A Tuesday Tilt at the Khyber Pass

So… Tuesday arrived. Bright. Clear. Already warm…

I trundled down to Pietermaritzburg in Sharon’s Land Rover Defender 90 – it had to go to the fitment centre for an upgrade to the sound system. Yay! I enjoy great music in the car, especially when I’m on my own and no one else can hear me singing! Anyway, I was dropped off back at home and after a simple glass of water I donned the biking gear. This seemed a bit daft as it was already hot. The thought of wearing a heavy riding jacket, gloves and boots held little appeal… All I can say is that I’d rather sweat than bleed!

I was soon on the BMW and cruised into Howick to do my chores. After a couple of stops I decided to pop into the Black Olive Restaurant and enjoyed a great cooling milkshake. Do guys who ride motorbikes admit to enjoying milkshakes? Don’t know, don’t care – This one does!

I aimed the GS out of town and simply turned right instead of left and pretty soon found myself on the Curry’s Post Road out of Howick. With no real plan in mind I bumbled quietly along enjoying the views. There was very little traffic and although it was late morning by now, the air was still relatively clear. Thankfully there were no fires! The fire index was high and it would have been devastating to see farms going up in smoke…

And on we rode, past Dirt Road Traders, Groundcover Shoes and many more of the Midlands Meander attractions. Terbadore Coffee Shop soon appeared on my left and the thought of stopping there for a cup of their finest crossed my mind. We’ve enjoyed coffee there many times before and I can highly recommend a stop. But today the thought of a hot cuppa held little appeal; I needed to have air flowing through my jacket!

I neared the end of the tar and found that resistance was futile… The magnetism of the gravel road was intense and I swung right, changed the riding mode of the GS to “Enduro” and sat back enjoying the scene, now shimmering in the heat haze. The gravel down Elliot’s Neck was sublime, dry, and hard packed with some dust. In fact the dust trail behind the bike was huge – not from speeding along mind, rather from the layer of fine sand on the surface. This dry weather and the continued drought is still a major concern for all…

Almost dry. This little dam is usually full to the brim... The drought is taking its toll.
Almost dry. This little dam is usually full to the brim… The drought is taking its toll.

I stopped at the customary stopping point adjacent to a little dam. Oh dear… this little bit of water has all but vanished! This was a clear reminder of the severity of the drought we’re enduring. My mind jumped back to the simple glass of water I’d swallowed just before I left – water is precious and we need to remain cognisant of the fact that it doesn’t simply come out of a tap. It started out there in the wilds, in a wetland, bubbled out of a spring fed by ground water from far below the surface… And to top it all our Government is keen to allow fracking which uses vast quantities of fresh water to free limited quantities of shale gas… We are a water stressed nation in the middle of one of the most severe droughts in many years…

Next stop was a short way down the Khyber Pass. A favourite stopping spot on the many kilometres of brilliant gravel in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands. The view is always wonderful and there were many greened up patches – fire breaks and block burns that have benefitted from the recent rains. It was hot riding, 33°C and climbing, so with the picture taken, I continued down the Khyber Pass, past the John Goodman Household First Flight Memorial and back towards Howick along the Karkloof Road.

The BMW looking very much the part on the decent into the Karkloof Valley.
The BMW looking very much the part on the decent into the Karkloof Valley.

Why did I ride the longer way home? Easy – because I could.

Maybe we all ought to take the longer way home once in while!

And once home, it was another glass of cool clear water… Special stuff that!

Bruce Houghting

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