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January 1st, 2008 | Africa

North to Springbok

Citrusdal to Springbok

(780 kms)

S 29°39’ 72” – E 17° 53’ 51”

Citrusdal to Kakamas

After a tasty breakfast, I bid the owners of the Cederberg Lodge farewell. A number of their friends and family came out into the parking area in front of the hotel to watch me load the bike and then waved me off as I headed back down the main street, to rejoin the N7. It was the last day of 2007 and I had a long, hot day ahead of me…

With the Cederberg Mountains forming a barrier on my left, and rolling grasslands on my right, I headed north up to and through Clanwilliam. I had thought about visiting Lambert’s Bay, and then sleeping over in Springbok, but had changed my mind about arriving in Kakamas on New Year’s Day. I knew if I pushed it a little today, I could arrive in Kakamas before nightfall… There was an “op-skop” in Kakamas that I had been invited to…

Having passed Trawal without a sideways glance, I stopped in Klawer to get fuel and drink some of the juice from my Camel-Bag. I noticed other bikes parked under the shade cloth in the parking area… They were also fairly heavily loaded and I wandered over to chat to their owners. Telo Steyn and his girlfriend Polly were on their way to Vioolsdrif on the Orange River for a New Years bash, and after only a short time chatting, they insisted that I accompany them there… I was undecided about what I should do, and we agreed to ride to Springbok together while I mulled their invitation over in my mind… Polly suggested we meet at the coffee shop with the stilts to finalize details. Clearly she had ridden this stretch before…!

Somewhere on the “Ride through Hades”… far Northern Cape.

They left before me, as I still had to kit up and pay for fuel. I also forgot to put my “sunnies” on and had to stop to open the visor and slide them onto my face… I took off after them, and was soon boiling inside my gear, the temperature in the high 30’s… Just before Vanrynsdorp, and about 20 kms into the chase, my Tank Bag came loose, and slammed into my right arm…! The glue that holds the sticky strip to the tank where the zip is located had “melted” and the bag had slid back up towards the handlebars, and with the westerly wind blowing strongly again, had dislodged the bag… After a brief struggle, and a huge wobble, I managed to bring the bike under control, and throttled back to a gentle stop… Phew…!!! A few deep breaths ensued, while I thanked my lucky stars and patted the cross I wear on a chain around my neck. I was pretty sure I did not manage this “save” on my own…

I spent some time getting the bag lashed to the tank again, before I set off in hot pursuit of Telo and Polly. They now had about a 15 minute head start on me, and I had wanted to ride with Telo to see how he and his bike handled the wind. He was also on a BMW, an HP2 1200 Enduro, but much lighter than my GS… I cruised past Vanrynsdorp, and on up through Bitterfontein, finally catching up to and passing Polly, just as we crossed the Swartdoring River and crossed into the Northern Cape Province. No Telo….!! She waved as came alongside her, and indicated that he had gone on ahead and that I should follow… I considered riding with her, but as she was only going at about 100km/h, and not wanting to pressure her into riding faster, I eased ahead of her… She faded quickly into my side mirrors as I gave the throttle the full twist…

Griekwa Cultural Settlement being built between Klawer and Kammieskroon.

With taps wide open I took off after Telo… The wind had died down a little, and I was able to crank the bike up to a steady 170km/h. At one point I was doing 205km/h, but slowed when I felt the bike shudder under me as a crosswind buffeted me… The area I was riding through was more desolate than any I had been through before. Low scrub and thin patches of scraggly grass grew in what seemed to be a giant “sand and rock pit”. The heat coming off the road caused a heat haze which allowed visibility of only a few hundred metres… Over a distance of 70-odd kilometers, past Garies and up to Kamieskroon, I saw no sign of life whatsoever. Only weird and wonderful granite rock-formations broke this otherwise bleak landscape. Not a sheep or even a bird was to be seen, as the heat continued to blast through the small opening I had left in my visor, burning my lungs with each breath I took… I began to wander what riding through the Namib was going to be like….. If anything, this would be the perfect preparation for it!!

I was now in Namakwakand proper, and the landscape began changing shortly after the turnoff to Hondeklipbaai. Blackened koppies raised their heads above the rolling sandveld I had been passing through. Huge rocks were piled on top of each other, boulders scattered across the slopes of the gentler sloping hills like a giant’s playground… It was as if I had crossed some unseen border into another world… I slowed the bike to enjoy the scenery, and cruised at a more sedate pace, realizing that I was not going to catch Telo, who had obviously ridden this stretch like a bat out of hell…

Just before the turnoff to Springbok, I finally came across Telo’s bike parked on the side of the road… I looked to my right and saw him high above the road, perched on a rock, filming me as I went by… I was not sure if I should stop, but he did not seem to be in any form of distress and waved me on. I assumed he was waiting for Polly… While I was watching him in my side mirrors, I flew past the turnoff to Springbok, and had to make a u-turn a few hundred metres further on… (When I said “a more sedate pace”, I meant about 140km/h….!)

Grass does not do well in Springbok, home of the Rockery…

I rode into Springbok, refueled, and went to look for the “coffee shop on stilts”…. I duly located the “Purple House” coffee shop on my right, about halfway up the main street of this heat scorched little town. Man, was it hot !! I shrugged out of my gear and had already ordered and drank a half litre of Coke before Telo and Polly arrived. He explained that he had run out of fuel and had been waiting for Polly to arrive with the extra fuel she was carrying… He had decided to film us as we passed him, and that was why he was perched up on the mountainside…

Springbok is the site of the first commercial copper mine in South Africa, and lies in a narrow valley of granite domes in the Klein Koperberge. The town, formed around its mining operations, dates back to 1852, and lies on the farm originally known as Melkboschkuil.

After a few rounds of Iced-Tea’s and Cokes, I made my apologies to my new found friends, as I had decided that I would rather push through to Kakamas today, than ride through to the Namibian Border with them for the mother of all hangovers they had planned… (which Telo seemed intent on experiencing!!) I had enjoyed their company, and we seemed to “connect” with each other immediately. Telo is a Fire Bomber Pilot, and had dropped numerous tanks of water on the fire in Pigg’s Peak, just a few months earlier!! Small world indeed… He was on his way to Afghanistan in a few weeks time, to start a new flying contract there… “Good luck with that…!” I remember thinking to myself…

Polly was from the UK, and had come to SA to teach and develop underprivileged children. She was heading for Zambia soon, where she would be assisting with the establishment of an Arts and Crafts centre to empower the women of the local community there.

Telo Steyn, Fire Bomber Pilot and General Adventurer…. Springbok.

We exchanged contact details and they made me promise that if things didn’t work out in Kakamas, I would head back to Vioolsdrif the very next day to assist in the demolition of as many bottles of Tequila as possible!!! I was determined to make things work out in Kakamas!!

Telo’s BMW HP2… 1200cc’s of “off-road monster…”

We headed off in separate directions, they went north, to the Richtersveld, and I turned my bike to the east and bore down on the throttle…. I had a 300km stretch to deal with and only a few hours of daylight left to do it in….

© 2008 TBMH


East to Kakamas…

Springbok to Kakamas… S 28°44’ 64” – E 20° 35’ 87”

Soon after exiting Springbok, the landscape changed again. The rocky koppies began giving way to rolling veld, and only the occasional hill popped its head above what was a very flat part of the world. Apparently a farmer in the area had once been able to watch his dog run away for over three days…

This area is known as Boesmanland by the locals, and is a little more hospitable than the previous 200 kms I had driven through… There were sheep grazing in amongst the shrubs and yellow grasses which grew in between the rocks and gnarled thorn trees. Birds hawked insects that flew up off the ground …

Raptors sat on many of the telegraph poles and quartered the ground below. Kestrels and Yellow-billed Kites vied for the best spots to perch. Road-kill kept the Kites busy, while the Kestrels were more interested in the rats and mice that scurried over the road from time to time. The first Sociable Weaver “haystack” nest appeared in a large thorn tree ahead of me, and I knew that Namibia was no longer far away…

Big numbers in the Northern Cape….

There was very little traffic on this road, and I made good time past Aggenys (place of water… yeah, right!) where copper, zinc, silver and lead is mined, and on to Pofadder, named after Klaas Pofadder, a leader of the Koranna people. Here I was about to the experience a phenomenon that I am sure few people ever get to see…..a rainstorm in the desert!! A few scattered clouds had been blowing in from the north as I hammered eastwards, and they all converged on the little hamlet of Pofadder… Just as I rolled in, the heavens opened and the last kilometer into town was fairly tricky riding, as the oil which had been lying in the cracks in the road, had now been lifted to the surface by the rain. I just made it into the one and only garage in town, and sat out the 10 minute downpour, while enjoying a foot-long koek-suster and 500ml of home-made ginger beer!! Tough, I know….

Desert Storm in Pofadder… the locals called me “die Reen-bringer”…

The “Big Fella” takes refuge from “flood conditions” in Pofadder…

I had enough fuel to get me to Kakamas, and once the rain had dissipated, I continued east on the N14 with just over 130 kilometres to go to my destination… While I sat under the shelter at the service station in Pofadder, I remembered that Telo had told me that he had no problems with wind, and that I should look upon the wind as my friend, and leave everything in the hands of the Gods….. I wasn’t too sure about this piece of apparently sage advice, but I was about to try it, as a northerly wind sprang up just outside Pofadder, buffeting me and causing havoc with my balance. I emptied my mind of the fear I felt, and said loudly into my helmet, “The wind is my friend”…. Believe it or not, I soon forgot about the wind and concentrated instead on avoiding the puddles of water that had formed in the road in some places.

Don’t try this at home…taking photos while doing 127km/h on a 1200 GS…

I rolled into Kakamas after passing the turnoff to the Augrabies Falls National Park, and called Stoffel to ask for directions to the farm he was due to meet me on. I rode through town and turned north onto the road to Riemvasmaak, and Namibia. A short distance further on I was met by a burly character named David on his Quad bike, who escorted me a short distance to their house on his farm “Spook en Spartel”, where we were to stay the night… “Spook en Spartel”…sounded like the story of my ride so far…

Kakamas is the country’s leading supplier and exporter of table grapes and raisins. David’s vineyards of Sultana Grapes were destined to be raisins. We climbed up onto a deck he had built above what seemed to be a storage silo, and drank Jagermeister and Red Bull while watching the sun set over the Orange River, which was only a few hundred yards away… Then it was a shower for all, and on to “Die Mas van Kakamas”, a venue on the river where various “opskoppe” and “makieties” are held. A DJ thumped out a wide range of music, all of which the huge crowd managed to do the “lang-arm” to… It was great to watch, and I wondered why English parties are so staid in comparison to Afrikaaner bashes… These guys and girls knew how to enjoy themselves… The town was filled with university students at this time of year, which had come to pick and supervise the sorting of grapes for the local and export market…

By 1.00am, we had given up waiting for the promised fireworks, and retired back to the farm, me carrying one of David’s three daughters in my arms. They had fallen asleep on a blanket brought for them by Hanli, David’s very industrious wife, who never seemed to sit still for even a minute… We went back up onto the “watch-tower” where the remainder of the Jagermeister was consumed, along with coffee and biscuits. The fireworks finally soared above the Orange River a little after 2.00am and we were then able to make our way to bed… You can’t mess with local customs, and waiting for the fireworks was one such custom in Kakamas…

It had been a very long day for me, 780km through a sun-baked landscape, and then a party to end it all off with… I was well knackered, to say the least….

David’s vineyards, as seen from the “Watch-tower” through red-rimmed eyes on New Year’s Day…

© 2008 TBMH


5 comments to North to Springbok

  • Willem Faure

    It is with regret that I inform you that my friend Telo Steyn, died on Saturday June 8th, 2013. His fire bomber crashed shortly after he dumped a load on a fire and he disappeared into the thick smoke.

    Regards

  • Koos Bredenhann

    Can you please furnish me with any contact details of his family ( 3 sisters) or mom

  • Sorry Koos, I only ever had his email address. We were both always on the move and looking for our next big adventure. Telo lived life LARGE !! Take care. R.

  • Hi Willem. Thank you for advising me of the death of Telo. It came as quite a shock. He was one of those larger than life characters, and many of the things we spoke about on the few occasions I met with with him, remained with me and played on my mind while I rode around the world. The one I most remember, was “Ronnie, the wind is your friend !!” Well…the wind might have been Telo’s friend, but it was often no friend of mine ! While I was being blown off the road in Patagonia last year, I often wondered what Telo would make of THAT particular wind… If you see them, please give his family my best regards and pass my sincere condolences on to them. R.

  • Odette Nel

    Hi R
    I only heard about Telo a day or two ago! what a shock! If you perhaps have more pictures of them on this trip can you please mail them to me.
    Regards
    Odette

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