Proud stockists of Ural sidecars & spares

Badplaas Weekend Trip: 5 - 7 August 2011

On a very beautiful Friday morning not so long ago we got together at Sidecar Africa for bacon rolls, coffee and Chocolate cake! And off course, most important to set off on our Badplaas trip.
Richard Wear, the instigator of this particular trip, made us bacon rolls and because it was Louise Wheeler’s birthday earlier in the week her and Greg brought a home baked fabulously iced chocolate cake all the way from Melville in Impi – no mean feat! Also cannot believe it’s been a year since Impi was her birthday gift. It’s not only sidecars that fly – time does too!
Enough with the feeble jokes, onto the trip! At 9 o’clock sharp we were all ready to leave and then we remembered we have to take photos of ourselves, or at least Isaac must take pics of all of us. Seeing as this is very NB, it took us approx 10 minutes to get everyone together and smile at the same time. What can I say the monkeys really are an unruly bunch.
We had quite a few first time trippers – Arno & Zeta on Sputnik, Mike & Birgit on Alice, Jude & Sheilagh on Layla and Greg & Louise on Impi (who’ve been doing their own trips that you can read about in the Trip Reports on our website, but joined us for first time).
So finally the merry band set off – Ry and Emma on Vladimir, Klara and moi on Lola, Richard on Paisley (who refuses to take a monkey – blow up or real) and our new comrades. We were heading to Badplaas via via as Ryno had concocted a fabulous route for an ugly part of the country. Once we got off the highway at Rigel offramp and onto the road to Delmas the nerves settled and we found our riding rhythm.
Some of us scared ourselves more or less with the big trucks and road and traffic but generally we were loosening up and the roads were in infinitely better condition than anticipated.
After Delmas we hit the dirt and immediately the day brightened up. I even started thinking the landscape isn’t that ugly after all but I think that was just brought on by the happiness of riding some lekker dirt roads. After topping up with fuel in Delmas we high tailed it out of there and drove on to Hendrina. I got so inspired with the riding and the sunshine and the wind on my face and my little monkey smiling and being as hungry as a lion that I did not come to a complete and utter stop at a T-junction 4 kms outside Carolina and got a R1 500 fine for disobeying a Stop sign! Anyway after a Wimpy burger, the only inspiring thing in the whole of Carolina, I felt a little better and when Birgit picked up R200 in the Ladies, she donated it to my Fine Fund. Very kind of her!
Once I got over my stupidity and misfortune and realised if this was the worst thing that happened on our trip we would really do well. So fortified by my burger and everyone else smiling their Wimpy smiles we got on to the last leg of our journey for the day. Wow did the scenery changed fast and fantastically. Within a few kilometres from Carolina we were flying through long lazy curves bombing up and down gentle hills and dales – even the air changed! I swear I could hear it snap crackle and pop – magnificent!
Badplaas hier kom ons! It was at a very civilised hour of the afternoon that we presented ourselves at Neil and Nicky’s farm Maji-Ningi, which would be our base for the next 2 days. We were made to feel real welcome and after the intro and once everybody had found their place to stay and unloaded sidecars and unpacked luggage we all headed for the Hunter’s Camp where a fire was crackling and some cold, wet refreshments awaited.
Now we could say hello to the rest of the Badplaas Trip buddies – Vic & Marianne on Igor, Madeleine and Liette on Olga and Dennis & Jana on the Nameless One and of course last but definitely not least, Kobus & Tes from team G’n Banggatte. The weather was excellent, the company raucous and the food fabulous.
Saturday morning dawned beautifully. Today Neil would be leading out his row of Ural ducks (as it turned out we were only Urals on this trip) into the oldest mountains in the world with his friend and riding buddy Gary riding sweep. Personally I had not given the ride for the day much thought as it was Neil’s problem and I had complete faith and trust that it would be good. Well, it wasn’t good, it was positively fracking fantastic! I had no preconceived idea of what to expect so it was one long series of surprises.
Once we got out of Badplaas and onto the Lochiel road I wasn’t exactly ecstatic, but the mountains in the distance did promise some interesting riding. As the rural settlements disappeared and the road works turned out to be fun as opposed to a hindrance, my smile got wider and wider.
Nicky and Neil had spoken about doing us a brunch at the Club House of some deserted old asbestos mine. That sounds nice I thought- wow, I had no idea! We were riding deeper and deeper into the mountains, and I mean mountains. Not hills, not koppies – real jaw dropping mountains where they seem to have a back bone of granite. These are the oldest mountains in the world and they were demanding respect, not just because of their age!
The Mtsoli Asbestos Mine, now abandoned, is like time travel. 15 years ago the residents of this little mining town was given 2 months before the mine would be closed and all mining matters wrapped up. Unbelievable. The houses, more than 200 of them are still there, just empty. For us Gautengers it was a strange site to see so many abandoned, empty houses that have not been vandalised. Nothing but time and nature have touched these buildings. There is a thatched church, school, sports club, pool, bowling greens. It felt quite Stephen King riding through this deserted town and it felt to me if I turned around fast enough I would see people on the tennis courts and hear them laughing and the noise of a car coming down the street and a dog barking and and and………
Neil & Nicky both grew up in the town, so it was really special to be able to ask them what it was like and them recalling childhood days. The town is nestled in this incredible valley between very impressive mountains. Nicky says one of her overriding memories from her youth were the snakes in Mtsoli. I had to laugh as my thoughts as we were turning to go down towards the Sports Club was ‘there must be some impressive snakes here’. Mamba valley deluxe! Mambas or no mambas we had a really good brunch supplied by Nicky and her daughter and boyfriend which we wolfed down in no time.
From Mtsoli Neil led us in the general direction of the Havelock cable way, which we went under twice that I remembered. We were now travelling in the direction of Bulembu in the Songimvelo Nature Reserve.The road was just twisty enough to keep the adrenalin level healthily active. It was on this section of our journey that I witnessed one of our intrepid Ural riders tilting at a hill in true Don Quixote style! I have no idea what was said but the next thing I saw Kobus riding down to the bottom of this almighty hill and in true Don Kobus fashion give it a real go. Although from our vantage point it was kind of clear that the chance was slim, I still cheered for him. After his first rush at the hill, which sat motionless and never budged, or blinked as far as I could see, it became obvious that he was not going to win this one.
At the turn off to the Shiyalongubo Dam we were given the option for the short road home via Barberton, or to ride on to the dam and then return via Barberton to Badplaas. What a question!? 3 sidecars headed on to Barberton on the tar road, but the majority of us just grinned wider and geared up with glee. This was really inspirational riding with us riding up into the mist clouds and heaven according to my monkey and then down down through some untouched indigenous forest that smelt just like heaven. There were some spectacular ferns and all throughout the road twisted and turned up and down with sometimes a glance through the trees of just how far it was down should you lose your way.
It was as we came round a nasty left bend that I got a lot more than I bargained on. To the immediate right of me Richard was underneath his Ural with Kobus and Tes having found bush parking under some trees. It looked like they had gone in there quite fast but they seemed okay. After the initial ‘what the $@*&**%’!!!! resulting from seeing a rider under an upside down Ural I managed to park Lola and my monkey safely without flipping us too and out of the way of the following sidecars and get to Richard. By then Richard was on his feet and in no time Kobus and Mike and Jude had helped to put Paisley back on its wheels.
So, seeing as it seemed that the only real damage to Paisley was a cracked speedometer glass, scratches on the petrol tank a missing indicator at the back and the sheared off handlebars, it was definitely decided by Kobus that this is fixable. The handle bars were not looking so great but Kobus gave it one look and having been there before and most definitely gotten the t-shirt he set out to re-attach the handle bars to the bike with zip ties and straps. It worked like a bomb. True Ural fashion she literally started on the very first push of the happy button. Rich had some grazes on his hand which had by now been bandaged by the paraat monkeys and he was no worse for wear other than that. By now Neil had come to see what took us so long, he did look faintly surprised about the attachment of the handle bars to the bike with cable ties and straps but like a true adventure rider he didn’t look too fazed.
Although our spirits were not dampened by this at all as everybody was just fine, we did check the pace a little. It was not too long before we caught up with the rest of our party at the Shiyalongubo Dam.
Between Ryno and Mike and Jude somebody was always chaperoning Rich so we all rumbled into The Digger’s Retreat for some refreshment and revitalising so to speak. Some had hot chocolate some had coffee and some had something a lot stronger. Strange place, it was the Saturday afternoon of what was effectively a long weekend and there seemed to be no one. Reminded me of holidays of my childhood in what was then still Rhodesia – properly colonial and all.
Now it was the home stretch from Barberton to Badplaas on the R38 going through Bothasnek and Nelsberg. Hey why has nobody ever said anything about what a fabulous stretch of sidecar road this is!!? My monkey was fast asleep and we flew sidecar style and had our last blast for the day with Beethoven’s 5th as the sound track in my head.
When we pulled in to the Hunters’s Camp at Maji-Ningi Nicky had already made the fire and we proceeded to celebrate the fact that all of us had returned in one piece (sort of) and that we had really been spoilt by Neil and our ever most patient sweep, Gary.
The only thing I want to say now is – when can we do this again!?

Written by:  Alpha Greeff