The Long Way Down for Breakfast

None of us felt like anything hectic this morning so we met at Tweedie Store and headed up the R103, passing the Nelson Mandela Capture Site monument and a little further along, Steampunk Coffee (definitely worth a stop if you are feeling like a sample of those sweet juices from ye olde beane) and popped a right onto the P103, getting us off the tar and onto dirt, good dirt mind you. We tootled along, the weather cool, cloudy and way more appealing that the heat and dust of last Sunday.

What amazing views looking down towards Lidgetton on the Midlands Meander. KwaZulu Natal Midlands. South Africa
What amazing views looking down towards Lidgetton on the Midlands Meander. KwaZulu Natal Midlands. South Africa

There was not a sole at Caversham Restaurant as we crossed the Lion’s River but then is was quite early in the day and a bit early in the ride for a coffee stop. Pity. It can be very pleasant sitting there taking in the falls (not at the moment – the river is just a trickle) and the atmosphere. It was the site of Caversham Mill, built in about 1853 by James and Richard Hodson. The mill stones were made from Scottish granite and the fine Caversham ground meal was in much demand. The mill eventually fell into disuse but was largely restored around 1980 by David Walters and it was here that he and potter Ian Glenny, came up with the idea of the Midlands Meander. Alas, heavy flooding in 1994 destroyed the mill and it is no more. Still, its very pretty and worth a stop if you are in the area.

Ardmore Ceramic Art, just around the corner was open and we took a few moments to wander around their gallery. Such talent! All the pieces are created by local artists under the guidance of Fee Halstead. In the mid 1980’s, Fee, a ceramicist, was living in the foothills of the Drakensberg in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa when she met the daughter of the family’s housekeeper, Bonnie Ntshalintshali, who was a polio victim. Feé and Bonnie quickly became friends and under Feé’s guidance, Bonnie developed into a very talented artist. And so the idea of of Ardmore Ceramics was born. Other young artists were keen to join and the studio grew into the formidable organisation it is today. These days Ardmore is based in Caversham where their artists are given training, direction, materials, a studio and a guaranteed market for their work. They are also supported by a skilled marketing and administrative team. Accolades for their work have poured in, Christie’s describing the pieces as “modern day collectables”.

The wonderful ceramic art from Ardmore in KwaZulu Natal.
The wonderful ceramic art from Ardmore in KwaZulu Natal.

We pushed on up the hill, travelling through misty patches of indigenous forest, exploring a dead end or two and taking in the stunning KwaZulu Natal Midlands scenery. What a place to be riding, the little Honda CRF250L’s just about perfect for wandering along on these back roads. We eventually popped out on the Curry’s Post Road, the P165. A  right and then a quick left, and we were on the D293 heading for Elliot’s Nek and Khyber Pass. Who knows how it got its name but presumably it was named for the Khyber Pass made famous by the many “Flower Children” that travelled it as part of the Hippie overland trail to India where they embraced various Eastern religions. That Khyber Pass connects Afghanistan and Pakistan and cuts through the north eastern parts of the Spin Ghar mountains. This Khyber Pass is nothing like that but it is a lovely route for an ex-hippie and his “chick”. On a CRF250l. On a Sunday morning. ✌🏼

We came to a dead end and this sign. Pity, but I guess that they've had some bad experiences with motorbikes. KwaZulu Natal Midlands. South Africa
We came to a dead end and this sign. Pity, but I guess that they’ve had some bad experiences with motorbikes. KwaZulu Natal Midlands. South Africa

Our destination was Steve’s Bistro at the Karkloof Polo Club (at the junction of the P526 and the P141) and breakfast. I don’t know if it was the ride but man, that plate of eggs, bacon and sausage hit the spot. I gather Steve flame grills the sausages and they are delicious. I must say that the club is a delightful venue with wonderful views over the polo fields towards the Karkloof. All agreed that this has to be a regular stop on the rides in the area. And for those that enjoy a spot of mountain biking, this is the place. There are a whole bunch of rides laid out in the forests in the area – check out the Karkloof Mountain Bike Club web site.

There are some wonderful mountain biking at the Karkloof Club. KwaZulu Natal Midlands. South Africa
There are some wonderful mountain biking trails at the Karkloof Club. KwaZulu Natal Midlands. South Africa

Roger de la Harpe

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