Monday, June 29, 2015

50th Birthday ride - May 2015

1 May is a public holiday, which makes the weekend around 1 May a perfect time for a long weekend ride.  1 May is also the birthdate of Magda, the other half of this partnership.  This year, Magda turned 50 on 1 May and we decided to get a birthday ride together for her birthday.  We invited some friends, all bikers, and decided to go for the Drakensberg Mountains.  Drakensville Resort situated in the Central Burg area, would be the base for this trip.

Unfortunately, most of those invited could not join us, so come Thursday a small group departed. 

Magda, birthday girl:  BMW R1200GS LC
AndrĂ©:  BMW R1200GS LC
Willie and Karen:  BMW R1200GS
Trish:  BMW R1200R

We chose to use the long way round to get to the destination, so we avoided the logical N3 south which pretty much runs straight downhill from Johannesburg to Durban.  We all met up at the Blockhouse Engen 1-stop just outside Alberton, had a cuppa and headed for the mountains.

Due to the long way round route we went through quite a few small towns in the Freestate Province.  From the start we went past Sasolburg where Sasol fuel is made from coal.  Then we reached the really small town of Heilbron, where we stopped for a breakfast.  Some were hungry, it seems.  We entered a small restaurant named OJ, for the old registration letters designating Heilbron.   We had an awesome breakfast, as we so often experience at these "off the beaten track" places.

We spend some time here because the atmosphere was excellent and we were in no hurry.  From Heilbron we travelled past Petrus Steyn and through Reitz.  From Reitz to Kestell we took it slow due to some major construction to the road.  Well, they are basically rebuilding the road completely.  This is always nice to see.  Soon to be new roads.  Somewhere between Reitz and Kestell we stopped for a leg stretch and a chat.
After Kestell we headed, via Harrismith to the Van Reenen's Pass, which can be a problem due to high wind.  Fortunately we arrived on a day when there was no wind whatsoever and the pass was a joy to ride.  We crossed over the pass, leaving the Freestate Province behind as we entered the KwaZuluNatal Province.
After a quick hop through the town of Bergville, we arrived at Drakensville Resort.  An interesting fact about this resort is that it used to be a normal construction town.  The workers that build the Drakensberg Pumped Storage Power Station for power utility Eskom, stayed here.  Once construction was completed, the town was bought by a resort owning company who converted this town to one of their crown jewel resorts.
We quickly booked in, unloaded and relaxed after a long, enjoyable ride.  During the booking in procedure, Karen somehow arranged for the local cafeteria to bake a surprise birthday cake for Magda.  This would be delivered to our house the next day, while we were out riding.
The next morning we made a quick run into Bergville to get some supplies for the rest of the weekend, went back to Drakensville to offload and then we hit the road into the mountains around us.  Our first point of call was the well known waffle hut just outside Winterton.  It is compulsory to stop here and feed yourself a waffle with one, or more of the many delicious fillings.  Trust me, if ever in this area, do make the stop.

From here we took a ride to Monk's Cowl, high up in the mountain.  After a leg stretch and some piccies, we rode back to Winterton, passed through Bergville, went past Drakensville and rode up the mountain via the Oliviershoek Pass.  While on this pass, you actually travel over the Eskom power station, which is, in totality, buried deep under the mountain.   This area is beautiful, especially due to the mountains, but also due to the many dams in the area.  The dams are all part of the Tugela-Vaal Water Transfer Scheme and the Eskom Pumped Storage Power Station.  Water is collected from the Tugela River in various dams, such as Woodstock Dam and the Kilburn Dam.  This water is then pumped up the mountain, over the crest and into dams such as the Driekloof Dam (Eskom power generation) and Sterkfontein Dam (water storage for later use in Gauteng).
The picture below is of Magda's and my bikes directly on top of the power station, the "roof" of which is about 50 stories below ground ... and us.
Karen and Willie's bike, with Karen looking out over the escarpment.

Magda's bike.
We rode back down the Oliviershoek Pass to Drakensville where we had a nice braai, some general chatter and a good night's rest.  The surprise cake was delivered as promised.  It was HUGE and the team ate cake for a few days and still left half behind when we left!
The next morning we decided to allow the bikes to rest as we took birthday girl, Magda to a spa (walking distance in the resort) for some serious pampering.  It was hot rock massage, toes, nails, and all sorts of other things they do in spas.
The view from where we stayed was magnificent!

All to soon it was the final day and time for our return.  This time we took the straight road back, in other words, the N3 highway all the way.  This does take you across the beautiful Van Reenen's Pass, but after that it is pretty much one long, boring straight line home.  Not much to say, except that it was very busy, but in excellent condition, so we cruised home without any incidents.
This was a nice, relaxed trip and we are all looking forward to another soon.
(Pics:  Willie Pretorius)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

We go to Sabie - May 2014

A few of us decided to visit the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa.

Riders and bikes:

AndrĂ©:  BMW R1200GS
Magda:  BMW R1200GS LC
Garth:  Honda Transalp
Correen:  Honda CBF600S

During Christmas Day 2013, the four of us got the idea for this ride, so we looked for a nice play to stay and chose the Sabie River Camp, which is situated in Sabie, on the banks of the Sabie River.  The accommodation is permanently erected tents.  We enjoyed the stay there and would, in future visit the camp again.

On 1 May, a public holiday in South Africa we left for Mpumalanga, or ET (Eastern Transvaal) as it is collectively known by bikers.  The first part of the route is unfortunately boring and straight, so from Bapsfontein, via Witbank and Middelburg to ET is a rather boring straight bit.  We decided to avoid the highway as much as possible, but even then, still straight and boring.


As we left Middelburg for Belfast, about 10 kilometers out of Middelburg, the road disappeared.  I kid you not.  It was not that the road went bad, with plenty potholes.  No, it turned into a dirt road with a patch of tar, here and there!  The small group decided to go ahead instead of turning back.  A very brave decision by Correen as she was on a road bike, with road tires.  Thankfully this bit was only about 20 kilometers and we were soon rid of it, without any incidents.

Once we met up with a road again, we went through Belfast and on to Dullstroom, where we had a leg stretch and refueled.  Dullstroom is a well known tourist town in the area, so we normally don't hang around longer than needed, but it is a very pretty town. 

After Dullstroom, the nicer roads start and we meet up with the first twisties.  Nothing serious yet, but a nice warm-up for the Long Tom Pass which is between Lydenburg and Sabie.  The Long Tom Pass is named for the Long Tom canon monument at the apex of the pass.  According to history this canon was taken from the English military by the local defenders and put to good use against the previous owners.  Long Tom Pass

We arrived at the Sabie River Camp, booked in and made ourselves comfortable.  As is the custom, that evening we made a fire and had a braai for supper.  Something strange happened.  For the first time in my life, I experience fire lighters that would not burn!  No matter how hard we tried, no fire!  It took some effort to overcome these magic fire lighters.

During the next two days we rode two loops in the area.  ET is a favourite amongst bikers, because you can point the bike in any direction and find beautiful mountain passes.  On Saturday we rode from Sabie to Graskop, via the Kowyn's Pass Pass to Hazyview. 


Then we rode on the 22 back to Sabie.  The 22 is the piece of road between Hazyview and Sabie, which starts at the Kiepersol turn-off.  Is is 22 kilometers with something like 70 turns.  A biker heaven. 

The old folk then went for an afternoon nap while Garth took Correen's Honda for a workout up and down Long Tom Pass.  That evening we did a braai again, this time I lost patience with the fire lighters not burning so I went to get some fire lighters that would burn.  A great day was had by all.

Saturday we rode a nice loop via Pilgrim's rest.

After Pilgrim's Rest, we rode up Robber's Pass, via Ohrigstad through the Blude River Canyon.  This route takes the rider via wonderful sights like the Bourke's Luck Potholes, Wonder View and God's Window. 

Bourkes Luck Potholes

God's Window

Wonder View

We arrived back in Sabie, tired but all smiles.  It was a nice ride. 

The Sabie River Camp is on the banks of the river, so every morning starts very misty.  A picture does not do it justice.

Sunday came, all too soon and we headed home.  From Sabie, back to Lydenburg takes the rider over the Long Tom Pass again and then between Lydenburg and Roossenekal, we rode my favourite piece of road in the world.  Steenkampsberg Pass.  It is just an awesome climb from the Lowveld to the Highveld.  Steenkampsberg Pass

After Steenkampsberg, the typical Gauteng Province conundrum starts.  Long, straight, boring roads all the way home.