Well, it seems that this journey is progressing faster than I can write about it. I had hoped to blog as I had on my first cycle ride through Africa. Writing, then, was the perfect distraction when I stopped frequently to rest my tired legs. But riding a motorbike doesn’t need such recovery time. So when we stop riding, it’s because we’re off to do other things. Less need to rest; less time to write. I’m not complaining. I love a life packed full of fun and adventure, but it leaves little time for introspection and retrospection. Having spent much of the last year book-writing, I had little time to read. So now, when I do have time (to write), I prefer to read. I’m devouring books like I devour carbohydrates when cycle-touring.
Rather than leave the blog to get further and further behind, you must excuse the occasional brief posts (filled with photos – because I’m still enjoying my photography, and it’s considerably less time-consuming) to bring the blog up to date. It’s a shame, because there is so much I would like to write, but I think, perhaps, that those words are best left until I have time to do them justice.
So, here is a brief account (which now I’m re-reading I realise is a lot longer than I was expecting) of the last few weeks since returning to Cape Town from the Cederberg…
We rode along the Garden Route, firstly rounding the Cape Pensinsula, stopping to see the penguins at the touristy Simon’s Town, and then further along at the much quieter and prettier Betties Bay. In between, my bike had sadly been struck down with the same illness it suffered in Bulgaria – sheared starter clutch bolts. Fortunately, the engine didn’t seize this time, and we limped to a mechanic (with Che Guevara painted on the wall) just back from his long holiday who was less than enthused to see us at 8am on a Monday. Bleary-eyed, he removed the starter clutch, and thanks to my bike having a kick-start, we continued our journey westwards.
Cape Agulhas – The Start Point?
From here we rode down to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point on the African continent. Two weeks into our journey north up the continent, and we found ourselves further south with an ailing bike. This seemed a sure indication that it’s going to be a long ride home (and of that I’m not complaining!).
Now we headed towards the Karoo via the locally renowned Ronnie’s Sex Shop on Route 62.
Ronnie’s is actually a bar, although it does sport rather a lot of bras hanging from the ceiling. It was a bit quirky, like things in remote places tend to become. Anyway, the Karoo was a desert-like country – dry and barren and blazing-hot. Thanks to Alex Jackson, we travelled some lovely gravel tracks with stunning scenery.
We also included a little detour down a one-way road towards Gamkapoort Dam, after crossing the Swartberg pass (where that morning Jimmy somehow managed to hit a dassie and a snake while riding).
A Dangerous Road…
A noticeboard informed us it was a ‘Dangerous Road for next 48km. Use at own risk’.
That warning was more of a prophesy, for on the return, nearly back after a hot, hard ride, feeling a little tired, with a momentary lapse of concentration I found myself swerving uncontrollably in the soft sand having clipped a rock and next moment the bike was on it’s side with my right leg twisted and trapped under it.
Thankfullly, Jimmy came to my aide, and soon enough I was back on the bike, albeit with a sore ankle and knee and a bruised ego. Perhaps it was a good thing – a little shaken but ultimately not seriously hurt – because it’s not good to get to overly confident, especially when out in the wilderness riding rocky tracks. That little fall was a reminder to keep alert and stay safe. I mean, it certainly isn’t going to stop me searching out those rough and rocky trails – far from it – but will mean I ride them better and safer.
After the trials of the Karoo, we took the tarmac back towards the coast to Wilderness, where we rested up for a few days by going canoeing and walking up to some waterfalls for a change of pace.
Then, back on the bikes, we rode inland again. This time, towards the Baviaanskloof.
I had noticed a poster advertising the Baviaanskloof as a place to take your 4×4 way back in Cape Town. It intrigued me. I googled to find out more about it. I asked Alex, since he’d recommended such good trails in the Karoo, about more tracks in the Baviaanskloof. At first, hesitant in replying, he made some comment about not knowing what my skill level was (to which I replied, that if a fully loaded XT225 can make it, then I’d give it a go). Finally, all he said was ‘It’s where the enduro guys go to prove how big their balls are’. Hah. I was hooked.
What’s more, when we mentioned where we were headed to locals we passed, they all said the Baviaanskloof was great. And when one person mentioned about some caves where you can spend the night, we decided to check it out.
That’s how we ended up splashing out on our very own cave at Makadaat. It’s the only night where we booked accommodation ahead and would be our first night in three weeks out of the tent. And wow, were we spoiled… There was freshly baked bread ready to collect when we arrived, and boerwors in the freezer and wood ready for an evening braai. Thankfully, I’d had the foresight to buy a bottle of wine before coming because there were no shops nearby and that Merlot did somewhat add to the ambience of dinner on the terrace with a fire burning gently and the stars overhead.
Next day we had a gentle ride, stopping for a waterfall walk and arriving mid-afternoon at Doringskloof campsite. Here, with a network of 4×4 trails, we rode a short distance over acacia-thorn strewn land to some bushman paintings… well, if you squinted a little and stared hard, you could just make out some faint reddish shadows on a flat piece of rock that at the right angle looked kind of like animals. If this was the reason I’d come here, I would have been a little disappointed. But we were here for the trails, so we rode a loop surrounding the farm under the threat of rain and arrived back at the time of day when the wildlife comes out of the shade. We were happier to see the kudu and springbok leaping through the bush than to see the vervet monkeys the following afternoon, who had ransacked our camping gear we’d left out and smeared their shit all over our tent. Yeah, I was unimpressed. Not so much as Jimmy though – he was the one who cleaned up the tent. I went about collecting our cooking equipment from around the campsite and Jimmy finally found the last part of the stove floating in the lake under the little jetty. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but there was no beer to be had anywhere. Anyway, before we came back to the monkey-ransacked chaos, we had spent the day riding a 4×4 trail 80 kilometres to Kareedouw, where we had lunch at The Sweaty Dutchman because the cafe had a weird name, and then rode the 80km back. Possibly the longest ride for a lunch I’ve ever made. It took 5 hours to get there and 3 to get back. Now that was some fun trail! The kind of trail I’d been longing for ever since the taster of the 4×4 Wuppertal track in the Cederberg. These are the trails I came to ride… those trails that are just too much like hard work on a touring bicycle.
This wasn’t the end of the fun in the Baviaanskloof though, because the next day, with luggage back on the bike, we rode through the nature reserve. Tired, we were up later than expected, so perhaps missed the glory of those early morning animal sightings. Although there was no shortage of baboons and tortoises.
But what with the overnight downpour, the streams were overflowing so there were plenty of river crossings and extra large puddle crossings to get our feet wet and our bikes (temporarily) clean.
Our luck remained and we made it out of the Baviaanskloof and back to the coast the next day at Port Elizabeth without getting rained upon (although our boots were still soaking). The reason for going to Port Elizabeth was to get my bike fixed. It only took two days for the helpful guys at the Yamaha dealership to get a new starter clutch and fit it. Unfortunately, the previous weeks have taken their toll on the poor little bike, and while I can now start it off the button, it is in dire need of an overhaul to the rear shock absorber. But that was going to take longer than we wanted to wait in town.
So, we’re limping on.
And I’m still loving it.