26 January, 2012

Bike Ride 9 - To Dullstroom via Loskop dam by sand road, and back to Johannesburg via tar backroads, a good weekend outing

The weekend of the 21st and 22nd January 2012 was my first truly long distance ride. And it was an AWESOME weekend.

I had joined up on the Think Bike forum, and browsing around saw that there was a trip planned from Bapsfontein, using mostly sand roads to Dullstroom via Loskop dam. This looked like lots of fun. So I signed up for the ride, and couldn't wait for the weekend to arrive. It would have been nice if Trish came along, but with hindsight it was maybe better, as I think some of the sand roads would have been to rough with two of us on the bike.

The originator of the ride was a guy with the nick name "iamgigglz", (each time I see his nick I think of a geocache we did close to Bapsfontein [Biggels will like it here]) and the idea was make a non technical ride from Bapsfontein, all the way to Dullstroom via Loskop dam, using as much sand road as possible. In the Garmin track log below, the purple sections are the sand roads we took, and the red ones are tar.

Que Sera to Bronkhorstspruit 
Sand road: 8 km
Tar road: 34 km

Photo taken by "Fox"
I arrived at Que Serra at about 7H30, and saw only one bunch of guys in the whole parking lot. It must be the guys leaving for Dullstroom, so I parked my bike close by and introduced myself. I got to hear a lot of names, but honestly couldn't remember many. Some guys asked me where the 69 of my forum name came from (my forum name is AntonD69). "It's the year I am born in" was my reply. They all laughed, as they thought otherwise.
After a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, pap, and tea (or coffee) all for R55.00 we left for our first route stop in Bronkhorstspruit. This is also where I got my first proper taste of sand road. I was about the 3rd bike of 12 to go onto the sand road, but as I felt very uneasy on the dirt, lots of the bikes started to pass me. A few times the front tyre was sliding along the gravel and I panicked a few times. Luckily I did not drop the bike, and slowed down grammatically. At the end of the sand ride the others were patiently waiting for me. Shjoe ... I made it.
I was later to learn this is the way it is done. The mavericks (fast guys) go on ahead, having their speedy fun, but once one arrives at a intersection or tar road, where the group could possibly be split up, all wait till everyone has regrouped. Lots of times either Brendon or luv2ride was behind me making sure that even the slow ones make it all the way (thanks guys).
We all filled up with petrol, as the next fuel stop would only be Loskop dam. My tank made it all the way to Dullstroom, with still lots of fuel to spare.

Bronkhorstspruit to Loskop dam
Sand road: 73 km
Tar road: 37 km
taken by "iamgigglz"
After we all filled up with fuel, and met at the other end of town we set off for Loskop dam. We hit some more dirt road, which wasn't as bad as the 1st patch, and I was able to keep up (mostly) with the group. I decided to stay at the back, then there would be nothing for me to proof, nor the need to worry about anybody passing me. I saw some guys stand up on their foot pegs and ride at around 60 to 70 km per house over the sand. I initially thought it was their way to get above the dust, but at the smoke break stop after the 1st patch of sand road I was to learn from luv2ride that its a better way to get across the sand. He always stands on his pegs whenever he crosses sand. As the day progressed I slowly started to stand more and more. First I started at slow speeds and higher gears, but by the end of the day was pretty good. I just sat down on the seat when we got to corners. I still wasn't confident enough to stand and lean with them. 

As I felt a little more relaxed now riding on sand I was starting to enjoy the scenery a little more, but still had to concentrate a heck of  lot on the road. We entered some beautiful hills and valleys. Amazing greenery all the way around. Its such a pity that I could only take photos at our stops. At one point coming down a hill, we passed a small rural village, and from afar one could see two rusted tins standing in the middle of the road. WTH (or F)? AS I got closer and closer, I saw the tyre marks go past the right of the tins, and started to follow, and then saw a donga of about .5 metres deep and maybe a meter across where the tins where. So now I know what 'rural' traffic cones look like.
At Loskop we stopped for lunch at the Bospot Restaurant. I had a Cheese hamburger, which had a nice thick patty, and a sprite. Total cost I think was R56.00. I cleaned my visor with a tisshe, and then from Gryshond was able to use a slightly wet shamy which made it nice and clean. (Note to self: Get one for sand roads). We stopped over at the dam wall for some photos.
While at the dam wall I decided to go and attempt the cache 1.4 km away, but on arrival saw I had to climb a small hill. In full bike gear, a full stomach and the midday heat, I decided to rather leave it.
After returning to the others at the dam wall, and taking some more photos we left for Dullstroom.

Loskop dam to Dullstroom / Elandskloof
Sand road: 72 km
Tar road: 60 km

The first part of the ride down into the valley was on tar, but soon enough we turned off onto a dirt road, with a game fence on the one side. Beautiful greenery all the way around. It was on this stretch of road with a long open, compacted sand that I took the bike up to 100 kmph. Only for a short bit though then it was down to 70-80 again. At the end they were all waiting for me again, and we decided to go to a small pub which came highly recommended.
On entering the small village of Laersdrif, we passed a small grey stone church, and then onto a farm or something where the pub was to be. The last section was on gravel, where the front wheel was sliding a bit, and now with much more experience I didn't find it that bad.
The pub was closed but we were greeted by two dogs. The big one seemed very happy to see us. After a rest, and some cold water, we took the road again, which was to be the last sand section before we get to Dullstroom.
Just by the Police station we turned back onto the sand road, and drove past farms and small rural villages. It amazes me that one can ride for 5 to 10 minutes, with no settlements in sight, and then a huge house is found, with no clear means of income. I would have thought one would see sheep, or cattle.
We entered a small pass, and rapidly, within 2.5 km, climbed from 1700 m asl to about 1900 m asl. Most of the way up the pass I rode in 1st and 2nd gear, and lots of times I stood up as well. Just when it got a little to technical, I opted to sit down. 
At a T-junction we regrouped, and on this stretch was another geocache, but as we got to it, I opted to rather leave it, as I did not want to keep the group up, and it was nearing 17H00, and we still had to get meat and drinks for the evening.
Once in Dullstroom, some people filled up their bikes, I phoned Trish to say we had arrived, and then drew some money at the ATM, and bought a lekker T-Bone steak, a piece of wors, and 6 rolls, as well as 2 beers, and some milk for tea. All in all it came to just over R100.00.
Once we all had our stuff, we set of for the last stop of the day; Elandskloof.


The last bit of road to Elandskloof was quite bumpy after all the rain and tyre tracks made in soft mud (which were mostly dry by now). A normal sedan would make it if it rode slowly.
After sorting every thing out at reception we rode the last 4 km down to the chalets and
Lovely little place. I had to pay R125.00 towards my share of the chalet, which was more then reasonable and slept 6 people. I stayed with Brendon and his family, and luv2ride. 
Before dinner we had a quick dip in the indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi.We had quite some trouble getting the fire to start as we had no fire-lighters, but my small pointy knife which I always carry with me, saved the day when I split up some small logs, Bear Grylls style.
The T-Bone, pap made by Speedy Vee, and buttered roll, with some rooster koekies went down well. I don't remember much after my head hit the pillow.
I awoke the next morning, and got up just after 7  and decided to go and take some early morning photos. Some people were up already, and others were still sound asleep.
The morning went quite quick. Speedy Vee made us breakfast with only 4 eggs, but with the bacon and left of boerewors from last night, it fed us chalet dwellers, and about another 4 campers. 

Once we were all packed, we took one final group photo of us all with our bikes by the water's edge, and then set of for a final visit to Dullstroom, where we had breakfast "pudding" at Harrie's Pancakes. I joined the group after completing a geocache. I am glad that I got it, as I needed a "green block" for today.

Elandskloof all the way home.
Tar road: 280 km (took 5H30m including the stops)

After breakfast "pudding", we split up as a group. Some riders wanted the fast way home, over the N4 toll road. It was iamgigglz, bikerMom, The pink Duck and me who opted for the more scenic route home, by using tar road, but avoiding the toll road and sand roads.

A pretty uneventful trip from Dullstroom to Belfast. We got onto the N4 for a few kilometres, and then back onto the R104 to Middleburg.
Somewhere on this road we had a bakkie in front of us, and all of a sudden he left the road, and rode next to the mielie fields. "He must be a farmer going into the fields" I thought. I had not even completed the thought and he was motioning to us to slow down. With this the pot holes started and it got so bad that we also left to "tar" road and joined the bakkie next to the mielie fields. This happened to us another 3 or 4 times till we got to Witbank.
In Witbank I wanted to do an earth cache. It was about the burning coal fields which is the longest burning fire in South Africa. It was also the chance to show group members what "earch caching" was all about. But alas, it was visually a very boring earth cache. I took some photos, and read out aloud the basics of the earth cache, but I think it was all lost on them. Pity. 
From Witbank the plan was to take the N12 home via Benoni, but the GPSr took us home via the N4. This was very confusing to me, as I did not recognise the road, and I had travelled the N12 many times. Three off ramps later I realised what was going on and we took the rural road toward Kendal and Ogies, and got onto the N12. We stopped one last time at the Delmas off ramp. My bum was getting seriously numb / sore by now. My water was still ice cold though, and lekker to drink after the hot ride.
Once at the R21 crossing, I waved the rest of my group goodbye and rode the last little bit in rain home. At least I wasn't soaked when I got home. With hindsight I should have invited the rest of the group over to wait for the rain to pass.

Once home, Trish took all my dirty bike gear and washed it with NikWax, and I added it to the dry rack so it would be ready for Monday morning's ride to work. I also degreased and cleaned my chain, as well as the rest of the bike, and after it was dry, added special wax to the chain again.
I didn't make the Sunday night movie, and was in bed just after 8PM.


iamgigglz said...

Nice write-up Anton! It was good to have you along, and the Geocache thing has my curiosity - I just need a proper GPS to do it right.
See you next time :)

Bikermom said...

YES! Nice write-up! It was a good ride. See you again. :-))

Robert said...

Thank you anton for you nice rideup i want to do it allso