Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day 2


I suddenly woke in what felt like the middle of the night. There were strange sounds in the camp. It sounded like grunts and moans mixed with sounds of tent poles etc. What the Hell?

It was still pitch black outside and fatb was... breaking up his tent and loading his bike. Now what? It's 5am dude! Aparantly he likes an early start as he rides slower than everybody he knows (everybody on earth in fact ).

It was a cold morning and we started a fire to get some heat going.

(Photo by fatb)

Op-die-Plaas is a very nice campsite in a great location. The ablution facilities are neat and clean and the hosts definitely are biker friendly. We were supplied with braaipacks, ice, wood, a braai and grid, most things bikers battle to travel with.

The grassy sites next to the dam:

We camped as far as possible from those and the other campers.

Fatb left early while we finished up before heading out to Laingsburg.

Just before Laingsburg we cross the Witnekke and Rooinek passes. Nothing spectacular, but I document the crossings for my Quest.

In Laingsburg we refuel and have some breakfast. We also see several other groups of bikes heading in various directions.

(Photo by fatb)

(Photo by fatb)

Laingsburg is a well known town in South Africa. In January 1981 Laingsburg suffered a disaster and to this day, when you mention Laingsburg, the first thing that comes to mind is the Laingsburg flood.

Heavy rainfall in the catchment areas (partly Moordenaarskaroo) of the Buffels and Baviaans Rivers which converge in Laingsburg, caused a massive flood in the town. It was a traumatic time during which 104 people lost their lives and only 21 houses were left standing. Most of the bodies were swept downstream in the abnormally swollen river and were never recovered. A flood disaster of this dimension is rare in South Africa.

(Photo from this website)

The waters even swept the railway line off its bridge. This is that bridge today:

Signposts on the main road indicate the level to which the waters rose that fateful day.

Today the town's total rainfall is around 50mm per year. More photos of the flood can be seen here.

After a hearty breakfast our "real ride" began.

As mentioned before there are several stories about where the Moordenaarskaroo got it's name. None can be verified. The most popular story tells that the vast plains and endless blue mountains once sheltered escaped slaves, runaway soldiers, smugglers and the banished.

It's a desolate and barren place, but if you love the Karoo this is a must see!

We travel inland and the further we go the colder it gets. We regroup very so often to make sure that everybody is still on course.

It is said that about 60km from Laingsburg the area is haunted.  Strange grey shapes and shadows constantly appear and disappear in parts of the veld in this area of the Moordenaarskaroo.  And, weirdest of all, they appear even in broad daylight. Luckily I saw none of that!

Some more interesting trivia is that in the Afrikaans TV series "Arende" the character Sloet Steenkamp also fled to the Moordenaarskaroo to get away from the English (but that part of the series was actually filmed in the Cederberg ).

What you can not see in the photos is the wind. Man it was pumping! You can see (and hear) it on video though. Check the water in the dam towards the end:

Some more Moordenaarskaroo scenery:

Closer to Sutherland we ascend Komsberg Pass:

In summer the heat in this area can be merciless, but this is winter and with every meter we gained in altitude the temperature dropped dramatically. On top of the escarpment with the wind chill factor we were literally freezing.

Another regroup at the Merweville turn-off. On the way to this ride Operator and Pmdb stopped at Gatsaam's place and he gave them a bottle of Muskadel to take on the trip. That bottle was a life saver here warming up frozen bodies.

(Photo by Pmdb)

On the road again to Merweville - luckily with this strong wind in our backs this time.

Heading East now we seemed to outrun the bad weather somewhat. This is a very scenic road. It was my first time here and I will most definitely come ride it again.

This whole area was most definitely the most scenic part of today's ride. "Little" to see and yet so much to remember.

Ride through here but once and you'll carry something of this area with you for ever.

Soon you start seeing over the edge of the escarpment onto the Koup region of the Karoo below. I believe that by sheer luck I did my first ride on the Rammelkop Pass in the right (and most scenic) direction, with these great views in front of you the whole time.

And finally we ride into Merweville, our destination for today.

Springbok Lodge. When we saw the facilities here we decided not to pitch our tents and just sleep in the area in the background.

The fires were lit and a feast was prepared. We once again organized in advance that we'd have food when we got here and we were pleasantly surprised by the amount and quality of the meal that awaited us. In fact, we could not even finish half the food prepared.

Operator and Pad on braai duty and a mighty fine job they did.

(Photo by Pmdb)

Good times, but we headed to bed quite a bit earlier tonight.

During the evening a wicked wind started blowing and temperatures dropped dramatically. Sleeping in that open cemented area seemed much less appealing. Fatb and Pmdb upgraded to a room (the only available room) in the lodge. Pad and Dusty negotiated spots on the floor inside in the kitchen, R-O-V-Rat and Operator took spots in the small outside kitchen and somehow LGF and I got the short straws and had to sleep outside. As it turns out LGF got the worst deal of all because eventually he slept outside in the boma area. Sometime during the night my "nightly sounds" seemed worse than the wind outside and he moved.

It was a rough night but somehow the fatigue won in the end and we got some hours of sleep.


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