Daisy and The PinkGoat - To Sutherland
Trip Start Dec 10, 2008
33Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
The Cottage, Sutherland
I've been spending a fair amount of time thinking of what I should name my bike... A few options have come up, but this weekend I think I found one that's to stay... Daisy. The more I ride her the more I'm falling in love with this machine. I couldn't imagine a bike more suited for me, and that I could feel more comfortable with...
The Sutherland trip had been planned by the BMW Motorcycle Club for some time, and since I've managed to get off the waiting and onto the actual list, I've been more than excited for the weekend. Despite my excitement my preparation wasn't exactly great... leaving all my packing to the last minute (as one does). I just need to mention that packing, like shopping and blow drying my hair, is the bane of my life. Jobs that I'd happily pay someone else to think about and do
However, the one thing which I did manage to achieve before the trip, was buy myself a good pair of winter gloves. Sutherland apparently is one of the coldest places in SA, and I didn't want to risk losing one of my little digits anywhere enroute. The BMW forum had various suggestions posted of how to combat the cold and rain. One being to wear surgical gloves under your motorbike gloves, and the other of wearing dish washing gloves (yes, the bright yellow ones) over your gloves. I just couldn't see the second option being implemented on a dirt road bike trip by one of the 'hardcore' men. It would just not go down well with anyone's reputation if you ask me. Needless to say, I didn't see it happen. I was just hoping that my new winter gloves, together with my heated handle bars, would keep my hands and fingers warm.
My alarm went off at 6am, though I was up long before that. I strapped on my tank bag, and quickly threw some clothes and stuff together. The rest of the time I spent forcing my overloaded top box closed. This obviously as a result of my rogue packing techniques.
I met up with Gavin, and we were quickly headed out of Rondebosch and onto the M5 with me in the lead
There were many new faces that I hadn't met just yet. I was looking forward to get to know the rest of the people but I need to find a fool proof technique of remembering names... Honestly, I must be the worst person out there for putting a name to a face.
While the group waited, I set off with Pete to Paarl to refuel. In retrospect it wasn't really necessary, but I hadn't fully read the itinerary and was concerned that everyone else would be running on full tanks while mine would be half empty and that I'd be 'that person' to hold everyone back.
While the rest of the group went up over Du Toit's Kloof Pass, Pete and I head through the tunnel to make sure we'd catch up with them and not be left behind
I felt very rushed at the start of the ride, and was struggling to get comfortable on the road and on the bike. The whole time feeling the need to keep up, rather than settling into my care free zone. We headed on through Slanghoek pass, where Geoff (the leader of the group) clocked the temperature to be 4.5 degrees celsius. The lack of feeling in my fingertips confirmed this to be true. I think it was the coldest I was during the entire weekend. Understandable at this point in time as there was still snow on the mountains, and the sun had barely woken to warm the world.
Once in Ceres, we stopped to refuel. Numpty over here, thinking that as I'd just filled up in Paarl (80km earlier), I wouldn't need to do so again and so gave this one a skip. All I've been doing at this point in time was just trying to catch up. Not refuelling, gave me a head start on everyone else.
The group then moved on to the Wimpy for a warming breakfast
I soon came to realise that when Geoff put on his helmet you had about 20 seconds before he'd be out of there, and for you to get ready to follow. Twenty seconds is not much time, but fortunately when the group consists of about 13/14 bikes, then you've got some time for others to follow suit and for you to slot in somewhere at the back... Exiting Ceres, we continued for about 50 more kilometres on tar, which included going up Theronsberg Pass.
Before turning off onto the gravel road, we had a quick stop for a briefing (a few of us missed that at the start in Klapmuts). Geoff explained the Thumbs Up rule. Everyone is responsible for the person behind them. What this means is that if we came across an intersection or had to turn off at some point, you had to wait for the person behind you. You'd give them a thumbs up, and if they gave you a thumbs up back, you had the all clear to move on. They then had to do the same for the person behind them and so forth, and so forth
Initially I thought that this was a bit silly. I couldn't understand the need for it, but if everyone said we needed a back up vehicle, then I guess we did. This was manned by Warren and his wife, Natalie.
Before we set off onto the gravel roads we deflated our tyres to about 1.5 bar. Something I soon came to realise was that the further back you were in the convoy, the more dust you'd be eating. Yes, you could slow down and hope that the dust up ahead would settle or be blown out of the way, but it still got in there, and my visor seemed to hold the same attraction for the dirt as it did for the suicidal goggos (bugs). Wiping the outside of the visor didn't clear all the accumulated earth and bug splatter, as the dust still managed to creep in and nestle itself comfortably on the inside as well (oddly enough some bugs did too).
The trick, I was soon to learn, was to start up ahead somewhere in the front five
Our first 'incidents' were to happen at one of the first deep stream crossings. We all waited our turn to make our way through. It was quite a sandy and, as I said, quite deep. One bike was dropped after the crossing while trying to navigate the sand and mud, though my thinking is that dropping a bike really isn't much of an incident, unless someone gets hurt. On crossing over with his 1200 GS, Dudley's bike unfortunately managed to take some water into the engine. My understanding (and I don't for a minute think I'm a bike guru) is that the 1200s have a very low air intake and if crossing deep waters, or riding through too fast, they tend to take in some water. So everyone stopped to watch the men dismantle the machine and clear out the engines. Once they got the bike running again, we continued on with the ride.
It had been raining a few days earlier so we had a fair number of streams and muddy sections to cross
It wasn't too much further when Dudley had his second perilous incident. This time somewhat more serious. On going through a very muddy and slippery section of the road, the bike managed to slide out, and in some way do a 180 degree turn. Dudley unfortunately managed to hurt his leg and foot quite badly, though thankfully his wife, Treska, managed to come off unscathed. Pete and some guys quickly sprang into action, getting his bike back onto the stand and to secure Dudley's leg with some splints and strapping.
When the backup vehicle arrived (I then realised how invaluable a backup vehicle is), they loaded Dudley's bike up onto the trailer, and moved him and Treska into the back of the bakkie. The nearest hospital was in Sutherland, so he'd unfortunately have to hold out on the medical attention for a while yet. I think the rest of the ride in the backup truck would've been a painful one with it going through all of the bumps and bends on the gravel road. I think it's then that you're grateful for that extra dose of adrenalin and painkillers
From there onwards, I think everyone realised that they'd need to keep a close eye on the road and exercise a bit more caution. Dudley's bike was kitted out with road tyres, so thinking that if had he had some knobblies on, he might have had a bit better control through the mud.
Geoff finally decided to let his dust cloud catch up with him and let us have a 15 minute lunch break at one of the intersections. A few minutes later we were surprised to see about 20 bikes pull up on the side of the road... It was the other off-road group heading through!! Quite by chance that we managed to bump into them. A few minutes of hello's and catching up later, Geoff again was off leaving us to grind through his gravel in the haze that he left behind him.
I'd managed to find my 'groove' at some point along the gravel and had happily settled into the ride. However, a serious rut sprung right out at me just before we head up Ganagga Pass. I think I must've left a brake line of a few metres behind me before hitting it at a speed much too fast. Thankfully however, it's the bikes shocks that had to bare the brunt of the impact, and not me. I think the rut surprised a many of us..
The Ganagga Pass was the most technical of all the passes we went up. It had to be taken quite slowly and carefully. The one thing which I think you do miss out on a bit being the driver of your own bike is the scenery. I think you miss out on a fair bit while you're concentrating on the road up ahead. At one point, having stood all the way, I sat down on my bike to realise with a bit of a shock how much loose gravel and rocks there was on the road. Up until that point, I was blissfully unaware, as I'd been keeping an eye on the road as it wound up ahead of me. I was suddenly sitting a lot less easily than I had been a few seconds before.
Near the top we stopped to enjoy the spectacular view below, and also to wait for Charles and Julie to catch up. They had to stop somewhere leading up to the pass, as they'd lost a panier going over one of the grids.
On arriving in Middelpos, we again stopped to wait for all of the group to catch up. My odometer was telling me that thus far I had done 320 kilometers since having fueled up
My plan of action was to bite the dust and ride a bit slower at the back, maximising my fuel consumption. At 348km my petrol light turned on. We would be in Sutherland when my odometer read 405km. This meant that we had 57km to go!!! Mind wouldn't stop ticking over, calculating and recalculating the probability of making it... "If my bike holds 12litres of petrol and my average was 20km to the litre then I'd make 240km. Since I already was on 320km, something was not right. Start again... Let's say my average is 25km to the litre and my bike actually holds 16 litres (which sounded more realistic) then my bike would make 400km." All my reasoning and logic was saying that this was going to be tight one
20 kilometers to go... Daisy was still ticking along nicely...
10 kilometers to go... I could just see her dying as we hit Sutherland's main road...
1 kilometer to go...
I took the turn, following the crowd, and there it was!!! Lo and behold, a petrol pump in all it's glory!!! Well, as glorious as a petrol pump can be in the small town. Either way, my prayers had been answered! I was there and without the need to push at all!!! It was only then that my thinking changed from the distance to time. It was just past 17:15 when I managed to pull up in front of The Cottage.
My roomie, Tiara, and a fair number of people from the other group were already there. Rudi showed me my room, and I was quick to get out of my dusty, muddy clothes and into a shower. Having been keeping a close eye on Sutherland's recent temperatures I knew we were to get cold, so was overjoyed to discover that I had an electric blanket on my bed. While most of the other hotels and guest houses provided this luxury, not all of them actually made provision for plugging them into an electric socket. It's like having a motorbike with no petrol... Not so handy...
We all met up at The Jupiter for supper and a few drinks. Some of the crowd managed to party it up until late into the night while a fair number of us crawled into our beds, be they warm or cold.