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Author Topic: 22/6/12 Natal Battlefields UPDATE2014 Ngubevu bridge open  (Read 1280 times)

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Offline IanTheTooth

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22/6/12 Natal Battlefields UPDATE2014 Ngubevu bridge open
« on: June 27, 2012, 09:09:52 pm »
Sorry this report has taken so long, it has been a busy week. (WildDoc, the .gdb file contains our intended route and the actual route and extra bits that we rode, actual in Blue, intended in transparent or red).

Mike wanted to make an early start so I found myself driving up into Hillcrest against the stationary traffic queuing to get down Fields Hill at 6.30am in the dark.  Poor sods. By the time I got to Mike & he’d gassed up & was ready to go. It was just after 7am and light enough to see the dirt roads.



 We swung round Inanda dam and out to Sevenoaks between gunsight and 360 degree hills at quite a pace. The valley was fiercely cold and a wicked wind whipped around us carrying some horizontal rain with it.



The first signs of trouble started when we got on the good roads to Greytown. Mike, who never normally has a right hand problem wouldn’t go faster than 80kmph. He was dressed in his usual enduro kit, tee-shirt, enduro jacket, open face helmet and goggles. The wind chill factor was killing him. However, before long we were safely ensconced in the Greytown Wimpy for our breakfast/meal of the day.



While I demolished my mega coffee and bacon & eggs, Mike tucked into his fresh frozen orange juice. By nine we’d picked up gas in Greytown in case the Kranskop petrol station was closed and we were off. To speed things up I swapped bikes with Mike so that he could hide behind my screen. I was much better prepared for the cold (ask me how.) All of a sudden we could do 120kmph again and the kop came up in no time.



Mike's plan was to scramble to the top of the kop across the natural stone bridge. In the meantime I tried to work out where Cetshwayo’s grave would be and the Mome gorge where the Bambathi rebellion was crushed, would be placed. Mike gave up on the scramble so we headed down the new tar road to Shu Shu. The great advantage of the tar road is that you can now concentrate a bit more on the geology of  the pass than before. Gunda Gunda can give explanations if required. A couple of years ago it looked like there would be a big development at Shu Shu. So far this has come to naught but this is the first time I have seen the German campers and local camp followers on the Island and around the hot springs. It was quite a sight.



From Shu Shu we headed up the valley floor to Jameson’s drift. (I assume Leander Jameson but I’m not sure) I love the way that the roads snake over the wash aways and the enormous trees that you find in the Tugela valley.



Before we crossed the drift I asked Mike to find a view site to get my bearings and have a snack. Mike shot up a koppie next to the road.



While I was busy removing the shards of my screen that had come off second best in a fight with a thorn tree and some rocks on the ascent, Mike looked in horror at the mixture of cloth and crumbs in his top box that was meant to be his food and clothes for the next two days.  The next thing on the agenda was a waterfall that Mike had found on google earth. I thought it must be pretty obscure as we got there by riding through a couple of streams, a few kraals and up some rock steps. The waterfall was spectacular.



It is called the Mangeni falls and there is a main road going to it from the other side! Mike really wanted to get to the Babanago valley Lodge to explore some copper diggings there so after picking up gas in Babanango we headed into the lowveldt (of Umfolozi) and the lodge. It was a nice afternoon there and we headed off to see the caves.



For dinner I had my six bangers & mash and Mike tucked into his Woolies slimming snack, being about all he had left. The cottage was very “Mary Quaint” and we had a lovely fire to keep us company.

 

At dawn the weather in the valley looked surprising good and the air quite warm. I ate my two boiled eggs & coffee while Mike sipped some of the water he had boiled the night before.



However, back in the real world of the R68 things were different. Quite spectacular with low puffy white clouds or mist, winds bending the trees and the deep blue or purple of thunder storms rolling towards us. We approached Isandlwana from the south hoping to avoid the outstretched hand at the gate. We were thwarted by a game fence that runs round the area. The cold wind pierced our clothes and drops of horizontal rain crashed on our helmets. There was not a dog, goat, or human to be seen in the kraals running round the perimeter. One km before the gate we passed a white woman in long coat and scarf walking determinedly towards the school. Go figure.



Mike had planned to climb to the top of the hill after having ridden half way up but after looking at the deserted site and padlocked gates he decided to give up on that & move on. The next stop was Blood River. At Nqutu we really hit the big stuff. I haven’t seen someone lean at 15 or so degrees to go in a straight line since I rode to work in Scottish gales. At Nqutu we stopped to get some shelter and find Mike a balaclava. Amazingly, there wasn’t one in town. We got a beanie & split the top to go over his head & he used my beanie for the top so a little slit for his eyes remained. We had a couple of quite unintentional power slides in the mud on the way to Blood River.



Before the river there is now a Zulu monument, it is not finished yet but the gist of it seems to be “we’re a nice bunch of guys and when we went to kill the bunch on the other side of the river look at what they went and did to us!”



Blood river was quite eerie. Standing in the middle of the laager in a small monkeys wedding listening to the crash of thunder like siege cannon and surrounded by banks of thunder cloud, it gave a real feeling of the troubled history of the place. Next stop was the Dundee Wimpy. While I got into my mega coffee & breakfast, Mike sipped on his fresh frozen orange juice and watched the heavens open. We talked about what to do next. I realized Michael did know about cold, wet and miserable. He’d read about it in books and probably watched it on movies, but he never thought that it would actually happen to such a nice guy as Michael Chandler. We decided to wimp out and head down through Tugela Ferry. Mike looked at one of the maps I picked up at Blood River. It had an interesting road from Tugela Ferry marked on it that went to Ngubevu and down to Kranskop. It also said this was the start of the Tugela Gorge. I thought the only Tugela Gorge was in Royal Natal but now I see on google earth there is gorge with some interesting looking riding in it. I also thought there was no bridge between Tugela Ferry & Jameson’s drift but there it was on the map. The weather brightened up a bit on the R33 and so did Mike. So much so that he decided that we must go up a service road to a reservoir. (give this one a miss Gunda Gunda)



The view into Tugela Ferry was spectacular. Tugela Ferry was its usual Saturday morning busy self. The weather was quite reasonable so after crossing the bridge we decided to head back and do the road Mike had noticed on the map.



What a spectacular road it turned out to be. It rolled along next to the river until the entrance to the gorge. Then we bumped into a bit of a problem.

 

There wasn’t a bridge. They have put up the concrete supports but there is no bridge. The river is quite wide and deep. Luckily the contractors had pushed up a boulder weir to protect the caissons and at the end had scaffolding with planks to walk across the main flow.

 

Our old school 650’s are a much heavier proposition than our usual mounts but working together we manhandled the bikes across the boulders quite quickly and the planks were thankfully quite firm. The road carried on in its spectacular way until we hit the tar. It was four in the afternoon and I pointed out to Mike that we would be arriving home in the dark and that the freeway would be the sensible choice as Mike was quite intent on riding home through the valley. Mike told me that riding through the valley in the dark was what Michaels liked best and what did we have headlamps for anyway? At this point it was starting to feel like a conversation between Tigger and Pooh. The Pooh in this story decided to put his foot down and we came back along the freeway, just in time for my wife to take me out for Sushi. The end.





« Last Edit: July 28, 2014, 08:21:38 pm by IanTheTooth »
The dog that caught the car. What now?
 
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Offline Aprilian

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Re: 22/6/12 Natal Battlefields Tour, what really happened.
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2012, 09:21:06 pm »
Nice one  :thumleft: Too bad Michael had to ride with a no-joy - night photies of the valley would have been great!  :imaposer:
Surely if I was obsessed with motorcycles I’d have more than one; no two; no three; no no, four… ah, never mind…
 

Offline trevorwb

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Re: 22/6/12 Natal Battlefields Tour, what really happened.
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2012, 10:08:25 pm »
Ian did the same area on sat and sun-I felt the cold bite at Umvoti vlei before
Greytown.Due to the dodgy weather we slabbed it to Muden . before taking to
the dirt.Muden-Weenen-Tugela Estate-Pomeroy-Elandskraal-Insandlawana-
Nqutu-Calvert. On sun we came back on the same route you went out on.
Those Mangeni falls are awesome and they must look spectacular in summer.
Shushu was packed-It really spoils the place when it is like that.We then shot
up to the R 74 and made our way home through the Glendale area.
Although it was chilly and slightly moist it was good not to have the winter dust.
 

Offline IanTheTooth

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Re: 22/6/12 Natal Battlefields UPDATE2014 Ngubevu bridge open
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2014, 08:23:37 pm »
28/7/2014 Ngubevu bridge now complete

As you can see from the attached picture the Ngubevu  bridge is now  complete and open for traffic.  And yes, that is Mad Mike on the bridge, two years older and two years wiser. And yes, he did have a frozen orange juice at the Greytown Wimpy, just for old times’ sake. And yes, there is much, much more to tell and exciting developments at Tugela Gorge which will rewrite the book on adventure bike round tripping in Zululand.

All this and more will be coming in my new post “The bridges of Ngubevu County.” It will take me a while to get it together but it will be worth the wait.  As the man said, “go ahead, make my day." Ian Hogg
The dog that caught the car. What now?
 

Offline brains

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Re: 22/6/12 Natal Battlefields UPDATE2014 Ngubevu bridge open
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2018, 07:34:03 pm »
Looks great Ian. How long was the ride? Looks like a very full day?
After years of smelling 2 stroke...I may be converted
 

Offline IanTheTooth

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Re: 22/6/12 Natal Battlefields UPDATE2014 Ngubevu bridge open
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2018, 07:42:38 pm »
It was a day. Don't hang around!
The dog that caught the car. What now?