Friday, February 20, 2009

Day 1


This morning excitement was off the charts. I get that way before a trip The bike was packed and ready, sporting a brand new TKC rear tyre.

My riding companion arrived from Gauteng equally excited. He is a veteran biker, but relatively new to the Dual Sport scene. He rides a BMW 1150 GSA and has clocked up 80 000km (including a trip well into Africa) in the last two years. This would be his first time riding the "real Southern Cape".

This guy has ridden to some places I still dream of, so it was a tall order to give him a trip that would not disappoint. On the menu today: Montagu Pass, Paarde Poort, the Oude Muragie Road, Schoeman's poort Pass, Swartberg Pass and the road into "The Hell" (Gamkaskloof Pass).

Introducing "Bike vettie"

How, between the two of us, he's the one that got stuck with that nick-name only he would know.

Back to where we were - Montagu Pass. What a Pass to start a ride with! This Pass is one of my favourites and I guess it's easy to see why.

Barely 8km into the trip we've taken a heap of photos. The scenery here laid the foundation of a truly Epic Southern Cape ride.

Montagu Pass

Construction of the magnificent Montagu Pass commenced in 1844. The pass is 10km in length, of which about 9km is said to be "blasted out of solid rock" using gunpowder (Dynamite - which is safer and with 8 times the disruptive power - was only discovered in 1867). The steepest section has a gradient of 1 in 6 and is known as "Regop Trek".

The Pass was officially opened on 19 January 1848.

Montagu Pass was the first Pass built under the new system of convict labour necessitated by the emancipation of the slaves in 1838. It was declared a National Monument in 1972, and is today the oldest unaltered Pass in South Africa.

*The Romance of Cape Mountain Passes - Graham Ross

Barely over the Pass and you descend into the Klein Karoo. Instantly the climate, plant life, smells and scenery changes. I love how in one ride you can have such a variety of scenery.

Just past the hamlet of Herold and into Paarde Poort.

We were cruising along without a care in the world. This trip was about scenery. Taking it easy, stopping a lot, sharing the ride. I've always liked helping people, showing them places and sharing experiences. I find joy in seeing people really enjoying themselves. Bike Vettie was really enjoying himself, drinking in as much of the scenery as possible. We rode past the Kammanassie dam and all the way to Dysselsdorp.

Dysselsdorp started in 1838 as a mission station. In 1877 John X Merriman (who later became prime minister of the Cape Colony) gave the land to the 148 coloured families that lived there. Dysselsdorp's most interesting feature is a Roman Catholic Chapel at the top of a Hill. The road to the Chapel "zig-zag's" up the hill and represents the different "stations" next to the "Via Dolorosa" en route to Golgotha (Calvary).

We continued on the Oude Muragie Road, through Schoemanspoort Pass and on to the Swartberg Pass.

We had nice weather and very little traffic. This was a week day and most people were probably at work Poor sod's.

Swartberg Pass

Thomas Bain suggested the construction of the Swartberg Pass as a possible solution to the flooding of Meirings- and Seweweeks Poorte. Bain found 4 possible lines with a maximum gradient of 1 in 8 (as opposed to the 1 in 6 of Montagu pass).

This was the last of many passes built or supervised by Thomas Bain in the Cape. On 10 February 1988 a memorial plaque was unveiled near the summit to mark the 100th anniversary of the opening of Swartberg Pass. It was declared a National Monument later the same year.

Source: *The Romance of Cape Mountain Passes - Graham Ross

At the top of the Pass looking into the Great Karoo:

Bike Vettie approaching:

Shortly after we reached the road to Hell.

Apart from the great scenery the fun also started. Some loose rocks and my favourite - water crossings!

Gamkaskloof Pass: Check out the GSA passing below me. He did well for a person with a phobia of heights.

For those who have not been to Gamkaskloof before a broad description:

The fertile valley runs in an east-west direction and is approximately 20 km long and 600 metres wide. The Kloof can be divided into 4 pieces: The first, as you enter the Kloof, belongs to Cape Nature. The 2nd (Fonteinplaas), privately owned by Annetjie Joubert, offers visitors overnight facilities in two historic farmhouses as well as on shaded campsites (you can read more about the Fonteinplaas here). Fonteinplaas has the Kiosk and restaurant.

If you continue along the Kloof you enter the 3rd "farm" or piece of land also owned by Cape Nature. There are quite a few beautifully restored houses available as accommodation here also. As you follow the road to the end of the Cape nature land you come to the locked gate of the fourth Private farm, "Bo Plaas". Visitors to Cape Nature or Fonteinplaas can only explore the Kloof up to here.

Today though, we will travel onto this private farm to the house we'd call home for the night - "Oom Hannes se Huis". I was especially excited about this as I have never, in all my previous visits, been that far into the kloof. What an experience awaited us! We continued through the kloof over rocks and sand and passed a "Road closed" sign. That can't be right... We sleep on the other side...

This was the reason - they were working on the causeway.

A "step" off the concrete, into thick mud with a "step-up" on the other side - twice - with the second being the worst. There is no other option...

[Que "Die Dapper Muis" music]

"Daar is niks waarvoor ons skrik nie!"


No problem! TKC's make us invincible!

Soon we were at the house we'd call home for the night. Look at this!

Green grass. Well maintained. This is heaven!

I have stayed in various houses in Gamkaskloof and without a doubt I can say that this is the best. This is not just a house. It's got a lawn and a garden and there are still some farming activity going on. Here I really felt what it must have been like to live in the Kloof when people still worked here. From here you've also got access to the rest of the kloof including "The Ladder" - the entry into the kloof before the pass was built.

For more info on Bo Plaas see their website here.

That night we had a nice braai under the pepper tree and the vast Karoo skies. What a start to our trip. Bike vettie remarked that I should have left the best for last. Little did he know...

Continue to Day 2.

Index Page.


No comments: