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Offline wino

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« on: April 15, 2007, 12:37:10 pm »
But you know that already :wink:

Day 1

Friday comes?but I decide to spend at least one more day at home with the wife before my journey begins. It also gives me more time to think about the route that I will take. For a couple of weeks the idea was first to ride down to Sani, then work my way around. But, on the Friday evening I decide to do it the other way round, essentially to avoid the traffic that the area would carry over Easter.

And Friday night the bike is packed, ready to go, anticipating the adventure that lies ahead.



Thus, on Saturday morning just after 6, I head out on the N12, on the way to Kimberley. I have no exact route in mind, only the idea of where I wanted to go. But, I am also flexible ? and have two days buffer built in my very lacksadaisical plan in case some mishaps might happen. From Jhb to Kimberley it is smooth sailing. No wind, not a lot of traffic ? great riding conditions.









Just to set the record straight, this is not a zen journey. Well, at least it is not planned to be one. Kilroy and I planned a trip, as we have done so over the last few years, but due to a series of unfortunate events he could not make it. I was left with the decision to either go on my own, or stay at home. (I must admit though, in hindsight, that the decision to do it on my own paid its own dividends.)

Just before Kimberley some dark clouds come together for a party.



But, never fear, my rain suit is close at hand. When I eventually crash the party, the rain is quite insignificant. As a result of the clouds having looked so menacing, I am chuckling and feel like one of the characters in the Discworld novels, of who is said that he is the type of person that would stand atop a hill during a thunderstorm and shout: All ye gods are bastards!

Whereto from here? I wanted to head to Verneukpan and thus having reached Kimberley, it is onwards to Prieska, via Douglas. Now, the road between Kimberley and Douglas must count for one of the longest straight stretches of roads and I encounter no more than about five other vehicles. And it is hot. I pass a couple of turnoffs to Schmitsdrift and the temptation is there each time to revisit the hell of army basics.



Reaching Douglas, I am amazed by the town. Lying on the banks of the Vaal river, it would make for a great getaway, camping on the bank. There is even a wine farm just outside the town.









Duh! I missed a dirtroad turnoff near Douglas that would have taken me straight into Prieska, but I only realize this a few k?s outside of Prieska.



From Prieska it is onwards to Van Wyksvlei. Just outside Prieska dark clouds are coming together in the distance, and very soon the lightning set up a spectacular sight. This all happens just off centre to my left ? on my right the sun was beaming down. If the road just carries on straight, I would miss the storm, and I have a quiet chuckle. Oh crap, the road turns to the left, sending me straight on course for the area where the most lightning activity was taking place. So much for waving fists at the gods of thunder and lightning. I pass a farm B&B?maybe it is a good time to call it a day. No, come on you woozy, there are still a couple of hours riding time left!





At the same time that the first rain drops splatter down, the road turns into gravel. The thunder claps hard above me and the lightning appears close in front.













Now, with regard to rain in the Karroo, it is one of the most invigorating moments to experience, everything feels alive, the dry ground opening up to accept the gift and the smells that you get from the wet veld invigorates the senses.

I initially thought that the gravel road would turn into sludge, but the rain merely turned it a little soft and it actually makes for good riding surface. Then it starts to come down harder?ouch, that one hurt?and that one?and that one?oh gosh, it is hail, and it is coming down hard now together with ferocious rain! This sudden burst almost completely destroys the ?middelmannetjie? and it is actually better to ride where the middelmannetjie was  before with the water streaming down the tracks. And just as sudden it stops?







5 k?s further, the road has already soaked up the water and it becomes easy riding. Where puddles remains the bike makes a few twitches, nothing intimidating, but I was glad that I fitted a new back tyre the week before.















Van Wyksvlei. I ask a local about accommodation in the town and they point me to the ?lanie? who runs the hotel. At the same time, I am offered some of the local feminine cuisine?jeez, have previous bikers actually set a precedent here?

I have a chat with what appears to be the only lanie in town ? the town is out of water and they are not allowed to take in people. He advises that I go on to Carnavaron, 80k?s further. Now, if it had not rained, it would have gone on to Verneukpan and camped, but everything around me is wet. And the sun is setting fast, so I head to Carnavaron. Sorry, no spectacular sunset pics, I am just concentrating to not cross the huge middelmannetjie and dodge the small buck! One actually runs a couple of metres alongside me, another darts across the road about five metres in front of the bike! This is where I start to slow down, no use being taken out by the easter bunny & co. It is now completely dark, and in the distance the lightning provides a magnificent show.

I eventually reach Carnavaron, and then the heaven open in a fury. The area needs the rain.



 

Offline wino

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2007, 12:37:45 pm »
Day 2

I did not plan to go to Cape Town, but after being on the phone with my mom the previous evening I could sense that they really thought that I would come and visit. It would not put too much of a dent in my plans ? I could still ride the road through the Tankwa Karroo, but instead of heading for Matjiesfontein, I would go through Ceres.

The road from Carnavaron to Calvinia, straight in very much flat country.









There is a bite in the air and the wind blows heavy across the plains. After the excitement of riding in the rain the previous night, this road was a bit of a reprieve. At Calvinia I have a toastie and get rid of the warm clothing in anticipation of the gravel road through the Tankwa.





And so it is onto the gravel, with a pass right up, providing a spectacular panorama of an unforgiving land.







This is a pass that I do not rush through, every turn down providing another spectacular scene. Every blink of the eyes provided for another spectacular photo opportunity! On the plain, the road is white and the glare is prevalent even through my sunglasses. It is dead quiet, with the occasional homestead providing some greenery. At least the road twists now and again.









Suddenly the vegetation becomes much less as well, with the black stones looking they?re straight from hell. I don?t stop often, because it is just so damn hot, at least the riding provides for some cooler air. But when I stop, I spend a few minutes just listening to?well?nothing. No sound of wind, a bird or even a beetle. Just quiet. I sit and watch the land. For me it is beautiful in its simplicity. I have no nirvana type insights while sitting like this, just a quiet peace as my mind mimicks the absence of sound. The words of a woman that I?ve quoted before comes up often: Few people have the priviledge to be born in a desert.







And the road carries on?

Just as suddenly, I again sense a change in the vegetation and the lie of the land ? more vegetation with more hills. I pass the turnoff to the Tankwa Nature Reserve and make a mental note of visiting it in the future.



The gravel road ends and the tar road immediately provides the views of the Western Cape.





I cannot help but feel a little bit nostalgic as I head into Ceres. As a young lad we often camped here and I recall it with fondness. Through Wellington and then onto the N1, my first stop is at my sister?s house to say hello to the children in my life. After a quick hello, I head towards Kuilsrivier to the folks ? a welcome surprise. The children come visit soon afterwards and we spend some time playing cricket and playing WWE on the mattress that has now been laid out in the living room.
 

Offline wino

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2007, 12:38:18 pm »
Day 3

The stop in Kuilsrivier has called for some reorganization of my plan. Nevertheless, I can still make at least Port Elizabeth for the day, with a stopover at the wolf sanctuary. So, unfortunately, to save time I jump on the N2.

Du Toit?s Kloof ? in my sinful youth it was always the biggest obstacle to overcome in our battered VW Kombi en route to Hermanus.





It is the Easter Monday and I very much ride against the traffic heading back towards CT. And this traffic is heavy, but still you would get the occasional butthead who would overtake from the back of the pack of ten cars, creating a danger not only to his own family, but also to others on the road. And sadly, it is once again BMW?s and 4x4?s that appear to do this. Now after being pushed over by some of these overtaking buttheads, it gets me thinking: do I ride on the right side of my lane, making it a little more difficult for butthead, in the middle giving him a sniff of space, or on the left, providing him with an invitation? Conclusion: middle, which leaves me with space to maneuver to the left.



The best part of traveling on the N2 here after Botrivier is reaching Riversdal. About 10 k?s before the town you get the most amazing smell ? I still don?t know what it is, wild garlic maybe. But it fills my nostrils and seems to shock my mind (no, it is not peyote). I decide not to do the famous pont at Malgas ? although I?ve never done it by bike, I know it very well as we?ve spent many a weekend and holiday in a house in Malgas. The memories of skiing on the river and playing pig out till late at night.

At Klein Brak I turn onto some gravel, hoping to get onto the myriad of gravel roads on the slope of the mountains that can take me right into George.



But, I somehow miss a turnoff and soon find a sign indicating that the road leads to Oudtshoorn. Oh well, turn back and try one of the side roads. This particular one that I took proved to be stunning. Very steep, snaking its way into a valley, then up again. At the top I get some directions from a friendly farmer and proceed to zig zag my way across the country. This is truly a spectacular area to ride in, the road twists and turns between grassy hills.





















Eventually I reach George, quickly through and eventually I find the road that leads to Seven Passes. Following this twisty road through the forest is truly spectacular and I eventually go down Phantom Pass into Knysna where the N2 awaits again.





























The ride between Klein Brak and George has taken some of my time and I realize that I will not make the wolf sanctuary today. I therefore decide to spend the night in Plet, or rather, Sandton-by-the-sea. I have never been a fan of the Plet culture, although it has a great beach and surroundings, and with the recent developments there that I notice I?ve become even more anti-Plet.



I pitch my tent 50m from the lagoon and later in the night, armed with a bottle of Roberson?s finest white, spend time at the lagoon thinking and solving some issues. The funny thing about alcohol is that it not only provokes the desire but takes away performance (as per Shakespeare), it also gives you the insight to philosophise with Plato, Aristotle and the likes, but cruelly also creates memory loss the day after.

I have a weird dream involving Norah Jones, in which I end up in a 5 star hotel foyer in my jocks?
 

Offline wino

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2007, 12:38:56 pm »
Day 4

I wake up early in the morning with the sound of waves crashing nearby. It looks like it is going to be a beautiful day and I feel refreshed. My potential target destination for the day is Barkly East.



As I start riding I sense that I?ve found my groove for the trip. If ever you?ve been on a trip for a couple of days, you?ll know what I mean. In my case it means having a heightened sense of my surroundings, without focusing on anything specific, and the bike feeling like it is truly gliding across the country. Once I find this groove, it usually carries on for the rest of the trip ? this time it is no exception.

I decide to stay on the N2 and not go via Bloukrans ? done it before and I?ve got a long haul in front of me. Also, the N2 in these parts is still pretty scenic.





Eventually I reach the wolf sanctuary. It is unfortunately a 500m walk through the bush and with full atgatt and carrying my helmet and tankbag I work up a sweat. This surely did not impress the lady guide.

I was here 2 years before and I am glad to notice that bigger camps have been built for the wolves. I very much support the sanctuary, not only because wolves intrigue me, but the wolf is not indigenous to SA and the sanctuary therefore does not receive any government grants. It is, however, a miserable fact that there are many imbeciles out there that still want wolves as pets, only to eventually ?donate? it to the sanctuary.

It is, however, also heartbreaking to see such a beautiful wild animal thousands of miles away from its natural habitat caged in a camp.













Onto the N2 again and onwards towards J?Bay for a breakfast ? my favourite place by the sea.



And then on towards Uitenhage, where I pretty much lose my way due to the lack of directions in the town and it takes me about 40min to exit, after a ride through the township.

First gravel for the day takes me past Addo and when I again reach the N2 via Pearston, I decide to rather spend the night in Hogsback. I was in no mood for a race against time.

























I book in at the backpackers lodge (what a great spot, right on the edge of the mountain) and as I walk into my room, I bang my head with such ferocity against the door frame that I land on my arse ? bloody hobbit house, even the bath is half size! After unpacking I proceed to chill with a few beers, enjoying the magnificent scenery.





The sun sets, frogs begin to frolic and I realize with some sadness that it has been a very, very long time since I heard these incredible sounds. It is nevertheless heartening. Then the stars begin to show, and with no light pollution present, I also realize that it has been a very long time since I last admired the heaven.

But quickly the heaven closes and it becomes dark very quickly. The rain starts soon after. But, it is all cool.
 

Offline wino

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2007, 12:39:28 pm »
Day 5

It is not raining anymore, but everything is still wet. I get on the road to Cathcart. The first section is not muddy at all and I ride with the sun just starting to peek from beyond the hills. A great time for riding.





A bit further on the road becomes a little bit muddier, nothing serious, just to put a bit of a damper on the speed ? but this is not a problem. The countryside is breathtaking.



Through Cathcart to Queenstown, then onwards to Elliot, up the Barkly Pass.









At the first turnoff to Rhodes after Elliot I get onto the gravel. This road snakes its way through a valley and I cross the river that flows through it many times. The sandstone mountains provide a terrific contrast to the green farming pastures. Don?t rush here.









I reach a turnoff (Rietspruit) ? decision time. Either I go on to Moshesh?s Ford and then Rhodes, or follow this turnoff to Rhodes. I recall that the tourist map that I have seen does not indicate this turnoff; it should therefore be more interesting than the road through Moshesh?s Ford. The decision is an easy one to make. I am not disappointed, not difficult, but with patches that require a bit of concentration. In this part of the country there are no straight roads to gas it, and the roads wind left right, up and down. If you do ride around here, be careful of oncoming traffic, especially the GP 4x4?s that treat the road as a personal race track.

Rhodes. A lovely hamlet that is also, unfortunately, starting to fall foul of commercialism. I have a toastie at the local hotel ? man, I love those old wooden floors. I enquire from the lady about the condition of Naude?s Nek and whether she thinks it will rain today ? the clouds are starting to gather at an alarming rate.



I decide to get going, just in case I run into some rain. At the ascent to the pass the road is being scraped, but believe me, I?d rather that it wasn?t. And then the ascent starts. As the road winds its way ever upwards I am taken aback by the views that each turn presents. Then a steep decline and then up again until the highest point is reached. The wind is howling up here and with some trepidation I pose the bike for a pic.







The descent on the other side takes a bit of skill for a couple of turns as there are many loose rocks. All in all, not a difficult ride, but a word of warning: do not come riding here to improve your skills ? make sure you?ve got the skills before you come riding here. It obviously depends on each individual, but I would venture to say that I would not take responsibility for a noob ride up here. Maybe IDR would, though.

Once at the bottom, it is pretty much grasslands and the road that keeps on winding through the hills. There is plenty of farm accommodation in the area if you do require it. If ever I do this area again, I?ll try and stay over at one of them.







A few k?s outside of Maclear the PG Bison pine plantations start. I have an exceptional moment when an eagle soars about 10m in the air, just to my left for about 100m in front of the bike ? I could clearly see its colours. I recall once in a psycho test that I had to say what kind of animal I wish I were ? I drew a hybrid between a wolf and an eagle (as I am no artist, the psychologist thought I had drawn Dracula).

Once in Maclear, I decide to push on to Mount Fletcher and spend the night there. With such an English name there was bound to be a few guesthouses. Between Maclear and Mt Fletcher there are road works and a 20km gravel stretch that provides for interesting riding, dodging potholes, cattle and a few drunks.





Once I reach Mt Fletcher I realize my folly. The English name misled me ? there was no way I was going to spend the night here. It was growing dark, and some clouds were coming in at a hefty pace. The next town is Matatiele ? Mt Fletcher with its English name provided no accommodation, what is the chance that Matatiele would? I decide to rush back to Maclear. It has grown dark by now and suddenly the cattle, the potholes and the drunks have disappeared from the gravel road.

Maclear hotel, where real men still drink their beer from quarts served in the bar. I get frowned upon for ordering a Windhoek Light beer.
 

Offline wino

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2007, 12:40:02 pm »
Day 6

It is cold and misty as I pack up. A quick run through again up to Mt Fletcher (a few curses for my stupidity of the previous night) and onwards to Matatiele. The views are still spectacular as the road is enshrined by the side of the Drakensberg mountain range.



Matatiele ? crap. Crap, because it is the English town that I thought Mt Fletcher was. And it has got plenty of guesthouses, decent ones at that. I take it as a lesson learnt.





The mist now starts to grow thick, at least the rains stay away but in some places the mist is so heavy that I ride with the visor open, only to be abused by the wet and the cold. It is growing colder still. I stop for a ?p? and find it very difficult, erm?because of all the layers of clothing.



I also miss a gravel turnoff close to Cedarville that would have taken me to Swartberg, but I am not too fazed about this ? I just want to get to warmth; the fires of the Himeville hotel is beckoning and oh man, I was yearning for it. I reach Swartberg and some kids next to the road wave. I try to lift my hand to wave back, but my hand is frozen to the handlebar ? it feels like it weighs a ton. I stop in Swarberg, hoping for some coffee, but to no avail. I try to put my earplugs back in, but they are so cold that they cannot be rolled up small anymore. And putting that cold helmet back on again, arrrrgh!



Don?t ask me about the scenery from here to Underberg. I don?t know. It was misty, very, very mist, and very, very cold. I was not complaining though, it is all part of the journey. I reach Underberg and stop at a pub that proclaims to serve the best breakfast, Mike?s Restaurant I think it is called. The bar sports some interesting sporting pics, old and new. If you get a chance, go check it out. And yes, the breakfast was very good, but I loved holding that warm cup of coffee and sipping the hot liquid much more.

So, with all the mist, do I go up Sani or not? I decide that I may as well give it a bash and take the high road.





















For most part, the ride is ok, and not intimidating. However, once again, make sure you?ve got the skills under the belt before you come up here, especially the steep rise as you get closer to the top. The room for error is just too small and I can imagine someone slipping on the loose stuff, bike doing a 180, throttle that is opened (hey, it is mostly proclaimed that one should open the throttle when in the guano), resulting in an unplanned ride/fly down the side of the mountain. Don?t kid yourself; this is no superbike road up.

Once I reach the top, the mist is gone. But the cold wind remains.



After a turn in the pub I go down again.



















At the Himeville hotel I have a quick jack on a good ride and decide to go on to Nottingham Rd. For the first part of this gravel road I can actually check out the scenery, and it is truly spectacular. But then the mist creeps in again, thickthickthick, especially in the higher parts. I sense that I am being robbed of viewing some spectacular scenery. In these conditions I switch on my hazards ? some riders frown upon this, but on gravel the backlight often gets so smudgy that it becomes difficult to see in the mist, and I do not want a taxi up my backside.







I get to the Nottingham road hotel, all wet. As I walk into the bar, CCR?s ?Have you ever seen the rain? plays. I get a room, and immediately fill the tub with hot water. And yes, I used the bubble bath.

I go to the bar, get a bottle of wine and sit on my own. Life is good.
 

Offline wino

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2007, 12:40:38 pm »
Day 7

It is not mist anymore. It is raining. With the visor open my face gets pelted. And it is cold. I go towards Currie?s Post, but once on the slippery, muddy gravel, I decide to stick to the black stuff. So the R103 takes me through Estcourt and onto the road to Bergville.





Once again, the passes are shrouded in mist. It becomes a surreal experience as I cannot see much around me. I stop at the caf√?¬© just outside the Little Switzerland hotel and contemplate the rest of the journey. Should I shoot through to Harrismith, or do Golden Gate as planned? Is there really a decision to be made here?





Once off the escarpment the mist is gone. It is still on the cold side, but at least the scenery has opened up for me again.



Onwards through Golden Gate. Man!! Wow, wow, wow!









A track leads away from the tar and I follow it for a couple of k?s. I park the bike and sit on a rock. Have you ever felt wonderment at it all without really thinking about it? Eat your heart out Rodin.

Too many vegetarian meals on this trip:



The ride through the rest of Golden Gate is deliberately slow ? only fools rush through.













I encounter these horses that make me think about the industrial revolution.



My take on it is that there have been many positive spin-offs, but we allowed it also to stifle our adventurous spirit, and here I am referring to the kind where man would get on his horse and ride the country. A man and his horse. Luckily, we now have bikes.

I eventually reach Clarens and realize that much of my journey is behind me, but there is still so much more in the future. I order one of the locally brewed beers and sip on it, reminiscing about the past few days. What can I say, it has not been earth shattering or mind blowing, but I have a sense of peace within me.



And it is also here that I bid my goodbye to you fellow adventurers, to hopefully contemplate your own spirit of adventure ? I have an appointment with a Freestate thunderstorm in the far distance, and by now I know how these gods can get.




But wait, do you hear that? ? the restless scraping of your own steed?s hoofs in the barn?
 

Kev

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2007, 01:00:02 pm »
Wino, this is fantastic stuff. There are loads of pics here, but I feel these need repeating:
 

 

 

 
And this quote of yours, is brilliant:
 
Quote
The funny thing about alcohol is that it not only provokes the desire but takes away performance (as per Shakespeare), it also gives you the insight to philosophise with Plato, Aristotle and the likes, but cruelly also creates memory loss the day after.

 
Very good stuff. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us. :thumbleft:
 

Offline GIDEON

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2007, 01:07:45 pm »
Awsome my friend just awsome.
Great Pictures exept the nude one's Man you need some SUN  :twisted:


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Offline MuttsNutts

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2007, 01:15:01 pm »
Wow Wino that is amazing, 100+ photos loaded - Respect  :D  :D  :D
The rest of our reports pale in comparison
Thanks so much for sharing
 

Offline Trailrider

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2007, 02:17:46 pm »
Wow. You were right in my back yard. What date was day 3? We traveled this route in the oposite direction.

Quote from: "wino"


I love this spot (above). From here if you hooked a right at the T and the next left you would have traveled through the nature reserve with the Rhino, Giraffe etc.

Quote from: "wino"


You basically went right past our farm  :D  It's just North right up on the mountain.
 

Offline Stephan

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2007, 02:28:21 pm »
Great trip and stunning pics Wino.  Everytime I read one of your reports I think to myself "Have to stop more and just contemplate the scenery and take some more pics."  Unfortunately still has to develop the discipline.  

Agree with you, there's no smell even remotely similar to the scent in the Karoo just after it rained.
Hard reality does not often coincide with the people's wishes - Nelson Mandela
 

Offline Leo

Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2007, 03:05:34 pm »
Great report Wino.  8)

Thanks for posting all those pics.

.......and YES I agree, we live in a beautiful country  :wink:
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Offline SGB

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Great
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2007, 03:16:29 pm »
Now this is a proper trip!  Respect friend!   All alone and just about around SA.  And the pictures are excellent in numbers and quality.  Real thought provoking stuff.  Thank you!  :)
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Offline michnus

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« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2007, 03:31:38 pm »
:headbang:  :hello1:  :thumbright:


This report makes my ass itch to ride. But I must say, why did'nt you contact me when you past here, blikskottel! :twisted:  :lol:


Offline Adventurer

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« Reply #15 on: April 15, 2007, 05:13:14 pm »
Wonderful trip report there, Wino. I think these types of trips are very 'soul refreshing'.
If you can keep your head in the midst of all this confusion, you don't understand the situation!
 

Offline wino

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #16 on: April 15, 2007, 06:33:34 pm »
trailrider, it was easter monday. i decided against a right at the t that you refer to, as i thought that road would take me back onto the n2. you truly live in a beautiful part of the world :wink:

michnus, i was afraid i'd have to drink tea :D
 

Offline buzzlightyear

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #17 on: April 15, 2007, 06:42:16 pm »
Three words: Awesome!
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)
 

Offline Trailrider

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #18 on: April 15, 2007, 06:59:42 pm »
Quote from: "wino"
trailrider, it was easter monday.


Geez Wino, small world. We rode past there that same Monday towards Attakwas Kloof. We must have crossed that little bridge at about 3pm.
 

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Ah, what a beautiful land we've got
« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2007, 07:09:00 pm »
Great ride Wino !!!

You've done it again............yes, you've just made life more difficult for everyone on the forum !!!!
How can anybody compete with a ride report like this?  ( joke !!! )

In this ride report I've seen at least 4 good pics that MUST feature as picture(s) of the month.



The standard of ride reports is going up and up...... :D  :D  :D  :D