Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Cape Tour - March 2010

Mags, Danie, André and Jo ride ...

... a few provinces ...

... a few passes ...

... with a few glitches ...

... in a few weeks ...

.... and have a heck of a lot of fun!

Day 1: Home - Colesberg

13 March eventually arrived. Mags and I were getting on our bikes in the semi-darkness of the 6am morning to start our trip. It was in the planning for just over a year. As I closed the gate behind us, I thought: "if all goes well, in three weeks, we will be back at this gate". We hit the road for the first stop at the Grasmere Engen One-Stop at Grasmere to meet up with Danie and Jo who would be joining us for what was, for us the longest trip ever. They arrived. Excitement was in the air as we all had a quick coffee before pointing the front wheels south. By the end of this journey, those ThinkBike bibs would not be quite as clean.

From here, to Colesberg were rather uneventful. Not much scenery, not many cars, no cops, no twisties. Just endless straight bits of road. The monotony of the ride was only broken by a toll gate at regular intervals. Toll gates that were getting very expensive indeed. We stopped for a break and some sustenance at the Kroonvaal Engen One-Stop. We filled up a time or two and eventually put Bloemfontein behind us. For me, this is a huge milestone as I never feel I have left home, before Bloemfontein is behind me. I have no idea why, it just feels that way.

It was on this bit between Grasmere and Bloemfontein that Glitch One appeared. Glitch One being the 1200GS developing a very naughty speedometer. At a fuel stop, Jo accosted poor Danie demanding to know why he was insisting on riding 80km/h. The rest of us frowned in wonderment as, although we were not going fast enough to make Rossi a worried man, we were not doing 80! It seems the Beemer's speedo had decided to go on a "go-slow" strike. It would remain erratic for the whole trip.

From Bloem to Colesberg, the road gets even straighter, if at all possible. On this stretch, Danie also decided that rest stops and smoke breaks are for sissies. When he eventually stopped it was at road works near the Gariep Dam and the smokers amongst us were giving him the evil eye (very evil indeed). The "Stop/Go" didn't hold us up for too long, but it did give us a much needed break. We left as they allowed us to go and in a few minutes we were taking snaps of the Gariep Dam, with Danie getting jittery. His reason was that he wanted to get to our abode for the night in time to watch the Bulls maul some luckless Super14 team. I think it was just his alcoholic tapeworm expressing severe demands for a cold beer. Mine was.

715km's later we arrived at the Safari Park Lodge, 25km past Colesberg. We undonned the *I&*^*&* super hot Atgatt, unloaded the bikes, leapt into a drink and settled down to watch the rugby. Safari Park, although out in the centre of nowhere have a neat little pub and restaurant, so we had supper and went to sleep soon after the rugby ended. No wild parties or other shenanigans.

This part of the route had very good roads. There are some road works just before Bloemfontein, but not a major issue. Some road works between Springfontein and the Orange River with "Stop/Go" control that may cost a bit of time, or give you a much needed leg stretch. The road between Gariep Dam and Colesberg is very bumpy with some awe inspiring potholes in places.

Day 2: Colesberg to Stellenbosch

We were up bright and early, ready for the Karoo. The previous week we watched the weather reports as we saw temps of 40+ for towns like Beaufort West, Laingsburg and Worcester. I was wondering if it is really and truly better to sweat rather than bleed and wear, or not wear the Atgatt. I never really found out because, can you believe it, it was cold!? Yep, by noon, between Beaufort West and Laingsburg, we were riding with our inners, in! I am not complaining, understand. Not at all. If I had to choose between being a tad cold or dying of dehydration, cold wins hands down, every time. One of the four of us, must have some great contacts with the gods of weather, I tell you.
The ride itself was pretty much the same as the previous day. Nothing of much interest up to De Doorns where the first twisties appear in the form of the Hexriver Pass and shortly after that the Hexriverpoort Pass. At De Doorns my mouth hung open. It wasn't too long ago that the community burnt tires, threw stones and made a general nuisance of them because they demanded a safe way across the N1. Now, the demanded pedestrian bridge only serves as shade for said pedestrians while they stroll across the N1 anyway. Sometimes I have to wonder about human beings being the "intelligent" species on this planet.

A quick splash and dash and some serious drooling over a FJR1300 parked at the Shell Ultra City in Worcester, followed by a interesting ride through the Hugenot Tunnel and 722km's since Safari
Park, we arrived.

With great excitement, Mags could say hello to her Mom in Stellenbosch. This would be our base for the next few days.

Day 3: Stellenbosch

Rest day. We hung around and then hung around some more. Did I mention we hung around? It was a rest day, no argument from anyone.

Day 4: Stellenbosch area

We rode to Somerset West, Strand and Gordon's Bay, but then like Gautie sissies, snuck home quietly and hid from that Cape wind. Man alive, now I know how those Capies can brag about riding their chicken strips off. Easy ... on the day, I did it going in a straight line!

Day 5: Cape Town via Chapman's Peak

It seemed that the wind would give us some riding time, so off we went. Aimed for Kalkbay first as Danie and myself required breakfast and Jo wanted to visit some antique stores there. Mags elected to stay behind and visit with her Mom instead. After a lekker brêkkie and some antique shopping in Kalkbay we followed the coast, via Chapman's Peak into Cape Town.

Bloody rip-off entrance fee for Cape Point prevented us from going all the way to the point though. Sheezzz! R70 per person and that is just to gain entrance to the Park.

Our enjoyment of Chapman's Peak was marred by the Cape wind having found some new energy, blowing with vengeance again. If you think cagers hate bikers, that Cape wind does bear one heck of a grudge and then some, against us poor innocents on two wheels. Hey, what could we do, but ride now. No easy slink back home on the cards once you are in the middle of Chapman's Peak, so we pressed on the Waterfront in Cape Town. Had some munchies at the Waterfront and spend some time dragging Jo, kicking and screaming away from the jewelry shops. We took the N2 back to Stellenbosch. It was a nice enjoyable loop and to be fair, that must be one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Chapman's peak can not be unseen, once seen.

Oh ... just so the Gautotties and Gautieties can see what I mean when I say "Cape wind". See below. Just the wind. No stupid human. No moronic taxi. No birdbrain cager. No staggering drunk. No idiot anywhere .... just the wind.

Day 6: Stellenbosch area

We decided to infringe on the Capies idea, so we did a 5 passes in a couple of hours ride. Went over Helshoogte Pass, Franschoek Pass, Viljoens Pass, Sir Lowreys Pass and Steenbras Dam Pass. Got chased of Steenbras Dam Pass as some very secret, not to be mentioned car manufacturer (not VW) was shooting high speed (VW!???) footage for a new ad of some really secret car, yet to be launched (not a VW Touran). I offered to show them high speed, but the offer was declined.

Day 7: Stellenbosch to Kagga Kamma

Danie had booked us for a week at the Kagga Kamma Lodge. This lodge is 60km's on the nowhere side of Opdieberg. Opdieberg, which may once have been known as Bokfontein is 60km's or so into somewhere from Prince Alfred Hamlet about 30km's on the who the heck know's side of Ceres. It is just left of the Koue Bokkeveld and a bit right from Tankwa Karoo ... or something like that.

To get there we crossed the Bainskloof Pass. Michells Pass and the Gydo Pass. My word. What a ride. Bainskloof is not for the faint hearted as it is very narrow, quite busy with very little in terms of crash barriers and such. This awesome pass winds through a truly beautiful kloof. Go ride it, but do try not to take the long way down to the river. It will play havoc with you, your leathers and your boney. Trust me on that one.

Michells Pass is basically the road into Ceres. Nice and wide, but very busy with lots of fruit trucks. We also met up with a Capie on a F800GS on his way to join some mates for some dirt riding up in the Tankwa Karoo. Friendly bloke. Led us to a very nice and quant brêkkie joint where we stood in awe (yeah, right) as we saw some well known soapie stars there. We had a lekker brêkkie and even better chat with the Capie. When we left we found that he had already paid our bill as well. Maybe he felt guilty because we did some whining because we found Cape biker a unfriendly lot ... that, or maybe he was just nice. Thanks Barry. Hope to find you on the roads again someday so we can return the compliment.

On the way from Ceres to Opdieberg I found a pass that I fell in love with. It is right up there with Steenkampsberg on my favourite passes list. Gydo Pass. Wow! It is an awesome climb with some great twisties. A tad busy with fruit trucks, but with lots of visibility.We arrived at Opdieberg, or is that Bokfontein, filled up, turned right, rode 20km and then the nasty brown stuff started. Before us lay 40km's of dirt road.

We again, just like in Memel, tackled the dirt. None of us really into dirt riding (that would certainly change). Not one of the bikes, set up for dirt either and one bike being a sport bike. On this piece, we found the Katbakkies Pass.

This is a very narrow, incredibly steep pass with awesome nature and rock formations. Thankfully it is tarred for the worst part. Oh, by the way, we also found some really loose stones and thick sand.

We arrived at the Kagga Kamma resort without incident, unless you count two of us keeling over, bike and all in the thick sand as incidents. In the interest of my health and safety, I will not mention any names here. I must however mention that both bikes that went down were made in Bavaria. Fortunately no harm came to the riders, or the bikes (nothing that could not be repaired with a bit of brute force and ignorance anyway) and the only injury suffered was to the egos of said, unidentified riders. I, very carefully and in my normal subtle manner, enquired about the sanity of riding 40km dirt and then falling over with 200m to go. I received a reply, but can not, for the sake of our children, record it on this family Blogg. Suffice to say that that hardened sailors from all over the world are clamoring for language courses with the person who replied.

We booked in and found that Kagga Kamma's claim to fame was that there was excellent lodging and nothing else. Yep, I did mean to say nothing. No cell phone coverage, YEAH! No groceries, OOPS! Huge oops as the closest shop of any value was now 60km back and those of you who has been reading this with the proper attention, will know 40km of that is dirt .... and there is that Katbakkies Pass as well! And then that 10km bit of loose stones .... and the piece with the thick sand ....

We off loaded, got comfortable in our chalet and pondered this grocery conundrum.

Day 8 to Day 13: Kagga Kamma

We spend a full timeshare (Friday to Friday) week at Kagga Kamma, with no riding, well except for the ride back to Opdieberg with a grocery list drawn up for the two of us who drew the short straw and won, as first prize, a ride to the Spar in Opdieberg. No prizes for guessing who that would be. Somehow, the task fell to Danie and myself. Thankfully Jo was in a giving mood and allowed Danie to use her GS, rather than his own FJ, which is a really nice bike, but a tad bumpy on this type of road surface.

We also had to get some oil to try and sort Glitch Two that had developed. Before the trip, Vinkie forked out R4k to have his bike serviced. This included replacing the fork seals which was leaking a little bit on the left fork. It went back after the service to fix the, now leaking really badly (on both sides) forks. After the bumpy ride into Kagga Kamma it was, well, urinating oil from the forks. Although it pretty much stopped leaking once empty.

At Opdieberg, Danie also informed me of Glitch Three. The 1200GS had developed a badly slipping clutch. This was way more than a glitch and I was worried as I, in my mind, upgraded Glitch Three to Problem One. Note, this was a problem, not a challenge and I was very worried. Then, as Danie tried to get somthing that showed some resemblance to fork oil from the local Kooperasie, I noted that the hand guard had moved and was preventing the clutch lever from fully extending. I fixed it and Problem One turned into Glitch Three and Glitch Three was resolved on the spot. Thank goodness.

As for the buying of the required groceries, it's a long story and the debate still rages as to whether the grocery list was incomplete, or whether we didn't buy everything on the list. This little oversight would see us short of groceries later in the week and wouldmake things like eating and drinking a very interesting challenge.

Glitch Two, the FJ forks were sorted with the only oil we could find, some manufacturer's SAE40 car oil (any oil is better than no oil). I will not bore you with the details, but the repairs involved a borrowed Allan Key, a Waterpomptang, an assortment of screw drivers, a hammer a roll of toilet paper and the FJ being hoisted skyward with a tie down.

Since we didn't know how much oil was required and getting oil in was a nasty job, we filled the forks till they overflowed, closed them up and then drained oil bit by bit, until Danie declared the suspension "setting" and travel a-okay. I would be blatantly lying if I did not admit that all of the above required a certain amount of alcoholic beverages, some choice words learnt during some years in the military and a lot of giggling (mostly by the ladies).

The rest of the time at Kagga Kamma we basically chilled. Mags enjoyed some swimming, we read, some strange people in our group went on hiking trials. Bikers that walk!? SIES!

The rest of the time there was rather interesting. We ran out of stuff to drink. We ran out of stuff to eat. The last night, we braaid slices of bread with bacon and cheese. Ah yes, those braaid sarmies tasted great. They did. Oh, we also took lots of pictures of the awesome place with the incredible rock formations.

All too soon it was time to depart. The plan was to take it easy back to the tar, fly down the Gydo Pass, through Ceres and Michells Pass, via some more passes, through Malmesbury and back to Stellenbosch where we would abuse Mags' Mom's washing machine and tumble drier for a day, before we continued up the west coast to Lambert's Bay. All this would change rather dramatically as Glitch Four reared its ugly head.

Day 14: Kagga Kamma to Stellenbosch

Friday arrived and we loaded up, preparing to shake the dust of Kagga Kamma from our Anakees. We departed. Some with some trepidation. Me, I was hot and bothered. After playing with the Strom's suspension setting and tire pressures I could now fly on dirt and even liked it. My fellow riders were not at all that sure about the "fly on dirt" bit. The 40km's out followed a nice routine. Mags and Jo would go ahead. I would wait for Danie. Then I would blast of like a experienced dirt rider to catch up to the chickens and wait for Danie, while they carried on. At first I could catch up with the chickens by walking, but pretty soon they got the hang of it, their confidence up me catching them became hairier and way more interesting ... for me anyway.

The Strom, the dirt and I had finally found each other. It was fun and I am so proud of myself, actually getting up enough speed to kick up some dust! Wow, look at me now!

I did have one oops moment, but thankfully that was over before I had the chance to do anything stupid. We waited for Danie where the tar started and as he arrived the FJ died on us. Glitch Four had arrived and arrived well. His alternator had retired and promptly upon retirement, died a quiet, yet incredibly untimeous death. He disconnected his yellow spot lights, switched of everything else and we push started him. Obviously this cramped our plans and we decided to take the shortest route back to Stellenbosch.He actually made it to 20 or so k's past Ceres before the battery finally gasped a last breath. To cut a long story short, we learned:

  • A 1200GS can not be jump started.
  • A FJ1200 battery is too high to fit under the seat of a DL1000.
  • A 650GS (twin's) battery is better hidden than that of the old thumper.
  • Using one bike to charge the battery of another will give you another 40 - 50km's of riding.
  • Just when you think it can't worse a FJ fuel pump can stop working for a while and then start working again, all by itself, just to ruin a ruined day even more.
  • No amount of leaning on a bike and looking utterly gatvol and dejected , will charge a battery or miraculously fix an alternator.

Using some more choice words, a certain amount of McGyvering and possibly even a prayer or two, we eventually made it back to Stellenbosch on four bikes, albeit the FJ sounding very sick and sad. While Danie and myself did our "let's look like sad puppies" trick, the chickens had already, via cellphone and Mags' Mom's mechanic's friend's friend found someone who may be able to help. He eventually did, but not after some really strange happenings. It seemed that Satan himself and most of his cohorts, did not want that FJ to continue with the journey. The story of having that FJ up and running will take a week to tell, never mind write down, but had a happy ending when the bike was finally back to its purring self, some days later.

Day 15: Stellenbosch to Kleinbaai

We decided, that waiting for the FJ to be repaired was a waste of valuable riding time so we departed for our next stop in Kleinbaai, about 160km's away. Danie rides the GS1200 with Jo as passenger on her own bike. Jos luggage joins me, my luggage joins Mags, Danies luggage joins Jo. Well half. The other half is left behind. The idea is that Jo and Danie will ride back to Stellenbosch on Tuesday, fix the bike and join Mags and me in Sedgefield.

Kleinbaai is a beautiful village just the other side of Gansbaai which is just the other side of Hermanus which is just ... I am sure you get the message. To get there you ride the absolutely beautiful R44 through lovely little places like Rooiels, Betty's Bay and Kleinmond. Our intrepid foursome on a threesome of bikes arrived in Kleinbaai after a very enjoyable ride. We had dinner in a very nice and quint bistro on the harbour. I can recommend the oxtail, but if your drop your keys there, I suggest you dribble it around the corner before bending to pick it up.

Day 16: Kleinbaai to Sedgefield

We all depart for Sedgefield, making phone calls regarding the FJ's alternator at every smoke break. The news from Stellenbosch is bad. It will take a week to rewire the alternator. The news from Jo'ies is better. Our friend Avon found an alternator and will overnight courier is down to Stellenbosch. Danie and Jo decide (a mere 180 or km's from Stellenbosch on the N2) to go to Sedgefield with us and return the next day.

The ride from Kleinbaai to Sedgefield was very nice, albeit cramped with four of us sharing the three bikes. The N2 is in a great condition and there are many nice town and lots of twisties to keep the discerning biker occupied and happy. During one of our fuel stops I got into chatting with a very English couple in a rental Renault of sorts. Mags joined us and as she removed her helmet, the very English wife said in a very English accent: "Oooh, look, it's a lady!" Me? I would have though the pink bib is a dead give away, but hey ... the English may be different.

Day 17: Sedgefield

Mags and I had plans to explore, possibly ride the Outeniqua Pass while Danie and Jo returned to Stellenbosch for the FJ. They did return to Stellenbosch, about 500km away, found that the alternator have arrived form Johannesburg due to "overnight" apparantly not meaning "overnight" for the SA Post Office. Fortunately, the managed to source another, fitted it to the bike and returned to Sedgefield the same day. This was almost a 1000km round trip!

Meanwhile, our stay-behind plans went down the toilet as Glitch Five appeared with a ban ... or rather, the lack thereof! The arrival of these glitches was becoming rather monotonous by now. The Strom's alternator stopped charging. Yes, before you ask, that same V-Strom that had its stator rewired, rectifier and battery replaced only a week before the start of the trip.

So, while Danie and Jo were doing their mini Iron Butt, Mags and I visited Knysna looking for aid. This was sadly lacking at the first place we went to. Motolek in Knysna refused to help. Even trying to jump start my bike after, dejectedly leaving the shop, we struggled as the owner refused help. What a super sized chop! Unlike Forest Gump, I have a lot say about this person, but general good manners prevents me. I trust karma will get him someday. Lots and lots of karma.

Due to the kind help of one of his employees, we made our way to Wildwind Motorcycles where we received exactly the opposite treatment. Grant, mate. I owe you one. Grant tried his utmost to help, but the best we could figure out, excluding a week long wait for parts from Suzuki, SA that for some reason had to be routed via a Suzuki dealer in either Cape Town or Port Elizabeth was to disconnect my headlights, ad some electrical charging power from Midas Spares and a spare battery. Ah well, all's well that ends well.

Danie and Jo were back safely from their impromptu mini Iron Butt, the FJ was purring like a tiger, the 1200GS still had a handicapped speedo, but who cares about that and I had what I needed to keep my bike going and managed to fit it into a already packed topbox. Tomorrow we would ride again as a group. Cape Saint Francis via Grootriver Pass and Bloukrans Pass ... here we come.

Day 18: Sedgefield to Cape Saint Francis

We dawdled a tad in leaving Sedgefield, stopped 20km later in Knysna for a late morning brêkkie and headed out for Cape Saint Francis. It was a short ride at only 240km but would include the Grootriver Pass and the Bloukrantz Pass as we were travelling on the R102 instead of the N2. Sadly, our plans were once again thwarted. Both passes were closed due to the fact that R102 was under major construction in the passes. This forced us onto the N2 and another inflated fee at a toll gate.We enjoyed the short ride to Cape St Francis and loved it there. It is a truly beautiful place with a great atmosphere. We also arrived on 1 April, in time for the official launch of the local new pub and they had an April Fools Menu for the day. Drinks and food were dirt cheap. It was certainly nice there.

Day 18: Cape Saint Francis to Grahamstown

Another short hop of around 230km. Why Grahamstown and not Port Alfred? One of our party wanted to "experience" Grahamstown. The ride was awesome as we first enjoyed the Gamtoos Valley and then Van Staden's Pass just before Port Elizabeth back on the R102 again.

After PE, it was that awesome piece or tarmac between PE and Grahamstown. Man alive, this bit must be a close to bikers heaven as one can get while not in heaven yet. The road is in great condition with lots of twisties and great visibility as well. Experiencing Grahamstown was a complete let down. The town has fallen apart, is dirty and run down, with herds of cattle, goats and donkeys feasting on the lawns of once, well kept pavements and in dustbins. Truly sad to find this, once beautiful town, in complete shambles.

Day 19: Grahamstown to Bloemfontein

This was one of our longer rides in a day at just over 620km. From Grahamstown to Queenstown you cross the Ecca Pass as well as the Nico Malan Pass. Both awesome to ride. The road is dead quiet and the scenery beautiful. It was on the Nico Malan Pass that we lost Jo. Or did she lose us? She swears she never exceeded 140. Danie swears he did 180 and couldn't catch her. I would hate to say either one is lying, so let us just ascribe this discrepancy to the extremely lazy speedo on that GS. *nudge nudge wink wink*

From Queenstown to Aliwal north we saw the last of the twisties on the Penhoek Pass. At Aliwal North you cross the bridge into the Freestate. The "free" in Freestate must definitely refer to the fact that it is free of twisties and mountains. So, basically Aliwal North to Bloemfontein and Glen Country Lodge where we stayed over was uneventful and quiet, just like the start of the trip three weeks prior. Small towns like Rouxville, Smithfield and Reddersburg flashed past and pretty soon, we were having a cold one on the stoep at Glen Country Lodge. I liked this place as they serve dinner and even wine, beer and stuff in the chalets! Yes man, that is what I call service. Excellent service, in fact. Reasonable prices as well.

Day 20: Bloemfontein to Home

We were all a tad sad as we hit the road for home. We had enjoyed three weeks of incredible riding, even though glitches and stuff tried to thwart our holiday. Bloemfontein to Gauteng is just the same as always. Straight with expensive tolls and boring. We did have a moment of excitement when Danie lost his valuables at 130 and all his money and cards went flying across the road. We actually managed to find his bank cards, driver's license and most of his money, so no real harm done and we appreciated the good luck.

As we took a smoke break at the Kroonvaal Toll Plaza Glitch number ... sheeez, I can't count that far, appeared. The last bike of the lot, Mags' F650GS had sprung leaking forks! It does seem that the FJ's leaking forks and alternator issues may well have been contagious! Strewth!

Anyway, we made it home, safe and sound and planning the next ride. What a ride!

Some info:

Basic route: JHB, Bloem, Colesberg, Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Ceres, Hermanus, Knysna, PE, Queenstown, Aliwal North, Bloem, JHB.
Distance: Just over 5000km's for Mags and me. Ad about 1000 to that for Danie and Jo.
Bike glitches: 6 ... I think.
Fines: None in person. Can't guarantee anything about cameras.
Run -ins with cops: None, except one huge aunty cop who frantically indicated to me to switch my headlights on. Can you believe this? Less than 2km's after disconnecting them in Knysna. She didn't stop me though as she had a bigger fish to fry. A Greyhound bus.
Irritating drivers other than ourselves: Not many. Mainly a few tailgaters in the Cape area.
Great service from places we stayed: Safari Park, Colesberg. Nells B&B, Kleinbaai. Bald Chickens, Sedgefield. Cormorant Cottage, Cape St Francis, Eagles Nest B&B, Grahamstown. Glen Country Lodge, Bloemfontein.
Not so good service from places we stayed: Kagga Kamma Lodge
Great service from other service providers: Donford BMW, Stellenbosch. Wildwind Motorcycles, Knysna.
Crappy service from other service providers: Motolek, Knysna.

As soon as Danie and I can bring ourselves to do so, we will thank the two Beemer owners for saving our sorry, Jappie scrappie arses from a lot of walking.

Ah yes ... where to next .... I wonder ....

Eastern Cape ...

Northern Cape ...

Limpopo ...


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