Trip Report : Transkei Tour 2019

Points: 7

Transkei Tour March 2019                 – With GS Bike Traders and Touratech

Day 1                                                     Friday, 1 Mar 2019

Today was about making distance so it was mostly tar. We met each other (me meeting most of the faces for the first time) at the Engen 1 Stop on the N1 outbound at 06h30 to have breakfast at the Wimpy. Apparently, it is normal for Rynette to arrive (on her KTM) just as we finished our riders briefing, but this was all forgiven because she is such a hoot to hang out withwink.
 
We rode up the N1 and over Du Toits, which was cloudy at the bottom, but magically lit up at the top as the morning sunlight lit the morning fog on fire below, with the du Toit peaks towering above us. Over the mountain, we turned at Worcester and headed for Montagu, then took the R62 until hitting one of my favourites, Huisrivier Pass, just before Calitzdorp.
 
Lunch was taken care of at the Spur in Oudtshoorn, where I pushed my bike off her main stand and into a post I parked in front of. Dho!
 
We continued along the N12 through Du Rust onto the lovely Meiringspoort with good light (I always seem to do that pass on overcast days, so this was noteworthy) and with minimal traffic to contend with, that’s what I call winning! We hooked a right shortly after the pass onto a gravel road, and a little while later, Anthony and Anni pulled over with a small tear in their rear tyre which was repaired with 2 plugs side by side. Anthony was rightly nervous about continuing with such damage to the tyre, and later made a plan to go to Port Elizabeth the following day to get a new takkie and meet up with us later. Good sport.
 
Anyway, this gravel road was about 95km to Willowmore and roughly 2/3 down the road, was a dried-up river crossing where many of us came off or needed a push, and some riders tried to take the “racing line” and ended up burying their back wheel, hahaha! Once we got to Willowmore, we filled up on fuel before reaching The Willow Historical Guesthouse at 17h00. I was quite hot after the sand crossing and even though the evening chill was starting to loom, I promised myself a swim if they had a pool, and sure enough they did, and I’m a man of my word, so…

                      Aforementioned sand crossing

El-Anne greeted us when we arrived and was so accommodating to us dirty bikers, working in the reception area, but somehow appearing at the bar whenever needed and never allowing us to get thirsty. A braai was sorted for us for dinner, and the evening was filled with catching up with old friends, and introductions to new ones.
 
Cape Town – Willowmore
578km.
 
The Willow Historical Guesthouse

 

 

Day 2                                               Saturday, 2 Mar 2019

Today was also going to be a long one in the saddle, so it was an early start to the morning to be ready to ride at 07:00, so we could have breakfast and head out by 07:30. Anthony and Anni left us early to get to PE, get a new tyre and meet up with us later.
 
From Willowmore, we took a right onto the concrete “single track” slab road of the R329 to Steytlerville. I found it interesting to see that the main road in town was lined with individually crested banners representing each of the towns families who lived there. We continued through Kirkwood, turned onto the R335 and rode through the Addo Elephant National Park. Just from passing on the road, we saw some phumbas, giraffe, zebra, baboons, Vervet monkeys, and a pair of unidentified eagles.
 
We went to the N2 to cover some distance all the way to Peddie, where we stopped for fuel and snacks before catching up with Anthony and Anni waiting for us a little while later under a tree next to the road! Their timing in meeting us was superb. We took the R63 after King William’s Town to meet the N2 again at Komga.
 
These roads through Eastern Cape are treacherous to say the least. With goats, cattle, donkeys and horses crossing as they please, I’ve seen more roadkill than I care for. Back on the N2, and the blacktop rises into the rolling landscape where the road curves in all the right places as it swept us over the Great Kei River. I was a little shy to push it with this new group I found myself in, and Geoff had his responsible hat on and wouldn’t send it with a pillion, haha.
 
In Butterworth, we headed for the coast, and turned left at Centane (after filling up) where we found our first dirt of the day and took the next 30km easy to the Wavecrest Hotel.
 
Willowmore – Wavecrest
642km
Wavecrest Hotel & Spa
 

                    Sweeping along a ribbon of blacktop

 

Day 3                                              Sunday, 3 Mar 2019

Today was our 1st of the rest days. This was also the 1st time that Geoff had brought a riding group to Wavecrest Hotel since the management had changed, and we all felt very welcomed to be here at the mouth of the estuary just next to Cebe Nature Reserve. Fred, Nina, and Rynette had their first of what would be many “far too” early morning photo sessions of beachscapes and sunrises. A buffet breakfast was ready for us at 08:00, and being a riding group, we were all ready and waiting at 08:00, even though there was nowhere to be in a hurry, haha!

                                Wavecrest sunrise 

A few of the lucky ones who had moved quickly yesterday to book, had their morning massage sessions that were well needed after 2 long days in the saddle. Personally, I find that long days on the highway tar seize up my muscles far more effectively than the constant moving around on a mountain pass or offroad riding can.
 
I found out that the kayaks laying on the river bank were there for the taking, and so I donned my cozzie and started paddling up stream for 15 mins before turning around and taking an alternative river running parallel to the beach. Navigation was a little tricky during that time of the morning, as some of the sections were quite shallow due to the tidal changes. Nevertheless, I was determined, and even though I beached it a few times, I kept my kayak floating and continued up the river for some time. Later I came across Neill, George, and Ed, who all had the same idea of seeing what was up the river.
 
Once we all got back from our little paddle, we joined some of the others for a beer brunch. After a few brews in us, we were filled with great ideas, and you could find us tinkering and fiddling with our bikes. Setting the perfect tyre pressures, and suspension settings. Declaring what fuel mapping and traction control we would brave on the rest of the journey, and all those wonderful things that comes along with riding bikes with mates, hahaha!
 
Lunch was served somewhere around lunchtime, and after a short siesta, we headed for a booze cruise along the estuary at 15:00. Our captain/guide was full of local knowledge, and only too willing to share it with us. The details of the area which he shared have long gone been forgotten, so you’ll have to go there yourself to find outwink.
We got back about 2 hours later and Ed, Peter, Rynette, and myself challenged each other to a couple of games of sticks seeing as some poor souls had brought a snooker table to this establishment in the middle of nowhere.
 
Dinner was served and soon after that we all retired for the evening after a long day of R&R… It’s a tough life, but somebody has to do it.
 
Wavecrest Hotel and Spa
0km

                Look! We found a George in his natural habitat

 

Day 4                                                Monday, 4 Mar 2019

What a magical morning, waking up to the sun rising up out of the ocean on a crystal-clear day (to think we were worried about rain today, ha!). I made a cuppa and listened to the birds chirping from my rondavel’s porch before going to breakfast at 08:00.
 
After getting en route, we stuck to a kind of gravel B-road that traverses the ridge of connecting hills, going through hugely sparse villages. The undulating terrain of the area could not possibly allow any worthwhile settlements to be established, so there are very few roads connecting small trading hubs, and everyone has established their house near these roads, with their share of land running down into the valley’s below.
 
After some indeterminant distance (I was too taken in by the scenery to notice or care about distance or time that day… What a lovely zone to be in). The front runners stopped and we regrouped before hooking a right turn for a few km’s, then pulling over (on the left) on a small airfield. On the other end of the runway, was an infinite cliff of lush grass that ran all the way down to the beach and overlooked Mazzepa Bay, at least 150m below. Geoff claims that you can ride a plastic bike down there, but I don’t think anyone believes him, hahaha! I’ll have to see for myself someday…
It reminded me of the dunes in Peru that dropped off to the beach and used to host a stage in the Dakar Rally, you know, except greener and grassier.
 
After a short photoshoot, we first continued down the road to a few braai areas overlooking the coast going south, then traversed the ridge going around to the north side of the bay, through all little small holdings and kraals.
 
After nothing particularly harsh, Peter’s soft luggage tore from its mounting points and came off. Luckily Anthony could stop safely behind him without any incident. I stayed with Peter and used my tow strap to tie down his bag.
 
Anyway, we nursed it home with Bill checking on us every now and then, and arrived at Kob Inn not long after, at around 14:00, just in time for lunch still. After that we all unpacked and settled in. I am always amazed at how everyone can rendezvous at the bar without prompting, good show everyone!
 
Wavecrest – Kob Inn
116km

                  One of many beautiful lookout points

 

Day 5                                               Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019

Today’s outride started with a 09:15 pre-ride meeting. We had planned to be out for about 2 hours for a 70km circuit.
 
I tried to stay up front and ride #2 for the whole ride to follow Geoff’s lines and hopefully learn something. We took the gravel roads at about 70km/h, with the pock-marked grassy sections much slower. The thing with Geoff’s riding is that he doesn’t blitz the straights, but he doesn’t slow down for the corners much either, and if you don’t pay attention, short before long, a gap will open up, and if you’re on a mountain pass, you won’t catch him unless he wants you to.
 
We headed off inland for a bit before cutting back and riding some grassy terrain. We stopped at this rise just before the coastline so Geoff could instruct us. We were meant to follow his line down to a saddle, then up a steep grassy rise to the lookout point over the Shixini River mouth. Unfortunately, while Geoff was demonstrating where to go, Peter and I were talking nonsense and not paying attention… Oh well, here goes nothing! Ha
 
On the run up, you must keep that wrist twisted all the way up the hill, even when those hidden grassy humps kick your front wheel to the sky, even when they bounce your rear wheel loose and it starts spinning, and even when you think you should slow down because you’re near the top, because you still haven’t quite made it to the landing pad just yet! When it is finally time to stop, you must stop, and stop quickly! There is zero runoff zones where we ride, hehehe.
At the top of the lookout point, there is not much space at all for a landing, and we had to park quite tightly together. I was dreading a dominos scenario in a spot like this…

                                 Shixini River Mouth 

After taking in the scenery for a bit, we rode down, one by one, trying to forget the clutch to avoid the bikes running away from us. Then ran parallel to the beach across grassland and patty fields, looking for a beach landing, which we eventually settled on. But not before Geoff could take us on a journey through some dodgy marsh and tall grassy bits. I enjoyed the hell out of the exploring, even though I had no idea where we were, the simple act of spending time with my bike doing off roady stuffs together.
 
After that, we made our way back to base. Then had to buy fuel from Dean, the chef, at Kob Inn and filled our bikes up with a drum and funnel.
 
After a quick shower and lunch, Geoff informed us of a cocktail challenge. Finish all the cocktails, then the group will settle your bar tab! Needless to say, I never back down from a challenge, and now am part of the elite few to have conquered the bar! Hahaha
 
Kob Inn – Shixini River – Kob Inn
75 km

                   This is as smart as we'll ever look laugh

 

Day 6                                        Wednesday, 6 Mar 2019

We took in the grand scenery of the Xhosa homelands with its fertile green hills spanning for eternity. The ride wasn’t too hectic, but Anthony got another puncture, this time to his front wheel. What rotten luck.
 
After coming down Mbashe River Pass, we stopped at the Five Kings Bridge so Geoff could find us with the GPS. I won’t lie, I was pretty moeg and could have done with lunch and a frosty beer.

                                 Transkei landscapes

           Bill and Alan having a cuppa at the Five Kings Bridge 

We finally got going again, and took a gingerly ride for the last section, but we also had to navigate a vicious tar road littered with pot holes.
Once we got back to base, and after settling down, Alan, Nina, and I played pool until dinner where Mama Noma played host for our stay and took care of all our whims in the most gracious way possible.
 
 
Kob Inn – Coffee Bay
168km
 
Ocean View Hotel
 
 
 
 

Day 7                                                  Thursday,7 Mar 2019

This morning I went for a dip in the ocean, which was surprisingly very cold, so I jumped out soon afterwards feeling much more awake.
 
We did a short outride this morning, firstly North, to a lookout point of Coffee Bay. Then Geoff pointed out the track to follow along the narrow ridge and up and over a steep rise to the very final lookout with steep drop offs on each side with very little turning around space. I braved that bit by myself while everyone stayed put. Getting to the other side was exhilarating, but sharing the experience with some others would have added to it. The lookout where I found myself felt very isolated being out off the mainland in such a unique way. On the way back, going up the steep rise, I had seen some teenagers park themselves at the top, and I had to pray they would see me coming and get out of my way (did I mention the lack of real estate at the summit?). As I was heading up the hill, I was encouraged by their cheering and one was even recording me on my way to glory… Or maybe he was hoping for a spectacular crash! Hahaha.

                  Overlooking the Mtata River Mouth 

After some photography had been done, we found a way down to the river mouth of the Mthata River for a short break, then we went back and past Ocean View to the Hole in the Wall view point.
 

         Taking a break while contemplating natures beauty...                                                  At Hole In The Wall

After the Hole in the Wall, we backtracked to White Clay for lunch… Geez, I was so relaxed after that.
We then went back to Ocean View and had a bit of DIY to do to fix a mysterious rattle on Geoff’s bike (which ended up to simply be the oil cooler guard…How sounds can project themselves). The gardener kindly agreed to water our bikes down and we pumped our tyres up as it seems that our off-road riding is coming to a sad end.

                    View from White Clay restaurant 

         You see, Ed sat on Freds bike, and Fred was left with                                        no choice but to defend his honour 

I then went for my perfectly timed massage booking before joining the squad for sundowners outside of the bar when a swiss backpacker inserted herself into our group which was quite funny, as everyone was trying (not very covertly) to wingman me! I was determined to find a helmet and take her with me, Hahaha.
 
 
Ocean View – Coffee Bay lookout – Hole in the Wall – Ocean View
44km
 
 
 

Day 8                                                    Friday, 8 Mar 2019

    At Ocean View. Our steeds ready to take on another day

 No George's were harmed while documenting this bike inspection

 

The days ride started dry for the first 2km or so, from then, it was wet all the way, but on tar at least. We just had to contend with a real dodgy driver that was driving sometimes in the yellow lane, but always up our tailpipes and maintaining our same speed.
 
Today’s route took us inland bound to take a sho’t left on the N2 and run all the way to about 20 km before East London, and head for Cintsa and the beautiful destination of Crawfords Beach lodge. We took it real easy due to the road conditions, and time was ticking, so after the Kei Cuttings pass, we pulled over at a fuel station, and had a burger and chips at the Steers for lunch. From there it was about 40 minutes to Crawfords.
 
Geoff had to call ahead to make sure the steep driveway entrance was clear. Once you’re rolling down, it becomes real tough to get a solid footing if you were to stop for traffic, so he had to get the hotel staff to block any traffic for us to get down safely. The hotel, acknowledging this particular challenge, is more than happy to oblige us this small courtesy.
 
 
Coffee Bay – Cintsa
265km​
 
Crawfords beach lodge
 
 
 
 

Day 9                                               Saturday, 9 Mar 2019

Another off day today.
I could not read my book or stay in bed any longer, even if I tried. The weather was miserable outside, so everyone had gone into hiding. During lunch with everyone, the weather started clearing up, so afterwards, I went for a lekka stroll on the beach for about an hour or so, and as I was about 20m from the boardwalk path back to Crawfords, the heavens opened up again to signal us back inside.

                             Loft cabin at Crawfords 

I went for another nap, and came down to the pub at 17:00 for some beers, and Nina wanted a pool rematch. Once we had gathered a crowd, I opened my winning bottle of wine that I won at the pool tournament held last night and we had a jolly time together until I later found out that the ladies had formed an alliance and had been cheating quite blatantly during my last game with Anni. Apparently, everyone knew except for me, but I was in a far too jolly a mood to care! Haha
 
Once dinner time came, I pounced and ate rather quickly and not very sociably because the MotoGP Qatar Qualifying was airing upstairs, and the anticipation for the 2019 season has been palpable to say the least. Back in the main dining room/lounge, the nights entertainment of live music was a nostalgic collection of olden goldies, and everyone had a superb time of the evening.
 
 
Crawfords Beach lodge
0km

                                 Crawfords, Cintsa

 

Day 10                                              Sunday, 10 Mar 2019

I can describe today in four words… Rain, rain, and rain! It started to clear up in the late morning to be fair to Mother Nature, and thankfully we were on tar all day.
 
We took the R72, which was a bit more interesting than the N2, then we headed inland after PE en route to Willowmore, via the R329, through Steyntlerville (another interesting thing I saw approaching from Waaipoort in the north of the town, is that all the flags of South Africa’s entire history, with their dates in use, were painted in series on the rocky roadside.
 
We arrived in Willowmore just before 16:00, and were welcomed back just as warmly as our first night of our tour.
When we got there, I dumped my kit in my rather lavish room in the grand historical house (such a pity its beauty was wasted on me that day. Any other day, I would have been slack-jawed by the detail in the furnishings), washed my face, hung my wet gear up, and ran to the bar to see the start of the Moto3 race!
Hah, we made it in time for the races!

                The Willow Historical Guesthouse, Willowmore

 
Later that evening, we had a formal dinner, and praise was handed out generously for everyone’s antics, and to the involvement of all those who assisted Geoff in putting together this fantastic tour. What a wonderful phenomenon that riding a motorcycle can connect such an assortment of characters together.
 
 
Cintsa – Willowmore
572km
 
The Willow Historical Guesthouse

       All of the offenders having their last supper together

Day 11                                             Monday, 11 Mar 2019

Early start to the day.
We took the N9 south to the R341 to De Rust and then the R62 to Montagu. I started the day a little nervous because my rear tyre had a slow leak overnight and I couldn’t see anything wrong with it that morning, but maybe I need more coffee in the morning before making any decisions like that! I only found the nail in Robertson. My tyre’s tread was approaching buttery smoothness (be gentler with the throttle guy!) and I had already reserved a set of Mitas E07’s from Just Bike Tyre in Cape Town.
 
Anyway, in Robertson, we stopped to fill up our bikes one last time and say our goodbyes to all our new and old friends, with a promise of a reunion and trip video viewing. No pressure on the video Ed, hahalaugh
 
I decided to leave early from the fuel station, and make some good tracks in case something happened to my tyre, then at least someone I knew would be behind me. My reasoning was spot on, because as one eye was glued to my tyre pressure gauge, it started dropping a few kays outside of Worcester. So, I finally get to do surgery to my own machine, and I called Geoff just in case my snotty didn’t hold.
 
For the last stretch home, Geoff, Nina, and I took it very gingerly back to Cape Town. And gingerly was the only way to go over Du Toits, with it raining and well soaked through over the pass.
 
We split on the N1 at the Brackenfell turn off, and I pulled in to Just Bike Tyre where Marie was waiting for me just before closing and very quickly turned my well ridden Karoo 3 (6000km with my riding style) rear into a shiny new Mitas E07.

               On the operating table... She'll be fine

 
This trip has boosted my confidence and enthusiasm for the dustier roads that South Africa has in such abundance.
Thank you, Geoff, GS Bike Traders, and Touratech for an unforgettable journey!
 
 
Willowmore – Cape Town
576km
 
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Geoff Russell's picture
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Joined: 2007/09/25

Great report. Thanks Wes.

Committee: Ride Captain

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