Home / Bike Rides / Karoo Bike Ride - Oct 2012 275


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Day One of our bike trip through the Karoo up to and including Ladismith... this was an easy leg on tar road via Barrydale. We stayed at Die Withuisie which was a single cottage wedged between two vineyards on a farm outside Ladismith. The moon was so bright that we took a moonlit walk to the farm dam that evening (and I recorded a short video clip of the frogs that were calling loudly)... Day Two of our bike trip through the Karoo from Ladismith to The Hell.... ride to Oudtshoorn was on tar with good weather and we had lunch in Oudtshoorn... after leaving Oudtshoorn we headed for the Swartberg Pass. Here we left the tar road and climbed steeply up the gravel road but light rain had set in and low cloud meant that at the higher altitudes we were in thick mist with a visibility of about 20 metres. We did manage to still find a geocache on the way before we turned off onto the road towards The Hell.... this road is about 48km long and despite a light drizzle, a few shallow river crossings, and some tight turns the road was pretty good until the last sharp descent into The Hell.... what a road - it was largely single vehicle width with 170 degree tight turns and descending very steeply. Most of it had to be ridden in first gear to prevent the brakes over heating and with no barriers on the side (and a pillion) I could not chance over balancing on turns... But despite this we got down without any mishap.... The REAL excitement started on Day 3 on our way out (something we will probably never forget)... Day Three of our bike trip through the Karoo... travelling from The Hell to Sutherland. What a battle to get out of The Hell after heavy rains overnight had severed the only telephone line, flooded the streams, and turned the gravel roads to very slippery wet clay where even your boots could not get any grip. Remember that the first mountain pass road out of The Hell is basically a single track (with no walls) that climbs steeply upwards with 170 degree switch back blind turns (bad enough in the dry, and a nightmare in the wet). But that road was not the worst of our problems... the wet clay for about 30km onwards had to be negotiated mostly in 1st and 2nd gear with Chantel walking some stretches as we could either not see around corners or I was struggling to keep the bike upright... one stretch was so slippery that when the bike veered left in the soft clay and my boots had no grip, I deliberately dropped the bike against the tall sand wall on the side of the road to prevent falling and struggling to pick the bike up without any grip for my boots... the cloud was at least high so we had good visibility. Finally we cleared The Hell and got onto the beautiful Swartberg Pass that winds through the majestic Swartberg Mountains. What a stunning road and the gravel was more sandy and in better riding condition. From there through Prince Albert (where we had a pricey and very long to prepare roll) and on to Sutherland. Chantel got a big shock in Prince Albert when she could not find her wallet with R600 in it... she was pretty down all the way to Sutherland where we eventually found the wallet in a small bottom pocket of her jacket. The road to Sutherland was not the one we originally intended to travel as the GPS had routed us along the N1 and the tar road to Sutherland but we had lost a lot of time getting out of The Hell so this did make up some time. Sutherland had a freezing 14 degree wind blowing but the friendly townspeople made up for this. The guest-house owner even put 1L of milk in the fridge for us, and the Perlman House Restaurant not only had great food at very cheap prices, but also very friendly owners and even the pub crowd kept greeting us.... Day Four of our bike ride through the Karoo.... Started with a guided tour of the NG Church at Sutherland where we also saw the graffiti left by English soldiers during the Anglo-Boer War. Before leaving we met up with guy who was recovering his motorbike after having crashed on the gravel road from Middelpos... a freezing cold wind was blowing when we left Sutherland. We did find two geocaches along the road to Matjiesfontein... Weather was warmer when we got to Matjiesfontein and we were lucky enough to see the Blue Train arrive there on it's weekly stop. This also means a special 10 minute bus tour is done for the passengers and we were invited to join the tour. The guide also showed us through Lord Milner's residence. We saw the Royal Daimler from 1947 in the Transport Museum and also found some old railway carriages to explore at the museum. After Matjiesfontein we headed to Jagerskraal Farm where we stayed our last night. Day Five and after a big farm breakfast with home-made bread on Thursday morning we headed back to Cape Town with a great tail wind behind us. We did try to find a geocache near Touws River but were not successful. The only incident on the way back was passing through De Doorns we saw the truck in front braking and come to a standstill... I was about to go past it when I saw local residents on the foot bridge warning us to turn around... ahead about 100 metres I could see people on the road demonstrating (about lack of government service delivery). We did a quick U-turn and headed back along the N1 to detour via the town itself. At the entrance to the town the traffic police had just set up their road block to close the N1 and re-route traffic through the town.