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Offline Zanie

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Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« on: April 05, 2016, 06:25:22 pm »
Lance and I had been keen to try out the Craig Marshall Pass, a.k.a. Droëlandskloof Pass. The Mountain Passes SA website noted that you need 2-3 hours to complete the pass (this is for cars – bikes are faster). It also mentioned "Multiple farm gates added to a fairly dodgy road, which can be in various states of disrepair..." This sounded interesting.

We had discovered a place called Balie’s Gat, roughly in the same area, through the Facebook group Grondpad en Sandspoor. We had a pass and a cool place to stay; all that is required for a weekend outing.

Lance and I would meet my parents at Balie’s Gat on a Saturday night and head back on the Sunday. My parents would arrive on Friday and stay through to Monday. Being retired has its perks.

Day 1: 12 March

Stats for the day:
Distance: 307 km
Time (moving): 06:01:50
Time (total): 8:57:11
Average speed (moving): 51 km/h
Average speed (total): 34 km/h

I left the route planning to the master of “let’s see where this goes,” i.e. Lance. You can see that we were definitely not intent on getting anywhere in a direct fashion:



I usually supply a Google Maps track, but Google Maps currently doesn’t believe that you can drive/ride through Droëlandskloof Pass. It also had difficulties with other sections of the route.

I have no footage or photos of the little northern mini-excursion of our route at Riebeeck Kasteel, but it was beautiful, with a small gravel pass included.

I had really bad stomach cramps from mid-morning onward. Lance asked whether we should turn around and go home, but that sounding boring. Anyway, for some or other reason, the pain lessened considerably when I was on the bike. I suppose that particular sitting position helped a lot, but obviously the universe was telling me the bike was the place to be. I bought some tablets in Ceres and that helped some more.

The photo story starts after Ceres, where we encountered our first hurdle at the Swaarmoed farm:


Ok. Scrap the idea of taking the Onder-Swaarmoed Road. Let’s try the Bo-Swaarmoed. It sounds slightly more cheerful.



There were some random military vehicles shortly after we turned off the Bo-Swaarmoed Road onto the R46. Tar road is not for sissies!



Though in that case we were big sissies. We jumped off onto gravel a.s.a.p. In our case, onto the longest gravel road in SA: the R355.





We only completed 11km of the road’s full 545km length. Our destination was not Springbok. It was this obscure turn-off:


To the mountains and beyond!


The first of many gates:




Another gate. This one with a sign warning of dangerous animals. It advises that you remain “in” your vehicle. Does “on” count?



The Mountain Passes website recommends to do this pass from east to west, because the road splits a number of times and is more obvious to follow in this direction. Yet, we were left with the feeling that this pass needs a repeat performance in the opposite direction. We were often mesmerised by the view behind us.

There were many things to catch your interest. From the view…


…to the road itself.


Heading into the kloof:


The mountains stand sentinel around you.


Another gate…


Remember to look behind as well.


A bit of rough road…


…but the scenery draws you ever onwards.


Again: look behind you!


A speck of Homo sapiens in a land of rock and mountains:




Some more rough road.


Me throwing stones:


Then some sand for variety. I do not like sand…


Aah. Much better.




Back to sand. Yeaurgh! Oars out!


Erosion dongas…


…taken to the next level: mini Fish River!


Given the water damage, I start to wonder what this place would look like in the wet season. The road sometimes resembled a riverbed, with sand and round cobbles.











The western side of the route:






One of the last gates (maybe):


More scenery:


The road spits you out here. The main sign-board behind me says “Baviaanshoek.” You would need to turn left here if coming from the west. There’s also another small sign that says “Meulenhof.”



We had originally planned to ride the Winkelhaak Road and another random gravel diversion running through farms roughly parallel to the R303, but it was getting late and we still wanted to leave enough time to dawdle down the pass to Balie’s Gat. I also knew that my parents would start worrying as time marched on, despite them knowing that, for us, we were all about taking our time on the journey. In the end, we took the tar shortcut on the R303.

The Balie’s Gat turn-off is relatively obscure, but their website provided the co-ordinates: 32°46'36" S 19°14'32" E. There was a boom shortly after the turn-off, but we were let through without needing to sign anything.



Whilst riding on the Balie’s Gat approach road, both of us heard a strange sound: rapid-fire metallic pinging that ended as abruptly as it started. We stopped in confusion, asking each other “Was that your bike or mine?” It had almost sounded like a part had come adrift. Lance even turned around and rode back for a stretch to see whether he could see anything that had fallen off our bikes. When he came back, we both got off our bikes and gave them a quick glance-through. Everything seemed in place.

We did not leave straight away, as you get the feeling that you shouldn’t ride if you had not yet solved the mystery. Whilst discussing the strangeness of it all, the reason for the sound became clear. Patience reveals all! Did my rear tyre look a bit flat? Indeed it did! I probably picked up a wire, which set off a musical percussion until it was flung free.

Not again! This was my third puncture in 6 months thanks to an assortment of nails, a branch (!) and now a wire. We limped ahead to the shady trees in the distance.



So near and yet so far. We were about 5km from the campsite.


This is starting to become a habit…


Let’s not forget to mention that Lance recently bought his own tools (he usually borrowed his Dad’s tools) and had tried to limit it to sockets and a socket spanner, rather than take up space with endless spanners. The only problem: the one socket was not deep enough to use on the valve nut.

Lance captured my reaction to this piece of news perfectly:


We managed nonetheless, after a suitable period for chastisement had elapsed.



We never found the offending item, but we did find the offending hole.



We have managed to up our game. The entire process took 1h20min rather than the 3 hours of last time. Note to future selves: buy a compressor. Using a bicycle pumps is getting old mighty quickly.

Balie’s Gat sign-post:


A miraculously-balanced rock:


Lance almost lost it here. He did not notice the sand at first.


Then you couldn’t do anything but notice the sand! At least the footing was relatively solid if you remained in the car tracks.



Unfortunately the light was a bit bad at this point, but you should be able to see the road in the valley below.



The road was very rough at points and demanded your full attention, as there were no barriers on the side and the drop was quite hairy at points. The pictures on the way out the next day may do it more justice. The Balie’s Gat website notes that only high clearance vehicles should tackle this road.





I would have a fight with this puddle and sand patch the following day:


Some last cobbles before the campsite:


Mom in the “Where have you been?” mode.


My parents go traipsing across the country by 4 wheels; rather than two, sometimes staying away for months at a time. Their longest trip, all the way to Tanzania and back, took them over 4 months. They have seen some pretty amazing things, including a leopard that was interested in their coffee:
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/o9T1RAorM20" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/o9T1RAorM20</a>

In the earlier photo, you are looking at the lady that thought a small stick would be a good enough defence in the wilds when looking for an ablution bush. She walked smack into a male lion. Fortunately for her and unfortunately for the lion, he was badly injured and not very mobile.

The campsite was really nice, with great braai and ablution facilities (though there are no power points to the sites themselves). There are only 4 large sites (I think they are expanding), so it gets booked up quickly. They sell home-made pot-bread and roosterkoek, which they will bring to you. We had the bread with our braai: highly recommended!
« Last Edit: September 03, 2017, 07:00:51 pm by Zanie »
 

Offline Zanie

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Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie se Gat
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2016, 06:30:06 pm »
Day 2: 13 March

Click here for our Google Maps route.



We took the most direct route home, because Lance still wanted to kite-surf (he’s an absolute addict).

Lance in his natural element:


The campsite in the morning:


We had time for a bit of a stroll. This is the view looking down on the campsite:


Next, we walked in the opposite direction. Spot the “wildlife:”


The Gat from Balie’s Gat:


We headed off late-morning, after a yummy bacon-and-eggs breakfast made on a skottel on the fire.





I was on the right-hand track when I reached the puddle. I only focused on what was directly in front of me; not choosing my line based on the heavy sand patch to the right up ahead.



The results of bad planning:


The snapshots from the footage on our way out gives a clearer idea of the Balie’s Gat approach road:



It is a lot steeper and rougher than it looks.








Looking back to where we came from:


Hairpin:


Spot the biker:


Back at the sand…


It’s ok if you expect it:


Not so much if it catches you unawares:


Back on the R303, Mother Nature was throwing a slight tantrum:


It disappeared just after we passed it, but not before Lance tried to ride as close as possible. Bright spark. He got eyes full of sand for his troubles.



We headed towards Citrusdal. We had never ridden this stretch of road before, as it is the quickest way to the N7 and we usually take the long, gravel alternative. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise.





What we hadn’t expected was gravel:




We had not realised that the Buffelshoek and Middelberg Passes were gravel. It is essentially one pass, with the one side called Buffelshoek and the other Middelberg.









There are places on this pass where things can go badly wrong if you overshoot a corner. Not a single barrier in sight.



To the left and right is all the same road:






Some steeper bits were tarred:


And so the enjoyable bit of our weekend was over. We slabbed it down the N7 to Cape Town, with a headwind adding to the misery. In the end it was all for naught: Lance could not go kite-surfing. I think he was badly dehydrated (too much wine and rum the previous night and too little water today), because he was really thirsty and nauseous for the remainder of the day.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2017, 08:57:35 pm by Zanie »
 

Offline ChrisL - DUSTRIDERS

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Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie se Gat
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2016, 06:33:39 pm »
That road into Balie's Gat is stunning!!! :drif: :drif:
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Offline boland

Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2016, 07:38:00 pm »
I use to work on a farm close to Balie's Gat during holidays. I visited a friend who lived in Balie's Gat regularly. He owned a Conquest and I also drove that road quite a few times in my Tazz, even at night! Just took it slow! That being said, it's one of the most beautiful places in the WC for me :thumleft:
 

Offline BMWPE

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Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2016, 07:58:14 pm »
 :thumleft:
Enoyed that RR
thanks for all the pics
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Offline Zanie

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Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2016, 08:04:00 pm »
A video of the trip:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/n2kVwGTsUKg" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/n2kVwGTsUKg</a>
 
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Offline Bokveld

Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2016, 09:04:28 pm »
   Ek het altyd gewonder waarheen gaan die Baviaanshoek-pad.Dankie Zanie;nou weet ek.Lekker trippe waarop jy ons neem.
 

Offline George77

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Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2016, 09:21:31 pm »
I would like to do that Kareekloof to the R303(Op die Berg) as a day trip. Possible or not?
 

Offline LanC

Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2016, 10:19:33 pm »
I would like to do that Kareekloof to the R303(Op die Berg) as a day trip. Possible or not?
If you are able to do Tankwa Padstal and Katbakkies as a day trip then this is droelandskloof pass if definitely possible as a day trip.
 

Offline Lem

Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2016, 06:22:02 am »
lekker julle!

Dis nou 'n mooi verslag oor plekke en paaie wat ek nie eers geweet het bestaan nie. Was baie by daai Baviaanshoekpaadjie verby, maar nou weet ek wat agter hom le.  :thumleft:
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Offline Black_Hawk

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Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2016, 12:30:03 pm »
And another great RR with excellent photo's. Well done Zanie  :thumleft:
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Offline Matewis

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Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2016, 01:05:04 pm »
 :laughing4: :laughing4: :laughing4:Callievallie ons moet hom gaan ry :ricky: :pot: :peepwall:
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Offline DRAZIL

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Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2016, 01:21:54 pm »
excellent trip , area and photos
Thank you  :thumleft: :thumleft:
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Offline Black_Hawk

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Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2016, 02:14:03 pm »
:laughing4: :laughing4: :laughing4:Callievallie ons moet hom gaan ry :ricky: :pot: :peepwall:

Hy is nou op my "bike-it" lys
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Offline Crossed-up

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Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2016, 08:29:48 am »
Only seen this RR now. Excellent!
 

Offline COLES

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Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2016, 12:51:43 pm »
awesome report great roads

magnificent leopard filming was top not

thank you for sharing great photo,s
 

Offline Sidpitt

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Re: Droëlandskloof / Craig Marshall Pass and Balie's Gat
« Reply #16 on: April 25, 2016, 01:57:30 pm »
Great RR.
Thanks!
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