When frowns turn into smiles – Cederberg Oasis Relaxed Overnight ride
By:- Carel van der Merwe.
The training team of the BMW Motorrad Club Cape decided to have a relaxed overnight ride to the famous Cederberg Oasis for the riders who participated in our training courses throughout the year. Our aim was to give them an opportunity to improve their confidence and skill level under a “controlled” environment. This was also the perfect opportunity to implement all the handy advice and skills that has been taught over the last few months, group riding, riding technique and etiquette, bike setup, tyre pressure, suspension setup, ABS, traction control, only to name a few.
When we looked again, we had 17 bikes and 22 people. That’s what it took to make an epic weekend…
The routes were planned in such a way that the less experienced riders would have stretches of decent gravel roads, where they would be able to find their rhythm on the bike with intervals of tar sections to give the nerves and heart rate some time to settle down before we hit the next stretch of gravel.
I’m sure that the weather on the Saturday morning had a lot of people nervous and doubting their commitment to the weekend. I woke up shortly after 04h00 with the sound of rain and thought to myself, what was supposed to be a Level 1 training ride could possibly become Level 2 intermediate within a few drops. Luckily things cleared up a bit after 06h00 and it turned out to be perfect riding weather.
I went to recce a part of the planned route on the Friday to ensure we would have no surprises the Saturday. I noticed that my bike wasn’t charging the battery, seems like my bike might have some Covid related symptoms. I made the 911 call to Neels and asked if he would be able to lead the group. As always, he was more than willing to assist. I relieved my wife from backup vehicle duties, and she sat co-pilot with me for the trip. As luck would have it. This was probably meant to be.
On our way to the meeting point, just before the Klapmuts turnoff on the N1, a bakkie in front of us lost its right rear wheel which missed the trailer of the backup vehicle with a couple of centimeters. Looking back in the rear-view mirror I saw the wheel running across the road like a dog with rabies, the traffic became small in my rear-view mirror as we drove away safely.
We arrived at the meeting point, we were pleased to see that most of the group was already there, having a morning cup of coffee, fueled and ready to go. Being on time is always a good way to start a group ride and sets the trend for the day. We had a quick briefing on group riding etiquette and departure was shortly after 08:30.
The first stretch of the route was tar, this gave the riders a chance to find their rhythm and a comfortable spot in the group. We headed out on the R44 towards Wellington where we took the Lady Loch Road across the beautiful Lady Loch bridge avoiding most of the morning traffic through Wellington.
Entering Wellington from the Lady Loch Road
Just outside Wellington we turned right on the Oakdene Road that joins with the Old Hermon Road. This road goes past BonteBok Ridge Reserve and the Schalk Burger Family Farm. This is where the fun (I mean the gravel) started. As we went from tar to gravel, we stopped and made sure that the tyre pressures were correct and that the ABS and traction control of the bikes were switched of. After a quick recap from the off road skills training we were settling in comfortably on the dirt.
Very nice gravel road
I thought to myself that the bit of rain earlier the day was actually a blessing in disguise, the road surface was nice and compact and it was a pleasure not to ride in the dust. Soon my thoughts were corrected when I came around a corner and found the sweepers bike lying in a pool of mud on the side of the road. Poor Andreas was literally stuck in the mud, I think the only clean place on his body was maybe his toes, everything was covered in mushy, brown sludge. If anyone was looking for Wellington’s rain that day, it seems that it all came down on that patch of gravel. Luckily there was no fatal injury, except a bruised ego and a sore shoulder. The bike was leaking oil from the cylinder head. A decision was made to rather load the bike on the trailer. What an interesting and slippery process it was to get the “oil-tanker” out of the mud and onto the trailer.
**the photos just don’t justify the effort that went into loading the bike on the trailer**
Stuck in the Mud, Lift – Turn – Load
Some downwards force was needed to assist with traction.
Almost loaded and ready to go.
As Neels reiterates on the training days…. what do you call mud……?? You call it ”BAAS”.
The lesson to be learnt here is to always choose the best line, and avoid the sides of the road during wet conditions. We caught up with the rest of the group waiting for us on the R44. From there we passed Gouda and went through the Nuwekloof Pass taking a right turn on the Old Tulbagh (gravel) road towards Wolseley. This road leads to the old Waterfall and Kluitjieskraal pine forest plantations.
We stopped for a well-deserved refresher and early lunch at the Hillbilly farm-stall on the R43 between Wolseley and Ceres. Don’t let the little wooden Wendy house next to the road fool you. We had excellent service and even better food, and some very nice craft beer. Next time you are in the area, do not go pass without stopping here for some good food, good beer, good service and friendly faces!
The Hillbilly Farm-stall
It is as good as it looks! Who needs a plate when you can eat off a truck anyway?
After refueling our stomachs, we headed on tar to Op-Die-Berg to refuel the bikes and to get ready for the last stretch of gravel to Cederberg Oasis. I phoned a friend in Ceres and asked him if he could baby sit the 1200 for us for the night as we needed to free up space on the trailer in case of another incident.
In the meantime, Neels took the group to Op-Die-Berg so that the bikes can be refueled.
Shortly after leaving my friend’s house, I received a call from Carl, our new sweeper and he reported another rider incident. The Dakar lost the master link on the chain in the main road of Ceres. To the rescue we were again, making sure we got value for our money for our rental trailer. The Dakar was loaded on the trailer and also dropped at my friend’s house. One more bike and it might have looked like a BMW graveyard.
As they say, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Ek het hom net so begin wheelie toe wil hy nie meer nie, or at least this is what the photo says.
We met up with the rest of the group at Op-Die-Berg. They just finished refueling the remaining 15 bikes. So off we went for the last stretch of gravel road before we reached our destination for the day. I could clearly see that the dynamics of the group had improved, the confidence and skill level was also noticeable as the infamous “kop wurm” was left behind somewhere along the route. Peeking through the helmets was no longer stressed people on motorcycles, but happy riders in their element.
As we came around the first sharp corner of the Grootrivierhoogte Pass we saw that one of the ladies had a little oops moment. When you have a mini oops moment and can still stand next to your bike smiling, then it was a good fall. She chose the wrong line and didn’t have enough momentum, but according to her a rhino ran across the road that caused her to go down….. who are we to argue? A Rhino in the Cedarberge… Anything is possible. We had to help the bikes to pull away on the incline by pushing down on the rear in order for them to get enough traction to get going. All’s well that end’s well.
The advantage of taking your husband with on a trip is that you have a dedicated “bike-pick-upper”
We arrived at Oasis shortly after 15h30 that gave the riders more than enough time to take a break, explore the beautiful venue and have a cold one at the bar. We were warmly welcomed by Gerrit and the rest of the Oasis family. It is a home away from home, and you always feel welcome here. Gerrit and his team has been busy during the last 2 years with a lot of improvements on the camping sites and accommodation sites. They are kitted out not only for camping but for semi self-catering for those who don’t want to rough it out all that much.
This sign always put smile on your face, it’s just that simple.
Bikes pulling up at Oasis.
Our accommodation for the night.
Riders relaxing with a cold one and having a recap of the day’s events.
Once again, the stomachs were smiling as the kitchen didn’t hold back on good food.
Later that evening we gathered the group to get some formalities out of the way. This is just a fun way to recap the day and to get to know each other. Everybody that had a small encounter during the trip had to receive a shot of punishment in a graceful manner. Not to mention that I was first on the list for being the ride leader and ending up driving the backup bakkie.
After a good night’s rest and quick breakfast, we gathered for a briefing before we hit the road again. Our destination was the famous Tankwa Farmstall.
Getting ready to depart from Cederberg Oasis.
What a beautiful sight to see a trail of bikes disappearing into the distance.
We back tracked a bit on our route from the previous day where we regrouped at the parking spot where the tar road start towards Op-Die-Berg and split towards Katbakkies Pass. Some of the riders opted to head straight home from here and the rest of the group missioned on towards Katbakkies Pass.
Going down Grootrivierhoogte Pass I saw that another lady rider gracefully dismounted her bike on the very same corner that the other lady rider had her ”rhino encounter” the previous day. Yet again I wasn’t able to spot any Rhino’s. Luckily neither the bike, the rider, nor her ego were damaged in this instance. My wife renamed this corner to ”Koek-se-Hoek” considering that on both occasions it was a lady rider that got to know this corner a little bit better.
Gathering point before we headed towards Katbakkies Pass.
A quick group photo before the group departed
Katbakkies and Tankwa Farmstall, here we come.
A stop at the view point on Katbakkies Pass is always a must. Here you can take in the fresh air, silence and view that only the Tankwa can offer you.
Bikes at the lookout point on Katbakkies Pass.
We also had a quick stop at the Bain’s ruins before starting the decent towards the Tankwa Farmstall.
It is impossible to describe the view of the Tankwa from the top of the pass before you start the descent down into the Tankwa. The below describes it best to people who are not familiar with the Tankwa.
What is it there in the distance…. is it a bird, is it a plane? It is definitely not superman.
The brave went to have a closer look….
Greeting’s earthling… take me to your leader.
Meet our fearless leader….. Hallo, my naam is Neels, sê my swaer…hoe drink julle
brandewyn sonder arms????
We had a nice lunch break at the Tankwa farmstall before we hit the boring R355 back to Ceres where we refueled, inflated tyres and said our goodbye’s.
Coming through the winding road of Slanghoek valley and the over Du Toits Kloof pass, it is probably the best way to enter Cape Town after a weekend such as this.
Seeing the flat mountain in the distance, you are reminded that tomorrow this amazing adventure is just a memory.
Thank you for everyone who joined this weekend’s trip with us. We as the trainers enjoyed it just as much as you did. This weekend and tripslike this always remind me that no matter what your day job is, when you get on that bike and pull your helmet onto your head. Your passion for adventure is the same as mine. Let’s do it again!
Shout out to the riders and pillions who have never done something like this before, your brave muscle definitely flexed a bit more than usual this weekend, and we look forward to seeing the pillions becoming riders soon too.
Ride safe and see you soon.