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.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day Three - the ride home

Saturday morning, time to leave the Breede River resort and head for home and we had all day to do it. We decided to skip the breakfast in favour of getting an early start with a tentative plan to have breakfast at the "Country Pumpkin" in Barrydale.
The sky was slightly overcast and the wind was blowing again, quite lightly out of the South but there was no doubt that it would be picking up. The 35km stretch up to the N2 was a far better ride than when we arrived on Thursday! We turned North onto the N2 which was already busy and headed through to Riversdale 30kms away where I stopped to refuel and to consult the map again.
The R323 is not very well signposted and we found ourselves out on a road through the farmlands which was very pleasant and very picturesque but I had the nagging suspicion that it was not the right road, I waited for a signpost to confirm my suspicions but none came up and I eventually had to stop and ask for directions!
We had to retrace our route back to Riversdale and eventually found the right road, Janet spotted the sign, just a small black word on a large white board that almost appeared to have been hand painted; "Ladismith" almost as an after thought, no route number but at least we were soon thundering out of town on the R323.
It is only 29kms to the Garcia's Pass which we had not ridden through before and it was fantastic, a good road surface with lovely twisties up through the mountains in the early morning mist.
To make things even better, as we headed away from the coast we soon left the clouds and the wind behind and it started getting pretty hot.
Another thing we left behind was the bloody traffic! We hardly saw another vehicle on the road and it was sublime cruising, we just sat relaxed and happy enjoying the wonderful scenery and the solitude. It was a fantastic feeling being out in the middle of nowhere, a mere speck in the landscape.
From the pass to the R62 is only another 40kms and it flattens out somewhat, but it is typical Karoo landscape and a joy to ride, the road is in excellent condition and there was virtually no other traffic.
We joined the R62 and from there it is just about 60kms to Barrydale, that road is a little busier but cages don't hold us back and we made good time to the Country Pumpkin where we settled in to the famous breakfast, bikers get a free glass of port on arrival and a discount on the breakfast because the owner; Dereck is also a biker.We were quite early and almost the first people there, but it is a very popular place and it wasn't long before more bikers arrived and then a tour bus full of foreigners.
After that superb breakfast I was ready for the road again and the 62km stretch from there to the little village of Montague, which is famous for it's hot springs resort, is an absolute joy to ride with a pass thrown in just after the biker friendly "Karoo Saloon" which was the scene of our last Polar Bear run. It's a long left hand downhill sweep past the Saloon and it looked deserted at that time of the day, I resisted the temptation to pull in and flicked the bike to the right to begin the tight uphill sweeps through the pass.
What a wonderful ride! I was a happy man as I flicked down through the gears and cruised into Montague, we had already agreed that we would stop for our first beer in Robertson but we made a roadside stop between Montague and Ashton so that I could photograph the hole in the rock; It's a beautifully rugged area and we had a bit of a leg/bum stretch there, on the way through I started getting that familiar feeling that all of us bikers get every now and then; that feeling of being all stunning and macho so we decided to take some photos of me before we carried on; See what I mean?!We made the obligatory beer stop in Robertson and then carried on home, and after a really enjoyable ride we pulled into the Phoenix Bar in the early afternoon where Danny managed to get himself into the photograph! It was a 480km ride home and the big red machine just ate it up, the whole round trip with a couple of wrong direction detours was just under 1000kms and in spite of the horrendous conditions on day one it was a great outing. When's the next one?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Breede River - day two

This was the view from our room the next morning; sunny and clear although the wind was still blowing pretty strong, however that area is renowned for being windy. We had had a comfortable night but Janet had suffered from a bit of an upset stomach so we decided to spend the day relaxing in Witsand, not a bad thing to do.
I took full advantage of the buffet breakfast that was part of our accommodation deal but Janet was only able to pick at the fruit and a piece of toast. A little later we took a slow cruise around the village and down to the bathing beach, there is a nice little beach bar and restaurant where I had my first beer of the day, Janet had a rock shandy. As you can tell from the pictures it was already pretty windy again.
We got back to the Lodge at about midday and went for a bit of a walk along the river bank, the Breede River Lodge is a very nice place, as is the village but it revolves around fishing and apart from that there is not much else to do - except drink!
So it was inevitable that we would end up back in the bar in the mid afternoon and I could not resist another four of those fabulous wild oysters with my ice cold beer. Not a hell of a lot wrong with my day!
It was a very relaxed day which we both enjoyed, but we both agreed that one day there was definitely enough and we were looking forward to the ride home the next day.
My dinner in the restaurant that night was delicious, I started out with a "Bouillabase du Cap" a delicious spicy seafood soup and a bit later my main course was lovely chunk of fresh Yellow tail. We went back to our room well satisfied, very relaxed and eagerly anticipating the next day's ride.

Witsand ride, day one - wet and windy

Had I known beforehand what the weather was going to be like, if I had bothered to check the weather reports for the Southern Cape for Thursday 16th December I might have cancelled the trip! Thankfully I didn't do that because then we would have missed out on day three; the ride home which was absolutely fantastic!
We got going at about 07h20 and it was raining gently, it had rained all through the night and I thought that it couldn't rain for much longer, it looked like it was clearing up. We didn't care, we pulled our rain suits on and headed off on another adventure and by the time we were halfway to Capetown the rain had stopped. It actually became quite pleasant as we rode through town and onto the N2 heading towards Somerset West and the Strand.
The N2 was very busy as usual and it was as we neared Somerset West that it started to rain again, but far worse was the fact that the Southerly wind started blowing in earnest. We turned off the N2, where the cages were starting to crowd me on the wet surface, onto the beautifully picturesque Clarence drive which hugs the coast around to Rooiels and Betty's Bay. The wind was literally gale force here (just look at my hair!) and it was really punishing me in the corners, we pulled over to phone John and Tina about our breakfast meeting and then pushed on. I did not enjoy that ride very much, the wind would surprise me by slamming into us from a different direction in each corner and by the time we reached Hermanus we were feeling pretty tired, my shoulders were aching with the effort.
We spent a very pleasant hour or so in Hermanus chatting with our friends over a delicious breakfast and then it was time to press on, the wind was still at gale force, stronger even than when we had arrived and on the ride through to rejoin the N2 it was pretty much permanently hammering us from the side so that we were riding leant over at an angle.
We turned onto the National road and had about 120kms to go to Heidelberg where we were to turn off and I was able to open up to 140 - 150kmh, we hadn't done even 30kms when it suddenly started to rain and within minutes it was hammering down. I was happy to travel at 140kmh but it was dangerous when we caught up with lines of cars and trucks travelling in a convoy, then the drivers started to do dangerous things like bunch up around me!
It was tense travelling until we eventually reached the turnoff to Witsand and I was able to get out of the traffic. We were extremely relieved to pull into the parking area of the Breede River Lodge and get ourselves sorted out.
Later that evening after a couple of beers in the bar we went into the restaurant for dinner and the food was really good. I had three wild oysters as a starter and I was very impressed with how delicious they are, it had been many years since I had last had them in Knysna and I had forgotten how good they were.The dining room has a lovely view over the Breede River and we sat sipping our wine as the sun went down, by then totally relaxed after our hectic ride.
My main course was a seafood platter which I really enjoyed, Janet had a prawn special and it was quite late by then time we went to our room to settle down for the night.
The wind was still blowing very hard and we had not made up our minds what we were going to do the next day, we would decide when we woke up but by then I was already feeling that the day's ride hadn't been all that bad and I would not rather have been in a car.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

To the Breede River Lodge

Sunday the wind settled down a bit and after some routine shopping that had to be done we were able to go out for a bit of a local cruise. We headed through to Velddrif along the R27 and went to visit Des at his little shop on the banks of the Berg River, it was incredibly hot so a couple of cold Castles went down singing hymns! It is also a very picturesque spot and we had a pleasant time chatting with our friends.
From there we went over to the "Admiral's Pub" for lunch, Janet had a prawn platter and I had an excellent seafood platter, really good value at R120 with lovely fresh chunks of hake, calamari strips, crumbed prawn tails, mussels, crab sticks chips and savoury rice!
Thursday 16th December is a public holiday; Heritage Day and we have managed to get the Friday off as well so now we are going off on a ride. I have mentioned before that I love the build up to a ride, I thoroughly enjoy sitting down with a map and planning a trip.
At first I wasn't sure where to go, I had the South and East coast in mind but this close to Christmas (Can you believe that it's Christmas next weekend?!!) I thought that everything would be booked out, I wanted to go through Hermanus and say "Hello" to old friends John and Tina, but doubted that we would get accommodation.
I prefer not to book accommodation on a trip, we have usually just gone for a ride and looked for a place to stay when we got tired, making a booking creates an unwanted timetable but then a friend sent me an advert from the Breede River Lodge in Witsand and I followed it up; R600 for a double room per night including breakfast sounded good and it's a new place for us so I booked two nights, Thursday and Friday.
It is about 220kms to Hermanus where we will have a brunch break with our friends, then it is about another 245kms to Witsand - perfect, I just hope the wind gives us a break because it can really blow hard in that area.
We will then have the whole day on Friday to explore the area and there is a lovely 473km loop through three passes; Garcia's Pass on the R323, the Huisrivier Pass on the R62 and then Robinson's Pass on the R328 so I'm thinking we may do that. Our other option of course is just to have a lazy day walking on the beach, we'll see how we feel - I'm really looking forward to this now! I'll tell you all about it when we get back.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

R.I.P. Quintin Vermeulen

A lousy reason for a huge biker gathering; last weekend 21 year old Quintin Vermeulen, a prospect of the West Coast chapter of the Mac's was killed in an accident at the Poison Rally in Rustenburg. His Father Alex is the President of the local Mac's and this morning we gathered at the Phoenix Bar for the ride to the funeral service.
A huge number of bikers came together in tribute to a popular youngster and to support the parents. I have not yet heard anything official, but the Mac's came in numbers and many clubs from Capetown were represented; the Hell's Angels, Hooligans as well as the Gypsy Jokers to name a few.
The local clubs were also out in force; the Meeulanders, Kreefsmokkelaars and the CMA and it was heart-warming to see the size of the gathering at the Phoenix bar.
Of course the guys had a beer or two before the ride through to the church, that's what bikers do! We formed up outside the Phoenix bar for the ride through town to the Lighthouse Biker Church, preceeded by a couple of burnouts and it was an extremely impressive and emotional procession. I don't know if there was an official count but there must have been at least 100 bikes!
We all crowded into the little church for the very moving ceremony conducted by a member of the CMA. Afterwards we all made our way back to the Phoenix bar for a bit of a wake.
It's been a long time, if ever that the Phoenix bar has had such a large crowd and Quintin would have been pleased.
The sombre mood soon turned to one of subdued cameraderie, Alex and Mercia, Quintin's parents also came in and the bikers enveloped them in love and support.
Elise and Janet relaxing with a beer.
We stayed for a couple of beers and then made our way home. That's enough now, no more funerals for the West Coast PLEASE! There was one last weekend as well which we were unable to attend, young Tracy died on the Eland's Bay Road.
There's been too many. One is too many.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I get to thinking...

When I haven't been out riding for a while I get to thinking; I start thinking about where we are going next, I start thinking about when can we take a couple of days off and go for a decent long ride. We both work so rides are pretty much confined to holidays and weekends but we do ride almost every weekend.
I go into the garage and have a look at the big red machine, I will clean it up a bit and maybe sit on the saddle and think about riding.There's not a huge difference between these two pictures, maybe just 200kms and it's all about setting the bike free, getting it out on the road.
Let's face it, a motorbike is not just an alternate means of transport - okay maybe if you live in the city and you have a scooter or a small bike that's different, but here I'm talking about the big bore motorbikes; 500cc, 750cc or 100cc and upwards.
Motorcycles are food for the soul, they are a soothing balm for the troubled mind, if you have had a tough or stressed day just get your bike out of the garage and get out onto the road - you won't be stressed for long I can assure you.
Look at these two pictures;
They were taken a good few years ago, but we were on a road trip and I was carrying a disposable braai, some thin boerewors (sausage) some bread and a bottle of wine in a cooler bag. We were younger then so I'm thinking the wine was not very dry, probably a Riesling but we stopped in a laybye and had a lunch of boerewors and toast and a bottle of wine and I remember seriously considering going into Ixopo (and I wont bother trying to explain how to pronounce that!) to get another bottle of wine, but common sense prevailed and we pressed on.
But how cool is that?!
When you are planning a ride don't show your plans to a non biker because they will ask questions like; "Why are you going that way, through all of those passes when if you stick to the national road it will be much quicker?"
If you have to explain it, they won't understand.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Way back in 1982 I bought my first brand new motorbike; the very impressive Yamaha 1.1, a really good bike with shaft drive and when they came out a lot of them were modified for racing. At that time we lived in the Eastern Cape and decided to make our first trip down to Capetown on the new bike.
We took two weeks leave and set off on what was to be a wonderful holiday, but one that started off really badly. Our first stop was to be Port Elizabeth with friends, only some 300kms away but in the first 200kms we had three punctures!The first puncture happened in the Kei Cuttings, only some 60kms from home, I felt the back of the bike go all soft and "squishy" and managed to stop without losing it. Flat tyre! I removed the wheel and leaving Janet with the bike and the luggage I hitch-hiked back to the small town of Butterworth. The local garage mechanic fixed the puncture and re-inflated the tyre, I paid him, picked up the wheel and stood out on the road with my thumb extended expectantly.
Three guys in a car stopped for me and I recognised the front seat passenger, he introduced himself to me; Ron Reid-Daly who was involved in training the Transkei military but I knew him as the founder and Commander of the Rhodesian Selous Scouts from when I was in the Police in the then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). (See his picture taken at a Rhodie get together in the sidebar - R.I.P Ron Reid-Daly)
A short while later I was reunited with a very relieved wife, I replaced the wheel and we headed off. In retrospect I should have stopped in East London to have the wheel checked but we were already late so we pressed on.
Unbelievably, 150kms further and virtually in the middle of nowhere, the tyre deflated again! On the side of the road I removed the wheel once more and we considered our options, it was starting to get dark and we were about 75kms from Port Alfred. While we were sitting there a farmer came along and offered to take my wheel to his farm and fix it! Wonderful!
It was fully dark by the time he returned and I replaced the wheel by the light of his headlights, after thanking him profusely we headed off into the night, our destination was now Port Alfred where I would find accommodation and phone our friends. Or so I thought.
As we were heading through a cutting about 5kms further along the road the tyre delated again! Can you imagine my despair as I removed the wheel for the third time? We had to spend the night there next to the road, we had sleeping bags but that was all. I showed Janet how to kick a hip-hole in the ground and we lay down on the hard, rock-strewn surface.
We had no food with us and we were hungry and every now and then an 18 wheeler roared past loaded with pineapples, leaving the tantalising aroma of the fruit in its wake! It was a long and restless night and to add insult to injury it also rained for a little while!
We were up and ready by the time the sky started to lighten in the East, cold and hungry and dying for a cup of coffee. I stopped a local resident walking past, tore a R20 note in half and gave half to him explaining that if he was prepared to look after the bike he would get the other half when I returned and my bike was still in good order. He readily agreed to this so we hitched a lift with our panniers and the back wheel through to Port Alfred.
At the hotel I booked a room for a couple of hours, this did not seem to worry the management unduly and I left Janet happily soaking in a hot bath while I went off with my back wheel to find a repair.
I eventually managed to get back to the bike, I gave my friend the other half of the R20 note, put the wheel back on the bike and rode cautiously back to Port Alfred where I found Janet relaxed, clean and happy after a good breakfast - I was a grubby wreck, but not for long!
The rest of the holiday was fantastic, we never had another problem with the back wheel after that in spite of some very long trips and now whenever we travel that road I can point out to Janet the exact spot where we slept next to the road, in fact the next time we go that way I will stop and take a photograph.
Whenever I have told friends about that trip they say things like "Yes, that's what biking is all about, that makes a good story." and in retrospect it is a good story, it's a great memory but not one that I want to experience again in a hurry but I wouldn't change it for the world.
"Touch Wood" we have never had another puncture since then but now one can carry tyre repair kits and inflators, there was nothing like that then - hell that was long before cellphones!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wheels on the West Coast

The "Cape Doctor", the strong south easterly winds that blow all of the smog away from the city was blowing hard again as we left Linda's house in Capetown this morning. It had been a good evening seeing old friends and meeting new ones and after a relatively late night I was keen to get on the road.
It was a lovely cruise with the wind pushing us from behind and I thoroughly enjoyed the West Coast road for change, very little traffic at that time of the day and we pulled into the Engen One Stop Wimpy at about 08h30 for a very welcome "Farmhouse breakfast".
We had about an hour at home before we were due to meet up with the guys at the West Coast Mall, this gave me enough time to drink a beer and give the big red machine a bit of a clean up.
We arrived shortly after 10h00 and it was good to see that there were already quite a few bikers there, more arrived while we were meeting and greeting.
This VW trike arrived, these people had been on the toy run in Capetown last week and featured in one of the photographs - they were to lead us down to the West Coast school just outside of Saldanha where the "Wheels on the West Coast" festival was being held. Two very nice Suzuki Boulevards, lots of chrome to keep clean there! We saddled up and all fell into a staggered formation for the short ride down to the West Coast School and it was a very impressive convoy of about thirty bikes that pulled into the school grounds.
We all rode slowly around the field and parked in a group so that the people could walk around and admire all of the bikes.
Then it was time to deposit our toys into the back of the Vredenburg Yamaha van, these would be distributed later.
In spite of the fact that there were not so many of us, a really good amount and variety of toys was collected.
Div had trouble letting go of his teddy bear, apparently it had grown up with his family for a good many years, he walked around the vehicle for a bit and we had to convince him to let it go, set it free so that it could find some children to love. Bye bye Teddy, bikers are not always rough and tough, there is also a soft side.
The pile of toys grew and it was good to see how many there were from such a relatively small number of bikers. What good people bikers are, haven't I been telling you this all along? We wandered around for a bit, there were some really excellent cars and hot rods on display;
After that it was back home, we met up with a few of the guys later at the "Captain's Cabin" for a beer; Frank, Willie, Craig and Monica were there, we had a beer and then a good lunch.
Another very pleasant weekend.
I don't think that there is anything else on until the 19th December when there is a Snoek festival in Yzerfontein, a small fishing town approximately halfway between Saldanha and Capetown, we shall be going to that one but I'm sure we will ride the big red machine before then anyway. Stay safe and keep the shiny side up!