Touching the outskirts of heaven

Johan du Preez's picture

Points: 4

Wednesday morning. The new year is eight days old and Thursday and Friday would be the last two days of my annual leave.

I was wondering, should I use the last two days of my leave to prepare emotionally to go back to work (something which may just include more introspection that what I could handle at that stage), or should I get onto my 1200GS to explore the vastness of the Little Karoo for two days.

The GS option won.

I had to abandon my plans to do plenty of gravel road riding. The heavy rains which started to fall in the Karoo earlier in the week, made my favourite routes via the Swartberg impassable. “No, Sir, you will not be able to reach Seweweeks Poort. Those roads are closed,” said the police constable at Laingsburg when I phoned to enquire about the condition of the roads in his area.

The decision was made on my behalf: Plan B – tar road via Route 62 to the Klein Karoo.

Thursday’s leg of the trip from Stellenbosch to Calitzdorp would be short and quick – too short and too quick. I therefore decided to allow myself the luxury to stop more often, to explore more often and to take as many photographs as possible.

Shortly after starting and just outside Villiersdorp I gave in to temptation. “Maybe I should take the gravel road which joins the R62 just outside Robertson. The rain fell in the Karoo, not here. The road should be in a good condition,” I convinced myself.

Good decision. Wonderful gravel road…except for the low level bridge across the Breede River which was flooded. I couldn’t cross.

Breede River: Flooded low level bridge

Breede River: Flooded low level bridge

I proceeded slipping and sliding on an alternative and wet gravel road – an early sign of more to come – to reach Robertson. From there it would be tar to Barrydale for breakfast and then on to Calitzdorp to stay over for the night.

Very seldom, and for some only once or twice in a lifetime, comes that special, extraordinary and magic motorcycle trip which is so magnificent, so special, that it lingers on long after the ride has ended. In fact, these trips are never forgotten and are often the reasons why we, time and again, get onto our bikes to ride off into the Karoo’s of this world in search of that greatest and ultimate ride.

The ride between Montagu and Ladismith was one of these. For kilometre after kilometre nothing else mattered except me and my bike which, in a manner which instilled extreme confidence, made the panoramic landscape roll by as if in slow motion. The exceptional green of the Karoo veld stood out against the reflection of a magnitude of water pools and wet areas created by the previous days’ rains. The fresh herbal-like smell of the veld was so intense that inhaling and smelling became more important than also to breath out at times.  

All the time there were clouds above me. Some were dark and menacing as if they wanted to force me to turn around, only to be replaced by bright sunshine which broke through to even further enhance the green around me and create a kaleidoscope of even deeper and richer colours in the veld. And then it all made way for an umbrella of soft white clouds with patches of blue sky on it for as far as the eyes could see.  

The scene around and the sky above me was so intense and close, that it was easy to imagine that I was touching the clouds when I raised my arm above my head while speeding along. It was so real and the moment so overwhelming that I had to ask myself afterwards if it was only my imagination or whether perhaps I actually did feel the soft outskirts of heaven on my fingertips while my hand was raised.

Riding along I could feel that something good was happening deep inside of me.

Road between Barrydale and Ladismith

Road between Barrydale and Ladismith

I haven’t seen so much water for a long time in the Karoo. Otherwise dry feeder beds were now strong flowing streams while the bigger rivers such as the Dwyka, Gamka and Groot Rivers changed into brown, strong and menacing water masses which took everything in their way with them on their way to the sea. Again I came under the impression of the power of water – sometimes healing power, in this case destroying.

Touws River in flood between Barrydale and Ladismith

Touws River in flood between Barrydale and Ladismith

Huis River Pass

Huis River Pass

The Touws River

The Touws River

My return trip on Friday from Calitzdorp via the R323 started off and continued for an hour or two in the rain. Most of us do not like riding in the rain. This time, however, it was different. The rain was merely a continuation of my intense and personal experience which started the previous day. It cleansed my thoughts and soothed my soul. Once again I travelled underneath a ceiling of clouds which changed above the mountains near to Riversdale into a dark and menacing Karoo extravaganza which swallowed me when I started the decent via the Garcia Pass towards the coastal plains beneath.

Flood damge: Groot River between Ladismith and Riversdale

Flood damge: Groot River between Ladismith and Riversdale

The Groot River

The Groot River

Approaching weather

Approaching weather

Leaving the Karoo and suddenly riding on the N2 was a shock. The presence of so many motorcars was like hearing the street musician’s noisy guitar in the passage of the Artscape Theatre when leaving the building after listening to a powerful symphony orchestra performance inside. It did not work.

I therefore turned off at Heidelberg and followed the gravel road via Suurbraak to Swellendam. Still everything was wet and my eyes feasted on the streams of water in the veld alongside and the waterfalls in the mountains above. I felt small and insignificant.

The road had flood damage and I later had to turn back when water flowing across the road was just too deep and too strong to cross.

Flooded road between Heidelberg and Suurbraak

Flooded road between Heidelberg and Suurbraak

In the end I had to travel on the N2 and I had to make peace with it. And what blissful peace it turned out to be! The bike was like a racehorse let loose after having had to negotiate an endurance race on wet and sometimes slippery roads during the past two days. Now we could revel in this open road with its sweeping curves. My now purified mind and cleansed soul started to respond with new energy and a desire for life.

Yes, I could have spent the last two days of my annual leave at home to prepare emotionally for my job and the year ahead, or I could I have chosen two days on my motorbike.

Thank goodness, I chose the bike. I was a new person and I’ve experienced a trip which will linger for the rest of the year, even though it has ended Friday afternoon in bright sunshine.

Tony's picture
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Joined: 2008/08/24

Brilliant report Johan.

It's true that a bad day on the bike beats a good day at the office , or in this case at home.

And from your description it's clear that you had not one but two great days on the bike.

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

Andyman's picture
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Joined: 2007/06/22

Thanks for the report.

It's lekker to get off on your own sometimes just to ride your way and do your own thing.

I feel a calitzdorp ride coming on again...

I must say, having ridden in the karoo just after a spate of heavy rain once before, I'm now more prepared to wait a while and let the roads settle and the water run off a bit be fore I venture into the karoo.

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

GeelKameel's picture
Offline
Joined: 2007/06/21

Baie dankie vir 'n besonderse report!!!

Wat jy beskryf is die kern van GS plesier. Baie ouens ervaar dit, maar min kan dit raak beskryf. Hierdie report is een antwoord wat mens kan gee vir iemand wat wonder wat dit nou eintlik is waaroor hierdie ouens op die motorfietse so liries kan raak.

Dit laat my dink aan Warren se video poging "Look what you are Missing"

Laughing

Happyfeet's picture
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Joined: 2010/02/12

Awesome report and I'm happy it is all about my valley!

As jy weer die R62 doen en te veel tyd op hande het, kom drink gerus n koffie op Montagu - of nooi my sommer saam en ek kan dalk vir jou n pad of twee gaan wys!

Mooi fotos, dankie!

Jinx Louw

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

Johan du Preez's picture
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Joined: 2007/06/20

I submitted the above trip report in Afrikaans to the Afrikaans newspaper Die Burger. They published it in their Buite Burger suplement on 21 January 2014.

Article in Buite Burger

Article in Buite Burger

n/a
Leon1ee's picture
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Joined: 2007/12/06

well done. the report was quite good

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

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