This ride happened at extremely short notice. My friend fatb had a crappy week and needed a quick breakaway. He asked around but at such short notice only Smidty and I could join and before we knew it we met here, at Herrie se Plek, in De Rust.
Herrie was the name of an imaginary elephant.
Famous South African C.J. Langenhoven hailed from these parts. He had a house, Arbeidsgenot, in Oudtshoorn. He was a great writer (amongst others) and his most famous work is the original South African Anthem "Die Stem" which he wrote in 1918. C.J. Langenhoven owned an imaginary elephant named Herrie ("Harry") that appeared in many of his stories. He even carved its name onto a boulder next to the N12 highway near Meiringspoort (outside De Rust) in 1929. This boulder known as Herrie's Stone ("Herrie se Klip", in Afrikaans), has been declared a South African national monument.
We rarely ride past Herrie se Plek without stopping, so this was as good a starting point as any.
Fatb organized everything. We just had to show up. Our destination for tonight was the campsite at Meijer's Rust, apparently a fantastic spot in the Swartberg Mountains outside De Rust, but when we got to the farm Meijer's Rust there were no-one there.
Fatb mentioned that he only told them that some bikers might come by. They left him a message to confirm because they had plans for the weekend and wanted to go away. Somehow he never spoke to them again...
So here we were.
Now what? Well, apparently the farmer has to take wood up to the campsite on the mountain. Since Fatb told them we might be coming he was sure that the wood would be on the mountain already and so the decision was made to ride up the mountain and set up camp.
Lovely route into the mountains:
Soon we leave the farmland behind and start ascending the Swartberg Mountain on this private little pass:
The road wasn't particularly wet, but the road surface varied between rocks and extremely slippery snot-like mud. I nearly got caught out once or twice. You certainly had to keep your wits about you.
The gradient is steep too. I heard later that some 4x4's use low range to get up here...
The three of us had different approaches to these conditions. Mine was to keep the feet on the pegs and to keep forward momentum, so I ended up at the top first, camera ready to catch any mishaps on the slippery last section!
Everybody made it to the top safely though.
Nice braai area:
Neat and clean ablutions:
Setting up camp:
With camp set up we realized that the farmer did not bring any wood or chairs (as he usually does) to the camp site before he left. Also, the water tank for the ablutions was not filled and the gas was finished...
With the condition of the road, no-one was brave enough to ride down alone to see if we can find a farmhand or some-one to help. Fatb also only had the farmer's home number, which did not help much since he was not there. So we would have to make do with what we had. We found some big pieces of wood lying around and lit those with some smaller pieces we picked up.
Soon we had the party going.
The tummy-less Smidty trying to fit in.
We had a great time with LOTS of laughter, the stresses of the week forgotten.
At one stage I mentioned that it was a good thing that the road wasn't REALLY wet, as I doubted whether we would have been able to come up (or go down) had it rained. This is when Fatb revealed that they forecast a 80% chance of showers for the next day.
I suggested that the first person to wake the next morning wake everybody so we can get off the mountain before the rains come. I woke the next morning to the sound of showers on my tent...
Not much else could go wrong. Or could it..?
Of course it could! Fatb's bike's battery decided that today was the day it was going to give up the ghost. Luckily it was downhill from here so he would just have to freewheel it down.
I will not lie. We were extremely nervous. I even told my wife on the phone that after more than 40 000km on two TransAlps it was quite likely that I would put the bike down for the first time today...
Here we go...
Of course you can never see the gradients on a photo and of course you can't take photos in the worst sections while manhandling your bike, but you'll get the idea:
We took it extremely slowly.
Even through the difficulty it was hard not to notice the extremely beautiful setting we were in!
At one stage the route had a uphill section and Fatb could go no further. He sat waiting in the rain while we went looking for jumper cables.
My wheel - I did not get off the bike for this photo for fear of slipping and falling over.
Lovely little pass - I'd like to come back (in good weather) sometime.
I am not sure how long the section coming off the mountain is (the road is not even on Tracks 4 Africa) but I would guess it's between 5 to 10 kilometers. It took us just short of an hour to ride down.
At the farmhouse we found the farmer and he went to recover Fatb.
Meanwhile a wet and cold Smidty and I waited for Fatb at:
It was a sweet and short ride. Everything that went wrong added to the experience tremendously. These are rides you remember!
And we all negotiated the road down the mountain without a single incident of falling over. Easy does it is all I'm saying.