It was in the middle of 2013 that I knew I had to be in Cape Town for a wedding on the 15th of December. This is a tricky weekend – the best weekend to travel to Cape Town from Johannesburg is that weekend. Not because the road are quiet (they aren’t), but because of the work timing. Everyone and everything shuts down on that weekend and South Africa goes on holiday. Being an entrepreneur means you have to slot in with the work modes of everyone else, but this time it was different.
I really wanted to do a road trip down to Cape Town on my motorbike. Nick and Koos have both done the trip before (although sometimes just to bomb down) and I felt it was a right-of-passage, but I knew that I didn’t want to do it in one go – the plan would have to include a few extra days and lots of extra dirt kilometers that aren’t found on the N1.
I finally made up my mind to start the trip the week before- leaving on Friday the 6th of December and arriving in Cape Town on the 14th December, just in time for the wedding. It also so happened that my girlfriend Lee-Ann, or sometimes called SWAMBO for humorous effect, would be back in the country and the possibility of a pillion trip came about. It would be an epic mission with someone who I love spending time with – all round a winner.
In our initial planning it seemed clear we wanted to hit a couple of spots – Lesotho, Baviaanskloof and Die Hel. On the way down we would want to hit as many mountain passes and dirt roads as possible. A further spanner in the works quickly appeared – I had a family festival in Makwassie to attend. It would be silly to not be able to attend it on our way down, but it did mean we had to shoot way further west that we had planned, and actually skip Lesotho entirely, but also possibly mean that we had to drive an extra day. In an ideal world we would have stopped for 2 days at they key spots, but this didn’t seem a reality if we had an extra 600km to fit it.
It seems a proper time to say that we lost Lee-Ann’s camera with all her photo’s on it. That sucks. All pics here taken with an Iphone.
I had a lot of work to do on my bike. I ride a BMW F800GS and it had needed some sprucing up. Not from a servicing perspective (although in retrospect it could have gotten a slight tune-up), but more from an equipment setup. I had wanted a top-box for a while, and as we were doing to be 2-up I knew luggage and packing space would be a concern for us. I had read quite a bit on the F800GS windscreen being small, and on previous trips I experienced a lot of head buffeting. I was also practically running on slicks.
It’s with this decision that our trip effectively started on the Thursday with a trip out to Edenvale. A whole day trip. I managed to source HID LED Lights, larger windscreen, panniers, luggage and a topbox from Jacques Nel at Evolution Motorcycles. He also agreed to fit the entire kit – something that I hadn’t planned on spending the entire day there for. I’m incredibly grateful that he included this in the sale, and also that he helped set everything up. There would be no way that I could have set this all up on my own. The lights would definitely have blown as soon as I started the bike up.
So in my final decision I ended up with a new set of ATG soft luggage, Givi Screen, LED spot lights and a Motoradical top box. Hell yeah.
From here on out I headed to Full Throttle where I got myself a new set of front and back tyres, a small little wind deflector (life saver in the end!) and a few other odds and ends. Total cost for everything ended up being in the R17k region, which can sound expensive, but it made the journey a LOT easier.
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Our plan was to do a short ride and visit Makwassie/Wolmaranstad on day 1, stay over there and got to the family festival. Day 2 would take us to Nieu Bethesda after quite a few KM’s in the saddle after which we’d make our way into the Baviaanskloof via Willowmore. We’d stay here for 2 nights before heading in to Wilderness. After Knysna we’d make our way on Die Hel before finally ending somewhere along the R62. The idea was to end the last day fairly close to Cape Town (under 300km) so that it wouldn’t feel like that far a stretch toe make. In total our trip would take 8 days and we’d do close to 2,000KM. That was our plan and we were adamant to not stick to it.
Pillion for 2,000 KM
This would also be Lee-Ann’s first long distance, multi-day trip. There are lots of things that change here – firstly we didn’t have the right gear for her and were a bit hesitant to buy new gear, and then we also weren’t sure how she would feel after 6-8 hours on the bike on the longer days. Lee-Ann had done multi-day trips to Verkykerskop and other shorter day trips in the Johannesburg region, but this was a totally different ball game. We’d be on the bike for a minimum of 4 hours a day and then also do this for 8 days in a row.
Then there would also be the personal relationship between us that could be strained as we reach tiredness after potentially consecutive days of hard riding, possibly in the rain, possibly in the dark. We had no idea what strain it would put on our relationship – I had done multi-stage mountainbike rides with my dad and we’d done 4 and 5 day trips through Lesotho and Swaziland, but it was always as a solo biker. This would be my first time riding together with a partner in such intimate quarters – not that I minded the time, it’s more that I sometimes get a tendency to be a bit of winging bitch when I get hungry or tired. I didn’t know how I would cope with the heavily loaded bike or with the close proximity of another person for such a prolonged time.
We ended up borrowing Koos’s extra Hi-Viz helmet, Nick’s jacket and Lee-Ann used a mix of hiking boots, jeans and a some pretty fancy gloves to round off the look. What happened to our relationship? You’ll have to continue reading to find that part out.
Day 1: Johannesburg to Makwassie: 250KM
After the Thursday I finally managed to get out of Edenvale – I think I arrived in the East Rand at around 8AM and only finally got out of there with new tyres, screens etc at around 5pm. I got home and we started packing, more excited about the new toys on the bike than the actual trip at that stage.
It’s odd how one doesn’t think of the consequences of throwing yourself into a trip like this. I often don’t get a huge sense of anticipation before a big trip, I know I’m going, but I don’t really register it. It’s as if I’m just going through the packing motions – more fearful of forgetting something (I used to forget something on cycling races when I was younger). I think this might be because of the early morning cycling race missions with my father when I was younger. It’s part of your DNA.
I was also interested to see how Lee-Ann (or at this stage… SWAMBO) would pack. The ATG luggage panniers are big, but not big enough. I think their max is 37liters, which still needs to include space for sleeping gear. None the less, Lee-Ann managed to pack perfectly fine! I think she actually stuck it to me and was packed with less bulk than I had!
Fortunately the distance on our first day wasn’t that far – we left at a respectable time that morning into the general Potchefstroom direction. I was loving the wider screen that gave me protection from the wind, and just being on the bike again. It’s an incredible feeling. The feel of the road came back and I knew we were travelling – out on the open road on the way to some destination in the distance.
We stopped at Potch to wake-up and refuel, but it wasn’t long after a late breakfast that we arrived at the lodge my parents were staying just outside Wolmaranstad. We’d meet them here and then go through to the farm just outside Makwassie together.
The lodge itself is pretty damn amazing – there are over 350 lions kept that they use for breeding, including a range of other animals. We didn’t have time on Saturday to visit, but as we came back from the family festival, tired from the standard family affairs we snuck in to our insanely squeaky 4-poster bed – tired after a long day of riding and family affairs.