Hey Warren, a fantastic RR like always, thanx. Just one thing, did you not say that a certain photo would not become public knowledge?? :-) The "other" pics are great though. A big thanx to Geoff for organizing another great weekend, to Heidi for driving the backup (she drove it there, i drove back, and there went my well planned nap back to CT), to Marc for supplying the backup, to everyone that came along and made it what it was, and finally to the Taxi driver that delivered me home safely Sunday morning!! 3 minutes starts......................NOW!!! 

Lunch......your 3 minutes starts......................NOW!!!

Natalie, in her war gear!! 

Natalie, in her war gear!!



Where the heck did i go wrong, were only supposed to be there after dark?? 

Where the heck did i go wrong, were only supposed to be there after dark?

Ludwig, Harley and Olaf 

Ludwig, Harley and Olaf

Cloud at speed 

Steven at speed

One cannot cross a chasm in two small leaps.

Cloudgazer Steven's picture
Joined: 2007/10/03

3 minutes for lunch?

You lucky buggers... I got about 45 seconds. Laughing

There are so many problems in this world. Luckily there's a wristband available for almost all of them.
BenG's picture
Joined: 2009/01/16

Warren LOVED your report, as always.

I'm so proud of Natalie, although it was very quite in our group without her. 

Glad we could help you see the light on "your color" Cloud

Chicks Dig DirtKiss

Marits's picture
Joined: 2009/03/07

...lunch...! what lunch?

The road to nowhere

The road to nowhere

Big sky, little earth

Big sky, little earth

Gannaga in the distance

Gannaga in the distance

Gannaga close-up

Gannaga close-up

...somewhere between Sutherland & Lainsburg

...somewhere between Sutherland & Lainsburg

KarinP's picture
Joined: 2009/04/30

Great report Warren!

What a great ride - especially the road inbetween the farms and next to the railway line (I am sure Geoff put that in just to make sure his record of sand on all his rides remained intact ;-)

And Cloud, yes, green is definitely your colour... Cool

Joined: 2007/06/25

Tx. for sharing the trip report with excellent photos.

Think before you ink.

Trust is the most valuable asset.

I have the rest of my life to get old.

Jeanne's picture
Joined: 2009/06/02

As I couldn't make this trip, I've been looking forward to the report since Sunday... and as per usual Warren doesn't disappoint. Looks like you had a wonderful time!! Glad no plots bought!!

Not sure what everyone was worried about... I didn't see any indication of cold Wink

In the end it's the life in your years that count, not the years in your life...

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