Firstly, to anyone reading this; appologies for the delay, last week my computer just said "howzit!" It was during a self-install-save R500 ADSL, anyway now I'm back!
Dave came up from Capetown on his Aprillia to stay over on Friday night so that we could get started early and by 0700 on a clear and calm but cold Saturday morning we were warming our bikes up outside the house.
We met up with Frank in Vredenburg and then rode through to Velddfrif where we joined up with the other seven intrepid bikers, all eager for the adventure and what the weekend was to bring. As things turned out I was to seriously regret inviting Dave on the run.
It was very cold as we set out from Velddrif along the bumpy R399 to Piketberg and as we were settling into the ride suddenly there was a flash of brake lights ahead of me and guys swerving as a BMW topcase came tumbling and sliding in between us, luckily nobody hit it - it seems that Nick hadn't secured it properly to his bike. About ten k's further I had to avoid a tin petrol can that was tumbling down the road splashing petrol all over the place! Dan's spare petrol for his scrambler.
Our plan was to stop at Ceres for breakfast, I had my heated handgrips on and inspite of that my fingertips and my thumbs were freezing! Every time I needed to switch on an indicator I had to first look at the switch and then will my thumb to move to it and press it, I couldn't feel the switches.
We blasted through from Piketberg to Porterville in a close procession with the sun coming up over the mountains and promising to warm the day (later), through a sleepy Porterville and a fast ride along the R44 to join the R46 at Gouda. This is all familiar and much loved riding country and soon we were cruising uphill through the magnificently picturesque Mitchell's Pass and into Ceres.
Eight of us sat around a table in the Wimpy, two of the guys had taken a dirt road option as they were on off-roaders, I clasped a hot mega coffe in trembling hands sipping the sweet liquid trying to warm my frozen core. A good breakfast went down well and by the time we got going again it was a lot warmer, we roared out of Ceres in convoy and headed along the R46 to the N1. That is a lovely stretch of road through the "Warm Bokkeveld" with some lovely twisties through the Theronsberg Pass and then 5kms later the Hottentotskloof Pass. From there it's about 40kms through the Karoo scrubland and the Bonteberg to join the N1.
62 kms to Matjiesfontein! The first Castle lagers of the day were calling out to me. That stretch of the N1 is in very good condition and after refuelling at Touwsrivier we thundered along eagerly to the wonderful old hotel at Matjiesfontein and those cold Castles went down singing hymns!
Soon it was time to get going again and by then the sun was warm, there was no wind and it was a fantastic day to be out on a motorbike, I was going to enjoy the last 110kms to Sutherland. The first 30 to 40kms is a bit tricky with some tight turns but after that it opens up and there is some good fast cruising through the red brown, rocky karoo scrubland. Ahead of me I saw the guys pulling over into a laybye and after I stopped I learned that John was experiencing heart palpitations, his heart was racing and he was dizzy. He couldn't ride his bike any further, this was a bit of a problem because we were in the middle of nowhere!
Eventually it was decided that Des would take him on the back of his bike to Sutherland where they would find a doctor, Dave and I followed and after getting John settled I took Dave back to the laybye so that he could ride John's bike to Sutherland. I told Dave that he was a lot heavier than my normal pillion passenger and he must have been a bit nervous going through the sharp curves of the Verlatekloof Pass, I don't like riding pillion and I'm sure he was the same.
We eventually got all of the bikes settled in a comfortable lock-up garage for the night and the festivities began!
Fungis had found a dead skunk on the side of the road on the way in and he decided that this was to be the mascot, he carried it around with him for the evening much to the consternation of the locals who had gathered to watch rugby.
We enjoyed a braai that evening with some absolutely excellent Karoo lamb chops and boerewors supplied by the hotel, and even tought it was eventually so cold that even the braai fire didn't help, we had a very festive evening.
Fungis talked the hotel owner into freezing the skunk because he wanted to get it stuffed when he got home, it was to be a permanent mascot for future Polar Bear runs!
It was early morning by the time we turned in and I awoke with a fright at 0800 with Des shouting outside, I had been extremely comfortable in a double bed with an electric blanket but it was time for breakfast and to get back on the road.
Soon we were back on the road, five of us in the first bunch with me at number four and Dave at number five with the other guys coming on a bit later. We settled into a steady cruise, not pushing it too much and the idea was to meet at the refuelling stop at Touwsrivier again.
As with all runs along this type of road, you tend to spread out a bit then close up and then spread out again and so on, and most of the time I had Dave in my mirrors then he would drop back and for a while he wasn't there. The road is tricky with some difficult corners, sharp curves, narrow tar and no run off area so you have to be careful and guys ride it according to their ability so it is inevitable that the riders will spread out.
By the time I got to the intersection with the N1 he was not behind me so I pulled over to wait for him, the other guys pressed on. "He's stopped for a leak or a photo." I told myself, I was not thinking "accident."
A car pulled up behind me and the driver asked "Are you waiting for someone? Because there's been an accident, a motorbike has gone off the road about thirty kms back."
I stared at him, I could hear the wind, the ticking and pinging of my engine and exhaust cooling down, my stomach turned over and my mouth went completely dry. Then my phone rang and it was Frank, Dave was lying in a gully next to the road with a broken leg! I didn't have enough petrol to get back to the scene so I first had to get some, no petrol in Matjiesfontein so I had to nurse my bike the 55kms to Touwsrivier and then I sped back to the scene. By the time I got back the Police and a Paramedic were attending to my buddy who was in a lot of pain, we carried him up out of the gully and eventually he was taken out by helicopter to George.
We were able to see that he had run out of road on a tight right hander and started sliding on the gravel, he had stuck his left leg out to try and stabilize himself and it had hit the armco barrier, he had been flung off the bike which had carried on for about 50 metres and then fallen over on the side of the road, Dave had tumbled down a fifteen foot drop. The first person on the scene had found the bike lying on the side of the road but couldn't find the rider, eventually he heard Dave's cries further back and found him there.
It was a sobering experience and a dark spot on an otherwise very enjoyable weekend, I was still able to enjoy my ride home but I was perhaps a bit slower than I would normally have been and now my buddy is lying in a hospital with a lot of pins and screws holding his leg together, the doctors are confident that he will regain full use of his leg but it is going to be a long and painful process. The bike wasn't too badly damaged, mainly scratches to the panels and panniers so that can be repaired.
Dave is philosophical about it, he says he has no one to blame but himself but I can't help regretting that I invited him on the ride.