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Offline Ri

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« on: June 13, 2019, 06:24:16 pm »
Once upon a time there was a noob on a purple bike who saw a WD thread for an adventure in the Kaokoland, and started dreaming. She knew there was no way she had the technical skills to join that tour (an assessment quickly proven right) and started making plans to up-skill so she could join the next Kaokoland tour.

She would spend some time on her Yammy TTR230 riding funduros, and in the meantime, to quench the thirst for some desert adventure, go for a gentle ride around the Richtersveld - just an easy ride up the N7, exploring easy gravel tracks. Nothing hectic.

That all came to naught when she joined the Kaokoland adventure against her better judgement (she just wanted to do it so badly) and promptly broke her fibula, leading to 2 operations, an infection scare, and 6 months of no riding.

Eventually back on her feet again, she had lost her dirt road riding nerve. She joined various day rides, often dropping the purple bike, as is her wont, often on her ankles. She tried out the TTR230 in hectic (for her) terrain, and learnt some skills and picked up some confidence under the watchful gaze of @Dux. She even completed an introductory adventure riding course which did wonders for her confidence.

She was determined to make the Richtersveld ride happen though, and various WD said they were keen to join her.

Emails commenced, leave was scheduled, the planning began in earnest. But despite plenty of interest, in the end, only two struck out on the road: Slow ... and Slower.
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Offline Karel84

Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2019, 06:48:39 pm »
Sounds like a good story... Love the writing style too!

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Offline Ri

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2019, 06:59:16 pm »
The brief was simple: we'll ride a maximum distance of 300km per day, camping and wild camping, for a week, with an off day in the middle. Keith (the ruffian) had to ride for 2 days to get to the starting point of the trip, and 2 days back home afterwards.

On a slow work day I started ogling Google, and came up with a route starting from my BIL's farm Fraserburg, up to Verneukpan, on to Pella, over to Vioolsdrift, then on to Eksteensfontein, down to Namaqualand Nature Reserve, over Kamies Pass to Calvinia, and back to Fraserburg. The longest distance was to Pella, at 320km, and since it was mostly farm roads and gravel highway, I foresaw no great difficulties.

On Friday 31 May 2019 I take halfday and race home to pack all my stuff in the car. I ramp the bike onto my trailer and tie it down by myself, all shaky nerves and nervous pride.






Despite my best efforts, I can't manage to drive the approximately 500km to Fraserburg in less than 7 hours. At 6pm on the dot I stop at the main gate in a light drizzle, open it and drive through. As I'm about to exit the car to close the gate, my phone rings, showing an unknown number. I answer anyway, on a hunch.

"Hallo, dit is Cloete Nortjé," a voice booms at me. "Ek staan hier by 'n man op 'n motorfiets. Ken jy hom?" he asks, laughing uproariously.
"Keith?" I ask. "Ja, ek ken hom" I'm perplexed, as Keith said he'd be on the farm in the early afternoon. Then Keith is on the line.
"Is the farm road a small tweespoor paadjie?" he asks.

I assure Keith it is not a narrow little tweespoor, and feel a twinge of unease when Keith explains that he followed a road, but it had become very narrow and quite technical until, on reaching a huge mud pool and a dilapidated gate, he'd turned around in search of a better path. That farm road is my BIL's pride and joy. He'd just bought a newer car and scrapes the road every chance he gets to avoid damage to the car. It was a full car width at least, and fairly even surfaced.

I tell Keith I'll wait for him at the gate, and phone my BIL in a panic to find out how far away Cloete's farm is. Apparently it's 30km out on the road to Loxton, and I'm sure I won't see Keith before 7pm. How on earth had he misunderstood my instructions so badly? But soon enough his light shows up in the dark. It turns out he'd stopped at a turn-off about 5km further, looking for phone signal so he could call me. There in the damp dusk the kind Nortjés had stopped to assist the forlorn biker.

We head along the same road Keith had travelled before. At the dilapidated gate, I gun it through the long mud pool and Keith quickly follows in my tracks. This eases my mind about his technical skill. 10 km in total later we arrive at the farm house in a cold but welcome (for the farmers) drizzle. After a hearty dinner, lively conversation and warm baths, we fall into the last soft beds we'll experience for a week.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2019, 07:02:42 pm by Ri »
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Offline Ri

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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2019, 07:22:36 pm »
Day 1

Planned route: Fraserburg to Verneukpan - 280 km

After a latish start, I finally have my bike ready and loaded up by about 10am. I'm very proud of my packing for the trip - my pannier bags are only 2 thirds full, the lightest weight (sleeping bag) is at the top and the heavier bag, the food etc, is strapped behind me on the seat. The bike feels rock solid and looks the business.

There is a freezing cold wind blowing, and I don extra layers of clothes. My sister waves us off.






Keith has already been testing his packing over the past two days, and was a little unhappy with the weight and placement, but as the week passed and we ate more of our food, the weight shifted and things improved.






We finally head down the 10km farm road, back to the tar road into Fraserburg, and the start of our Northern Cape Caper. I race along exuberantly; I've ridden this farm road a few times - it has patches of loose gravel, some muddy ruts and some nice bumps to jump over, and I don't pay much attention to Keith following me at a more sedate pace. When we reach the main gaite and tar road, Keith again mentions the technicality of the road, and I agree cautiously. To me it is just the farm driveway, and I love it.






We head in the direction of Williston, Keith leading at 95kph as I want to try to reach the phenomenal fuel consumption he routinely gets (about 23 km/l). The tar road soon turns to dirt again and I gun it in excitement. I soon notice Keith falling behind, and I stop to wait for him. He says he's not happy with his bike's suspension and weight distribution, that it feels loose on the gravel, and since I'm riding with more confidence, I'm welcome to carry on at my speed, and he'll catch up with me. I'm happy with this arrangement and carry on, slowing down or stopping now and then to wait for Keith.

















Water in the dry Karoo





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Offline Splash

Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2019, 07:37:10 pm »
A great adventure. Thanks for the photos. Looks just amazing.
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Offline Ri

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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2019, 07:56:42 pm »
A great adventure. Thanks for the photos. Looks just amazing.

Unending horizons. As stark and dry as Belgium is green and wet :thumleft:
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Offline BMWPE

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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2019, 06:54:25 am »
 :thumleft: sub
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Offline Matewis

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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2019, 07:56:42 am »
SUB
“Don’t go where the path my lead…  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail…” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Offline Coxwain

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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2019, 08:48:17 am »
Another epic RR by Ri..... :happy1:
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Offline Ri

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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2019, 09:39:49 am »
Another epic RR by Ri..... :happy1:

No pressure, hey! :imaposer:

It's going to be an epically LONG read, anyway, you know how I overdo the details ::) :lamer:
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Offline Ri

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2019, 09:47:39 am »
The gravel road to Williston is a highway - smooth and broad, dustless after the recent sprinkling of rain - and we stop in Williston for coffee so I can check the route out of Williston to Verneukpan. We chat to some locals at the next table and they assure us that it’s not far, about 50km. I think they may have been drinking beer, because they were out by about 120km.

Suzuki Overload :biggrin:






Beautiful restaurant in Williston














Keith is very interested in the road conditions, and asks in minute details. I listen with half an ear - these are all farm roads, used fairly often, and should be in rideable shape, especially on a Suzuki DR650.

Keith orders a pizza, to my great surprise. We are carrying enough food for 2 weeks and have already agreed on roadside tea and lunch breaks, and Keith isn’t one to opt for easy living when there’s a harder way to do it. Meanwhile we study the map of the area, looking at the proposed route, but I forget to check the distance to Verneukpan. After all, how bad can it be? I’d plotted every day’s travel to be maximum about 300km, and it was still only lunchtime and we'd already travelled 110km.






The pizza takes forever to arrive, and is so big that even though I have a few slices, there is still enough left for dinner and breakfast the next morning. We finally head out of Williston towards Verneukpan after 13:30.



« Last Edit: June 14, 2019, 09:49:25 am by Ri »
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Offline ChrisL - DUSTRIDERS

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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2019, 09:49:28 am »
Water in the dry Karoo

And rain in Frazerburg, you have my attention!! :deal: :thumleft:
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Offline Ri

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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2019, 09:51:44 am »
The last week in May there had been a few showers in the Fraserburg area, it was beautiful to see.

Sadly there were only the few drops when we arrived. Rest of the time and our route, it was very dry.
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Offline Dwerg

Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2019, 09:57:16 am »
Lekker! Ek moet nog bietjie by die Karoo uit kom vir 'n bike trip
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Offline Dux

Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2019, 10:14:07 am »


Beautiful restaurant in Williston



Mmmm , so much for roughing it  ;)
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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #15 on: June 14, 2019, 10:24:41 am »


Beautiful restaurant in Williston



Mmmm , so much for roughing it  ;)
Guess they were using two ply toilet paper too!! :lol8:
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Offline Ri

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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #16 on: June 14, 2019, 10:44:00 am »


Beautiful restaurant in Williston



Mmmm , so much for roughing it  ;)
Guess they were using two ply toilet paper too!! :lol8:

That restaurant has the worst 2-ply toilet paper - no perforations, it just stretches and tears in thin, uneven, unusable strips...  :xxbah:
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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2019, 10:45:43 am »









The road becomes more interesting and a bit more challenging, with wide uphill turning sweeps, more loose gravel, and wide slick mud pools here and there. In some places, the mud isn’t even a different colour or texture and you only realise you’re in it when the back wheel starts trying to pass the front wheel - exciting times.






At one spot, while waiting for Keith, I spot 2 little Bakoorjakkalsies crossing the road, but they're too far for me to grab a photo.
















Little lambs






Veld photo shoot










At times, I ride behind Keith until I can pass him, and watch a little amazed as he slams on the breaks and sticks out his foot anywhere the road surface changes. I’m doubtful that foot is going to keep the bike upright if it falls over, and worry that he’ll hurt himself. When we chat about it, it turns out he is still uncomfortable on the bike, despite his many years of adventure riding.

He also admits that this gravel highway isn’t like the gravel highway he is used to in the Eastern Cape, and he is not quite sure how to handle it. I realise three things about Keith:
He hates falling.
He hates falling even more.
And most of all, he hates falling.

His excuse is that at his advanced age, he would take too long to heal if he broke something, and on top of that he doesn’t have medical aid, but I think he just hates to fall. I’ve met riders like this. I ponder that, in trying to avoid the fall, they might do something stupid like stick out a foot, which is almost guaranteed to get hurt if they did fall.

Me, I embraced falling, once I realised that at my slow tipping speeds I generally only end up with a bruise or a short-lived sprain - mostly to my ego.

I'm not overly cautious, but I'm not a fast rider, and I mention this to people who invite me along on a ride. "Oh but we don't ride so fast anymore, we're slow too", is the inevitable reply. They don't realise that their "slow" of about 120kph is still much faster than my "slow" of about 70kph.

Keith's general gravel speed of about 40-60kph is even slower than my speed, and removes all pressure from me to race to try and keep up. He keeps to his speed and refuses to be hurried along, which gave me the confidence to try put into practice things I've read or been told, knowing he'd be along shortly to pick up the pieces, should I come to grief.


Slow and Slower




(I really should stick to photographing others only...)
« Last Edit: June 14, 2019, 12:18:12 pm by Ri »
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Offline Ri

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #18 on: June 14, 2019, 10:57:49 am »
Keith becomes more and more uncomfortable and rides slower and slower as the sun sets. The lengthening shadows make it difficult for him to see the road surfaces, and he admits that his eyesight has deteriorated to the extent that he can’t ride at night. According to my calculations, we still have about 30km to go to Verneukpan, the light is fading fast and the road is becoming a sandy twee-spoor.

I feel a small cloud of irritation well up, but I relax and it quickly dies down. We’re at the start of an epic trip, and the ride so far has been fun. My night vision is good, and I have spotlights on my bike. We’ll be fine.






Lenthening shadows and sandier roads






It turns out that the Verneukpan camp is only 6km down the road, and not another 30km. We reach the gate and Keith pronounces it locked. I take a closer look and much to our relief, notice that although it has a lock on, one side of the chain is only hooked in.

We head out onto the wide featureless pan along dirt tracks in almost complete darkness. I am meerkatting, peering at the tracks ahead, feeling like I’m in an old open cockpit airplane on a dark runway, speeding up for take off into the bracing night. It is exhilarating!

At one point I lose the tracks and make a wide turn until I run into them again. Finally, I catch a glimpse of the camp ahead and shout out to Keith triumphantly. We’ve made it.

It is fully dark at barely 6:30 pm, but the camp has solar panels to provide light and electricity, and we quickly sort ourselves out. There is a kitchen area and ablution facilities which includes flushing toilets - WITH toilet paper!! - and running showers. Due to our late arrival we can’t stoke the donkey, and have to make do with cold water in this bitterly cold weather.

Keith boils water for tea and dinner. He is our chef for the trip due to his years of camping and hiking experience, and because my ineptitude on the bike is only overshadowed by my ineptitude in the kitchen.

Although Keith and I have known each other and corresponded sporadically for a few years now, this is our first multi-day trip, and the conversation is a little stilted as we find our way towards common ground and interest in person.












The stars and Milky Way overhead are epic, and we drag our bedding out into the open, pointing our feet to face East for the sunrise. I blow up my blow-up mattress, pull my three layers of bedding over my head, and fall into an uneasy slumber. I’m quietly determined to rise and get ready quicker the next morning…

I wake up during the night to find my mattress has given up the ghost, or the air. Two days before this trip, I’d suffered the worst bout of food poisoning and had been invalided for a whole day, losing me some precious packing time. I have two blow-up mattresses, and in my haste to pack, it seems I’d grabbed the holey one. Ah well, it is still a pretty solid ground sail.

I lie watching the Milky Way swirl overhead, then turn to sleep, feeling my hip bone jutting into the ground. I had taken a sleeping tablet for my intermittent insomnia, but its only effect seemed to be to make the stars overhead jump around in a dizzying way, and I decide to skip them for the rest of the trip. I’d rather watch the stars

I doze fitfully for the rest of the night, and I’m awake when the sky starts to lighten up in the east.




Keith is up early for his morning tea




The whole camp site... actually, you can camp anywhere on the pan, but this is where the facilities are




Room with a View





Tales of the Purple Turtles: Ride Reports
PROJECT SAS WILDEHOND III Contributions: R Snyman Capitec Savings Account 1545860511 Balance (2017/12/07): R3,190.23 - R1,600 for steel purchase
 
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Offline the ruffian

Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #19 on: June 14, 2019, 11:38:19 am »
It’s probably a good time to flesh out the context a little here:

When Ri describes herself as a rider of “ineptitude”, she’s talking kak. She may have been once, and indeed blames her broken leg in Kaokaland last year on her poor skills level, but one thing is for sure, she internalized whatever lessons she could from that, and my impression of her was of competence and confidence.

As for myself I know I am slow and I do hate to fall. And I am on a relatively paltry pension with no medical cover so my usually innate caution is perhaps intensified by these circumstances. I’ve ridden motorbikes for 50 years , and I’m still here FFS... but yes I was exceptionally slow as the track got sandier and darkness fell. I was also riding an unprepared DR with tired and stock suspension , loaded for 11 days’ self-supported travel, camping. So, not ideal, and perhaps frustrating for any travel companion.

BUT do not imagine that we weren’t having an absolute blast. Being an old ballie I can recall Dylan’s , “...getting too dark to see...” being soon followed by “knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door...” - and that’s how it was arriving on Verneukpan ... the heavens were that close, and while conversation might have been initially stilted, my response to all that space and seeming proximity to cosmic spluurge was quietly intense... that night and those that followed were riotously starry, and it felt fitting to be also insomniac so as to be able to indulge the ‘miracle and wonder’ at all and any time of night - deeply consoling too if you lack the gift of deep sleep...