2013-03-11: 7 day Namakwa tour

The Namakwa tour started unusually on a Monday with a fairly busy trip planned, averaging 320km per day and taking us to stop-overs in Lamberts Bay, Namakwa National Park, Loeriesfontein, Verneukpan and ending with 2 nights at Gannaga Lodge in the Tankwa Karoo. 

For the first time, we planned to camp at Verneukpan in the middle of nowhere, so had packed a tent, mattresses and other camping kit to take along. 

Day 1 – Cape Town to Lamberts Bay - 287kms

This was mostly a tar road trip to get us into the swing of things. We took the road to Darling for coffee, and followed the coast through Laaiplek, Dwarskersbos on to Elands Bay and ultimately Lamberts Bay, arriving at lunch time. The weather was hot inland and cooler near the coast which provided some relief. Lunch at Isabella’s consisted of well-priced and prepared seafood and after lunch we took a leisurely tour of the town before finding our B&B for the night. 

We were testing out our new luggage – the Nav had fitted a “Big Bag” from Big Bag Panniers which had ALL the camping kit + the spares and tool box, but carried the weight fairly low, so while the bike felt heavier it was not top heavy. I had a Flying Brick which has a zillion useful pockets to stow things in, including space for water bottles. Love the dust cover which saves having to wash luggage when back home again! Both were good acquisitions. We met the guy – an engineer who claimed to have designed and tested the flying brick bag on his GS1150 before handing over the commercial rights to manufacture. He stayed at the same guest house as us at Lamberts Bay and warned about the sandy roads in the area – at that stage David should have listened and I should have been present! 

We met some American farmers from California who had so many positive things to say about their trip, it made us realise just how negative we can be sometimes. We resolved to become more positive. 

Day 2 – Lamberts Bay to Namakwa National Park. 302 kms 

The weather was cool and overcast as we set off from Lamberts Bay on the gravel toll road north to Doringbaai and Lutzville. Seems crazy to pay R30 per bike to ride on a gravel road. Arriving at Doringbaai, it was so misty that it was almost dark and Lutzville was again hot and sunny. Given the high temperatures that were being experienced, we were happy that the planned route was along the coast even though the sand conditions were so extreme. 

We rode towards the Namakwa Sands coastal mine before turning north along the coast to Kotzesrus. Greg Beadle describes this road as good for novice to intermediate and gives it a 3/10 rating for difficulty. Ha ha ha. We took 3.5 hours to do 25km, both fell a number of times and nearly had a divorce on the way. Clearly the road has deteriorated a little since Greg last rode it. Both of us were thankful for the cold Coke at Kotzesrus, where we met Hennie the store owner who tells us that he sees a lot of bike tourists coming through but not many venture on the coast road. He thought us both very brave to have made it through.

It was getting hot and we sped along the fairly poor gravel roads through the Sandveld to Garies, hooking up with the N7 to the petrol stop at Kamieskroon. We bought meat for the braai and salads because the cottage in the reserve some 18km away was self-catering. The check-in at the park was easy, and the staff kindly offered to bring braai wood to the chalet – thank-you Hettie. The place is inexpensive, and really comfortable with air conditioning nogal. We highly recommend it if you are ever in the vicinity. We will hopefully be back. 

There are more stars in Namakwa than we have ever seen anywhere before, and it was with a great relief that we eventually got our tired bodies into bed after a hot shower and good meal. 

Day 3 – Namakwa National Park to Springbok - 104 km's

We started just after sunrise with the intention of knocking the 104km off early and having breakfast in Springbok. The first 35km or so to Soebatsfontein took us through the park on the 4x4 trail at slow speeds. We stopped regularly to admire the Gemsbok, Springbok, Rooi Hartebeest and a variety of Raptors. We even saw a black Springbok, which we are told is very rare. 

It was getting increasingly hot as we sped over the good park roads between Soebatsfontein and Springbok, even getting close to 120km/hr at times and winding up at the start of the Wildeperdshoek Pass. The Pass is 21km long and is really spectacular, although the road surfaces were getting worse the further we went, eventually reaching Springbok at 1030am where the temperature had now soared to 42 degrees. We found the Wimpy and parked the KLRs under a tree and ourselves under the air conditioner. Once cooled off, we decided not to tackle the 240km to Loeriesfontein that day and checked in at the Klein Plasie guesthouse who had a swimming pool and an air conditioned room. After the bad Tuesday, we needed some recovery time. 

Day 4 – Springbok to Loeriesfontein - 247kms

The shortening of our trip meant that we would miss out on the Verneukpan overnight camp – much to my relief (as per the Nav). Anyway we started out early on the R355 to Loeriesfontein after coffee and rusks. The road conditions are poor with a “middlemannetjie” between the road tracks and lots of corrugations, so you need to be awake. We were thankful that we had not attempted this the previous day in the heat, although it was no cooler on the day but at least it was still early and not in the heat of the day. 

We passed the nuclear waste storage facility at Vaalputs, and stopped for an ice-cream (believe it or not) at Kliprand. A little town which is in competition with Kotzesrus to see which is the smallest town. The last 20km was on tar, but otherwise an uneventful and boring road.  The Nav's RHS rear indicator was hanging by the wires as we entered Loeriesfontein. 

We checked in to the Boesmanland Pub & Grill which has a strong rugby tradition with and against Calvinia, and the owner has lots of pictures on the wall. Not 5 star, but good food and comfortable rooms. Later in the afternoon we visited the Fred Turner museum and the Windmill museum which was filled with memories of the pioneering days of Loeriesfontein and a gentleman called Fred Turner. A little English in this Boere town. 

David put his indicator back on and gave the bikes a once over. No (yes, zero) oil consumption so far, although we had been going pretty slowly on the generally poor dirt roads. 

Day 5 – Loeriesfontein to Gannaga Lodge - 238kms

We ate breakfast at Boesmanland and decided to take the tar road to Nieuwoudtville and Calvinia before rejoining the R355 to Sutherland, but only as far as Middlepos. En route, we stopped at the Quiver tree forest and the waterfall – we had passed this way in August 2012, and now the rivers were dry, with only a little water in the pool at the bottom of the falls. Thankfully, the weather was overcast and cool and after a quick stop for coffee and a rusk at Nieuwoudtville, we headed through to Calvinia. 

The road to Middelpos is about 70km, most of which is really bad gravel. Apparently the roads in the Northern Cape are so poor because the government has run out of cash and the new budget year starts in April, so most had not been graded since November. 

We filled up with gas at Middelpos which is really a one horse town and headed on the single lane for the last 29km to Gannaga Lodge. The road was much better, without corrugations even though one had to go a little slower on the single lane. 

Day 6 – Rest day, Gannaga Lodge - 10kms

We spent the day socialising with both the 4 and 2 legged animals and just familiarising ourselves with the fauna and flora of the area. Johan the owner, is a very hospitable and entertaining character and shared many stories with us about the lodge. 

On Johan's recommendation, the Nav dragged me back onto my KLR to go to the Langkloof viewpoint some 5 or so kms away. I went kicking and screaming as I was seriously looking forward to NOT getting back in the saddle until day 7 again. My body was aching from all the physical riding. I was however very happy that I decided to join the Nav on the short ride. The views alone was worth the somewhat tricky trail road to and from the Lodge. 

For the duration of our stay, we received 5 star treatment from Johan and his wonderful staff and felt right at home. So much so that I didn't feel like going home! That evening we met up with two bikers, Trevor and Scott, a father and son duo, who joined us for dinner and shared their biking stories with us. Wonderful as always to meet like-minded individuals who are riding purely for the enjoyment of it and readily share many entertaining stories! 

Day 7 – Gannaga Lodge to Tokai. 360km 

The final day started after a sumptuous breakfast with a trip down the Gannaga Pass. The views across the Tankwa Karoo to the Cederberg mountains are spectacular, and we can never get enough of the contrasts between sky, mountains and plains. The roads are much better, and as soon as you cross over to the Boland Municipality, they are excellent. Speeds increased, and not before long we stopped at the Tankwa Farmstall. 

Hein and his wife “emigrated” from Pretoria once their kids had moved on, and apart from operating the busy store (only store in the middle of nowhere), he farms and sells prickly pears. Quite a life, and it is so good to see someone doing what he wants to, in the middle of the Karoo at that!

The road goes to tar about 30km before Ceres, and we had an uneventful trip back home via Mitchells Pass, Tulbagh and Malmesbury.

Some pics of our very memorable trip:

hmmm... I wonder if Ang packed in her hairdryer?
One of the most spectacular 7th Wonders of the World.  Lets go to Darling! 

A quick coffee stop at Brigs in Darling
Took a left to Lamberts Bay

"There's a zebra on the stoep" - quick stop at Elands Bay 
Almost there!
Lunch stop at Isabella's - Lamberts Bay harbour - DEF worth a visit! 
The 'pretty picture' 
Mission accomplished for the day!
View of Isabella's 
Productive little harbour in Lamberts Bay
The Nav ready to go again... next stop at the guesthouse 

Reston Guesthouse in Lamberts Bay - very comfortable! 

At the start of Day 2 - misty & cold

A Toll Road in the middle of nowhere... REALLY? at R30 a bike a bit expensive don't you think? 

Couldn't resist - not a fan of dentists! 

Next stop Lutzville

Koekenaap?   who names these places?  Different theories exist on how this town got its peculiar name. One is that the name, Koekenaap, was derived from a Khoi (indigenous people) word expression that means where the ram fell. The second theory is that the name is a misinterpretation from a German remark. Apparently two travelling German missionaries went with a Khoi-guide and stood on a hill to admire the lovely green valley. One said to the other "Guck hinab - daaronder" in Afrikaans or look down there.

The start of sandy roads beween Namakwa Sands and the beach (as I later discovered once the mist lifted) 
Next to the sea..... EISH!

Greeted by a flock of Flamingos
Did you know that the pink or reddish color of flamingos comes from carotenoid proteins in their diet of animal and plant plankton

facing the sea and surrounding conditions - head on....... 

Coffee stop!  The Nav keen to try out our coffee machine that our good friend Carlos sent all the way from Portugal  - first of many cups on the trip.

Nifty little coffee pot it is.... note to self - must upgrade to a 2 cup system

Greg Beadle rated this route a 3/10 for difficulty - clearly has not ridden this route for a long time! More like a 10/10 for 'amount' of sand!

The new Pirella MT60's looking good and doing its job! 

First parking spot after 5kms of sand... it did not get much better after this, in fact, this was a good section. 

We were NOT alone! 

Praying for the sand to stop SOONER than later! Looking back on this trip, I realised that I can overcome my challenges as this one was one of my toughest in a long while!  My motto... once you're in it, you have to get through it... however long it takes....

Even the Nav had to find a parking spot... but got going before I could capture the moment 

Hennie the Store owner/Postmaster and knowledge base for everything in Kotzesrus 

Kotzesrus - land AHOY!!!! an oasis for weary travellers coming from the coast 

Panoramic View of Kotzesrus - only 9 houses in this little dorpie with approx 20 inhabitants

next  stop - Kammieskroon for fuel - thankfully less sand but still had to be alert for surprises 
the sandveld, not many of anything to be seen.  Beautiful, nonetheless

Far too much sand in the Sandveld area for my liking! Will definately be avoiding this route in future . My KLR (& I) prefer gravel to sand thank you very much! 

To the left to the left.......to Kammieskroon through Garies 

Beautiful sunset at Namakwa National Park/Reserve, our overnight spot 

Lovely accommodation - bikes sorted, fire lit!  Perfect ending to the day ! 

Comfortable beds & welcoming aircon!

Early morning panoramic view of Namakwa National Park (NNP) - we will definately come back here! 

Early morning departure leaving NNP on route to Springbok 

Spot the curious onlookers on the left - Gemsbok greeting us as we passed 

I am embarrassed to admit that I cooked my back brake -  got a bit happy with my right foot on a long and steep descent - after cooling down for a few mins, we got going again!  

This Gemsbok bull kept a beady eye on us as the Nav sorted out my KLR 
A visit to the NNP is a must!  Abundant animal life
The Nav enjoying the views as we exit the NNP
This old church in Soebatsfontein has been converted into a B&BA settlement 80km south-west of Springbok and 48km north-west of Kamieskroon. The name, Afrikaans for ‘begging or pleading fountain’, dates from an incident about 1898 in which Hendrik S(t)ievert, a farmhand, was murdered by San in spite of his begging for mercy.
A leg stretch before we ascend the Wildeperdhoek Pass -  a road constructed in the late 1800's by Italian prisoners-of-war
An Usain Bolt moment..
We didn't get to see any wild horses other than this rather friendly chap! 
The Nav doing doing some adjustments to his mirror after being shaken about down the Pass 
Grassy flats of Namaqualand - truly spectacular!
Next stop Springbok - to the left
42 degrees at 10am in Springbok - aircon in Wimpy was MOST welcoming 
The colonial style facade of this beautiful old building (Springbok Hotel) conjures up memories of the mining past of this interesting mining town.
The first thing we did when we arrived at Klein Plasie (B&B) was jump in the pool to cool down! 
A pool & an aircon are necessities in Springbok!  
Kleinplasie Guesthouse
The Nav found a shady spot for the KLRs
Not much to see in Springbok but it was nice to go for an early evening walk through the town
The Nav attending to the KLRs chains before we start day 4 
Garing  (Nuclear Waste Site) - accross the road from Vaalputs - see pic below 

Vaalputs is the only South African radioactive waste-disposal facility, called the Vaalputs Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility, operated by NECSA. The facility is located about 100 km south-east of Springbok, in the Northern Cape. It covers an area of approximately 10,000 hectare, measuring 16,5 km from east to west and 6,5 km from north to south at its narrowest point.

Ice cream stop in Kliprand - definitely in competition with Kotzesrus for smallest town 
Final stretch of gravel to Loeriesfontein
Comfortable accommodation at Boesmanland Pub & Grill 
A visit to the Fred Turner Museum is a must!  The culture and historical way of life of the "Trek Farmers" of Namaqualand (also known as Bushmanland or Hantam) is displayed in this museum which is housed in the old school adjacent to the Windmill display (which is in what was the school playground). More than 1000 items are on display, including a trek wagon, equipped tent, kook skerm and a horse mill.  Like the Windmill Museum, the folk and culture museum is only opened by arrangement outside the flower season.

below - some photographs of interest at the Museum

for those who are vertically challenged 
Horsedrawn water mill
a Unique Windmill museum of which there are only two in the world, the other being in the USA.  The museum boasts 27 working windmills
The Nav observing a horse drawn flour mill inside the Museum 
I am glad I live in the era of the KLR!
Beautiful quiver tree growing in the museum's' garden!
Packed and ready to continue the adventure and NO.. that is not an oil leak from the KLR!!!  Surprisingly she used NO oil on this trip.

Koos the petrol attendant, has been working at the Engen which is owned by the grandson of Fred Turner, for 30 years and knows everthing that happens in Loeriesfontein!
Couldn't resist.....
The ultimate photograph
Panoramic view of Quiver tree forest (on left) - NieuwoudtvilleDid you know? The branches of the quiver trees have been used by Bushman as quivers for their arrows and large trunks of dead trees were hollowed out and used as a natural fridge as the fibrous tissue of the trunk cooled the interior as the air passed through it.
No waterfall today! 
Stopped at Van Zijl's Smidswinkel Restaurant for tea and rusks to warm us up! 

Thanks Huletts!  I think we will be doing many adventure tours in the future...

Calvinia,claims to have the biggest postbox in the world - 6.17m in heightDid you know? The postbox was an old water tank which had been on the Dutch Reformed Church's grounds. The local doctor, Erwin Coetzee, said the area around the water tank was looking messy. His wife, Alta, said that the tank looked like a postbox, and so the local business chamber and residents decided to convert the water tank into a postbox in 1994. The Post Office supplied the paint. Every letter that is posted from the postbox now gets a hand-stamp with a flower as an emblem. Today the giant postbox is the most photographed place in Calvinia.
The Nav deep in thought whilst walking the labyrinth - hope he's planning less sandy routes ahead!
R354 to Middlepos/Sutherland - worst gravel/sand/corrugations I have ever encountered! Worst condition ever according to the local folk at Middelpos

Local folk still use Donkey carts to get around in the Karoo - what a beautiful sight!
Middelpos to the right - only too happy to veer off the R354 
Fuel at Middelpos - had to wake someone from their afternoon nap for assistance 
Gannaga Lodge - what a welcome sight!
We were accommodated in the original old refurbished farm house
The bar/entertainment area at Ganagga Lodge
Lovely bedroom with a bath and shower - best room in the house! 
David and Buksie enjoying some R&R on the couch
David and Nugget, the resident meerkat  enjoying the rugby 
Our hosts - owner Johan (left) & Rianu (right) - very entertaining they are! 

Close up of Nugget - TOO precious!
David and I explored the 'stable' bedrooms - love how the owner kept some things original - have a closer look at the hooks where the donkeys were tied up to feed from the troughs
At the view point of Langkloof about 20 mins from Gannaga Lodge 
Panoramic view of Langkloof up close and personal
Where all KLRs belong!  
Slip sliding down the hill.... 

The Nav descending tricky section of trail road back to the Lodge 
View of Gannaga Lodge in the distance
Gorgeous pic of KLR at Gannaga Pass

Little Nugget - loves all things bright and beautiful!
Green door, what that secret your keeping?  A working mill can you believe it!
Johan will be restoring it to it's original working condition in the not to distant future
Nugget, constantly on the lookout for predators or food! 
Original farm implements now used for decorative purposes
Previously used by Johan's father when still a working farm
Tastefully decorated ladies restroom in the Main Lodge building
Love the fresh foliage in the handbag as a decoration
Love the Flying Brick luggage system on my KLR - the dust cover works like a dream and its great not to have to wash luggage when back home again
The Nav's Big Bag Panniers blending well with his KLR
Tankwa National Karoo on route to Ceres
There is something magical about the sparse landscapes of the Karoo 
The famous Tankwa Padstal where hospitality meets all weary travellers 
The bar is licensed and you will find many interesting people in this bar, not to mention interesting items against the walls 
The farmstall sells anything from sweets, chips, potatoes, tinned food, matches, bicycle parts, tyres
bottled jam to airtime
last but not least.... a pic next to the Doring river...  feeling right at home now! 

Thanks Nav, for planning yet another unforgettable tour.  As always I look forward to the next one.  Just one request please, or in this instance, a demand!  Can we steer clear of coastal sandy routes in future?

Till next time.....

Safe travels everyone

email: adventureridersct@gmail.com
"4 wheels move the body, 2 wheels move the soul"