Not a proper report, just for general information.
It started when I was chatting with someone (Oscar) at the Gorge, Hekport who had just completed the 2011 Roof of Africa. I had raced most of the passes in the Roof with both trucks and bikes, but that was quite a few years ago. I was trying to determine how the conditions of those passes are now, compared to then. Rather than try to explain Oscar said " why don't you go and ride some of them". This of course was the suggestion my heart was secretly wanting to hear. I thought about it over christmas. Decided I would do it in a minimalistic way during the first full moon period to come along. It is nicer to be out in a moon light night than a dark night, especially if there is a good chance of rain. I decided to tackle Baboons and Jockstrap, and maybe others. I drew up a route schedule from Google Earth, and left Johannesburg Monday morning 09/01/2011.
Travelled via Villiers, Petrus Steyn, Senekal and Maquard to Clocolan where I was going to stay over with Peter Luck and his family. Those of you familiar with the Roof will know Peter had a lot to do with organizing this magnificent event over many years. Peter has a lovely family - Wife Lindy, daughter Angelique and twins John and Michelle.
Day 2. Entered Lesotho via Peka Bridge, which was easy enough, but a mistake in as much as the road to Maseru was slow and congested, even for a motorcycle. Nevertheless I carried on to Ramabanta. A flat tire and no shade near Ramabanta proved to be hot and exhausting. Also changed to 13T counter sprocket, and carried on to the foot of Baboons pass, and went straight at it. I was in no hurry, but it still proved really hard going with a fully, but lightly loaded bike. After only 6km, and 5 or 6 looong rest stops I thought to mount my camera on the bike. At this point I noticed a broken rear spoke that was not broken when I changed the tubes a little while back. NOTE: This bike is prone to breaking spokes because some years back it spent 24 hours at the bottom of Lake Mweru in Congo. Although I went to some effort to drain and clean the bike thoroughly, I did not remove the tires as they were fairly new at the time. Months later at tire change time I could see the error of my sloppy cleaning job, the nipples and spoke ends were badly rusted. Although the rust was treated, the damage was done. -- Back to Baboons: I had one spare spoke, and took the decision to ride back down and find some shade and flat ground. Still hard going, but easier on the back wheel. I found a mini Pine Forest about 8 km east of Ramabanta and set to work on the broken spoke. As luck would have it, it was far enough from the valve and tire bolt to replace the spoke by only breaking the tire bead on one side, but it was dark by the time I had the wheel back on the bike. So, slept there in the pine forest - no rain. Chris Swanepoel (Stoffie) had phoned through the day to ask if he could ride with me from Roma to Sani. I agreed to meet him Thursday morning in Ramabanta.
Day 3. (Wed). Jockstrap looked easier going, so I thought I would give it a try and see how the rear spokes hold up. It started well, but after only a few kms and a section of spin-grip / spin-grip I found another broken spoke - now what?? I decided to go to the Top of Baboons and see what it looked like. After all from top of Baboons back to bottom must be all down hill - right??
This turned out to be a good decision because I met Rob Hope, an ex Saffer living and working in Port Headland in Western Australia. I believe Rob is well know to some dogs here in South Africa. He had also spent the night on a rocky pass somewhere in the vicinity waiting for some picannins to come and turn his 690 Rally ktm around. Rob is on an enviable many month tour of South and East Africa. We chatted on the side of the road for quite some time. I took a leisurely ride into Semonkong out of curiosity (A real cowboy town, hundred of horsemen, and thousands of livestock), then back to the Top of Baboons - As I topped the first rise, about 1 kilometer into the pass I could see there would still be many more spin-grip / spin-grip climbs, even though it is generally down hill. With thoughts of more broken spokes I decided to abandon Baboons Pass for another time, and camp there on the first rise. This night it rained. I sat through two consecutive rain/thunder storms. It settled down about 01h00. NOTE: Baboons is pretty hard going with a loaded DS bike. I was carrying 7 liters of water, and 7 or 8 kg of tools, spares and camping equipment. I suspect it would be significantly easier with an unloaded bike and hydropack only. But as I only did 6km I do not really know - maybe it gets better, maybe worse.
Day 4 (Thur). Woke up shortly after dawn (what scenery), packed up, and headed back to Ramabanta. Found Chris at the lodge and joined him for breakfast. We set of for Roma, fuelled up and headed for Sani, via Thaba Tseko. After clearing the outskirts of Roma we rode pretty much flat out to to Sani Top (+/-300km) with 3 or 4 rest stops. Wow what a ride - the first tar section consists of 100s of medium speed curves, the remainder was a variety of gravel roads with plenty of loose - power slide corners. We were really stoked up when we got to Sani Top at 17h40. After passport control we had 15 minutes to get to the RSA border control which would close at 18h00. Believe it or not we did border to border in 13, 5 minutes with 1, 5 minutes to spare. Chris said he wants to ride up Sani Pass again next day - I agreed (still only one broken spoke). Carried on to Himeville, and booked into the hotel. Not much of a hotel, but the a la Carte restaurant was OK. NOTE: This is an excellent day ride for DS bikes, loaded or not. I did not see a fuel stop at Thaba Tseko, but we did not need one, so did not look hard. I guess there would be fuel if you looked.
Day 5 (Fri). Lazy start, loaded up, and re-did Sani Pass at sight seeing pace. We both commented WTF were we playing at the previous afternoon. Anyway, Chris declared he is now cured of San Pass for a while. We fuelled up at Himeville, and I re fitted my 15T counter sprocket, and set out for Harrismith via Lower Lotini, White Mountain, Draycott and Oliviershoek Pass. Very heavy rain forced a 2 hour stop on the gravel road in the vicinity of White Mountain Resort. New material had been dumpted on the road and roughly graded, but not compacted and drained, it was very slippery. Infact Chris in his enthusiasm to get going took a typical low speed mud tumble in the first 100 meters. Another 5 min wait would have made the difference. The road quickly dried and we were out of the rained on area, and back up to speed again until Oliviershoek Pass, where heavy rain again forced a stop at the Swiss Inn. Chris was on for booking in here until he Heard the R.900, 00 pp/pn tariff. After I mentioned the probability of Nandos at Harrismith he was easily persuaded to carry on. And Nandos there was, but it was now dark and raining, and again Chris was easily persuaded to go off and look for accommodation (he is good at this). Before I finished my chicken, Chris was back waving a motel key. I had always suspected, but never knew for sure there was a very nice motel there at the Harrismith "One Stop".
Day 6 (Sat). I had an Idea of doing Verkykerskop, Roberts Drift, Greylingstad, but it was still raining, and those roads are impossible slippery red clay when wet. We rode straight back to Johannesburg on the N3. No rain until the last 5 minutes before home. Very satisfied. Good ride. Good company. Thank you Chris for joining me.
I hope some dogs may find this informative.