Cape Town, Great and Klein Karoo, Eastern Cape and back – 6 days (tar)

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1. Total distance of route?

About 2 700 km.

2. How long did it take to complete? Were you going fast or travelling leisurely?

Six days. Day 1 and 2 covered more than 1 500 km, at a decent pace. One rest day in Mossel Bay. The Buff was rocking. And one day of really bad weather.

3. Why are you recommending this route? What’s special about it?

An epic trip, with great twisty roads, flat out straight roads, mountain passes, beautiful scenery, and even some light off road tracks for the more adventurous. In all, a little bit of everything, but a lot of fun and adventure for all.

4. Please tell us how the route runs.

Melkbos to Mossel Bay, the long way round. Taking it through the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape.

We set off on the N7, then took the R27 heading towards Calvinia in the south western part of the Nothern Cape. Then the R63 over the little towns of Williston, Carnarvon, Loxton, Victoria West, Murraysburg all the way to Graaff-Reinet. From Graaff-Reinet take the R61, heading through the Klein Karoo to Cradock and on to Tarkastad. Staying on the R61 to Queenstown from where you take the R67. Then into Fort Beaufort and onto the R63 again towards Alice. From Alice to Hogsback on the R345. With the R345 you go straight down to the coast where you meet up with the R72 to Port Alfred. From here on the R72 runs along the coast past Alexandra untill it gets to the N2 just before PE. Then it’s just straight on with the N2 to Mossel Bay and back to Cape Town if you like.

5. What kind of motorcycle is the route suitable for?

It is suitable for all bikes over 600cc and can be enjoyed by sports bikers, the cruiser crowd and the adventure bikers when not in the mood for gravel. The 12 bikes that rode this route were – two Harleys, a Honda cruiser, Honda Goldwing, two Honda Fireblades, a Yamaha R6, a BMW K 1200, GS 1200 and 800, a Honda VFR 800 and a Yamaha FJR 1300.

6.  Please name significant POIs (Points Of Interest) along the way, e.g. eateries, supermarkets, accommodation.

The Van Rhyns pass between Van Rhynsdorp and Nieuwoudtville on the R27 is a great piece of riding and gives you a splendid view over the Knersvlakte. Check out the De Meerkat restaurant in Carnarvon, in the main street. Great food, fantastic vibe. Victoria West is a charming Karoo town with some nice little coffee shops. Riding out of Victoria West to the little town of Murraysburg gives you little to no indication of what to expect. After crossing the N1, a rather straight road suddenly gives way to the most awesome body of water in this usually dry area. One rides through the Loskop mountains here (Loskop = loose head – loose translation). The natural beauty can easily make you lose your mind. The R67, that stretch of road from Queenstown to Fort Beaufort, is a gem of a road. Keep an eye out for the Nico Malan pass… it’s the one you want to ride again and again and again, on any bike on any given day.

7. Are there petrol stations along the way? Do you know of any motorcycle repair shops along the route or in the area?

Fuel is not an issue on this stretch, but you are advised to fill up at the towns identified on the route points above. Carry cash, as not all garages have card machines.

8. Are there any dangers along the route, e.g. loose gravel, potholes, sharp bends, regular oil spills, wild animals or angry locals?

The danger on this road is that you get side-tracked by the absolute beauty of the environment. The roads are in superb condition with a varying degree of complexity. Most of the corners are exhilarating enough to keep even the thrill seekers happy, while not too intimidating for novice riders. When riding in the Eastern Cape, you have to watch out for animals being herded. Another thing to watch out for is the dreaded cow dung patty! These are scattered all over in random places, and recently  dropped ones (the wet variety) can be a slippery and smelly experience. Slow down while riding through the smaller villages. The locals are friendly towards bikers in general, so when you give them a hoot, they give you a smile and a wave.

9. What did the trip cost in fuel, meals and accommodation?

In total it was about R 5 000. That includes the entry fee to the Buffalo Rally in Mossel Bay and some luxurious Karoo lamb chops here and there.

10. Did you use any special gear, e.g. fuel bags, that made your journey possible, easier or more enjoyable?

Preparation for this trip was key. We packed a puncture repair kit and a portable compressor (used once) as well as a fold-out map. It’s way better than a GPS and was consulted regularly.  The map shows the distances between the towns and helps with planning. It also does not require a charged battery and some sort of signal, like a GPS and phone do.

The route can be quite hot in summer (and unpredictable, year round), so check the weather conditions before you leave. Light and warm clothing is always recommended.

11.  Any must-do activities on the route?

The Edge at Hogsback is a must see. My suggestion is to take a leisurely ride there – the road is bumpy and littered with potholes, but nothing a Goldwing can’t handle. Don’t miss out on the Labyrinth, a 1.5km walking experience.

12. Did anything funny happen that you’d like to share?

While stopping for fuel at the single pump in Hogsback, we noticed that the pump price was R5.90 a liter. Crudely stuck on the pump, in hand-written print, was a sign saying x2! The pump was so old that it did not allow for prices over three digits.

13. Do you have any other comments or advice about the route?

Leave early and give yourself enough time to enjoy the route. For born-again bikers, this route will remind you of what you have been missing for so long.

For new bikers this is a good ride to do in a group with more experienced riders. Ride in a group if possible. The mountains are rather isolated, so if bad things happen, it’s better to have friends with you.

14. Are there any doctors or hospitals in the area that you know of?

The towns are far between and on a trip of this distance it is worth having some backup in place. Our good friend who ran into trouble had BMW roadside assist, and they came out to collect his bike the next day. If travelling in a group, a backup vehicle is a good idea, with a spare bike on the back an even better idea. Small towns have basic amenities, the key word being basic. So ride responsibly. If you do run into trouble, Beaufort West has a small but excellent 24-hr public hospital at 99 Voortrekker Road, Beaufort West; tel: 023 414 8200.

Ride report by Mukhtar Mukuddem.

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