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Cape Town to Johannesburg by BMW R1200GS – Day 4

Cathkin Park / Champagne Valley, Drakensburg to Bryanston, Johannesburg.

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Awoke once again to the most glorious day. Not a cloud in the sky and already quite warm. The Berg was crystal clear and it was the most perfect day for riding through the Countryside.

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I decided to take the back roads once again. My route was planned to go via Winterton, Bergville – such an awesome name when you think of Smallville, and via the Sterkfontein Dam. The owner of Inkosana had provided a rough map, and on it was written “BAD ROAD” next to the Dam. Come on, I’m on a 1200GS … how BAD could BAD be? The back road from Bergville takes you to Harrismith, and means you don’t have to get on the highway. And I really wanted to avoid Highway riding as much as possible for now. So the BAD road it would be.

So I headed out on yet another adventure. The Berg was amazing this time of the morning. The R74 road through to Bergville was in good condition and just after Bergville it heads up a pass, past Little Switzerland, and when you stand on the pass and look out towards the Berg, you can see why it is called Little Switzerland. It truly could be!

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So, I stopped at the top of the pass, took a few pics, and kept on going. At this stage I was thinking the Inkosana Owner has obviously not been on this road for ages. It is in awesome condition. Recently tarred. Really good riding. Smile

There is a Eskom Hydro-Electric Scheme on the pass, and it uses water from the Sterkfontein Dam. At this stage though the local baboons had clearly decided they liked the building too, and were busy climbing all over the structure. I just hope they can’t get access to the buildings. Otherwise Eskom might be generating electricity when they don’t need. Or the dam might suddenly find itself very empty! lol

Anyway, I skirted the pass and was busy looking out over the Skerkfontein Dam, which is massive, when suddenly something flashed past me on my left hand side on the road. I looked down and … WHOA … are you serious!!!

I had just missed a POTHOLE THE SIZE OF MY BIKE!!! Surprised smile

I just had to turn around and get a picture.

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I continued on, but now at a much slower pace. And a good thing it was too. For around the corner the road literally disintegrated! I didn’t manage to get pics unfortunately as there were cars behind me and in front of me – the road was all of a sudden really busy – and I was literally using all my awesome off-road riding skills, which I had learnt between Hogsback and Cathcart 2 days ago, to stay upright! The road was in shocking condition. It is in a way explainable: the Heat of Summer and Freezing Cold of Winter has clearly trashed the tar. However the issue with this road is that they haven’t graded it. They keep trying to plug the potholes. So the tar hardens but the potholes keep getting bigger. Causing hard and soft spots, allowing for the road to create these massive holes. There were some holes that my front wheel was literally half buried in. You hit those at speed and it is game over! In my mind, what they should actually do is just grade it down to dirt and leave it that way. Then fill the dirt and forget the tar. So, all I can say is luckily I had a R1200GS! You could probably make it on most bikes, and cars, but I wouldn’t bring a S1000RR along here!

At Harrismith I hit the Engen Garage, which has like 5 different food joints! Fantastic! I was starving after NOT having my ribs the night before!

From Harrismith the road is all Highway all the way back to Johannesburg and it was a sad ending to a fantastic trip, having to do miles and miles of monotonous highway. But at least it got me home and in one piece as well.

So, after three-and-a-half days of travelling through 5 Provinces (Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, and Gauteng), I had travelled approximately 2311 kms, according to Google Maps. I forget to reset my Odo in Cape Town for the official bike mileage. Muppet! Anyway, the distance was approximately correct and that translated to about 24 hours in the saddle. No wonder I was feeling really uncomfortable by the time I got home!

CPT to JHB by 1200GS

 

So a couple of outtakes and notes from the trip:

  • Wear Padded Cycling Shorts under the biking gear
  • Get proper rain oilies for wet weather
  • Get more experience on Dirt
  • Bring a Headlamp for night time use off the bike
  • Get the extra BMW Side Lights for the bike for night riding
  • Get the extended Foot Pegs for the R1200GS
  • Possibly get a tank bag for additional goodies on the road
  • GET OUT TO THE COUNRTYSIDE MORE – ON THE BIKE IF POSSIBLE!!!
  • We truly do live in a beautiful country! Smile

 

Nunnsby

Loving Riding Life!

😉

Cape Town to Johannesburg by BMW R1200GS – Day 3

Maclear to Cathkin Park, Central Drakensberg Area. Took about six-and-a-half hours again, including stops.

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So once again I took the scenic route. Maclear to Kokstad via Mount Fletcher and Matatiele. Kokstad to Underberg, and then onto Howick. Howick to Estcourt via "The Old Road"/R103.

I awoke to find clear blue skies with not a cloud in sight! Amazing weather for riding!

I left Maclear and once again skirted along the Southern Drakensberg Range to Matatiele. The scenery was as always spectacular.
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More rivers with swollen banks and a lot in full force. At Matatiele you find yourself on a wide,  open, flat plateau surrounded on all sides by slight ridges of smaller mountains, heading away from the Berg. It is quite incredible to think that way up here, 1000m +, among all the ridges,  is a wide open plain.

The valley is green and sparsely populated, with little,  if any,  farm fences between lands, which accentuates the openness even more.

After a slight climb out of the valley, I found myself descending a fantastic winding road down into Kokstad. Kokstad itself is not a bad little town and actually had some nice old buildings, and interesting heritage.

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The road from Kokstad to Underberg is a winding one and dotted with small settlements every few kilometres. Once again, cattle seem to be free to roam. Not fun when on a bike! And for some reasons … which I think I know the answer to … they love the blind corners!

I have been to Underberg before on the exact same road when we did the Sani2c back in 2012. That trip was by Bakkie though. Not quite as spectacular then.

The road to Howick from Underberg takes you along a ridge that runs parallel the Berg for quite a while. On the left you get chances to see small valleys to the Berg,  whereas at some places on the right,  the valleys open up and fall away into wide deep expanses, dropping away and fanning out into many smaller gulley’s, almost as far as the eye can see. Truly spectacular vistas.

Midmar Dam suddenly appears when you crest a ridge, with rest of the valley falling away behind it. Then the N3 and the rest of civilisation comes into view, and the stark reality of traffic and the masses returns. Sad smile

I visited the Howick Falls, and stopped for a frulata at a coffee shop, of all things.
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As I hadn’t booked any accommodation in the Berg Region and could now get spotty 3G signal I decided to find somewhere to stay. After the 6th call things were looking bad. Everything was full, or if there was accommodation, it was Moer expensive, and I was not going to be paying close on R3000 for one night for a stop over. I was about to throw the towel in and head directly back to JoBoet when I decided try one last place, a backpackers. Score, they had just had a cancellation, and I was sorted. Cathkin Park / Champagne Valley, here I come! Smile

From Howick I took the R103, or as it is known, "The Old Road", to Estcourt. I passed the Nelson Mandela Capture Site, Nottingham Road, and then onto Rawdons Lodge and Granny Mouse’s County House.
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All places I remember from when I was a kid.

The R103 is a fantastic road, and passes through some lovely countryside and small villages. They also employ Average Speed Prosecution using Number Plate Recognition/License Plate Recognition Technology. I’ll have to get back to your on how well it works later, considering they were using front facing cameras! Winking smile

From Estcourt I took the highway north to the Winterton turn-off, as I was a bit short on time. Winterton is about 20 kms off the highway towards the Berg, and you once again start getting into long rolling hills and valleys as you approach it.

The R600 from Winterton takes you right into the Champagne Valley 25kms later.

I found the backpackers, Inkosana, just of the main road no problem. by the time I arrived there it was getting hot. The trip to Winterton from Howick had started getting warm with the humidity of the KZN region now taking it’s toll.

They had a great little water tank pool, green obviously, which was nice and cool and had a few helpful little fish to clean the sweaty toes after a long day in the leather riding boots. Chilling in a pool, looking out over the Beautiful Green Drakensberg! This was the perfect way to relax after a long, hot day in the Saddle.

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I was advised to go to Monks Cowl Country Club for dinner as they did the best ribs in the region. I arrived there at 20h and things were chaos. It was pretty much fully with two tables open. I walked around for about 5 minutes trying to find any staff, but there was no one. All these people sitting at tables and nothing happening. I took a seat and waited. About 5 minutes later, it was as though someone had just released all the staff. 6 people came running into the Dining Hall and started taking drinks orders, and food orders. But things were mental. I had to stand up 10 minutes later to go to the bar to order a drink. Another 10 minutes later I had to get up to order the Ribs, after the drink was literally dumped on the table. At 21h05 after most of the hall had left I knew things had gone pear. I told the waitress if she hadn’t ordered my food yet, as literally everyone had now eaten, and most had left, she could just bring me my bill.

10 minutes later I heard all 6 of them arguing about who had taken the order, the stupid girl had, and who was going to go tell the kitchen. Seriously … Who was going to tell the kitchen? Wow, not who was going to come apologise to me, but who was going to go tell the kitchen! I went to the bar, told them I don’t care, who messed up, or why, just give me the bill. I paid and left. Not one apology. Not one.

Monks Cowl = Crap service! Avoid at all costs!

So much for the ribs! Sad smile Luckily I had half a packet of cashew nuts back at the backpackers!

Nunnsby

Loving Living Life!

😉