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
Andr√©:  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)

1 comment:

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