03 April, 2016

9 Passes, 2 tunnels in 1 day (Gauteng - South Africa)

Some time ago I was going through the web site mountainpassessouthafrica and saw Gauteng has 9 official passes.
Since Gauteng is quite a small province it got me wondering where they all located, and plotted them all from info on the web site into Garmin's BaseCamp.

Then I wondered if it would be possible to ride them all in one day. Did a quick route calculation from point to point and soon enough saw that if one started in Johannesburg, and end up in Rayton the total distance is around 300 km. And so the idea was born.

I created an event on the Pretoria BMW Club page, and added it to the forum. From there it was past along word of mouth to a few people out side of the club and some contacted me if they could also join, which was not a problem.

On the day we were 17 bikes, and 3 had pillions, and 2 were lady teams.
As I thought the group was far to large to be going through Johannesburg and Pretoria traffic as one big group that we split up into 4 or 5 smaller groups. After some discussion we broke up into 3 groups and about 6 bikes per group, each with a lead and GPS. There was the 'Marius'es and Leon' group, the 'Lady group' and the 'Sweep group'. I was part of the 'Sweep group'.

We set of about 2 or 3 minutes apart at 08H00.

The 1st pass was Munro Drive, and then we ascended Sylvia's Pass heading north. Stewart Drive was amazing. I have never driven or ridden this pass, and very unexpected in a big built up town such as Johannesburg. As we travelled through Yeoville I could see people stop and look at us, with the expression ... "wow lots of bikes out today".

We travelled past Ellis park and got onto the highway towards West Rand direction Roodepoort / Magalies. This was slow going with many stop streets and traffic lights. 

We had not discussed stopping for smoke breaks within our group, and since we were now about 40 or 50 minutes into the ride, my wife (and pillion) wanted to take a smoke break. As luck would have it the 'Ladies group' had stopped for a break and we stopped as well. [09H00 - S26° 10.061' E27° 52.312'] This afforded us a nice view of the Johannesburg city sky line from the west. They left shortly after we arrived. Again proof that the smaller groups were perhaps the better idea.

Once we got out of Krugersdorp (by the game reserve) the we could we get to over a 100 km/h for the first time. Just after Magalliesburg we turned right and headed for Hekpoort with some awesome roads to be travelled by bike. As we were doing the Hekpoort pass we had a motorbike group pass us from the front. I thought the bikes as being part of our 2nd  group (I later learnt that it was indeed the ladies group. Something wet wrong with their routing). As we turned onto the D400 heading towards Poeiernek we stopped for our second break [09H55 - S25° 58.291' E27° 41.124'].

Once over the pass our next stop would be Chameleon village where we would stop for breakfast. The brief was we would all meet up at the place, but it was a lot larger then I remembered. I did not see the 'Marius'es and Leon' bikes around ... and thought they might still be on their way, or putting petrol in, or something ... but they would be riding a lot faster than we would ... so it did not make sense. As it happened they were at the restaurant at the one end of the village, and we were at the other end of the village. So, Anton, note to self, do a little bit more homework next time and get a specific restaurant to remove the confusion caused.

Once breakfast was done the we got back on the bikes. As we were about to leave one guy saw some oil coming from his bikes drive shaft and opted to rather go home. (He got home safely). The route took us through the Hartebeespoort tunnel, and boy was it busy. Since we were 6 bikes in our group, we did not "split lane" to the front, but patiently waited out turn in the sweltering heat.
After the town, we turned left and headed towards Pretoria where we did Horn's Nek pass from south to north. This was a nice, fast, and sweeping pass. To me the 2nd best pass of the day (Stewart Drive was the best).

Then we followed the old Pretoria Hartebeespoort dam road (R513) into Akasia, and going over Theo Martins Poort towards our second tunnel for the day. A few kilometers before the tunnel Trish and I were yepping at each other about something with bike lights. This was a VERY good indication that we need to stop and have a break and cigarette [13H30 - S25° 43.174' E28° 08.147']. Here we learnt that the ladies were at a garage just on the other side of the tunnel and waiting for us.

We headed their way going through the Daspoort Tunnel and saw them at the Shell garage. They joined our group, and we did the last 2 passes as one group.

After going through Pretoria town and out east on R513 we did the Baviaanspoort pass ... and I had totally missed it. This is such a slight change in elevation I missed it completely. Luckily I could relive it later at home from my action camera.

We travelled through Mamelodie and turned left onto the R104 heading Rayton, and did the last pass Donkerpoort. At least this pass was a lot more "entertaining" then the previous one.

We stopped at the garage in Rayton, and bought some cold items to quench our thirst. We chatted a bit about what was awesome on the day, and then took a group photo. The one lady mentioned she had never seen Johannesburg and Pretoria on the same day from the east and west. So true I thought ... neither had I till today.

So the event can be renamed to something like "The 9 pass, 2 tunnel, 2 city east/west view ride".

Thanks all who joined me / us on the ride, and hope you all got something out of the day.

Now to see if we can do 9 passes in another province in one day!
Or 9 dirt passes in one day?
Or perhaps all 19 Freestate passes in one weekend?

The stats:
Route distance : 270 km
Route Time : 5H20 = 6H50 (total) - 1H30 (breakfast)
Breakfast stop time: 1H30
Breakfast cost : R 200, 2 burgers, a cooldrink and coffee.
Highest point: 1800 meters, in Yeoville just before Stewart Drive.
Lowest point: 1170 meter, at the Hartebeespoort dam wall.

Home to home distance : 362 km
Home to home time : 9H25

Lessons learnt
1) Breaking up into smaller groups helped, but routing was a problem.
2) Smaller groups made the stops quicker and more manageable.
3) As it happened the groups we broke up into happened to be a "faster" and "slower" groups. Next time better to announce it that way, so people can choose and ride within their capabilities.

4) Need to get routing to work correctly on multiple versions of Garmin maps.

Pictures of the passes and tunnels on order they were done:

 Munro Drive:
Sylvia's Pass
Stewart Drive

Hartebeespoortdam Tunnel

Horn's Nek
Theo Martins Poort
Daspoort Tunnel



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