I have a dream... I want to ride all the passes South Africa has offer. And while I have been working on this dream of mine for some time now there are so many passes to be ridden still! And I have no bias. I'll ride any pass, gravel or tar, but I prefer the gravel ones. Less traffic, more scenery. The best places I've been to have always been at the end of a gravel road.
As it happens I have some time to break away. I had a look at the Eastern Cape map and it's myriad of passes - and there it was - before me lay a ride with endless possibilities. So without delay the planning (and research) began. I read in the Getaway magazine once:
"It is, perhaps, not just the journey that counts, but also the road that is travelled. And it's not necessarily the high road or the low road that matters, but rather the story behind the road that's important."
I like reading about the places I am about to visit. Knowing the story about a particular place makes the ride so much more interesting. I want to be free on my rides though so I have often researched a certain pass only to end up on another pass hundreds of kilometers in the other direction. That's biking for you. Unpredictable freedom.
This time it's easier though because one thing is for sure: I am going to ride passes. Many of them. And when it comes to passes in South Africa one name is sure to pop up: Bain.
It's easy to get confused: in South Africa's history there's an Andrew Geddes Bain, a Thomas Bain and a Thomas Baines. Thomas Bain is Andrew Geddes Bain's son and they are both associated with roads; Thomas Baines and Andrew Geddes Bain are associated with the military. Thomas Bain and Thomas Baines lived at roughly the same time and Thomas, Andrew and the other Thomas all loved to paint. Got it?
According to the website Every Single Place.com the Eastern Cape alone has 183 passes so it's clear from the outset that I'll need more than one ride to see all these places. This time round I'll see some good ones and probably miss some good ones, but that's OK. Just consider this the EC Passes ride "Part 1"
The Eastern Cape Province of course has a lot more to offer than just passes. In addition to mountains it has a tremendous coastline (think Wild Coast ), various conservancies and it's also steeped in history. In the 1760s boer people started moving into the Province and it was in the Eastern cape that the Boers began to refer to themselves not as “Dutch” or “Boers” but as Afrikaners.
The Eastern Cape saw many wars and battles as the "Cape Colony" moved it's borders East and of course later during the Anglo Boer War. Furthermore the Eastern Cape played a major role in the liberation of South Africa. The names of Chris Hani, Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Victoria and Griffiths Mxenge are well known names of people hailing from the Eastern Cape Provence.
Sadly with all it's tourism potential the Eastern Cape Provence is one of the struggling provinces of South Africa. Selfishly this, for me, is one of its biggest draw cards. Here, almost on my doorstep, is a vast province waiting to be explored. As beautiful as the Cederberg, Baviaans and other areas might be, it's not what it used to be. It's overrun with guest houses and tourists. The Eastern Cape for the most part is not a tourist trap and you can really enjoy the scenery, nature, peace and quiet.
So that is what we'll do.
Joining me on this trip will be my son "Asterix" as pillion and Smidty (on a Suzuki V-Strom 650) and his son also riding pillion. A father and son adventure in the making and a perfect start to 2010
Watch this space. See you on the other side!