Road Trips

Mal writes

Easter 2011 Bike Ride

With all the public holidays in April and May, it seemed like too good an opportunity not to take off the days in between, and, like most of South Africa, we landed up with 11 days holiday.  And what better way to spend it than cruising out to the back and beyond on our motorbikes.  With Brad and Lydia and Shannon in East London, we could visit half the family in one place, and Steve and Karen and family on the farm near Queenstown. The plan was for Sue and Carol to drive up, and John and I to go the fun way.

John had had to have his engine overhauled, due to what seems to have been a factory fault in the early 2008 models, causing excessive oil loss especially at speeds above 120 kph.  (Of course he seldom goes that fast!)  It meant that we had to travel at sedate speeds to let the engine settle in for the first 1000 kms or so.  John purchased an intercom system for Carol and himself, which we then used on our trip.  The range was about one km. line of sight, and via Bluetooth, we could use our cell phones to play music, and still receive phone calls and speak to each other when that mode was activated.  What a difference it makes being able to chat when you feel like it, or when you pass something interesting, or need to make decisions on the fly.  It has a feature that if your partner talks too much, you can just turn them off!!

We travelled along the N2, over Sir Lowry’s Pass, and had our first break at Riviersonderend.  Sue and Carol were not too far behind, and joined us for a cuppa.  We turned off after Swellendam to go through the lovely little town of Suurbrak, and soon found ourselves twisting along the TredouwPass.  It is pretty spectacular, and doesn’t take nearly as long on a motorbike as it has in the past on a bicycle, doing the Double Century race.  We filled up the fillies with petrol in Barrydale, with the sun starting to dip in the west.  The famous “Ronnie’s Sex Shop” caught our eye on the right side of the R62.  At the speeds we had done, we got the best petrol consumption than at any other time on our travels.  Our destination for the night was Reinhold and Maurine Linder’s home in the Groenfontein valley, 15 kms. from Calitzdorp.  The last bit was in the dark, on a dirt road, but we finally reached their oasis around 7:30 p.m., after a really pleasant ride.  I was almost as hungry as if I had done it on a bicycle.  Ever the gracious hosts, and Maurine a wonderful cook, we had a great night’s sleep.

In the morning, we had a guided tour of Reinhold’s solar system, which works very well, and provides for their needs.  The veggie garden is settling in for the winter, but it is amazing how much work they have done to turn their dry patch into a real oasis.  We had many kms. to go that day, so got moving further along the dirt road, till we again met the R62.  Oudtsdhoorn, Camfer, Sheepwalk, Joubertina, and Kareedow, were some of the towns we passed before joining up again with Humansdorp, near the N2.  The pace of the traffic picked up, and by now, John reckoned he had enough kms on the new engine to pick up the pace.  There are NO one stop petrol stations all the way through and past Port Elizabeth, and the four of us finally pulled over to take a rest and some nourishment.  By 4 p.m. we were on our way and decided to take the R72 coastal road toEast London, feeling that the traffic may be lighter.  It was, and we subsequently heard that the road surface is better than the N2 through Grahamstown and King William’s Town.  The bugs and my visor were doing battle, and the visor finally lost when a big fellow mushed against it.  By now it was dark, on unfamiliar road, and I not seeing much.   A quick clean up soon had us on the road, and I needed to be in front of John so my headlight didn’t blind him, and Sue led the pack in the car, clearing the path of potential animals and two legged creatures.  With clear instructions from Brad, we pulled into his driveway after having left the oasis 10 hours earlier, but feeling pretty contented and none the worse for wear.  It was great to see their place, which I hadn’t visited before, and their favourite places like Cintsa and Gonubie beach.

After doing our own thing for Easter Sunday and Monday, Sue drove up to Sterkstroom, while Carol and John on his steed, and I on mine did the road less travelled, and went via King William’s Town and Alice to Hogg’s Back.  It is a place I’d always wanted to visit, and these were all areas that John and Carol had not visited before.  There wasn’t too much time to explore, but a lunch stop at Feathers gave our rear ends a rest in a beautiful setting.

From there, we hit the dirt roads, (pretty good ones), and with autumn colours giving a lovely contrast against the mountains that were beginning to rise in front of us, and horses running along the fence beside us, it took our breath away.

Once back on the tar, we made good time, passing Whittlesea, Queenstown, and finally, after dropping John and Carol at the Mortlock’s at Hazelmere B and B, reached the farm, and the family.  The temperature was dropping to the low single digit figures, but things were cosy nonetheless, and we all got stuck in to helping Steve prepare for his art exhibition the next week.

John and I dragged ourselves away the next  afternoon to do some reasonably serious off road stuff that might not have challenged others more experienced, but it rocked our boat!  Every bit of experience helps.  Later on returning from a visit with Arthur and Michelle Berry, Sue and I noticed the car was showing that the outside temperature was 3°

Thankfully, by the next morning, it had risen to 7° by the time Carol, John and I left to head to Port Elizabeth.  It was tar all the way, but along great roads, and more beautiful twisters as we headed in the direction of the coast.  We passed through Fort Beaufort and Adelaide, to give a cheer for the “Three farmers and a Greek”, four guys who are also riding on Kawasaki KLR 650’s and currently en route toCairo.  Their regular blogs and emails from Rufus Dreyer have been invaluable to give us an idea as to what we too will face on our way up throughAfrica.  Well done guys.  After a strong headwind, seven hours in the saddle, minus a lunch stop and fuel stops, we reached my cousin in law’s place, again feeling pretty good, and pleased with the bike’s performance, our luggage, and adequate clothing.  The wind caused us to have about the worst petrol consumption on the trip.  Well done Carol on sitting pillion all that way.  And thanks Margit for accepting MY invitation of my friends and me to stay!!  It was great to catch up.

The next morning, I realized I needed to tighten the chain, but my bike tools proved inadequate for the job, and a helpful mechanic at the Honda dealers, who himself is a biker, sorted it out in no time, and we were on our way, headed for the Wilderness.  By now, the bikes were humming and we passed the Tsitsikame area, and did a side tour to Nature’s Valley.  We could see rain threatening in the distance, and it eventually caught us just after our fuel/royal wedding stop at Storm’s River.  It wasn’t too bad and we made it past PlettenbergBay, Knysna, Sedgefield, and were treated to a fantastic timeshare resort at the Wilderness Dunes, where we spent two nights and a day.

The morning was passed effortlessly at the Saturday Sedgefield market, and then a ride up to Barrington, Karatara, and Hoekvil, where we passed a place called Beerdam.  We thought it must be a popular spot.  We met two other bikers and chatted for a while.  Finally we got back to the Wilderness, and enjoyed a walk on the beach to stretch our legs, which, by now, had spent many hours bent at right angles.

John and I were keen to get back to Cape Town on the Sunday, and Carol was keen not to have another day on the back of the bike, and so spent another night at the Dunes, where she was joined by Sue, and a friend of Shan.  The three of them motored back the next day, while John and I did our thing.  We were pretty well behaved most of the way-just hovering around 110 k.p.h. and then I heard John say over the radio comm.. “shall we give these babies some exercise?”  Why should I turn down an offer like that?!  Again the petrol consumption was not so great, but we couldn’t blame it on the headwind this time.

All in all, we had a great holiday, learned lots about ourselves and the bikes, and the gear, and good times with our family.  I can’t wait for the next one.


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