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Offline nightrider

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Of Snow and Submersibles
« on: August 28, 2012, 09:33:07 pm »
Over the past 5 years our little gang of five has done a number of rides (including Namibia and Zambia), and while they've all been memorable, none of them have really been adventurous enough (imo) to inspire a ride report.  This ride, however, which was meant to be a gentle run around the karoo, I think does make for a somewhat better story - I've certainly told the tale a few times around the braai!  This is my first posting, so I hope it all works out, especially the images, and apologies for any newbie errors in the posting.

On the 9th of August, being a long weekend, we had planned a four day ride around the karoo taking in the west coast flowers, up to verneukpan, then down through Sutherland and home.  My brother who I hadn't seen in 14 years was out from New Zealand, so I bullied him into joining us for what was intended to be a gentle ride on good dirt roads.  He had last ridden 10 years ago, but never ventured off road.  I borrowed a bike (an old KLR) from a friend of a friend, and six of us set off for adventure on a chilly thursday morning.
The west coast roads were slightly muddy, but the flowers were out early and were spectacular, and everyone was in good spirits as we headed up Varrhyns pass late that afternoon, heading to our first stop near Brandkop.

Varrhyns pass

Day two was even chillier as we headed off towards Brandvlei, reaching Verneukpan mid afternoon after an easy days riding.  This was my second visit to the pan, but i was just as awed by it's sheer size and desolate beauty.  Whether riding around the flat surface in huge graceful arcs, or walking aimlessly around the centre of that vast silent surface at night, it's impossible to come away unaffected by that magical place.

Family reunion on the 'pan

Having spent two glorious days on the road, we headed down to Williston for lunch, congratulating ourselves on missing the predicted "storms" that all the farmers had been talking about.  We prepared ourselves for any potential bad weather by wrapping our kit in black bags, eric taking this one step further by wrapping himself up too (he forgot his rain kit),  and then started the 130km trek to the karoo farm where we were spending the night. 

"bin bag man"

About 50kms into the ride, we stopped to marvel at the first few snowflakes that were fluttering around - the first snow most of us had seen from close up.  A few minutes later, we were riding in full blizzard conditions (well, it was a blizzard to those of us who'd never seen one).  The wind was whipping the snow into our faces, and ice built up on visors and glasses making it almost impossible to see, fingers froze despite a range of pick-n-pay bag hand covers, and the road became a slippery mush. 

Happy birthday boet

Eventually we came out of that storm, only to have to negotiate slick mud, with James doing his obligatory plant-the-KTM routine.

Freshly planted KTM

After the mud, came the second blizzard, this time worse than the first.  We gamely battled through this too, one painful km at a time, six crazy snow covered idiots on bikes, until at last we descended from the snyderspoort pass (At least I think it was snyderspoort, it was hard to see anything in those conditions), where the snow finally abated. 

Blizzard conditions

How f***ing far is it?

Half an hour later, we hit the R354 and rode into the farm, iced up and frozen to the core, to be met by regte karoo hospitality, with a warm fire, a cup of hot soup and a large glass of brandewyn! We were exhausted but elated at having made it though, and spent that night defrosting and drying ourselves and our kit out in front of a roaring fire, having filled our bellies with yet more karoo lamb chops.

In the morning, it was still freezing but most of the snow on the ground had melted and it was looking like a perfect riding day, crisp and clear.  The pass at verlatekloof, south of sutherland, was apparently still closed but we decided to push on anyway. 
The old farmhouse we stayed in was about 2 kms from the main farmhouse, and to get there you needed to cross over the vis river on a concrete causeway.  On the evening we had arrived, we all crossed it twice with no problems.  So while everyone was packing up, I hopped on the KLR and took a ride down to the main farmhouse to pay the farmer and see if there was any news on the pass.  To be fair, the farmer had said that if the river rises it was uncrossable, but as I approached it, it looked (at a foolishly quick glance) not to be too much higher, so I started across it.  About a 3rd of the way in I realised what a mistake I'd made as I felt the front wheel pull away from me.  It wasn't that deep on the causeway, but it was flowing very fast.  By then it was too late, the river pulled the bike from under me and I landed in the water.  I watched gobsmacked as the current simply took the bike, swept it clean over the causeway where it vanished completely from view! I followed it a few seconds later, getting washed downstream a short distance before I could pull myself sopping from the freezing water, dripping from gloves, boots, helmet and every item of clothing I had so carefully dried the night before. 

The KLR is under there somewhere!
Fortunately some farm guests were watching this spectacle with horrified expressions and rushed off to call the farmer, who managed to cross the river in his tractor and give me a lift back to the rest of the group.  I'm not sure which was worse - the shock of losing a bike, the freezing water, or the humiliating tractor ride back.   By the time we left the farm a couple of hours later, the river had visibly risen.  The farmer, adriaan, was a heck of nice ou, and said he will watch the river on a daily basis until he sees it's subsided enough to rescue the bike, and then I'll go fetch tanqua-naught (as she's been named - thanks "Veemax"  ;D ) -  he reckons about 2 to 3 weeks!
So we bravely headed off to sutherland minus one bike, boet and I riding two up now.  The 50kms to sutherland was picture perfect, snow all over the ground, but from a riding standpoint it was horrendous - alternating mud, water, ice and snow the whole way.  Eventually we reached sutherland, which looked like a winter postcard with snow all around and ice hanging from the roofs.  Anyone who said they weren't happy to see tar at that stage was lying!  There was no power in the town, so no petrol, which would have been a disaster, but the garage owner managed to find a hand pump and we managed to fill up the bikes sufficiently.

num num!

Sutherland Snow

The Verlatenkloof pass was still closed, but we carefully passed around the "road closed" sign, following a number of cars who had the same idea.  A few kms down the road we could see why it was closed - it was pandemonium, with cars stuck at strange angles in a thick snow drift.  The usual 4x4 mob were milling around trying to tow them all out.  Fortunately we were on 1x2s, so with some lifting and pushing we bypassed this mess, and were soon heading down the pass and heading back to civilization.

Verlatenkloof Pass

A week after the incident, I received an excited call from the farm.  Adriaan and his cousin had decided (probably over a few brandiwyns the night before) that the river had subsided just enough to launch a rescue mission.  With the aid of the trusty red tractor, inner tubes, ladders, poles and ropes, they somehow managed to locate the tanqua-naught deep under the still fast flowing river, and manhandled it out of the freezing water.  I headed up there a few days later to bring her back, not before being treated by Adriaan and Michele to a traditional karoo slap up meal with lamb, springbok pie, net-vet (and the obligatory brandiwyn of course) - If ever you decide to lose a bike in a river, then the farm Holhoed is the place to do it!  (Shameless plug coming up) The farm is well located about 50kms north of sutherland on the Calvinia road about half way to middlepos.  They are biker friendly folk (who ride themselves), with a rustic remote farmhouse you can have all to yourselves.  Plus if you give her a little notice, Michele will also happily provide all the biker essentials you may need, lamb chops, booze, fuel, home made bread etc.  (http://www.holhoedgasteplaas.co.za)

End of report!
Thanks to the gang - Trevor ("There's no going back") for pushing us through conditions where angels would fear to tread,  James ("are you sure we have enough booze?") for having the tenacity to dismount mid-blizzard and taking most of those photos,  Eric ("I should have gone to track day") for finally being there and providing comic relief as bin-bag-man, Shane (boet) ("The plan can change and often will") for your indomitable optimism and smile even when caked in ice, and Kyle ("buddy system my ass") ever dependable wingman - I'm proud of you lad.

Offline westfrogger

Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2012, 10:09:12 pm »

Offline daveh

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2012, 10:11:05 pm »
Wow now that is what you call an adventure ;D How is the bike doing after its wash??

Offline Crossed-up

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2012, 07:43:22 am »
Hectic stuff!!!!  And, indeed, how did it go with the bike?

Offline madmike999

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2012, 08:17:37 am »
epic, nice one!  :thumleft:
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Offline JonW

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2012, 08:21:47 am »
Awesome report, you setting the bar for yourself at a high level mate, so we look forward to more in anticipation.

Please give a follow up on the drowned KLR  :biggrin:
How can I be lost if I've got nowhere to go?

Offline Pote

Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2012, 08:25:27 am »
WOW!!! het na baie fun gelyk  :thumleft:

Offline CorCorlia

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2012, 08:28:59 am »
Wow!!  Now that is an adventure!! Thanks for sharing!  :thumleft:

Offline edgy

Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2012, 08:35:02 am »
Unbelievable! :o
Looks freezing!

 BEER..."I drink it when I`m happy or when I`m sad. I drink it when I`m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. Trifle with it if I`m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it - unless I`m thirsty"

Offline Karel Kat

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2012, 08:39:07 am »
Incredible. What a good read!
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Offline Sithe

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2012, 08:45:01 am »
Insane but awesome  :thumleft: :thumleft:
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Offline ZAR

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2012, 08:59:15 am »
Blixem, ek kry sommer koud net om na daai fotos te kyk! 

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2012, 09:05:34 am »
Jip.... must have been you guys at the Williston petrol station Saturday about 12h00 :thumleft:  We just came in from our hunt, on the way back. Hardcore to ride in that rain storm just outside Williston  :o  :thumleft:
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Offline LuckyStriker

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2012, 09:09:59 am »
Insane! Holy cow I am impressed

I laughed at the bin-man photo... but then I scrolled down and my eyes almost popped out. People die in that kind of weather!

Offline Dirty Boy

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2012, 09:12:32 am »
Note to self: never loan my bike to nightrider

Great RR and I love the pic of the 6 of you crossing the pan

Offline Pote

Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #15 on: August 29, 2012, 10:01:39 am »

Offline Crowley

Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #16 on: August 29, 2012, 10:12:06 am »
lyk befok, this is an adventure that one won't forget.  :thumleft:

Offline Mark Hardy

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #17 on: August 29, 2012, 10:15:47 am »
For your 1st post and ride report, congrats man that is the way it is done.  ;D  :thumleft:


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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2012, 10:19:05 am »
First post and you bowl that one!?

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Offline roxenz

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Re: Of Snow and Submersibles
« Reply #19 on: August 29, 2012, 10:19:39 am »
Wow, what a trip!  Fantastic adventure, well done & thanks for the RR!  Taking photies in that weather could not have been easy.   Huge thumbs up!  Hope the KLR gets resurrected with minimal damage.
Ek sal laaik van n prentjie hier sit, maar is te f0kken onnosel...