Maclear to Cathkin Park, Central Drakensberg Area. Took about six-and-a-half hours again, including stops.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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! Luckily I had half a packet of cashew nuts back at the backpackers!
Loving Living Life!