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Offline alanB

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Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« on: October 27, 2014, 06:17:52 pm »
I decided it was time to go on another trip a while ago and opened negotiations with TK (Tony) and Straatkat (Bertie) on the subject.

After a few suggestions back and forth via email we settled on the weekend of the 24th Oct - destination Bezhuidenhout's Pass (camping at Sterkies Dam) and then from there to Clarens to ride the Old Mill Route.

So all was set.

Unfortunately Julian, Bertie's mate, pulled out at the last moment (he was initially going to join us on his HP2). So it was just the three of us on 610's.

I planned a route down from the Blockhouse One Stop on the R59 trying to stick to sand roads as much as possible all the way to Sterkies where we would camp on Friday night.  

I didn't have time to do much more.  Because, as is always the case, the weeks leading up to the trip suddenly became very hectic work-wise and I was very distracted.  

So I ended up getting the bike ready late Thursday night and hurriedly tossing stuff in the bag, without a hell of a lot of preparation.

Just before I went to sleep I realised I hadn't transferred the route to my GPs, so I had to get up and do that - good thing I did because I also realised I hadn't  even thought about the Old Mill Route and how to find it.  

I remembered downloading the GPS track from the forum a while ago, so in my tired state, I found that and transferred that as well onto my GPS.  I had to do it a few times because it didn't show up initially (this might be a cause of what ensued later  :P ::)).

Anyway, next morning I sprang from bed, sorted out all the work stuff with my partner and finished packing.

Was just about to leave when I received a call from Bertie who was stuck on the side of the road 5 k's from home with a bike that had just cut out! :o :patch:  He was obviously quite frustrated and was talking about not making it and going home.  But luckily after some thought and calls back and forth we identified the cause of the problem (he had given his bike a thorough going over and had inadvertently got the choke cable stuck when he reassembled it all).  So he disconnected the choke cable and all was well.  :thumleft: :ricky:

I was very relieved because it would have been a real pity if he had to withdraw due to something so small.

So eventually we all met at the Block House One Stop an hour or so late.



After a hurried breakfast (for Bertie) we headed off.

The sand roads my GPS found leading from there down to Villiers were superb!  They were smooth, un-corrugated and deserted!

It was a nice day and it was great to be away from the stresses of work.  

I soon got into a great mood  :ricky:

We stopped a couple of times on the way down.  It was very hot, my ambient temp gauge was showing 30C!





On the second stop, we could see storm clouds building on the horizon in front of us and lighting and thunder were constantly evident.

It was clear that we had picked the 1st weekend of spring in which proper rains would start again for the year!  It didn't look like we could avoid getting a thorough soaking.

But being very tough, we all put on our rain suites (except me who didn't have one, and was really wishing I had :P) and pressed on regardless.



  
« Last Edit: October 29, 2014, 09:18:27 pm by alanB »
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Offline alanB

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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2014, 06:50:44 pm »
We finally hit the rain as we were approaching Harrismith.  We were caught between two quite big storms - one on our left, which passed us by, and another in front on the right, which was pretty ominous.

It got darker and darker as the clouds closed in and lightening flashes were very frequent.

The clouds were deep purple and black in places.  Every time we crested a hill we could see very heavy rain lashing the ground beneath them off in the distance.

I constantly compared the position of the storms with our GPS route to try work out whether we would have to go beneath that deluge.

We had been lucky so far.

It turned out that we just hit the edge of the big storm and had to ride in a few K's of reasonably light/medium rain.  Which was lucky because that was actually quite difficult.  Not because of mud or anything, but the combination of late afternoon sun shining just below the clouds and rain/dust on our visors made it virtually impossible to see.  

I found myself riding completely blind for seconds at a time - which is not a recipe for success  :P.

But by pushing through we managed to evade the clutches of the storm and skirt the edge.

Just outside Harrismith the Garmap road I was following seemed to run dead in a farmers field, with nothing more than a very rough track down the side of a hill.

It was actually great  :ricky:

Unfortunately, the track turned back into a road again after a few k's - I would have liked to follow that all the way into Harrismith.

When we got there we headed to Nando's for a burger.

The storm clouds were getting larger and the one side of the sky was just black.

After a not so quick snack, we came out and looked at the sky.  It looked even worse.  We were supposed to be camping at the Sterkies campsites, but the whole horizon in that direction was hidden beneath one huge storm.  And it was coming in our direction.

An instant executive motion was proposed, and passed unanimously, that camping was off the programme for that night!  

After using the wonders of the internet and iPhones we found a hotel nearby called the Green Lantern which had space for the night.  We headed there hurriedly with the rain at our backs.



It was an old railway hotel that had been around a while that had recently changed management, who seemed to have made it quite popular locally.

It had a very nice cosy bar.  It was very rustic  :biggrin:



After a pleasant meal we retired - the next morning we would be riding down Bezuidenhout's pass.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2014, 09:01:54 pm by alanB »
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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2014, 07:28:25 pm »
Look forward to the rest of the RR,thks.
 

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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2014, 07:31:52 pm »
That last pic belongs in the "WTF thread"!
The ne'er-do-wells seem to be doing quite well for a change.
 

Offline A/T

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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2014, 07:38:32 pm »
Nice one guys! Look forward for the rest!
 

Offline alanB

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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2014, 08:23:50 pm »
Next morning we were on the road reasonably early, after a nice hot breakfast.  

I had looked up the GPS Coord's of Bezhuidenhout's Pass on internet and entered that into my GPS as a waypoint.  I asked the thing to lead us there.

So off we went.

It was a great morning, and the scenery was awesome!



Again Garmap lead us into a farmers field, but unfortunately, this time there was no way through.  After some discussions with a very friendly farm manager, I worked out which road we should have been on. I had missed the turning about 10 k's earlier (you can actually see it in the photo above).  So we headed back.

The roads were superb riding, not too corrugated, but nice and rough so you felt like you were on real dirt.  Plus the scenery was really nice.  I was really enjoying it   :thumleft:

After following the new route, we finally arrived at the GPS waypoint marked as Bezhuidenhout's Pass.  It was a bit underwhelming.



We stopped for a snack and looked around doubtfully (or at least I did).  There was a slight rise up ahead but that didn't look like anything one could call a pass.

But anyway, the riding was enjoyable and the scenery was very nice - it was great to be out on the bike, so who cared if I had the wrong coordinates!

We set off up the slight rise.  It had a few washouts but nothing difficult.  Mist was rolling in as we rode and it started getting darker.  I stopped at the summit and waited for the others, in front of a gate that lead down the other side of the rise, out of view.  The track had become quite narrow by then.

When Bertie arrived he asked "was that it?", trying not to show disappointment.

I shrugged, I wasn't really sure.

Tony arrived.  He asked "was that it?", with the same polite tone - I had to laugh.

But that was not it thankfully.

After going through the gate the track became nice and technical.  Not terribly so, but enough to make riding all that way worth it.

There were some nice rock steps and fairly deep erosion washouts.  

But the recent rains had made the ground very slick and slippery in places.  You had to ride very smoothly with a reasonable amount of momentum while holding your breath, to not start gyrating wildly  :biggrin:

I didn't take many pictures, because the object was to ride, so the only ones I have are at the relatively smooth bits where I stopped and waited for the others.









It was a very enjoyable bit of riding that was over far too soon.

Tony slipped right at the end in a very slick slimy bit - but apart from that, we all made it down fine.

It was another great day in Africa.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2014, 08:56:57 pm by alanB »
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Offline sidetrack

Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2014, 09:18:58 pm »
Nice one always good to be out on the bike, never been to Harrismith side but have done Old Mill which was fun.
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Ride reports :
http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=134175.0 Penge's pass and the Old Forest http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=9421.0 - Orange Atlantic adventure http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=7514.0 - 805 km day trip http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=20260.0 - East Cape Bash http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=70199.0 - Two KTM thumpers head north
 

Offline alanB

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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2014, 10:17:02 pm »
When we got to the bottom we had a quick debate about what was next.

Options were to turn around and ride back up the pass, and then onto Clarens, or else just head to Clarens on the shortest route and try and get the Old Mill Route in that same day.

It was decided to head straight for Clarens as it was already quite late.  We had taken it very easy on the way out and had stopped to admire the view quite frequently.  Not a bad thing  :thumleft:.  But time had marched on - as it does.

So we headed back up Oliviershoek pass past the dam.

The tar road was in a shocking state.  They were working on it, but clearly not going very fast, because the bits where they had ripped off the tar and covered with stones were full of potholes, as well as the remains of the tar which had some very nasty potholes.

It had become quite chilly as well.

We stopped at the lookout point overlooking the dam.  The dam looked gorgeous.  There was a stiff wind blowing (about 15-20 knots I would estimate) and I yearned to be on a windsurfer again.  During my student days we had spent lots of time there.  I had learned how to handle proper high winds on a board there, as well as how to drink and party the way only a student can  :biggrin:  It was a great time of my life and I made friends then that are still very close today.

So it was quite nostalgic looking out over the dam.



We then turned and headed for Clarens via the Golden Gate National Park.

Bertie was demonstrating his not inconsiderable road riding skills on all the twisty bits.  Hanging off the Husky very professionally and taking the corners at what looked full speed.  

I on the other hand, do not like tar, I find it very tedious and boring, and am quite slow through corners, much to Bertie's dismay at times  :biggrin:

The scenery in the park as always was spectacular!

When we got to the Golden Gate campsite we stopped for fuel (Tony was riding on fumes).  We looked around.  It looked very nice.

They had some sort of trail running marathon event on and the campsite was full of those little identical tents you now see at all these event like the Cape Epic etc (some tent supplier somewhere is making a killing  :biggrin:).  

In fact it looked so nice, we decide to ask if they had any space.

The woman at the desk said they only had space at the back, as if that was a bad thing.  And said we should go check before paying in case we didn't like it.

But IMO it was better than the proper camp sites.  There was a whole big field with trees etc all to ourselves.  Plus they had a shop with charcoal, meat, beer etc.  What more could you want?

So we decided to take it.

It was great!



It was just as well that we were all alone because Tony decided to show off the latest in enduro underwear from China - which was not for sensitive viewers  :biggrin:



But it really was a very nice spot for camping.



All the time we were setting up camp, the relentless stormy weather was signalling its presence in the form of constant growls of thunder from the neighbouring valley.  The sky was deep purple over there.

After we had set up camp, showered and settled in, we decided to ride to the hotel round the corner and see what was happening there.

It was a good thing we did, because just after we arrived it started to rain.  It looked like it was going to rain for a while.  We settled into the lounge of a very pleasant SAN Parks Hotel and whiled away the afternoon.  Unfortunately there was a power cut, so we missed the Curry cup final.  Just as well, seeing as the Lions lost.  

The rain let up just in time for us to get back and buy what we needed from the shop for the evening's braai.

And it held off long enough for us to have a great braai and turn in for the night.  

It had been a very pleasant day  :thumleft:  
« Last Edit: October 27, 2014, 11:28:25 pm by alanB »
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Offline Alpine Al

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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2014, 06:12:07 am »
Thanks for the rr Alan. What you guys did is what its all about.
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Offline alanB

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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2014, 08:04:34 am »
It rained most of the night.

And at 03:30 the organisers of the trail running event started broadcasting with their sound system to get their competitors going  :o.

But apart from that I slept like a baby.

Tony was clearly eager for action because when I dragged myself out of my sleeping bag at about 06:30, he already had his tent down and bags packed.

So I  had to rush to keep up.  But not before coffee, which had to be black because the little bottle I had in my bag had turned into sour cream - yum!

The morning view from our camp site was stunning!  (I made a panarama out of three photo's)



We decided to head into Clarens, which wasnt far away, and see if we could do the Old Mill Route quickly before heading home.

We were soon on our way.  



« Last Edit: October 28, 2014, 08:06:04 am by alanB »
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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2014, 08:53:02 am »
Lekker trip you did. Thanks
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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2014, 08:58:43 am »
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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2014, 10:40:00 am »
That looked like a mellow trip.Thanks for the RR.
 

Offline alanB

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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2014, 06:21:36 pm »
When we got to Clarens I was still trying to wake up - it takes me a while  :biggrin:.

While the others were filling up I found the Old Mill Route in my GPS Archives and set it up so we could navigate along it.

And this is where things went a bit pear shaped  ::) :-[ :xxbah:

I started struggling with two things:
1) The Garmin Maps I was using while  being very useful has various different layers of detail.  The type of tracks we tend to ride is often on the lowest level of detail.  To see them you have to zoom right in fairly deeply.  The Old Mill Track was one of these.  The problem I started having is that I could not see the entrance to the track because when I zoomed out enough to see it on the screen, Garmin decided not to show me the detail and the whole track disappeared!  I tried to tell the unit just to navigate to the track so I could just follow directions from where we were, but it wouldn't route me to the entrance of the track, the navigation only started from the start of the track which I could not see on the screen at all, so I didn't know were to go - and as I said if I zoomed out to find it, the whole bloody thing disappeared!  The other guys waited patiently while I became increasingly irritated with the bloody device!  By trial and error, (by scrolling around until I found a bit of the track in detail and then zooming out to see where that was in relation to my current position), I sort of worked out where the entrance to the track was, and we set off.
2) Then suddenly the track disappeared permanently!  I have no idea how this happened but I simply couldn't find the track loaded on my GPS at all.  I am sure I did not delete it, but it was not anywhere.  I had stopped half way down a road and was struggling some more with this latest issue.  All the time getting more and more bloody pissed off  >:(.  Suddenly a track appeared again but it was behind us.  I was relieved, so we turned around and set off back to town.  But it slowly dawned on me that it was now just navigating back the way we had come - ie back along the track we had set that morning!

What a bloody farce!

I've used GPS's often and never had something like this happen - and still cant really explain what happened!  I suspect its a software issue because when I first loaded the track from my computer, I had to do it a few times because it did not show up initially.  Anyway ..... it was gone!

It seemed that the only thing for it then, was to try and find the Old Mill Route by searching the existing maps and navigating from scratch using the T4A map, which probably had it marked.  But then I struggled with the hidden detail issue - I needed to zoom right in to see the route but didn't know where it was, so I didn't know where to zoom in!  So it was a trial and error thing.  All the time the other guys stood by patiently watching me have an increasingly violent  little tantrum with my GPS  :biggrin:  ::)

Eventually Tony suggested we go and ask at an Extreme Adventure shop in town which he had noticed - which saved the day.   :thumleft: :ricky:  Thank's for snapping me out it Tony!  :thumleft:  If he hadn't I would probably have thrown the bloody thing away a few minutes later!

The guy there suggested we try a slightly different route, which he said would meet up with the Old Mill Route and which was easy to navigate.  It involved basically going up a 4x4 track just out of town, climbing up the side of a mountain, going over a saddle, down the other side, and meeting up with the Old Mill Route in the valley below, which we could then follow back to town.

Very relieved (at least I was), we set off.  

I was still quite irritated, both because I had basically somehow stuffed up, and because I was not sure how.  

But anyway we had a route to ride and it was nice day etc.  

It actually all turned out for the best because what a nice challenging and beautiful route!  :thumleft:

The 4x4 track had some quite daunting rock steps which you had to climb.  They came in waves.

The last set were probably the worst.  I didn't quite get my line right as I hit them, drifted off into a bit more of a trickier section, my bike bottomed out on a fairly large rock, the back wheel lost traction, the bike stopped, and there was nowhere to put my feet, so down I went  :biggrin:

The bike was lying at an awkward angle, almost upside down.  I was standing on a steep slope that sloped away from the bike, so try as I might, I just could not get enough leverage to budge the bike.  My feet would just slide out each time.  If I had been alone it would have been one hell of a struggle.

Tony came and helped, and the bike was up in no time!  Second time that day he had helped me get going! :thumleft:

Bertie had seen me go down, stopped at the bottom of the rock steps and had fallen over from lack of footing.

I went down to help him.

After everyone finally got going again, we reached the top of the climb just below the saddle shortly there after.

The view was amazing!





Another panorama from three images:


We found a gate leading over the top of the saddle and headed down the other side.  The track was literally carved into the side of a cliff initially.  The view on the other side was beyond amazing!



Going down was relatively easy, apart from the dizzying drop into nothingness on the edge of the track  :biggrin:  There were some tight switch backs that had me guessing which way to go, at one stage I almost rode off the mountain because for some reason I thought the switchback went right when it actually went left  ::).

When we got down into the valley we found a nice spot by the river and had a snack.



« Last Edit: October 28, 2014, 10:21:50 pm by alanB »
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Offline alanB

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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2014, 09:41:43 pm »
Thanks for all the encouraging comments  :thumleft:
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Offline alanB

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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2014, 09:47:07 pm »
I just looked up the track of the Old Mill Route that I had stored on my computer, which was supposed to have been on my GPS but somehow vanished!

It seems that we did actually do the Old Mill Route after all, just we did it in reverse.

Which is great!  

« Last Edit: October 29, 2014, 07:17:00 am by alanB »
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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2014, 10:18:31 pm »
Great RR - did this a few years ago on big DS bikes holed my HP2 sump but was repaired with Pratleys Steel and we still did a week in Lesotho  :ricky: Great riding area.
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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2014, 06:28:14 am »
After we got back to town we went back to thank the guy who had helped us.

His name was Detmar and his company was called CX Clarensxtreme.co.za.  Give him some support when you are in the area  :thumleft:

They had a nice set up.  They had a little restaurant round the back.  We had a quick burger and coke there before heading back home.

Unfortunately we had to get home as fast as possible because the Husky standard headlight is absolutely useless, so Bertie needed to get home before dark and he had the furtherest to go.

Riding home was bloody tedious!  There was a strong cross wind which was either pushing you off line or trying to rip your head off the whole time!

But we all got home safely in the end.

It was a great trip with good company :thumleft:   :thumleft: :ricky:

« Last Edit: October 29, 2014, 07:47:30 am by alanB »
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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2014, 07:34:06 am »
Ja that 30W standard headlight is like a candle in the wind  ;D
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Scoots: BMW R1200GS HP2E  Husqvarna TE610E  BMW G450X  KTM 200 XCW YAMAHA BWS  BETA REV 3

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Offline m0lt3n

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Re: Husky Ride to Bezhuidenhouts Pass and Old Mill Route (almost)
« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2014, 09:53:29 am »
great report and great route. We have also done it in a 1200GS and a S10. Fell a LOT and missed the turn off somewhere. ended up in the mountain where a road/river washout ended and had to backtrack. Toughest but most awesome day on the bike ever. Will be doing it again as soon as I get a chance!

Thanks for putting the effort in to write a report
Dooie visse gaan saam met die stroom...