Tuesday, 27 November 2012
I lived at the foot of Table Mountain for 7 years. In the city. Since I was first a tour bus driver and later a tour guide, I never worked in the city, but was able to take to the roads and most beautiful parts of the country. In spite of living so close to it and going up Table Mountain at least once a week, I was still appreciative of its beauty. Now it’s been almost 10 years since we have moved away from the city and living in the country side. When I go to Cape Town, I only get as far as the Northern Suburbs and it has been a while since I have got up close and personal with the over 1000m high Sandstone and Granite beauty.
This weekend I was fortunate to see it again. I met up with friends on the other side of the bay and made my way back to the city just as the sun started setting over the water. Absorbing all this from my bike was more than I could have wished for! I caught a whiff of the sticky, pungent yet fresh breeze that made it’s way over the gentle little waves. What a sight!?! Table Mountain rose out the water like a 1st place Olympian to the podium! Only way more noble and majestically! A few ships on the water in front of it rounded off the picture perfectly. I HAD to stop – a few times – to take a picture … to capture this magnificence and stare in awe. Did I really forget how awesome this landmark was?! Or am I just taking a look with different eyes? I don’t have the answer, but what I do know is this…
There's reason this piece of rock is so well recognized by world travellers and loved by locals! It is a sight to behold – and never to be forgotten!
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
Friday, 2 November 2012
Oudshoorn via back roads, Seweweekspoort, Oubergpas to Montagu
Click here to see map:
As I did my previous trip solo, I dared not do the back roads which I really wanted to, because when you get stuck on a quiet road, it can get very lonely after a few hours, not to mention unsafe!
Fortunately Abie was on his way back from
I rode up from Montagu the previous day, with rain-laden clouds waiting to open on me at any moment, as I took the winding tar road through fruit farms and over mountains to Oudshoorn. Although overcast with a misty rain right along the mountains, I never really got very wet. But the heavens DID open up once I was safely in Oudshoorn. Abie did not hit it so lucky and rode in pouring rain from De Rust and arrived in Oudshoorn looking like a washed out rag – OK, not quite that bad! Only my attempt at silly humour! But he did not need a shower that evening!
Dark, heavy clouds awaited us on departure the next morning. According to my phone’s very trustworthy weather forecast, we were going to have 0.3 mm of rain for the day, and in my books, that is non-existent. So we did not put on our raingear and left in the direction of the
. The road we were going to take started at the
foot of that spectacular range. Less than a km and the drops were falling.
Within moments we had to pull over under some trees and get the raingear out - and
on!! WHAT a mission when you are balancing mid air, your shoes are dirty and
the clothes are unwilling! As it is,
there is barely enough room for me in the rain gear, let alone me WITH all the
riding gear and padding! Swartberg Mountains
We were heading in the direction that was not only dark, but we could see the pouring rain all along the foot of the mountains. By the time we got to the first turn off, I was salivating for a hot, milky Wimpy coffee (and I am not even a big coffee drinker!). The rain was coming down in buckets and there was NO way we could get onto muddy gravel in this weather. Yet Abie turns in and says he just wants so ride in a little way, and since we are on tar, I follow, wondering how far before he will decide that the reason we can hardly see in front of us, is due to rain?!
At the next turn-off, I hope he has come to his senses and that we can head back for a dry seat and hot coffee (breakfast would also be welcome!). He says he just wants to feel what the gravel would feel like, let’s push on a bit. WTH?! Serious? Really?!? The rain is hammering down so hard, I was expecting my visor to crack at any moment, and this crazy coot wants to push on to FEEL the gravel?!? So on we go, and instead of the km or two I expected, we rode through farms between the mountains for I guess about 15km. By now I was having fantasies of hot chocolate and soft eggs! We get to the gravel (at last) and what does this guy do?? He bangs with his foot on the gravel and declares he thinks it is fit for riding!! But the choice is mine he says. If I feel we should rather turn back, that is fine with him.
Now since I have never ridden wet muddy roads before – oh wait, that one time in the
where I came off my bike TWICE in less than a km!! So yeah, my bet is it is
much safer to get back to warm coffee, dry roads and less chances of breaking
my neck! And for every fall, Abie will have to help me get my bike up, the
mirrors can break off, everything will be covered in mud and my ego can
actually also do with no falling! I am still formulating the pros of getting
the hell out of there and Abie says: Lets ride in a little way and see how it goes;
we can always turn back if it looks bad…
WHAT??!!? In spite of every heartbeat racing in my throat and my mind screaming to turn around, I nod in agreement and off we go! Although the road is hard, I am sure it is slippery as can be and I take the bends in absolute terror. Any coffee and cold is now forgotten. I am as stiff as a 3 day corpse and I could not help wondering if a motorbike can sense fear like a horse and if I would be bucked off at the next turn. I was wiping clingy raindrops from my visor and tears down my cheeks all at the same time. Rivers were over flowing and lovely waterfalls were coming down the mountains. I guess my appreciation was less than adequate at that stage, but my main aim was to stay on the bike. By now both bikes (and riders) were covered in mud, but the rain had subsided. The next moment I was eating dust. Literally within 30 metres, we were riding from mud to dust! You can imagine the havoc the dust was causing on my drenched clothes and bike. Fortunately I am crazy enough not to worry about that at the moment - until I get home and realise I cannot clean either!
Since the map I had and the GPS Abie had, were not too wonderful, we rode along more on a sense of feeling than KNOWING where we were going! We turned left at a T-junction indicating Calitzdorp and the next moment we were riding between the most incredible red mountainous outcrops! Almost like painted mushrooms between the lush green backdrop of newly leafed Thorn trees and other kinds of Acacia. Sediments which are rich in an iron mineral called Hematite which oxidized in the warm humid climate to a reddish colour, gave Red Stone Hills its name! What a site! Unfortunately by the time I stopped to take pics, the clouds had covered the bit of sun and taken away some of the spectacularness (yep, my made-up word!) of the colours. Shortly after that we hit the tar road, headed to Calitzdorp and found a place that would serve coffee, but not breakfast. As we munched an energy bar and coffee the owner told us we MUST take another road before we leave, as we missed some great views by turning into the Red Hills road.
So we took a detour first, and saw some more stunning views, including a huge dam overflowing. And more winding, pass-like gravel road into the Little Karoo. We turned back after about 10km, as we wanted to do the Seweweekspoort pass and unsure how the weather was out that way.
It It started drizzling as we entered the winding, muddy road through the picturesque, rocky walls of the Seweweekspoort. While having coffee, I had asked Abie if he was scared going on the first stretch of wet dirt road and he said no, never. One must just relax and the bike will take care of itself. Somehow that answer had totally calmed me down and I felt if he was not afraid, I had no reason to be. So when we hit the very wet road, I made a mind switch. I relaxed, looked around and really enjoyed what I was seeing. The most incredible rock formations, as high as one can look and as far as you can see. Add beautiful flowers, greenery, waterfalls and rivers and I had just discovered one of my new favourite destinations! I lifted my visor, and the wet stinging of the raindrops against my cold skin was such a stark reminder that I was alive! Invigorated actually! I could pick up several different smells as we rode: A smell of some kind of wild flowers or shrubs (yeah right!), Jasmine at one stage and a strong minty smell another time.
Shortly after entering, we stopped for lunch consisting of buns with ham-flavoured liver pâté (the kind you just squish out the tube wrapping), some dried fruit and a shared apple, washed down with water. A meal fit for a king (or his servant) – no matter, we were soaked, full and happy!
I do believe this amazing “portal” through the mountains would not have looked as intense and beautiful if it was a dry, hot and dusty day. We had several water crossings over the two days, and places I had never seen water in, were over flowing. Here the dust had been washed away and the colours were bright and brilliant. Awesome!!
Once through to the other side, the road opened up and we were on a big, wide, well maintained gravel road. Although the road was in a good condition, it circumvented a very long stretch of mountain range before we could get to the Warmwaterberg
springs. By now the clouds had lifted and we had a dry
road and sunny skies.
I saw the place where I came off my bike a few years back and severely smashed my knee. Much less intimidating from the other side. Or might it be that I was so tuned into the danger? Or maybe just the fact that now there were enough signs and warnings to keep World War 3 at bay?!!
We opted to go and refuel in Ladismith, as the 70km distance that was told to us by the coffee shop owner was actually a neat 180km! We could have been stuck in the middle of nowhere! Since we were staying across the road from Ronnie’s Sex shop, we had to go and have a drink there to wash down the mud, dust and tiredness of the day.
Click here to see the map:
10 Minutes from departure, we were still unsure which route we should take the following day. We decided to go through the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. We had a bakkie escort us all the way through, never going over 40km/h. We hoped, but did not see any animals and we were not allowed to take pics if we did see some. There were some Springbok and once just out of the reserve, we saw some beautiful Gemsbok.
From here it was a big, open (and pretty straight) road, lined with flowers and plants stretching to the hills on either side. Everything was still very green due to the rain of a few weeks earlier.
Mud for make-up and gasoline for perfume – I'm a Dirt bike diva !!