Dispatches from Afar #4

Bruce has been riding around South Africa on his BMW 1200LC and is now back home in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands and so this, his last Dispatch from Afar for this trip, (See dispatch #1 here, #2 here and #3 here) arrived by WhatsApp this morning:

It was certainly a mighty cold morning in Rhodes! Minus eight degrees! There was no mad rush to go outdoors but we had to start packing the bikes for another day in the saddle… It was about ten-ish when we left Walkerbouts Inn, having said our goodbyes to the large friendly ginger cat. Angus and I had spent the night in ‘Snow Cottage’, a quaint two bed self catering unit that’s perfect for a stay in Rhodes.

We took things slowly again on the gravel road out to Barkly East, stopping now and again to soak up the views and wait for our friends following in their car. One of our stops was at the old single lane bridge over the Bell River – it was flowing strongly, augmented by the snow-melt water. Just around the corner from here, the Bell River flows into the Kraai River and the combined flow was quite something to see in these dry times!

Pretty soon we arrived in Barkly East, said our cheerios to the Car Crew and made for Aliwal North. At about the right time we turned off to Lady Grey for a snack and milkshake. As is always the case when on an adventure we find wonderful little eateries – the stop at the “Grey Lady” was no exception!

We aimed the bikes out of town and rode off towards Aliwal North. But Angus had a trick up his sleeve… He had spotted the historical ‘Karnmelkpunt’ railway reverses on the Garmin BaseCamp maps and set the spot as a waypoint. Back in the day these railway reverses were the only way that a steam train could cross the Wittenberg Mountains between Barkly East and Aliwal North. The line is no longer in use but its interesting stuff indeed and well worth the stop! Note: If we ride too quickly we miss out on these little gems of history…

Parked up on the modern road bridge while looking at the Karnmelkpunt Railway Reverses
Parked up on the modern road bridge while looking at the Karnmelkpunt Railway Reverses

Anyway, with Aliwal North beckoning we cruised on. As it was our plan to stay over in Aliwal North, we were delighted to come across the Toll Inn Bed and Breakfast! This is a beautiful establishment on a farm about ten kilometers out of town. To get there we crossed the Kraai River again! This time the bridge was a six arch hewn stone bridge built in the 1800s and now a National Monument! As we had arrived too late in the day to place a dinner order we ‘enjoyed’ our ’emergency rations’ of baked beans and pilchards in tomato sauce…

Part of the stone bridge leading to the Toll Inn B&B over the Kraai River
Part of the stone bridge leading to the Toll Inn B&B over the Kraai River
Toll Inn B&B just outside Aliwal North
Toll Inn B&B just outside Aliwal North

After a sumptuous farmer’s breakfast we peddled on into Aliwal North to check out the Orange River – it is still flowing but perhaps not as well as we had hoped…

It was here that Angus and I were to part company after a brilliant shared adventure – he was to travel west back towards the Western Cape and I east, back to KwaZulu-Natal. After the ‘fist bump’ greetings, we rode off… The last communique from Angus mentioned that he had last been seen in Knysna…

I arrived at my overnight lodging in Fouriesburg at around mid-afternoon and spent a warm night at the Fouriesburg Country Inn – a great stopover if you’re in the area!

The final leg of my adventure was to ride from Fouriesburg back to Hilton. I don’t think one can ever get bored of the journey through the Golden Gate National Park, beautiful sweeping bends, smooth tar and awesome scenery! I added an extra loop to my route through the park by deviating onto one of the side roads – got high into the foothills and sat for a moment to take things in. I saw Wildebeest and some Zebra to sweeten the deal!

And onward I rode, passing Sterkfontein Dam and then enjoying the Oliviershoek Pass before dropping down into KwaZulu-Natal.

Taking a breather overlooking the Sterkfontein Dam
Taking a breather overlooking the Sterkfontein Dam

All too soon I arrived back home, the first real adventure on the new 1200GS had come to an end… What was to be a journey more towards central South Africa had morphed into the Great Eastern Cape Highlands Escape. And that’s the thing about adventure biking – it’s not so much about a destination as it is about how you get to one! Any one!

And what about the bikes?
The Honda Africa Twin is Angus’ best friend – he loves this bike and it will take him safely and reliably to and fro across South Africa for years to come!
My BMW R1200GS liquid cooled is mighty impressive and has found its place in my heart. I look forward to many journeys on this top machine!

Some basic stats:

  • Total distance: 2089km.
  • Average speed: 63.6km/hour.
  • Average fuel consumption: 4.5l/100km.
  • Trip duration: 8 days, one rest day.

And so it’s over and out from a little coffee shop in Hilton after a thoroughly enjoyable motor bike adventure!

Great to have you back Bruce. Time for a ride around the Midlands… 😉

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