Friday, March 27, 2009

My first foray into the Cederberg


For a while now I've been wanting to go ride in the Cederberg, so when I saw that a Dual Sport Biking Festival was being planned in Clanwilliam I knew that this was my chance.

Doing some research about the area I soon realized that trying to see the Cederberg in one weekend would be impossible. There is just so much to see! The best I could do was find routes there and back that included as many passes as possible. The rest would have to wait for a proper visit to the Cederberg area.

The Cederberg has a myriad of passes to choose from. By choosing the right route I could make some serious progress in my quest to ride all the passes in South Africa. Not having been to the Cederberg before meant that on the map each road was just a line and the distance just an indication of the time needed to travel it. One would think that an experienced traveller would know better than that...

So the routes decided on were almost 600km on the ride there (purple) and well over 600km for the ride back (green route). On the way there I would ride Seweweekspoort, Anysberg Nature Reserve, the Ceres Karoo and several passes to the Cederberg Oasis where I would meet up with other Wild Dogs (Operator, Surf and Pullaway) and ride some more passes to the campsite in Clanwilliam. An ambitious plan indeed.

(Clickable map)

As for the return route, that plan was quickly shot down. All reports indicated that that route would take two days minimum and it was not advisable to ride that route alone. Be that as it may, early on the Friday morning of 27 March I was packed and ready. I had quite some distance to cover to get to the Rendezvous point of Cederberg Oasis by 2 o'clock.

I hit the road at 7:30am.

I took the tar to Oudtshoorn, Calitzdorp and the turn-off to Seweweekspoort and was making good time.

Huisrivier Pass:

Hitting the first dirt at the turn-off to Seweweekspoort. This is where the real ride starts. The last pic of a shiny bike on this trip.

Seweweekspoort Pass is just majestic. No matter how many times you travel through here, I don't think you'd ever get blasé about it.

I met another TransAlp rider from the North West province. Always good to meet a fellow adventure rider. Nice bike!

Riding through the Karoo with the wind in my face I felt the freedom that is the very reason most adventure riders ride the bikes and routes they do. This is bliss. I've always wanted to do a long solo ride and this was it. Just me, my bike and the unknown that lay ahead.

Soon I came to the turnoff of the road I had to follow. It had a gate and seemed like track running over a farm. I was sure I'm at the right spot so I went through the gate and followed the road. Soon I came to another gate and eventually to the Anysberg reserve. I was on the right track after all.

The area is beautiful but it was clear that this section of my route was going to take a little longer than anticipated...

Flood damage was evident with loose rock and sand to ride on.

Then the road opened up a bit and I was riding on sand only. I have to mention that while I know the theory of how to ride in sand I have no real experience of riding in sand and none with this bike. I was all over the road to say the least. Soon I relaxed and got the speed up a bit to "float" on the sand and things started going a bit better.

This is a lovely reserve and I saw some Kudu close up and a herd of Gemsbok (Oryx).

The road was very loose but I was in high spirits. Especially when I saw my first water crossing for the day! It did not seem like much but I photographed it anyway. When I rode through I found that the road was heavily washed away in the flash floods and this "little" water crossing was deeper than my front wheel!

The road deteriorated and soon I found myself puttering along in 1st gear. I was starting to get under pressure time wise falling further and further behind schedule.

Loose sand, rocks, ruts and gates does not make for fast travelling times. By now I had one or two close calls in the sand because I could not get the speed up. I had no cellphone reception and realized that if had had to go down here and break an ankle for instance I would be in serious trouble.

As usual the photos do not give a good idea of what the conditions were really like. Especially the depth of the ruts and angle of attack as you have to go up the other side is not clear.

Riding the laden bike in deep sand is hard work. I was using up my water supply too fast and decided to use it sparingly. Just before I took the next pic I had a very very close call indeed. I never should have ended up on a "road" like this on my first solo ride. Luckily I could save the bike and did not go down. We live to ride the next patch of sand.

Some more wild life:

Another stop after another close call. I had some symptoms of dehydration and started using my water again.

I knew I had to get out of the reserve a.s.a.p. I was hopelessly behind schedule and had no cell phone reception. I simply could not continue on the planned route riding in 1st gear all the time.

Here is the map of where I was:

I entered at point "1" and planned to exit at point "2". Now I decided to take the shorter way out by turning North at the T-junction and exiting at point "3".

And still the gates. I sure did have to open and close a lot of gates on this section. I hoped that I wouldn't run into the angry ostrich the sign warned me about. I've had enough excitement for one day.

At last I reached the bigger road that would take me to the N1. I had ridden about 50km in the last two and a half hours. I tried to phone Operator to tell them I was behind schedule but only got voice mail.

Even this road had gates to open and close but at least I was getting out of 1st gear.

Having lost so much time I had to abandon the rest of my planned route. I simply would not have the time to ride over the Skittery and Katbakkies' Passes as well today.

I chose the shortest route to "Op die Berg" and tried and phone the other guys again. No luck. I would not be able to ride to Cederberg Oasis and get to Clanwilliam before dark. I left another message and headed for Citrusdal over Middelberg Pass - yet another pass ticked in my quest

In Citrusdal I noticed some bikes and stopped. What can I say? I did not enjoy riding solo as much as I thought I would. There were four guys from Stilbaai and RassieGS800 and they were kind enough to let me tag along on the last 70km of gravel to Clanwilliam.

I got a message from Operator and I knew they knew where I was so I could relax and take in some scenery again.

10 hours after I mounted my bike I stopped at the campsite a very very tired man. The route I did take in the end:

It was good to see old friends again and great to relax with a cold one. This was a marathon day and not the most enjoyable ride I've had in my life.

The weekend that lay ahead showed a lot of promise though!

Continue to Day 2.

Index Page.

Home Page.


No comments: