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Offline Zanie

Sand, sand, more sand...
« on: September 20, 2015, 07:37:16 pm »

I have been struggling to keep up with ride reports, as I have been riding more than writing! Ever since mid-June there’s only been 5 weekends where I have not been on my motorbike for at least a full day (v.s. 10 weekends of 1-3 days trips!). Addicted much?

So after almost 2 months, here it is: my and Ilse's first time on the infamous Eselbank road close to Wupperthal. It has been on our to-do list ever since we started this strange thing called dual-sport motorbike riding. Along with Baviaanskloof and Die Hel, it represents the “scariest” scenic must-do rides if you are a newbie on a “Geen Sand” in the Western Cape area.

Being newbies, both us girls needed chaperones. Therefore Gerhard and Lance were roped in as “chief sand advisers” and navigators. I think they may need to be suspended from services, as we ended up on a road that was even worse than the Eselbank road. More on that later…

I had hoped to build up more mental fortitude before tackling Wupperthal, but the guys stuck to their favourite refrains: “You’ll be fine” and “It isn't that bad.” Therefore we set off on the weekend of 25/26 July.

The route

I usually add Google Maps tracks of our routes for those, like me, who do not want to download loads of extra programmes to view fancy tracks. I have also attached the gpx file. There are problems with both. The gpx file represents the original planned route, which we did not follow due to various reasons. The Google Maps links contain the actual route taken, but it is broken up into bits on our first day, as Google Maps believes that some of the routes we followed do not exist. Lance is submitting these as faults to Google Maps, so perhaps the next time you look, the route will work.

Day 1: Saturday 25 July

The Google Maps route in bits:
Part 1: https://goo.gl/9TkmPF
Part 2: https://goo.gl/qgB8vn
Part 3: https://goo.gl/ylbljw

We set off from Table View at roughly 8am. Thanks to the winter weather, some roads that are usually sandy (only in newbie terms – it may pass as uneventful hard-pack for the pros), ended up being easy. Wet weather has other perks though. It did not take long before we found the first puddle.

Gerhard leading the way across the puddle

Lance was in front for a while, which meant that he was the one who usually got to see any wildlife. He said he saw quite a few foxes running across the road. The only one I got to see was a dead one. Shame. Photo disclaimer: the death of the fox was not caused by our group. Hitting something that size may cause some damage to the biker as well.

Me with dead wildlife:

I really believe that winter and early spring is the best time for riding. Sure, in the Western Cape it is like playing Russian Roulette with the rain, but at least everything is green and you do not become a sweaty mess in full safety gear.

Ilse in a green landscape:

We crossed the Berg River. Google Maps did not believe that this crossing is possible, which is in fact true for some parts of the year. Sure enough, Lance and I were there just a week later and it was completely flooded with fast-flowing water – not recommended for even a pro biker.

How the Berg River crossing looked on this trip:

The Berg River crossing the following week:

Some “not-so-wild” life spotted en route

Wilder wildlife in the foreground

We rode over Kapteinskloof Pass (http://www.mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za/find-a-pass/western-cape/item/690-kapteinskloof-pass.html), which is on the road connecting the R399 with the R366.

Lonely motorbike on Kapteinskloof Pass:

Lance on Kapteinskloof Pass:

Gerhard had put together the planned route for today. Any applause or blame for the route would rest on his shoulders. I think a lot of the route planning was based on “this looks like an interesting, potentially passable route” theoretic. It also meant that we would come across something like this:


Gerhard phoned the owner, who insisted that there was no through-road, though maps showed otherwise. I suspect he prefers 4x4 vehicles only (it is a 4x4 route that requires permits).

Turning around – at least the view was amazing:

The guys spotted something that set their hearts racing. We told them to continue with eyes to the front.

Sand mountain:

The road between part 2 and 3 of the Google Maps, connecting the R366 and R365, is the other bit that Google Maps thinks is a figment of our imagination. It’s definitely burnt into my memory, no matter whether real or imagined. Ilse and I would both find this particular stretch to be far worse than the Eselbank road. Lance tells me it’s only 5km. Seriously? It felt like forever. The scenery was amazing though. It felt like we’d been transplanted into a different world during a different era.

Fynbos and sand panoramic:

The route had every challenge and obstacle a newbie could ever want/not want:



Sand and puddles

Free-roaming cows




Strategically-placed holes dug by the locals:

Hard patches of something (concrete?) interspersed with sand, just to keep you on your toes about what’s hard and what’s not:


And more sand

Endless sand…

I do not even want to begin to imagine how sandy the route would be in mid-summer.

“Where on hell’s earth are you guys taking us?”

“I will kill you later”

Sand is a mind-f*** if you’re a newbie. You know the theory, but the mind/survival instinct revolts. My mantra/chant I had going in my mind the entire time was “Look ahead, look ahead, look ahead, look ahead…” The moment you look down, you’re buggered. Problem is, when I see particularly thick sand, I do look down. Then out comes the oars.

Girls paddling along:

I could manage shorter stretches of thick sand or longer stretches of not-so-thick sand without deploying the oars, as a general rule (but not always…). You have to get used to the idea that the handlebars become window dressing. They can do strange things, but you will keep going straight if you use your feet to steer and don’t attack the handlebars, turning their “strange things” into “strange flight.” Again: all theory. Getting your mind/reactions to believe this is another story.

I managed (just), but Ilse was having a “bad mind-space” day. I've been there before (actually only 2 weeks previously on the last day of my and Lance’s trip to Verneukpan) and it is not fun. Everything gets pushed upwards on the scary scale and things that should be manageable become insurmountable. Your chances of falling increase. Every fall puts you in a worse space and increases your chances of falling again and again. I was in a good space and stayed upright. Ilse came down three times.

The guys generally rode ahead. Ilse, in particular, doesn't like it if Gerhard rides behind her, because then she feels bad about keeping him back and pressured to go faster. This meant that during her falls, the guys, as a rule, were a bit ahead. They have the GoPros, which is why there’s no photographic evidence.

Ilse and I shortly after lifting her bike:

The tracks tell a tale:

Ilse not having a good day:

(I must mention here that 7 weeks later, Ilse, Gerhard, Lance and I headed to Wupperthal’s Eselbank road a second time, with a bunch of others. This time I was the one needing to get dug out the sand and lagging right at the back of the group, while Ilse was handling everything really well. It shows how your “head space” can affect your riding. That’s part of a future ride report though.)

This is not to say that the guys didn't have their own unique problems. Gerhard’s Triumph is temperamental where starting is concerned. Mechanics can’t seem to fix it. Diagnostic tools are not showing up any problems. Originally it was thought that the stepper motor was a problem (apparently a common gripe with this particular bike), but the problem persists. On this day, the bike decided to escalate the problem, just for kicks and giggles. The bike had been relatively easy to push-start on gravel highway, but when it cut out and refused to start in thick sand it presented a whole new problem. The guys pushed the bike a far stretch, but it still did not want to comply.

Gerhard walking to his stubborn bike, after trekking back to fetch his helmet he had left on the ground:

Another method was required. The guys pushed the bike again, in neutral, and pressed the starter button. The Triumph decided it had rested long enough and given those lazy guys the hiking exercise they needed. It started up. This method worked only once and could be largely due to luck and the fact that the Triumph had had a long enough “rest period.” The starting issue may just be time related, i.e. the bike wants a couple of minutes to just chill and take in the scenery.

We finally reached the end of the sand road. Please excuse the non-photogenic nature of the below photo. I was munching food, kindly provided by Ilse: biltong and cream cheese on crackers. Yum!


The guys did a quick route recalculation. Given the time of day and the length of time it had taken to do the route so far, it was decided to leave the Eselbank road for tomorrow. Both Ilse and I heaved a sigh of relief. We’d had enough of sand for the day.

The next stretch of road took us alongside a railway line. Obviously we still had not yet had our fill of puddles.

An appropriate road-sign given our earlier route:

Heading into the Cederberg area:

This is what I like about riding in a small group: you can stop for the smallest thing that catches your interest without feeling as if you are holding up an entire group. In this case it was a tortoise.

Why did the tortoise cross the road?

To inspect the motorbike:

Uitkyk Pass:

What better to do on Uitkyk Pass than to “kyk?”

It was getting late, but this is the best time to see all the amazing colours of the landscape.

What a privilege to have these roads “in our back yard.”

The guys wanted to go exploring, so they went off on their own. There was not enough time to take us slow girls along as well.

“How about this road?”

They found more sand:

And the old observatory:

The new observatory is in Sutherland, because the light pollution became too much in the Cederberg area. Apparently talks are still held at the old observatory.

“And how about this road?”

Gates are a bit more “optional” when on a bike (spot the easy way around):

The guys finally joined us at our destination: Cederberg Oasis. The place was abuzz with people. I even bumped into an ex work colleague. He had come from Sanddrif campsite in order to watch the rugby at Oasis, while his family (wife and small kid) waited for him back at Sanddrif!

Tent sweet tent:

Supper consisted of an amazing buffet, where every bit of food was more-ish.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2017, 07:17:20 pm by Zanie »

Offline Zanie

Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2015, 07:40:53 pm »
Day 2: Sunday 26 July

Google Maps route: https://goo.gl/56y6Ej

The next morning, we headed off to do the infamous road to Wupperthal.

It was very cold early in the morning. I think the temperature was in the low negatives.

Early on, you could see the road would at least be more “interesting” than gravel highway:

One section had a chicken run option.

Which one would you take?

No contest for me – I choose the high road:

Ilse follows my lead. Of course, Gerhard always likes to try the route less travelled.

Ilse down again:

It had nothing to do with head space this time. Phobia is the correct word. Apparently there was a snake in the road. Ilse did some strange manoeuvres to miss it and ended up on the ground. Lucky for her, the snake had decided that it was all a bit too exciting to hang around there.

Do I have to pick it up?

Amazing Cederberg rock formations:

Gerhard having fun:

Little village in the middle of nowhere:

Shortly after the village, there’s a turn-off to the right (where the main road kinks to the left) to the view point at the Eselbank River waterfall and gorge. I have been on this road I don’t know how many times before, either as a pillion on a bike or a passenger in a 4x4, but I had never been here before. Do not miss it. The views are lovely.

These boots aren't really made for hiking. At least it’s a short walk.

Get in touch with a rock today:

Me on a rock with a view:

Lance with spectacular surrounds:

Some locals took fright at us scary bikers:

We headed on, past some more amazing rock formations.

And then we hit sand…

After yesterday’s fiasco, we were mentally prepared. The sandy bits seemed short in comparison. The sand was also not as bad as it would be in mid-summer. We got through without event.

There were even some puddles to remind us of yesterday.

We spotted a bunch of other bikers taking a break. I hoped they weren’t laughing too hard at my pace…

Lance checking out the others:

Some prefer to do it the hard way

The road was quite rocky on some stretches, but as long as I was allowed to go at my own speed (i.e. dead slow in either first or second gear) I actually had fun. It felt a bit like mountain biking, just without the sweat (and also with a much heavier contraption that can fall on you if things go wrong).

Lance shepherding me:

Eselbank Pass – steeper than it looks:

Below is proof that the guys are also not infallible. Gerhard stopped on a corner of Eselbank Pass, looked behind him to find Ilse, and dropped the bike.

Ilse stopping to help out:

Eselbank Pass is very steep. If you are a newbie and are not comfortable with speed, stick your bike in first gear to use the engine’s compression to slow you. It’s amazing how much speed you can still pick up in first gear though! I only used my brakes before corners. Sitting on the brakes the whole way down is not a good idea. I think they heat up and are then useless when you really need them?

Eselbank Pass is amazing. I was having difficulty choosing the best pictures, so here is a whole bunch:

We headed down into the Biedouw Valley. Apparently this is a great place to check out flowers when they are in bloom.

Heading out the other side of Biedouw Valley:

We would be back in this area, doing a very similar route, in 7 weeks’ time. What’s not to like?
« Last Edit: December 01, 2017, 07:19:38 pm by Zanie »

Offline Zanie

Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2015, 07:43:36 pm »
The gpx file of the originally planned (i.e. longer) route is attached.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2015, 08:32:40 am by Zanie »

Offline Xchallenge

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Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2015, 07:44:19 pm »
Awesome photos and Ride Report.

Im so envious, this looked like an amazing trip.
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Offline Parkinoff

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Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2015, 07:45:11 pm »
Nice RR. Nice pics :thumleft:
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Offline masehare

Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2015, 07:46:32 pm »
Mooi foto's!
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Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2015, 07:55:31 pm »
Very nice and how I miss those roads  :thumleft:
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Offline gwild

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Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2015, 08:54:50 pm »
Awesome RR and pics thx for sharing :thumleft:

Offline SchalkL

Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2015, 09:21:24 pm »
Great RR, definitely not a trip for newbie's Respect  :thumleft:
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Offline Crossed-up

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Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2015, 09:35:02 pm »
As you say, "What's not to like?"

Very nice report. Thank you.

Offline Crankshaft

Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2015, 10:03:18 pm »
Jissie, wat n nice RR. Baie mooi foto's en baie sand :lol8:
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Offline adv

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Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2015, 10:35:20 pm »
Great report. Dankie vir al die foto's oplaai  :thumleft:

Offline friggs

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Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2015, 10:51:20 pm »
Great RR man, awesome photos that seriously give me that "Wish I was there!", looks like a great ride!

Offline Eddie L

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Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2015, 06:22:55 am »
Awesome RR. Going there this coming weekend!!! :thumleft:

Offline Coxwain

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Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2015, 06:54:29 am »
Great ride report Zanie and big respect , thats some hairy riding.   :thumleft: :thumleft:
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Offline Optimusprime

Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #15 on: September 21, 2015, 07:39:59 am »
Loved it, dankie
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Offline COLES

Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #16 on: September 21, 2015, 08:05:58 am »
what a beautiful area thank u for sharing

Offline m0lt3n

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Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #17 on: September 21, 2015, 08:39:25 am »
great RR. now I just have to make a plan to get riding in that area again
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Offline Boskind27

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Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #18 on: September 21, 2015, 08:51:39 am »
Ag great Zanels maak my sommer nog meer lus vir die naweek. Dankie vir al die moeite met die Ride report, ek moet my sokkies optrek.

Dammit wens daar is evidence van die keer se eselbank dat Gerhard kan sien ek het slegs 3 sekondes gepaddle lol. Alhoewel paddle is goeie cardio ;)


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Re: Sand, sand, more sand...
« Reply #19 on: September 21, 2015, 09:08:31 am »
great ride you all had
awesome area  :thumleft: :thumleft:
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