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Offline Zanie

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Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« on: July 21, 2014, 09:41:19 pm »
The Plan
I recently tackled Gamkaskloof (Die Hel) for the first time on my own bike; talked into this crazy venture by my overly-optimistic partner, Lance. I was extremely worried about the Huisrivier crossing and “drowning” my bike. Thanks to Youtube, I could see that it is no quick fix once you manage to get a lot of water into the engine or exhaust. Die Hel is a rather expensive middle-of-nowhere if you have to call for any sort of assistance, be it from a trailer rescue service or long-suffering family.

The History
To gain perspective on how big a deal the Die Hel trip was for me: I went for my first motorbike driving lesson last year August and bought my first bike, a BMW F650 GS in October last year. I have since been on a few off-road trips, including Oasis via Katbakkies and the Tankwa Bike Burn. I have also been on two Level 1 off-road courses – I wasn’t able to do too many of the exercises the first time around, which is why I did it again (and will definitely attend some more in future). My days of sitting pillion are over. The bug has bitten. I am now in control of my own destiny; however dubious that idea may be.

Heading out
My jello arm was twisted and Saturday 12 July saw Lance and I head off from Blouberg, Cape Town into the sunrise; me on my 650GS and he on his 800GSA. We took the straightest and fastest road possible in order to leave plenty time for tackling Swartberg Pass and Die Hel. This meant a long stretch of N1. It was beautiful nonetheless, with the mountains just after the Huguenot Tunnel still sporting a sprinkling of snow.

Brrr
It was very cold in the morning, with the temperature hovering around 4°C. I was very grateful for my newly acquired off-road gear, complete with thermal layer! I remember sitting pillion to Matjiesfontein in similar temperatures at night, wearing jeans and fingerless cycling gloves. I have never felt colder in my life.

Taking a break in the cold before Huguenot Tunnel:


In one way I was thankful for the cooler temperatures, thanks to a weird quirk of my bike: the overheating light comes on whenever I go at high speed on a normal or warm day. The definition of “high speed” varies depending on the day’s temperature. Sometimes it’s as low as 80km/h. Try driving that speed on the N1 for a while. It drives you batty! Diagnostic checks don’t show any faults and low speeds are fine (I can drive in second gear for 10km and the bike gives no complaints).

Bump
I had a side-stand incident at the petrol station at Laingsburg. The blow actually shifted my right-hand-side Barkbuster upwards a bit. I should have let Lance man-handle it back to its original position. It would play a key role later…

Swartberg
We took the R328 turn-off towards Prince Albert, where we stopped for lunch at the coffee shop of the Swartberg Hotel. Shortly after leaving Prince Albert we reached dirt road, where we stopped to adjust tyre pressures. I have been to Die Hel before as a pillion, but we had driven from the Calitzdorp side. Lance and I have never seen the Prince Albert side of the Swartberg Pass. It was absolutely stunning! The road seems to be a “civilised” version of the Die Hel pass: it has switch-back corners and views for Africa.

Swartberg Pass on the Prince Albert side:


Small victory
I take it relatively slow on dirt roads, due to me being a novice. Poor Lance had to have the patience of a saint. We soon reached my mental nemesis: the Huisrivier crossing. I stopped my bike and considered my options. It would have been easy for Lance to offer to drive my bike across. I would have let him if he offered, but he didn’t, for which I am grateful. If I hadn’t gone over by myself, I knew I would regret it later. I walked the crossing first, to find the easiest line. And then it was all “look up, stand up, open up” and I was over! I know this is peanuts for some of the old hands, but it was my great victory for the day.

Heading into Huis River:


Made it!


The hectic switch-back corners on the pass into Die Hel were not too difficult for me, going at my slow pace.

Heading down the pass:


One of the many hairpin bends:


We drove slowly and respectfully over the Gamka River low-water bridge, keeping well away from the slimy middelmannetjie. Last time we were here we saw two bikes go down on the slippery stuff.

Gamka River crossing:


Home away from home
We stayed at Die Stalletjie, which is quite far into Die Hel. We were given the code to open a locked gate in order to get there. Die Stalletjie consisted of a combined kitchen, bedroom and living room, and a separate bathroom. It had its own braai, with all the required implements (other than Blitz), and a little pool (obviously for summer). A local, Donald, came to welcome us and make sure everything was ok. He admired our bikes. He also told us a story of a girl biker who had driven off the road and broke her leg. Yikes! Lance and I ended the day with a lovely braai under the stars and full moon. The place and setting was beautiful.

Just arrived:


Lance at Die Stalletjie:


A plunge pool for the brave:


Lance and I:


Lance starting the fire:


Sunset at Die Stalletjie:


Lovely atmosphere:


Brrr x2
The temperatures hit -1°C the next morning. We had a long way to go back, so we headed out at 08:30.

I see you:


Leaving Die Hel:


I found the Die Hel switchbacks a bit more difficult going up than going down, but I managed. We stopped at the top of the pass to enjoy the view before heading on again.

Stop at the top of the pass:


The road calls:


My first off
Not far from the top of the pass, disaster struck. I took one corner too fast (for me) - later analysis of my Garmin track showed I was only doing 37km/h. I noticed some loose gravel and fixated on that, instead of looking through the corner. When I saw I wasn’t going to make the turn I hit the back brake first, but I was fast running out of road. At this point I hit the front brake. Front brake plus turned front wheel = instant hit the ground. The bike and I skidded together and ended up on the very edge of the road. I would have been fine if not for the fact that my bike had landed on my right foot/leg and had skidded on top of it for a bit.

Too sore to get up:


I don’t think I had any memory megabytes left to think of anything other than pain, but yet I managed to stomach-slither a bit closer to my bike to switch it off using the key. The kill-switch had popped out – another of my bike’s quirks. At that point, Lance arrived. I think he struggled to figure out what had happened or even which of my feet were hurt. All I could say was “It hurts. It hurts. It hurts.” In retrospect I’m amazed I didn’t swear. I think my brain reverted back to basic manageable English.

Lance checks out my track while I recover my senses:


Lance dragged my bike away from the edge of the road and then lifted it for me. All the while I was just lying there. I had to wait for my traumatised foot-nerves to stop screaming at me before I attempted to move. Lance asked whether he should take my boot off. I said no. If I took it off and my foot swelled up, I wouldn’t be able to get the boot back on. I knew getting someone to rescue us would probably cost us an arm and my other foot. The only thing to do was to try to get out on our own. Meanwhile, I didn't want to see what was going on inside my boot.

The diagnosis
When I finally got up, I guessed my foot was either broken or very badly sprained. I couldn’t put weight on it. Further bad news: the Barkbuster, which had not been in its optimal position thanks to the previous side-stand incident, had caused the front brake lever to snap clean off when the bike hit the ground. A front right indicator was missing and my right mirror was a bit loose, but the missing brake lever was the biggest concern. But what else could we do? If we called for help, it would be expensive and we would probably only get back home the next day. I decided to get back onto my bike. It was an easy decision, but one of the most difficult to execute.

Long way home
I only had a back brake now, which is unfortunately operated by the right foot. I am forever grateful for my W2 boots. They probably saved my foot from being completely pulverised. They also kept my foot relatively immobile. I could lift my right foot up and, flat-foot style, bring it down carefully on the back brake when necessary. It hurt like hell every time, so I used my gears to slow the bike whenever possible. So there I went: a bike with half braking power and me with half foot power!

Lance had to take both bikes over each of the longer river crossings and carry me across. Whenever we stopped, I would place the bike in gear and put my left foot to the ground. I could not put serious weigh on my right foot to kick the side-stand out, so Lance had to pull the side-stand out for me before every dismount. At Huisrivier he managed to drop my bike in the river. I don’t think he’s ever dropped his bike during a water crossing, but he’s not used to my bike. I think adrenaline kicked in, as he managed to right it pretty sharply. When started, I could hear there was a small bit of water in the one exhaust, but it burnt off soon enough. Thank goodness my bike didn’t get a proper drowning.

On the Swartberg Pass on the way to Prince Albert, I stuck the bike in first gear for all the steep sections. I was very nervous of the corners. I did not want to drop the bike on my other foot. Then we would be screwed. Lance was hanging back somewhere, removing water from his shoes and changing into a dry pair of socks. I met up with him again at the bottom of the pass. I passed two cyclists at the top of Swartberg Pass. They caught up with me quite soon. One sat behind me for a bit, probably hoping to catch a slipstream. I think he realised I wasn’t going anywhere fast, so he passed me. I only saw them again at the bottom of the pass, where they had stopped before going back the way they came! We saw two other bikers along the way as well.

Spotted some other bikers down Swartberg Pass:


The best sighting ever
On my way down Swartberg Pass I saw something that made my entire day worth-while: two half-grown caracal kittens crossing the road at a leisurely pace. I slowed down to a stop to watch them. After they crossed, I saw a face pop up at the side of the road. It was probably “mom” checking out that her kids crossed safely. What a magical moment! No-one else was around. I guess the caracals didn’t high-tail it across the road, because I was going so slowly. I was a curiosity to them; not a threat. Unfortunately I wasn't the one with the GoPro. Only memory pictures available.

On the stretch of tar to Prince Albert I had to slow down yet again, using the back brake (pain, pain, pain), because two yellow mongooses were having a tea-party in the middle of the road. They took a while to make up their minds to run; at which point one went left and the other went right. They looked like little foxes, with their white tail-tips.

N1
The stretch of N1 was not enjoyable. The previous day I had checked out the scenery. Today I was watching break-lights. The day was warmer than yesterday, which meant that my bike was up to its old tricks, with the overheating light coming on. I had to slow down three times to 80km/h to let the bike cool down, before picking up the pace again. The temperature dropped as the day wore on, which meant that this problem disappeared. We made good time home; stopping for fuel-ups and a late lunch. Lance had to help me hop to the bike. Hopping is a very strenuous workout – like skipping with one leg! I had to stop a couple of times, as my left leg muscles were burning. One guy came up to help, and almost picked me up off the ground to get me across the last steps to my bike. It turns out he was a biker (though he was in his car that day).

Final prognosis
After a nice soothing hot bath and hot chocolate, Lance drove me to the hospital. I was seen to pretty quickly due to my level of pain. The doctors suspected a break, because there was a funny bump on the top of my foot, but they couldn’t find one. They suggested that I consider having a second X-ray taken when the swelling has gone down. My ankle is ok, but the bottom and top of my foot is not. Meanwhile I am now on crutches and have a moonboot.

Follow-up
It has been a week now and I still cannot put weight on my foot. I am immensely frustrated at how long it takes to do just the little things. Having perfectly working limbs is such a privilege. There are technicolour bruises all the way down my right leg and on my foot.

Technicolour leg:


Technicolour foot:
« Last Edit: December 13, 2017, 12:58:27 pm by Zanie »
 

Online Mr Zog

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2014, 09:55:13 pm »
Very lekker RR Zanie  :thumleft:  Well written, descriptive, and great pics :drif:

The foot will get better, just give it time and lots of cold-packs and ibuprofen  ;D
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Offline Zanie

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2014, 10:04:29 pm »
Very lekker RR Zanie  :thumleft:  Well written, descriptive, and great pics :drif:

Thanks! It helps if you have someone along with a GoPro. Somewhere along the line you are bound to get a nice screen-grab.

The foot will get better, just give it time and lots of cold-packs and ibuprofen  ;D

Unfortunately I'm allergic to all the good stuff, i.e. ibuprufen, myprodol, etc. Gives me more pain than I had originally. SIGH.
 

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2014, 10:06:35 pm »
Very lekker RR Zanie  :thumleft:  Well written, descriptive, and great pics :drif:

Thanks! It helps if you have someone along with a GoPro. Somewhere along the line you are bound to get a nice screen-grab.

The foot will get better, just give it time and lots of cold-packs and ibuprofen  ;D

Unfortunately I'm allergic to all the good stuff, i.e. ibuprufen, myprodol, etc. Gives me more pain than I had originally. SIGH.

Oh dear...

Well remember RICE then...

R - rest
I - Ice
C - compression (bandage)
E - elevate

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Offline Klein Torkar

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2014, 10:10:57 pm »
thanks for sharing. Must not let the wife see this one, she still need to get onto dirt.
 

Offline ALLEN I

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2014, 01:09:14 pm »
Nice. Thanks for the ride   :ricky:
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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2014, 01:24:09 pm »
Brave girl, and a super RR!  Well done on being so very tough! 

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Offline KarooKid

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2014, 07:58:02 pm »
Don't put weight on the foot for at least 2 weeks. Frustrating but only option.
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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2014, 08:05:43 pm »
Nice RR, hope you recover soon!
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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2014, 08:58:41 pm »
Great report and super well done on the trip.

You will have many memories to come.

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2014, 09:47:26 am »
Nice RR Zanie. I hope you get better soon and we can read more from your future adventures.
 

Offline Lem

Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2014, 09:50:41 am »
Fantastic RR, Zanie  :thumleft:

That is a route and riding area I can never get enough of. Hope you pen down several more of these rides.
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Offline Rokie

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2014, 11:30:52 am »
Very well written! Thanks for the enjoyable read!  :thumleft:
[Unfortunately the photobucket posted pics don't all show on my work computer . . . wish I could see them all]

I know this is peanuts for some of the old hands, but it was my great victory for the day.
I think we all know what you're talking about here. I have ridden some small but risky sections by choice (i.e. they were avoidable) for the single purpose of having that victory feeling. This was big! Well done!

We stayed at Die Stalletjie,
Looks like a very cool little joint!

I noticed some loose gravel and fixated on that, instead of looking through the corner. When I saw I wasn’t going to make the turn I hit the back brake first, but I was fast running out of road. At this point I hit the front brake. Front brake plus turned front wheel = instant hit the ground. The bike and I skidded together and ended up on the very edge of the road. I would have been fine if not for the fact that my bike had landed on my right foot/leg and had skidded on top of it for a bit.
Great description. I had a nasty fall a few years ago and also wrote the description afterwards. It is amazing how much detail one is able to recall - especially the thought processes. It wasn't the intention, but to me, writing it down was part of the therapy of dealing with it, mentally.

I decided to get back onto my bike. It was an easy decision, but one of the most difficult to execute.
VERY BRAVE!! :notworthy:

Lance had to take both bikes over each of the longer river crossings and carry me across. Whenever we stopped, I would place the bike in gear and put my left foot to the ground. I could not put serious weigh on my right foot to kick the side-stand out, so Lance had to pull the side-stand out for me before every dismount.
Good man!!!  :salut: :headbang: :hello2:

two half-grown caracal kittens crossing the road at a leisurely pace.
awesome!

I am immensely frustrated at how long it takes to do just the little things.
I agree with the other pieces of advice on taking it easy. The surgeon who helped to fix me up said that, even pro athletes (with their superior physique) need an average of 12 months for 100% recovery from an ankle sprain  :eek7:

Hang in there!
« Last Edit: July 23, 2014, 11:33:45 am by Rokie »
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Offline Zanie

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2014, 02:47:17 pm »
thanks for sharing. Must not let the wife see this one, she still need to get onto dirt.
Tell her it is awesome! If she's on her own bike, take it slow. I should have driven within my limits, but I felt bad for going so slow all the time; hence getting too brave for myself. Now I know my current limits on dirt: snail mode.

That is a route and riding area I can never get enough of. Hope you pen down several more of these rides.
I definitely want to go back there again, but next time I would like to have an extra day to just chill. The views were fantastic.

Unfortunately the photobucket posted pics don't all show on my work computer . . . wish I could see them all
PhotoBucket and I seem to have a love-hate (or is it hate-hate?) relationship. I've had a look and made some edits. Let me know if anything has improved.

Don't put weight on the foot for at least 2 weeks. Frustrating but only option.
No worries about keeping to this advice. It's still too sore to put any weight on it anyway. I am getting serious cabin fever. To make it worse, I've now been whacked sideways by some cold on steroids. What on Earth?! I can go for 2 years without a single sick day and now I'm on crutches triangulating the position of the nearest toilet roll/tissues.
 

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2014, 03:00:11 pm »
Nice report and photos.
And well done.
I saw your bikes in Prince Albert on the Sunday and later the same day at the filling station in Laingsburg.
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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #15 on: July 23, 2014, 07:59:40 pm »
I know its hard riding with decent protection on a longer ride, but you should really invest in decent boots and decent knee guards.

Nice pics, love die hel.
 

Offline Zanie

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #16 on: July 23, 2014, 09:35:37 pm »
I know its hard riding with decent protection on a longer ride, but you should really invest in decent boots and decent knee guards.

There's the rub. I did have decent boots and knee padding (dropped about 15k on safety gear), but the worst sort of luck.

My boots:


I suspect that the side panniers on the big bikes save peoples' feet, as it forms a little triangle of safety between your bike and the ground when you fall - any Dogs' opinions on this? I have had my own bike fall on my foot before (twice) and an 800GSA fall on my foot (once). Both times I was ok. The difference with this fall was that all 200kg of my bike skidded on top of my right foot/leg for a stretch, while twisting it. If I was wearing normal shoes my foot would be toothpaste. I would also definitely not have made the ride home. My boots kept my foot supported and stable. The pain went up a couple of notches when I eventually had to remove my boots and that stabilising factor was gone. Even hopping became painful then!

I also noticed my helmet and visor were pretty scratched up on one side. I can't even remember hitting my head. If I was flung free of the bike, I would have been perfectly fine, but I hung on to make sure my machine doesn't take a trip down the mountain. Rather pull that deadly front brake on a corner and bust up my foot than lose my bike!
« Last Edit: December 13, 2017, 01:03:39 pm by Zanie »
 

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #17 on: July 23, 2014, 09:48:39 pm »
Those boots are great, but dont offer any ankle protection, which is the first to go in a hard fall.  I have a mate who broke his ankle by getting it stuck between footpeg and the tar when he went into a corner. He was weathing thor shorties, which look tough, but also had no ankle protection.



These guards work very well and are super comfy. They are about R800. Padding alone in your pants are useless.  :thumleft: :thumleft:
 

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #18 on: July 23, 2014, 09:49:31 pm »
Hoe voel die voet nou?
 

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Re: Finishing a Ride, come (Die) Hell or High Water
« Reply #19 on: July 23, 2014, 09:53:39 pm »
Thanks for the descriptive report - hope you heel real soon  :thumleft: