Proud stockists of Ural sidecars & spares

Yearly Sidecar Convention
13 - 16 March 2014
Amphitheatre Backpackers - Bergville, Drakensberg

Yay it’s that time if the year again! We get to go and see our sidecar buddies from wide and far and we get to ride some very pretty routes.  We also see some pretty sidecar buddies and ride some wide and far routes… haha.

On the morning of departure, before anyone has gotten on and helmeted up etc etc yours truly manages to fall of Narki trying to take photos. What’s the word for beyond embarrassing – something like mortifying comes to mind? Luckily all that breaks is the ice. But I do have a pic or two of everyone else who’s not falling around listening attentively. Got pics too of my riding buddies dressed in a way that also needs a word for beyond embarrassing!!

So we start in the usual way – the ride to Delmas and it’s a quicky with everyone going like it’s the first leg on a lekker trip. After Delmas we turn onto the road to Devon and once again the landscape goes all Vermeer on us and we ride through these scenes of pastoral bliss – Beethoven wrote some beautiful music for this part, wish I could find that on my head playlist!

Just as everyone settles into the rhythm and the pace Birgit and Sissibong manage to execute an avoid a ditch in the road manoeuvre that leaves Sissibong breathless. In fact so breathless that she blows every fuse they replace. Proves later that we had some intervention in seat heights involved in the cause of the wire that got snapped! Not even Sissibong’s fault.

The fuse business does however go on long enough for the group to split in 2 with me and the other buds going ahead and some staying behind with Birgit and Sissibong. Our group heads for Greylingstad – award for scariest town I’ve been in for a while. The last town that illicited the same feeling was Tweeling. Just too many strange looking kids…….

We don’t stay long and decide to ride for the N3 as time and light are slowly but surely becoming an issue. So we stop at the customary stop and don’t go in that part of the world when Narki works her luminous magic and the policeman stopped right in front of me climbs out and comes over to tell me that they know a better, safer, faster, less potholed route to the N3 and we should follow them.  So off we go with our police escort out of the twilight zone onto the N3. They did us a huge favour – thanks guys!

At the onramp to the N3 they wave us goodbye and off we go. Now we’ve pulled our ears back and we’re riding for Harrismith. Beyond Villiers Frikkie’s willing little steed comes to a halt. This would be damage of a more permanent kind – in his excitement and haste to get going, the oil level was overlooked. No Flies Frikkie makes a plan though and tells us to get going, he is okay. His people will fetch the sidecar and bring his GS. Wow good thinking!

So we move on Frikkie-less and head for Harrismith where we fuel up and the second group is now 50kms behind us fuelling up in Warden. We are now running to get to The Amphitheatre Backpackers before dark. We ride  the road past the Sterkfontein Dam and all I can say is how heartbreaking it is to see that even a road can be stolen by local government. The view though is not for their taking and remains breathtaking. We finally grind our way through there as well and descend the Oliviershoek Pass in the last light of the day.

It’s a grateful little group that turns into the Amphitheatre Backpackers. Great joy when the last group also turns in, Birgit riding Hari. Everyone is very happy to see Frikkie at breakfast – he arrived at 11 the night before. He reckons the 3 hours spent at the side of the road was what he had to do at the time! Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance comes to mind…
Friday morning dawns spectacularly beautiful – I have pics of Leyla and Narki bathed in first light to prove it. Breakfast is a coffeeless affair but everyone is eager to get going so we head off to refuel in Bergville. Narki and my monkey and I ended behind the Dam Master of the big dam scheme – very interesting who one meets in the petrol queues.

Friday sees us riding a very beautiful circular route taking us from Bergiville to Geluksburg, on to Swinburne via the Middledale Pass (one of the significant other’s favourite passes!) and on past Ladysmith and back again via Bergville to the Amphitheatre.

Somewhere between Bergville and Geluksburg the road and landscape conspire to work its magic and as I come over a rise at a particular speed I feel the familiar old feeling that I could take off and become airborne. Seal is singing ‘I believe I can fly” in my head and this leads me to hatch the following little theory in my helmet. I’m quite a fan of CS Lewis and he is credited with writing ‘you are a soul with a body, not a body with a soul’. This train of thought then led me on to my flying philosophy that says somewhere in our soul  flying is what we do naturally and when we come over little rises our souls remember this flying business and we want to take off.
Very very long way of saying I ride for those moments amongst others things, but I do love that feeling. We were in for a morning of lots of ‘take off’ moments. Riding the Middledale Pass had me LingOL in my helmet as this little pass in the middle of nowhere is in better condition and was being graded and worked on, than the provincial road passing the Sterkfontein Dam.

After a yummy cake and coffee/choc/tea stop at the Mugg & Bean in Swinburne we ride out and join the old Van Reenen’s Pass at The Green Lantern. We had just gotten into riding a bit of mud and water and getting in the groove so to speak when Narki gets a flat tyre! I was still thinking ‘lefty loosy righty tighty’ when the first man on the scene must have seen the confusion on my face and him and the other real men took over. Thanks guys – what would I do without you!!

Riding along the old Van Reenen’s one goes through the old tunnel and afterwards Frikkie entertained us with being alone in the tunnel and meeting a ghost called Parkafas which scared him no end. It must be that pillion seat on the BMW GS because none of the sidecar riders reported ghosts in the tunnel!

A leisurely lunch was had al-la municipal worker style. It means on the side of the road with legs outstretched and all very relaxed. Birgit would definitely have won the picnic prize if one was going – bottled artichokes with pesto and cheese, wow! The rest of us were polishing our packets of tuna.

And on we rode and on till we got to the road stall where everyone had an ice cream. The wind had picked up so the last leg of the day back to Bergville was a bit challenging but hey that’s what it’s about.

Friday night we had a lekker braai and kuier and then it was ‘magies vol, ogies toe’ for most of us. I did hear reports about some campers towing tents in the middle of the night with their sidecars, but most of us were riding our sidecars in our dreams only.

Saturday we were riding an easy 133kms – I should know better by now! The word easy shouldn’t be used too much when discussing routes and would probably be better whispered. Saturday’s riding turned out to be filled with beautiful landscapes, a bit of mud wrestling, some cross country off-piste riding and lots and lots of waving as we passed through the many villages.

Before we left on the ride we parked all the sidecars next to each other and Raymond said that it had to be some kind of record for most sidecars together in Africa at least! Probably post-war anywhere in the world too Ray?

The first leg of the day’s ride, Trevor took us past the ATKV resort, past the lower dam and the electricity scheme on a little loop. From there we went and looked at the beautiful view if one rides the loop past Mont-aux-Sources and then our ride hit a whole other dimension when we turned off onto the road next to the canal. Good fun watching everyone’s interpretation of mud and how to approach it!

What happens when your GPS indicates a road where you can clearly see a donga? That’s when the cross-country off-piste bit kicked in and we went marsh riding for a little bit but hey all’s well that ends well and it wasn’t long before we were back on the winding berg roads.

Lunch at Maxi’s in Bergville turned into an endurance event with us waiting just under an hour for 7 burgers. Nou ja.

Back at the Backpackers some of the riders and monkeys had gone swimming in their bike gear and everyone was having a jolly time by the looks and sounds of things – those that hadn’t opted for a snooze that is. When I was little Die Huisgenoot (there was no You yet that’s how long ago that is) used to have a center page cartoon called ‘Die Swape Speel’ – we kind of made me think of that.

And then it was all done and we were waving goodbye setting off for the Wimpy in Harrismith. Luckily we didn’t have to ride the stolen road again and went on the dirt road past Retiefsklip. A beautiful road that was better than church.

The N3 was another space all together with us riding through some big open spaces with beautiful cloudscapes to marvel at. I know everyone says how boring the N3 is but I kind of love that trance riding thing. Not too much thinking happens and I can just watch the landscape and sky do their magical thing.

And I wonder ….maybe our souls fly as fast as time?

Written by:  Alpha Greeff