Welcome to my blog, these are the ramblings and musings of an (upper) middle aged biker and if you enjoy braais, (barbeques) beers and motorbikes then hopefully you will enjoy what Janet and I do; we do lots of braais, we drink lots of beer and we tour South Africa on our motorbike, which at the moment is a BMW R1200RT. Join us, read about what we do and please leave us your comments.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Saldanha - East London - Saldanha

This is going back a bit, reminiscing again but I can't help going back over the good trips;
On Wednesday 12th April 2006 at 4pm I had that familiar keyed up feeling in the pit of my stomach which is always a prelude to a long trip on the motorbike; I clipped the voluminous luggage into place and headed off to pick Janet up from work. We had both organized an extra two days off over the Easter weekend and were really looking forward to six days on the road.
We were going to visit family and friends in East London, two years ago we had done exactly the same trip on our 1983 Honda Gold wing 1100 but this time we were travelling on our two month old BMW R1200RT and I was interested in the comparison between the two bikes.
It was a beautiful calm evening as we headed East with the sun slowly setting, turning the sky gold and crimson in my rear view mirrors and our shadow getting longer on the road directly in front of us. We were soon cruising at a very comfortable and effortless 150kmh with the big red machine eating up the kilometres. Saldanha to Mooreesburg didn’t take long, always a bit of a boring ride until you get into the area around Riebeek and then through the wine country to Worcester where we stopped at the Dros for a very welcome beer.
My first favourable comparison was that I did not have to fill up at Worcester, still plenty of fuel in the tank. By the time we had finished our beers it was twilight and the last 48km section to Robertson was an absolutely magical ride; it was a balmy evening and the moon was a huge pale orb rising over the mountain range. The road is excellent, there was not too much traffic and what there was we swept powerfully and majestically by, most made way for us and the ride was over far too soon for my liking but we had previously booked accommodation at the Grand Hotel.
The following day we wanted to be in Port Elizabeth early enough to spend some time with our friends so we were glad to have just over 260kms “under our belts”. We had a very pleasant evening, a comfortable sleep and a good breakfast and saddled up just after 8am for the next long day; some 770kms. Robertson to Ashton and then onto the R62 which goes through the beautiful “Kogmans Kloof” where we stopped for our first road photo in the very picturesque hole in the rock. From there we rode through Montagu and then onto the lovely stretch of road running through to Barrydale where I filled the tank after having travelled 344kms and there was still about three and a half litres left. No time to stop and say “Hi” to our friend Derrick at the “Country Pumpkin” but I did give a blast on the hooter as we went past, maybe on the way back. We blasted up the pass out of Barrydale and were soon speeding along the R62 on our way to Ladismith, also too early to stop at “Ronnie’s Sex Shop”, the well known bar about 20kms out.
We were still getting used to the bike but so far I was thoroughly enjoying the way she handled; she felt firm and steady in the corners, well planted on the road and there is plenty of power available. Is there any better way to travel? We don’t think so.
The 77kms to Ladismith passed in a pleasant blur, there was no wind and it was a warm and sunny day, on to Calitzdorp through the “Huisrivierpas”, very enjoyable but too short and not really enough time to turn back and do it again. By midday we arrived in Oudtshoorn and stopped for a couple of beers at the Spur, I parked the bike out front and we stood in the beer garden drinking our beers while we relieved sore saddle muscles.
We pressed on after a good break, the 33km stretch towards George to where the R62 continues was extremely busy so it was a lot of slow riding with short bursts of speed to get past the heavy vehicles and lines of impatient motorists, soon we arrived at the intersection and all the “cagers” turned right to go to George, we turned left onto the virtually empty R62 and accelerated happily up through the gears until we were back to our cruising speed.
On our last trip on the Gold wing we arrived at Avontuur on our reserve tank only to find that there was no service station so we were forced to make an unplanned 13km detour through Uniondale Poort to Uniondale for petrol, what a fantastic ride that 13km is! A winding good tar surface cut through the hills, the sand coloured bluffs high above almost seem to touch each other in places, you don’t have much time to appreciate the spectacle as you have to concentrate on the myriad sharp turns but after filling up with petrol and the inevitable beer or two at the local bar where the bar tender regaled us with stories of the famous ghost, we wound our way slowly back to the R62 so that we could appreciate it.
This time there was no need to make that detour as we still had plenty of petrol, I considered doing it anyway but decided against it, we sped past and pressed on to Joubertina. Eating up the mileage on a pleasant day; 70kms to Joubertina on an almost deserted, good surface road and then another 73kms to join the N2 near Humansdorp. Here we encountered a bit of wind, but only about 100kms to go and we had made good time but it was time to join the traffic again.
We arrived at our friends home at about 4 o’clock, spent a very pleasant evening and after a good sleep we were ready for the short 300km trip to East London. We took it fairly easy out of Port Elizabeth so as not to fall foul of the revenue collectors. I was able to wave at one front flashing speed camera, I wish I could get a copy of that picture; it would have been a good one!
Once you turn off the N2 onto the R72 which follows the coast through Alexandria, and Port Alfred you can open up again, since we were last there two years ago the road has been greatly improved and it was a real pleasure to ride. There was not much traffic and what there was certainly didn’t hold us up, we were able to maintain our favourite cruising speed and thoroughly enjoy the winding, undulating coastal route.
We stopped for a decent breakfast in Port Alfred, had a bit of a break and after refuelling the bike we headed off again. What used to be quite a difficult ride on a narrow badly surfaced road over the Chalumna pass has now been made into a real joy for bikers. There are long uphill and downhill sweepers, mostly wide open and the road is wide and well surfaced, certainly much faster than it used to be. There is a yellow line shoulder on both sides so you have plenty of room to play with and after a thoroughly enjoyable morning we arrived in East London at about eleven thirty.
We spent a lovely long weekend with friends and family, had many braais and beers and caught up with family news. It was a happy time but all too soon it was time to leave. At least our trip home was going to be a part of the whole weekend not like having to climb into a car or an aeroplane, I was eagerly anticipating the ride. Here's me with my late, lovely Mom.
The visit over we said our goodbyes and made ready to leave on Monday morning – up early, our destination Mosselbaai and it was raining! Not raining hard, but the sky was ominously grey and the forecast was not good but hey, we’re bikers, we drink the rain – bring it on!
Out of East London the sky started clearing and as we thundered over the Chalumna pass again the road surface was dry but I could see the heavily laden sky to the South and West of us and I knew that we were in for it! We had a lovely ride through to Port Alfred but after that we started getting the first wetting from the edges of the clouds hanging low and dark over Alexandria and as we rode into that little village the skies opened up and dumped on us!
We already had our rain suits on, but it wasn’t long before the rain was starting to trickle down my neck and my boots and gloves were getting wet. We stopped outside a small general dealer and bought two styro cups of awful coffee, there is no cafĂ© in that forsaken little dorp.
From there on it rained steadily and heavily, we were still able to cruise quite confidently but it was cold! As we joined the N2 we met up with another couple on a black BMW R1200RT who had come through from Grahamstown, quite a coincidence because we hadn’t seen many bikers at all. We rode together for a while to Port Elizabeth and then we peeled off into the city and they stayed on the freeway, we waved goodbye to each other as we went our separate ways, we had organized a breakfast at our friend’s house but I would have liked to have met those two people, had a chat to find out if they loved their bike as much as I loved mine.
It wasn’t long before our damp stuff was in our friend’s tumble dryer, we took our boots off to try and dry them a bit and after a superb breakfast and a bit of a break we were ready to hit the road again. Our friend suggested that Janet put plastic bread packets over her socks before she put her shoes back on and this worked very well, even though her shoes got very wet her feet stayed dry for the rest of the day.
It was not a very nice ride that day, I was disappointed because I love the Garden route but it rained and rained and the road was extremely busy with “cagers” on their way home and driving like maniacs in the extreme conditions. It was a tough day, I wasn’t able to relax very much and it was cold, thank goodness for heated hand grips! The day passed in a damp and gusty blur, we stopped for another cup of coffee and a bit of a leg stretch at the petro-port but the place was crowded and we didn’t want to stay long.
We passed through Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, Sedgefield and Wilderness, all usually favourite places to visit and to ride through, but not on that day. Each of those lovely little towns was bursting at the sodden seams with impatient motorists.
We arrived in Mossel Baai in the mid afternoon and our friends had a roaring fire on the go, Janet and I warmed ourselves gratefully after changing out of our damp clothes, we put our boots and gloves near the fire to dry out for the next day. We had a pleasant evening and it rained itself out that night, by eight o’clock on the Tuesday morning the sky was clearing and it looked like our ride home would be a good one. We rode away at 8am with the sky clearing more and more the further we went and as the morning progressed the sun began to warm us, our spirits were high and we settled in to an enjoyable day on the bike. By mid morning we pulled into Swellendam and found a nice restaurant with some tables and benches outside where we had a very welcome and hearty breakfast with a couple of cold beers.
The rest of the day was familiar countryside which started out with one of my favourite rides; that superb section of the R60 from Swellendam to Ashton, what a lovely piece of road that is! Wide, excellent surface with wide open sweeping corners, what more can a biker ask for?
As we swept around a lovely fast right hander and headed down a small dip we came upon a queue of cars stuck behind two extremely slow camper vehicles, they did not have the space to overtake the two diesel belching behemoths but I did! We swept past the whole queue and headed off over the hill, I was grinning hugely as I imagined some of the clenched teeth comments from the frustrated motorists, I reckoned it was their own fault if they wanted to travel by car.
The rest of the day went by like that, sun and wind and power literally at my fingertips, the tar road flashing past inches below my feet and no other way in the world would I rather travel. Soon we are going to do it again, look out for us on the road – and wave when we pass each other.
The return trip was 2562kms, interestingly we did 67kms more this time but used 25,4litres less fuel than on the Goldwing and we travelled consistently faster on the BMW. This all equates to 16km per litre as opposed to 13,4km per litre on the previous trip – I’m happy, so's Janet!

1 comment:

Christie said...

Dad - I loved this one. You described it so beautifully I could just about feel the wind and sun (and rain!)