After nearly having to cancel our intended weekend away I eventually managed to secure accommodation in the little town of Bonnievale, up until then wherever I tried I got the same message; "Sorry we are fully booked." and it wasn't because we are bikers, I hadn't mentioned that! It was just because of the long weekend, it seemed that herds of people were getting out of town.
Friday 27th is a South African holiday and Tuesday 1st May is also a holiday, I put in a day's leave on Monday so I have a five day break, wonderful! I had spoken to Frank and our friend Janet who was very keen to get on the back of a motorbike again so they were both going to join us although Janet would be travelling to Bonnievale in her car.
Friday dawned cold and grey! We were meeting Frank at the Engen One-stop at 11h00 and I was hoping that by then the weather would clear but it didn't seem to be getting any better as we loaded the bike and saddled up. We arrived at the meeting place before Frank and had a cup of Wimpy's famous coffee, man it was cold! There was no rain forcast but we couldn't count on that either and as we headed out on the R45 towards Mooreesberg the clouds looked even lower and heavier. No matter, we were on two wheels and out on the road.
Our first stop was in the town of Wolseley where I filled my tank, it's not much of a town but it is in the middle of our favourite biking country so I was beginning to enjoy myself, also the weather was starting to clear, things were looking up!
We rode the remaining 60-odd kms through to Worcester where it was time to have something to eat, we decided on a brunch because we were planning a braai for the evening, our usual eating place at the "Whistle Stop" was absolutely crowded, more evidence of people wanting to get away for the long weekend so we went to the "Dros" in the town, not my favourite eating place but the burgers were good and the wine went down well;
it went down so well in fact that it made my head glow!
From Worcester to Robertson the 67km stretch of the R60 is one of my favourite roads, it is not particularly winding but it is a fantastic wide, smooth road and there was minimal traffic, most of which moved over to let me pass. Janet elected to ride the rest of the way in the car with her friend who had joined us in Worcester so I blasted off alone setting a fast 160-170km/h pace and thoroughly enjoying myself under a by then partly cloudy but mainly blue sky, how wonderful to be out on two wheels - if you don't ride then you don't know.
The wine farming area is incredibly picturesque with the road winding through verdant valleys and vineyards with the smells varying from floral pleasant to fertilizer pungeant, but the experiences are all the better, more intense from the saddle of a motorbike.
We eventually found our accommodation in the town and settled down for the evening, I had previously wrapped potatoes and onions in tin foil and had brought some sirloin steak, lamb chops and boerewors from home for the braai.
While the potatoes and onions were cooking I prepared some steak tasties, of course we had earlier purchased the necessary beverages at a local bottle store and we settled down for a relaxed evening after some 320km on the bike.
It was a good braai, we all had a fun evening peppered with the usual bullshit and all agreed that it had been a great start to the weekend.
After a good night's sleep we eventually saddled up under a leaden sky and by the time we got rolling there were a few spots of rain but we didn't let that deter us as we headed down another favourite road towards Swellendam, we were obviously not in any hurry but I couldn't help increasing my speed a bit to enjoy the wide, undulating ribbon of tar winding through the Langeberg mountain range, I was in biker heaven.
"The Cheese Shop" is on the left hand side of the road shortly before Swellendam and in my haste, or perhaps just because of the fact that I was enjoying myself so much, I overshot the turnoff and we had to "U" turn. We bought a selection of delicious cheeses and spreads for dinner and then continued on our way.
We passed Swellendam and had a really good breakfast at a popular cafe, by then it was starting to rain a bit and we wondered if we were in for a downpour. By the time we got back on the road it appeared that the sky was clearing from the west so we decided to head that way.
We took the narrow R324 which winds its way through the little village of "Suurbrak" and then to the incredibly narrow, winding Tradouws Pass leading to the R62 and the town of Barrydale.
I mentioned in an earlier post that we had stopped in the pass to drink whisky mixed with the spring water that flows from the mountain and Janet asked if we could stop at that spot, unfortunately we did not have any whisky with us this time but Janet drank the water anyway.
This water is awesome!
We had a minor glitch where I left my ignition on and my battery nearly let us down, while we sat and chatted in the pass,
Frank loves an attentive audience!
after trying unsuccessfully to push start the big red machine it decided to start anyway, much to our relief and soon we were on our way. Out of the pass and on to the R62, ten kilometres to the Karoo Saloon for an ice cold beer.
From the Saloon it is a fantastic ride, some 50 kms along the R62 to Montagu, as you leave the Karoo Saloon you enter an uphill pass that starts you off on a wonderful fast run that is over all too soon. We cruised through the little town, famous for its hot springs resort, and headed through towards Ashton,
the incredibly beautiful section of road between Montagu and Ashston where we dived through the hole in the rock,
and rode slowly through the town because I've had a speeding fine here before, then back through to Bonnievale,
We took the bikes to the house and then all clambered into Janet's little car to go down to "The Outdoor Arena", the only drinking hole in the little town, it turned out to be a very pleasant little pub,
where we enjoyed some of the locally produced red wine befor heading back home for our own cheese and wine party.
It was shortly after this that the party started to deteriorate, the "ladies" (and I use the term with great respect) went off to bed and Frank and I got into rally mode,
A while later, after Frank had finished his Cane and my Whisky was also depleted, we turned in for the night, another very enjoyable day and the ride home to look forward to.
The next morning we were all up pretty early but Frank was still asleep and as I wanted to get going I had to wake him up, this was the sight that greeted me;
Frank cannot get going before he has had his five cups of tea and four cigarettes so I had to get him up and about if we were going to get away at any sort of reasonable time.
After saying our goodbyes to Janet we saddled up and got on the road, we took the previously unexplored section of the R317 that winds interestingly through the farming area to the R60 just short of the town of Ashton where I filled my tank. Next time we go back to Bonnievale I will use that same route, isn't it lovely to ride previously unknown roads?
The sky was again clearing nicely as we pointed our machines towards the west and home, our plan was to ride through to Worcester and then bypass Wolseley and ride up the Mitchell's Pass to have a brunch in Ceres.
An unbelievable ride! The R43 winds past the turnoff to Wolseley through amazingly, almost breathtakingly beautiful farmlands to join up with the R60 which then climbs up through the even more beautiful Mitchell's Pass. It's almost an anticlimax to arrive in the town and drive through the congested streets but the Wimpy breakfast was very good.
From there we parted ways, Frank said that he was going to fill up and take it easy home, he would have a few smoke breaks along the way so we said goodbye and made our way out of the town. The ride back down the pass was just as good and soon we were threading our way through the heavy vehicle traffic which is always a feature of the R46, luckily because it was Sunday this was not too heavy and we were able to maintain a reasonable speed.
We kept up a good pace, enjoying the clear weather and the open roads and stopped for a bum stretch in Mooreesburg just forty-five minutes from home.
We arrived home at 14h00, tired but elated after a fantastic weekend, the big red machine had performed flawlessly inspite of a suspect battery which I must now replace before we do any more long trips, but what a wonderful touring machine it is, very comfortable and powerful enough to cruise effortlessly at high speed all day. I wouldn't even consider doing the same trip in a car.
Frank's text message saying that he was home safe came through pretty much exactly an hour later, all's well that ends well and now we look forward to the next ride.