Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gamkaskloof - Valley of Lions


A small group in the Southern Cape decided to start the year by going to Hell. 2009 can only improve after that! Grin

So on Sunday the 4th we left on a quick ride to have lunch in Gamkaskloof. Mrs. TR has never been there so she was riding pillion with me. It’s a scenic ride on easy gravel after all. Nothing can go wrong…

Dusty, Tony Varaderro and myself left George at 8:30 and met up with EttienneNXR and Briv at the bottom of Swartberg Pass.

Looking at the group I could not help but smile when I remembered one of Tony Varadero’s first posts on the WD Forum: Grin

I've just re-located to Mossel Bay and I want to make contact with other riders that ride frequently and don't mind a Honda tagging along.

Lotsa Honda’s around here. Grin

Soon we set off up Swartberg Pass. Before long we saw some other DS bikes out and about. Sweet ride he’s got!

The 27km Swartberg Pass is considered one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the world: an untarred road winds to the summit 1 583 metres above sea level in steep zig-zags and sudden switchbacks, with breath-taking views at every turn.

The natural characteristics of the Pass are magnificent – as are the man-made features. This was Thomas Bain's last engineering masterpiece. His construction philosophy, which has stood the test of time was: "Good hat and good boots".

Dry-stone walls - an engineering feat.

The dry stone packed retaining walls are amazing, in one place on the southern side the wall is 2,4kms long. They range in height from ½ metre to 13 metres. Laws of friction and cohesion govern the pressure on retaining walls. The bed (ledge, base or shelf) measures up to 1 metre plus up to 300mm at the top. Selected stone was used and laid with grain at right angles to the natural bedding line. The walls were battered (sloped inward) in a rise of 1:6. To illustrate the scale of the highest sections of the walls, Boegoekloof measures 13,1 metres vertically and the second hairpin on the north, 7,3 metres. Pressure on the roadway through traffic has compacted and secured the walls and roadway.

The larger stones on the ledge bedding provided good drainage but further provision was necessary. Bain’s original specifications give "rule of thumb" measurements and clear instructions as to how many culverts, side drains etc. there were to be, but it is not stated how these were arrived at. What is clear is that they appear adequate, for after over a century of rain the walls are essentially still in place and until recently, with little or no damage.

And even higher up:

In September 2000, a concerned group of design and construction professionals from Prince Albert initiated a crisis meeting with the Provincial and District Roads Engineers to discuss their difficulties in providing adequate maintenance of the Pass after the bouts of heavy rains over the past three years. The Pass underwent specialist maintenance and was declared a National Monument in its Centenary year 1988.

Along the way there are relics of an old prison, toll hut, hotel and other interesting historical sites.

Soon after the top you reach this well known sign. I've been wanting to photograph the TransAlp here for a while now.

There’s a narrow way and a broad way. The broad way leads to straight to Hell Grin

A big advantage of having a pillion is the in-ride photography. Mrs.TR took 90% of the photos in this report.


Tony getting his feet wet Grin


A quick rest stop. It was not too hot. Yet…

Briv enjoying his first ride into Gamkaskloof.

And finally we reached the edge of Hell

The view we were looking at – and what a view!

The road down is steep with sharp turns and switchbacks. Mrs.TR got some good shots of this section.

I love this pic:

At the shop we saw 3 more bikes

and one was sporting a Wild Dog paw Grin

It was Pad’s GS1200 Grin They had just finished lunch and were on their way out. They started quite a bit earlier than us.

After lunch we too were on our way. EttienneNXR coming up the pass:

We were riding along enjoying the scenery when the bike started to feel a little “funny”. I could not quite place it so we stopped only to discover we had a flat rear tyre. Damn!

Quite a scenic spot to break down though.

Luckily I carry all the tools and spare tubes and both Briv and Tony had pumps.

My custom TransAlp centrestand Grin

It was hot! (or maybe it was just me Grin)

Briv had the necessary expertise and soon we were on our way again. Thanks man – I owe you a beer

But barely 300m further it was flat again Luckily this time it was only the valve

While we were fixing the tyre all but one car stopped and asked if they could help and obviously when we saw this Landy broken down we stopped as well.

The guy did not really know what was wrong and the girl was not happy at all, but soon Briv had them sorted as well. Briv jou yster! Grin

I am happy to report we had no more incidents on the way home…

…apart from rain and heavy fog over Outeniqua Pass.

10 Hours after we left we stopped at home, knackered. Mrs.TR’s first visit to Gamkaskloof turned out to be one Hell of a ride. Grin

This is the first time I’ve ridden to the Hell and back in one day and I really think that any visit to Gamkaskloof should include a sleep-over. There are lots to see and experience and one should not be rushed.

The TA performed admirably 2-up on the sandy and rocky sections. The bike really felt planted and the soft seat and suspension makes it a pleasure to ride. The next pillion ride is planned for the 6th. I have extra tubes packed



Anonymous said...

We have just ran the Hell Run (14 March 2009) and that was an experience! Know you guys planted yet another idea in my head - I have to do it with my bike. How was the BMW 1200GS on the route? Was it not too heavy?

Dennis Laidler said...

I never quite made it all the way down the hell but look what I was riding:

TR said...

Hi Anonymous

No the 1200GS is not too heavy. It's a very capable bike for it's size. Do it! You wont be sorry.

TR said...

Hi Dennis

I read that report :-) Nice ride man!