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Offline Watty

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Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« on: November 15, 2007, 04:05:36 pm »
Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback

After countless days of planning, surfing the net for additional info, zooming in and out with Google Earth and intense studying of the relevant 1:50 000 topographic maps covering the area to be travel, I attempted to establish a route from Port Elizabeth to Hogsback utilizing the maximum use of dirt roads with the emphasis on maximum adventure.  The various way-points were accumulate and transferred to my GPS.  A thread was created on the Forum, inviting the company of other Wild Dogs on the PE to Hogsback Journey, posting of the route info was dissected and discussed (8 pages nogal!).

The result: 15 participants that started geared and psyching themselves up for the trip weeks in advance.

The planned route included various passes; some very technical loose stuff; good long express Karoo gravel roads (those 100 kph jobbies); a bit of tar highways just to remind us that dirt is best; and even a game reserve to make things more out of the ordinary!

Assembly of the intrepid adventures was set for 7h00 on Friday the 9th of November 13, 2007 just outside Port Elizabeth (3349"22.8'S 2538"46.4'E).  As the WDs rolled in it was immediately clear that everyone could hardly conceal his or her excitement.  Oh yes, we had a lady rider in the group!
 


The dawgs jostling for parking space at the gathering consisted out off Watty (Suzuki Djebel 250XC), ITrider (Kawasaki KLE500), Toby (BMW R1150GS), Ektoknbike (KTM 950), Piksteel (BMW F650 Futura), Fulliantomatix (BMW R1200GSA), CTD (BMW R1200GSA), Groenie (Kawasaki KLR650), Miena Moo (BMW F650GS), Geoff (BMW F650GS Dakar), Letsgofishing (KTM 950 Adv); KTMjedi (KTM 950 Adv) and Bish (Kawasaki KLR650).  Two other riders BMWPE and Grunt + pillion could unfortunately not make the departure time due to last minute work commitments and were only able to leave later during the day, taking the fastest route ?? the boring tar way.  GS-holic and Capt Slow were also present and with longing eyes watched us getting ready for the ride.  Unfortunately they could not make the trip due to valid reasons.



Consequently 13 riders started out at exactly 07h33 on a 386km trip that would only end at 17h10 later that day.  The first 45km north was basically just another lacklustre cruise on tar, traversing the little town of Addo, where we briefly stopped as one or two dogs had to go look for a wheel to take a leak against.  By the way, this town is also famous for its cut rose nurseries (a little bit of trivia to pep up this report).  In addition this region is adjacent to the Addo National Elephant Park, and all along the road we encountered various roadside fruit stalls and B&B's, all doing their bit to cash in on the tourist trade.

The first really exciting riding event of the day was actually quite only one of a kind.  As we turn left off the road at a faded sign (3327"19.4'S 2543"16.9'E) that pointed the way to the Zuurberg, a few hearts started to flutter - our first gravel and dirt to ride on!  Going round the first bend, whilst listening happily to the sound of loose shingle and little stones being thrown up by the front tyres hitting the bash plates, we were met by a unexpected sight:  A waddle of Harley Davisons, riding oh ever so slowly, I would estimate not more than 15 kph, each rider dressed out in the proper gear - red scarves, black leather jackets with chrome studs everywhere, and the shiniest pispot helmets south of Joburg.  In typical Harley Davison fashion they pretended not to notice us, although I did manage to get one rider to sort off raise his doe-skinned leather gloved hand in acknowledgement.  There were about 5 Harleys, followed by a big SUV towing a purple Fatboy on a trailer.  Where they have been, or what their destination was, was of no significance, after all, were we not on a mission dubbed:  Hogsback or Bust!

Soon several exhilarating riding moments came our way when we entered the narrow twisting corners of the Dorningnek Pass.  Nearly 6 kilometres of a steep climbing road cutting thru the mountain side and thick indigenous trees.  Then, just when I thought I have seen the last of strange vehicles on a dirt road following the encounter with the Hoggs, we stumbled upon a massive luxury tour bus, trying to manoeuvre around one of the hairpin bends.  As it moved forward and backwards, slowly inching its way along, I caught the glimpse of tourist cameras snapping away at the biker hooligans as we roared pass, leaving them behind.
Satellite photo of Dorningnek Pass


Then, our first bit of trouble. :-[  At the top of this beautiful little pass, I come up behind a twin-cab trying its best to belittle the big dust storm seen in the movie The Mummy.  Going into a corner at a speed of about 25 kph, I accordingly washed out when my front wheel lost traction in the small stones at the side of the road.   With the resultant dust everywhere, I was not able to read the road ahead as required - the simple off road riding skill of "Look up, look ahead" was not possible, and as we all know "what you cannot see, you cannot avoid".   Another contributing factor was definitely that the wrong type of tyres were fitted, which obviously did not help lessen my dilemma.  Although I came down hard and sliding, the damage was fortunately not severe.  Damage to the bike was mostly to the plastics and a handlebar shift.   Personal injuries were some skin abrasion on the right fore arm, and muscle trauma (blou kolle) on the right thigh and leg.  I was kitted out in full protective gear which absorbed a lot the impact and abrasion energy.  Technically this was not an off, the bike stayed on top of my right leg as I left my mark in the dirt of Dorningnek.  Thanks to CTD and Geoff for pulling the bike off me.  Incidentally, good quality ATGATT really works, and I can testify to that.

Our first pit-stop was at the Zuurberg Mountain Inn (3321"5'S 2544"40.1'E).  Here KTMjedi and ITrider assisted me in getting my bike sorted out after my ATGATT testing session earlier on.  It took us about 10 minutes to set the steering at right angles again and check the rest of the Djebel for other damage.  Miena Moo also showed her 1st Aid skills by dressing my abrasions.  Meanwhile the other dogs parked their butts on the hotel's veranda, some sipping warm coffee and munching fresh scones, while some elected to have something colder.



Leaving the Inn behind we continued out journey, slowly climbing higher and higher along a curving road designated as R335, but more generally called the Zuurberg Pass.  With fantastic 360 panoramic views this was real adventure riding stuff!  Travelling along this admirable road I could not help observing that it was as if we were riding along the Bergplaas section of the Baviaanskloof route.  Same rock formations, same vegetation. (More trivia:  both the Baviaans and Zuurberg regions are part of the Cape Fold Belt, consisting mostly out of the Table Mountain Sandstone formation and the East Cape Fynbos biome type vegetation).  Nevertheless, this unquestionably is a super route with an admirable view.





During the descent our first mechanical setback struck, the thing most dual-sport riders loath - a puncture.  KTMjedi was the victim; however with the assistance of Letsgofishing, a real puncture fixer master, we were able to continue after about 20 minutes or so.



Once the northern sections of Zuurberg Pass were negotiated, we rode past the historic Ann's Place (an 1848 homestead and now museum) (3315"13.9'S 2546"23.1'E).  Regrettably we could not stop and explore, we still had to travel quite a long way.

At a crossing a quick stop was called for, a few dogs were in need of a tree and Miena Moo was politely asked to study the cloud formations.



After turning left in a north-westerly direction, we started twisting the throttles as the gravel roads here were straight and in good shape.  Speeds of up to 100 kph were obtained, although I am sure the big boys among us, the KTM 950 Adv and BMW 1200 GSA, could easily have pushed the boundaries much further.  Dust was unfortunately a constant hindrance preventing the riders from bunching up.  At one stage the Bash's meat supply was nearly supplemented when I and KTMjedi, riding abreast, nearly collected a few sheep on going over a rise in the road when confronted by over 200 sheep being herded along the road.



It was originally planned to do a river crossing through the Fish River.  Although the way-points were correct on the GPS's, we discovered that the original farm road has not seen much traffic of late.  The first section encountered was badly overgrown and the decision was made to scrap the water crossing and rather continue towards Somerset East.  I must on the other hand mention that I did observed quite a few relieved smiles being hidden under visors from some of the lesser experienced travellers among us.



Whilst continuing our low gravel flying, KTMjedi suddenly started to slow down.   He gradually rolled to a stop with both arms thrown up in frustration.  Something severe was wrong within his KTM's gearbox.  It was obvious:  This is definitely no field repair situation.  Fortuitously cell phone reception was available and a frantic call was made, arranging for a trailer to meet him at the nearest town.   However, the mishap occurred some distance from the nearby regular place of civilisation, namely Somerset East, and the crippled KTM had to be towed.  Being well-prepared dual-sport adventures no less than two towing straps were promptly extracted from top boxes, and after an in-depth discussion, it was agreed to tow right pillion peg to left footrest on the KTM.



The 18-kilometre tow to Somerset East, done by CTD's KTM Recovery Vehicle, alias the venerable BMW R1200 GSA, went as smooth as an ice-cold rum-and-coke on a hot afternoon.  Real WD cooperation!

On the outskirts of Somerset East all the Wild Dogs re-assemble and we took stock of the situation.  It was 11h50 and we have arranged to rendezvous with about six other Wild Dogs at 12h00 in Bedford.  



As we had lost somewhat time due to the mechanical breakdowns and towing, it was decided to forego the planted dirt route from Cookhouse via Patryshooghte to Bedford and to make up time by hitting the tar.  

So, after a swift dash along the R63 and N10 to Bedford, we met up with Edgy, Gav, Shrek and others.  They have been waiting patiently for our arrival by being the focus point of interest to the curious locals.  Briv, Ball and Chain, Nicki  and Watermat travelling from the Western Cape then also rolled in  - it must have been the highest number of motorcycles ever to ensemble in this little town, no less than 23.  

After consuming a piles of hamburgers and chips, washed down with the liquid refreshment of his/her choice, the journey continued.  Next stop Adelaide.



The 30 odd kilometres to Adelaide went as boring as can be expected when riding on a road where bright yellow lines demarcating the sides.  At Adelaide our group lost some of its members.  Miena Moo joined Briv and his gang who continued via Fort Beaufort, whereas Piksteel, Ektoknbike and Fulliantomatix also made their own way along this route.  The remaining group of 8 hardcore riders were determined - bring on the technical stuff!  So sticking to the original pre-planned route, I pressed the GOTO button on my GPS and selected the next relevant way-point, high up in the mountains to the north-east of Adelaide.

After initially battling to find the correct route out of Adelaide to the Klein Winterberg mountains, we were soon sending it along at a steady pace.  The first 20 km or so was standard gravel stuff, but things changes once we passed a security boom controlling access to the Piet Retief Conservatory area (3236"48'S 2623"12'E).  Here the presence of loose material, shingle and rocks of various sizes called for constant concentration.  I had another three narrow escapes, but got gratification when I once saw the very experience enduro rider, ITrider, also nearly going horizontal in my mirror.  Steep inclines and sharp corners all added to the excitement.  

Following a lot of waving and sign language from Groenie, we stopped for a smoke break at the first control gate on the road leading to the Mpofu Nature Reserve.  After the usual oh's and ah's concerning the views and near offs encountered during the last half an hour, we saddled-up again and continued along the road towards the Nature Reserve.  



With the original plan and way-points for the route, the idea was to skirt the Nature Reserve's boundaries to the north.  However, arriving at the next way-point, (3236"11.3'S 2633"39.6'E) we encountered a big green security gate, two flabbergasted game rangers, and no clear route to take.  It would appear that the nature reserve was recently extended, and our planned road (which still appears on both topo maps and even mapsource) is no longer available.  Whilst accessing the situation, getting the map-book out of my backpack, asking the game rangers what they have done to our road, a police van rolled up to the gate from the south.  To make a long story short, I went over and start asking for directions from the men in blue.  Soon we had an alternative on how to get to Seymour from our present position.  Simply continue through the Mpufo Nature Reserve in a southerly direction until we get to a T-junction at a place called Blinkwater.  Then turn left and follow a newly constructed tar road to Seymour.  What a bonus, a game drive thrown in!  Lekker!  No problem to the game rangers, they were obviously still a bit shell-shocked seeing so many bikes here in the bundu.

So, off we went, following a suburb dual/sport dirt road, 7 km of twists and turns along a river, amongst majestic dolerite rock formations, and thickets of vegetation.  100% concentration was required, and one could not actually scan the surrounds for games.  I did nonetheless manage to spot a big troop of baboons and a few velvet monkeys that made a bee-line for the nearest tree when they were surprised by rider and bike.

After exiting Mpufo it was a 9 km ride up to the tar road we were told by the local constabulary to take to Seymour.   The next 35 km went quick, we were able to go flat out on a brand new wide tar road with little traffic, only occasionally had to watch out for the standard livestock hazard that is oh so common to this region.  

Arriving in Seymour (3233"06.5'S 2646"9.4'E) we rode up to a sign that indicated that Hogsback was close.  The sign informed us that our destination was merely 18 km away via the Michaels Pass - after a very long day of hard riding one could almost feel the peace and tranquillity of the Hogsback promise.  But, an addition has been added to the sign: Road only passable to 4x4 vehicles.  Trailrider, who together with SCP, experienced difficulty getting through, has already communicated a warning of a very difficult section to us the previous night by SMS.  

In true Wild Dog fashion a no pressure decision was put to each individual to go the route he is most comfortable with.  ITrider, Toby, Bish and CTD elected to go and try their hand at some mountaineering via the now infamous Michaels Pass road to Hogsback, while Letsgofishing, Groenie, Geoff and yours truly opted to take an alternative longer route, that bypass the Katriver Dam.  This road runs in a south-early direction and eventually joins up with the road from Alice into Hogsback.  We just were not willing to go and get wiped out after 9 hours of riding. So, after the standard goodbye and ride safely greetings, I and my three companions started riding along the Katriver Dam, following the Lushington river.



I was not too concerned, as I did noticed that there was a pass on our intended route, the Pefferkop Pass (3238"28'S 2652"37'E), so it was definitely not going to be a boring ride.

As it was getting late, and our thirst bigger by the minute, we going as fast as possible to reach our destination, the land of Hogsback were we were told ice cold beer was available to all wary travellers on motorbikes. Having previously imprinted the regions maps in my memory and with the camp-site way-points on my GPS, I was leading the merry race to our final destination. On rounding yet another corner, I was confronted by a mother of a Cape Cobra; it reared up in the middle of the road in a manner that would make any Indian snake charmer green with envy.  (Yet some more trivia: Cape Cobra (Naja nivea) is a moderately sized cobra inhabiting Southern Africa. It averages 120cm long but may grow to be 180cm long).  Decisions, decisions, man, this why I so love this adventure biking thing, having to make quick judgement calls on the run ?? Do I stop, or try and run over the monster, or zoom pass trusting it will be more interested in the opposite side off the road.  I choice the latter and made the biggest detour possible to the left.  Luckily, when the next rider reached the spot, the cobra has returned to the normal snake propulsion mode and was busy slithering across the road.   A real highlight of my trip!

Now, if potholes are your favourite, then this is the road to try out.  All over the place and some were big enough to swallow a small family saloon.  Needless to say extra care and constant concentration were require while dodging them.  Any recklessness riding here could have serious repercussions, both for the bike and rider.  After zig-zagging down the Pefferkop Pass, it was with a sigh of relieve that I turned left on the last few kilometres of tar to the Hogsback Pass and our final destination.

The start of the Hogsback Pass


Twenty minutes later, at 17h10, four more Wild Dogs roared into the Swallowtail Country Estate, our home for the next 2 days.  Tired, but as as happy as a puppy with two peters.



The final goal of the voyage, the Hogsback Mountain


This is Watty ending this narration with a clearer understanding that certain elements of the excitement that this trip has generated, only a dual-sport motorcyclist will understand.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2009, 10:15:33 am by Watty »
 

Online BMWPE

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2007, 05:28:39 pm »
Excellent report
Sorry I missed that ride  :'(
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Offline Captain Zef

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2007, 05:41:09 pm »
Baie nice
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Offline Highlander

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2007, 05:48:22 pm »
Cool Watty!   8)
 

Offline briv

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2007, 09:46:58 pm »
Mooi man Watty  ;D
oor B..erge en RIV..iere sal ons ry,
mag dit altyd tog so bly....
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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2007, 10:06:55 pm »
Nice report - on what must have been one of the coolest rides!
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Offline letsgofishing

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2007, 07:53:19 am »
Nice report and pics Watty!
There is nothing you can do about the past and you can't predict the future...all you have is the now...live it to the fullest.

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Offline Groenie

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2007, 08:47:01 am »
Lekker Watty. Ons het jou roete baie geniet.
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Offline PoepolJack

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2007, 08:49:56 am »
Nice pics Watty.
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Offline wino

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2007, 09:57:11 am »
thoroughly enjoyable report  ;)
 

Offline mountainboy

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2007, 10:10:44 am »
I smaak your bike

its the coolest thing

Thanks again for letting me take it for spin!!!!
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Offline Miena Moo

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2007, 10:25:56 am »
Nice Watty.It was a pleasure riding with you. ;D
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Offline ITrider

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2007, 02:14:12 pm »
Nice Watty.It was a pleasure riding with you. ;D
Dito :) :) :)
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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2007, 02:27:11 pm »
Lovely report here Watty! It was great meeting you in person! ;D 

Looking forward to next year's bash.

We should set a date soon so we can start a countdown!!! ;D


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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2007, 02:38:19 pm »
Kwaai report Watty.

Somma lekka trivia ingegooi.

Wat van die pad terug? ;D
 

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #15 on: November 16, 2007, 03:20:55 pm »

Goeie ride report Watty.

Dankie vir al die reelings en al jou moeite.

Ja, soos die manne se, waar is die report terug.

Nogmals dankie. :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
As die hoender in jou vasvlieg moet sy vere waai, maar dis darm ook nou nie nodig om in die hoenderhok in te klim nie.
 

Offline Watty

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #16 on: November 16, 2007, 03:46:43 pm »
Jammer, die terugtog was 'n One Man Show.  Geen report :-[ .   Ek het op my eie terug gery.  Net op Cookhouse gestop vir 'n bietjie unleaded en 'n coke.  Enigste stof was daai klein stukkie af met die berg by Hogsback.   Die wind het my lekker rondgedonner, veral as 'n bliksemse groot dubbel swaar voertuig van voor verby gejaag het (Die Djebel weeg maar 118kg)
« Last Edit: November 16, 2007, 03:47:53 pm by Watty »
 

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Re: Narration of an unique voyage to a place called Hogsback
« Reply #17 on: November 22, 2007, 05:06:32 pm »
Very nice report and "narration"  ;D  Next time I will be part of the dust creators!!