Monday, September 24, 2007

Baviaans - My Jinx Destination...

The Plan:

Baviaanskloof is a wilderness area in the Eastern Cape South Africa.

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With a long weekend and a willing bike a plan was set in motion to complete the whole Baviaans route. This would be my 4th attempt. For various reasons I have not ridden through the Baviaans to Patensie, with Eisbein’s bike breaking it’s suspension on the last attempt. This time we’re going through come hell or high water…

This was the route decided upon:

We would leave on Friday at 1 pm and ride Montagu Pass and the Kamanassie road to Uitspan in the Western part of Baviaanskloof where we’d camp on Friday night.

On day 2 we’d follow the green route (T1) through Baviaanskloof to Patensie where we’d have lunch and then follow the yellow 4x4 route (T2) over the Winterhoek mountains to Steytlerville where we’d camp on the Saturday night.

On day 3 we’d follow the purple route along the Grootrivier (T3) and from there follow our noses to possibly sleep in the Prince Albert area or even cross Prince Alfred’s Pass and sleep at Lake Brenton in Knysna. We’d see where we end up.

On day 4 we’d make our way back to George.

The purpose of the trip were threefold: To get me through Baviaanskloof (for a change), for Sir Gravellot to explore the possibility of using this circular route commercially (Sir G is a tourguide) and for me, Sir Gravellot and Snap Crackle Pop to do an extended trip as a practice run before our big trip to Lesotho in six week’s time.

It would be a wonderful trip! Grin

The Reality:

It did not take long before the complications started – days before the trip even started. Sad


Sir G realized that it’s his wife’s birthday on Friday. Roll Eyes He would not be able to join us through Baviaanskloof. He would start early on Saturday and bypass Baviaans on the tar icon_puke_r BangHead and meet us in Patensie for lunch. Luckily we’d still be three riders as Andre, the dealer principle of Honda Wing George, decided to join us for the 1st leg of our “little ride”. Wink He wanted to see first hand what we did with these little Honda’s. Cool


I had a look at the weather forecast and it turned out for the worst. Shocked There are no forecasts for the Baviaanskloof, but this is what was forecast for Joubertina (the closest town).

Wet days and cold nights - not a good thing if you’re traveling by bike and sleeping in tents… I decided to keep this little piece of info to myself Wink and give no opportunities for guys to pull out of the ride. This ride is going through Baviaanskloof and that’s that!

Day 1:

Today we ride! Snap Crackle Pop did a little dirt route from Hartenbos to George and was all packed en ready to go!

Shortly after Andre form Honda arrived on a Varaderro traveling VERY light. No tent, no food, just a change of clothes and some cash. Camping? No sir, you never mentioned we’d be camping… Roll Eyes Well, nothing’s going to stop us now. Lets ride!

First up was Montagu Pass:

Past Herold and through Paarde Poort:

And along the Kamanassie road towards Uniondale:

In Uniondale we decided to stop and have some refreshments. occasion14

So far so good. We were looking forward to a wonderful weekend!

All that was left was a short stint to Baviaans. We were going along nicely with SCP leading and I was riding in the second position slightly to his right to avoid the dust somewhat. Some thirty 30km from our destination I suddenly hit a ditch or hole. Shocked Because of the dust I did not see it (just like Eisbein) and I was sitting on the bike when I hit it (just like Eisbein). Both my front and back suspension bottomed out heavily (just like Eisbein’s) and I immediately suspected that something was wrong. I heard funny noises and brought the bike to a standstill at the very same spot Eisbein stopped his bike. This can not be true! Cry

After some inspection the damage was clear. Inside my rear mudguard is a black mudguard “inner”. When the bike bottomed out the knobbly tire grabbed that inner and ripped it to shreds. Pieces of bent plastic were still touching the tyre and that’s what made the noise. Luckily the bike could carry on. Andre cleared out the broken pieces and we were on our way again. No need for an “on call” service Wink – we have the dealer principle accompanying us on the actual ride and fixing what needed to be fixed. How’s that for service? Cool

Lets ride!

The closer we got to Baviaanskloof the more 4x4’s we encountered. Apparently the whole of Baviaans was booked full for the weekend.

When we rode through the Nuwekloof pass I started to feel positive that this time around we might just make it all the way through.

We arrived at Uitspan and pitched our tents. Andre did not want to share a tent and as it turned out a biker (who had an off on his way here) canceled his chalet booking and a chalet was available. We had a nice braai at Andre’s chalet and watched the rugby in the bar.

Uitspan is an excellent spot with green grass, clean ablutions and nice facilities. The braai packs we ordered were big and the saddle tjops top notch. I can really recommend Uitspan. See the Uitspan website here:

We made the most of the first night of our trip. Andre survived a few chirps about being on the wrong brand of bike if he was going to be a chalet dwelling biker Wink and we had stories and laughs till the wee hours.

Tomorrow we will conquer Bavaanskloof!

Day 2:

Saturday morning early we woke to a glorious day.

Luckily there was no rain in sight and the night was not too cold either. SCP quickly whipped us up some breakfast.

By the time Andre came over the bikes were packed and we were ready to ride. You snooze you loose… but he did get some coffee in the bar. Grin

We started cruising through the majestic Baviaanskloof. There are lots of scenery and wildlife.

Of course there are lots of water crossings as well! The first one was not deep at all, but we did take a photo.

The second was a proper water crossing. The cement was washed away in places and the water was knee deep. This is what I was waiting for!!! Grin Grin Grin

Seems my bike has a tendency to take spontaneous naps… Wink Grin

What a rush! Where’s the big one? As you travel through the kloof it just gets more and more spectacular. There were lots of 4x4’s though. Undecided

Unfortunately we did not spot any Buffalo or Rhino, but we did spot a wild dog! Grin I rode up to the big water crossing at Smitskraal where Andre had already stopped and got a beer from some campers. While I was taking of my helmet I heard: “Aren’t you a Wild Dog? You’re Trailrider!” Thanks for the beer Chuck U Farly! icon_thumleft Nice meeting you.

Hopefully you’ll be on a bike the next time I see you. Roll Eyes Grin

The water crossing was fun. The big Varra had some seriously scary moments! Grin

Andre’s quest to get through the Baviaans with dry feet ended here…

We had to move along. We had to get to Patensie for lunch and tackle the 100km “4x4 only” road to Steytlerville before nightfall and we weren’t even halfway through Baviaanskloof yet.

The water crossings kept coming. They were nice and deep too – good thing it was not raining…

Lots of wildlife and scenic vistas

The steep rocky pass up to the plateau was quite interesting. Andre on the heavy Varra had to keep some speed and momentum going up there. About halfway up a wasp flew into his shirt and started stinging him! Every time he tried to hit it it stung again. He had to keep going to a flat piece before he could stop. I’ve never seen someone take his helmet, gloves and shirt off that fast! Grin Grin Grin

After negotiating some traffic up that pass we eventually reached the top. Hard work riding these big bikes in technical sections.

It was 12:20 and we still had 60km to go to get to Patensie. Sir G was probably waiting already. Down the other side the scenery were just as stunning.

By now we were seasoned water crossers! Cool

We reached Patensie just before 2pm. We stopped at a restaurant and amazingly Sir Gravellot pulled up 2 minutes after us. We could not have organized it better.

We had a nice lunch and discussed the day’s riding. At last I conquered the Baviaanskloof jinx! Cool Grin

The original plan was that we would ride to Steytlerville from here and Andre would hit the tar back to George. There were serious doubts on whether we would reach Steytlerville before nightfall. The 160km Baviaans road took us 5 hours and 100km of “4x4 only” road lay ahead. We were all tired, but we decided that staying in Patensie would be a “softy” thing to do. We decided to tackle the road and set up camp in the mountains somewhere at 5:30. Andre decided that this sounded to nice to pass up. The four of us headed to Spar to get some supplies and we hit the road at around 3pm.

Heading up towards the Winterhoek mountains there were more beautiful scenery.

The road is VERY rocky and sure enough 17km into the trip the Varaderro had a flat. Undecided

Half of the rocks on the road are loose stones and the other half are fixed rock protrusions. The Vara hit one of these protrusions and damaged the rim.

The culprit:

The opening was quite big and tyre fix did not do the job… Undecided

… what was needed is a “moering tool” to fix the rim.

We tried wood, stones, spanners and combinations of the three. No luck. Three 4x4’s came past and not one had a hammer. Angry Definitely no luck. SCP rode back to try and find a hammer in Patensie late on a Saturday afternoon…

We were at a high spot and it was very windy. We wouldn’t want to camp here - we just have to fix the rim!

While we were waiting for SCP Sir Gravellot started looking for spiders and scorpions (he does this)…

… and promptly hit the jackpot!

He had lots of Ooo’s and Aaa’s about the cute baby. Roll Eyes

Meanwhile Andre and I removed the front wheel.

SCP returned with a small hammer he borrowed from the Spar and Andre proceeded to panel beat the rim into submission. By now it was dark and the tyre fix foam only just inflated the wheel while still leaking some. We decided to head back to find a camping spot on Patensie. We returned the hammer to the Spar and a woman there gave some weird directions to a place called “Koos se Bos”. She mentioned left while indicating right Huh? and we did not really know where we were supposed to go, but off we went. Within a few km’s we were not sure where we were going. We ended up in an informal settlement and on a gravel road after that. Undecided

We rode through a forest - we did not know the road and had to negotiate water crossings in the dark. Shocked Eventually we stopped at a farm to ask if there were camping spots. A little boy said that the next farm had a 4x4 route and would be able to help us.

On the next farm a friendly lady helped us and told her son to go and show us where the spots were. He promptly jumped on his Honda XL200 and of we went again. All we wanted was a patch of grass and he took us to a Naartjie orchard! What a spot. He showed us where the ablutions were and promised to bring us some wood so we could braai in the road. All is well that ends well, but Andre did not find the idea of sharing a tent all to appealing, so he asked the boy if he had a tent he could rent? Sure… Grin Grin Grin

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After a nice braai and another late night we turned in. What would tomorrow hold?

Day 3: Steytlerville or Bust!

When I woke up on Sunday morning I was in awe of where we were.

The place is called Eagles Rest (042 283 0622) and caters mostly for 4x4’s. There are nice forest trails and ablution facilities. We were in a natural “basin” with cliffs surrounding us and a river running around the site. Can you believe we “happened” on this!

We got a fire going and made some breakfast and coffee. Andre did not have a comfortable night… Wink Grin

Nothing like a Cappuccino to start your day Grin

SCP restocking the supplies Grin Grin Grin

Andre finished up and said his goodbyes - he still had to get to George. SCP, Sir G and I packed our bikes and set out for Steytlerville. The Eagles Rest farm really is beautiful!

We stopped at the main house to settle the account. I took some pics of the trusty farm bikes

The NXR’s and CTX were in good company Cool

The friendly lady charged us R30 per person and the wood was free. I almost fell off my bike. For R30 we got all this? Please support Eagles Rest when you are in the area. It’s well worth the visit!

The road back to Patensie seemed a lot less ominous in daylight.

Heading up towards the Winterhoek mountains today the scenery were even more beautiful with less cloud cover.

The road winds over the hills climbing higher and higher…

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… and the views get better and better!

We were on top of the world. In six week’s time these bikes will be looking over Sani Pass!

While we were looking at the views Sir G was looking for critters Roll Eyes

This time he found a baby scorpion. When he finds these babies I always wonder where the mothers are… Shocked

We carried on riding along the rocky road through ever changing scenery.

We certainly have had contrasting landscapes in the last few days! And the road was still climbing.

When we reached the top we could not believe the scenes!

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This “4x4 only” road has LOTS of rocks and stones with steep inclines and downhills. When going slowly it’s not that hard to negotiate, but big 1000cc bikes tend to need some momentum for balance so they might find it somewhat technical. Lots of the uphills have stone “step-ups” like stairs with sharp edges. They are about 10cm high so heavy bikes going a bit faster than we did might have some trouble here. It’s a recipe for punctures and rim damage if you're not carefull.

From here it was a quick decent to the level of the river below…

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… and up the other side again!

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By now we have been riding 2 hours and 20 minutes and we covered 42km (granted we were cruising and had LOTS of photo stops). It was 12:20 pm so we stopped for lunch.

This is the life! I could ride like this for ever. SCP prepared lunch and we even had pudding.

Yep, you guessed it:

The road from here was in a much better condition and we loved riding it. The whole time we spent on this road we only saw one other 4x4 and we passed 2 red KLR’s traveling in the opposite direction.

The landscape changed again to typical Karoo.

And just as suddenly over the next hill…

… there was Steytlerville.

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We made our way to Weavers B&B ( ) where we had a reservation for the previous night and promptly pitched our tents.

The Trailrider Hilton:

The ablutions are clean and modern and even include a kitchen with a kettle and a stove.

Nice braai facilities

Sir G considered an afternoon nap, but we had other plans. There were beers to be had and a town to explore!

Weavers has a nice little bar and a friendly barman / chef / owner / plummer / braaier / handyman called Basil. Grin

Sir G playing the Didgeridoo

Steytlerville has lots of interesting places

Next we visited Noorspoort farm ( ) that’s owned by the Craven family (yes, Doc Danie Craven). We had a very interesting chat and also had a look at their camping facilities.

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If you like camping in nature then this is for you. Kudu and other wildlife roam through the campsite.

Noorspoort also has all the necessary facilities

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Back at our campsite we had a nice braai and again chatted the night away till the wee hours

Tomorrow we tackle the T3 route and the road home – over 300km.

Day 4:

I got up early again this morning.

It was a beautiful day in the Karoo, but the air was chilly.

Once again we saw lots of game. A nice thing about our trailbikes running so quietly is that you can get really close to the game before they run away.

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The road is in a good condition and really wide - we rode 3 abreast most of the time. Suddenly we came up to a fork in the road. This is not on the map… Huh?

Turns out that the T3 route on the Baviaans pamphlet is totally wrong. After reaching consensus we turned left – what’s the worst that could happen? Another adventure? Grin

Another T. This is ridiculous. Our map indicated an almost straight route. Undecided

Let’s go right this time. It seems like the Grootrivier route… Roll Eyes

The scenery was different to the previous days, but still stunning!

We encountered more T’s, but by now I knew where we were. Mrs. Trailrider’s family has land in the area. We should visit them more often… Wink

What a route. Next up was Willowmore, Uniondale and the Kammanassie road where we stopped for lunch.

We kind of lingered because no-one wanted the ride to be over. It was a hell of a trip!!!

From the Kammassie road we took the Eselsjagpoort road

and finally Montagu Pass

What a pass to end a ride Grin

I took some “in ride” shots Cool

And there it was – Home Sweet Home!

What a ride! Grin Grin Grin

It was good to be home Smiley


We traveled 910km in 4 days. We organized braai packs where we stayed and with accommodation, petrol, food and drink all in this trip cost less than R200 per person per day. I got 22km / litre on average and the NXR’s did 30km / litre.

You don’t need to break the bank to be out there adventure riding! icon_thumleft

Next stop - Hogsback Cool

WD Forum report and comments here


Sydney Hotels said...

That's really an adventure! I really enjoy reading your article, I feel like i'm part of your group riding on a motorcycle as well. It seems like, it was really fun and you really enjoyed the trip. I wait on next stop.

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!