Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Epic Ride - Easter 2007

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In April 2007 we organized a trip with the Wild Dog forum to show friends and visitors from Australia our lovely part of South Africa. We would ride through all the historic routes and passes the Southern Cape has to offer.

4 days before the trip my Honda 200cc trail bike started to smoke a little. The local Honda dealership fetched the bike and promised to replace the oil rings under warranty. Great backup, but a bit of a worry to have bike trouble so close to the date of departure.

Day 0 – Madness! Preparing for the big ride…

The day before the big day started with an early morning in Cango Mountain Resort. We cut our yearly vacation at the KKNK (South African Music & Culture Festival) short to be able to organize and go on this ride.

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Everything was packed and we headed to George (small city in the Southern Cape) to finalize the last details. I drove straight to Honda to make sure that my 200cc would be ready. I also asked them to quickly service Mrs. Trailrider’s 125 before the trip (short notice I know).

By lunchtime it was clear that my bike would not be ready. Honda offered me a new 650cc TransAlp to use on the trip and of course I gladly accepted. I got really nervous when I straddled the bike and realized how heavy it was. Mrs. Trailrider (a novice rider) was just as nervous and not sure that she’d be ready and able to do this trip yet. On top of this rain was forecast for the next day, so after some negotiation it was agreed that she would do the trip as a pillion on the TransAlp.

That evening Spook (backup) arrived and offered to carry most of our luggage on the support vehicle as I already had to deal with a much heavier bike plus a pillion. Nerves were starting to set in…

Day 1 – Ready or not – here we come!

After a night of rolling around we woke to a wet George with a mixture of butterflies and expectation. Spook left and returned with Herbie (aka McGyver) and the 4x4. It was immediately evident that there were way to much stuff to load onto the 4x4 since McGyver, erm, Herbie, had brought everything he owned INCLUDING the kitchen sink!

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After packing and repacking eventually we got underway. Most of the Wild Dogs were already at the point of departure.

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After meeting, greeting and organizing we left at about 11 o’clock – heading to Montagu Pass. This was a start straight out of hell. Within the first 2 kilometers we encountered stretches of road covered in very slippery mud (snot!). The TransAlp was not fitted with knobblies and immediately I knew I was out of my depth. The bike was way too heavy and had very little traction. In the first 2km we almost went down 3 times - VERY close calls. It felt like my trip would be over before it started.

When the road started to climb the road surface changed from snotty mud to wet gravel. This was better traction wise and we made sure everybody was there. No off’s on the first section. Phew!

The scenery was beautiful, although most were still rattled by the slippery start (little did they know what the next day held in store).

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SCP and the Mrs. on the KLE400.

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Geoff (with a front screen)

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At the top we stopped at Amanda’s grave (tourist attraction). We were wet and 8km into the trip - road conditions were the main point of discussion.

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From here we traveled through the little “town” Herold, through Paardepoort and along the Kamanassie mountain range and river towards Uniondale.

Powerflow Justin, Geoff and Newguy coming around the bend.

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Powerflow Justin showing off the latest BMW top box

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Geoff making good time.

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I was very uncomfortable on the TransAlp. It was too heavy with very little traction on the front wheel. We hit a patch of sand on the road and lost the front wheel immediately. How I recovered the bike without having an off I really don’t know. I did not feel confident and of course that also affects your riding style. These were tense times and Mrs. Trailrider and I were very religious, praying constantly at this stage. I really missed my light trail bike.

SCP had no trouble handling the KLE400 with pillion and luggage:

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Paramed

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Gravelmad and McDuff - XT's running together

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We even picked up a dice with this fellow

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(photo taken by scooter)

Having refreshments next to the road.

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Paramed

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McDuff

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Spook – a sign of things to come… (Don’t worry – he rode in the cage)

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In Uniondale we met Wit Olifant (Gys) on his 1150GS bringing the total number of bikes at this stage to 11.

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From there it’s the final push to Baviaans.

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Arriving at the campsite we found that Stephen and Red had already arrived and pitched their tent. Introductions all round and the pitching of tents started in all earnest.

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Not much later the 2nd 4x4 with a Loncin 200GY that had a mishap on its way to George arrived.

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With everybody cold and wet we decided that Stephen would make his hearty spicy potjie on the first, rather than the second night.

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(photo taken by McDuff)

As it turned out, Stephen was not only an excellent chef, but a McGyver too. Between him and Herbie there were just nothing we could not do.

The Wild Dogs were kitted out too. Our American guest "Scooter" decided to fit his new tyre.

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(photo taken by McDuff)

The crowd was still getting to know one another and Spook made sure that everybody sampled some of his various shooters.

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(photo taken by McDuff)

From personal experience I can tell you this: When Spook approaches with yet another Stroh rum – Just say NO! After lots and lots of laughter Day 1 drew to a close with 14 bikes and two 4x4’s in the camp. This day was a precursor of great things to come…

Day 2 – Baviaans, come hell or high water…


On Saturday we woke to a misty and still wet Baviaans.

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As they got ready, group after group left to go explore the wet and muddy Baviaans Kloof until only a few of us were left. Eventually Stephen, Red, Wit Olifant and I left with the 4x4 (with Mrs. Trailrider & camera as passenger) following.

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I found riding the TransAlp without luggage and a pillion a lot easier, but still a lot heavier than I was used to. Wit Olifant (on an 1150 GS) gave me some tips on riding such a heavy beast and I almost immediately felt the difference. The going was slow on the wet and muddy road and at one stage Red even came screaming past me on a downhill (with eyes as big as saucers). A couple of km’s further I was leading with Wit Olifant just behind me. A km after that and it was just me. I stopped and waited for about 10 minutes and realized they must have had an off. When I rode back I found the 4x4 and Wit Olifant next to the road. He had had enough.

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This is not the type of terrain for heavy bikes (where’s my 200 with knobblies). Stephen and Red had already turned around a couple of km’s before that. Not wanting to continue alone I decided to return with him to the pub 3km’s from the campsite. It was a cold and rainy day to be enjoyed next to a fireplace with a bottle of Red wine and good rugby. Not long after McDuff also joined us and we had a great day.

Meanwhile Mrs. Trailrider was still in the 4x4 with the camera. She got some stunning pics:

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The other Wild Dogs meantime tried to push through. Here are some of their pics:

Some pics taken by Powerflow Justin:
(posted with permission)

Mike (Still with the group)

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Justin and his Dakar

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Scooter’s KLR

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The infamous mud monster

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Paramed & Newguy

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Newguy fighting it

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Another of Justin taken by Scooter:

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Meanwhile, nice and cozy back at the pub, we decided to go fire up the donkey (to make hot water for the showers) and make some soup for the returning Wild Dogs. At this time Wit Olifant decided that his house and wife (just around the corner in the Eastern Cape) seemed a much better option than a cold tent and he packed and said his goodbyes.

Just before 5 pm some of us left for the pub again to watch the Stormers whip the Lions asses in a Super 14 Derby Rugby match.

Upon returning to the camp in joyful mood we learned that Mike has not returned from the ride. After waiting for a while a search party set out in the 4x4 to find him – no luck. The mood in the camp was very gloomy. When it got dark both 4x4’s set out again with torches etc and drove 88km in the mud and dark only to return empty handed. By now even the police was involved in the search and everybody realized that we had a serious problem.

We decided that the people that spend the day in the pub would go out again and search the dangerous spots by foot. The others would go to sleep to start searching again by bike at first light. We leave no man behind.

Just as we prepared to leave we heard a bike in the distance. It was Mike! He took the only wrong turn in the Baviaans and ended up doing a helluva detour (500km +) to only get back to camp after midnight. At least he was safe. We crashed to get a couple of hours sleep. Everybody was relieved to end a difficult day. On day 3 Eden on earth awaited.

Day 3 – Wow! Heaven on Earth.


With daybreak on Day 3 a bunch of tired and sore Wild Dogs got up to break up camp. The clouds lifted and a glorious day waited.

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The action of the previous day was evident on more than one bike.

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We headed out to Uniondale for a fuel stop. Check out the damage to the back of Geoff’s bike.

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I felt a lot more confident riding the big bike with pillion utilizing the tips Wit Olifant gave me. I even experimented with the different reactions of the bike when we hit sand. The sun was out and I really started enjoying our epic trip. After all – I was not the only one that had to contend with a lot of weight.

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By the time we reached Uniondale Newguy’s bike was spurting oil everywhere. Unfortunately it had to join the Loncin on the back of the truck. Newguy rode in the 4x4 with Herbie and Spook (the shooter barman from hell). By the end of the day they had made a serious dent in the beer stock I’m sure.

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From Uniondale we headed to Avontuur where Geoff decided to break off and head for PE. The rest of the pack turned right to Prince Alfreds Pass. After experiencing the beauty of the Klein Karoo and Baviaans the beautiful Garden Route awaited.

McDuff really enjoyed the scenery and twisty’s.

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We took it slowly and had lots of photo stops.

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Stephen going through a lot of trouble to get the perfect shot

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I’m liking her more and more…

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Bikes and Babes – a must for every trip!

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In De Vlugt Red decided to show us what happened to their Land Rover – with the GS!

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Riding through the forest is the best!

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SCP and the Mrs.

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Red & Stephen

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McDuff, Red and Stephen on “Kom se pad”

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Eventually the gang arrived at Crab’s Creek for some refreshment

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Spook – beer in hand…

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We were running behind schedule and decided to do Phantom pass only and head for Ebb & Flow. The 7 passes will have to wait for day 4.

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As per usual, when you run late something happens. A few km’s into the pass McDuff had a blowout on his front wheel.

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(Picture taken by McDuff)

In Ebb & Flow they got the reservation mixed up, but eventually we got settled. Justin on his way to the showers (through a fully booked camp)

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Gravelmad (“Step away from the Yamaha!”) waiting like a Venus Fly trap for a victim to step into his “Family tent”.

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Promises promises. Methinks he’s holding out for KiLRoy…

After a lovely seafood potjie (Thanks Stephen and Bojangles!) we logged on to the Wild Dog forum to catch up on what the other guys were up to…

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…and then most turned in early. It was a long day’s ride after a very late night the previous day.

The scenery on Day 3 turned out to be breathtaking. It seems incredible that Day 4 could match and even surpass it!

Day 4 – Off to Attakwaskloof.


On the morning of Day 4 we woke refreshed. Scooter’s bike was badly in need of running repairs.

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Unfortunately some of the group had to head back home and goodbyes were said to Paramed, Mike & company, Powerflow Justin, Newguy, Mrs Trailrider & BoJangles. In their place we were joined by Captain Slow. Spook & Herbie headed off ahead to do the passes and then replenish supplies and a posse of bikes headed back to the start of the 7 passes road which we missed on the day before.

It’s a lovely ride with intermittent tarred sections:

Stephen & Red

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SCP

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Some pics from the Saasveld road:

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At Zanzibar (where the trip started) we met up again with the 4x4. Unfortunately, as we were about to leave, Stephens foot slipped and the heavy GS fell over.

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Always unfortunate when that happens.

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Shortly after Captain Slow decided to follow suit.

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(Picture taken by McDuff)

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Unlike Day 1 it was a beautiful day and we headed to Montagu Pas (which Stephen, Red & Captain Slow missed on Day 1) for some photo ops.

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(Photo taken by Gravelmad)

And then we meandered via various dirt roads to Bonniedale Adventure Farm in Attakwaskloof. Scooter could see some African Wildlife on the way there:

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A few km’s before our destination Red hit a nasty stone and went down

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(Picture taken by McDuff – TR approaching in the background)

Luckily there weren’t to much damage

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Then we arrived at our Campsite at Bonniedale Farm. There was consensus that this was by far the best venue yet. By now the group knew each other well and we weren’t as tired as the previous two nights. A hell of a party waited!

We had a nice lapa with hammocks and tables all to our selves!

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Spook and his darned shooters

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I was not going to fall victim to him again. Day 1 was one “Stroh” to many… I did have one or ten Jagermeister’s though. SCP decided to take over the Braai (BBQ) duties. Apparently he did all right too, but by the time the Ostrich steaks got to him he was more “cooked” than the meat I think…

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(Photo by Captain Slow)

You could throw those through a car’s front windscreen! Not even the dog wanted them. Thanks SCP

As Spook got the guys oiled things got funnier and funnier. Some-one (I won’t name names) almost wet his pants laughing! The party carried on till the wee hours.

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One by one they sneaked off to bed, most opting to just sleep in the hammocks.

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Red turning in:

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Notice the Wild Dogs blanket

Eventually everybody fell asleep under the most amazing sky full of stars. What a sight. What a day. What a privilege.

Day 5 – Attakwaskloof and beyond!

The next morning some woke earlier than others…

McDuff’s campsite:

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Gavelmad

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Captain Slow

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There was camaraderie in the camp this morning. We met on Day 1 as Wild Dogs, we woke this morning as brothers in arms…

…and at last we headed out to Attkwas Kloof!

Red:

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Captain Slow, SCP, McDuff

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This area is remote, steeped in history, breathtaking - and full of marbles… a Third into the kloof Red was NOT happy. I did coax a smile from her though.

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Beautiful area:

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While we were sweating it over the terrain Scooter and Gravelmad came flying by. Some guys handle what-ever terrain they encounter on the fly…

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Red & Stephen

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SCP

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Check out the bikes on the road

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Like I said – beautiful country. Even the bike from the “Family tent” was happy.

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After the Kloof SCP & pillion and Gravelmad said their goodbyes and only 6 bikes and a 4x4 was left. The first rest stop was Van Wyks Dorp.

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Right when we were about to leave we realized that Captian Slow had a puncture. Our American resident expert (the Oil spy) helped us out…

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…and then Rooiberg pass had to be conquered.

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We were running seriously late and only reached Calitzdorp after lunch. Red was stiff from the fall and we still had to get to Oudtshoorn, do Swartberg Pass and Gamkaskloof. Stephen and Red opted out and decided to stay in Outdshoorn since they still had to do 800km to Ficksburg then next day. We were all tired and hot so I phoned Mrs. Trailrider and she organized a spot for all of us in Kleinplasie Oudtshoorn. We would head for the Hell on the next day. It was a welcome sight – as it turns out a busload of Swiss girls would spend the night there also…

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Scooter was already contemplating his next move…

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Later the evening he went to invite some of them over. One of us had a great idea of how to help him win them over.

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Serve them shooters!

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Scooter also learned his 2nd Afrikaans phrase – “Ek gaan patat vat!”

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Another good day, another hilarious night. The “brothers” would go to Hell for each other – the next day that is…

Day 6 – Oh Hell!


This morning Stephen & Red wanted to leave early, but even earlier than that we were woken by a strange type of “hissing” noise? It sounded really close and then a huge balloon started to rise.

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Geez - we’ve had a myriad of sights, scenes and experiences on this trip.

All packed and Stephen & Red left early for Ficksburg. Spook and Herbie in the 4x4 also had to head home and only 4 bikes would be left for the trip to “The Hell” – Trailrider, Scooter, McDuff and Captain Slow.

I enjoyed the tarred section through Schoeman’s Poort on the TransAlp. Lot’s of twisties and the road characteristics of the bike really came to the fore through here. The throttle response is great and the twin sounds sooooo schweeeeet. Riding the bike through there was like riding a rabbit! Fast and responsive.

Then on to the Pass. The Swartberg (Swart means Black) Mountains – they weren’t kidding!

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It was fine when I rode through here a week before. This Hotel must have had the hottest party in town!

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Notice the sign on the next photo. It’s the road back down to Oudtshoorn. Imagine what that road would be like in an all out rain storm… More about that later…

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Captain Slow said this was the best p*ss in the world.

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The TransAlp and rider were running much smoother by now. I must admit that I was not carrying any luggage or pillion but even through Attakwas Kloof the previous day I was riding with confidence and had no near offs. I was feeling at home on the bike and could enjoy the scenery.

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Over the pass on to Gamkaskloof.

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An American on the road to Hell – go figure.

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The road to Hell was smoldering…

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You see strange things in Hell – this tree was burning on the inside (Scooter and Captain Slow in picture).

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We decided to have some fun with it:

McDuff remembering the morning after that spicy potjie we had in Baviaans:

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Scooter wishing he was a fireman…

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Anyone have a light?

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Hell bound:

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The last couple of km’s before the pass down into the Hell McDuff & I decided to crank up the bikes a bit. There are some twisties and straights on this piece of road. In the twisties I just could not shake McDuff on his knobbly shod scrambler, but on the straights the twin would purr its sweet sounds and I got up to 110km/h on some pieces of that technical road. I have at last started to master this heavy beast (I usually feel that way just before I fall).

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And lo and behold – we were on the edge looking down into Hell.

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Scooter started to make his way down first. Here he is passing just below us:

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Then McDuff and I followed. McDuff is the spot on the road in the turn on the right:

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Captain Slow followed slowly and we had lunch in the Hell.

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Scooter liked it so much he decided to stay for a night or so. We were losing time so we said our goodbyes and 3 bikes headed out back to Oudtshoorn. What we did not know was that a cold front had moved into the Southern Cape and Klein Karoo and it was raining cat & dogs. We were fine going out of Gamkaskloof, but by the time we reached the top of the Swartberg pass visibility was no more than 10 meters.

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4 hours earlier:

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Now:

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Down the pass on the Oudshoorn side it was raining hard. It was slippery and I had a heavy bike without knobblies. There was close to zero visibility in places and on top of that my goggles was misting up. I did not want do drop the bike at this late stage of the trip. I took it slowly happy about the fact that McDuff was behind me in case something went wrong.

When we hit the tar I was glad that the bike really felt planted. A bike that slips in every turn is not good for the nerves. I was contemplating staying over in Oudtshoorn as conditions were bad and Outeniqua Pass is usually quite busy. When we reached Oudshoorn we stopped and McDuff decided that he’s definitely staying over. Captain Slow headed to his parent’s place and I decided to push through to George since the clouds lifted just a little. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of a hot Jacuzzi bath and a nice bottle of red wine.

The reprieve from the rain did not last long. Soon it started bucketing down. By now I was well and truly soaked. Going over Outeniqua pass there were LOTS of traffic and very little visibility. On top of that the sun was going down. This was not a good situation to be in. I was really worried that if I went to slowly a car would slam into me. At the same time speed was definitely not the answer. The trip ended like it started – with a lot of praying.

6 days and 1300km after a big Wild Dog posse left, a lone bike with a very cold and wet rider rolled into George.

What an experience. Priceless!


Conclusion

After months of planning and days of riding it was finished.

We had offs, electrical problems, engine problems, bikes falling over and flat tyres. Of the 15 motorcycles that participated only two walked away unscathed – Malcolm’s XT660 and “my” TransAlp 650 - but in the words of a kitless paramedic: “It’s all Good”.

I want to thank the guys in the 4x4’s for all the help. In retrospect I don’t know what we would have done without you. I especially want to thank Scooter and McDuff who did the entire trip with me from start to finish. Top guys, the both of you.

Thanks to all who contributed and attended. You guys made this trip a success. BoJangles, Stephen, Red, Mcduff, Captain Slow, Geoff, Mrs. Trailrider, Paramed, Herbie, Wit Olifant, Spook, Newguy, Mr. & Mrs. Snap Crackle Pop, Gravelmad, Powerflow Justin, Mike & Company, Scooter and in absentia: Jaqama, Lin & Bobnob.

This one is on you!

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CHEERS!!!





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3 comments:

Hein said...

Goeie tye.

Ek mis baie my KLR.

Nice pic hoor!!

Cheers

Captain Slow

Anonymous said...

You have missed the most important.

Trailrider said...

And what is that? :-)