2014-08-03 : KLR Bash Kenhardt (7 day tour of Western and Northern Cape)

We embarked on a 8-day trip up to Kenhardt to meet up with the KLR Clan from other regions for an annual get-together.  Why Kenhardt?  Well, apart from being in the middle of the longest and straightest gravel roads you will ever see, has a hotel run by Eton (aka Kraai) who is a Clan member.

For us the trip to Kenhardt takes 2 days, and we decided to run some detours on the way back.  This is the story…

Day 1: Cape Town to Tankwa Karoo National Park – 360km

The Nav and I made a leisurely departure around 9am on the Sunday morning.  The plan was to meet Jorg & Lily at Ceres for a late breakfast.  The weather was overcast and a little chilly as we made our way through Durbanville, Wellington and over Bainskloof towards Ceres.  We stopped for an obligatory coffee at The Kalabash, and met up with Jorg & Lily at the Wimpy in Ceres.

After “breakfast” at 1230, we left Ceres and made our way up the Swaarmoed Pass where the altitude climbs up to over 1000m.  The Matroosberg mountains had no snow  although you could have been fooled for thinking there may have been, because it was pretty cold.  We entered the Karoo via the R355, and were looking forward to many days of gravel riding.

The weather cleared, the roads were good, and progress was excellent.  First stop, the Tankwa Padstal which was a first for Jorg & Lily.  The owner Hein has managed to create a real little oasis in the middle of nowhere, and the Padstal stocks anything from a draad-trekker to a pregnancy test!  There were lots of other bikes and guestswhich bears testimony to the interest of the place.  I even made friends with the Emu.

The final stretch was to Gannaga Lodge which included a trip up the Gannaga Pass (height 1275m).  This is a spectacular gravel pass, and climbs from the Tankwa basin to the top of the mountain where the lodge is situated.  We took an optional 4x4 route to the gorge which provided the most spectacular views.

We have stayed at Gannaga Lodge before and were happy to be back.  As usual we enjoyed great food, comfortable accommodation, and a nice hot shower.

Day 2: Tankwa Karoo National Park to Kenhardt – 386km

After breakfast we made a reasonably early start.  First stop was Middelpos for fuel around 30km away.  The going was slow and the road was bad, and it took us an hour to make Middelpos.  The fuel was fresh though, and we headed north towards Brandvlei.

The roads also improved but were practically deserted.  There were long stretches that seemed deserted with only the occasional farmhouse as evidence that anybody actually farms in these areas.  We stopped to take some pics next to a deserted railway line - Swawel.   We have come across so many lines that are no longer used – seems the glory days of rail are over for good.  Same goes for the many thousands of kms of telephone wires. Most of the time the wires are missing and just the bare poles remain as an indicator of the road direction.

We made good progress, hitting the R27 tar road, and reeling off the 90km to Brandvlei, stopping for one of the Nav’s infamous roadside coffees along the way.  We usually travel with a small gas burner and an espresso maker.  No compromise when it comes to coffee – even in a remote place such as Brandvlei.

After Brandvlei we discovered that some “roads” as indicated on Basecamp are in fact not roads at all, (this might be a good time to tell the Nav "told you so") and we selected an alternative gravel detour to the 142km tar road.  This ultimately ended at a locked gate and we backtracked through some sandy stretches, much to the delight of some members of the group (ja ok, guilty as charged!).  Fuel was marginal, so we decided to head through to Kenhardt on the tar.  Both the KLR’s were on reserve when we arrived.  Jorg's BMW has around 600km range, so no worries there.

We met up with the Gauteng members of the KLR Clan at the Hotel – Dewald, Dave, Peter, Graham, Grant, Norberto and of course Eton.  A great dinner and evening was held.  I had no idea that you could fit 7 KLR’s into one pub!

Day 3: Verneukpan 180km

The plan was to head out to Verneukpan for a lunchtime boerie-braai.  It is about 80km from Kenhardt, along some smaller gravel roads which were generally of good quality with some sandy patches in places.  There were about 5 gates to open along the way.

The pan itself is really in the middle of nowhere and is the spot where Sir Donald Campbell set the land speed record.  A number of people have tried similar feats in a variety of vehicles and some have paid the ultimate price.

The farmers in the area have ploughed circles/spirals in an attempt to get the vegetation going with some success.  The boys (and girls) let their hair down a bit on the pan and wheelies (first prize goes to Jorg on his BMW), power slides (for a KLR?) and jumps were the order of the day. Such fun!

The facilities at the pan are really good – shower, toilets, boma, electricity (solar).  After the braai, we headed back just after 2pm. 

Day 4: Kenhardt to Carnarvon 258km

After saying our good-bye’s to some of the Joburg guys who were heading to the West Coast, we were joined by Dewald and Grant on the next leg down to Carnarvon.  The roads are gravel highways and we were doing 120km/h or thereabouts for long stretches at a time.  Certain members of the group were having difficulty staying upright having almost sampled the local delights at 2am the previous morning.  Sympathy = zero.

At one stop Dewald “collapsed” into a bush for a resting spot which became a regular occurrence at the stops, with me having to pull the dorings out of his kit and Grant taking compromising pics at the same time.  I hope Dewald’s wife is understanding…

Vanwyksvlei was not geared for visitors and we found ourselves invading the town, making our own coffee inside the Kafee.   When asking what the population is, the answer was “43 wit mense”.  Makes you think….  We stopped at the dam which was hand-built around 1860 (the plaque has been stolen/removed). With the exception of Jorg & Lily whose back shock was misbehaving, the group took a 30km longer detour to Carnarvon.

This is the land of the “Kolk”.  There are many farms like Bloukolk and I wonder where the name comes from?  We passed approx. 30km from the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) but decided not to take another detour as there wasn't much to see, apart from 6 Satellite receivers pointing up at the sky.  They have laid Fibre Optic cables from Carnarvon.  Needless to say, the data connection on smart phones is great around this little town.

We stayed at the Meerkat Manor which was comfortable, with a communal bathroom.  Dinner at the Meerkat Restaurant was surprisingly good.  There seems to be a Meerkat theme….

Day 5: Carnarvon to Sutherland 270km

Another relatively short day was planned.  We got going early’ish and fuelled up before heading towards Fraserburg.  Dewald and Grant were heading south from Fraserburg to Die Hell, while we continued west to Sutherland.  The roads were not in the greatest nick, however progress was good and we rattled off the 135km to Fraserburg by 11am.  Time for breakfast at… The Meerkat Restaurant.  The food was excellent (or were we just very hungry?) in “Piet se Bar”.  Like Dewald, Piet is a Blou Bull supporter.

We bid Dewald and Grant farewell, and headed on the lower link to Sutherland.  This is a magnificent road with spectacular views and river crossings.  We arrived in Sutherland at around 2pm, and did an interesting tour of the SALT observatory before checking in to the Skitterland Guest House – the best accommodation in Sutherland by far!

It would not be fair not to mention the fantastic quality of the meat in this part of the country.  The lamb in particular is without rival from Kenhardt all the way down and we continued this theme at Pulmans Restaurant before turning in for the night at Skitterland.

Day 6: Sutherland to Calitzdorp 286km

After breakfast at Skitterland, we headed off into a cold, overcast and misty morning through the Moordenaars Karoo down to Laingsburg.  There has been lots of rain and parts of the trip were quite green.  The rivers were flowing at the time and a number of river crossings added some spice to the journey.

After coffee at Lainsburg, we headed through the Rooi Nek and Wit Nek passes towards Seweweekspoort.  We took the Rouxpos detour through the mountains and passed a number of small farms along the way.  Some fruit trees were showing their first pink blossoms of next year’s crop and the views were spectacular.

Seweweekspoort is always amazing and the tarred Huisrivier Pass into Calitzdorp is also spectacular and such a good road.  We filled-up with both fuel and groceries in Calitzdorp and made our way through to the Calitzdorp Spa (hot springs) where we spent the next 2 nights.

The hot water springs are run by the Municipality who are sadly not very customer orientated.  Needless to say, the chalets are a little shabby and there is no place to buy even a cold drink but we were comfortable nevertheless.  We soaked all the bumps and sore bodies away in the pools and made a chicken casserole for dinner.

Day 7: Calitzdorp Spa 0km

Jorg & Lily departed on Saturday morning, and Stuart rode up from Cape Town to join us for Saturday and the ride home.  The Berg River Chapter of the Harley Davidson community were having an annual bash at Uhuru, just across the road and we strolled over to admire these huge motorcycles.  Different strokes for different folks, but the sound and chrome does have a certain appeal.

Braai for dinner, and lots more time spent in the pools.

Day 8: Calitzdorp to Cape Town 415km

We were really looking forward to the final day’s ride back to Cape Town.  It started through the Rooiberg Pass to Vanwyksdorp, winding  our way on the back roads to Barrydale, where after we hit the main roads back to CT.  The Rooiberg Pass is spectacular and the going was quite slow with “marbles” on the descent.

We took an obscure shortcut titled "Miertjies Kraal Dam" which was really a road from a century ago, that took us over a mountain ridge with narrow and at times rocky paths through the farmlands.  As usual, there were a number of (fortunately no locked) gates to open and close.  We reached Barrydale for an early lunch, and hightailed it back to Cape Town on the N2 via Meiringspoort.

The Route

Day 1 - Cape Town to Gannaga Lodge - Tankwa Karoo
Bainskloof Pass Western Cape 
A rare sighting...the Nav enjoying Bainskloof view
Quick pit stop for a cuppa at Calabash (Bainskloof) 
Urban junk/art in Ceres
met up with Jorg and Lily at the Wimpy in Ceres
Tankwa Padstal in the Karoo - Jorg's first visit can you believe?
I love the original and eclectic home deco at Tankwa Padstal 
Whats up?
Did you know?   Emu males stay with their growing chicks for up to 7 months, defending them and teaching them how to find food?  At 7 months, the chicks are fully grown!
Ground beef (cows with no legs) - mooving right along....
(if offended, scroll down and pretend you didn't see this pic)
Capturing the beauty of the Karoo
The Nav, Jorg & Lily enjoying a cuppa as we enter the Tanqua National Park in the Karoo
The Nav ascending Ganagga Pass (photo Lily)
never too far behind...
At the summit (1600 m above sea level) you'll feel like you've arrived at a place of peace.
At the summit of Ganagga Pass  - 1600m above sea level (Bo-Langkloof)
 Lily, Jorg and the Nav enjoying the tranquillity of the Bo-Langkloof ravine/valley

The group enjoying a welcome drink at the bar at Gannaga Lodge (Roggeveld Karoo)
Our accommodation
The original house when Gannaga was still a working farm  
The Karoo folk are very creative and are excellent recyclers - horse shoe coat hangers
Delish breakfast fit for a king and queen
The Nav attending to our KLRs chains and making sure all is well for the next leg of our adventure
The Karoo sky is the perfect blank canvass for the glorious and magical cloud formations surely crafted by angels
Day 2 - Ganagga to Kenhardt (hier gaan ons weer)
Middelpos up ahead

Miles and miles of beautiful Karoo

Which one of you are Stu?
Disused railway station Swawel is located in Namakwa District Municipality , Northern Cape, South Africa

In need of a caffeine kick, the Nav prepares his famous coffee brew to help ward off the cold
A fellow traveller sharing his bike journey
The start of the twee spoor which awakened my fear of sand riding (my shattered nerves!) Had to ride it TWICE as a locked gate prevented us following this route!

Arrived safely at Kenhardt Hotel and met up with the rest of the KLR clan
Baksteen (Dewald) - what a nice bitch!
Baksteen's following
KLR clan 2014 - Kenhardt 
Baksteen & Jorg (Cape KLR)
Kraai (owner of Kenhardt Hotel) managed to fit all the KLRs into his pub
What Kraai wants, Kraai gets...
wat loer jy Diesel Dawie?
amper daar Baksteen
Cape KLR and Doc KLR talking all things KLR
Porra doing some interior decorating
Diesel Dawie, Porra and Doc KLR looking more like birds in flight than ballerinas
don't change your day jobs guys...
"PORRA, as jy WEER on die counter klim gaan ek jou voeter!
Kraai's wife giving the boys a tongue lashing
so they behaved, for a short while...
the 'quieter' ones

A good time was had by all, even though things starting getting blurry for some as the night progressed (Baksteen and Diesel Dawie langarm'ing)
The beemer feeling a bit left out as she couldn't fit through the pub's doorway
Baksteen and Porra at it again.... (tut tut)
Porra finally in touch with his feminine side...

Kenhardt Hotel
Our accommodation
Took in the sights in Kenhardt
Very wide side streets in Kenhardt - The town is known for its Dorper sheep industry which is centralised around this dry and arid town
The towering Dutch Reformed Steeple Church in Kenhardt
Day 3 - Day outing to Verneukpan with the KLR clan
Lily taking in the sights and sounds at Verneukpan 

The Nav keeping an eye on Jorg having fun on his BMW
tender moments
The Nav riding one of the crop circles - such FUN!
Baksteen not quite sure about the Nav's directions
Lily ringing the bell at Verneukpan 
Seeing double
Peter Vee having fun on the pan

The Beast having some fun with Jorg

The Nav's turn to kick up some dust
and THAT'S how it's done!  wheelie envy?

Jorg and Lily cozying up to the twins
Verneukpan in all her glory
Lily captured the KLR clanners in motion on Verneupkan - the unda kawa version (for most)
(ltr Doc, Rolex, Baksteen, AngelaB, Cape KLR, Diesel Dawie, Peter Vee, McSack) 
The group, with Kraai and Porra on foot, giving a thumbs up to having a good time on Verneukpan
pole dancers of note
some history for the uninformed
A boerie braai fit for a KLR rider
the panoramic view of Verneukpan's offerings
Two caravans and a few covered camping spots - the only accommodation offerings
Nice clean ablution facilities with running water
This is the only bit of 'greenery" on all of Verneukpan
a surreal and 'out of this world' experience on the pan - definitely a bucket list item
Baksteen hot on my wheels
Diesel Dawie the 'gate crasher'
so I opened the next gate to show double D how it is done...

and so we reached the end of our outing to Verneukpan - what a blast!
Day 4 - our last meal with the clanners before heading back south... Baksteen alone at the naughty table
boys will be boys
Baksteen kicking up some dust on route to Vanwyksvlei on route to Carnarvon 

McSack checking in on a babalas Baksteen (aka Bushman)

the group arriving at Vanwyksvlei

Baksteen collecting letters of the alphabet - an A for effort or is that an E?
NG Kerk at Vanwyksvlei 
We took over the cafe and the Nav brewed us a cuppa while Lily,Jorg and a ruffled Baksteen rounded up some biscuits
Van Wyksvlei was founded in 1881 and is one of the driest places in South Africa 
Established in 1880 and named after a local farmer, Van Wyksvlei lies close to the first state-funded dam, built in 1882 and still in use
We came across this rock art - and no, it's not Baksteen's handy work!
A relieved Baksteen enjoying the view of the dam

Jorg leading the pack as we leave Vanwyksvlei Dam
Vertrapkolk/Brandvlei gravel road, +/- 90km from Carnarvon
The Bush man at it again!
read more about the SKA at http://www.ska.ac.za/download/fact_sheet_meerkat_2014.pdf
Who knew they made such delish pizzas at de Meerkat Restaurant in Carnarvon

Meerkat Manor in Carnarvon - clearly sticking to a Meerkat theme
The original dam on the farm which is apparently over 100 years old 
Am so glad to live in the era of the KLR.. 
Did you know?  The Penny-Farthing bicycle was invented in 1871 and goes by a number of other names. It is also known as the Ordinary bicycle or the High-Wheeled bicycle. Some know it as the Penny-Farthing bicycle because its wheels bring to mind two coins. Check out the 60 inch front wheel!
A Penny Farthing 'screen shot"
we always do, and this is why we return as often as we can!
Doc KLR's influence has reached Carnarvon
The chemist in Carnarvon.. who would have guessed?

Day 5 - Carnarvon to Sutherland
Baksteen planting signs
Jumping for joy
Windmills in the Karoo - a necessary stop! 

"Die Manne" at the Meerkat Restaurant in Fraserberg.. Baksteen looking bullish..
Seems the Universe 'wants' us to support all things 'meerkat'
Lily capturing the beauty of the valley below
The Nav and I enjoying one of the many endless stretches of the most amazing gravel roads in the Karoo - love it!
enjoying a few water crossing along the way
right behind you Nav?!! (awesome pic Lily, thanks)
We couldn't resist the opportunity to tour the  SALT facility  on our way to Sutherland

The Nav looking in on a very serious bunch of astronomers
 A short video showing the rotation of the Primary mirror
Did you know? that each of the 91 mirrors is made of low-expansion Sitall glass and can be adjusted in tip, tilt and piston in order to properly align them so as to act as a single mirror. Because the mirror is spherical, light emitted from a position corresponding to the center of curvature of the mirror will be reflected and refocused to the same position.
Braving the cold but well worth it!
Jorg & Lily
The Nav, rearing to go...
Skitterland B&B in Sutherland - http://www.skitterland.co.za

The NG Kerk in Sutherland is 156 years old today
simply irresistible....
Day 6 - Sutherland to Calitzdorp - Misty start to our day
Moordenaars Karoo to Laingsburg
Another water crossing - such FUN!

Capturing Lily capturing the Nav's water crossing
Who's going first?

My KLR enjoying a splash
My KLR shedding some weight...
while the Nav fixed the numberplate, I scouted the area for some photo opportunities - spot the windmill anyone?
entering Seweweekspoort

Lily trying to be inconspicuous
Our accommodation at Calitzdorp Spa
Springbokkies on our doorstep
The hot spring
The Nav putting Lily to work in the kitchen 
time for some maintenance
The Nav & Stu checking out Uhuru and its facilities - see pics below
Uhuru is right opposite the Calitzdorp Spa and also a hot spring.  The accommodation is apparently nicer and as reasonably priced.  Maybe next time?

The boys admiring the Harleys - different strokes
How wonderful to see so many lady riders in one place 
Seeing double? but I only had a cappuccino
Stu and the Nav walking back to our Spa which is across the road from Uhuru
self catering at the chalets
Day 8 - Calitzdorp to Cape Town - coffee and rusks before we depart
amazing to see cats and peacocks/hens co-existing and sharing food
we took a left

descending Rooiberg Pass
Stuart on Rooiberg Pass
enjoying the silence and tranquillity of the valley below
Can u spot Stu?

off the beaten track, not quite postal but close...

we met up with this chap cycling for charity - ironically he was robbed of his cellphone on the R300 near the airport (sad) but remains in high spirits - kudos to him
 Safely home with the Nav already preparing for the 'big clean'

our bikes

I have a 2011 KLR with 32000km and recently had a 680cc conversion.  The Nav has a stock 2009 KLR with 54000km.  Both bikes consumed around the same amount of gas which probably averages out around 20km/l.  The consumption wasn’t great, particularly into Kenhardt (120km/h & headwinds) where it went down to 17km/l.  Best was 21-something.

Both bikes also used around 600ml of oil each.  We were hoping that the 680 conversion would cure the oil consumption, but this is obviously not the case.  The chains were “cleaned” every night as best as possible and re-lubed.  In Kenhardt we cleaned them properly after Verneukpan, and also replaced the air-filters which were very full of dust.

Otherwise they performed flawlessly, and remain a wonderful bike for this kind of riding.

What an amazing trip!  A good practise run for our 14 day tour to Namibia in September.  A special thanks to Lily for taking some amazing photos of the group at Verneukpan and of the Nav and myself along the rest of the tour.  Nice to be on the other side of the lens for a change.

The Nav has outdone himself again by planning yet another awesome route.  Just when I think it can't get any better, it does.  Thanks Nav and last but not least, awesome to meet the rest of the KLR clan in Kenhardt.  We look forward to the next get together in 2015. 

Till next time everyone

Safe travels

Angela B
4 wheels moves the body, 2 wheels moves the soul

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