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, January 23, 2015

Five days, Saldanha to Plettenberg Bay and back

Well I'm back home after a wonderful 1,500km round trip but man was it hot?! The hottest week we've had and I really felt it. I took my notebook with me but couldn't update on the road because I forgot my login password! Not much of a computer fundi, me!
I was packed and loaded on Saturday evening with pretty much only my toiletries to pack the next morning, Sunday dawned warm and clear and Janet's taxi picked her up at 08h00. I was ready to go shortly thereafter and rode out of town just after 08h30, loose on the land!
It's all pretty much familiar riding and the first two hours to Ceres where I stopped for breakfast, went by in an enjoyable flash. It being Sunday the Tulbagh Valley wasn't clogged with slow moving 18-wheelers as it usually is. On this stretch my odo clicked over to 100,000kms and the big red machine was purring, enjoying the ride as much as I was.
After a satisfying Wimpy breakfast I headed out along the R46 over the "Hottentotskloof" Pass, 83kms to the N1, it was really starting to warm up but as long as I was moving I was alright.
There was virtually no traffic about and I was able to open up a bit although once on the N1 it was down to 130km/h because there are speed gantries for quite a long stretch after Touws Rivier. The N1 is quite a pleasant ride, wide and well maintained and by 12h00 I was pulling into the parking area outside the pub in Maatjiesfontein. The beer was bitterly cold and I chatted with another couple of bikers who had had the same idea as me.
It was too early to stop there so I decided to press on, 156kms to Prince Albert, I had not been there before but the guys I was talking to assured me there was plenty of accommodation in the little town. I hadn't done any long distance riding for quite a while and my saddle muscles clenched up again as I lowered my butt onto the seat, out on the N1 again and cruising, 112kms to the intersection felt like quite a long haul in the midday heat but it wasn't too long before I turned off onto the R407 and what a lovely ride that was!
Typical Karoo riding, I had not been along there before so this was all new to me, 44kms hot and dry with the rugged Swartberg mountains a pale blue "massif" on the horizon, I would be enjoying them the next day but in the meantime man alone with just the blat of my engine to keep me company, it was all that I needed and all too soon I was parked outside the Prince Albert Hotel in the main street of the little village. I had ridden 470kms for the day and I was feeling it.
It turned out to be a very pleasant place to stay and I was glad that I had decided to press on, the accommodation was reasonably priced, a comfortable air-conditioned room and a delicious Karoo lamb shank for dinner. I had a good night's sleep after some time spent in the bar chatting to Jay, one of the friendly managers over a few cold beers.
After a good breakfast the next morning I was ready to roll by 08h00 and from the look of the scenery just outside of the town it was going to be an enjoyable ride;
 this was all new countryside for me and I had plenty of time to explore as I was only due in Plettenberg Bay on Tuesday and that was only some 260kms away. There are two routes to take to get to Oudtshoorn; via the Swartberg Pass or via Meiringspoort, the former is quite a bit shorter but is a gravel road pass which was not an option for me so I stuck with the tar road and what a ride that is, Meiringspoort is awesome! I don't often use the word "awesome", in fact I think the last time I used it was when I watched a Dolly Parton music video, Meiringspoort is also deserving of that adjective.
It is about 22kms long, carved through the mountains the road follows the course of the river and in that short space it crosses the river 26 times!
 There are myriad hairpin bends as a result and on many of the crossings there was sand over the road as a result of a recent flood, it is by no means a fast ride but you wouldn't want it to be because there is just so much to see.
I stopped many times just to experience the deafening silence of those canyons and to marvel at the craggy mountains seemingly hanging over the road. I was sorry to ride out of the mountains and eventually into the outskirts of the city of Oudtshoorn where I stopped briefly to buy a new pair of sunglasses, those that I had had been digging  into my head for the past day and a half!
From there I rode the also unfamiliar R328 through the Robinson pass to the N2 at Mosselbay, at the top of the pass I encountered light rain and as I am not a fan of wet hairpin bends I took it really easy on the way down.
It is 56kms to Wilderness where I stayed the night after riding through to Sedgefield for a beer at the "Pili-Pili" bar, I eventually found the place, right on the beach but it was closed for spring-cleaning.
A deliciously fresh cob filet at the "Blue Olive" was my dinner with a bottle of cold Sauvignon Blanc as I watched a replay of South Africa's game against the West Indies with Abie's fantastic record breaking innings. Great stuff!
Breakfast the next day was adequate and I only had a short ride to Plett., some 60kms away, I did some exploring along the coast and also stopped for coffee at the waterfront in Knysna before arriving at my sister's house at about 11h00 where I spent a lovely two nights with my family.
Thursday morning, time to get back on the road and it was getting hotter, I decided to stay on the N2 rather than head inland for as long as I could, the road was much busier, lots of traffic but you don't get held up behind 18-wheelers when you are on a bike! I was loving it.
I stopped for a favourite breakfast just outside of Mosselbay and by then I had made up my mind which way to go, in March last year riding back from the Buffalo rally I had taken the same route; N2 to Swellendam then through Ashton, Robertson and Worcester. Decision made I blasted out onto the highway, I travelled at just above the legal limit, just to stay safely ahead of the traffic and was cautious going through the towns. I did not envy the people in their air conditioned cages as I flashed by, I was having a blast.
Later on the Swellendam/Ashton road I pulled over for a water stop, the temperature was 33 degrees by then and I knew that it was going to get hotter the further inland I went.
I stopped for a bitterly cold draught beer in Worcester where the temperature had climbed to 37 degrees and there wasn't a breath of wind, on the R43 from Worcester to Wolseley I encountered the first of two "Stop/Go's" and as luck would have it I had to stop!
 Ten minutes in the sun can seem like an eternity! My luck was in at the second one and I cruised on through, an hour and a half to Saldanha and as I rode into the influence of our beautiful bay and lagoon the twelve degree drop in temperature was a welcome relief.
It had been a most enjoyable trip in spite of the heat, which at times was seriously oppressive, it was wonderful to spend time with my sister, my niece and nephew and to travel some unfamiliar roads which I am keen to do again. I would not rather have been in my air-conditioned car, I would do it again but in the meantime the big red machine is overdue for a service.


Trobairitz said...

That road through the canyon/crossing the river that many times must be a beautiful sight indeed.

I wouldn't be excited to ride in that heat but it sounds better than 45˚F and rain right now.

Chiller tek said...

That is one big long straight. I bet you gave it a nudge along there. I love the pictures in the canyon. I bet that was some excellent riding along there. I seems that most roads that follow a river are good bike roads.

That beer wouldn't have even touched the sides at 37.5°C. Thats a tad too hot for my liking.

the rider said...

Hi Rob., yes I admit I did give it a nudge a good few times, especially on the secondary roads, you have to be more careful on the national highways though. Lots of long straights but also lots of passes to enjoy and the beer did go down well. We've had a heatwave over the whole of the southern and western cape this past week so it was bloody hot but I still enjoyed my ride.

the rider said...

Hi Brandy, yes I would like to do that canyon ride again sometime with my wife along, preferably not in such hot weather though!