There and back again: The Garden Off-Route, the Baviaanskloof and Route 62; I even managed to get nailed!
My good friend William came to visit me in South Africa with one thing in his mind, get a GS and hit the road/gravel. He rented a F650 GS Twin from MotoBerlin and I took my trusty F800 GS. Having been on rides with the BMW Club for almost a year now, I got the skills and confidence to lead this trip. Many of you gave me advices on where to go and I thank you all for this, especially Geoff Russell who took the time to sit with me and plot a GPS route which we mostly followed, except for our small detour via the Baviaanskloof!
That was my longest motorcycle trip ever, 7 days, I had only did 2-day trips before. Usually I plan everything in advance, this time I didn't. I trusted the advices I got that I could just easily get a B&B in the late afternoon no matter where we were: it worked perfectly for this time of year. The only thing that was booked in advance was Friday night at the Addo Elephant Park so we could have a good game drive. We left Cape Town on Monday morning and planned to be back on Sunday evening.
Day1: 300 km, Sea Point to Arniston.
We took it easy on the first day, following the coast, sticking to tar roads so William could get used to the bike. He has extensive experience on motorcycles but mostly sport-touring types. He adopted the GS riding style in no time and he noticed that my "curve skill" could use some improvement, to say the least (more on that later). Strand, Rooi-els, Kleinmond, Hermanus, Napier and Bredasdorp. We got to a B&B in Arniston and had a quiet evening drinking with the other guests and owner.
Day2: 357 km, Arniston to Mossel Bay.
It was not perfect weather, a bit like our first day, some light rain, wind and clouds. We took our first dirt track in the early morning to get to L'Aghulas. We then rode to Malgas to take the hand powered ferry. We saw some nice, friendly ostriches in a field, a sheep road block and eventually got to Witsand, then Still Bay from a twisty bit of offroad that follows the river. After that great day, we decided to hit the N2 to get to Mossel Bay for the night. Great dinner + night out in a bar.
Malgas water crossing:
Day3: 230 km, Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay
That morning was nicer, sunny and we started with tar till we reached Knysna. Very beautiful but a bit too commercial for our liking, so we went north (Ysterhoek Forest) on the R339, then South-East on the R340 towards Plettenberg Bay. Very nice gravel road in the forest/mountain, looks very different from all I had done so far in South Africa. We went to Monkeyland (yes, we are both tourists) and called it a day in Plettenberg Bay. We had the best dinner + wine we had at a Mozambique restaurant but the city was dead, no one was to be seen anywhere. On that day, I learned to take curves gracefully (leaning with the bike), thanks to William's coaching. The trick for me is to put pressure on my foot pegs. It just works!
Day4: 300 km, Plettenberg Bay to P.E.
Via Keurboomstrand, Nature's Valley, saw the Bloukrans bungee jumping, TsiTsikamma National Park, stopped in Stormrivier for the Adventure Falls Ziplines. So far, so good, we had a great day and we were about to get on our way to P.E. via Cape St-Francis and Jefferey's Bay. That's when I got nailed!
Out of our four tyres, two were tubeless. Of the remaining two, only one was a back tyre and of course, it's the one that got nailed. I was a bit annoyed and cursing loudly at the BMW engineers who thought that putting tubed tyres in the F800 GS was a better idea than putting tubeless on a side-spoked wheel. Wondering why on earth did I go for that trip without the safety provided by the club members, skills, knowledge, spare parts and backup vehicle. Then it started to rain! The guy at the Adventure Falls was kind enough to help me with the bike, checking the tyre and noticing a giant nail sticking out of it and offered to re-inflate it to see how slow the leak was while I was on the phone with the BMW RoadSide Assistance. It was the 1st time I ever called such a service and wasn't really sure what to expect. Mobile phone reception wasn't great and my strange accent was difficult to understand for the lady on the phone and vice versa. It took about 30 minutes to establish that I had in fact, a motorcycle, not a car and that I couldn't drive slowly to P.E. with a nail on my tyre.
I rode 8 km to the Stormsrivier Total Garage on the N2 to check if the workshop guy could help me. Once there, I called Geoff Russell and everything went smoothly since that moment. He called BMW Roadside for me, making sure that they had the story/location right, advised me on my options, etc. Dave Higgs form Atlantic Motorrad called me too, making sure that everything was all right. We were in-between P.E. and George, about equal distance (150+ km) from each BMW dealers. The bike would have to be serviced (tube changed) first thing in the morning in P.E. even if we succeeded at patching it and putting everything back in place. We were in the late afternoon, the decision was made that we would put my bike on a trailer and be driven to Continental BMW in P.E. Gavin Cooper drove 100 km from Knysna to pick me and my bike up and drove me to P.E. (170 km) while William had to do the same on his bike with the wind, rain and darkness settling in. Paul Nel from Continental BMW was waiting for us after hours 19h+ to let the bike in the garage. He promised me that the bike would be taken care of 1st thing in the morning, that a new tube would be purchased for it and that I would be able to pick the fixed bike at 10h00 the latest. I got dropped off at the Road Lodge in P.E. where Geoff was kind enough to do the booking for me. For that, I had to "pay" by promising Geoff that I would have a Jaegermeister + Fanta Orange in his honour once we got to Barney's Tavern. The waitress tried to reason me out of that while the surrounding tables looked at me in awe as I drank my full glass. Several other types of drinks were downed and we had a great evening.
Day5: 70 km, P.E. to Addo Elephant Park.
The next morning, we rode 2 up to the BMW dealer but we didn't manage to see Paul. My bike was ready, tyre fixed and it was all shiny from having just been cleaned and the chain waxed. I only had to pay R180 for a tube, it was unbelievable! I did purchase some tyre levers + a tube repair kit and off we went, to Addo, where we manage to get just in time for our 12h game drive. I've learned a few things with that little incident. The BMW roadside assistance rocks, they not only want you to have a working bike, but they understand the journey you're on. Biker solidarity is even better than I knew it was. Geoff, Dave, thank you for your support, it was really appreciated, I felt like you guys were next to me and helping me to the best of your abilities. Paul, (and the other guys at BMW Continental) you did a great job to fix my bike in time, I wish I would have been able to thank you in person when I left. But did you really have to clean my bike? I lost all my offroad cred and you made me look like a roadie for a full day!
So that was our day of rest, taking 2 game drives and staying at the Addo Rest Camp, chilling out and planing our next days. We saw some elephants, kudus, zebras, buffalos and other furry animals.
Day6: 357 km, The Baviaanskloof: Addo Elephant Park to Uniondale.
Back a few days while waiting for my flat-tyre bike to be picked up, we met some other bikers at the petrol station. One of them mentioned for about 37 times that it would be criminal not to go back to Cape Town via the Baviaanskloof. The roads were supposed to be in very good conditions generally dry. We obliged: best decision ever! We took about 5h to clear it, we did 7-8 water crossings and we had a lot of fun, it was our most exciting day so far.
Bruno at water crossing number 5:
William at the same water crossing:
We got out of there and arrived in Uniondale, where we were expecting a quite boring evening, lost in the middle of nowhere. William asked a nice lady walking down the road for assistance in hotel or B&B recommendation. It turned out that she owned a very nice B&B and she was more than happy to host us and even cook for us. Bon Accord guest house, if you are ever in need of accommodation in Uniondale, ask Charlene, tell her that you know Bruno and William. Wine, cheese, snacks, more wine, steaks on the braai and toasted sandwich. Good food, good wine, good company, perfect day. We went to sleep at around 2h00 as we finished the 5th bottle of wine.
Day7: 550 km, Uniondale to Sea Point.
Tough to get up in the morning but by 11h00, we are on the road, via the Route 62 for most of the day. Got home at 20h00. Truly memorable trip, more than 2100 km done in 7 days. Thank you BMW Motorcycle Club Cape, you made it possible for me.
Bonus video: Ostriches!
Fantastic report. Great to hear that your trip was without incident besides the nail thing.
Nice one Bruno. So, were you not even a little bit nervous riding down Combrink Pass, with sheer drop and no railing?
It sounds lovely to travel the way you did - taking it as it comes, with no fixed agenda to stress your travels. Thanks for the lovely report.
Fantastic report Bruno and well done on your epic adventure.
Glad I was able to assist you along the way!
Charles, I have no particular memory of Combrink Pass. I'm sure I've done it, prob took some pictures, I just didn't know the names. I was nervous most of the first 50 or 70 km, but in a good way. On big slopes down, stand up, 1st gear, rear break if needed, no ABS and don't try anything funny.
I had called Uncle Geoff also to ask for some advices about how to do water crossing. Stay on a tyre track, keep going straight, 1st gear, not too fast, keep constant speed and that was it, 7 or 8 water crossing, not a single problem. It was the thing that stressed me the most, but now, I know I can do it!
Ja, Julie and I went the other way and spent the whole time in Baviaans being nervous about the two passes at the exit. We sailed over them, but I was glad of my training - seven km of pure rocky uphill with nowhere to stop for a break, with pillion clinging on for dear life.
The one river crossing with big round stones can be daunting. I see in your video you have the right technique. It is essential to stand (some people sit and risk getting trapped under water by the bike should they fall). And riding in the car tyre track is excellent advice:
- less slippery because cars have ridden the moss and mud and slime off
- it's the lowest part of the road, so you cannot slip out sideways, and
- generally free of hazards (otherwise cars would ride a different track).
Just checking if I can embed youtube videos in here. If it's the case, you should see it right here, if not, just some odd code.
Edit: no, it doesn't show, so the links will have to do.
You can embed videos - I have done one of yours for you. Click the 'turn off rich text' link at the bottom of the text area, paste the embedding code from YouTube in the place where you want it in the raw html, and voila!
Thanks Charles, I managed now. Here's a bonus video of William playing with ostriches, at the end of the original post.
I still have to do a trip longer than 4 days - I'm envious.
Bruno, well done for slaying the dragons on this trip and making life so much more livable.
Now that you know how it is, plan the next one.
This country has so amny awe inspring route options with so many gravel roads just begging to be ridden.
The people on the way really make it interesting.
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