Author Topic: West Cape Meander  (Read 1182 times)

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on: November 21, 2017, 11:44:18 pm
Western Cape Meander

For those of you who may have read my previous ramblings, I apologize, for the repeated intro:
I currently have a long distance relationship with my Enfield; I live on an Island in the Western Indian Ocean (Seychelles) and the bike lives wherever I end up on the last trip in South Africa. I have been fortunate to cover some ground on her but not fortunate enough to do it often; I’m currently averaging a trip every 14 months or so; not enough!
So, we (the bike and I) did Durban to Johannesburg over 3 days (2 years ago); then, Johannesburg to Cape Town over 7 days (about 18 months ago), then I shipped the poor, abandoned bike across to the Eastern Cape (St. Francis Bay) which is her current home and a great base for me to start riding…
I decided this time to add electrical power sources to charge USB devices (phone, camera, etc.) and one to permanently power a GPS (I decided this would be useful for the routes I had planned, and it turned out it was.) Thanks to the assistance from a couple very useful chaps here, I managed to source all the bits beforehand, and build up the “loom” and do all the wiring connections to the extra relay beforehand so all it came down to was installing on the bike and tapping into the required power. Oh, I had also acquired a “Wildbill Special” fly screen which was going on…
After a hectic 48 hours of travelling, meetings and catching up, I was finally on an early flight to Port Elizabeth where I was collected and driven around to collect my new battery (surprise!!) and a couple other bits. My plan was to do the work quickly and hit the road.
The general servicing had very kindly been done by my handy nephew in December. As far as plans go, this one was out the window the moment I arrived! After nearly a year of no real attention it was clear the bike needed a lot of love! Most obviously was cleaning and taking care of some surface corrosion, nothing severe just enough to look tacky! As with all things technical, my quick jobs ended at around 10pm (with a six pack of beer and BBQ with my sis thrown in there.)
After a restless night’s sleep, I was up early and at 05:27 the engine grumbled quietly awake and thump thump thumped contentedly, awaiting departure…

Day one… “Rolling out…”

As always a subconscious nervousness fluttered around for the first few K’s; just a little twinge in my stomach to make me aware of every little tick and rattle that I thought ought not to be there. I took the first 20 or so Ks very gently, just feeling out the bike, making sure she was up to the task. A fresh tank of fuel sorted out the little cough on acceleration (never to be seen again). After filling up at the small town of Humansdorp, I followed the R102 regional road more or less to the west before turning off onto the R62 towards the long fruit route towards the mountains.
It was so good to be back behind the bars of my Enfield; my everyday ride is a little 125cc step through Yamaha, which I love here on the island with the narrow roads and suicidal/murderous drivers. The scoot is cool and keeps me “riding fit” and my awareness levels at a peak in the traffic but it’s just not the same! The feeling of that single grumbling under you is so unique to these bikes, it wasn’t long before my teeth were full of bugs again!
The early morning was fresh and clear as I left town heading for farming country, my spirits soared… The Enfield grumbling happily under me as I rolled over the quiet black top…
One of the best parts of this type of riding is the small towns along the way (including the names of some of these places); my first stop for a coffee (and to buy the toothbrush I’d forgotten) was in Kareeudouw where a young boy on school holidays was hanging around at his dad’s fuel station/garage shop. He offered to keep an eye on my bike while I was inside the store. He was rewarded with a snack bar and juice; before accepting it, he promptly ran off to the office to make sure with his dad that it was ok to accept the “payment”. Small town values… Big smiles, lots of questions answered and off I rumbled…
Breakfast was at a roadside restaurant in Joubertina; an outside table in the sun, more chatting, more coffee.
My original idea was to stop for the night in Uniondale but on arrival in 35 degree heat at midday (my bike computer registered 41 Celsius max while riding that day), I just didn’t feel like setting up camp in the heat, so I pushed on towards Prince Albert in the mountains.
My GPS was set to avoid tolls (trolls) and freeways (fleaways) so it took me off the main road and onto a dirt “shortcut” through a nature reserve area. I had made a conscious decision not to avoid dirt roads on this trip and actually enjoyed the slower more technical pace on the stony road (I did lose one of my flip flops which was my only other pair of shoes though!)
On exiting the other side of the dirt, the mighty Swartberg Mountains loomed before me! Finally, twisty roads… My pulse quickened as I anticipated the curves…
The route between De Rust and Klaarstroom cuts straight through the mountains, on a pass that follows the valley floor; crossing the river it follows, no less than 25 times. This is 25 Km of pure Enfield bliss! I slowed to tourist speeds and marveled at the all encompassing beauty, grinning like the village idiot as I passed cars and a couple of other bikes doing the same, I imagine….
Did I mention it was hot? Out of the mountains and back onto the baking, open road I was ready for something cold (preferably something made with hops and stuff.) I rolled on the right wrist a bit, pushing for town and a saloon! I searched the streets for the tell-tale signs of the swinging saloon doors and steeds tied up outside but to no avail. I had to settle for a hipster type veranda café selling homemade muesli and organic shoelaces and the like. The beer was cold and the food was good, the rider was happy and content!

I got chatting to another couple at lunch who suggested a campsite on an olive farm close by (sounds like the plot to the film “Hostel”). Taking their advice I set up my little spot and ended up meeting another rider on a KLR who was doing a similar thing but more dirt track stuff. Over drinks, we all shared stories, beers and dinner while discussing our plans for the next few days… Tomorrow I was off to Hell!
« Last Edit: November 22, 2017, 01:18:45 am by addict1 »
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Reply #1 on: November 22, 2017, 12:01:27 am
Day 2… “The Hell”

Up at daybreak, I packed my bed roll, chewed some tobacco, drank some strong open fire coffee, saddled my steed and moseyed on outa that dustbowl town… (should read: rolled up my state of the art -15 degree sleeping bag, packed my Himalayan tent, puffed on an e-cigarette while drinking my instant cappuccino before a long hot shower…
I did leave pretty early though; Prince Albert was mostly sleeping as I thumped through the neat, clean streets; the streets in a lot of these small towns are 4 lanes wide, not because of traffic, but a throwback from the days when they needed to be wide enough to turn an ox wagon.
As mentioned above, I was heading for Hell; more accurately “Die (The) Hell” as the little settlement deep in the Gamkaskloof valley is known. The valley was settled sometime in the mid 1800s by a few farming families and pretty much stayed isolated until 1962 when a road was finally built into the valley. There was one donkey path and a foot path, but no other access until then. The people here lived a simple farming life, mostly subsistence and a little trading when they could get produce out by donkey. After the road was built, within 30 years all but one of the residents had moved out. The area is now managed by Cape Nature and the original farm houses have been restored and are for rent. There is no mains power so they have simple solar power setups for lights and gas stoves for cooking, bliss!
The road in, starts near the top of the Swartberg Pass and winds its way down for roughly 40KMs between the mountains, following the valley.
I had no reservations or the (apparently) required motorcycle permit but decided to take a chance and hoped that someone might still be around on Sunday. The ride up to the turnoff is a gravel mountain pass blessed with magnificent views and some hairy switch backs… By now I’m pretty comfortable on the dirt with the Enfield and have accepted that she doesn’t handle quite like my KTM (EXC) used to, but the slower pace in these beautiful areas makes up for all that!
That road sucked!
That is not to say I didn’t relish every second of it, but it was bad! After one stop for a drink in the shade after about 10ks, I pulled out my tyre repair kit and spare front tube and packed it close at hand! The front wheel impacts on the rocky/stony sections gave me a couple of heart stoppers where I waited for the inevitable pfffffffft!
Surprisingly, after around two and a half hours, I rolled into “Hell” and it was “as hot as…” Luckily, the little trading store cum restaurant still had the owner hanging around after breakfast (they close at 1200 on Sunday). Within 10 minutes I had in my possession: Keys to my farm house, 4 Karoo Lamb Chops (for dinner), a “roll” of farm sausage (boerewors) for lunch, a large green salad, half a loaf of freshly baked farm bread, 6 beers, 2 chocolates and some sodas… for less than 30 bucks USD!
Because of my early departure and relatively short ride for the day, I could chill and enjoy the tranquility of this remote place; while I had plans to head down to the river for a swim, I ended up hanging around the farm house tinkering with my gear, reading, having a few cold beers and generally just relaxing… More bliss! There’s no cell reception down there either, only one land line at the nature office in case of emergencies.
I collected some firewood in the afternoon and by dusk had a fire blazing, ready to tan up those lamb chops! If you ever find yourself in South Africa, do yourself a favor and get hold of some Karoo lamb; life changing stuff!
Overall, this was an awesome day, in a very special place; I will definitely do this again, maybe for a day or two next time when I can explore the valley a bit more.
Here is a link to short pic video of the route:

Day 3 Outa the hills…

I woke up happy and chilled before the sun; enjoying my coffee out on the stoep (veranda) where I imagined some old oom (uncle) doing the same a hundred or more years ago, only he was getting ready to work his fields and I was making my way south towards the sea…
 In a way I was sad to leave this special place and its somewhat strange but romantic history; the road out is the same way as in so I geared up and hit the stony trail just after 6:30. I took the ride back a bit slower, enjoying the cooler air of the early morning and before I knew it, I was back at the turn off to continue over the Swartberg pass and onto Oudtshoorn.
The Swartberg pass is still gravel but well maintained, even so, I took it easy being careful to prevent the dreaded front wheel wash out on these slippy tyres. I stopped at the viewing point for some photos and sure enough, some crazies on bikes (the man powered kind) were coming up the opposite way; respect to them for that climb!
I stopped off in Oudtshoorn for some fuel and to try find some new flip flops (until now I’d been wearing my black riding boots with board-shorts as “casual wear”, great look!) It was then that I discovered a glaringly obvious design fault in my setup… Until now it was mostly small towns and actually being on or with the bike, but stopping to enter a store or mall, or walk down the street left my bike and all my kit completely exposed and sadly, in the bigger towns, opportunistic theft is rife. So I bailed on the shoe shopping and pushed on down the R62 (again), having ridden this route on a previous trip. I wasn’t sure where I would stay for the night but was enjoying the riding and the stops along this cool stretch. I stopped at Ronnie’s Sex Shop (a bar/restaurant, not a real sex shop) for a break and some refreshing banter. After some excited discussion between the locals at the bar, the rest of my route had been decided by them!
On the above recommendations, I took the Tradouw Pass through the mountains following the river of the same name; this pass is a motorcyclist’s dream, with long cambered corners and stunning scenery! This pass has the kind of curves you find on a ‘50’s pin-up girl; gentle, comfortable and seductive… I found myself rolling on the throttle a couple of times: right up to the point that I touched the stand in a sweeping curve! As I’m sure many will agree, that grinding noise is heart stopping the first time you hear it! It was the curves…
The historic town of Swellendam was in shooting distance of tomorrow’s ride, so, that was it… A couple of cruises up and down the [very quiet] main road, some juice and a quick Google search and I found an old school hotel for a good price (I should’ve camped but wanted an early start the next day, so canned that idea.)
Swellendam produced [a shiny new pair of flip flops]!! Took those babies out for a spin that night! I actually had dinner at the hotel restaurant and chatted to a Dutch couple (who never even commented on my new shoes!)
The bike was relegated to the front of the hotel which faces the street; I had to remove anything valuable and pre-tipped the night watchman to keep an eye; it made me pretty uncomfortable and wouldn’t do it again. I am busy building a set of [lockable] panniers and top box as I type this!

« Last Edit: November 22, 2017, 01:09:24 am by addict1 »
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Reply #2 on: November 22, 2017, 12:12:41 am
Day 4 Finally, the Southern Tip!

On my last trip, my mate, Rick and I had planned to ride to the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas, next stop Antarctica… a long lunch thwarted that idea so we missed it! Today, I scooted out of Swellendam with my compass set to South (actually it was SSW, then South, then a little West).
Cape Agulhas is the [actual] point where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic meet and is the most southern point one can go in Africa (without wet feet or a boat); I’m not sure why, but it just seemed like some place I had to experience…
I was blessed with perfect weather on this trip and as I rolled out of Swellendam it was another crisp, clear morning with the sun barely clipping the eastern horizon. The roads through the Overberg are impeccably maintained and clean (and mostly straight). I found myself stopped in Bredasdorp for a great breakfast and a chat with a local farmer (about the bike mostly, not my new shoes.)
And so it came to pass that on that bright, sunny day, I parked my precious little green bike as far south in Africa as I legally could… (and had a pee even further south amid the rocks…) So many milestones…
Fact: Cape Agulhas is the point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet…
Fact: There isn’t a line where they meet (not that I could see, anyway…)

From here I was heading east again towards the Breede River Valley… A quick stop to top up water and get some ice for my bottle and I was heading towards the (very) small town of Malgas on the Breede (wide) River, where I would board the last man-powered pont in the country to cross over.

The route there is via roughly 100km of dirt roads, used by the extensive farming community in the area; I managed to maintain a fairly good speed of around 70KMH on the dirt as long as I stayed on the hard tracks. Even at that speed, local farmers came barreling past me in pickups and trucks!
The crossing over the Pont was pretty novel; basically the two “ferry men” walk along the boat pulling it along a steel cable across the river. After disembarking the ferry, I stopped for an average lunch at a farm stall type place and headed down to the river mouth town of Witsand.
The river mouth is vast and beautiful (and full of fish and huge bull sharks!)

The Breede River Lodge was my overnight spot, mostly chosen because of the great river front bar and restaurant which does a top drawer pizza!

By this stage the bike was duuuusty so it got a good wipe down and the usual checks; I gave it a bit of an extra going through because of the roads travelled but all seemed ok and my spare oil container remains unopened. I did notice a bit of sweating from one or two spots and a slight oil seep at the sump plug, but nothing to worry about. I have a spare washer for the drain plug which will go in when I service again.
The fine dust seems to creep in everywhere and my saddlebags were saturated with it!

Day 5 Eastward Bound…

Due to the earlier delays on the trip I had to cut it short by 2 days so today kind of marked the passage back to base; in truth, my original plan was to head all the way to the west coast (mostly for the seafood) but turning towards the rising sun I headed east.
Today’s ride was mostly meandering between the main road (N2) and slipping down to the coastal towns for coffee breaks and views. This area is known as the Garden Route and while it is beautiful, most of the traveling is done on the busy national road; uninspired, I spent the night in the city of Mosselbay at a cool little place close to the sea. I did manage to visit the local Bartolomeu Dias Museum which was pretty cool, complete with a replica of the ship he used to sail to Africa. The ship was built in Portugal and sailed down to coincide with the 500 year anniversary of Dias’ landing.

Day 6 Easy Rider… Mosselbay to Plettenberg Bay

For the first time since departing, it rained through the night and I left at around 0730 in the drizzle, following the R102 east, trying to avoid the major toll road. At certain points I had to use the super slab as the older R102 converges with it. I missed the more relaxed pace in the quieter areas I’d been and pushed a bit to cover some miles… I suppose it’s similar to Route 66 and how big sections of that iconic road have been absorbed into the Interstates, gone forever… then I made a big mistake!

When arriving in the town of George, there’s a little turnoff that takes one off the main route onto a road called “THE SEVEN PASSES ROAD”! The Seven Passes Road!!! And in my rush/frustration/stupidity, I whizzed straight through George on to Knysna… The Seven Passes Road! It’s a road that has 7 mountain passes!

After a great lunch and look around for a spot to camp, I lost interest in Knysna and pushed on to Plettenberg Bay, then past Plett to Keurbooms Strand to a resort holding a pretty large Harley gathering… I strode casually in (casual, because I was the only not wearing leather and I was dusty and had road grime on my face) and asked for a room for the night, it went something like this:
Me: “Hi I need a room for the night, please”.
Reception: “Good afternoon sir, under which name is your booking?”
Me: “Davidson, H, Mr.”
Reception: “…………”
Me: “Unfortunately I have no booking, ma’am…”
Reception: “One moment please, sir…”
Reception: “Mmmmmm.” * Confers with colleague…*
Reception: “Are you with the HD group?”
Me: “Never! I can’t afford all the attention”
Reception: “Oooh, wait, I have an early checkout! Just one night?”
Me: “Yup…”
Reception: “I can do a special rate for you because the resort is fully booked out by the group, so no breakfast and no dinner [with HD group], is that ok?”
Me: “Where do I sign?”

Dinner was at an awesome restaurant overlooking the beach; the veal ravioli and tiramisu were world class! Oh, the beers were cold and kept coming too!

Day 7 Homeward Bound…

I hate this part of the trip! The last day is always a downer for me and I can never really get into the ride; today was no different… It felt like Sunday night after a fun weekend. Try as I might I kept having to come back to the main coastal highway, this part of the route covers  a relatively thin strip of land between the mountains to the left and the sea to the right so there aren’t many options for alternates unless you cross the mountains and travel inland a ways. I did make an interesting stop at farm stall type place; actually it was a largish complex selling plants and pots, had an old tractor museum and the world record for the largest ever knitted jersey (sweater).
The wind was pumping; somewhere around 40 knots I’m told. I still enjoyed the day’s riding taking it easy and stopping where I could; shortly after lunch, I turned the key and the little green bike that could, sat silently ticking and cooling…

Just a note or two…

Once again, the Enfield thumped through the week without so much as a cough; starting when I pushed the button, stopping when I squeezed the levers and rumbling on when I rolled the right wrist. It may not be “That guy in Africa” stuff and I don’t have any pics of Everest, but it’s so cool to jump on this bike and spend the day truly just cruising seeing stuff and being out there.
Every ride I do, I’m more convinced that these bikes are great for touring; maybe not covering hundreds of high speed miles a day but seeing the world at around 80km/h suits me just fine!
I’m not too sure about the next trip, but I think I may have my fly rod strapped to my pack…

I installed the mini fly screen (AKA: Wildbill Flyscreen) before this trip; firstly it’s super easy to fit and maybe it’s just the placebo effect but it does seem to work. It seems to ease the fatigue of a long day on the bike, removing some of the wind pressure off the chest. Worst case, it’s the most expensive GPS mount I’ve even bought!

 Like I mentioned before, I am busy building a set of hard bags at the moment, I’ve decided to go with Carbon Fibre (got a close out deal on a 10m roll). I’m just about ready to cast the mold from the plug. These will be lockable and probably end up with a top box too; I think this will go a long way to allowing me to leave the bike and do more stuff off the bike on these trips.
I used a Garmin Nuvi GPS which worked well enough but is not really designed for mounting on a bike; the GPS was super useful for finding accommodation, fuel, stores and calculating distances which in the end just saves a bit time and keeps me informed. My route decisions were all still map based but the GPS is useful; it has been hard wired to a relay connected to the fuel pump wiring, turning on only when the ignition is on. I might splash on one of Garmin’s motorcycle specific units and not worry about the rain, mounting and things like that.

I’m looking into some new tyres too; maybe something 70/30 to ease the stress of the dirt roads but still have good road traction. I haven’t found anything available in South Africa yet, but I’m pretty sure more serious enquiries will yield some results…
« Last Edit: November 22, 2017, 01:50:42 am by addict1 »
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Reply #3 on: November 22, 2017, 12:23:57 am
A few more various pics from the week; I hope my description above places the photos....
« Last Edit: November 22, 2017, 01:55:28 am by addict1 »
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Reply #4 on: November 22, 2017, 12:28:10 am
Aaaand, because y'all like pics... some more...
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Reply #5 on: November 22, 2017, 12:31:36 am
While I'm at it....
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Reply #6 on: November 22, 2017, 12:46:24 am
Aaand the last of the lot... the last one is home safely!
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Reply #7 on: November 22, 2017, 08:15:14 am
That is a great story, Addict1.  Thanks for taking the time and effort to write about your trip and to share it and your photos with us.  :)
2011 Royal Enfield B5 500, 2018 16.6 kWh Zero S, 2016 BMW R1200RS, 2009 BMW F650GS, 2005 Triumph Bonneville T-100, 2002 Yamaha FZ1


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Reply #8 on: November 22, 2017, 09:20:08 am
Great write-up, and big thanks for the pics. A tribute to you and the RE.
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Reply #9 on: November 22, 2017, 06:25:16 pm
Great stuff!  Thanks for taking the time and effort to post it here!


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Reply #10 on: March 07, 2018, 09:06:40 am
beautiful ride
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