Monday, August 4, 2008

Unlimited Horizons - Karoo


This is a Ride Report with a difference - It is a duo Ride Report with Yellowfever who has a lot more photos than I do. On most spots he took stills while I took video. This Ride Report is followed by another Ride Report by Eisbein.

I was fortunate enough to join some Cape WD’s on an Epic journey through the Great Karoo. And what a ride it was!

The route ran through various passes and towns I’ve never been to with long distance days perfect for the bigger bike I got recently. Our fearless leader promised us good roads with lots of scenery and 5 star accommodation - he organized two Wool sheds on Karoo farms where we could lay our heads during the cold winter nights.

The trip would run over 4 days and 3 nights, with the last night spent in Seweweeks Poort in a real bed.

The route was as follows:

We would meet up at the Wimpy in Ceres on Friday Morning at 8, grab breakfast and leave at 9 sharp. Depending on the time and weather conditions we would take the route over Katbakkies Pass or the shorter route. We all wanted to take the Katbakkies route, but we would decide on the day since that route would mean between 500 - 600km for the first day.

I left George on Thursday already to sleep over on Ektoknbike’s farm. Ektoknbike, Piksteel, Yellowfever (who would join us from CT) and I would leave together for Ceres on Friday morning. The weather forecast for the coming days weren’t good, but not to bad either:

I couldn’t wait…

Day 0 - George to Kniediep

The bike was packed, the family greeted and I was off. Rain was approaching from the west so I hit the boring N2 to get to the farm. I was pushing and rode into a helluva head wind. This did my consumption no favours – 14km/L

But I had to stop in the Overberg to get a pic of the first Canola!

Ektoknbike’s farm is near Robertson. Apparently they get very little rain, but it’s rained every single time I’ve been there. Just as I hit the first dirt I hit the first rain as well. Luckily I didn’t get too wet and luckily my destination was a wine farm Grin Yellowfever arrived (soaked) later the afternoon and festivities commenced. That evening we were treated to a “blind” wine tasting with the local wine farmers and a delicious Waterblommetjie Potjie. All I can say is wow! Thanks for the invite.

On the first day 500km+ waited so I decided to turn in early. Ektoknbike and Yellowfever had other plans… Rumour has it that they spent very little time sleeping that night…

Day 1 - Kniediep to Tiervlei

Up early this morning with some feeling better than others (no names will be mentioned). Piksteel joined us and we were off to Ceres where we found Operator waiting already. We ordered breakfast, ate and waited and waited… 6 bikes were still missing in action.

Let me introduce the mob going on the ride while we wait…

There were 11 guys on this ride and incredibly 11 different bikes. Different brands and different sizes. Lifestylers are probably shaking in horror but this is the kind of ride I like Grin No Lifestyle posers in this group.

We rode sand, corrugation, 4x4 routes, high speed gravel highways, normal highways, gravel mountain passes, tarred mountain passes, some mud, lots of loose rocks, ruts, tweespoor (Jeep tracks), ditches and trenches and some airtime here and there as well. All bikes did everything. Just goes to show…

In photo order we were:

Biesie – Yamaha XT600e
BigEd – Honda XL650 Transalp
Bru – Suzuki DL650 V-Strom
Eisbein – BMW R1100GS
Operator – Suzuki Djebel 250 XC
Piksteel – KTM 990S
Surf – BMW R1150GSA
Topbox – Honda XR650R
Yellowfever – BMW R1200GS
Ektoknbike – KTM 950
Trailrider – Honda XL700V Transalp

At about 9 the rest of the mob eventually showed up. What happened??? Six topless babes were hitchhiking and they just had to stop! Grin No, nothing as exotic as that Eisbein’s bike had some starting issues and there were some other delays as well. And now they still wanted breakfast.

Eeeeeeveeeeentually we were ready to ride. It wasn’t too wet but time was not on our side. We’d have to ride Katbakkies Pass some other time.

This 1st gravel en route to Sutherland:

This is a beautiful route. It’s always great to ride where you have not been before. Looking at the dried motor vehicle tracks it was clear that this road would be seriously slippery when wet. It still kept us on our toes with loose sand and sharp corners trying to catch you out. We also encountered some water every so often. Grin

Yellowfever drowned his GS in the Kunene river in Namibia not too long ago and he was adamant to show us that he has indeed now mastered the art of water crossings…

Moving on… Time is not on our side.

Every so often there’d be sand, mud or water – what more could an Adventure rider ask for?

And then some dirt highways for some high speed gravel Grin Some rode higher speeds than others but I’m way to chicken to ride close to top speed on gravel It’s cool to see though.

I’ve seen this sign on e-mail before, now I’ve actually seen it:

We pulled into Sutherland for petrol and lunch. The hotel has graffiti on the wall and spotted a dog or two. We added our own names of course

In high spirits we hit the road again.

Bru on his V-Strom:

Eisbein on his GS doing a flyby:

Operator and BigEd:

Biesie, Topbox and Surf:

It was getting late and wanted to get to the farm Tiervlei before dark, but we still stopped here and there for a photo or two.

Shortly after pulling off from this stop Piksteel came from the front. Ektoknbike went down…

This is the scene that awaited us:

He looked back to see where we were and overtook the corner Grin Thank heavens for ATGATT!


Luckily we were only 30km from our destination so we quickly organized a KTM recovery vehicle. Grin

It was dark by the time we arrived on the farm and the farmer had some surprises in store for us. We weren’t sleeping in the wool shed and we had some ways to ride still. It was dark, the Jeep track was rough and we had no idea where we were going. Sand, stones and dust with little visibility and the worst was still to come – a rocky hill climb to who knows where… This is real adventure riding

Some bikes were tired after the long day and took a rest. Grin Some guys run to help – I take photo’s

Up on top a camp awaited! 5 tents, already pitched, with braai wood, grids, ablutions everything! The owner calls it Erzberg (because of the last rocky hill climb ) and plans to make this site available to adventure bikers. Not 4x4’s – just the biking crowd. This is a must on any biker’s to do list.

Festivities commenced and carried on well into the night. Great company under the great Karoo skies. What can be better than this?

Yellowfever's Report:

Day 1

I’ll leave most of the writing up to Trailrider and just add some pics of each day. It was truly a brilliant trip. I’ll let the pics tell the story from my side, enjoy:

Ektoknbike, the leader of our group and the one who put it all together, thanks.

On the way just outside Ceres, Trail followed by Bru:

Piksteel on his fairly brand new katoom:

The first water crossing of the day, keeping in mind that this is the karoo, topbox came along flat taps:

Biesie testing the water capabilities of his new pimped Yamaha:

Operator showing us how to do it on a small bike, no holding back here:

BigEd taking it easy on his TransAlp:





Trailrider showing that the brand new TA can do it better than the CTX?

Somwhere on the road:

Petrol is nice and cheap in sutherland, or is it now:

A revisit for Surf to the hotel, off course:

All the peanuts:

We all love Karoo highways now don’t we?

Trail missing his wife already:

Somwhere outside fraserburg:

Again some more pics of Ektoknbike’s slight off from the road:

It got cold that night, but the the fire kept us warm. Lekker braaivleisies and paptert for the evening, yum yum:

Our host for the night, thanks for all the effort Danie:

Day 2 – Tiervlei to Modderdrif

When we woke this morning the reality of where we were really sunk in. The sun rise was just magnificent.

The camp is on the side of a hill with a view over miles and miles of Karoo with the bikes on top just behind us.

If you want to get away from it all this is the place!

Once again we had people with starting issues this morning

The road back over the farm looks totally different in daylight. I don’t know what we stressed about. It’s a beautiful area. A different beauty than what I’m used to. Our country has so many beautiful places to offer.

We had much less distance today – to Carnavon first for petrol and a visit to the renowned Blikkies Bar. Ektoknbike would travel to the next farm by bakkie and the more intelligent among us threw our luggage on the back.

Next up – Loxton. What a nice town! Neat, well looked after and you can hit the gravel right from your front door.

More Dirt Highways.

At Modderdrif the partying started early. The pet mongoose (?) was a big hit also.

I was knackered after the first night and hit the sack early. The partying continued until 4am

Day 2

Early morning:

This road wasn’t fun in the dark the previous night, but man o man now it was great:

Are we having fun yet? For sure!

Danie’s house where we had some breakfast:

Topbox checking directions:

Just outside Carnarvon:

The famous blikkies bar in Canarvon:

We were in the mood for a bite to eat in Loxton, so we bought a plate of food and supported the local entrepreneurs:

Look ma, beetroot and potato salad without a knife and fork:

Why fly while you could ride?

Water break:

Local transport:

High speed dirt:

Surf taking a break:

If you look closely you could see Monday come:

Mr Trail himself:


Biesie doing his world tourer pose:


Me with some shitty pose that evening:

Eisbein, Surf and Piksteel:

Everyone having some good farm food:

Ektoknbike jinxing himself:

Day 3 – Modderdrif to Seweweeks Poort

We were up early enough this morning, but the Karoo hospitality insisted that we braai for breakfast. It was quite a feast too, but it meant that we left late, very late, on a long day.

The pets still fascinated me. I would love to have one of these.

Once again there were bikes with starting issues. This is when operator came up with a brilliant chirp: "Be humble. Let us push you!" Grin Very sharp!

It was Sunday and we had to say goodbye to BigEd and Ektoknbike. Nine bikes continued on the road over the farm – a tricky 2 spoor with rocks, water crossings and lots of sand.

Topbox on the XR was in 7th heaven playing around over the jumps and in the sand. I had to work a little harder to keep the heavy bike on 2 wheels. Still getting used to the big bike thing Eisbein on the other hand was having a good time on his GS too.

Some video footage of the water crossings:

Bru on the Suzuki DL650 V-Strom

Surf on the R1150GSA Grin

Piksteel on the KTM and Eisbein on the R1100GS

More dirt highways after the technical pieces. Great roads these!

And then South to Merweville. En route we rode over the Teekloof Pass. Great scenery!

This is where I had my close call. I was walking around (helmet on) and taking photos. Suddenly Bru says: “Traillie – step back!” Because of the helmet I could not look down and without me knowing it I was standing right on the edge of a 300m sheer drop!

I was really rattled after this episode.

Next up – Merweville:

At Prins Alfred Road we realized we are running out of time. We’ll never make Seweweeks Poort via the planned route so we did some flying down the N1 to Laingburg.

By the time we reached our destination in Seweweeks Poort the sun was setting.

We were much more laid back tonight. Great braai, great food, great company.

Day 3

Farm pets:

I constantly had problems with a flat battery, dammit:

Healthy farm breakfast before a long days ride, fresh baked bread, boerewors and smoor:

And now we were in the mood for some serious fun:



Bru doing it sideways:


Surf, one of my fav pics of the weekend:



Biesie in the mud:


Surf in the reeds:

On his way again:



On the way to Merweville just outside Fraserburg:

Just before Seweweekspoort we stopped for the night:

Day 4 – Seweweeks Poort to George

We woke to a great day. How come the best weather had to wait till the last day? Each would go in his own direction, but not before we rode Seweweeks Poort.

I was looking forward to this from day 1. I have never been to Seweweeks Poort before.

Grand, majestic, awesome? How do you describe this road? Photographs can never show the reality of what you experience here.

I will come back to Seweweeks Poort soon.

When we T’d into the R62 Yellowfever and I would head East to George and the rest West towards Cape Town, but not before we had a last chat and a group photo.

Guys, thanks for this trip. It was really awesome!

Yellowfever and I headed toward Oudtshoorn via the back roads for lunch...

and continued on the Kammanassie Road, Paarde Poort and over Montagu Pass to George.

What a ride! My total distance traveled was 1664.3 km with an average fuel consumption of 16,7 km/L.

It was a big group with diverse bikes, but we got along famously. There were funnies and games, teasing and banter, all in good spirit. The times in the really technical conditions when I felt a little unsure there were guys around me who never rushed me and it was a comfort to have them there. That's friendship - I really appreciate it.

Till the next one Wink

Day 4:

At the dam on the farm:

On our way to Seweweekspoort:

Trailrider in the poort:

Smile boys:

Another one of my favs, didn’t plan this one, only a happy snap:

At the end of the day the guys all headed home. I decided that another days leave would be great and turned for George to go stay at the Trailriders'.

Day 5:

My last bit of gravel for the weekend:

Thumbs up for a great trip, really enjoyed it:

But now its over, booohoooo:

Thanks to everyone who took prt in this epic ride, I really enjoyed it. Thanks to everone whoe assisted with the organisation.
Till a next time then. Ricky

Eisbein's Report:

Finding yourself in the Karoo - another (personal) perspective.

I've always said that the Karoo wasn't for me.

Give me the mountains of the Boland, Overberg and Garden route, the sea close by and I'm happy.
I am one for ferns and lots of water and rolling green hills. In comparison the Karoo always struck me as dry, flat and harsh.

Then Ektoknbike mentioned over a couple of beers after the Robertson charity run that he have friends over in the Karoo and that they wouldn't mind a visit from us 'stadsjapies'.
Before I knew I was a part of the few friends that was invited on this journey.

One that turned out to not only be a fantastic trip and ride around some of the (surprisingly so for a 'Karoo virgin') most beautiful and scenic areas and amazing roads, but also one that had a profound impact on the way that I look at myself, the people around me, my friends and Mother Earth. Yes even about the One that I believe created me.

Don't worry - I'm not usually this philosophical, but one thing that I cannot deny is the fact that I came back from the Karoo somehow a little bit different from how and who I was going in.

I guess its all about the perspective.

So lets start at the beginning and let me not get ahead of myself as I so often do Grin

The excitement grew as the day of departure came closer.
I was packed and ready very early on the Thursday night already.
Friday morning 6:45 I'm off to the Engen 1 Stop where I was to meet up with Surf, Bru, BigEd and TopBox.

All dressed up and excited I get onto the loaded bike and hit the starter button.
Instead of firing up the starter happily turns the motor that every now and then lets out a fart and a pop and that's about it.

Rogue could see the surprise and frustration growing on my face. The 1st time EVER that Sauerkraut misses a beat and it must be THIS MORNING! Angry

I almost started crying in frustration.

Well - 2 years of coping with the FJ1200 that I had with a broken starter prepared us for this morning.
My wife is very good with tow starting a bike behind the car, so off we went. After about 30 meters of spitting and popping the engine fired.

Thank goodness.

I was on my way.

Only logical explanation was that I washed the bike 2 days prior and that I didn't ride it far enough to dry all the important bits. For the rest of the trip it was as I remembered it - faultless.

So I arrived at the 1 stop a couple of minutes late to find the rest of the party present and as excited as I was.

A couple of "good morning's" and 'look what plan I made w.r.t. luggage' and we were on our way.

Swung by Biesie's place with his twins looking at the arriving party through the living room window.

'Pappa en oom Wihan motorfiets - broem!' was apparently the phrase of the morning Grin Grin Grin

We decided to 'slab it' through the tunnel as we were tight on time and it was raining.
Interesting thing happened as we entered the tunnel - due to the heat inside it was instant 'fogging up' - the visors, the mirrors - everything.

We met up with the others in Ceres and then after a breakfast for some of us we hit the road to Sutherland.

We were officially, as the whole group, on our way!

The road surfaces were awesome, but on some of these roads the hardened mud tracks was testimony to the fact that these roads were not going to be as friendly if they were soaking wet.

This is Trailrider between Ceres and the turn-off towards Sutherland:

A little later we got to our first water crossing. As was mentioned Yellowfever decided to go at it again and ended up storming the water, splashing himself in the process. He looked like he just dove into the water. Grin

This was through some hills:

Ok - officially this was uncharted territory for me. I just had to turn around and take a photo.

This was the place where the 1st major regroup and resting session was. I was already getting a soft spot for the surroundings:

Operator's Djebel taking in the scenery and the roads that are still to come. That Djebel surprised me.
We never once had to wait for him to play catch up with the 'bigger bikes'. That little 250 held its own.

Taking 11 bikes through a 'plattelandse' filling station with only one or two pumps operating takes a while, so almost everywhere I shot off during the refilling for a photo of the local church.

This is in Sutherland:

Getting hamburgers and chips for lunch at the hotel in Sutherland.

Some Graffiti on the wall in the bar area:

After Sutherland we were treated to the 1st of many more of the infamous Karoo Gravel Highways that I heard so much about.
Me and Surf were sweepers for most of the trip and we found ourselves deliberately falling behind a little so that we had to 'catch up' with the group. Fastest I've ever been on gravel was just before these photos were taken...

Surf winding down. If GS's had parachutes to slow them down his one would be deployed right about now... Grin Grin Grin

Biesie coming past:

My pride and joy:

The one in the background that started the telelever and oil head generation and the one in front that (imo) perfected it:

Fuel stop in Frazerburg and only one working pump got me this.
I must say the locals were quite perplexed. Here I come with my loaded bike. Onto the sidewalk, park the bike, lie flat on my back almost underneath it. Take the foto, greet them and ride off...
Grin Grin

This was the 1st time we had some issues.
Topbox's XR's decompression lever/valve didn't want to release all the way, making it just about impossible to kick it into life. After about 15 minutes of the 'kick/rest/fiddle/repeat- cycle' we decided to give it a go (to the entertainment of the locals I'm sure judging by the crowds that gathered) at trying to push start the beast. Not easy. We managed to get it to sound like it wanted to fire a couple of times.

It didn't...

Lucky for us the pushing and almost firing up let the decompression valve settle back to where it should have been and it was a very pleasant sound to hear that XR roar to life.
By this time (20 minutes after the 1st guys left) it was me and Biesie and Topbox, as well as Surf who turned back to find out where we were and then Trailrider, Yellowfever and Bru waiting on various turn-off's on the road out of there.
At some point Ektoknbike looked back trying to look for the lost sheep a little too long and found himself out farming.

It wasn't fun when we finally cought up with the front to find our fearless leader lying in the road looking very uncomfortable and his bike parked in a fence with bits having bent and broken off Sad Sad

At least Ektoknbike was in high spirits and the farm was just about 30km's from there. Danie came to pick the bike and rider up and we were on our last stretch after helping out and with the backdrop of the sun setting.

I like windpumps.

I also like silhouettes against the setting sun.
The Karoo makes for damn fine sunsets.

Arriving at the farm Yellowfever was just standing next to his bike and I (being lower down at the time) couldn't resist this photo:

From there it was the night ride along the tweespoor and up to our camping spot.
Danie is the best host one can wish for. He really took good care of us that evening.
It was fun and jokes and talking till late that night. The stars and milky way looked so close that it felt like we could pick them from the black background.
I saw about 4 shooting stars as well.

I was (surprisingly for me) up early the next morning, so I decided to try and make use of the sun coming up.

Early risers with the bikes in the background:

The not so early risers ...

The rising sun colouring the bikes:

I like the textures in the grass:

No - I don't have a BMW fetish - I just thought that the two similar shaped bikes and the colours was good at the time Grin Grin

Yes - it was that cold icon_eek

Yellowfever parked his bike were it was almost facing the rising sun the next morning.
As I walked through the bikes with the camera I couldn't resist this photo:

The view from the bikes:

Biesie just having crawled out of his tent:

It was time for another show of the incredible Karoo people's hospitality.
Breakfast in the form of juice, fresh scones and volstruis droëwors.
After that we hit the road and was again treated to a veriety of different surfaces.
We needed to be slightly more awake on these roads as some of them was washed out and/or freshly grated.
You'd find yourself coming round a corner at highway speeds and then all of a sudden hitting a sandy patch.
Keeping your cool and easing through it though made most of those times just a 'what was that ? moment' after you went through it already. Grin Grin

This was one of the better moments.
Surf came through on the very left of the photo. Then all of a sudden his bike jerked to the right - right through the middle of the muddy patch. After that his front wheel climbed onto the ledge you see on the right in the foreground, but the rear didn't. After having ridden a good couple of rides and possibly thousands of K's alongside and with Surf I can without a doubt say that he is the 'master of the save'. I've seen him save situations on his Pig where LOTS of other riders would just either abandon ship or lose it totally. thumbsup

Look at the mud spray behind the rear wheel. I just wish I could record the sounds he made while negotiating that episode! Grin Grin

Waiting (and eating) in Loxton

BigEd on the way out of Loxton:

Yellowfever on his way...

Surf checking out the scenery:

Our hosts for the evening was again amazing. They opened their home, their braai, their food and their bottles to us Grin Grin Grin

No doubt a winner - I've always wanted one - now even more...

With lots of gates to close and the water crossings while sweeping the next day my camera didn't come out that often.
Amazing riding crossing the riverbed a couple of times.

This was after we joined up with the road going back to Frazerburg again:

At Laingsburg I got the chance to take a couple of photos of what Surf coined 'Mik-en-bekruip'.

Being big and having the bike loaded so that you cannot swing your foot over makes for an interesting approach.
I also did the 'mik-en-bekruip-dance' every time I mounted my bike. Grin Grin Grin

The entrance of 7Weekspoort:

On the other side, just before Yellowfever and Trailrider headed for George Topbox discovered use number 104 for a XR... Grin Grin

I was so taken by the scenery that I didn't really take photos from Ladismith onwards, but this one was on the way to Anysberg:

This one was going out of AnysBerg:

After this we started splitting off and making our respective ways home to meet the schedules that some of us was on. More than once did we at the back switch our bikes off and just listened to the sound of it.

The Karoo met me as a stranger and skeptic to it, received me with open arms and within the space of these four days turned me into a lifelong fan.

There is nothing that can prepare you for its harsh beauty or the warmth you find in even the coldest situations.

As you sit on the bike going for kilometer after kilometer you can't help but look at the surroundings and your own life and situation in a totally new way. A different perspective so to speak.

You cannot help to think that you have left (be it deliberately or not) a little bit of your soul there and you want to, no, need to go back there so that you can go and find it again.

Everything is so less complicated. Harder but also easier. Slower. Simpler.

Do I want to live there ?
No - for that I am too much of a city boy.

But I find myself wanting to go back there.
Smell it.
Experience it.
Feeling it.
Living it.

Even if it is only for a couple of days.

Like so many times before, this time the John Denver song popped into my head and (for the 1st time) it made real sense:

'There are pathways winding bellow me
In pleasure I've gone where they go.
In the quiet stillness I can hear symphonies
the loveliest music I know'


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