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.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Christmas!

I just wanted to wish everyone a very happy Christmas, I hope that you are all going to have a wonderful time with your families. Our family is all overseas but we are going to be having Christmas lunch in Capetown with Linda and then Boxing day lunch with Rory and Penny. We will be going down on the bike so I am looking forward to that.
You can tell it's Christmas here because all you hear in the shopping malls is bloody Boney M Christmas music and the town is full of cars with up-country registration numbers, they are cruising around at 37,6kmh and pointing at everything! It makes me want to bite 6inch nails in half.
By the way those white stumpnose that I braaied on Sunday were bloody good; I cut the head and tail off each one and gutted them, then I cut slits into the flesh through the skin, leaving the scales on. I then marinated them for about an hour in a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice with a little garlic flakes and mixed herbs.The beauty of braaiing them like this is that you can blacken the skin which then peels off easily when the fish is ready, all you do then is eat the succulent flesh from around and between the bones. I know that some people must have fish without any bones but I don't care about bones, I am quite happy to eat around them because I love fish so much. Janet made a lovely garlic pasta which went very well and she made a simple salad of olives, tomatoes and feta cheese - absolutely fantastic!
Rene' and I drank a lot of beer, I owed him two cases of Castle lager because I bet against the team that was playing against the Sharks twice! You'd think I would bloody learn hey? But once or twice "my team" has won.
Yesterday and today was bloody crazy on the mussel farm so I am looking forward to a long weekend and a good ride, have a great weekend and we'll talk again next week.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Celebrate well

Isn't this such a cool photo?!
Here you see Frank, Janet, me and Natalie with mine host; Don of Beira Mar restaurant, which as I have already mentioned is the best eaterie on the west coast.
This was taken after the Toy Run and the night before Natalie's return to England and what a wonderful evening we had. Janet and I managed to leave at a reasonable hour because we both had to go to work the next morning, but sometimes Frank gets stuck in a place like that, he's been kicked out of some very good places I can tell you!
Here you see the big red machine standing looking gorgeous in the garage, that's where she's been for quite a while even though the weather has been pretty good. I just haven't had the time to get out on the road, things have been hectic on the mussel farm - I did manage to get her out and give her a good wash the other afternoon.
I don't know about you other bikers but I really enjoy washing my motorbike, it gives me a chance to check that everything is alright; I check the oil level, have a look at the tires and get the bike really good and shiny before the next ride.
Of course the first insect that splats into the wind shield really pisses me off!
I did manage to get out for a brief ride yesterday, I took the road out to the R27 and then down to the Langebaan turn off, there was quite a wind but it was good to get the bike out and I just wanted to blow the cobwebs out of the exhaust. I turned back to ride past Club Mykonos and around the bay to Saldanha and then pulled into the "Drop Anchor" bar which is a biker pub at the "Dial Rock" block of flats, there I sunk a couple of cold ones and chatted with the guys before taking the bike back home.
We are having some friends around for a braai this weekend, I have planned a leg of lamb for tomorrow for eight people, I will do some of that recently acquired boerewors for starters. On Sunday I am going to braai some fresh white stumpnose for four of us, Janet has agreed to eat fish! I have already detailed the braaiing of a leg of lamb in an earlier post but I will let you know how the fish goes.
Can you believe that next weekend is Christmas and that 2008 is nearly gone?!
Celebrate well and live for the moment; "Carpe' diem" - sieze the day.
Take care because we care.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

No riding this weekend

We had an enjoyable weekend even though the big red machine had to stay in the garage, we went down to Capetown on Saturday morning to attend Linda's house warming party and Janet made a big three bean salad and I was supplying mussels so we had to go down in the bakkie. (For foreign readers that is the Ute or the pick-up) The wind was blowing bloody strong so it probably wouldn't have been so pleasant on the bike, that's what I told myself anyway.
Let me tell you what happened to me the other day! This is true; Janet came to me and stood in front of me and said "I know this is something I'm not supposed to ask you, but does this make my bum look big?"
There are only three possible answers to that question and a guy must be very careful about which one he uses;
It's a minefield!
Anyway I digress, there were 29 people at Linda's that afternoon and the meal started with the mussels at about 2pm after which I braaied some lovely boerewors as a starter for the non mussel eaters. I got the location of the butcher so that I can go and buy there, it was that good and Linda gave us a whole lot to bring home, we're going to have some with toast tonight.
Earlier in the day I had made up a marinade for some chicken breasts; about half a cup of olive oil and half a cup of somebody else's dry white wine, roll the portions around in a big container to cover them and then sprinkle liberally with Aromat, garlic flakes, mixed herbs and cayenne pepper. Return to the kitchen every now and then to stir the portions around.
After about an hour I started braaiing the chicken and when they were ready they went into a warm dish and I built up the fire to do some whole beef fillets, I liberally coated the fillets with Aromat and Hot English mustard and then rolled them around over really hot coals and a bit of flame until the outside was quite well cooked, almost burnt after which I removed them and sliced them into roughly inch thick steaks. These then went back on the grill just to seal both sides very quickly, what you end up with is a juicy rare steak with a crispy edge. I'm not really a fan of beef fillet but this is probably the best way to cook it, if anyone doesn't like it rare they can put it back on the fire for a little longer.
A great time was had by all, I think I was a bit naughty but nobody was cross with me this morning so I couldn't have been too bad! The whisky and chocolate was going down very well at midnight but I must admit to feeling a little fragile this morning, probably an early night tonight. It's a tough life!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

26th Annual Toy Run

Sunday 30th November was the 26th anniversary of the founding of the Toy Run by the Italian Motorcycle Club when some 73 bikers got together to donate toys to needy children. Now it has become a national event and bikers from all over the country congregate in their respective towns and Cities to do a mass ride which culminates in thousands and thousands of toys being collected.
This was our eleventh consecutive Toy run and on Saturday we rode down to Hout Bay to spend the night with Dick and Janet where we had a very enjoyable braai. On previous years we had rode down from Saldanha to Capetown en masse on the Sunday morning.
On Sunday we teamed up with another couple on a Harley, Dick and Janet were on a very noisy Honda Shadow so we let the four of them get far enough ahead so we weren't deafened by the exhausts as we rode through to the gathering point at Ottery.
There was a massive crowd assembling there and we wandered around a bit looking at the bikes and watching the usual shennanigans as guys performed donuts and burnouts for the crowd. I'll never understand why they want to rub a couple of thousand kilometres off their tyres, I'd never do it myself but I enjoy watching.The atmosphere on the ride is unbelievable with thousands of people lining the road wanting to touch hands with the bikers, clapping and cheering our procession and lining the bridge overpasses waving to us. The traffic department controls the mass ride very well, ensuring that all of the intersections along the nearly ten kilometre route are kept open for us to sweep through.
It is a bit of a dangerous ride and a little tedious with all of the stop/start, hanging on the clutch and a lot of bikers have to pull over now and then to allow overheating motors to cool down, but soon we arrived at the end venue at Maynardville where the party takes place.
This year there were far more people, thousands and thousands and an incredible pile of toys was collected in the two huge trailers;This picture shows the smaller of the two trailers but both were soon overflowing.
A TV cameraman decided to climb up into the bigger of the two trailers and film the toys being thrown up but it became a bit difficult for him as everyone started using him as a target, he was actually getting a bit agitated but luckily for him they were mostly soft toys.
In spite of the crowds we managed to meet up with our friends and had a beer or two in the huge beer tent, there are always also a variety of trade and food stalls but we usually go off and have a decent lunch somewhere, I am not really into standing in hugely long queues for a mediocre take away meal.
After lunch we met up with Frank at the garage on the R27, he had his friend Natalie who was on a short visit from UK on his bike with him and she had been thrown into the deep end of one of the major South African bike scenes. Not really a biker she was exhausted and was lying asleep on the grass bank still in her crash helmet, Frank had to kick her a couple of times to wake her up!
From there we visited Dave and had a cup of coffee, it was good to see that he is slowly mending and was actually getting around slowly on a pair of crutches. He is already talking about getting back on a bike in a few more months, once a biker always a biker!
From there it was a fast ride home, Janet slept as usual and I enjoyed the west coast road with the wind behind us. It had been an enjoyable weekend and a good toy run and we will definitely be there again next year.
I've said it before and I'll say it again; "Bikers are good folk." Go out and hug one.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 12 - Robertson to Saldanha

I knew it was a good idea to stay over, we had stayed at the Grand Hotel on several occasions and it is a very comfortable old hotel, good clean rooms and good food. Actually most small towns have a Grand or a Royal Hotel and we enjoy staying in them whenever we travel, the pubs are always interesting and it's good to get into a conversation with the locals.
After a very good breakfast we were back out on the road just after 0800 and I was looking forward to the ride instead of suffering it had we continued the previous night. It was a glorious day and we could tell that it was going to be a hot one, not to worry though we would be home before midday.
Robertson to Worcester is a good fast road and I have mentioned that stretch in an earlier blog, a real pleasure to ride and not too busy at that time of the day, although we were looking forward to getting home I was already feeling sorry that the ride was nearly over.
After Worcester we took the R43 which winds it's way through Wolseley and past Tulbagh, roads we have travelled many, many times and which are thoroughly familiar. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before that road is used extensively by heavy vehicles avoiding the toll road and sometimes they slow you down a bit. Soon we were cruising through Riebeek and then onto the R311 which heads to the N7 near Mooreesburg.
There we encountered the first of the stop/go road works but it was pleasant to park the bike and stroll in the sun, an elderly couple got out of their car behind us and came over to chat and admire the bike. He would love to get another bike; "Had an old 500cc in my younger days."
"So what are you waiting for? Go and buy one and get out there."
Through Mooreesburg too early for any pubs to be open, the R311 continues for twenty rough and bouncy kilometres until it joins the R45 heading through Hopefield to the R27. Here I accelerated up through the gears and we settled into 150kmh with the mid morning sun coming up behind us.
All too soon we were riding into Saldanha, looking forward to seeing old "Fat Cat".
It had been a really excellent though brief holiday, we had travelled some unfamiliar roads and visited unfamiliar towns and had had a bit of an adventure. Altogether we had travelled 3175kms which only equated to an average of roughly 400 per riding day, we had had four days where we did little or no riding.
Cheers! Good to be home, now - when's the next trip?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Day 11 - Joubertina to Robertson

When we had been planning the trip this was to have been the last day, we had thought we would be home sometime on Thursday but we still had a long way to go, we would just have to see what happened. That is one the really enjoyable aspects of this kind of trip, it just doesn't matter when you get home, we just had to be back at work on Monday. We left the guest house just after 0800 and as we pulled out of the driveway and turned towards Oudtshoorn it was a beautiful, clear and calm day and there didn't seem to be any traffic. I accelerated up through the gears and soon we were at our cruising speed, just the two of us on a fantastic motorbike revelling in the freedom of the open road. Damn I wish I could do this all the time!
Have you ever tried to read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert M.Pirsig? It is an incredibly difficult book to read, maybe because he is intelligent! I have had that book in my meditation bookcase for more than a year and every now and then I read a bit of it and try to cut through his dissertation on "Quality" and how important it is, and every tenth page you get to read about where he and his son are travelling and then you have to read about "Phaedrus" and it takes you a while to realise who that was, for quite a while I found myself thinking about that book and maybe I was getting an inkling about where he was and what was going on and then I'd shake my head and get back into the present, but that is what it is like out on the open road; your thoughts wander and wonder and you are able to examine thoughts and find out what things mean. Man that's deep!
Because the road is quite bumpy in places and also narrow we took it easy, we weren't in any hurry so we just enjoyed the ride and when you start having those kind of thoughts it's amazing how quickly 180kms goes past. As I concentrated on negotiating the twists and turns and the occasional passes I could feel that breakfast feeling coming on, we were heading for a City so I was looking forward to finding a Wimpy - there's nothing like a Wimpy breakfast when you are travelling.
We weren't disappointed either, we eventually found a Wimpy in the centre of the town and what was most pleasing was where I was able to park my baby! Check it out!Any biker will tell you that the thing you like most about a restaurant or bar is being able to keep an eye on your bike so I was really happy with that arrangement. We had a really good breakfast and a bit of a break and were soon ready to carry on.
Oudtshoorn to Calitzdorp is 50kms of good fast riding, pretty much straight and boring so whenever we have travelled that road we sit at 150-160kmh and at that speed it doesn't take long before you are cruising through that little town.
After Calitzdorp however, is the amazing and beautiful "Huisrivier Pass" and it's one of those many passes where you have a dilemma; do you go fast to enjoy the curves or do you go slowly to enjoy the wonderful scenery? We compromised and stopped for a photo.
Can you imagine riding that wonderful road? It was so good and the big red machine was performing so well, never a hint of any trouble with plenty of power at my right hand.
After the next town; Ladismith we decided that we would stop for a beer (or two) at the "Country Pumpkin" in Barrydale, one of our favourite biker friendly destinations, it was only 75kms but for some reason we were both getting sore saddle muscles quite early! What the hell was going on? It must have been the four and a half day break!
The road is beautiful, it curves and undulates through wonderful scenery and you dont have time to settle into a routine, as you negotiate a bend or top a rise you see the road lying invitingly ahead for a few kilometres before it disappears around another series of bends or some more inviting hills.
All the time you are busy; your right hand is working the throttle with two fingers on the brake lever, you left is working the clutch as you dive into corners, looking for the apex and watching the disappearing point while your feet shift the gears and hover over the brake pedal, MAN this type of travelling does not compare to sitting bored and bleary-eyed in a car, does it?
Eventually we flashed past "Ronnie's Sex Shop" and I was thinking; "Cool, it's not far to Barrydale now." but it seemed to take ages! The road seemed to curve and undulate through bloody boring scenery and as we negotiated a bend or topped a rise I could see more of the bloody road lying ahead for a few kilometres before it disappeared around another series of bloody bends or some more bloody hills!
I was looking forward to some beer and I don't remember Barrydale being so far from Ronnie's Sex Shop! Eventually as we cruised down in to the village we were both feeling pretty bum-sore and it was with quite some relief that we stood next to the table at the Country Pumpkin and drank a bitterly cold Castle.
After an hour we got back on the bike feeling much better and accelerated out along the wonderful 62km stretch to Montagu, that is one of the most enjoyable roads and I have always thoroughly enjoyed it. I believe that the traffic authorities have vowed never to do any speed traps along there and so far I haven't been caught doing my usual 170+kmh.
After six or seven days on the bike I feel incredibly "united", "at one with" or "part of" my motorbike and we dive into corners and accelerate up mountain passes with aplomb. I feel more comfortable in left hand corners for some reason and really revel in uphill left handers, but we enjoy them all.
It was all to soon that we were cruising into Montagu and through that pretty little town, 28kms later and we were riding into Robertson. We dismounted at the old railway station and had a beer at "Soprano's" to discuss our options; although it was only 1400 we could;
a) press on to Saldanha, about 250kms
b) ride through to Worcester and look for accommodation, about 50kms
c) stay in Robertson and carry on tomorrow
After two cold beers (because by then it was incredibly hot) we decided on option c., I really didn't want our last home stretch to be a pain in the arse so we booked into the Grand Hotel and had a wonderful evening, Janet did really well on the slot machines and we had a delicious meal and a comfortable night.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 10 - Kayser's Beach to Joubertina

Days 6 through 9 were spent visiting with friends and family in and around East London and Kayser's Beach and after a four day break I was looking forward to some more riding.
The day dawned grey and overcast but there was no rain, I had been worried about rain because we had ridden down an 8km dirt road to get to Kayser's on Monday afternoon and the big red machine is not a scrambler! Had it rained we would have been stuck there, which would not have been too bad as it is a lovely place.
After a slow and careful 8km of rutted and potholed dirt road we rejoined the N2 and pointed the machine in the direction of Port Elizabeth, from here on it would all be familiar contryside but still very enjoyable.
The road is in good condition and although it is fairly busy it is a relatively fast ride, I always enjoy riding over the Chalumna, a picturesque pass with long wide sweepers. Just after the turn off to Hamburg I pointed out the spot where we had spent a very uncomfortable night sleeping next to the bike after the third flat tire! Not the big red machine, that's another story from way back.
We crossed over the Fish River bridge where on another occasion a drunken police officer from the then Ciskei refused to let us pass through the Ciskei on our way home to Idutywa, with an armed policeman on either side of the car I was forced to do a U turn and "Go back the way I came." You don't argue with an armed drunk policeman, especially with your family in the car! Lots of memories on that road!
We refuelled in Port Alfred and carried on with the sky gradually clearing and brightening the day, we had really been lucky with the weather because as we crossed rivers the further south we got we could see evidence of how they had come down in flood just a week before.
We refuelled in Port Alfred and then did some high speed cruising along that lovely picturesque coastal road going through Kenton on Sea and up through Alexandria to rejoin the N2. From there into Port Elizabeth is pretty boring with lots of road construction under way, and as usual it gets pretty windy in that area.
After a good brunch stop at "Barney's Tavern" where we met an old friend; Dirk, we mounted up and headed west on the N2. From there the wind was blowing strong and it was quite uncomfortable, I was getting quite tired of hanging onto the handelbars with the wind pumping from the left and by the time we reached the R62 turn off I pulled over. We decided to head away from the wind and take the familiar R62.
We cruised along for the 35kms to Kareedouw and pulled off the road for a cup of coffee at "The Sweating Dutchman" coffee shop, a really good coffee and we stood around relieving sore saddle muscles for about three quaters of an hour.
Back on the bike, 45kms to Joubertina. The R62 is a lovely ride, but it is not a particularly fast road because it is narrow and quite bumpy but you ride through lovely countryside and most of the time we feel that we do not want to ride fast, we are not in any particular hurry and just want to enjoy the scenery.
By the time we reached Joubertina it was 1515 and we pulled into the garage to refuel, we had been there many times but had never been into the town. We discussed our options; we did not feel like doing another 180kms to Oudtshoorn, it was some 70kms to Uniondale but that was a bit of a dump so we decided to look for accommodation in Joubertina. It is actually a very pretty little village and after a beer in a little pub we were directed to a guest house back out on the R62, we settled into a very pretty and comfortable cottage. You can see the big red machine parked out front next to the door, there were a couple of occasions on this trip where she was not under cover!
We had a nice meal later in the country club, I had a delicious lamb shank and Janet had crumbed pork chops - I think by then I was pretty much "lambed out". The locals in the bar that night were very interested in our travels and in the motorbike and that was something we found in many places on the trip; lots of friendly people.
It is so good to travel on a motorbike!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 5 - Aliwal North to East London

We were awake early, probably because the room was so hot, I made us a cup of coffee and we got all of our things packed into the three cases. Again we decided not to have breakfast, this time because Presley's was so disorganised it would have taken until about 0900!
We were actually out on the road by 0620 and it was a lovely fresh morning with a clear blue sky, also at that time there was no wind. The only downside to heading east at that time of the day is that you are riding towards the rising sun and it can be a bit uncomfortable, we were heading more to the south east so it was more off to my left.
The bike was performing fantastically well, it felt really smooth, responsive and powerful and by then I was starting to feel "bike-fit". The road is amazing, well maintained and wide with a yellow line shoulder and there was really very little traffic. I relaxed my shoulders, straightened my arms a bit and moved in closer to the tank and started to enjoy the twisty bits as we thundered down towards the coast.
The eastern cape is different; the country side gradually becomes more lush, more trees around the small towns and the roads but also you start seeing animals along the road verges and you have to be more aware. Cattle are fine because they don't generally run anywhere but sheep and goats can be a real menace.
We arrived in Queenstown feeling a bit peckish and I had enjoyed that ride so much that I was really glad we had not tried to do it the previous night. We rode through the town and found a fast food restaurant at the one-stop on the way out to Cathcart where we had a pretty good toasted sarmie and a cup of coffee.
Carrying on from Queenstown it started to get pretty windy and the road slightly busier, I could see ahead that there was a lot of heavy cloud over the coast, we had been incredibly lucky up until then but I thought that it would soon run out and we would be getting wet.
The rain held off and it wasn't long before we were cruising into the familiar outskirts of East London, one of our favourite towns. We joined our friends Arnold and Joy for lunch at "Le Petit" restaurant where I had a wonderful crocodile steak - great to be back in East London!

Days 3 and 4 - Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Aliwal North

We had a comfortable stay over, it was nice to relax for a day and the big hole museum, diamond tour and historical village makes for an interesting day, but that's really all the time you need in Kimberley. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who hasn't been there, you get a very good insight into the early diamond rush days, how the people lived and how some of them made huge fortunes in the harsh conditons.
The next day was 177kms to Bloemfontein, the weather seemed to have calmed down and the strong winds were all but gone, we had a very good ride and arrived in the City at about 0900, I had phoned the previous day to order the large BMW topcase which the agent assured me they would get down from Jo'burg that morning. We had decided to spend the money (R6,900) on the case as what was the point of having the best motorbike in the world and battling with makeshift luggage?
We had a good breakfast and then ended up spending about two and a half more hours at the BMW agent while they waited for the case to be delivered. However whilst there the mechanic approached me and asked where we were going and when I told him that we were heading for East London he said "You won't make it! Not with that front tire, it's almost showing canvas!" He was right that tread was very thin, I had intended changing it in East London but decided to do it there - was that Divine intervention? Someone was looking after us.
We eventually got on the road at about 1300 and what a difference the new case made! Everything that had been in the small top case and the pack now fitted into the new case with room to spare. Cool!
The N6 out of Bloem is a good road and not so busy but it is almost 200kms to Aliwal North and a further 160 to Queenstown where we had planned to spend the night. We were able to make good time and sped through Reddersburg, Smithfield and Rouxville to eventually reach Aliwal North at 1600. Far too late to do another 160kms so we looked for accommodation and eventually settled on "Presley's".
This turned out to be a mistake! I don't like staying in crap places when I'm travelling, life's too short for crap places and cheap whisky! When it came time to eat I asked the young barman for some wine only to be told that they don't serve any wine, not even "Chateau le cardboard." I said I would nip over to the offsales to get a bottle or two and he then told me that they would have to charge me R15 corkage per bottle.
"WHAT!" I shrieked "How can you charge corkage if you don't sell any wine anyway?"
I made it known that I was not a happy biker and by the time I returned with my two bottles he had wisely decided to forgo the corkage rule.
The evening meal was pretty good and the bed was clean, but there was no;
wine in the restaurant!
air conditioner in the room,
fan in the room,
window in the room, there were two doors one of which we had to leave open which is not the safest thing to do in today's South Africa,
chairs in the room,
tv remote - there was a tv but we couldn't switch it on.
undercover parking for the bike!
We won't be staying at Presley's again!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 2 - Carnarvon to Kimberley

We had a comfortable night and decided to skip the hotel breakfast in favour of getting an early start and breakfast a bit later, which is what we normally do on our tours. It was 144kms to Victoria West and that looked like a good place to find a meal.
I was so into the bike that morning as we headed out of the town and onto the open road, I immediately wound it up to way over the legal limit but who cares? The 120kmh limit out in countryside like that is ridiculous and applies to cars only. Again it was fascinating countryside to ride through but unfortunately the wind was blowing strong from the side which tends to make things a bit uncomfortable for us and also Janet was having a hard time with her back pack, a fact that I was not aware of at that stage.
A massive storm built up across virtually the whole country that day resulting in gale force winds through the western cape which caused major damage on the mussel farm, drenching rains in the eastern cape which brought rivers down in flood and a tornado built up in the Freestate where we were heading in a state of blissful ignorance.

We arrived in Victoria West and found a little roadside cafe where we were able to have an adequate though unremarkable breakfast and from there we joined the N12 heading north towards Kimberley. The road is a lot busier with plenty of 18 wheelers en route to Johannesburg but it is a good road and we were easily able to maintain 140-150kmh, it is 104km to Britstown and we decided to stop there for a beer. Once we joined the N12 the strong wind was from behind and it actually became quite pleasant speeding along in the mid morning sunlight, it wasn't long before we were looking for the hotel in eager anticipation of the first beer of the day. The next stretch was 123kms to Hopetown and by then it was getting hot, I could feel Janet shifting around behind me a lot and this is a sign that she is uncomfortable for some reason. We maintained our good cruising speed and at Hopetown we pulled off and looked for a place to take a break, but what a misnomer "Hopetown" is! What a dump! Eventually I found a coffe shop and had a pretty good Cappucino, we relaxed and then Janet told me that the pack was not working, that it was uncomfortable and was hurting her back because instead of perching on top of the top case it was sliding off whenever the wind blew. This was bad news because I had thought that we had found the solution to our shortage of luggage space.

It was really hot when we mounted up to carry on and I took the pack, at first I tried it on my back but there was not enough space between us so I put it in front of me with my arms through the slings, it fitted there but it was not ideal because my helmet rested on top of it, I couldn't look down very easily, and Janet had to keep repositioning the straps on my shoulders, this was not good!

Soon were speeding off towards Kimberley but with about 100kms to go I could see a massive storm system ahead and slightly to our left, it was a huge dark blue mass and I was pretty sure we were going to get wet.

I increased our speed hoping to get to Kimberley before the storm crossed our path. By the time we were about 40kms out this massive awe inspiring system was some 5kms to the west of us, the most frightening thing was that the centre of it was neon-electric silver with lightening flashes and the last thing I wanted was to be caught in the middle of that! I should have stopped to take some photos but that was the last thing on my mind as I increased our speed to 180kmh and like "storm chasers" we blasted through the darkening countryside. Thankfully the road started edging gradually to the east and we started leaving it behind but as we got to the sign that said "Kimberley 2km" we ran into rain.

The dayglo orange is not really Janet's colour! We rode into Kimberley with fat raindrops and a bit of hail and managed to find a nice B&B right across the road from the big hole area, we were going to be there for two nights so we could offload and relax. I went to a nearby bottle store and bought two bottles of wine and a bottle of Johhny Walker black label as part of the celebrations.


Day 1 - Saldanha to Carnarvon

Saldanha to Carnarvon is a long way, especially for the first day of a long trip; it is some 650kms but we wanted to be in Kimberley for Tuesday evening and that is another 550kms so that was our plan.
We rode out of Saldanha at about 0830 in heavy overcast conditions but it didn't look like rain, we headed up through Vredenburg to Velddrif and then along the bumpy and narrow R399 to Piketburg. It was a bit windy but not overly so and we took our time settling into the bike and the trip. We joined the N7 and merged in with the traffic heading for Namibia, although very picturesque, the N7 is a narrow busy road which winds its way through beautiful fruit orchards in fertile valleys. There are often long queues of cars behind deisel belching behemoths grinding their way slowly up the myriad inclines, most of the time we were able to sweep past and it wasn't long before I was thoroughly enjoying myself but I was looking forward to rejoining the R27 at Vanrhynsdorp and getting away from the traffic.
We started looking for somewhere to have breakfast but it wasn't until we got to Vanrhynsdorp at about 1100 that we pulled into the One-stop and had a very welcome leg and saddle-muscle stretch and a good breakfast at the Wimpy. There's nothing like a Wimpy breakfast when you're on a bike trip!
Soon we were accelerating along the R27 towards the amazing Vanrhyns Pass which climbs at an incredible rate up to the Northern Cape, at the top we stopped for a while and looked back into the misty lowlands of the Western cape. We refuelled at Nieuwoudtville and then hit the road.
70kms to Calvinia, a good road surface with virtually no traffic and I wound it up to around 15okmh and within half an hour we were passing through the dry little town nestled in the "Hantamsberg". This was as far as we had been on a motorbike trip having done a lodge visit on the Goldwing some years back, from here it was all new country.
118kms to Williston and we had decided to stop for a beer break there, I could see that this was going to be good fast riding as there was nowhere for a traffic cop to hide, typical Karoo scrub land with no trees! In fact we did pass a traffic cop parked on the side of the road but he was carrying his take-away food containers to the bin and we waved to each other as we flashed past way above the legal limit!
Soon we were cruising through the Karoo at 180kmh and it was thoroughly enjoyable, there was the occasional slow mooving car or bakkie but they didn't hold us up at all and must have got a hell of a fright as we flashed past.
The countryside was totally different to what we are used to; rust red rocks clustered in haphazard piles with pale golden yellow grass growing from the iron hard ground, one wonders what could possible be farmed in this inhospitable environment but of course the Karoo is renowned for it's amazing lamb, and there were plenty of herds of sheep in evidence.
Eventually we cruised thankfully into Williston and found the little hotel where we enjoyed a couple of cold beers, that had been a long haul and we relaxed for nearly an hour before climbing back onto the bike for the last 129km stretch, by then it was very warm and as soon as you get your jacket and gloves on you have to get moving!
At the speed we were travelling it took just under 45 minutes to do the 129kms but it still felt like a long way! I saw three whirlwinds form up, move across the dry and dusty landscape before fading away and the wind by then started pushing us around a bit.
By the time we cruised into Carnarvon we were both pretty tired and bum-sore and looking forward to a stop over, the village is a dry and dusty dump but the hotel is nice and we were able to park the big red machine inside in the hall, which I really appreciated.
We spent some time in the pub which is a very interesting place lined with beer cans from all over the world!

The owners of the hotel were an interesting couple, they had three mongoose, mongooses mongi,they had a mongoose and two others as pets and they also had a little lamb that ran around with the dogs and whose name was "tjoppies" (little chops) - which told you where he was going to end up!
We had an interesting evening and a good meal of Karoo lamb (not tjoppies) and vegetables, went for a bit of a walk and an early night thoroughly happy with our first day on the bike.
632 kilometres.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

That's it - what's the point?

It's done! We're packed and ready to go, actually it wasn't as painful or as big a problem as I thought it might be; I packed my case with a spare pair of jeans, six pairs of under rods, six pairs of socks, six shirts, one jersey and one pair of shorts and a pair of light shoes. This still left space for Janet's trainers and her high heel shoes fitted into her case, so far the back pack is very light with the toiletries and a few little odds and sods.
We had a nice weekend in Capetown; Saturday we went to a Rhodesians weekend at "Mano's Restaurant" in Greenpoint, the food was outstanding and it just kept coming; chicken livers, calamari, peri peri chicken and chips and all for just R100 per person - excluding the drinks which were ridiculously expensive, but it was great.
We're off on the road tomorrow and we'll be away for ten days. I have found that there is nobody reading this blog! We met up with Rory and Penny for breakfast today and they had no idea of what was going on, they knew nothing about the Polar bear run and Dave's accident or about our upcoming trip which they would have done had they been reading the blog.
One of my other buddies who I asked "Have you been reading my blog?" said "Actually no I haven't for a while, what's the address again?"
I have enjoyed writing it up to now.
This trip's going to be good though.
I have subsequently received your messages, thank you for that and I have decided to carry on writing it, it has become a sort of hobby which I find relaxing, so stick with me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Holiday ride

Ok we are on a two week break from the 10th of November, Monday and we are going on a bike ride! We have been talking about the trip for a while now and I am getting very excited about it, we have been looking at the map and doing some planning and last week we bought a very nice back pack for Janet to wear on the bike, this will give us that little bit of extra space that we need for her hair dryer, the pair of high heel shoes that she wants "just in case we have to go somewhere nice with Joy and Arnie." and all of our toiletries.
My toiletries consist of a toothbrush, a razor and some suntan moisturiser but on a recent trip to the supermarket Janet spent quite a lot of money on some smaller versions of what she normally uses; like a small hairspray, a small shampoo and a small conditioner apart from the quite comprehensive pack of make up items that have to go with us.
Let me hasten to add here that the back pack will not be heavy on her because once she's on the bike it will rest on top of the bike's top case and will actually be quite comfortable, it will only be when she tries to get on and off the bike that it could be a problem so she must be careful what she packs!
As has been the case in the past I have usually used half of my pannier for my clothes, then Janet has used her pannier, the other half of mine and what other space we have managed to squeeze out of the top case, so now she has a back pack as well. We'll see how it goes and I think I will do some photos of how the packing goes before we leave!
So far the plan is to go up the west coast road as far as Vanrynsdorp, then through Calvinia and Williston and then look for accommodation in Carnarvon which is about 650kms from Saldanha. The next day will probably be 505kms to Kimberley where we will stay for two nights and then through Queenstown to East London where we will visit friends and family before heading down the "Garden route" back towards Saldanha.
I don't think that I will have the time to do any updates on this blog during our trip so I'm afraid that all of you thousands of followers will have to wait until we get back to "read all about it."
Watch this space though, we are going to Capetown for a jol on Saturday and a brunch with Rory and Penny on Sunday and then we are coming home to pack so I will take some photos of the packing and then we will be off on our trip, if I don't manage to do any updates during the trip there will be an extensive report when we get back.
By the way Monday the 10th is our 35th wedding anniversary as well as Janet's 50 something birthday, I have convinced her that the 35th anniversary gift is rubber so that is why I am taking her on a bike ride! Please don't tell her otherwise.

Monday, November 3, 2008


You sit astride your steed and hold the grips with leathered hands,
you do not heed the morning cold
as the early sky begins to gold.
The button thumbed,
the engine fires, the iron beast trembles
eager to get her tyres

The song of power, muted thunder, sweeping curves and distant places.
A group of bikers inspires wonder
preferring speed and open spaces.
You grab a handful,
roll it on
she leaps ahead at your command
or slows right down as you demand,
but keeps her tyres

Gaze far ahead, look close about as the road goes by beneath your feet.
You're in the wind, you want to shout,
you feel the rain your thoughts are fleet.
No need to speak
just to sing
the song of freedom
and feel her tyres

If you knew how I feel as I open her up, the wind in my face, the sound in my ears
it's like sipping life from a precious cup.
My only regret is all the years
without the iron maiden.
Now I live
I'm in the wind
and I'll keep her tyres

- Andrew Wood

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Favourite Rides

Now that the weather is improving my mind starts playing with motorbike trips, I start thinking about rides we can do and rides we have done. I replay favourites and make plans to do them again and it is a long time since we have been to Barrydale, to stay over at the "Country Pumpkin".
The ride from Saldanha to Barrydale is 344kms so that is an easy day's ride and we have done it several times; the first part is Saldanha to Riebeek which takes about an hour and is the boring part of the ride because most of it is on straight roads, in fact the first hour out of Saldanha in any direction is boring and whenever I have to change my back tire the middle is worn thin and the sides still look brand new. I make a point of saying to the mechanic who is changing my tire "That's the problem with living in Saldanha, it's a long way to any interesting roads." in case he thinks I am a chicken rider who can't corner.
After Riebeek we get into good biking country through Hermon, and then Gouda and the lovely "Nuwekloof Pass" where the road winds through the mountains and you have to look out for baboons foraging on the verges. It's about 75kms through some lovely country to Worcester but unfortunately the road is incredibly busy with 18 wheelers avoiding the toll road. This is not so much of a problem on a bike but you still have to be careful.
We usually have breakfast in Worcester, either at the "Whistlestop" at the one stop, or at the "Dros" restaurant in the town, this depends on what time of the day it is and whether we want a beer with our breakfast or not! (Usually we do!)
Worcester to Ashton through Robertson is a nice ride, it's a good road and we ride it fast; it's about 65kms of wide tar with a yellow line shoulder and most of the cars pull off to the side when they see the big red machine's bright headlights coming up behind them - and so they bloody well should!
I've mentioned in an earlier post about the ride from Ashton to Swellendam, one of my favourites and if you haven't read about it bloody well go back and have a look!
Ashton to Barrydale, however is on the R62 which is a wonderful biking road;

As you can see past me it is a lovely wide road. First from Ashton you go through the amazing "Kogmanskloof Pass" with the hole in the rock (also mentioned in a previous post!) then ride slowly through Montagu, where the famous hot springs resort is, because I have seen speed traps there. After that you are on the open road and it is about 65kms to Barrydale, this is a thoroughly enjoyable road with some wonderful scenery and after about 50kms you will see the "Karoo Saloon" on the right hand side, this is well worth a stop for a beer and the last time we pulled in there was a good biker scene on the go with some wonderful rock and roll music.

From there it's a short hop to Barrydale and the Country Pumpkin; R150 per person bed and a fantastic breakfast! The last time we did this trip we went back to Montagu but then we took the fantastic R318 which winds its way though the Koo valley and has two fantastic passes; the incredibly sharp and steep "Burger's Pass" and the slightly more gentle "Rooihoogte Pass" in it's 70 odd kilometre length. Just look at this picture, this was taken near the top of the "Burger's Pass", doesn't that make you just want to get out on your bike and ride it? How boring would that be in a car? The R318 comes out on the N1 about 50 kms from Worcester and you have the choice of going to the left and heading back the way you came or you can go right and after 12kms turn left onto the R46 and head for Ceres, about 75kms with another Pass; "Die Venster" (The Window). The absolute Piece de Resistance though is "Mitchell's Pass" after Ceres, an unbelievably beautiful ride down the mountain to rejoin the R46 through Gouda and Hermon.

After I have done that ride I am happy, I know that I have about an hour and a half to Saldanha and I settle in to a comfortable cruise. Usually Janet is asleep by then and we arrive home relaxed and refreshed after some wonderful local biking.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The dart run

Saturday thankfully dawned clear and calm after gale force southerly winds all day Friday and most of the night, we were both expecting a lousy day leaning at an angle into the wind all the time. We were up early, Fatcat let me sleep until six which is a good late time for me though Janet would have liked a bit longer. We got on the road just before eight and were at the rugby club in Vredenburg by just after 0815 and well in time for a really enjoyable breakfast at R25 each prepared by the CMA (Christian Motorcycle Association.)They are a wonderful bunch of people and their tea and coffee tent at all of the big rallies is a real life saver, it is manned (personned?) 24 hours and I am usually there in the early hours of the morning for my first cup of coffee.
By the time we were all ready to leave, after throwing the first dart of the day someone counted 42 motorbikes which was an excellent turn out for the "Meeulanders" club and the procession of bikes heading down to the Paternoster Hotel was very impressive.

Janet had four attempts at throwing the dart and eventually scored a four and then decided that she was going to withdraw from the competition so as not to cause too much of a delay in the line!
I tried to limit my alcohol intake from this point as we had another five places to visit so I drank Windhoek Light which is only 2 percent alcohol as opposed to my regular Castle which is 4,5 percent. That way I figured I could drink 24 of those and still be fine! It was a good festive scene and the "Meeulanders" tried to keep the timing tight so that we would not be too late getting back to the final venue. We arrived at the "Rooikraans" pub at around 11.15 where we threw the third dart and there we were able to buy a boerewors roll for R10 which went down well, a good idea to eat at regular intervals, this also helped to counteract the alcohol so I had another Windhoek light!
From there we rode through to the Hopefield Hotel, that was a nice ride in an impressive convoy and the column of bikes cruising into Hopefield must have invoked feelings of the biker gangs of old when people hastened into their homes and locked up their daughters!
The Hotel owners provided a snack table, part of which consisted of whole shell peanuts and it wasn't long before these were flying through the air as the biker scum started throwing them at each other. A good time was had by all, including the Hotel owners who must have had a good cash injection on what would normally have been a quiet Saturday morning.
Look at this mob! That pub is very rarely so crowded, only when the bikers organize something.
From there we went to "Vlakvarkgat" but first I had to make a detour and drop Janet off at home, she had had enough and was late for her afternoon nap, by the time I got back to the bush pub they were playing the most amazing music; good heavy metal rock from AC/DC one of my favourite groups so I had another beer.
The next venue was a place called "Die Wingerd" in Vredenburg, I had never been there before and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a very nicely established dance club. I threw my fifth dart and had my fifth or sixth beer and then went home to have some coffee and wake Janet up, I also put the bike away. It had been a pleasant day but a little long, Janet and I returned to the rugby club in the bakkie just before 7pm but that was mostly because I still had bar tickets which I had bought that morning and which I obviously didn't want to waste.
All in all it was a successful day with a good amount of money raised for charity.
I've said this before and I'll say it again; bikers are good folk, what other groups get together so often to raise money for charity? And bikers know how to party, and with forty two or so bikes on the road there were no accidents which was wonderful because we have had our share of bike accidents in the area recently.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sparkling wine and baby Yellowtail

It has been a very good weekend, maybe I should start a bit earlier because actually we had six people around on Wednesday evening for a lodge catering meeting. I did a lamb potjie and it turned into a very enjoyable and quite late evening. Then on Thursday we were invited to a neighbour's house for a braai, they had recently been to the Isle of Mann to watch the TT races and we chatted about motorbikes and looked at their photos late into the night.
Friday night we were in bed at eight o'clock!
Saturday morning after our bath we decided to go for a late breakfast/early brunch as I had a lodge meeting that afternoon so we rode through to Dwaarskersbos, a little village (cluster of homes) on the coast on the other side of Velddrif. About 40kms from home but it was a very pleasant ride, it was a very hot day and after a good breakfast we cruised home. Again just nice to be out on the bike.
Today we had the day free so we decided to have a bath again and decide what we were going to do, it's always easier to plan the day in the bath with the bottle of JC. As usual though we have the squabble over which glass has the most wine in, it's almost like it has to be sorted out like children "Ok you pour and I'll choose first!"
As can be seen here, Janet's glass on the right has clearly got far more wine in it. There are two glasses each like this so that's easy, it's when it comes to dishing out the last bit that the trouble starts!

As this picture clearly shows; the glass on the right, Janet's glass again has several millilitres more than mine, so next week I will have the glass which is half full and she will have to have the one that is half empty! Fair's fair! Anyway we had a good discussion and we decided to go to Don's "Beira Mar" again for lunch, I thought it would be nice to contact Frank and get him to go along as well so we arranged to meet at the airstrip at the turn off to the R27 at 1145. I suggested a ride out to "Vlakvarkgat" for beer and then we would ride through to Saint Helena Bay to the restaurant.
Janet had another idea; she said "Frank's going to be late, I would rather go directly to Vlakvarkgat and get pissed, rather than get pissed off waiting for him at the intersection." !!! Bit of a rough chick this! As it turned out we were a bit late and he was waiting for us. We had a cold beer at the bush pub and then a pleasant ride through to Saint Helena Bay, there is a narrow dirt road down to the shore to get to the restaurant and if you didn't know about it you would never guess that one of the very best eateries on the west coast was down there. I love this place and we have now been several times and as luck would have it they had whole baby Yellowtail on the menu again!

It was the most amazing meal, Frank had the same and he also enjoyed it although he doesn't get as fully involved with his meal as I do; when I'm finished there is only a little bit of skin left because I eat just about everything including the eyes, the cheeks and all of the tasty little morsels of flesh in and around the skull. As you can see, not a hell of a lot left there! We had a very pleasant afternoon and left at about three o'clock. It was calm and clear but slightly overcast and I really enjoyed the ride home, after we said "Goodbye" to Frank in Vredenburg I got that familiar feeling on the bike that is so hard to describe, but it is like comfort; being fully in tune and at one with the machine and wanting to just stay on it and carry on riding. As we cruised along I lifted my visor and turned my head slightly towards Janet, she knows that this is when I want to say something and she leaned her head in against mine, all I said was "I'm looking forward to our trip." She squeezed her knees against me and said "Yes!" and I think she got it too - that feeling. Our bike trip is not too far off now, it starts on the 10th of November; our 35th wedding anniversary! I can't believe we've been happily married for so long, she's happily and I'm married!

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!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

All my bikes

I was going through my photo albums and I thought it would be interesting to gather all of the photos of the motorbikes that I have owned over the years, it was an interesting exercise because I discovered that if I count all of the scramblers and three wheelers the big red machine is number ten! This is interesting because I have been reading something interesting about "the power of ten." - but that's for later. It's interesting how many times I have used the word "interesting"! Don't you find that interesting?

Check this one out! This was my first ever motorbike; a "Jawa Manet" I think it was 150cc and man did I think I was the business on that "scooter", seriously macho! But check out the wheels, they almost look like mags, or is that spokes you can see? It wasn't a bad bike but when it broke down for the umpteenth time after I joined the BSAP I eventually left it standing on the side of the road until someone removed it.

This was my next motorbike, I rode a lot of British bikes in Rhodesia during my Police service; Matchless 500cc singles and BSA 650cc twins and the new Yamaha 350 (?) when they first came in, but when we moved down to Durban in 1974 we bought the Suzuki GT750 and we did lots of happy mileage around Natal. In an earlier post I told about "an embarrasing incident", that was on this bike. We enjoyed it, it was pretty fast but it had an uncomfortable tendency to wallow in the corners.

My first 3 wheeler was the Honda 175cc which was great fun, a real sporty machine which was great on the beaches of the Transkei when we moved to Idutywa in 1976, I traded that in and bought the 200cc shortly after,This was a nice machine in that it was big enough to carry the four of us, I modified the seats so that Janet could sit behind me and Christie and Simon could sit on the sides over the back wheels, we travelled for miles along the beach like that.

At that time I also bought my Suzuki DR500s "thumper" on which I did a lot of exploration of the Transkei, I had a wonderful time and it is only in retrospect that I realise how dangerous that was; I used to go off into the bush for the day completely on my own, no body knew where I was and if anything had happened I would have been completely alone, no cellphones in those days!

This was my first attempt at true COOL! Not doing too bad hey?

Next was a brand new Yamaha 1.1 in 1982, my first new motorbike, these two pictures were taken at the Buffalo Rally in Port Elizabeth, probably in 1983. This was the bike on which we did our most enjoyable tour; 8760kms around South Africa in one month, definitely a story I will tell here later.I bought this beauty in about 1985 while I still had the Yamaha, it was a 1983 Honda Goldwing and shortly after that I sold the Yamaha for R3000, which was what I had paid for it! We did some great trips on the 'wing but I sold it prior to going overseas on a business trip and for about ten years we were without a bike while Christie and Simon were growing up. As you can see from the above photo, in spite of how cool I looked in the rally photos with the Yamaha, I hadn't quite got the cool thing going properly, I mean for f*%#'s sake look at the jacket, slacks and shoes!This 1982 Goldwing came next, for which I paid R22,000! It was a very enjoyable bike and we travelled a lot with it, the only problem I had was that it was not an "interstate" which means that the previous owner fitted the luggage himself and did a crap job of it, I had endless trouble with the mounting brackets. However, I managed to sell it for R30,000 - can you believe that?We decided it was time to upgrade and I went for this Kawasaki Vulcan 1500, a big mistake! I fancied the American look and although Janet was very comfortable on the back I could not get used to the whole setup of the bike, I didn't like the fact that I was sitting on the base of my spine with my feet forward, this meant that I could never lift my butt from the seat while we were riding. Also it had a very small petrol tank with a range of only about 150kms, most of the towns in South Africa are more than 150kms apart! It had only three gears, and this was the very bike that let us down with a dead battery on the way to Barrydale one day - mentioned in a previous post.

Which brings us to our tenth motorbike; the big red machine, a thing of beauty. The BMW R1200RT.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Siyabonga fun day

The day started well; with a bottle of JC Leroux in the spa bath, there we made our plans for the day and we discussed our upcoming two week bike trip in mid November. If you remember I said we were going to hire a Harley for one day, well I have shelved that idea and we are going to do the whole trip on the big red machine, that's what it's for afterall!
Now however I am thinking about heading up the west coast road to Vanrhynsdorp and then taking the R27 through Calvinia and Williston and heading across the Upper Karoo to Kimberley. The way back will depend on how long it takes to get there and also how many days we decide to stay. This is also an exciting part of a bike trip; the planning. I love sitting over a map sipping a beer and working out a route, preferably through unfamiliar country, it adds to the anticipation.
Today the local bikers supported the "Siyabonga foundation"; it is a type of hospice for aids sufferers as well as mentally retarded people and the terminally ill, and they held a fun day to help raise funds. We all met up at the bike shop in Vredenburg where we were able to have a beer. From there we all rode to Siyabonga which is just outside of the town and the parade of motorbikes caused a lot of excitement amongst the many children who were there, it was lovely to see them posing on my bike taking pictures of each other with their cellphones, just about every child had a cellphone!
We spent about an hour there entertaining the children, we had a look through the wards and were very impressed with how clean and tidy everything was, it is a sad place though, all of the patients are there because they cannot afford to go anywhere else and they need the help. I believe the bikers did their bit, but there was no bar there so it was soon time to leave.
We rode through to Velddrif and had a couple of beers and a lunch at the Riviera Hotel. After a nice ride I dropped Janet off at home for her kip and I went to the Drop Anchor bar, a biker bar in Saldanha for one more beer.
It was great to be out on the bike again, it seems like ages since we have been anywhere and I really enjoyed it even though the wind was blowing strongly from the south east. They say it is going to be even worse tomorrow, I think we'll just have a quiet day tomorrow with a lunch at Don's "Beira Mar" restaurant, I haven't tried the "espetada" yet, Janet says it is delicious and it certainly looked good when she had it last time; garlic butter dripping down the meat onto the rice and chips!

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Potjie and a braai!

I'm afraid it has been rather an unsuccessful week as far as biking is concerned, at least she has stayed clean, she's nicely covered up in the garage but I am having withdrawal symptoms - I need to go riding!
Friday we had the day off in place of the wednesday public holiday and we invited Frank around for lunch, I did a chicken potjie which turned out very tasty;
First I fried one chopped onion, one chopped green pepper, three cloves of fresh garlic, two chopped celery sticks and three small red tabasco chillies in some cooking oil until the onions were translucent.
In the meantime I chopped one whole chicken up into chunks and in bowl I covered them with a good srinkle of aromat, a whole packet of cream of chicken soup powder and a good shake of mixed herbs. Cover with a lid and shake them around until the meat is nicely covered.
I then added all of the chicken to the pot and kept stirring over high heat until the meat was nicely browned. At this stage there was not much liquid in the pot so I added a whole Castle lager and then turned the heat down and left the pot to just simmer gently for ten minutes or so while I chopped up four potatoes and half a butternut. These chunks I then added to the pot and left it to simmer for about half to three quarters of an hour.
I checked the potatoes with the point of a knife and when they were feeling soft I chucked a punnet of button mushrooms and some florets of cauliflower in and gently mixed everything to settle the vegetables into the liquid. I also added salt at this point.
We ate the meal with a nice crusty bread and a salad of olives, feta cheese and ........... little red things, (I forgot the name but they are quite spicy - lekker!)
Janet and I had a braai on Sunday, it was a lovely hot day so we decided to relax around the house. I bought a couple of free range chickens which were advertised at a special price so I decided I would do them on the rotisserie but after I had gone to all of the trouble of spicing the bird and fastening it to the rod I discovered that the motor wasn't working. We hadn't used it for ages so I went off to the 7/11 and bought some new batteries but still the bloody thing wouldn't work - plan B; spatchcock and braai the chicken.

I rubbed the chicken with olive oil and then covered it liberally with a mixture of Aromat, garlic flakes, lemon pepper and mixed herbs and then got busy braaiing it. We relaxed with a beer or two and by the time the bird was ready Janet's potatoes were as well.

If that was a "free range" chicken it must have been a bloody big range! Or else the bloody chicken walked all the way to Saldanha, it was incredibly tough and apart from that it must have had the wind behind it blowing sand up its bum because the inside was all gritty! We managed to eat it but I don't know what I'm going to do with the other one, luckily we didn't have any guests for lunch.

On a bad note, the Blue Diamond has closed its doors! I'm not sure what the story is at the moment but this is bad news - I hope it's not permanent, I'll keep you informed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Stormy weather continues

You wont believe the terrible weather we have had lately! That photograph was taken after that cloud had dumped what felt like tons of water on us, plus recently we had the worst swells coming through the bay in many years. They caused a lot of damage, not only to the mussel rafts, but also to places like Club Mykonos just outside Langebaan. As you can see it's little wonder that I haven't managed to do much riding!

Here you can see the waves breaking right over the jetty and the wall next to the road, this was at Pepper Bay outside Pedro's restaurant. We are still busy on the farm trying to repair the damage and it will take us another couple of weeks to get finished.
I was able to get the big red machine out of the garage and blow the cobwebs out of the exhaust pipe last Saturday, there was a very cold wind blowing out of the south west but it was a sunny day so I took a ride around to Langebaan to buy some fish for lunch. I was very pleased when the bike started with the first touch of the starter button, I shouldn't have worried because I have never had a problem but you can't help worrying. It was a short ride but very enjoyable and I bought a lovely big fillet of Cape Salmon (geelbek) which went down very well.
We also managed a braai on Monday evening, Mike and Loretta bought some "skilpaatjies" which is little balls of minced lamb's liver wrapped in the spleen (caul) fat and pegged with tooth picks. I also make my own occasionally but I cut the liver into strips to wrap in the fat rather than mincing it. These I braai over hot coals until the fat crisps up and soaks into the liver, delicious but probably not very healthy but who cares!
For our main course we had sirloin steak and boerewors, and do you know how good it was to have a braai again? We try to take advantage of every nice day that crops up during winter, hopefully summer is not too far away?
Today is a public holiday and we are taking Mike and Loretta to my new favourite place; Don's "Beira Mar" restaurant in Saint Helena Bay for lunch, last time I had the most amazing whole baby yellowtail. The restaurant has a Portuguese flavour and they also do wonderful starters like deep fried squid tentacles - looking forward to my lunch!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bad weather

Well it has been a really terrible week with some seriously bad weather. Since we had our last braai we have had some very bad storms and I am so tired of winter, it has been raining like hell and I have only managed to start my bike's engine in the garage. It seems like ages since I took the big red machine for a ride.
For goodness sake I run a mussel farm, it must be the only farm that doesn't need rain!
There are a couple of bike runs organized for the early part of October, one being a dart run which we haven't tried yet - it is similar to a poker run where you get given a card at five different pubs, only on this one you throw one dart at each different pub. Well if I had to throw a dart at a pub I might have a chance! It's trying to throw a dart at a dartboard where I'm going to have trouble, I normally have to play on the girl's team.
We went to visit Dave on Sunday and he is doing well, he is very positive and is managing quite well in his wheelchair and his walker but with a lot of help from Nikki. I couldn't help feeling a bit queesy when he was telling me about all that he has been through so far and I think there is still a lot of painful therapy to come.
I haven't got a lot to tell yet but I will hopefully have more soon, the big red machine has been cleaned and polished and needs to go for a ride, even if it is just to the Blue Diamond.
We'll speak again soon.