Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Friends, "Newbie" Route


Weeks of planning and calls brought me here: Amber Lagoon

It's funny how things work out sometimes. Boere and his group asked me about routes and accommodation in the Southern Cape and in the end they introduced me this this place, less than 100km from my doorstep, that I never even knew about. What a nice surprise!

They have something for everybody - camping, backpackers, chalets, permanent tents - and everything is blended into the Klein Karoo landscape so well that you could easily ride past here and never even know it is here (which I apparently did several times ).

I arrived early and set up camp. My spot for the night:

I relaxed with a cold one while waiting for the group from Cape Town to arrive and was kept company by this Koggelmander (Agama):

The Agama Genus is the most common lizard found in Africa and consists of at least 37 species. Agamas are active during the day and are often found scampering around to snatch up their favorite insects, but they also eat grass, berries, seeds and even the eggs of smaller lizards.

I am not an expert, but my best guess is that this is a Grondkoggelmander or Agama aculeata. Beautiful:

And soon Boere and his group roared in and the party started.

We have never met, but clicked instantly. What 'n nice bunch of people. What a wonderful setting to start start a trip from.

This group had riders new to dirt riding, in fact, I think Boere said that Dragonfly had only done a couple of gravel trips and his wife (Boere Frau) had only done something like 2 km on dirt before this trip. So I decided on easy rides starting with a short ride on the first day. This way I could gauge the speed the group would be travelling at before we tackle the second longer day (This was planned before I knew I would not be able to join then on the whole weekend).

The route for Day 1:

We would travel in a circle from Amber Lodge, past Volmoed, along the scenic Paardebond road to the Gouritz river and then down the Rooiberg Pass to Calitzdorp for lunch. The day would be finished with a scenic ride past the Calitzdorp dam and back to Amber Lagoon. It's a short (180km) newbie friendly route (or so I thought) and a good introduction to the Klein Karoo and gravel riding.

The second day would include Swartberg Pass, to Hell and back, the rest of Swartberg pass to Prins Albert (for lunch) and then a easy ride back to Amber Lodge via Klaarstroom, Meirings Poort and Oudtshoorn, about 300km total.

On Friday morning we were up and ready for our ride. Six bikes, the perfect size for a group in my opinion. Boere's sons would follow in a back-up vehicle for support if needed.

Glen and Dragonfly chomping at the bit to get going to Rooiberg in the distance. Lets go!

This Paardebond road is just a pleasure to ride. Amazingly I've only ridden it for the first time about two months ago, but this would be the fourth time I've ridden it since. Some scenery en-route:

Dragonfly leading Pote, Boere and Boere-Frau:


(Photo by Pote)

Rest stop:

Dakars running together:

Some more scenery:

During this part of the trip a big group of riders from the CABC came past us riding in the opposite direction. As it turns out my "newbie" ride was their Orange route. The new riders in the group was taking everything in their stride though. No stopping these girls!

Glen approaching:

Descending to the Gourits rivier:

One tricky bit on this route is crossing the Gourits river bed. It is not exactly newbie friendly (to put it mildly) but everybody decided to give it a go. Boere Frau reckoned it's the only way to learn. What a great attitude for a new rider to have.

I crossed first and set up my camera.

First up: Glen

Next up the two new riders - Dragonfly with Boere Frau following:

Boere Frau got knocked of the line by some bigger stones. Easy does it:

But then unfortunately lost her footing.

Just a topple over, nothing serious and no damage to the bike.

And still that great attitude!

Next up - Pote:

Boere taking the Varradero through:

And right on the other side of that a rest stop. Beautiful spot!

And while we rest, the kids play.

Hitting the road towards Rooiberg Pass:

While we were riding along I noticed we were being caught up by another big group of riders:

As it turns out our "newbie" ride did not only follow the CABC Orange route, but also overlapped with their Red Route for a section.

I may have underestimated the grading of my route just a tad. The girls handled it wonderfully though and didn't complain even once.

It was here, where we joined up into the Rooiberg Pass, where we would split up. Boere's group would ride over Rooiberg Pass to Calitzdorp for lunch and I would follow the Red Route group back to the CABC camp at Rooiberg Lodge. I have to admit that even though I was excited about attending the Cape Adventure Bike Challenge, I was sorry to see these guys go. We were just getting into that group ride "mojo", we clicked so well.

It was an honour riding with you guys!

From Left to Right: Pote, Dragonfly, Boere Frau, Boere, myself and Glen.

After we said our goodbyes I headed off to the CABC.

My route statistics for today:


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