Proud stockists of Ural sidecars & spares

Annual Memel to Country Trax Sidecar Camping Trip - Dec 2013

By Alpha Greeff

Tan tan taaan!! Can you hear the drum roll or should I rather say roll of thunder? It would seem every year come time to get together our camping gear for this particular annual sidecar trip, the weather gods watch closely and then they give us some of their most impressive and extreme examples of what they are capable of.

This year was absolutely no different. Picture this – Thursday late afternoon in the Hennopsriver Valley where Sidecar Africa is….and we experience a landscape changing storm. Five of our bigger trees go down in the process and needless to say Eskom power gone etc etc etc. The Greater Tshwane area will eventually be declared a disaster area because of this storm!.

Friday morning dawns crystal clear and the troops gather and leave Skyview with smiles all round. At least this time we don’t have to ride in torrential rain for the first 4 hours of the journey so no complaints As always I entertain myself in my helmet with the distance signs to Delmas that don’t add up and before you can say ‘breakfast’ we stop at the Wimpy in Delmas.

Being suitably fortified by Wimpy breakfasts and Burgers and coffee and hot chocolate and and (you get the drift!) we take the turn off to Devon and what a beautiful ride it turns out to be – it looks like what I would imagine farmers dream about. As far as the eye can see the landscape has been ploughed and planted – it is very beautiful. There is so much moisture in the air from the previous days’ rain, that the views take on a Vermeer-like quality. Maybe I should stick to the music in my head and not start with artists too?

After Devon we don’t have to torture ourselves with Leandra and luckily we turn onto a dirt road to Greylingstad which brings us to the R23 for a short while –yay and before we know it we turn off onto the dirt again to Robbertsdrif and just there we had an unscheduled lunch stop as Frodo starts making very unhealthy noises.

The decision is taken for Eugene on Priscilla to tow Ryno, and Emma, Ryno’s monkey,  will go with Adele on Olivia. Adele turns out to be no rookie – I think she’s a rider ringer! Her performance with a monkey behind as opposed to next to her through some truly slippy slidey mud, was impressive to say the least! When we stopped half way to Vrede the evidence of Adele and Emma’s mud wrestling could clearly be seen, but they were both still smiling!


Once in Vrede we go and have a look at the ‘Elektriese Rollermeule” and have a coffee and generally fillup and faff around while waiting for the Priscilla/Frodo towing train. When I saw Frodo I felt sorry for Ryno who was right behind Eugene through all the thick sticky mud – heeha. But hey they were also still smiling – must be that Ural magic! (upon inspection it was found that a nut and washer holding the air filter down had not been tightened properly and had made their way into the cylinder…)

I have written before about the road between Vrede and Memel. It has quite an other worldly feel about it which varies according to the season, time of day, how much rain has fallen and so on. Even though I was looking forward to it, I had forgotten how beautiful it really is and was once again transported by the magical display of light and landscape! Previously one was only prohibited from thinking you are riding in heaven because of the potholes. As these have recently been fixed, it really was like having broken on through to ‘the other side’.

In Memel we have a quick hello and chat with Audrey and Chris at the hotel and then we set off to Marie’s place to set up camp and have supper! At Marie’s we meet up with Coenie and Lientjie as well as Hester and Chris which bring us to a total of 13 sidecars – biggest camping contingent to date!

We are also joined by our International French world sidecar riders Hubert Kriegel and Jean-Louis Grauby. Hubert or Yogi Bear is he of the if you wanted to check it out. Nine years of riding and still going strong.

Back to the camping part - this is our Marie of the Culinary Super Sisterhood. And this year, instead of just making gluttons of ourselves at breakfast, we got greedy and asked Marie to make us supper too. Were we clever or were we clever?

It is an incredible feeling of well-being to have been riding hard all day and to sit down and be rewarded with a meal that someone took great care with. I reckon by now anyone who has read half a Trip Report of mine will know I love good food. So let me not disappoint and let me tell you what we had!

Have you ever eaten fat slices of butternut served with fresh sage? There were chicken breasts and rump steak served with salsa verde butter, baby potatoes with rosemary and olive rings – where does she find these combinations?Needless to say we all ate too much and still when I got into my sleeping bag I wished I could have just another mouth full – haha! At least we had breakfast to look forward to!

I took a picture of what was on my plate for breakfast so I could describe it in detail – see it in all its technicolour glory!

I have thought about Marie’s food and why it stands out so much for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that not only are the ingredients as fresh as it could possibly be, but it has to do with Marie loving what she does as well as enjoying cooking for people. Ultimately food has to be enjoyed and I think this is what distinguishes Marie from so many other excellent cooks. Just cooking well is not enough, one must understand what it is people enjoy about food and eating. She always presents her food beautifully.

What was I writing about? Sidecar riding –wow see where that got us.

Back to the business at hand and the fact that we had a journalist in our midst during breakfast. We had the privilege and pleasure of meeting Mary-Ann Cillie and her family – husband, Danie, and daughters Maria and Margaretha visiting us all the way from their farm between Vrede and Warden. Mary-Ann is a freelance writer for Die Volksblad and had done an article on Lientjie and Coenie Harley’s meanderings through the Free State on their sidecar, so she came to have a look and speak to everyone. Obviously talking about our sidecars comes easily and we had to be dragged from the breakfast table to get going. Of course we had to take our visitors for a whirl around Memel and once we said all our goodbyes we headed for the church – no not for the service but for our photo taking session! I will have you know though that we had been shown the inside of the church on a previous visit. It’s a beautiful example of the sandstone churches of this part of the world. This particular congregation is so jacked up they broadcast the service to the old age home every Sunday morning. It always amazes me what people get up to when left to their own devices.

Finally we got going and after a bunch up and look see stop at Die Kontreiwinkel at the top of Botha’s Pass, we headed out Wakkerstroom way. Again I found myself mesmerised by the landscape and the light and really enjoyed the beauty we moved through. The riding was easy and we all arrive in Wakkerstroom happy as little larks.

Wakkerstroom is the lunch stop for the day and eventually everyone has finished and we’re all ready to get going again. The second half of the day’s riding really is very scenic with us descending from the escarpment past Inyoni and back up again to where we finally pitch our tents for the night at Jan Staal’s Country Trax.

For the last 45 minutes of the riding day I had been watching this huge storm that stretched from side to side and filled the horison. Luckily we had enough time to pitch tents and get washed and ready for supper before this monster of a swirley cloudey storm thing hit us. It was awe inspiring seeing all that energy and lightning and wind up close and personal. Somehow encountering a storm in the country side as opposed to the city really does bring home the scale.

Elsie, another sister from the Culinary Super Sisterhood, spoilt us as usual with perfectly cooked lamb and spinach in a blanket and rice and beautiful salads. We ate like we had not seen food all day and then we braved the rain and made a run for it. It still thundered and flashed and rained for a good part of the night. Can report back that the Malamoo fling open tents are 100% water proof.

Jan told us about a route along the escarpment to Ermelo that we should give a try. The value of local knowledge is beyond that of coral! After the previous night’s monster storm, none of us felt like the uninspiring corrugated road to Amersfoort, or the disintegrating, dilapidated Amersfoort itself for that matter, so we were very enthusiastic to ride a different route.

The 13 kilometers along the escarpment turned out to be the best ride of the whole weekend! It was just unadulterated sidecar bliss, with water puddles and beautiful flowers and the scenery all conspiring to make it a memorable bit of riding. I literally felt on a high and not just because we were riding on the edge of the escarpment, but because it was so much fun. My monkey and I both laughed out loud when we hit a waterhole deep enough for us to create something like a bow wave when the front wheel disappeared – luckily we had enough momentum and the front wheel came back up and out the water again before we had serious issues.

After our joyous jaunt we set off descending the escarpment en-route to Ermelo. I was happy we were riding down as I think the road we went down on would have proved tricky on the up with the muddy wet road conditions.

At Ermelo we had a fuel stop and then hit the freeway (just sounds more fun than highway!) and rode on through Bethal and on past Trichardt and before we knew it we were back in Delmas sitting in the Wimpy – hahaha!!

And so ended another happy camping trip on our sidecars. We had splendid meals, beautiful scenery, exciting riding and great weather – we could not have asked for more. Sidecars and camping are a fantastic combination.