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Part 2 of my journey - Cape Town to Namibia and back
Part 1 of my trip was posted on the 19th September 2010. This is the continuation of this trip.Part 2
I arrived back in Cape Town on Thursday for part 2 of my motorcycling adventure. My kind and talented brother, Paul, had done so much work on my bike – it was now more ready than ever to hit the dirt!
After a wonderful family weekend I finally settled myself in front of the computer on Sunday evening and began the time consuming process of route planning. I am not too fussy about this but do need a general idea as to where the interesting places are, so that I can plan an interesting route. With Pauls help the start of the route looked so inviting that he decided he wanted to do it too and that's as far as I got with my route planning.
Early the next morning we hopped into Pauls sturdy little 4X4 (an ongoing restoration) and off we went. We left Blouberg in dismal weather, the clouds above promising worse to come. We sloshed past Atlantis and Mamre and then off the tar and onto a secondary dirt road. A bit later we turned onto the railway line service road and had the fun experience of driving alongside a diesel train transporting coal. We popped out in Darling, Evita se Perron unfortunately closed and then turned onto another dirt road leading to Mareesburg. The cloudbursts were frequent and intense but we were having great fun.The giant potholes we splashed through rewarded us by finding every nook and cranny to seep into and drip over us. Our feet were soaking wet, Pauls 'footwell' had become a muddy puddle, so much so he had to roll up his pants.
From Mareesburg we took the N7 (tar for about 40 kms) to Citrusdal, then onto the dirt road to the Algeria crossroads. We bumped and bounced our way alongside the scenic Clanwilliam Dam past Lebanon campsite and turned onto the dirt road to Cedarberg and went past the Algeria campsite. The deterioration in the road coincided with the deterioration in the already dreadful weather and the going was painfully slow. Into the Cedarberg mountains we went, up, up we laboured, up the Uitkyk pass and then down the other side to just past Driehoek. It was at about this point we realised that we weren't going to make our destination which was Wuppertal and still be home by dark. So, with a slight sense of disappointment we turned around. However we were rewarded with the sun breaking through the clouds just as we reached the top of the pass so we were able to drink in the stunning view. We took the shortcut back to Algeria and then onto the N7.
On the way home we stopped off at De Tol on the Piekenierskloof Pass, a roadside cafe/restaurant to quench our thirst and pacify the ravenous appetites we had built up. We were both very cold so the hot chocolate that we ordered really hit the spot. While eating our juicy, fat bacon, egg and cheese toasted sarmies the proprietor’s daughter told us a fascinating story.
She explained that the house we were sitting in was built in about 1853 and was originally a toll house where tolls were collected from the citrus farmers who brought their citrus in donkey carts from Citrusdal up to this point. They overnighted here and the following morning continued on to the train at Eindekuil to load their produce for the delivery to Cape Town.
Then the house became a Red Cross first aid station and for the past 10 years has been a restaurant. “BUT ...” she continued, “there is a spook that haunts this house”. Her mother and she had personally experienced the spooks actions on at least 3 occasions. She went on to tell us how her mother and herself were alone late at night in the house painting the main room when a clock which hadn't worked for years started chiming. On another occasion the pockets of oranges in the shop area had been opened during the night and were found the next morning in places where it was impossible for them to have rolled to. Leaving the most eyebrow raising story to last, she told us how a relative had sworn while working in the room with them and suddenly a teacup had been flung at him. It hit him in the head and he accused them of throwing it, which of course they denied, as it had been the work of the spook!
After the stop at De Tol we continued on past Citrusdal, Piketburg, then took the turnoff to Velddrif, drove past Saldanha bay, Langebaan, Melkbos and finally home.
We had done 560kms in 8.5 hrs. Thank you Paul for a fabulous day!
My first day on the road, Blouberg to the Karoo
14th October 2010 Wednesday
It seemed as though I had too much to organize for the trip and ended up getting off to a late start. The weather was cool and blustery but this is what I expected at this time of the year. Unknowingly I forgot my route plan as well as my map.
I took the coastal road to Melkbos, the Slentpad past the wind turbines. The dairy farms with the strong smell of manure attracted insects which splattered on my visor. Then on past wine farms, Kliphewel, Malmsbury, Riebeck-Kasteel and Gouda. I stopped off here which was a fortuitous stop as I was able to talk on my cell phone to David Moore, producer of the brilliant 'Going Nowhere Slowly' series.
As it turned out he was en-route to his farm in the Karoo and suggested I overnight there. So from Gouda I traveled to Ceres, straight out the other side of the town and continued on the dirt road to the farm. Shortly after my arrival there I went for a leg-stretching, long walk into the veld – after being in the saddle this was just what I needed. We had a wonderful evening braaing on the indoor fire, drinking red wine, telling stories and catching up on all the news since the 'Couch Trip' a reality show that I was a contestant in (Dave had produced this a few years ago). His friend, George, kindly gave me a map book and together they helped me re-plan my route, which I think was very similar to the first plan Paul helped me with. They also gave me a bottle of red wine for my "sundowner" when visiting Augrabies. Thank you Dave and George!
On to Brandvlei
15th October 2010
Thursday morning dawned chilly and overcast with fat grey clouds hanging low in the sky. We had an impromptu photo shoot at the gate of Dave’s farm – my bike posing with Dave’s famous Chillipepper, an honour for me. The dirt road was wet with patchy puddles that were unexpectedly slippery which saw me doing the fandango quite a few times.
I took the turnoff to the Tankwa Karoo National Park and the road conditions deteriorated even further. In some places the road seemed to have sunk below the water level. I met a Canadian RTW traveler who had given up on his efforts to the reach Tankwa Karoo National Park and suggested I turn back as well because the river was flooding across the road. I said that I was keen to have a look. He left but a short distance later did a u turn and kindly drove to the river with me and stood by as I attempted it. The water was swirling and muddy but not too deep so I crossed slowly, carefully and safely made it to the other side. I waved goodbye to the kindly Canadian and spent the next few hours enjoying the stark beauty, wide open spaces and sheer loneliness of the Tankwa Karoo while trying to negotiate the difficult road conditions.
Good thing I was carrying fuel as I had to use it – the next fuel station at Middlepos was about 100kms too far away!
Then it was up up, up, the exceedingly slippery Gannaga Pass and the distance to Middlepos seemed insurmountable as I fishtailed along, shoulders and arms cramping from the strain of trying to keep the bike upright and moving forward.
Finally the road conditions eased but the wind was freezing cold so I had to stop and put more clothes on. I was so relieved to eventually pull in to Middlepos where I met a fellow biker, Koos. He was doing a round trip from Paarl and generously insisted I accept a 1:250 000 map of Namakwaland. We chatted for awhile and then he set off for Sutherland and me for Calvinia where I had a soft landing at a local guest house .
In the morning my room was still toasty from the oil heater I had on all night and my boots and washing were dry. A late start from Cavinia meant a warm start and I was tired of freezing so this was much better. I took the tar road through flat and featureless terrain to Niewoudville although occasionally mountains could be seen in the distance. I went into the little dorpie, took some photos and then continued on to Loeriesfontein. A few kms after the turnoff to Loeriesfontein, the scenery and vegetation changed dramatically to mountains, gorges, trees and abundant greenery but after the Nieuwoudt Falls, a worthwhile stop, it changed back to 'Karoo normal'. While at the falls and ambling to another viewpoint I noticed that a big transport truck had stopped opposite the entrance gates of the falls. Then I saw another one stop. The 2 drivers walked across to my laden bike and examined it. I, in the meantime, being a woman alone in this lonely spot, decided to put on my crash helmet in the hopes they would think I was a man. Of course I must have looked ridiculous wandering around the bush with a crash helmet on. They came up to me and politely greeted me and looked very surprised when I greeted them in return – a womans voice emanating from the depths of the crash helmet. The game was up – I took it off. They then asked me if I was alone. "No, of course not " I replied, I'm with a gang of bikers, I simply left Niewoudville a few minutes before they did. They'll be here any minute". With a feeling of relief I got onto my bike and then discovered that in my nervousness I had lost a glove, a very serious thing given the cold temperatures I had been riding in. The 2 truckers immediately started searching for my gloves and we had a good chat while searching and I felt a bit mortified that I had thought they were anything but nice. Eventually one of them found the glove and off I rode to my next turnoff which was to the quiver tree forest. This is a dirt road and about 3kms off the main road the forest begins and is about 3kms long, another worthwhile stop.
By the time I reached Loeriesfontein I was starving so I stopped at the Boesmanland Pub and Grill for an egg and bacon toasted sandwich. Here I met some locals and one very kindly gave me contact details for his friend in Alexander Bay, a place he assured me was lovely despite what I had heard. Then off I went to the Fred Turner Museum and adjoining Windmill Museum. This windmill museum is one of only 2 in the world and no 2 windmills here are the same. In Afrikaans it is called a 'windpomp' - wind pump. The historian who showed me around was informative and I found the tour very interesting.
On,on to Brandvlei, on a dirt road in excellent condition. This little dorpie had dismal accommodation and quite by chance I ended up staying over at the local police captains house. She and her husband had friends over that evening and they invited me to join them for their braai. They were so hospitable and I am pleased to say that I can now call them all my friends.
Brandvlei to Augrabies National Park
16th October 2010
A late start saw me on the road to Augrabies National Park. My friend, Dave, had told me that sundowner on the rock at Ararat was a must do experience, one that I was looking forward to. It was quite a long haul to Kenhardt especially as the wind was blowing straight at me and so I battled to get 80 kms per hour out of my bike. It also reduced my petrol consumption by about 20 l to the tank. Kenhardt was surprisingly busy and I stopped off at a fascinating padstal. The landscape was arid and brown, wide open spaces with only the occasional rocky outcrops to break the monotony. After Kenhardt I started seeing the huge nests of the sociable weaver hanging onto the tops of the electricity poles.
And then there was Keimoes – an oasis of lush green in a sea of dusty brown, neat vineyards, irrigation canals with big water wheels and a vibrant community. Reason: the Orange River - my first glimpse of this mighty force. From Keimoes the scenery was lovely, lush green interspersed with dry brown. I stopped off at a padstal, (these are my favourite places), and had creative surroundings while I ate my delicious, inexpensive lunch. When I walked in a Scottish Terrier ran up to me and tried to sink its teeth into my rock hard biking boot and then ran off, it's owner sheepishly apologizing.
The temperature here was considerably warmer than anything I had experienced thus far, so the clothes shedding began, layer by layer. From here to Kakamas - then it was a hop, skip and a jump to Augrabies National Park where I set up my tent in the delightful campsite and luxuriated in the hot, dust rinsing shower. The Extreme Challenge was starting the next day , a week long running race across the Kalahari. I chatted to some of the runners and wished them well on their extreme adventure. I went exploring and viewed the spectacular Augrabies Falls from a well placed viewing platform (of which there are many) as they thundered over the rocks below. On the rocks around the viewing platform were brilliant orange and blue coloured lizards At about sundownerish time I went to reception to find out where Ararat was and was told that motorbikes were not allowed to go there as it was inside the game park and there was no way for me to get there. The staff there are rude and disinterested and I have since met other people who also found the reception staff rude. I was very disappointed but enjoyed my sundowner anyway. Thanks Dave and George for that good bottle of wine!
I slept soundly until a strange clicketty click noise woke me up. I lay there wondering if someone was walking around out there. Then it came closer and stopped – I stiffened up feeling really scared as my tent door was wide open. Then it stopped right at the door of my tent. I silently shot upright in my sleeping bag to be confronted by a set of 4 legs! Animal legs. My first thought was “a giraffe” but the proportions weren’t right and finally I made out a set of impressive long straight horns, a dewlap and a large buck shaped body. There were 2 of them contentedly grazing around my tent. With a feeling of relief I drifted off to sleep.
Namibia and the Orange River
17th October 2010
Here I am, sitting on the bank of the Orange River in Namibia after an enjoyable 456 km ride. Its 18:40 and the sun is setting downstream of me. Opposite is a glowing golden cliff face where the rock has set in waves.
After leaving Augrabies I headed towards the appropriately named town of Pofadder. It didn’t seem to warrant a stop so I continued on towards Springbok. The landscape was uniformly arid and barren relieved only by the occasional rocky outcrop. The further I rode, the hotter it became, until just over a ridge the pleasant little town of Springbok appeared which is set amongst rocky hills and huge rock domes . I stopped off for an icy grapetizer, got out my maps and strategized. I was planning to sleep here but I was enjoying the ride and it was still early so I decided to continue. My destination was the river rafting camp in Namibia called Felix Unite. So on I rode. About 10 kms from the border the road starts descending and winds its way between huge barren rocky areas. The hot blast which hit me was eyeball frying and I felt as if I was descending into hell itself. Never have I felt such heat. I worried about my tires – would they cope, in fact would my bike cope or would it overheat. Off came the gloves, the jacket liner was already out, I opened the helmet vents, the jacket vents but nothing helped. Finally the border post of Vioolsdrift came into view and I crossed into Namibia with the minimum of fuss. I found my way to Felix Unite on the Orange River but sadly they had had a fire in the morning and were not in a position to accommodate any more guests. They suggested I go further along to Abiqua River Camp now called Amanzi Trails. I did and wasn’t disappointed as the campsite was actually nicer than the one at Felix Unite. I booked in and ordered a canoe for the following day. Then I washed my dirty clothes and dusty body.
The day dawned sunny, windless and warm. The owner of Amanzi, Daryn, transported the double canoe and myself to the start upstream, collecting the guide, Jaco, en-route. We set off in perfect conditions paddling easily with little help from the current as the river is so broad (at that point). The scenery was varied with long grasses interspersed with bushes and trees as well as rock and cliffs. The birdlife was prolific with herons, cormorants, kingfishers, ibises, egyptian geese and swallows. We also saw quite a few water monitors in the rocky areas. And then the wind hit us. It came from exactly where we were headed so we had to dig in and paddle like hell. The tendonitis in my right elbow, which had been plaguing me the entire trip, was killing me as was the damaged ligament in my left thumb which had never quite healed, but paddle I did, with Jaco in the seat behind matching me stroke for stroke. We came down the final weir and a wave washed over the bow, drenching us but it was so exhilarating. We made it back to the campsite in good time both in high spirits, I had had a great time with the capable and experienced Jaco on the river.
The latter part of the afternoon was spent quite lazily, listening to music, recharging my cell phone, my gps, computer and MP3 player batteries. What a pleasure it was doing these simple things in such stunning surroundings, the mighty Orange River flowing past.
Note: There is a road on the South African side of the river which is not shown on my gps or my map. Apparently this goes all the way to Sendlingsdrift but I gather one needs a 4X4 to do the section closest to Sendlingsdrift. There is also a road linking Kuboes to Eksteenfontein but this too is not shown on the map.
Back to South Africa
19th October 2010
It was a shame to leave such a lovely spot but with a cheery wave to Daryn I was off into the Richtersveld and the Ais-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. The white, sugar crunchy road meandered alongside the Orange River so it was a thin green strip on my left with stark mountainous areas all around which are devoid of visible vegetation. The huge mine dumps were jarring in this wilderness. Every now and again I would come across a lonely caravan or shack in the middle of nowhere with signs that read "Private area – keep out". Apparently these are individuals seeking their fortunes with diamond diggings. Lonely life!
I passed the confluence with the dry Fish River and contemplated the wonderful hike I had done a few years ago, further upstream in the fish River Canyon. Eventually I reached Sendlingsdrift where I waited and waited for the ferry but the place seemed deserted. It was extremely hot and with all the biking gear on I felt as though I was being slowly baked.
I tried hooting but the hooter didn't seem to be working, I whistled and finally some men ambled down the road on the other side, climbed aboard the ferry, started its engines and slowly made their way over.
I tried to start the bike but to my great surprise it was totally dead – nothing worked. I pushed it onto the ferry. I figured that the problem would be one of 2 things – the main fuse had blown or the battery terminal had come off. When we reached the other side, the ferry operators came over to have a look and one of them, Chris, insisted on doing the dirty work and wouldn't let me even try. We took all the luggage off, I got out the tools, then he undid the bolts under the mud encrusted back mudguard in order to loosen the seat. We carefully slid the seat out from under the luggage carrier and checked the main fuse – it was blown. We replaced it with a new fuse I had with me and problem solved! Of course I didn't think the problem was really solved as I felt that something had caused the fuse to blow, but what?
Then it was the immigration formalities (and R100.00 for the ferry) and finally I was able to continue my journey to Alexander Bay. The gravel road had hard stony drifts and I had to really concentrate on my riding. Many kms later I came to an office with a boom across the road. A man came out and asked for proof of payment for the ferry. This was his job and he needed the slip. This seems really silly and a waste of money. As I rode along I felt the temperature steadily dropping until I was riding into the teeth of the icy wind blowing across the frigid Atlantic Sea.
I had a look at the Alexander Bay border post then had to stop at a boom going into Alexander Bay. I was asked a few questions as to where I was going etc, my id book was scrutinized and something was noted on the computer. I asked the person why she was doing this and she said that it's security because of the diamond mining. Anyway my planned overnight stop didn't work out, the town was ugly, so I continued on to Port Nolloth, a delightful little town although many don’t agree with me.
On the way I repeatedly saw green net 'fences' with what looked like plants in between the fences. Is this a dune rehabilitation program?
Port Nolloth is postcard pretty with fisherman type cottages, white sandy beaches interspersed with rocky areas and fynbos, seagulls squawking .... all I needed now was a cozy little spot next to the beach.
As I rode along I saw a signpost for a backpackers. I couldn’t find it so I asked a person in front of a little beach house for directions. He couldn't help me but suggested I stay at the beach house where he, Francois, and his work colleague, Sydney, were staying as they were contract workers and would be leaving for Gauteng in the morning. What hospitable people and what a pleasure it was. I walked along the beach at sunset and came back to a cozy cottage, a roaring fire, good company and a delicious braai!
Off to Garies and the HOGS.
20th October 2010
After a healthy breakfast we all left the cottage together . I tried to give them a final hoot goodbye and I felt the bike go gutless and the hooter didn't work. I immediately knew that the fuse had gone again and that the next time I switched the bike off it wouldn’t start. I drove to the petrol station, filled up, disconnected the hooter and put in a new fuse. Most annoying.
The day dawned cool and I hit the dirt for The Diamond Route, first stop, Kleinzee. Although a lovely spot it seemed like a ghost town with not a soul to be seen – I guessed they were all at work but I guessed wrong. It seems as though many of these De Beers houses are empty.
There was a welcome stretch of tar linking Kleinzee to Koiingnaas then dirt again to Hondeklipbaai, another postcard pretty dorpie. I met 2 guys out on a jaunt in their landie and we had lunch in a small restaurant overlooking the boats in the harbour, delicious ocean fresh fish. They were full of adventurous tales and good ideas and suggested I join them to see the Spoeg Caves and the seals. Unfortunately the road was very soft sand and with my laden motorcycle I would have struggled so I waved goodbye and rode on to Garies.
The road had taken me away from the coast and I pulled in to the Engen station at Garies. While I was filling up a large group of Harley Davidson riders came into the station with a lot of loud revving, chrome and leather. Apart from one woman that I spoke to who said they were from JHB, the group didn't seem very friendly – not at all like the bikers in KZN. Well at least the weather had warmed up nicely and off I went, Vredendal in my sights.
About 8 kms out of Garies I heard this horrible, loud whining noise emanating from the front end of my bike. I stopped and examined the bike. The front disc was hot so I thought that possibly the brakes had locked onto the disc. The engine oil window showed no oil and although potentially very serious that's not where the noise was coming from. The noise was so bad that I was convinced that I would damage my bike irreparably if I drove it any further so started pushing it back to Garies. Puffing and panting I pushed and pushed and pushed, up the hill, down the other side, up the next .... it was taking forever. As I was hanging over my handlebars trying to get my breath back the Harley Davidson riders I had seen an hour and a half to 2 hours before, came roaring past, seemingly not seeing me at all. I guess the name they use for themselves really suits them – HOGS!
Luckily the vehicle behind them (not with them) stopped and the driver kindly offered to try and get transport for me back to Garies. He managed to find a trailer and a helper and I requested he drop me off at the campsite. This good samaritan took the time and effort to help find the problem and fix the bike.
Fun in the Campsite
This campsite was truly uninspiring, windswept, dry and not a soul in sight. I decided to camp on the verandah of the ablution block so that I could lock the gates with my bike chain. Just as it was getting dark I started wondering if I had made the right decision. I felt a bit nervous about being alone in this large (clean but spooky) ablution block. Luckily a group of 5 Polish bicyclists arrived and loved the idea of spending the night in the ablution block. Bicycles and motorbike were carried in, hot showers were had, sleeping mats rolled out, gates closed and chained and the party started. What a fabulous team, bicycling for a National Geographic story in memory of a famous Polish bicyclist / explorer. We had a great evening swapping stories and their funny descriptions had me in fits of laughter.
Garies to Dwarskerbos
21th October 2011
A sunny warm day dawned and I set off in high spirits, minus front brakes and odometer. I headed for Lamberts Bay via Lutzville and Vredendal. The weather had cooled down considerably and I went through patches of light rain which made the dirt roads slippery and speckled me with mud. Just after Lamberts Bay (which had run out of petrol) I stopped off at a delightful farm stall restaurant where a friendly group, touring in a bus asked me to join them for lunch and tell my story.
Then it was on to Elands Bay where I filled up with petrol. I was very disappointed as my camera had packed up so no more pics - a good reason for coming back.
The tendonitis in my right arm was getting worse and what with no front brakes, no odometer, no camera and a faulty arm I decided to start looking for a place to stop. I continued hugging the coast and finally found a little guesthouse in Dwarskerbos.
The cherry on top was when I opened my (new when I left home) netpad and discovered that the vibration of riding on the dirt roads had damaged the screen. Mmmmn - good thing I'm nearing the end of my trip!
Friday and Back to Cape Town
22nd October 2010
After refreshing my spirits with an early night in the comfort of a guesthouse I packed my bike and hopped on, pushed the start button and ..... dead! Dead as a doornail! Oh crap!
Hop off, dig in pockets for spanner and fuse, open side cover, pull out fuse box, remove blown fuse and replace with new one.
Right, start again and off I zoomed into the cold, grey, overcast day. I rode on past Velddrif where I bought a handful of fuses, on past Laaiplek, then I explored the pretty Port Owen, viewed the scenery of St. Helena Bay, enjoyed the character filled Stompneus Bay, visited Britannia Bay and finally in the pouring rain, the gorgeous little village of Paternoster. To do it justice in this weather was impossible. It was at this point that I decided to give up on the coastal sightseeing jaunt as I was cold and wet and I didn't feel like changing fuses in these conditions. So I headed for Vredenburg and then onto the West Coast Road (R27) to Blouberg. Sadly, my trip was almost over.
On arrival my sweet sister-in-law warmed me up with hot coffee and shooed me into a hot shower as I was shivering with cold. The weather in Blouberg was dry as a bone!
This trip was fantastic. So much so that I am going to go back and do sections again as well as incorporate a whole bunch of other places I didn't have the opportunity to get to. There are challenging dirt routes, scenic hikes, pirate caves and eccentric lighthouse keepers out there just waiting for me.
My right arm, which I can hardly use, has been exceedingly painful. An ultrasound scan shows a torn tendon. The orthopaedic surgeon is trying one final cortizone injection (I had one before the trip) and if the pain doesn't subside he will have to operate.
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