An Even Longer way Round for Pizza

It was always going to be a hot ride and it was always going to be a long ride but we really didn’t imagine it would be 160km. Now there are those out there that would laugh disdainfully at this but remember, these are little Honda CRF250L’s and we are 2 up…   And the saddle is a little narrow and hard…

But still, it was a hell of a ride. We headed out of Howick on the P141 towards the Karkloof, the weather at this stage still relatively cool and fine. Bruce was in the front setting a pace gentle enough to take in the surroundings including a stunningly beautiful pair of Long-crested Eagles perched on a couple of pines. The dry weather has put paid to one of the damp, slippery bits on the climb up the Karkloof which is appreciated (the absence of the slippery bits, not the dry weather) and we pulled over for a break and to take in the never ending views over Mbona Estates and the KwaZulu Natal Midlands.

Stunning view over Mbona Estates in the Karkloof. KwaZulu Natal Midlands. South Africa
Stunning view over Mbona Estates in the Karkloof. KwaZulu Natal Midlands. South Africa

Just after we set off again 2 BMW 1200’s cruised past effortlessly, both riders on the pegs looking ever so relaxed. We caught them as we crested the top of the mountains, both now on the side of the road, the riders having a chat. This part of the world really is quite beautiful with the mist belt forest trees covering the mountains and slopes of the Karkloof mountains and, as you keep tracking north, down past Craigie Burn Dam and onwards to the Mooi River valley. Quite stunning really. I mean, how much would you like to ride the road below?

Bruce grabs a quick shot of the road leading to Rietvlei and Craigie Burn Dam. What a ride it was...
Bruce grabs a quick shot of the road leading to Rietvlei and Craigie Burn Dam. What a ride it was…

Craigie Burn is situated just off the R622 at Rietvlei about mid way between Mooi River and Greytown. It was built in 1963 on the Mnyamvubu River primarily for irrigation purposes and I worked there as ranger many years ago at the then Natal Parks Board. I must say is brought back fond memories of a lush green valley filled with fat cows producing the richest milk I’ve ever come across.

Being there reminded me of an occasion when I had popped into Greytown on my little Honda XL185 (my official transport back in those days) to deal with some administrative stuff. I had wound it up a little on my return to the dam, making the most of the final, long downhill and I noticed that the cattle had been herded down the road – lots of fresh, wet cow-pats littering the place. I dodged them all successfully unlike an approaching car which smacked a particularly large, succulent one just as we met. I was covered in the stuff. All over the bike, me and my kit bag. Thank heavens for full face helmets I say…

We headed for Mooi River intending to pick up the D183 which would have taken us to Mount West, fuel and refreshments. When we arrived at what we’d marked on the GPS as the turn off, all we found was what looked like a farm entrance. We really didn’t feel like an argument with an irate farmer so pushed on to the P165 , turned left, climbing up to Mount West on a fairly rough but beautiful road with stunning views to the west and a snow covered Drakensberg. We also passed a turnoff to the left marked D183 – a fairly substantial road so clearly there must be some continuity here. Will explore this in the future and report back – it looked like quite a nice ride…

We refuelled the bikes at Mount West and decided that the pizzas that we had last week at il Postino were really very good so we hopped onto the R103 and enjoyed the twisties past Nottingham Road, Balgowan (and Michaelhouse), Lidgetton, turning right onto the P134 just past Piggly Wiggly. The pizzas were just the same and we attacked them with relish.

Pizza, glorious pizza! Il Postino on the Midlands Meander. KwaZulu Natal Midlands. South Africa
Pizza, glorious pizza! Il Postino on the Midlands Meander. KwaZulu Natal Midlands. South Africa

The idea was to return to Howick on the R103 but it was blocked at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site. It turns out that the Mandela Day Marathon was happening and the authorities had closed this portion of the road… Back we went, picked up the P162 that took us to the P165 and home. You’ll notice this on the tack log below and it actually makes for a more interesting ride…

Download the track log here.

Roger de la Harpe

Track Log showing the route from Howick to Rietvlei, Mount west and to ilPostino.
Track log showing the route from Howick to Rietvlei, Mount west and to ilPostino.

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