Proud stockists of Ural sidecars & spares
The Great Cape Road Trip
- December 2009
The Monday morning,
after an early start we got onto the big, scary N1. This was the longest
leg of a journey that had been planned around distances possible and
time spent in sidecars with young monkeys.
As this was a family trip, involving 2 sidecars, mommy and daddy and 2 daughters aged 7 and 10 years, the route was very meticulously planned to make it both enjoyable and do-able. Our first leg involved 363km, the longest leg in distance for the trip. As it happened we had the wind and the sun at our backs and the monster trucks turned out to be really friendly and considerate.
We stopped in Laingsburg to visit the Laingsburg Flood Museum which turned out to be really informative and sad. It has been almost 20 years since this devastating flood hit Laingsburg on 25 January 1981. Also never knew that Laingsburg was founded by Greeffs!
Left Laingsburg - what a beautiful stretch of road driving through the Karoo. Stopped at Matjiesfontein for a much needed breakfast and some sightseeing with the kids.
Before we even knew it, we were filling up at the 1-stop in Touws River and turning off the N1 on our way to our first stop over – Ceres. Ceres was on the route as Ryno’s father was born there and spent the first years of his childhood there. Don’t know why but I thought Ceres would be pretty and pastoral. Maybe has something to do with the Ceres juice ad? Anyway turned out to be hot and the surrounding landscape beautiful, but not in a soft kind of way. We stayed over in The Ceres Inn, right in the middle of town. The food was excellent and the accommodation very spacious and luxurious. At supper we met a couple who were very interested in the sidecars and gave us good advice as to which would be the better route to take in to Cape Town.
Early on day 2 we left Ceres and traveled via Mitchells’ Pass to Tulbagh, Riebeeck-Kasteel and then on to Malmesbury for a bite to eat. From Malmesbury we were told that the view as you come over the rise near Melkbosstrand is an unequaled view of Table Mountain. However the small print states that this is only true on clear days and ours wasn’t a clear day! We were also advised that The Blue Peter Hotel in Bloubergstrand is a superb stop for bikers. The girls got their first taste of the Atlantic Ocean and promptly headed to the beach as we sipped our milkshakes on Blue Peter’s veranda. At least we were now also close enough to see Table Mountain regardless of the haze.
We arrived in Cape Town at The Breakwater Lodge just after two. We spent a fabulous afternoon with my brother Rick and his wife Wendy at the Waterfront. Visited their stall, Sunset Candles, in the Craft Market on the Waterfront, watched a bridge being drawn up, another bridge swung open, a tug pushing a fishing vessel out – fantastic. We then headed off to the Two Oceans Aquarium which is really spectacularly beautiful. A very good time was had by all and we ended the day with a wonderful meal.
morning 16 January dawned crystal clear. Being a public holiday was
an added bonus as we got to leave Cape Town city centre with no traffic
to contend with and a pristine image of the city in our minds.
Today we were heading out to Gansbaai. We chose to go and say hello to friends in Somerset West and then we headed for Gansbaai via Gordon’s Bay and the very scenic Clarence Drive.
At Betties Bay we made a detour down to Stony Point to go and do some penguin spotting. It gave us all the opportunity to stretch our legs and after waving the penguins goodbye we set off on the last leg for the day - past Hermanus, on to Stanford and finally the light house at Danger Point, where we were staying over for 2 nights.
The accommodation at Danger Point Lighthouse near Gansbaai turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip! We stayed in what was formerly the lighthouse keeper’s house, a stone’s throw from the ocean and surrounded by bush and animals and birds and rocks and snakes and stars and waves and a magnificent lighthouse! The house is spacious, 3 big bedrooms with 2 bathrooms and an extra guest toilet. Kitchen better equipped than the one at home, dining room lounge and huge stoep or veranda as the more cultured calls it. This house can be booked through SALATO, a division of Transnet. That first evening at Danger Point we unpacked our stuff and set out to have supper at The Lighthouse Tavern, a mere 5 kms away. What a splendid, splendid meal – and on the way back we saw this spectacular sunset with the lighthouse in the background.
we spent 2 nights here we did some sight seeing and beach bumming the
next day. Ryno and Emma did some geocaching, to feed the need so to
speak! First geocache stop at the Strandveld museum. This little museum
houses some artefacts from the wreck of The Birkenhead, along with a
whole lot of other interesting things.
We spent some time on the beach at Uilenkraalsmond right next to Franskraal, where the Uilsrivier runs into the sea. It is a fantastic little family beach. We asked the locals where to have lunch. They directed us in the direction of Kleinbaai to where the boats for the shark dives are launched. Here we found a Bistro named AquaZine. The food and service at Aquazine were both exceptional.
As we stopped at the Bistro, I was busy undoing my helmet and taking off gloves etc etc. When I looked up, I looked straight into a TV camera. A French TV crew had been sent to cover the recent murder of a French priest, Father Michael Bauble, in Diepsloot, Gauteng, a week or two before. They had done a documentary on Father Michael a few years ago, so it was shocking and sad news that brought them back. While in South Africa they made use of the opportunity to go shark diving. People come from all over the world to come and see these magnificent sharks in their natural habitat. They asked us whether we came for the shark diving and I answered that I was too scared. They found it quite amusing that I was prepared to ride a sidecar in South Africa but is too scared to go shark diving. I’m still not sure what that says about us South Africans?!
When we got back to the lighthouse we made use of the opportunity to climb up to the top of the lighthouse. This is included in the accommodation fee. The lighthouse is open to the public. What an awesome view from the top – really enjoyed this. Although the lighthouse was completed in 1895 it is in pristine condition and beautifully maintained. Outside the lighthouse there is a plaque commemorating the sinking of the Birkenhead. The plaque tells one that the Birkenhead was carrying troops on her way from Cape Town when she floundered on a submerged rock in Feb 1852. The Birkenhead had 636 souls on board and only 193 survived. It is commonly believed that the order ‘Women and children first’ was first given on that terrible night when the rescue boats were being lowered. Thank you to Colin Olivier, his wife Angela and Hubert Visser for keeping this monument so pristine.
the morning of Friday, 18 December we packed all our bags into Lola
and Humfree again. We said goodbye to Colin and Angela and ‘Misty
Waves’ and set off for the next stage of our Great Cape Road Trip!
The weather was overcast and wonderfully cool. We were on our way to
a farm outside Montagu where we would be spending the next 2 days.
In Gansbaai we gave the weather a good long hard look and decided to put on our wet suits. Anybody who has ever struggled into rain suit pants at the side of the road with full kit on, will understand just how hard and long the look is one gives the weather. Falling over trying to put your booted foot through the very small bottom of the rain suit pant leg is hilarious for everyone but the poor soul attempting this in full view of the world. Proved to be a very clever and ultimately dry move! We had a nice little shower and it remained overcast and rainy for the next 100kms. Well worth the effort in the end. The road took us back past Stanford over the Akkedisberg Pass to Van Brakel. At Van Brakel we continued towards the N2. We stopped about 15kms short of the N2 and had one of the best road side picnics of the trip! It was just one of those days, the weather was just off enough to be fun, everyone was full of beans and we had real good padkos – boerewors and boiled eggs with a few other odds and ends. Wonderful!
Being tourists in every sense of the word in our own country with the children turned out to be an incredible experience. I have never been to most of the places we went to and the beauty of the country really was overwhelming at times. We left the N2 a short distance after Riviersonderend at Stormsvlei. Now we were heading to Bonnievale, Ashton and Montagu. Not too long after turning off at Stormsvlei the landscape changes. As we have not been this way before it was exciting and before we knew it, Ryno and the girls were finding a geocache at the Bonnievale sign. Also first time we had to seriously start negotiating tortoises in the road! Keeps you awake if you’re riding your sidecar.
From here we headed towards Ashton and chanced upon the Viljoensdrift Wine Farm and Tasting venue. I’ve always wanted my own private movie theatre and here at Viljoensdrift they had the closest thing to it I have ever seen! Inside the bigger venue they have installed seats, 5 abreast, approx 6 rows. These seats are old movie house chairs which have obviously been rescued. The walls of the little movie house are corrugated iron and can slide to close it off completely from the bigger venue. Paradise!! Is all I can say. I was so impressed I even took a picture of this. One day when I’m all grown up I’m going to have myself one of these.
Have to add that was as far as my enchantment with Viljoensdrift went. Found it difficult to get someone to help and in the end we did not drink something and set off for lunch in Montagu. One could also go on a river cruise and take a picnic basket with you but as I said this proved easier said than done. Took a very fast turn through Ashton, in fact so fast that the geocache was not even attempted. As charming as some places are, so uncharming other places turn out to be. We arrived in Montagu after driving through the Cogmann’s Kloof. This is one of Thomas Bain’s many masterpieces. Not long with no breathtaking ravines or anything like that, but still incredibly impressive. What a genius – and it is a lovely ride on the sidecars as the speed limit is 80kmh which is almost optimum travelling speed for the Urals when they are going through bends and twisties.
Had a hearty lunch in Montagu and then we set off to our base for the next 2 days. I had booked accommodation at Dew Cottage on Vredenshoogte Farm with Doreen and Tarry. What a beautiful farm situated in the Langkloof at the foot of the Burgers Pass. It is approximately 25 kms outside Montagu. On Saturday morning we visited the morning market in Montagu. Excellent value with real hand crafted items, no mass produced rubbish of any sort. Also had a very good breakfast roll which is prepared fresh while you wait – very tasty indeed.
breakfast we set off for the Myrtle Rigg Memorial Church. Emma had found
this little church while looking for geocaches in the area. She was
very keen to see it and told me this is something she thought I would
like. She turned out to be 100% right. The little church was built from
a ‘design in the Norman style of stone, dug out of the hill about
100m nearby’ in Bonnievale. The corner stone is dated 1921. What
makes this little church so different is that it is believed to be the
only church in the world commissioned by a child – Mary Myrtle
Riggs contracted meningitis in 1911 at the age of 7. It was her dying
wish that her father should build a proper church for the people of
Bonnie Vale. Personally I found this really moving as this is the age
Klara, our youngest daughter is.
On our way home to the cottage on the farm we took a drive up the Burgers Pass. We were rewarded with a truly spectacular view of the farm and the Langkloof Valley. Ryno also managed to spot a nice dam on the farm for him and the kids to cool off. Mommy needs a bit more persuasion, but they had a ball.
On Sunday morning 20 December we packed up and hit the road again. After filling up in Montagu we set off on the famous R62 on route to our destination for the day – Seweweekspoort.
The road surface is in very good condition, the weather is perfect, the landscape is very beautiful – what more can one ask for? Padkos! so just before Barrydale we turned off to the Tradouws Pass, another Thomas Bain beauty. After a very scenic drive we turned round and had a road side picnic with the obligatory boerewors and eggs! Fabulous – what a joy!
Klara and I had turned back before Emma and Ryno in the Tradouw’s Pass to go and find a lekker picnic spot. We had just laid our little table when I noticed a black bakkie driving past. It wasn’t 3 minutes and the black bakkie was back. Who else but Tim from Sidecar Adventures in Cape Town! He had seen the sidecar at the side of the road and wondered if we needed assistance. His concern was much appreciated and we did not know at the time, but we would be meeting up with Tim again at the 3rd annual Graskop Sidecar Convention in Graskop in March 2010! By then Ryno and Emma had joined us again and we had a nice chat with him before he set off on his way to Cape Town again.
After having eaten our breakfast, we didn’t take any chances with the baboons so after the second ‘boggom’ we were out of there. Next stop Ronnie’s Sex Shop – had to do this as one cannot ride the R62 or part thereof without stopping at Ronnie’s!
We were very daring
and had a milkshake each! After some convincing Klara believed us when
we told her that the Roadkill Café really did serve burgers made
from roadkill. Needless to say she didn’t want a burger any more.
Jokes aside, this is one of those strange biking joints – there is absolutely nothing there but you haven’t lived until you’ve been there?
After Ronnie’s we headed off into the blue yonder on our way to Seweweekspoort. Next town on the R62 is Ladismith (spelt with an ‘I’ to differentiate it from Ladysmith in KZN). Quick fuel and ice cream stop turned into a nice chat with some BMW riders we met. Very beautiful old church and I also found mention of the Magrieta Prinsloo ox wagon again. Previously seen plaques commemorating Magrieta Prinsloo’s passing near Victoria West and in Christiana. The Magrieta Prinsloo is one of the ox wagons that did the 100 year commemoration Trek in 1938. The plaque originates from the Seweweekspoort where they brought her through, but apparently the plaque has been vandalized so often, they now keep it at the church in Ladismith.
It is not far from Ladismith that one finds the turn off to Seweweekspoort at Zoar and Amalienstein. One turns off to the left, toward the Klein Swartberge. The mountain range ahead looks solid and quite daunting, but the gravel road through the mountains at Seweweekspoort is really in good condition and it is a very beautiful drive through, feeling like the mountains on both sides are close enough to touch. It proved quite difficult to take photos as the sides of the mountains are literally too close to get the whole picture! Klara, our youngest, was literally gobsmacked – she was in awe and told me it is one of the most incredible things she has ever seen!
We slept over
at the Seweweekspoort Guest Farm right on the on the other side of the
mountains. Late afternoon we took a drive on the farm and the landscape
proved to be surprising to say the least. We
drove to what we thought was a little raised ridge – to get there
and find that behind it lies a deep ravine with real steep sides. Most
incredible, and it looked kind of flat and uneventful when you approach.
As exciting as this landscape is in its surrealness, it must have been
a nightmare to traverse with an ox wagon. With an Ural sidecar though
it proved to be huge fun!
On Monday morning we got an early start and left round about 7. The farm was bustling with people working in the fields everywhere. Today was going to be a monster for us. We had been stressing about today’s ride from the very beginning. It wasn’t that Baviaanskloof was so far in distance, it was just going to be a big one in terms of time spent on the road. We did well and got to Oudtshoorn just after nine o’clock. After a good old Wimpy breakfast we aimed for the closest Pick n Pay and shopped up a supply storm. Even had to buy 2 extra cooler bags as this was the first self catering without restaurants etc that we had to do and we were staying at Duiwekloof in the Baviaans for 3 nights. Ryno managed to get an entire shopping trolley into 2 cooler bags and strapped them onto Humfree and Lola’s luggage racks.
Oudtshoorn is a pretty town, but the nicest thing was the elderly gentleman who came up to us to have a chat and to tell us that he thought we really were doing the right thing taking our kids on a 3 week road trip with 2 sidecars! He was wonderful and in a strange way we could not have been told this at a better time as we were now heading for Willowmore and beyond that the legendary Baviaanskloof.
We managed to get out of Oudtshoorn round about eleven and by then it was hot already. Wow we had no idea how hot it was still going to get. On the stretch between Willowmore and the turn off to Baviaanskloof the heat was unbelievable – it is the first time ever that I closed my visor and all vents to keep the hot air from coming in! We rode approximately 20 kms before we found some shade next to the road for monkey maintenance! Once everyone was juiced up again we set off into the heat again. It was now so hot that Emma was riding underneath the little black cover on the sidecar. I was getting worried about Klara because she kept falling asleep and I couldn’t imagine that it could be good in this heat? Also kept listening for the slightest change in engine noise as I was convinced that it was now getting a bit extreme for the Urals, being air cooled and all. Anyway, never underestimate an Ural, they never missed a beat and we finally found another watering hole by a stream.
By now we were travelling on the gravel road so it had cooled down ever so slightly. We found another spot next to a little stream in the shade - great was our surprise when we had just managed to take our cooldrinks out when a very kind lady and her daughter stopped on a quad and asked us if we were ok? We assured her we were fine, but why did she want to know? She then proceeded to tell us that the bend we had just come around before we stopped at the stream has proved to be the undoing of many a motorbike rider and they usually came to see if the fallen needed some help! Our experience of the people in the Baviaanskloof over the next 3 days proved that this caring, hospitality and friendliness extends throughout.
Wherever we went we found the Urals acted as an excuse for people to make small talk and find out about the sidecars. Once the children got out and they realized we were a family it would be easy to have a good chat about what was happening in their area with many people offering valuable advice and information on road conditions, routes and all sorts. It always makes me smile because there truly is such a thing as the UDF or Ural Delay Factor!
Duiwekloof is a wilderness camp only 40 kms from Willowmore. It is in the western or farming half of the Baviaanskloof and we spent 3 blissful days there. Luckily the heat wave that we rode in on (only 42 degreesC!) had subsided and on the morning we left we needed extra jerseys – how bizarre! About the Baviaanskloof one could easily write a book. The Baviaanskloof is situated between the Baviaanskloof and Kouga Mountains.
The next morning we went exploring and found Rietrivier, the farm with the Makkedaat Caves in which one can stay over – also the source of all info about what’s happening where in the kloof. From Rietrivier it was a short hop to Uitspan, the farm where you can have almost any mechanical problem solved as well as your tires sorted out as well as have lunch as well as an ice cold beer AND go and look at the natural fountain about 100 meters behind the farmstead in their little klofie. Back at Duiwekloof we spent the rest of the afternoon in the very clever and cool little rock pool at Duiwekloof. At our cottage, The Blue Duiker, a sprinkler is left running on the lawn all day. Every afternoon a big tortoise would come and park in the cool spray for a while.
Next morning we decided to do some more exploring when Lola started sounding decidedly unhappy. We drove past Studtis to Rietpoort, the only place in the Baviaanskloof where one can buy fuel. Here we had a long conversation with one of the born and bred Baviaanklowers about leopard and conservation. What an incredibly progressive farming community. It was an inspiration meeting him and listening to him. We also stopped off at Noukloof but because Ry wanted to get back to sort out Lola’s problem we never did the walk in their kloof. Apparently it is very beautiful and quite other worldly! Big ferns and all kinds of fantastic plants and things on this walk that stretches approx 3 kms. We asked if we could have our own sandwiches at their tables and once again had an interesting conversation about the Angora goats they keep and and and. We watched their Anatolian Shepherd Dog in action with his goats. Fascinating.
Back at Duiwekloof Ry found that Lola’s air filter was badly clogged – the result of all those miles in second place in the dust! Ry managed to clean the filter and she was as good as gold again. We also had a bit of bad luck with Emma getting stung by a giant hornet. Ugly big black thing that must have flown into the windscreen and fell over onto her leg. Shame I felt so sorry for her because it itched like crazy and got very swollen. Once we got to Brenton on Sea Ryno managed to go onto the Internet and we found out that vinegar takes away both the sting and the itch!
I could not believe that 3 days could fly by that fast with nothing much to do. There is no electricity other than solar and battery powered lights at Duiwekloof. Best of all there is hardly any cell phone reception in the kloof, so 3 days of cell phone silence, what bliss!
On the morning of the 24th we packed up and headed out the Baviaanskloof the way we came - with one big difference. The weather had changed significantly. The night before the wind had picked up and it got overcast. What fabulous weather on the way out – cool with a slight chill even. I couldn’t believe our luck. There is no better travelling weather for the sidecars. Today was also a biggie for us as we were travelling down to Knysna via the Prince Alfred Pass (one of the princes of passes!)
The Prince Alfred Pass is a fantastic feat of road engineering. It is one of the magical Thomas Bain passes, built in 1860 to 1865 with approx 200 convicts. It was an unbelievable experience!! Stopped for yet another roadside picnic, yummie!! Ry and kids did some more geocaching. The scenery was breathtaking and the road in excellent condition. It got damaged a number of years ago by flooding but has been restored to its original state.
down the Prince Alfred Pass, we came to the Diepwalle State Forest.
Here we went to visit one of the older residents in the forest.
Reaching Knysna we drove to Brenton on Sea where we spent 4 days treating the kids and ourselves to a serious beach holiday. We had a magical 4 days! The weather was beautiful and like true Gautengers we spent Christmas Eve as well as Christmas morning on the beach. It’s a long big beach with a spectacular sunset! Quite magical. The accommodation at the Brenton on Sea Cottages was positively posh, and we just had a very relaxing few days.
Drove down to Sedgefield to meet up with friends from home one day. Climbed down to a very secluded little beach just round the corner from the big beach one afternoon and took some incredible photographs. The kids got some time off and they got to recharge their TV batteries when we went for a snooze in the afternoons.
After our beach cottage stay came to an end we drove about 10 minutes down the road to get to Lightley’s Houseboats on the Knysna Lagoon. The next three days days involved staying in one of the house boats. We had a ball. First night I had my misgivings about the wisdom of this idea but we quickly adjusted to the space, or rather lack thereof as it is literally like a little 4 sleeper caravan on water! Turned out to be real good fun, saw the whole place from a different perspective. Also have to add we had exceptionally good weather most of the time which also makes a significant difference.
On the second
last of our 3 days we moored our boat at the jetty and of we trundled
to Stormsriver to go and do the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour. It is a fabulous
experience and gave me some perspective on the size of those giants.
On the last day of the year we packed our belongings once again and headed via Wilderness to George. After a lekker Steers breakfast in George, we all looked forward to transversing the Outeniqua Mountains via the Montagu Pass. Also one of the older passes, all dirt road. Once again did the odd geocache on the way up. At the top or just behind found a little place called Herold. Never knew such a place existed, tiny little village, very beautiful. New Year's Eve we slept on a farm, Little Cross Retreat, in the Little Karoo near De Rust. One of the better New Year's we’ve had in a while. Also had the best potato salad I’ve had in my entire life, thanks to our host and the owner, Jack.
Although it was
still a little early to count our chickens, Ry
and I had a tremendous sense of achievement as our first Great Road
Trip with the sidecars and the children had proven to be a huge success!
On the first day of 2010 we got onto Humfree and Lola for the last time on the trip as we were now heading back to Beaufort West and the trailer. Before we stopped in Beaufort we got to drive through Meiringspoort with all those incredible river crossings and not long after that we had a cold drink in Klaarstroom.
After Klaarstroom the road got straighter and faster and one could feel the magic of the world we left behind grow weaker and weaker. We arrived safely in Beaufort to find our car and trailer waiting.
Needless to say there will other Great Road Trips in the not too distant future if all goes well.