At the start of Lockdown Level 5, I made myself an infinite To-Do list of jobs that just never seem to get done. One of the more interesting items was to sit myself down and learn how to use my GPS and Basecamp Software, also, to learn some basic geography. My riding tactic is usually to find the starting point and just follow the bike in front of me. I’ve come to the conclusion, that I have to figure out where the hell I am in the world.
With that in mind during lockdown, I’ve been methodically watching tutorials and studying maps, particularly Mountain Passes SA – https://www.mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za/, which is an immense resource for anyone interested in learning and exploring our beautiful country.
Ruxi is fairly new to this motorcycling world, but she is a keen pillion and could almost match my excitement to get back on my ride, Pumbaa.
We started in a nippy 7 deg C at 08:30 and headed for the N1 north. All traffic on the N1 was rerouted onto the R304 Klipheuwel off-ramp due to a burnt-out truck carcass on the N1… So, pretty standard start to the morning. I count us fortunate in the sense that slipping through traffic, all the truck fumes were keeping us warm in that chilly air!
The detour off the N1 did not bother us, for we were off to Stellenbosch for Helshoogte. Be careful of the slangetjies in the corners, especially when the road is so cold! Being fresh out of this lockdown, today was not about speed, but the pursuit of buttery smoothness, like our dear George Lorenzo.
Cruising to and through Franschhoek, we were enjoying a traffic free, picture-postcard ride. And what a glorious return to riding, as the tunes of U2’s Beautiful day were sending me over the pass in the crisp, clear, morning air. Everything happened as expected – even the Wilderness Fire Fighters doing routine maintenance jumped at the right time when they decided to cross in the middle of the right hander horseshoe bend as I was on my way… whoops!
We turned towards Villiersdorp and took the Rooihoogte Pass in our stride. However, we had to deal with a Hilux that was in such a mad rush on the straights, only then to hold us up in the corners. We were having such a wonderful experience of the countryside, and I was wondering why this driver was so frantic. Hopefully I will remember that moment and the ‘zen’ feeling I had next time I find myself in a frantic state, and realize that we can all chill out a bit more in life.
We stopped at Stettyn Cellars for a cup of coffee to thaw out before scoping a bit of the surrounds. I’m not too familiar with the area, and was keen to explore around Brandvlei dam, but it turns out the prison has the road gated up. Further along the R43, I saw an interesting road going off past Cilmor Wines supposedly skirting the Northeast side of the dam. Turns out that Worcester Bakstene has that road monopolized too… Oh well…
We carried on and picked up fuel in Rawsonville before cruising through the Slanghoek Valley and onward to Bainskloof. We were ravenous by the time we got to Calabash at a little after noon, but due to the reduced staff, it is no place to be if you’re in a hurry. Fortunately, we weren’t and we gorged on ribs and chips while some resident pooches nuzzled up to befriend us while there was food on our plates. Sorry pups, you’ll have to settle for some ear scratching afterwards.
Maybe a big lunch wasn’t such a great idea just before Bainskloof. The pass had to been taken at a steadier pace with full bellies this time, hahaha! Having the ability to go on a Wednesday is a freedom not lost on us, for we had Bainskloof practically to ourselves except for the odd oncoming car crossing into our lane.
The route back home took us onto the Durbanville turnoff after Wellington, then the R304 towards Klipheuwel and beyond to Philadelphia. We felt like we were features of a Windows Wallpaper going through the greenest of fields that could rival any Alpine meadow. Melkbos was next, ending with a coastal cruise back to Blouberg around 3pm.
Round trip of roughly 340km of tar (excluding some less successful gravel exploration)