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Eastern Cape, time for a trip with a buddy

One of the legendary places for riders that I have read so much about was the Baviaanskloof in the Eastern Cape.

Plans were made and soon me and my best riding buddy, Marnus were on our way down to Kenton-on-Sea to start a wonderful trip through the magnificent  Eastern Cape.

I was not that stupid to ride over a 1000kms on tar on my X-Challenge on the first day of a trip and waste riding time on the good stuff. So we loaded the bikes and hit the road to Kenton.

There is an interactive map at the end of this blog post so that you can see where we went!

We were on the road nice and early on a beautiful, wind still, cool crisp morning. Man I love this area between the Kariega and Bushmans rivers so much. We were heading towards the little town of Salem where the dirt would start, I could not wait to get going on the dirt.

 

Ready for the dirt roads ahead

 

We took some of the back roads through the dairy farms towards Alexandria, and had some good fun on the smooth dirt, traction was no problem, and there was no dust because of the moist weather conditions. We then managed to emerge somewhere between Alexandria and Ncanaha, so we hit the tar from there. The heavens opened and we rode in the rain all the way to Sundays River.

 

Awesome riding is to be had around Alexandria

 

We filled up and met up with two guys we saw at the filling station, Lance and Michael. After chatting to them it turned out that they were sleeping in Patensie that night and taking the Elandriver road to get there. This is the same road I planned to take to Steytlerville, but we would go via Grootriverpoort. So we decided to ride together until they have to branch off.

 

The four bikes posing on an abandoned old bridge over the Sundays River

 

Massive wind turbines in this part of the country, Port Elizabeth is known for its winds!

 

We sett off in the rain and the weirdest thing to me was the way the weather would change, it would be pouring one minute and around the next bend it would be clear sunshine, then 200m later, it would be pissing down again with visibility back to 20m. It only started clearing up as we approached the turn-off to Grootrivierpoort. We said our goodbyes to Lance and Michael as they headed down the mountain to Patensie.

 

The turn off where the group would split

 

The road ahead leading down into the Grootriverpoort

 

Now it was me and Marnus and the Grootriverpoort all the way to Steytlerville. We had no idea what the road condition would be like, we had no idea if it should be done in the rain, and we had no idea how long it will take. Perfect. We could not wait to get cracking.

 

Marnus eyeing out what lay ahead, getting his head in the game, ready to muscle that 1200 down the mountain

 

It was not long before the muddy slippery loose rocky surface became very interesting on the downhills. I was loving life on the BMX, and Marnus had his hands full on the 1200Adv!

 

Slippery wet rocks on steep downhills requires a lot of concentration!

 

Down, down, down all the way to the river at the bottom

 

The big girl looking good!

 

Life was easy on the X-Challenge!

 

As we got lower and lower towards the river the weather became clearer and much warmer as the sun started showing itself again. The road however was still very slippery and rutted in some places.

 

Bright sunshine down in the valley

 

We crossed the Grootrivier and by now it was very hot down in the valley. The river was flowing strongly and the loose rocks on the bottom of this crossing did not gave us any problems at all.

 

The battleship approaching!

 

The crossing was pretty easy going

 

As we went up the other side of the poort, it got incredibly cold, rainy and windy again. This luckily did not last very long as this side was much drier as the Baviaans side of the poort

 

Exiting the poort on the northern side of the river

 

We arrived at the Royal Hotel in Steytlerville, booked rooms and stared throwing the first of many Captain Morgans!

 

Home away from home for the first night!

 

We woke up ready for day two of riding. I expected today to be a little boring compared to Grootrivierpoort as we were planning to ride some of the Karoo dirt highways to the north of Steytlerville, then towards Willowmore, entering Baviaans from the west.

 

Not boring at all! Wide, fast, open riding was the order for the day

 

Big Sky Country this!

 

With the little guys also showing up!

 

We headed off and opened and closed I don’t know how many farm gates, but the scenery was just stunning and the riding was good and fast. The highlight of today’s ride was the Kamferspoort, what a great little poort this is to ride! We saw some Kudu and plenty of buck on this road winding its way through the mountains next to the little river.

 

Pit stop before the Kamferspoort!

 

The road leading into the poort from the northern side

 

Exiting the poort, some seriously good riding here

 

Beautiful area to be spending some time in

 

We went through a number of these pretty cuttings through the mountains

 

Some more weird looking, but beautiful mountains

 

We booked accommodation in Makkedaat Caves. They booked “Dassie Bak” for us. It is not really a cave, but an overhang that they covered up to make it into a cool little chalet type thing. The only downside was all the steps we had to climb!!!

 

Welcome in the Baviaanskloof!

 

Nuwekloof Pass leads you in from the west

 

Spectacular rock formations are to be seen everywhere!

 

Parking spot below our cave

 

View from our balcony

 

We slept like logs in the clean fresh air of the clear night. The stars here in the kloof are just amazing and they provide so much light during the dark of night. I took a walk in the morning to smell the “veld” and listen to all the sounds around me.

 

Early morning walk around

 

I knew we had a long day ahead of us, I had no idea how long Baviaans would take us and I had no idea about the condition of the road. I have heard so many stories and opinions on Baviaans ranging from “It cannot be done on a motorcycle”, “ONLY 4×4 vehicles will be able to cross it” to “It can be done in a normal sedan car” – I really had no idea and decided not to make anything of what everyone said and just see what the road dishes up and just deal with it. It cannot be all that hard in any case.

 

Most of the water crossings were cemented at the bottom

 

It does have its advantages not having to worry about the condition of the bottom

 

I was having a lot of fun and riding pretty hard on all the long open stretches, but as I slowed down for the Western Entrance Gate to the Reserve, I just smelled petrol. When I looked down, petrol was pissing out everywhere under my seat, on both sides, dripping on the exhaust and the inside of my pants. We had a look and the fuel hose had rubbed through against the frame and tore open. Quick Duct Tape Fix!

 

Problem!

 

No Problem!

 

We were happy to be back on the road again, and ready to tackle some more water crossings. Baviaans did have some rain, but none of the water crossings were that full or all that technical, I have done more hectic water crossings on Gauteng tar roads after a thunderstorm before….

 

See what I mean, pretty easy going

 

But awesome riding none the less

 

Very soon after my fuel incident my fuel light came on, this meant that I actually lost quite a bit of petrol. Luckily I had Marnus and his fuel tanker along for the ride and we decided to stop for a re-fuel on top of the mountain.

As we were filling up we heard a helluva commotion of roaring engines down in the valley, and we immediately though it is guys doing it on Harleys. As they rounded the corner we saw this:

They are LOUD!

 

VMax and a Boulevard thundering up the mountain…

 

After a quick chat with them we made our way down to see what else Baviaans can offer us. The views are stunning.

 

Mountain top petrol station

 

Fuel stop with a view like this is hard to beat!

 

The famous Smitskraal water crossing was pretty low as drainage trenches were dug.

 

Smitskraal very very dry!

 

You will struggle to beat Baviaans on views

 

Bike riding heaven!

 

No railings and sharp corners!

 

Having a blast!

 

 

So, what did I think of the Baviaanskloof?

It is really spectacularly beautiful, and I feel every Dual Sport rider should go and ride it. I just wished I could have done it before they fixed the roads and cemented most of the water crossings. It takes all the thrills, skills and excitement out of the ride and makes it well, for lack of a better word, boring. You can do the entire Baviaans in a sedan if you drive nicely. But I must admit Grootriverpoort was a far “better” ride because of the roughness of the road and the rain, snotty mud and rocks, but Baviaans is much more beautiful.

After Baviaans we made our way to Patens. One of the most beautiful pieces of the entire day was this stretch next to the Grootriver on the way to the Kouga and Gamtoos rivers that leads past Bruintjieskraal and Komodo – those mountain cliffs and river are just magical.

The road leading out of Baviaans

 

We then took the R62 through the Lankloof towards Joubertina. Our accommodation was booked at a place called Semane Lodge, about 13km from Joubertina. We were not sure about food arrangements and thought we would be able to have dinner at the “lodge”. So we took it easy, enjoying the views towards the lodge.

 

Beautiful late afternoon riding

 

Arriving at the turn-off to the lodge we see the buildings waaay down by the river.The track down to the lodge was a handful, very steep and very tight, but great fun! As we arrived we saw that there was no one there apart from the local caretaker, a super friendly Xhosa guy called Boxo. What this meant is that we had no food. So we unpacked the bikes and high tailed up the mountain again to ride the 13km back to town like madmen – The sun was setting fast!

 

The lodge way down by the river with the track leading down

 

Heading back up the rocky track to go and find food!

 

We made it to Joubertina just after the butchery closed, but you gotta love small towns, they quickly opened for us to buy some wors and chops.

We then hit the road back to Semane Lodge, arriving back just as the sun was setting. We poured a strong drink and went walking around a bit. This is such a beautiful place, by far the prettiest place we stayed at so far, just pain breathtaking!

 

Not a bad spot to have a few drinks!

 

Time for a nice fire!

 

It was a good evening!

 

We woke up to yet another beautiful morning in Africa. We made our way back up the steep, twisty rocky track towards the main dirt road. We would now head back east along the Onder Kouga road to meet up with the R62 east of Joubertina. About halfway, Marnus realised that he forgot his phone back at the lodge, we decided that he would ride the same road back to the lodge, do the steep little track down for the third time, and I would carry on with the Kouga road and we would meet up in Joubertina.

 

Crossing the Kouga River

 

So I carried on with this truly awesome rode on my own, I loved the little time had on my own because I really like riding solo. But Marnus and I ride very well together and we give each other all the space we need so it almost feel like you are actually riding solo. Choosing the right riding buddies is very important on a trip.

 

Some solo riding

 

Views, yet again does not disappoint!

 

We then took on the famous Prince Alfred Pass, I was really looking forward to ride this masterpiece of a road, although not technical at all, it is worth every bit of credit that comes its way. What an awesome ride, and a must do for every adventure biker.

 

Captain Morgan!

 

This road is a treat to ride!

 

Just don’t overcook a corner!

 

We just had to have a drinks break at Angie’s G-Spot, what a cool place…

 

We took in some of the stunning Knysna forest roads including Kom se Pad. It was so nice and cool in the forest after the heat of the Prins Alfred Pass.

Along “Kom se Pad”

 

We also did the tourist thing as I have never been to Knysna and always wanted to see the “heads” – well it is just two rocks, what’s the big deal? I could not care much for Knysna, sorry to everyone that lives there or think it is the bees knees, it is just to “touristy” for me, I don’t like crowds and there are just so many people. If I wanted that I could have just gone to Menlyn…

The “Knysna Heads”, well one of the two….

 

After a rather heavy night at the backpackers in Plettenberg Bay we were a bit slow out of the blocks.

Breakfast view in Plett

 

Big ass bridges in this part of the world!

 

This one is famous for no strings attached bungee jumping……

 

We slabbed it all the way on the R102. After Sundays River the skies got very dark and gloomy again and we had to give it some stick if we wanted to ride Kinkelbos and Woody Cape. I felt the back wheel moving around all over the place, slowed down and saw the flat tyre. This is not what I needed now, we were 60km from home, it was late, it was starting to rain and I still wanted to ride Woody Cape…

Bastard!

 

After this little setback and with the rain setting in we had to opt out of riding Woody Cape. Unfortunately, our late start in Plett caught up with us now…. We took the rest of Kinkelbos to Alexandria and then back to Kenton in pissing hard rain……In Kenton we decided to stop by Lesotho on the way back to Pretoria.

Yesterday I fitted a 21” tube in my 18” rear wheel as an emergency and it worked like a charm. I did carry an extra 18” tube, just in case. So we decided we will stop at a bike shop in Queenstown and just have the 21” removed and the 18” fitted. I will then carry the 21” as a spare again. As we got to a bike shop and we removed the wheel we saw pieces of metal falling out everywhere…Wheel bearings were toast……

Luckily the bike shop and the Midas is owned by the same crowd and they quickly organised another brearing, but only one………and we needed both. Mark the mechanic went out of his way, jumped on his scooter and returned about 45min later with a 2nd hand bearing out of a broken truck’s gearbox. Brilliant!! He fitted the bearings, changed the tube, and they fitted the extra brake pads I had with me as well. This all took about 3.5 hours of our and more importantly their time, they were very busy and gave us preference above all other bikes in their workshop. And guess the cost = R200 for everything!!! I will be for ever thankful for these guy’s effort!

We were very excited and a bit nervous today, mainly because we had no idea what Ongeluks Nek would bring. I have been wanting to ride Ongeluks Nek since I read about it in Metaljockey’s Camel Man report where they descended it in some snotty wet conditions, him on a 1200GS and Nardus on a KTM640 – Read here: Am I the Camel Man?

On reaching the town of Qacha’s Nek in Lesotho we saw that the road was tarred and in wonderful condition, but we also saw a stark reminder to be careful in Lesotho.

Lesotho’s roads are notoriously dangerous

 

Awesome views – I cannot get enough of Lesotho!

 

Cheap beer to too!

 

Loving life!

 

We then reached the top of Ongeluks Nek, like Monontsha Pass, there is no Lesotho Border post here, we just hung around at the top taking it all in. The absolute highlight of Lesotho for me on this trip was seeing Lake Letsi. This blew me away, it was just so incredibly beautiful, calm and peaceful. This was a very special moment on this trip, and I promised myself that I would one day come back to this special lake high in the mountains.

Descending over the crest with Lake Letsi in full view

 

Not another soul in sight, apart from the animals that roam freely

 

Bliss, calmness and beauty

 

A Very special place for me

 

Marnus crossing the little river leading out of Lake Letsi

 

All too soon we reached the top of Ongelus’s Nek. The pass was pretty straight forward and an easy ride, but I can see that in the wet, it will be a nightmare!

Looking out over Natal and the Eastern Cape from the top of the world!

 

Descending the pass

 

It was the beginning of December and it was green!!

 

How green is this? At the South African Border Post

 

Lovely ride down the mountain

 

Two very happy dudes!

 

Made it!

 

We then hit the dirt road home and just to top it all off, 30km from Matatiele this…….

Another flat rear tyre!

 

Marnus was riding ahead and blasting along at speed. I called him and asked to just go and fetch the trailer and pick me up. We were so close to the end of the ride in any case. I had a bit of a snooze under a tree. We loaded my broken boney and headed back to Matatiele. We loaded Marnus’s bike and hit the 800km home to Pretoria arriving just after 2am….tired but very very happy.

Lesotho and the Eastern Cape would see me again, that is for sure!!

As mentioned above, here is the interactive map with our GPS Track for the trip!

 

Thank you so much for reading, please feel free to share this post by clicking on any of the Share buttons below

Cheers,

Etienne

 

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4 comments

  1. Ah! Thanks for the memories! This was an epic trip indeed. I would also love to go back and revisit some of those places!

  2. Nice Etienne! Loved Baviaans and would still like to go and do these other roads. Stunning photies!

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