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Thread: South Africa Backroads Adventure

  1. #1
    Alaska Rider/MotoQuest MotoQuest's Avatar
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    Mar 2010

    South Africa Backroads Adventure

    A motorcycle blog by Steve Thomas on his 16 day trip in South Africa

    (Group at Cape Agulhas - Africa's most southern point)

    Day 1:
    Everyone itching to get on the road this morning after our day on 4 wheels exploring the city and going up iconic Table Mountain. Collected the bikes and headed down the coast from Cape Town in a southerly direction. Bikes all looking good, people happy getting used to driving on the right (which is left J) side of the road. We have 3 X 660 Yamaha Teneres, a BMW 1200GS and a 650 GS. Great group of people. Bill and Dave are from Ohio and have travelled with Motoquest before. Dave is the only one who has been to Africa before, but never to Cape Town. Todd and Linda from San Jose California and Tracey and Mary Lee from Alaska. Me up front on the blue Tenere, and Neels our veteran paramedic in the truck, who has backed up all the previous trips with MotoQuest and wouldn?t miss it for the world! Lives in a small town in the middle of the country and travels two days just to get here to be with this trip. Early morning light rain made the road a bit slippery especially given that the bikes all had fresh rubber, but everyone was well behaved and took it easy.

    First stop Maidens Cove, with Table Mountain eerily poking its head through the low mist. Temperature a cool but comfortable 65 degrees to start. As we head south, the clouds are starting to clear and we are looking forward to a bright and sunny day.

    We get down to Hout Bay and onto Chapmans Peak drive and stop to stretch the legs and take in the amazing view! Think I saw a Southern Right Whale as we were riding. Looking forward to seeing many more as this is the time of the year that they frequent our shores.

    (Tracey on the way to Cape of Good Hope)

    Continued south heading through small towns of Kommetjie, Scarborough and on to Cape Point, the South Western tip of the African continent. Here is a pic of Tracey from Alaska, officially as Phil would say as far from home as possible on earth. Only distance greater would be into outer space!

    Saw plenty wildlife including stuff you only get this far South like bontebok an antelope species and a rare sighting of Cape Mountain zebra with a baby! Our friends the baboons were also doing their thing.

    Great lunch down at the point and the necessary visit to the Cape of Good hope before starting our journey north. Stopped for a visit to view an African penguin colony living on a beach near Simonstown.

    Then to our resting place for the night in Kalk Bay (Chalk Bay), which is a small fishing harbour town overlooking False Bay.

    It is really amazing the scenery that we have in Cape Town. We rode the peninsula today and their wasn?t a moment when there wasn?t something to look at along the way. Lets hope there is less scenery as we get into the dirt tomorrow so that everyone will keep their eye on the road!

    Day 4: Kalk Bay to Breede River

    We left Kalk Bay at around 9am after a huge breakfast and enjoyed a great ride right alongside the beach almost all the way to Somerset west, some 30 miles away. The weather was slightly cool but warmed up rapidly and by 11am we were stripping off the gear. The wind had picked up enough to keep us leaning over at about 15 degrees just to keep in a straight line.

    The town of Hermanus was really busy with holiday makers & sightseeing visitors in town to see the whales. The Southern Right Whales visit this coast every year between August and November for calving and mating purposes & really draw the crowds in.

    We had a great lunch at a sidewalk restaurant before heading out for our first bit of dirt en route to Cape Agulhas - the southern tip of the African continent.

    We arrived at the Cape only to find Dave not bothering to use his kickstand & he gently lay the pristine Yamaha on the stones in the parking. Todd and Linda also has a near miss but save the 1200 from kissing the stones - JUST!

    A good stretch of dirt through the rolling hills and farmlands brought us to out night stop at Tides Lodge in Malgas. The closest reastaurant was a 5 min drive drive away but we managed to convince our host to deliver pizza & beer so we did not have to head out for dinner on the bikes at night.

    A good day all in all and if the dirt roads are all in this condition, we are going to have a fantastic two weeks!

    Day 6: Angies G Spot

    A rest day in the Garden Route. Angies G Spot is a perfect place to relax & put your feet up. Having no electricity also helps.

    Did we do this? NO!

    Bill took up the offer of doing a circular ride over some of the most historical and scenic passes that the area has to offer. We took off at 9.30 AM and travelled over the old Montague pass to George.

    After a quick top up of fuel, we then completed the old 7 passes road between George & Knysna. This was the old main road between the two towns and offers fantastic views and old dirt passes. Seven in all hence the name. There is also very little traffic on this road as most motorists use the new road we practically had it all to ourselves.

    We arrived in Knysna at about 1.30 PM to meet up with the rest of the group who had decided to take the day off from riding and had jumped into the truck with Neels the paramedic for the drive to town.

    Everyone headed off in different directions to shop, email, have lunch or just generally goof off.

    We all met up at the truck at 4PM for the drive back to Angies.

    Most of us were in bed by 9PM as we had to get up early for the rugby in the morning! yes, RUGBY!!

    To be continued...
    Last edited by MotoQuest; 09-04-2013 at 11:30 AM.
    "There are two types of people. Those who ride motorcycles, and those who want to ride motorcycles."

  2. #2
    Alaska Rider/MotoQuest MotoQuest's Avatar
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    Mar 2010

    South Africa Backroads Continued

    Day 7: Angie?s to Jeffrey?s

    We all got up early this morning, at exactly 6.10. We had no choice but to get up because Harold, Angies husband started the generator so he could watch the rugby. This was the first semi-final of the Rugby World Cup between Ireland & Wales. Angie made us her special ?Mountain Hash? breakfast after the game & we left at about 9.15.

    A good stretch of smooth fast dirt brought us to the town of Plettenberg Bay for a re fuel. We spent some time at the view point overlooking the bay searching for whales but no luck. Leaving here we headed east on the N2 & made a detour down to Natures Valley for a coffee break. Dave and Neels decided to have an early lunch whilst the rest of us just stuck to drinks.

    We continued on the N2 and made a brief stop at Bloukrans River bridge to witness various idiots throwing themselves off the bridge with nothing but underwear elastic tied to their feet. This is the world?s highest commercial bungy jump at 216 meters, about 650 feet.

    None of the group took up the opportunity to jump & we continued to Storms River mouth for our lunch stop.

    This is a great spot for taking pictures of giant waves crashing into the rocks & Neels got some good ones. With the day getting on and the promise of some time on the beach at our hotel, we continued on the main road to Jefferies Bay & our hotel.

    Most of the group are down on the beach as I write this, enjoying some solitude.

    Tomorrow is another early start as all in the group have been made honorary South Africans to support South Africa when we play Australia in the third quarter final of the rugby World Cup. Kick- off is at 7AM.

    Day 8: Jeffrey?s Bay to Addo Elephant

    After watching South Africa?s World Cup hopes disappear at the hands of the Auzzie?s we decided to forget rugby altogether and concentrate on the riding. We received news that Linda?s missing bag had eventually made it to Cape Town! Mark had managed to get it on the first flight from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth arriving at 10.50 AM.

    We headed for the city at a leisurely pace along the old main costal road, the R102.

    It was a little cool as we left the hotel but within 3 miles as we headed away from the coast we were sweltering. A condition known as a berg wind? or mountain wind in American, was blowing hot air from the arid interior down towards the coast & within minutes the temperature had climbed to about 85 degrees. This persisted as we rode along the coast, only letting up when we approached a small seaside town called Sea View about 8 miles from Port Elizabeth where it cooled briefly to about 65 degrees.

    We all refuelled and Todd, Linda, Neels and myself headed to the airport leaving the rest to sit at a cafe on the beach to watch the world go by. As Murphy?s law would have it the flight had been delayed so we joined up with the others, got on the bikes and headed off into the heat for our stop at Zuurberg Mountain Lodge near Addo Elephant Park. We left Neels at the airport to collect the bag and he joined us up at the lodge a little while later. By the time we arrived at Zuurberg Mountain Lodge, the mercury was touching 100 degrees. A bit too hot, to really enjoy the ride. Tracey and Mary Lee from Alaska really felt it.

    We checked in and ditched all the heavy gear and then the group left on an open safari vehicle for an afternoon in the Addo park looking for elephants and whatever else might be braving the very hot conditions..

    The parks authorities have recently released lions into the park so all of the "big five" are now in the park.

    Let?s see how lucky we get!

    OK! elephants, kudu, warthog & a bunch of other small game. No lions unfortunately. I am sure they were lying low in the shade of some long grass, so very difficult to spot. Next time perhaps...

    Day 9:

    Well, what a day! It was certainly the biggest day for riding thrills on the trip this far.

    It started off at Zuurberg Lodge at 7am with the temperature already at 80 degrees and it was only going to get warmer.

    We left at 9AM for a short back track on sealed road to the small town of Addo before turning off onto some high speed dirt towards the town of Uitenhage. This is ?motor city? in South Africa with Volkswagen, Audi & General Motors all having full production plants here.

    We blasted through town and linked up with the N2 once again just west of Port Elizabeth for a short distance before turning off in the direction of Hankey & Patensie, the two towns at the eastern entrance to the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area. By this time the temperature had risen considerably and must have been hovering around 95.

    After paying our conservation fees to enter the conservancy, the group was given free rein to head off at their own pace to enjoy the first bit of technical riding on the trip. A spot was chosen for the lunch break, distances worked out & off we went. This stretch of road was not the high speed stuff we had encountered to date but very twisty, up & down with lots of loose gravel & sheer 250ft drop offs as we wound our way deeper into the valley. The scenery in this valley is almost beyond words, a true wilderness with fantastic rock formations on both sides of the narrow dirt road.

    The first ?sports? of the day occurred when Dave dropped his 660 Tenere in the middle of a river crossing at the lunch spot. The crossing was about 300ft long, about 2ft deep, with rocks the size of large grapefruit hidden beneath the water. The bike sucked in water before he could kill the motor & seized solid. Luckily a road repair crew had also stopped to fill their water bottles from the river & they happily came to Dave?s aid helping him up & pushing the bike to the far bank. Tracy & Bill were helped across in this fashion whilst Todd & I managed to ?walk? the bikes through without incident. I was wondering why the road repair were hanging around for more victims when Dave told me he had slipped them R 100 for each of the bikes they had manhandled through the water!

    The backup truck was about 40 min behind us and when it arrived, we got started on the drowned motor. After removing the spark plug & draining half the river from the airbox the bike finally sprang into life blowing the other half of the river of the exhaust.

    A few water crossing later, Todd managed to suck water into the intake of the GS 1200 which locked the motor up solid. Not having the correct size plug spanner in the tool kit we loaded their bike onto the back of a truck that came along & it was delivered to the lodge where we could work on it later that evening. After making a suitable tool from an old hedge trimmer plug spanner in the farm workshop, we eventually got the plugs out. With the water finally out & the plugs dried, it finally sprang to life.

    Last edited by MotoQuest; 09-04-2013 at 11:27 AM.
    "There are two types of people. Those who ride motorcycles, and those who want to ride motorcycles."

  3. #3
    Alaska Rider/MotoQuest MotoQuest's Avatar
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    Mar 2010

    Days 10 - 12 South Africa

    Day 10:

    Following a fantastic breakfast, we left the lodge to complete the last 50 miles of Baviaans dirt en route to Willowmore for a fuel stop. Upon checking the oil of the drowned bikes, it was apparent that the oil needed to be changed as water had contaminated the oil. We did not have spare filters with us so Neels had to make the 200 mile round trip to George to get new ones. After he left, Tracy, Mary Lee and Bill decided to take a slow ride to the next hotel rather than sit around looking at the two stranded bikes.

    Todd, Linda & Dave found a great little restaurant just down the road from the gas station where the bikes were parked & bonded with some of the locals whilst the bikes were flushed out with clean oil to remove the worst of the water still lying in the motors. 10 litres of clean oil was quickly turned into a green gunk whilst doing this which also exhausted the entire stock of oil at the gas station.

    The round trip to George took almost 5 hours but eventually he returned with the filters and 10l of oil. Filters fitted, oil filled up & we were on our way at 4.40pm with 110 mils to cover to the next hotel. Not wanting to ride in the dark, I wound the pace up a little & we finally got in at 6.10pm.

    Day 11: Prins Albert to Rooiberg

    Today we rode to hell & back ? literally!
    After breakfast at the lodge in Prins Albert we began the scenic ride up the historical Swartberg Pass. The entire pass is a national monument and dates back to the 1800?s. Built by a prolific pass builder, Thomas Bain, this road was the first road to traverse the Swartberg Mountains linking the Great Karoo in the north to the Little Karoo in the south.

    It is a gravel road of fairly good condition but you still need to keep your wits about you as there are many razor sharp switchbacks and the loose stones on the surface of the road can catch you out. The scenery is absolutely fantastic with amazing rock formations in the sheer 800ft cliffs rising up on both sides of the road. At the top of the pass is a road turning to the right with a sign reading ?Die Hel ? 50km = 2 hours?. And it is not a joke! Even on fairly decent dual purpose bikes the trip took us 1hour 40 minutes to reach the coffee shop in the valley. The first section of this road is a little more challenging that Swartberg Pass but the last 2 miles are character building to say the least. You descend about 1400ft over 2 miles into a hidden valley deep within the mountains. Only a few hardy souls live here permanently but it is well worth the ride, just for those last 2 miles.

    After a brief coffee and bathroom stop we retraced our route back up to the main pass and descended into the Little Karoo. This southern side of the pass is a really good gravel surface and it only took us 30 minutes to reach the Cango Caves.

    An hour long tour took us about 1 1/4 miles into the cave system.

    Following the tour we mounted up and headed south to the town of Oudtshoorn which is the ostrich farming capital of South Africa. These huge birds are everywhere you look. We passed through without stopping & headed west for a fuel stop in Calitzdorp ? the port wine capital. After filling up we started out last stretch of dirt into the Gamkaberg Mountains on the Van Wyks pass. This 30 mile stretch of dirt was quite challenging. Not so much because of the surface but because of huge amounts of dust kicked up from the thin powder covering the hard packed dirt.

    Bill had the first ?off? on the trip when he got caught in some deep hard ruts in the road, couldn?t get out of them, lost his balance & fell over on the right of the bike. It was a low speed fall so he was not badly injured ? just a juicy ?roastie? below his right elbow. Unfortunately for him, there was a protruding rock where he fell and this pierced the right hand engine cover of his BMW 650 twin ? leaving it temporarily stranded. All this a quarter mile from the lodge ? and on their driveway!! Neels our paramedic, who was getting decidedly bored with trip by this stage, could not believe his luck when Bill went down! Just to make up for the lack of incidents this far, he gave Bill such a thorough ?once over? that gave Bill more of a fright than the actual ?off? had done. We recovered the stranded bike a little later and parked it alongside the other to wait for the morning to do a proper damage assessment. We covered a total distance today of 200km of which only 50 was on sealed road.

    Day 12: Rooiberg.

    A well-earned rest day today. We did have plans of re riding one of the sealed passes we had travelled through on day 10 en route from the Baviaanskloof but decided to take the day off instead.
    This was the Meiringspoort Pass between De Rust & Prins Albert. A fantastic sealed road twisting and winding its way through the mountains crossing the river 27 times in 10 km. You kinda wish you were on a superbike on this road but even with the knobblies on the Tenere?s & GS?s we had a great time.

    The lodge we?re at for two nights ? Rooiberg Lodge, is the kind of place you can really relax. Situated in a privately owned nature reserve in small valley within the Gamkaberg Mountains, there is not even mobile phone reception so it forces you to unwind and relax. We used the truck to drive back to Oudtshoorn to get some bits and pieces to repair Bill?s bike. It took most of the afternoon but a bit of ?plastic steel? epoxy and gasket maker soon had the engine cover fixed.

    The exhaust silencer bracket had also sheared off ? not due to the fall ? so a scrap strip of aluminium bar was begged from an engineering shop to strap it up again.
    The bar raisers are a little bent but we do not have the correct tools in the tool box to remove & straighten them.
    As Bill said ?I won?t win any speed trials at the moment? with the bike, it is as good as we can get it at right now and Bill is happy to ride it until we can attend to it again when we get to a bigger town.
    Well it?s time for an ?African Boma Braai? for dinner so more to come tomorrow as we head off into the Cedarberg Mountains.

    Day 13: Rooiberg to Cedarberg

    We headed out from Rooiberg Lodge on good quality high speed dirt towards the world famous ?Ronnie?s Sex Shop? on the R62. The wind was quite strong today, blowing out of the west which was good for us on the dirt as it was side on.

    Once we turned west onto the tarred R62 it was head on all the way to Ronnie?s. Here we made a quick stop to get some coffee & to make a few calls to arrange some tools to further attend to Bill?s bike. After about 20mins we were on our way again.

    Some 30km later we stopped at the Country Pumpkin coffee shop 9n Barrydale. Here the biker friendly owner had confirmed he had the necessary tools & we were welcome to use them. So whilst the rest of the group settled down for more coffee, Bill & Dave began to remove the bars off Bill?s bike to see if we could straighten them. I went off to scrounge some cap screw bolts to re attach the motor to the frame. These bolts had vibrated themselves loose & had gone un noticed until we examined the bike following the fall.

    Bolts in and bars back on, off we went again. This was the longest riding day of the trip with about 400km between lodges and having lost some time tinkering with Bill?s bike we needed to cover some good distance.

    ? of today?s riding was on sealed road with the wind constantly in our faces. We had to make an unplanned stop to put our rain gear on as the rain showers could be seen sweeping across the flat plains as we headed in to the tankwa karoo. This area is a very flat, barren part of the country but with fantastic scenery.

    Following a quick fuel stop we turned north onto the R355 just keeping ahead of the rain. This stretch of dirt is one of my favourites as the surface is hard packed smooth gravel. We easily cruised along at up to 120km/h to put some distance between us & the showers.

    We covered the last 70km to the lodge in good time & arrived a little after 5pm. Braai packs had been arranged at the lodge for dinner so we built a nice fire, had some good wine & barbequed the meat for dinner.

    A good day all in all.

    Day 14: Mount Cedar outride

    Another rest day today with an option of an out ride, this time for the more adventurous. Dave & Tracey were keen to do a 200km circular ride from the lodge via the tiny mountain hamlet of Wuppertal to Clanwilliam & back.

    This ride starts out on good twisty gravel & becomes quite slow & technical once on the jeep track over the top of the Cedarberg Mountains through Eselbank en route to Wuppertal. Lots of loose gravel, thick sand, protruding rocks & water crossings kept us on our toes. The going was very slow but the amazing rock formations of the area made it worthwhile.

    We stopped for a well-earned coffee break at the closed coffee shop in Wuppertal ? it?s that kind of town ? before continuing on to Clanwilliam on good twisty dirt.

    The run from Clanwilliam following our fuel stop was once again challenging in that the surface was very slippery. The entire surface covered with what can only be described as ?marbles?. Both the front & rear end of the bike were constantly competing to be in front. We got back to the lodge just after 2pm. Mark had ridden out from Cape Town to deliver the new engine cover Bill?s bike so this was fitted quickly & the rest of the afternoon was spent lazing around.

    Day 15: Cedarberg to Franschhoek

    Well the trip is almost at an end. Today was the last full day on the bikes before handing them back in Cape Town tomorrow.

    We retraced our route out of the Cedarberg Mountains en route to the fruit capital of South Africa, Ceres. This town is situated in a large valley called the ?Warmbokkeveld? (The warm goat fields). It lies about 1200ft below the ?Kouebokkeveld? (the cold goat fields) & the temperature difference was quite noticeable today. We even had to stop at one point, just before descending the pass, to put on some warmer gear. Mark, who delivered Bill?s spares to us yesterday, joined us for the ride back towards Cape Town on his GS 800.

    We enjoyed breakfast here before heading for proper wine country at Paarl on good quality sealed roads. Although the weather report had forecast very strong wind out of the south east, we were lucky not to have got caught up in it. The wind was certainly evident by the massive clouds hanging over all the mountains. We stopped at Fairview wine estate for the ?winos? to sample some cheese & wine before continuing to the hotel in Franschoek ? or the French Corner in English.

    This isolated valley is where the French Huguenots were settled by the Dutch in the late 1600?s & evidence of their ancestry abounds in the names of many of the wine estates. Linda, Todd & Bill headed off in a cab to sample some more wine whilst Tracey & Mary Lee headed for the village to do some exploring. Dave found a shady spot on the lawns behind his room & relaxed as only Dave knows how to do. We all enjoyed a great dinner in an Italian restaurant in the French corner in Africa ? who would?ve ever thought?

    Day 16: Franschhoek to Cape Town

    Can the final day be upon us already? We had a relaxing day on sealed road meandering through the Stellenbosch winelands. The weather was just perfect with clear blue skies & a decent temperature to start the day off with. An hour was spent in the old town itself just exploring the village which is the best way to experience the atmosphere of South Africa?s second oldest town.

    Following the stop here we headed for the Spier wine estate for a visit to the cheetah breeding & research project. Adjacent this is also the Raptor rehabilitation centre where birds of prey that are rescued are brought. We spent about 45 minutes here before heading off to our last stop for lunch on the road. We stopped at a beachfront caf? in Bloubergstrand where we enjoyed great views of the city at the foot of Table Mountain. We arrived at the hotel for a quick check in before dropping the bikes off at the rental agency.

    There were mixed feeling about handing them back. Some were relieved in that there was no damage to worry about & some were sorry as the bikes had been good companions delivering a faultless service over the past two weeks.

    Total distance covered was 3500km.

    A great trip with great people, I think there will be many fond memories of this one.

    Thanks to you all for joining us on this adventure and Neels and I wish you all safe riding in the future.

    Last edited by MotoQuest; 09-07-2013 at 10:27 AM. Reason: Adding content
    "There are two types of people. Those who ride motorcycles, and those who want to ride motorcycles."

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