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Offline the ruffian

Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #20 on: June 14, 2019, 11:42:18 am »
Not “unprepared DR”, but “unprepped “ Dr , WRT suspension mods... (bloody predictive text 🧐)

Not that that excuses overly innate caution...🤨
 

Offline Ri

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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #21 on: June 14, 2019, 12:35:38 pm »
Yes, Keith is a very cautious guy, given to ruminate aloud on the pro's and con's of every situation; he often kept us both out of trouble.

And yes, it was an absolute blast, especially spotting the Southern Cross every night and tracking the Scorpion's path across the heavens, and watching out for meteorites. There were a few astonishing sparklers leaving long, burning trails across the skies...

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Offline Lem

Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #22 on: June 14, 2019, 12:46:52 pm »
Lekker report tot dusver. Verneukpan beslis binne vlg 12 maande op my bucket list  :thumleft:
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Offline captain jack

Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #23 on: June 14, 2019, 09:01:11 pm »
 :thumleft:

Keep it coming
 

Offline Ri

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #24 on: June 16, 2019, 11:23:00 am »
Day 2

Despite my good intentions to be up and packed early the next morning, the cold weather scuppers my plans. It is beginning of June, and we are escaping a cold front that is sweeping the Northern Cape. The nights are very chilly. But I had learnt from my Kaokoland trip, and was prepared for the cold nights. I'd bought a summer bivvy-sleeping bag combo, into which nicely fitted a down sleeping bag. And for insulation, I folded a polar fleece blanket inside that. The polar fleece blanket also doubles as extra protection when I have to start moving.

St Ri of Verneukpan ::)




Or Purple Inuit maybe? As the puffy eyes show, I didn't have the best night's sleep :bueller:




The dawn is breathtaking, and we slowly get started on breakfast and packing up.




Keith had given me the bright idea of rolled oats for breakfast. He mixed it with milk powder, and poured boiling water over his every morning. I preferred to pour cold water over my rolled oats, along with a handful of raisins and dried cranberries, and let it soak overnight. The dried fruit became plump and added a nice burst of taste to the rolled oats. It was also kind to my recently food poisoning-ravaged stomach, which was still spasming intermittently, 3 days later.




Definitely a place I'd like to visit again









« Last Edit: June 16, 2019, 11:30:32 am by Ri »
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Offline Ri

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #25 on: June 16, 2019, 11:55:10 am »
During breakfast, Keith and I discuss the day's route, which will be our longest day's ride on this trip. I thought it would be OK this early into the trip, not keeping in mind that it would take Keith two solid days of riding to meet up with me, before we'd even started the trip. The ride will be about 20km longer than planned, as the Verneukpan camp is 20km further from Kenhardt than Google knew.

Keith is not looking forward to the route I'd planned through Verneukpan, as he can't find it on his map. He is a bit concerned it might be as sandy as the last 10km of the previous day, which had not been fun to ride in the dusk. He would prefer that we turn back to Zwartkop and take the other longer road to Kenhardt. Since we agreed early on that the route wasn't cast in stone and could be changed if deemed necessary, I have no problem with this suggestion, and take off across the pan towards the gate.

Leaving Verneukpan




Keith heads onto the Verneukpan road while I close the gate, and schemes that the more direct route to Kenhard I'd initially plotted, looks good and we'll stick to it. This turns out to be a great decision, despite the 5 or so closed gates, because the road is a gravel dream - smooth and quiet, without dust, a joy to ride.






















Gate to Verneukpan from Kenhardt side




First "Versamelvoëlnes"






Looks like someone took the time to "weave" the birds a seat  :)




After a long time on this road, and probably due to my lack of sleep, I'm suddenly "gatvol". When I find a likely looking culvert, I stop and ask Keith if this is a good spot for a tea break. He agrees that it is perfect, and we have a relaxed roadside lunch picnic, with tea, Melrose cheese and rice cakes.






Keith having thoughts.




Lunch. We pretty much polished it all in one go




Bit of shade against the heat of the day




According to Keith, this would make a fantastic roadside wild camping spot, as the bikes can be moved down behind the trees to avoid detection, and the sand would provide comfort.


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Offline Casting from Turd

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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #26 on: June 16, 2019, 12:27:17 pm »
 :sip:
I dont want to ride fast, But I want to ride FAR
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Offline Ri

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #27 on: June 16, 2019, 12:44:25 pm »
We reach Kenhardt and fuel up. We make preparations in case we end up having to wild camp tonight, and look around for extra water. The lady in the shop says the water in Kenhardt isn't great, and I grab a 5l container of water in the shop.








Because I hadn't over overstuffed my side panniers like I usually do, it is relatively easy to fit the container into a pannier, but it doesn't take many kilometres to realise how much the weight of it affects my riding. I don't have any similar weight to balance it on the other side, despite fastening my 2l water bottle to that side, and I feel like an unbalanced oil tanker.

Eventually I stop and pour some water into my back pack, and some into Keith's containers. This makes the weight more manageable. Keith generously shares a Snickers with me during our short stops.

The plan was to reach Pella today, but Pofadder is still 200 km away and with the quickly shortening days, there is a very real chance we won't make it. The road to Pofadder is terrible, with long stretches of deep ruts and bone-jarring corrugations covered by thick layers of loose gravel. Keith's bike struggles to find purchase, and mine is only marginally better.
















From about 150km outside of Kenhardt, we start keeping an eye out for wild camping sites, but we'd long left behind the trees and culverts of before and entered the arid zone of low rainfall, and the road was featureless.












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Offline Ri

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #28 on: June 16, 2019, 12:44:56 pm »
Still a long way to go...  :-[









The day darkens and Keith slows down. I ride beside him hoping my spotlights would provide some relief. With the lights of Pofadder 5km away, Keith spots a wild camping spot, and we quickly park the bikes next to the road and go do an inspection. There are a few candidate spots, and we pull into the best one, and unpack the necessary to survive the night.

Only two cars pass us in the night, neither showing any signs of spotting our bikes in the dark. Keith cooks a tasty dinner of couscous with sundried tomatoes, sundried olives and some olive oil, bulked up with flavoured tuna, and there is more than enough for us both. I even manage a wash from a small container, a trick I'd learnt as a hiker.

We again orient our sleeping bags to the best star watching angle, and, sipping our last cup of tea, we chat about the stars, our bikes, and the day's ride until sleep suddenly overcomes me. I relish the wild camping opportunity, and sleep better than I expected in the soft sand, despite my uninflated inflatable mattress and having to bush pee (yes I've heard of the She-pee #pleasedon'tmentionitagain).

Dawn




Our camping spot




The lights of Pofadder




We both agree that we could have reached Pofadder, but my feeling is that
a. We would have had to interrupt someone's dinner on a Sunday night to ask for accommodation. The reception might be been a bit... er... chilly
b. Wild camping is more exciting! Especially if you manage to find just the spot.

It was very saddening, while looking around for camping spots, to see all the locked and empty farms where we might have been able to camp on the lawns if there had been someone to ask. There were still animals on the farms, so presumably people still visited them, but by 6 pm everywhere was dark and inhospitable.
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Offline NoRush

Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #29 on: June 16, 2019, 12:56:38 pm »
 :sip: really enjoying your writing Ri, travelling along with you guys. This kind of trip also on my list. 
 
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Offline Ri

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #30 on: June 16, 2019, 02:22:57 pm »
Day 3

Today is only a short ride. Keith's friend had strongly suggested that we rather visit Klein Pella and give Pella a miss, and since it is on the Namaqualand Eco 4x4 Route that I want to have a look at, I'm happy with the suggestion.






Old mine?






Weather is heating up








I'd factored in two rest days in the middle of our trip: one to try out the 4x4 route if we felt like it, and another unplanned day that we could use any way that took our fancy. Once we reach Klein Pella, a true oasis in the seeming desert, Keith decides he'd like to camp here for the two days. He's been riding now for 4 days uninterrupted, on road conditions he's not accustomed to, and he needs a break.














We find a site with thick soft grass to make up for my lack of padding and go look around the facilities. We set up tents, not to sleep in but to store all our stuff in.




My chain roller had taken a hit




Our view from the camp site... breath taking.






Other campers






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Offline Ri

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #31 on: June 16, 2019, 02:30:34 pm »
I go in search of a Gin and Tonic, and Keith heads for a dip in the cold clear pool.








The camp kitty comes to keep me company








These trees fascinate me




Later in the afternoon we ride down to the Orange River. As campers, we are allowed to ride anywhere on the Klein Pella property, and there are many sandy riverbeds with tracks all over them to suggest that many campers and 4x4s have done exactly this. There are also beautiful mountains around, and Keith's rock climbing eye quickly scouts a route to the top which he files for later reference.












Inviting tracks leading off the main road






There are at least 14,000 date palm trees on Klein Pella




Back at our camping spot, Keith prepares dinner. We have the normal couscous again, and along with that he braais the braaipack I bought at reception earlier. Even though Keith is a vegetarian, the meat is grilled to perfection.


Couscous




R85 braai pack... considering what I could get elsewhere for that amount, I wasn't super impressed, but the meat was nice, anyway, if over-spiced.


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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #32 on: June 16, 2019, 03:13:41 pm »
Day 4

Again I sleep surprisingly well on the soft grass, waking only now and then when my hip bones complain of abuse and force me to turn around. Due to a spine shaped more like a ? than an S, I'm unable to sleep comfortably on my back, something Keith has no problem with, as signalled by his sonorous snores.

Again, we are both awake before sunrise, and Keith gets up to make his usual pre-dawn cup of tea, and offers me same. We drink our tea and wonder at the meteorites whizzing overhead, then turn around for a last snooze before the sun pops over the mountain to end our slumber.




Visitors








Our kitchen setup




Wakey wakey!




Surprising number of birds popped by






Since this is another rest day, we take our time over breakfast, lazily discussing things we would like to do today.  I would like to ride the 4x4 route, and Keith is willing to give it a go. We walk to the office and Keith asks the people in the office about the route in great detail. They all agree that it's doable in a 4x2 and should be fine with the bikes. Kassie also gives more information on our proposed route to Vioolsdrift the next day, and assures us that the new road following the pipe is an easy gravel road.

Near midday we head out on the 4x4 route, and, much to our discomfort, discover it covered in sand. I think about everything I've practiced and read about sand riding, and promptly climb out of the seat and put my bum as far back as possible, then climb out of the 4x4 spoor onto the untrodden veld next to it, and carry on precariously. Unbenownst to me, Keith has a sidestand incident behind me but manages to wrestle his bike upright. He notices that I ride in the veld and asks me about it. I tell him I've decided the best way to ride sand, is not to ride sand. The unmarked veld next to the 4x4 spoor is in effect our "escape route". He follows my example, and we continue.

Outside our comfort zone










We carry on without incident and my confidence grows, even as Keith's confidence wanes. He is becoming more and more uneasy with the sandy tracks surrounded by sharp rocks, and worries what might happen if he hits something out in the bundus. After a particularly sandy river stretch inducing a rush of perspiration and adrenaline, I stop to check that Keith is OK.






He walks up the next hill to see what the road is like, but it drops away again and he can't judge what is in store for us. He does a risk assessment - it's too hot, we don't know what condition the road is in, and he doesn't have enough water - and decides to turn around. He isn't enjoying the ride, and suggests that I carry on alone, but I'm not foolhardy (much)




We take a short snack break, and then turn around to go face the mini sand monster again.






Since Keith found some cell phone signal on the way in, on the way out he gestures for me to ride ahead back to camp while he makes a phone call or two. I ride wide in the veld again and get to camp without incident. Keith later follows my track, but admits that he suffered another small fall on the way back. He has reason to hate sand.

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Offline Ri

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #33 on: June 16, 2019, 03:27:57 pm »
Back at the camp, we go for a swim and then take a short afternoon rest after our enervating experience.

After the first two days of our trip, arriving in the dark, I realise that I'd overshot the mark. At our leisurely pace and with the short days, 300km is slightly too far per day. No big deal, our plans were always flexible. I fire up Google Maps on the free WiFi provided by Klein Pella, and start looking at routes and alternatives.

More visitors stop by while I make my plans.












In the late afternoon, much energised, Keith persuades me to walk halfway up one koppie. When we reach the halfway mark, he persuades me to head for the top. My legs are willing and able but my aerobic fitness is lacking. Still, I make it to the top and the views are incredible.




Trying out a traverse














"Just one more little hill..."




Adding to the cairn












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Offline skydiver

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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #34 on: June 16, 2019, 06:21:25 pm »
Very enjoyable so far.
Keep it coming.  :deal:
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Re: Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #35 on: June 16, 2019, 07:20:20 pm »
Thank you Ri. I am ejoying the read and photos.
 

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #36 on: June 16, 2019, 08:01:28 pm »
Day 5

Today's plan is simple. The older couple camping next door to us, had told Keith about a camping site called "Richtersveld Wilderness Camp", about 20km along the river from the Viooldrift border post, and he is very keen to camp there. It's about 200 km away from Klein Pella, and by all accounts the road is good, so we should be fine.


















We set out towards Steinkopf, the next place we can fill up, but then decide to check out the path to Goodhouse that runs along the river, as it would save us 40km. The road turns out to be fine, and at Goodhouse we stop to chat to some military men walking around. They were on maneuvers or patrol or something. Their base camp looks like it is still being built... Keith chats to them, and they agree that the road along the river is good. We head off, stopping for a tea break.






Tea and comfort break. I came away from the bush pee with pines down my pants. Did I mention I hate bush pee? I hate bush pee :xxbah:




The river is a beautiful, peaceful wide and slow flow at this point, inspiring serenity.






The rocky mountains behind us... not so much.




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Offline Ri

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #37 on: June 16, 2019, 08:07:16 pm »
Keith stops a local in a dilapidated blue Hilux to ask about the road ahead. The local tells us it is terrible, terrible. It is full of holes, and very sandy. Imagine our surprise when we head long the pipe track and find a gravel highway! It is corrugated and sandy due to lots of truck traffic, but manageable.
















The road demands concentration, and has a nasty knack of throwing out the back wheel of the unwary. A few times, my bike's behind steps out of line, and my heart skips a couple of beats until momentum pulls it straight again.




It still takes us a while to reach the tar road N7 though, and then we slab it to Viooldrift. We stop at the cafe for some necessities - pilchards and something to braai for me - and share a tin of coke. Neither Keith nor I are fans of the drink, but enjoy it on occasion in small quantities. I also buy myself a quart of beer, because I don't have the guts to question the liquor store proprietor when he points me to the fridge, and that is all it contains.

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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #38 on: June 16, 2019, 08:07:42 pm »
Then we reach Richtersveld Wilderness Camp, and it is all our neighbour Barry had promised, and more, for the sum of R150 pp. The caretaker shows us to the best spot in the house, and quickly sweeps the cooking area and cleans the braai for us. The gas heaters and flushing toilets make up for the spider webs everywhere.







































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Northern Cape Crawl (1 - 8 June 2019): Slow and Slower
« Reply #39 on: June 16, 2019, 08:18:06 pm »
After a dip in the Orange River, Keith gets busy with dinner and makes a big fire to grill my pork rashers. While the rashers are grilling away, I notice a tiny scorpion running around the fireplace. To Keith's horror, I pick it up in my hand, and move it to another place and it disappears over the wall of the fireplace. A little while later it reappears, only to climb into a slender crack in the cement. Keith lectures me on the dangers of scorpions for a long long time, and I promise to never touch one again. Still, I'm thrilled at not only seeing my first live scorpion, but also touching it.




We put our sleeping bags in the best star viewing position, and talk about deep and meaningful stuff before falling asleep. The next morning, we are awake again before dawn and Keith makes the by now obligatory cup of tea, before I turn around and snooze again. It is a beautiful dawn and I can't get over all the wildlife appearing in the river.
















Fish eagle nest





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