2014-05-29 3 day weekend - Sutherland/Middelpos/Tankwa

Keeping with the theme of 3 day riding weekends, the group (Paul, Stuart, David and myself) decided to leave work early on Friday and head out to Sutherland for the weekend.

The weather predicted was good for Friday and Saturday, with the mother of all storms coming through on Sunday.  Undeterred, the plan was changed to return by tar on Sunday, leaving at 11am once the worst of the storm had passed.  Erich suffered a break-in and a physical struggle at his home on Thursday, and so was a late withdrawal, while Stuart was able to leave earlier which he did – heading for Sutherland on the tar.

The rest of us (Paul, David and me) met at Richwood and departed at around 11.45.  It is around 300km to from Richwood, so we got going in the mist and clearing rain.  We headed through Occultdale to Wellington on the gravel roads which were in reasonable condition after the rains, over a cold and damp Bainskloof Pass and onto Winterberg Inn for Spare Ribs for lunch, which was not a moment too soon.    We were welcomed by a roaring fire enjoyed a delicious cappuccino and Tubeless, the great dane/staffie cross, popped in to come and say hi. 

The weather wasn’t getting any better, and we encountered some light rain going through Mitchells Pass to Ceres, and on to Theronsberg Pass.  As we entered the Tankwa, the weather cleared dramatically, and I think the last time they had rain there was in the Rindepest plague of 1937.  The roads were good, and we hummed along initially quite quickly, and slowing as the route became more mountainous.  The Windhuewel Bossiesskerm “honesty shop” along the Sutherland gravel road was closed as we passed but the riding is really magnificent, and the scenery is great. 

We stopped for a few photographs and when peeking through the cracks in the door, it appeared that the honesty shop was no more and been replaced by a ‘spiritual gathering place?  Santa, the owner, has moved to Cape Town and the boma is now just a memory of what once was. Sad actually as it seems that this stop was a firm favourite for all the weary travellers passing through the Karoo and most certainly kept everyone on the straight an narrow from an 'honesty' point of view.  I am sad that I did not get to expereince this generous gift that Santa brought into being.  Perhaps someone else will revive it... time will tell...

Sutherland arrived without incident just before nightfall, and we found Stuart who had well and truly ensconced himself into the only hotel by that stage.  We had drinks and dinner at Pullmans and spent the next couple of hours on a star-gazing trip.  Costs R80 per person, and you get to see things through GPS guided telescopes like “The Jewel Box”, “Tarantulas”, and planets Mars & Saturn.  The night sky at this time of the year is not as interesting as it is in summer, but nevertheless there is lots to see and the eighty bucks was well spent.  It was cold though and sounded like a gumboot dance with everyone stamping their feet trying to keep warm.

We planned to do a 250km circular trip on Saturday which included Gannaga Pass and Ouberg Pass which is exactly what happened.  After a big (if not sumptuous) breakfast at the Sutherland hotel, we headed off in the direction of Calvinia and had a brief stop at Middelpos where Stuart fuelled up.  Paul and I, never being able to resist a shopping spree, set off in search of a trinket or two at the general cafĂ©, and I exited the proud owner of a gorgeous little windmill at a bargain price of R40.  Let’s just say I was in my element!  Windmills + KLR = happy Ang!    Next stop, about 30kms further we reached Gannaga Lodge where we enjoyed a light soup and roosterkoek lunch.  The boys took the 20 minute trip to the gorge which is spectacular.

The trip down Gannaga Pass is pretty steep, and the flat roads at the bottom have been graded and there were long patches of sand.  We hit these at speed and simply kept going, so just a little adrenalin rush.  I was very pleased to see that even Stuart on his GS (Geen Sand), made it through unscathed!   It was becoming a long day, and we kept the throttles open on the way to Ouberg.  The pass is steep and long and I think it can be extremely challenging in poor weather.  Fortunately we got there in perfect conditions, and apart from my KLR trying to ride over the edge, everyone got up safely.  From the top there is still 40 or so km to go to Sutherland, and we got back to the hotel just as it was getting dark again.

Erich and Mark (and their furry children Jessie & Toby) made the trip by car and joined us for dinner at the hotel.  Everybody had lamb shank which was truly delicious, and bitter sweet depending on which rugby team you supported.   Final score - Stormers 21, Sharks 19.  The weather then got stormy and rained throughout the night, clearing on Sunday morning.    Thank goodness for the electric blankets on all our beds, clearly a necessity in Sutherland.  After a late breakfast, we kitted up with many layers of clothing plus jacket and rain suite, and headed for Cape Town at 1130am after a refuel. Please take note that there is no fuel available before 1130am on Sundays so be sure to fill up on Saturday afternoon if you are planning an early departure on Sunday morning.   
The 380km road back was at times windy, cold and wet, but nevertheless enjoyable.  The KLR’s chew petrol at around 120/130km/hr into the teeth of the north-westerly wind, so we stopped at Worcester to refuel.  Consumption 16.3km/l which is the worst we have ever got.  It is usually around 22.5km/l.  We got back home by 4.30pm, just in time for the Nav to wash the bikes before nightfall.  What an AWESOME weekend.  I bitched like hell before the trip about possibly freezing this weekend but I can honestly say that I was not once uncomfortably cold… except for maybe when we did the gumboot dance to keep warm during our star gazing tour.  Thankfully Stuart came armed with hot chocolate and before retiring for the night after stargazing, he treated us all to a delicious cup of hot chocolate.  Way to go Stu – looks like an institution in the making!

The next ride will be some time away and David’s bike has just returned from getting a new stiffer rear shock.  My KLR will be getting a total makeover, going up to 680cc, but primarily to get an aluminium mounting point for the swing-arm repaired which just happens to be in the engine block.  I blame it one too many bottoming outs going over or through tricky patches whilst trying to keep up with the boys, but mainly due to the fact that my suspension was lowered when I bought my KLR.  So my recommendation to anyone who thinks it’s ok to lower a suspension, DON’T DO IT!  It WILL cost you in the long run.  It doesn’t make such a big difference anyways and quite honestly, looking back now, I imagine that I would have coped just fine had we not had it done.

Thankfully the first and last Ry/Go on route to Wellington
straight ahead to Sutherland
the Nav & Paul plotting extra detours no doubt....
my KLR in her element
The Nav giving a thumbs up and enjoying the tranquility
Photobombed by the Nav?
let me in.....
stone creatures - Art in the Karoo?
The Nav admiring the Karoo art
the star of David
sadly the Bossieskerm is no more..

almost there
Perlmans for dinner
entertainment provided by the locals
Paul couldn't resist taking this pic
Flash aha, masters of the Universe... flash photography not at its best!
Back at the hotel after stargazing tour.

on route to Middelpos from Sutherland

Keeping an eye on Stu...

Stu filling up his GS at Middelpos

This is NO hotel California...
General Dealer at Middelpos
Middelpos, a 2 horse town.  Next stop Gannaga

The Nav taking in the Karoo magic at the gorge near Ganagga Lodge
Paul & Nav about to descend the Gannaga Pass

The spring debate

on route to  Ouberg

I had an 'oh shit' moment on Ouberg Pass - not sure how visible it is on this Youtube clip that Paul managed to capture on his Drift - check it out...http://youtu.be/AmPz5tk6Oss  

My take on it from my GoPro footage, including Gannaga Pass descend

At the top of Ouberg Pass
the panoramic views of Ouberg

The Nav &Paul (below) being treated to amazing views down over the Tankwa Karoo and beyond

Stuart at one of the last tricky hairpin bends.
A total of 8 sharp hairpin bends on Ouberg Pass

My day is now complete!
Sutherland, 3kms up ahead

Our accommodation for the weekend
Sutherland Hotel
http://www.sutherlandhotel.co.za - The accommodation was very comfortable, clean fresh linen and
most importantly electric blankets and good moer koffee in the mornings!

Anemometer on the main road opposite the hotel measuring the windspeed 
Paul all dressed up and ready to face the rain!
Last stop in Sutherland before heading back to Cape Town
Paul and I window shopping again, this time at Magda se Winkel in Sutherland
whilst waiting for the guys to fill up
Seems helping yourself is much quicker than waiting for service
and no, he's not putting air into his seat... its a GS...
Thanks again to the Nav for leading us through and along roads less travelled and getting us out into nature to enjoy some of the most breath-taking scenery in the world, literally right here on our own doorstep!

Till next time 

Safe travels everyone

4 wheels moves the body, 2 wheels moves the soul

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