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.

08 January, 2012

Bike ride 5 - Pretoria, Magalies, Home (350 km)

What a weekend it was.

My folks wanted to go camping with our kids for a few days not to far away. They choose Mountain Sanctuary Park just outside Rustenburg.

Trish and I decided we would go and visit them on the bike. But the 150 odd kilometres one way seemed a little much for both of us, and since we had never driven from Pretoria to Hartebeespoort dam opted to go and stay with some friends in Pretoria.
I also knew that there was a very old geocache on the Magalies mountains, and when checking up on it found that it was a mere 5 km from the resort we were going to. We made all our arrangements which included an overnight stay for Peanut at Marius and Anneke, and then waited for the weekend to arrive.

Friday arrived, and we dropped of Peanut, gave Bobbie enough food for the day, and left for Pretoria on the bike just after 6 PM. 

All went well until we got to the fountains circle. There the road was somewhat wet, which caused us to slow down and it looked like rain was immanent. We looked for a place to stop by couldn't find any suitable spot, so just rode on. Luckily it did not start raining. We briefly stopped for a geocache on the south side of the mountain, and then got to Oliver and Gloria's place just after 19H10.
We spent the evening chatting on their stoep, and later on watched a Jeff Danham video. I fell asleep half way through it, and missed the best part. Oh well, will just have to get the video ourselves now.

The next morning we left at 7H20. A little later then I had wanted too. It was a very enjoyable ride from there to Brits. We stopped of for a Tonteldoos geocache, on the way to the Chameleon village close to Hartebeespoort dam. We had a brief walk through the curio shops and got a new wallet for Trish at a "discount" of R150.00. Then we had breakfast at Woodies. Trish had a hamburger, and I had some type of breakfast. It was to much for me, and couldn't finish it.

The next stop was the Maanhaarrand geocache. It is one of the oldest 25 in the country. I have been wanting to do it for a long time now, but either the detour would have been to far, or we were to late in the day to do it. However.... now doing some research on the cache, I see the road to the cache is only accessible by 4x4s. So even if we had the time previously to do the cache we would not have succeeded. 

We took to by-road from Hartebeespoortdam, which was a much more pleasent bike ride then the highway. Once I had to break very quickly, as I had almost missed seeing the speedbump in the road. We turned off the R104, and rode past Buffelspoort dam.

Soon we were on the sand road, and going up the mountain. From my GPS track I see it took us 20 minutes to get the 5 km up the mountain. The bike is new, and I don't want it to fall over, so I took it really slow.

Once we got to the top, there in front of us was a small front wheel car. How the hell it had gotten up there I have no idea. Either the person had lots of patience, or it was a hired car.
We were told that approaching the geocache form the South Side was much more difficult then from the North side. So its beyond me how this little car got up there.

Trish opted to stay with the bike, and I scrambled up the koppie, after taking a few sips of the refreshing ice cold water we had with us. I expected to search for quite a while, but located the geocache in no time. I signed the log sheet, and did not trade anything, as I left all my "swag" in my bike jacket with Trish and the bike.

Took some photos, and a 180 degree panorama, before returning to the bike.

Back at the bike, Trish said 3 4x4s had passed. I had only seen two. After suiting up again we slowly returned to the bottom of the hill from where we came. Almost at the bottom we were overtaken by 3 mountain bikes. I got quite a fright, as it was very unexpected. This also made me realise how slow I was going, and soon picked up a little more speed. A little further on I got my own back, by passing them on an uphill.

We turned right at the corner shop, and now knew we were on our last few kilometres from our final destination. A few times we went through very soft sand, and as this was also very unexpected and the front wheel did tart to slide on the soft sand. Slowing down seemed to be a lot better.

At the camp side we paid our R50.00 per person and R20.00 for the "car", and then parked the bike under s shady tree right next to my parent's camp site (no 21).

The afternoon went very quick. I went for a quick swim with Anya. Then we had a lekker potjie lunch, and afterwards Pappa, Calra, Anya and myself took a walk up to the "Sliding pools". There we found a pool, and jumped in. It was nice and relaxing. After we had our fun, we walked down to the actual sliding pool, and Anya showed Carla and me how it worked. As I had already my walking shoes on, I did not join her. Then it was the 1.2 km hike back to the tents.

Jerome and Alex got sunburnt the previous day, and had enough of all of the camping. They opted to leave with Carla, a day early, and go home. So it was only Anya who stayed behind with Ouma and Oupa for the full camping trip (Well done girl!).

The ride back was 150 kilometers, and felt much longer. At Mooinooi we got onto the highway, and then off again at Hartebeespoortdam. We stopped in the little town for a smoke break. Must say the ride on the highway was very boring, taking the R104 was much more exciting.

We stopped on more time for another smoke break just before the Olifantsfontein on ramp to give our bums another rest, and then took the N1 South, N3 South, R24 all the way home.

All in all a very enjoyable weekend, but it was a very long ride for both of us.

03 January, 2012

Peanut, our new African grey parrot

I have been waiting a long time now to get Trish her Christmas present. A young African grey parrot.
We have been looking for about a month now, but they are either to expensive, or they are to old. Trish specifically wanted a 6 week old one, who still needs to be fed. She reckons that one bonds better with the bird that way.

On the 22nd December I looked on Gumtree, and found two breeders advertising little ones for a reasonable price. One was in Pretoria, and the other one in Roodepoort. After phoning them, it was decided to go to the one in Roodepoort that same evening.When we arrived, we were met by 4 or 5 little African grey babies. Trish chose one, and sat with it for a while.
We found out it was born on the 5th of November. She fed it, and decided she wanted that specific little one.
We paid for it, and left. There was a definite tear in ladies eyes as one of "her" babies left the nest.

For a few days afterwards, we all came up with names, but it was Trish who would have the final say on waht its name would be. We thought of quite a few names, but the one Trish liked most was "Peanut". I think this is based of the little purple character of the Jeff Dunham puppets.

We decided to feed him 3 times a day. Around 7 AM, then 1 PM, and again at around 6PM. He gets fed what I call "Bird Pronutro". He loves it and eagerly gobbles it all up. Afterwards he get some water to wash it all down with. The kids, especially Anya seems like to hold him a lot.

The last few days, he has been trying to get onto the perch in his cage. We have put it as low as possible, and put some towels underneath. It is funny to watch. One can see he is still very young, as he is not sure how to climb on. Once he is on, we can see he thinks it is quite an accomplishment. And its even funnier when he falls asleep. He slowly starts rocking, and then awakes from his sleep. I have been told that the kids have seen him fall off his perch. Good thing the towels are there.

In the two weeks we now have had Peanut, his tail has grown, from about 1/2 a pinky width, to about 2 finger widths. Its a beatifull dark red colour. His wing tips are also black. I hope it stays that way.

01 January, 2012

Old years eve rabbit potjie.

For a long time now I have wanted to make a potjie. Not just any potjie. I wanted to make a rabbit potjie.

We were celebrating new years eve with good friends of ours, and they always make a potjie on that night. We were invited to join in. I thought this would be the ideal time to make a small rabbit potjie just to taste what it would be like.

Driving past 1st avenue I have seen the butchery there advertise rabbits, and since I have eaten rabbit when I was very young, I wanted to taste it again now that I am older, and will now better remember the taste.

The day before new year we went to the butchery but they were all out, and suggested we go the "Mediterranean" a butchery in Jules street. We rode there, and found it on the Germiston side of the long road.
Inside there were lots of fish, and asking where the rabbits were, were directed to the last fridge on the right of the shop. We chose tow rabbits, got a few small other ingredients, and went home. We left them in the oven to defrost over night.

The next morning at about 10 AM, I now had to prepare them. I uncoiled each one, and saw the head, with the beady black eyes staring back at me. I washed off the rest of the blood (not much) and then saw some of the insides of the rabbit. There was the heart, kidneys, and I think livers. I removed all of these, as well as the head. I all became a little surreal to me. I have always wanted to do it, but I am definitely not used to it.

I then proceeded and cut it up into smaller manageable pieced for the potjie, and big enough for all to taste. I was not sure how to do all of this and tried to cut at the major joints. Doing the ribs and inside as the most difficult, as I really had no clue how to proceed. I tried to cut out the fillet, but the pieces came out much to small.

At our friends house we prepared the potjies, and then added to meat to brown. I added some garlic, and bacon, and then after it was all nicely browned, added the potatoes, vegetables, and chicken stock, as well as 500 ml red wine, pepper corns and mushrooms. It then simmered for about 3 hours.

It seemed like most people there were not at all interested in the rabbit potjie, but when it came to dishing up most tried a little bit of the rabbit potjie, which I was quite surprised at.

The taste to me was quite bland. I should have added a lot more spices, and a lot more salt. I expected to taste and feel mush more like venison, and a litte tougher then the lamb and chicken potjie we were also making but when I dished up my portion the meat fell of the bone.

I also had some of the lamb potjie, as well as a taste of the chicken potjie. Both were a lot tastier then my rabbit potjie. Next time definitely add more spices, but I think not a bad effort for a first time.

The next day we got our rabbit potjie in 2 2L ice-cream containers. Quite a bit. For lunch on the 1st I decided I would extract the meet, and try that on two toasties. I added a lot of salt, and some origanum. This brought a lot of flavour in the meat. On the 2nd I had some more and tried it with some other spices.As there was still a lot left over, and I have no idea how long it will last I gave some to our dog Bobbie. He lapped it all up, except for the potatoes and carrots. So at least Bobbie had a good new year as well, with a fine meal.