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, 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