Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 5


313 km starting at 7h12 and stopping at 17h44; from the indiginous forest behind George to Warmwaterberg in the Klein Karoo.

Here is Asterix coming up the steep loose slope next morning. He rode out with no trouble whereas LGF & Operator had much more difficulty the previous evening. It is all to do with how low first gear is and how well your feet reach the ground.

Here is EtienneNXR riding my TW up the difficult slope. I had wanted to ask Etienne if he would like to try my bike but then he would probably not want to take it on a difficult bit. Then I realised that if I asked him to get my bike up here for me he would have to ride it in exactly the place where its low first gear and very low saddle height would let him appreciate the advantages of the TW in these conditions. ENXR gladly agreed to ride it out for me. I carried the luggage up after breakfast as I really wanted him to feel what the TW really feels like and extra weight disguises that. He dropped the bike soon after the start but I stayed where I was photographing him & he picked the little TW up by himself and re-started and rode it out. Afterwards he said that the wide front tyre really made the bike float over the top compared to his bike where the tyre sinks in between the stones. Etienne, I was manipulating you here; I was quite happy to ride it out myself but I wanted to promote the good attributes of the TW where they come into play. It is much easier to ride this type of slope on a TW than a KTM DS bike I would think. You now have a reference to come to your own conclusions when the opportunity arises. KTMs are fantastic for lots of places but there are different places where completely different bikes are better. That’s what I would like you to appreciate. I have a Dakar but got a TW after TR showed me the advantages of a small bike.

This photo of Asterix shows two things. He had a big backpack for the ride and notice the ferns alongside the road here. I am fairly sure those are not indigenous ferns.

Here is a panorama of the area. Notice the light green all over the slope on the other side of the valley; that is the exotic ferns and they seem to be spreading and displacing the indigenous plants. Nice place but it may be threatened by these invasive plants (if I am correct about them).

View from the trail out towards Mossel Bay. Notice the plantation in the foreground and the indigenous forest beyond that.

We went back to George where TR changed to his TransAlp and led us on back roads towards Attakwaskloof.

Further along the lovely route TR took us down.

TR left us when we were at Diesel & Dust which is close to the entrance to Attakwaskllof. We went through Bonnidale again & I took some more photos of the epic route we rode two days previously. Here we are quite a bit past Bonnidale.

This is the view when you are about to exit Attakwaskloof.

Now we are out of Attakwaskloof. This is the R327, Cloetes pass is part of this road and is how Rooipoot & I got to Attakwas, now we went on from where we had left it three days before.

We soon said goodbye to EtiennaNXR who went to Ladismith. We continued to ride alongside the Langeberg & cross it at every opportunity.

The next pass after Cloete’s is Garcia’s but we chose the one after that which is the little used gravel Gysmanshoek which I very much like. You can hardly see it in the panoramic picture but it goes through this gentle valley. A very easy road to build which made me wonder why about 120 years after this opened they chose to build the Tradouw pass instead of upgrading this. The Tradouw is a really difficult route in comparison. Reading in ‘The Romance of Cape Mountain Passes’ Graham Ross has the following to say:

The pass, situated roughly halfway between Swellendam and Heidelberg, following the deep valley of the Buffeljags River across the Langeberg from Suurbraak to Barrydale as the R324. When the inhabitants of Swellendam wished to get to the Little Karoo on the other side of the Langeberg, or vice versa, they had to travel either via Cogmans Kloof 50 kilometres to the west, or via Plattekloof Pass [Gysmanshoek], 30 kilometres to the east. This of course also applied to Little Karoo farmers who wished to transport their produce to Port Beaufort on the Breede River, which Joseph Barry had opened to shipping in 1841. So we find that in 1858 the folk of Swellendam and district peti¬tioned parliament to have a road pushed through the Tradouw Kloof (`the poort of the women' from taros, a woman, and daos, a poort), to connect the two communities more closely. They must have had some pull (and of course the Barry family was a power in the land at that time) or per¬haps they were just persistent, because in 1867 parliament resolved to construct a pass, using convict labour. The Divisional Council was to erect the necessary buildings, and contribute £1,000 cash.'

Thomas Bain surveyed and built the road which opened in 1873 (Bain was transferred to another job before the completion). So the locals were able to influence things in those days to their advantage; nothing really changes. But it was 30km closer to Swellendam and Barrydale which was a big advantage in the days of animal drawn vehicles.

In Gysmanshoek we saw this tree. I have tried to identify it & get the #140 Cunonia capensis = Rooiels but the flowering season should be March to May and the leaves are a bit long. Very few bees or other insects on it which surprised me.

EDIT: It is a wild almond Brabejum stellatifolium. Jan van Riebeeck planted a hedge of these right around the settlement in the Cape in 1660 hoping it would grow so thick that it would not be possible for the khoisan to drive stolen cattle or sheep through it. Part of the hedge is still alive & is a declared National Monument; growing in Kirstenbosch & on Wynberg Hill. The fruit contains arsenic but porcupines are able to eat them without problems.

We then were on the sea side of the Langeberg and rode up this road to the Tradouw pass. I had ridden this road and Gysmanshoek both ways with my son Anton some months ago. It was somewhat sad for me to be here again – it had been the same at the beginning of the trip because we had crossed the pont at Malgas and then come through this same area the next day.

I was interested that the Tradouw pass road is built on gabions. The pass was reconstructed in 1979 and some family member of Rooipoot was involved.

This is the river gorge at Tradouw’s pass, you can see the big cut in the side of the valley in the distance. Much harder terrain than Gysmanshoek.

After a beer and lunch at the Country Pumpkin in Barrydale we went to the resort at Warmwaterberg. This is the little wendy house we stayed in. Rooipoot had phoned after we ended Attakwaskloof and booked us in. After a very nice supper of bobotie and a long soak in the hot water pool we went to bed. I found that hot water soak to be extremely relaxing and will definitely stay again if I am nearby.

Continue to Day 6


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