Sunday, 30 September 2012

THE CONCLUSION/SUMMARY OF MY FIRST SOLO TRIP



First of all, I must admit that this trip exceeded any expectations I had. To be honest, I was not sure what I was hoping for other than seeing part of my country I have not seen, having a good time on my bike and maybe meeting a few more friends at the Wild Dog Bash.

I was severely impressed with my tires, not planning to, but getting all my money’s worth – VAT included – out of them! Having a friend turn out to be a stunning riding companion and helping make the trip unforgettable – thanks Abie, you were awesome and I always felt safe with you! In the end, the riding was superb, the scenes breathtaking and the experience something never be forgotten!

A dream come true! Standing in Lundeans Nek Pass!
 Things I have learnt (and NOT learnt) during my trip:

  1. Riding a heavily loaded bike on gravel is easier than when it is has no load.
  2. I enjoyed doing the solo thing, having my own time and schedule.
  3. A “she-wee” is an irreplaceable must for any woman in riding gear.
  4. Once you understand the thing, a GPS can be the best traveling accessory.
  5. Panty liners can be a substitute for underwear!
  6. The beauty of a country lies not only in its scenery, but also in its people (and goats and cattle!)
  7. Knobbly tires CAN do 20 000kms!
  8. Having a friend as a good traveling companion is a HUGE bonus and can make all the difference.
  9. 5 Imodium’s are NOT a solution for a tummy bug!!
  10. A long hard day has nothing to do with the distance you travel.
  11. BMW surely must be the best, no nonsense bike out there when it comes to comfortable, but rough riding!
  12. Springtime is a wonderful time to see parts of this country.
 What I did not learn:

  1. Why someone would still try and hitch hike while a bike, loaded to the hilt, passes?
  2. Why a GPS insists on taking the best route, in spite of the suggested route being ignored for 60km and then still rather taking you back 3 times further?
  3. Why someone who has slept enough, feels to wake every single other soul by revving his bike and shouting at 6 in the morning?
 What I will do differently on the next trip:

  1. (Try) to get away earlier in the mornings, for any eventuality.
  2. Have anti-acids CLOSE by and handy!
  3. Find a less time-consuming way for taking pics.
  4. Try and travel without needing the extra luggage of tent, mattress and sleeping bag.
My wish list: (so if you have any of this 2nd hand to sell at a good price, please let me know!)

  1. A good (blue tooth?) GPS.
  2. Legs a few inches longer (or a bike a few inches lower – hint hint Geoff and Nolene!)
  3. The Drift HD 1080 – a super snazzy new device for taking pics and videos
  4. Soft pannier luggage – shortening the time spent tying and unfastening luggage every day.
Experiencing the beauty of my country from my motorbike has been one of my most rewarding experiences yet! I want to thank my husband and folks for being there for me and letting me go, in spite of being so worried about my safety. I cannot wait to take on the next adventure!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

My final day - 12


 

I fell asleep while still trying to set the alarm clock for the next day, resulting in only waking at 8am! What a good rest and pretty sure my body was relieved to have a little extra time on my back rather than the back side! For some reason that part of my anatomy seems to be very sensitive and bruised?! After a lovely breakfast of fruit, yogurt and a bit of muesli, I set of just as it started drizzling.

An absolutely beautiful ride over the pass looking down on the Langkloof – Route 62! It is totally beyond me WHY on earth people travelling between CT to PE would use the N2?? Route 62 must be one of not only the prettiest routes of all routes in South Africa, but the road is well kept and carries very little traffic. Coming back via N2, I got soo frustrated with almost 150kms between the Stormsriver Bridge and George having speed limits of between 60 and 100 – most of the way not allowing you over 80km/h!! Great big wide open national road and speed cops hiding in the bushes just wishing for you to go over 80! And in all of that distance, you get to see the see only once when passing Wilderness!



The Langkloof on the other hand has you riding between two mountain ranges, covered in either Fynbos, grasslands or fruit trees. Everything looks green and inviting and not an inch you can go without seeing something new and spectacular! Not to mention any traffic official and crazy speed limits. – Worried about where you will stop for your take-away meal? Well don’t!! – Pack a flask and sandwiches and enjoy the beauty having a picnic at the side of the road – and it will take you NO longer than waiting for your ready-made, greasy meal!
 
Sorry for the rant – maybe best if I don’t inform the whole world what they are missing out on! Back to my trip!
 
Shortly after the pass I started hitting rain, getting so hard I had to go at a snails-pace! It banged so hard on my visor, I was certain it would crack! The torrential downpour lasted for a good 80kms. OK, maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but when you are tired and cold and on your way home, I guess things seem to be a bit worse than they really are! When I got to Oudshoorn, I dressed into my remaining raingear – yes, the pants were drenched already, but I hoped the suit would keep out some of the strong winds I had from the front. I looked like something between the Michelin man and the little Oros guy with all that gear on! I’m sure with that size; no one would look for any trouble with me!
 
I got enticed by the smell of home-made baking and ended up gobbling a Thai-Chicken pie. Along the way, while the heartburn was tearing through my insides, I remembered why I NEVER buy pies! It had been ages since I had gotten so cold, in spite of all the clothes! Fuelling in Ladismith, the clouds moved over a bit and what do I see?!... SNOW on all the mountains!! No wonder I could not feel my fingers!
 
Rode through a few more cloud breaks lots of rain. As I was nearing home I got very worried about the last km on to the farm. The gravel will be muddy and super slippery and I would hate to come to a crashing halt meters before I reach home! 500m before home, suddenly the rain stopped and the road was dry?! I reached my folks place just after 4pm on Friday, the 28th. 12 Days after starting the 3102km exhilarating adventure of a life time! Bike and myself safe and unscathed! All the thanks and glory to God!


  
My trip summery/conclusion and Gallery to follow shortly.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Day 11



Today was the weirdest day of my trip. I had emotions of absolute fear and frustrations go over into euphoria and elation as the day grew on. The tummy bug is still with me and I did not get much sleep. Just before 5am when I came out the bathroom, I saw my friend was up and about and went and got into her bed and chatted while she got herself ready for her husbands return from over seas.  With only 150km to go, I gave myself 3 hours to do the trip, knowing it involved a dirt road pass of over 80km. Plenty of time, so I made a late start and only left around 11.
One of the Wild dogs had explained that I take a turn-off in Knysna and I used Google maps the previous evening to make sure I will find the right road. As added security, I told the GPS where I was heading and lo and behold – was that thing not determined?!?! Kept showing me where I should U-turn, to go back the 60km I have come from to take the route via George to Uniondale. There were also so many little forest roads that I started loosing my bearings. After following a Digger Loader at 7 kms per hour through the length of a squatter camp, I was fairly uneasy about my where abouts. After traverse sing about for well over an hour, I phoned my dad in desperation, hoping he could help me figure out how I can make the GPS take me the next 60kms over the mountain to the next town, in stead of 160km around! At that moment a truck came by and I could get directions – I was actually at the right road and could leave from there. – sighhh of relief!

Although a broad and beautifully kept road, it was wet and dangerously slippery. After my little “put-down” a few days earlier, I was pretty terrified of having to try and lift my bike on my own, so took it very slowly. The most awesome and stunning road and scenery unfolded before my eyes! Plantations of pine, indigenous forests and ferns all along my way. Till I hit the mountain passes and what a sight to behold?! Absolutely stunning!

The road became a single track with a huge warning that no heavy vehicles may pass and I soon started to understand why… But before that reality hit home, I almost rode into a huge truck trying to go up the mountain?!? It was barely moving, and the tyres were off the road on both sides! It took me over 20 minutes of eating dust behind him before there was enough space for me to get past! Some 10 minutes further I started hitting the shortest of hairpin bends I have ever ridden – NO WAY that interlink will ever get through there! Just further on up the pass the road had washed away a piece of the mountain side and a small vehicle would hardly be able to pass!

After hitting one beautiful spot and scenery after the next, I cam across this little place nestled into the mountains, called Angies C Spot. I went in and had a cold glass of … ermmm… Blue Energade! We had a bit of a chat. I told them about the interlink and they said it happens once every 6 months or so... This driver is costing his owner over 100grand in recovery fees, as a tow-in truck must come from Humansdorp (guess about 250km?) then go around the mountain and reverse down from the other side to get it out! Glad I passed before it was totally stuck!

Riding higher again, I hit the mist and what a lovely sight that was! It was cold up there and the scenery changed to masses of yellow protea bushes and the indigenous fynbos!
All in all, this Prins Albert’s pass is a must for any biker! Any vehicle for that matter!! One new and exiting scene and road upon the next!! I ended up having one of the most thrilling days of the trip and so glad I did not just turn around and take the tar road as I almost felt like doing at one stage in the morning! Well worth it!

Tomorrow night I see hubby!! I cannot wait!


Thursday, 27 September 2012

Day 10



I slept in till 8am – well…. I had 2 cute Alsatians looking in on me and tying to snuff me out of bed from about 6am, but still, the lie in was good. Feeling much better than the previous day, I was still not up to any adventurous riding. My friend had left for work and the 2 dogs kept me company while I did some stuff on the laptop and then made a slow exit. The daunting 6km stretch of gravel from the previous evening was suddenly much easier and even prettier than when I came in. And boy, did I see a lot of horses! And lushes green fields, dams and forests.

Went on to Knysna, where I spent some time chilling in the Mugg and Bean, getting onto the internet and having a small bite to eat. Although feeling much better than the previous day, I still felt fragile and not too keen on a lot of food.

As I was leaving Knysna, there was a soft drizzle coming down. It did not last long, but I had hoped to catch sunset over the lakes, but too overcast and cloudy for that. I have to return the same way and hope things look better in the morning.

I spent a great time with my friend, eating some more! She has the knack of rustling up the most delicious food from what she calls scraps!

Although I was disappointed not being able to do all the passes I really hoped doing, I also know that it would not be safe taking on roads when I don’t feel quite up to it. Does seem as if I am getting better and the next trip through the mountain to Uniondale will be great!  For someone who never gets ill, this was a real wake-up call to appreciate one’s health while you have it! – And maybe have a bit more sympathy for those who always seem to have some or other pain – it might really be serious….

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

My difficult day 9



I survived! What a day! It was probably the most difficult riding I had ever done! The tummy bug had me awake all night and then I got up just after 5am to start packing and loading. Feeling tired and drained, the next 500-odd kms lying ahead seemed a bit much. Once again I got away later than intended (what’s new?!?).  I took the coastal road from East London to the Pedi turn-off and then made for the N2 via Grahams town. What a lovely ride that was?! A quiet road I shared only with some cattle and goats. The N2 was also surprisingly quiet compared to the very busy, truck-laden coastal road. I refilled in Grahams town – what a lot of lovely churches – probably more than in any other town in SA!

From there my ride was becoming difficult. I was very tired and fortunately there was no strong wind from the front. Yet I had severe tummy cramps. Abie had gotten me meds and I suspect I might have “overdosed” to make sure I won’t have problems along the way. As I had not been eating since the previous morning (except a slice of toast), I had a sandwich in PE. I drunk copious amounts of Energade and felt extremely bloated and uncomfortable. My ears also felt strange – almost closed up – and I wished they would pop open.

After PE I took the small detour via the pretty Gamtoos River, but hit the N2 once I reached Jeffreysbay, not wanting to drag out the riding for too long. Since my stops were taking a lot of time, it was getting petty late. The Bloukrans and Grootrivier passes were both closed down and I was disappointed I missed out on that – I was sure some special scenery would have taken my mind off my fatigue!

Once I had passed the toll gates, (R36 for the bike?!? Is that crazy or what?!?), the sun was so low, it really made riding extremely difficult. I was staying over with a friend on a farm some kms out of Plettenberg bay. The dear petrol attendants at PE washed my helmet for me, but did not rinse it with water, so the soapy residue suddenly had me almost blind when the sun got too low. Dog tired and within miles from my destination, I did not want to stop and spend more precious time trying to find something to clean it with, so pushed on. Once I hit the 6km dirt road, vehicles racing past the beautiful but busy dirt road, made it almost impossible to see, so I was eating dust as far as I was going due to lifting the visor!

By now the cramps, nauseous-ness and tiredness was unbearable and I was just so relieved to hit the day’s destination - safe and sound. My friend was out for another hour or so and I literally passed out on the couch!
 
Tomorrow is a short day and I thought of doing some of the beautiful passes in the area. If I don’t feel up to it, I will just take a relaxing ride into Knysna and not do much. I sleep in Wilderness with a friend, also a beautiful place. She said we will have a relaxing evening and she will rustle up something to eat at home – I hope I am up for some eating by then!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Day 8

We slept in a bit today, and then went for a breakfast at the Butterflies Bistro in Hogsback. The electricity was out and we waited for over an hour for the food to pitch – just as well we were not in a hurry!

Then – as per usual, we took the winding back roads out of Hogsback. Stunning! Reminds one a bit of the Tsitsikamma. A narrow little road twisting and turning and large parts under a tree covered canopy! This is a two way, single lane, and due to the bike’s noise and the helmets, we cannot hear cars coming from the font. Unfortunately we had a huge log carrying truck accompany as all the way – we would be in front and when we stop for a pic, it would come past, just for us to try and get out the dust and a better view some while later, passing it again. And have this repeated most of our way out the forest.

Coming round a bend, Abie wanted to take a pic, but was a bit late with the camera, so asked me to go back and come round the bend again. As I was going to turn on the other side, a bit off the shoulder into some pine needles, my front wheel slipped right out under me! I did not notice all the mud on the side and gently put my poor Wedwo down in the mud! Abie run up to help and nothing was damaged or broken – well, maybe a little of the ego, as that was a suuuper silly mistake! Well, no harm done, he got his pic and I got a different pic!

This road changed over the mountains to pine forests and open grasslands for cattle. Later we stated seeing the typical rural sites of what was known as the old Ciskei some years ago. Friendly blacks waved or cheered us along, and the road became more rutted and full of potholes! The GPS had been acting up all morning and I found it strange that Abie would suddenly take a left turn onto a road with big signs saying this was not a through-fare? After a while he fortunately stopped. After flagging down a car, we discovered we were totally on the wrong road and had to turn back as we came. Fortunately for the stop, I discovered one of my straps had broken and he helped me tie down the load again. So many straps are used, that is was safe in any case, but still….

I also ate or dank something at Hogsback that did not accommodate so well with me, so being out in the sticks with no facilities close by could be stressful! Wonder if it can be a bug of some sorts? Still plagued by it, but hope it settles for the long trip tomorrow!

We hit Stutterheim in the afternoon and after filling up, headed the almost 80km back by tar, with very strong winds from the side.

I had an absolutely awesome trip with Abie. Not only is he helpful and considerate, but he had the patience of a saint with me! I would be honoured if ever we could do a trip together again!

Tomorrow back to tar – sniff sniff! My oil leak is still there and the back tire suddenly looks a bit worn – will have to keep a close eye on it! All in all, the Wild Dog Bash was a fantastic experience, and getting there and back is what really made it for me – Thanks Abie, for looking after me so well and taking me on all the adventurous tracks!!