Getting lucky in Geluksburg …
The phone rang: “Hello” I said. “Hi Bruce”, it was Roger, “I have been rooting around in Garmin BaseCamp and came across a few gravel road passes in the Geluksburg area. There appear to be some awesome routes, whaddaya think?” “Where the hell is Geluksburg?”
Well, it’s a tiny village in KwaZulu Natal close to the Free State border about midway between Oliviershoek and Van Reenen Passes – about 30 km to the north of Bergville. There’s not much there at all – a few homes, a guest house or two and some of the loveliest dual sport riding around. Oh, there’s also Hansa’s Trading Store that stocks basic provisions and maybe Hansa as well (we didn’t check). There are 6 mountain passes in the close vicinity if you include Oliviershoek and Van Reenen and of the remaining 4, 2 are easy (although still well worth riding because of the wonderful scenic beauty) and the other 2 are Bezuidenhout’s and Sandspruit Passes, which are much more challenging.
There was little evidence of arm twisting. Pretty soon we had shared our thoughts on a suitable weekend. Roger and Pat saw to the booking of accommodation and we agreed on the catering plan. Actually, that was easy – dinner, bed and breakfast at The Homestead Guesthouse. “Bring your favourite wine” added Roger in passing…
As Roger and Pat had recently acquired their XRad motor bike trailer they were keen to test it, with bike on board, on a longer journey. They were able to leave earlier than us and enjoyed a comfortable drive to their first stop at the Pig ‘n Plough in Winterton for a late tea cum lunch. Thankfully Sharon finished her school day a tad earlier and we hit the road at about two, making a beeline for the same Pig ‘n Plough for our slightly later lunch stop. Our CRF250L was also safely strapped onto our XRad trailer and as usual it was a pleasant, stable tow.
We left the Pig ‘n Plough after a great feed and it wasn’t much later when we rolled into Geluksburg and easily located our digs after a call to Roger. But hey, Geluksburg ain’t a metropolis and one would find any address in the blink of an eye! And that’s exactly why we like the smaller villages in the “platteland”…Size matters… the smaller the better!
With our little Hondas off-loaded we kitted up and headed out for a late afternoon cruise up the Middledale Pass. This pass is easy going, tarred and gets quite busy with a few tight bends and one or two steepish inclines. Exactly what we were hoping for. You see, it was Sharon’s and my first real ride together on the CRF250L (we usually ride together on the BMW GS1200LC) and it proved to be just the right thing for starters. The plucky little machine handled just fine, was impeccably mannered and didn’t seem to mind the addition of a pillion at all! Great stuff!
Once back at the The Homestead the evening progressed well: wine was opened and glasses filled, discussion ensued about the plan for the next day – it was a short discussion “no stuff too tuff, at nine we ride”. And speakng of glasses, Roger had mislaid his reading glasses, a comprehensive search was fruitless… reading glasses are hard to find, they’re see-through!
We were called to supper, a delicious home cooked chicken dish and fresh vegetables washed down with a cold beer and more wine for the discerning at the table! It was with satiated hunger and happy hearts that we drifted back to the rooms for a comfortable sleep. Saturday dawned cool, but pleasant. After a proper “farmhouse” breakfast we donned our gear, packed the tail packs and headed out of Geluksburg to the road that led us to the base of Bezuidenhout’s Pass. Despite the odd stop for photos, we soon reached a large gate to a Game Farm. It was here that we swung left onto a much smaller “road”, more of a “tweespoor” track, and thus began our attack on Bezuidenhout’s Pass. The going wasn’t too bad, a few gates here and there to open and close, a reasonable gravel surface and lovely views of the sandstone towers in the distance the deepening valleys dropping away from the edge of the track to keep us concentrating and occupied.
Onwards and upward we rode, the little Hondas taking everything in their stride. These are truly amazing little bikes; I mean think about this: A tiny 250cc single cylinder engine powering a fully laden motorbike up some pretty gnarly stuff. Hell, many 4×4’s would quake in their mud terrain tyres when faced with this!
And what about our pillions? The ladies were amazing, also handling everything their husbands were throwing at them astride the tiny pillion seat! And, even if I say so myself, I thought that Sharon and I did more than just ok – we managed this jolly serious mountain pass on our first gravel outing together on any bike! Sharon walked only about a hundred metres of the entire pass when one or other of us decided that discretion was the better part of valour. Who’s a proud hubby then?
Sharon and I have travelled together before on a motorbike, but riding two up on a GS1200 is quite bloody different to riding a two-fifty! Roger and Pat looked really comfortable on their bike and were definitely the experienced duo on the gravel. And with Pat nursing a bruised ankle after slipping on a stupid misplaced rock while getting back onto the bike after a photo stop, she wins the “Tenacity Award” hands down!
I’m not entirely sure how long it took us to summit Bezuidenhout’s Pass, but it was a long time, and we were starting to look forward to lunch. And lest we forget, this pass is all uphill – there are no major “level” bits to relax on until you reach the top! And the top we did reach! The radiator fans were singing after the hard going and after a short stop and a high five we proceeded down the track towards the S796 road that took us to Retief Klip where we parked the Hondas and gratefully relaxed on the grass in the shade of some trees at the local campsite.
Things were most appropriate – it was Heritage Day in South Africa and here we were (quite unintentionally) at Retief Klip. This memorial marks the spot where Piet Retief of Voortrekker fame, left his laager in October 1837 with several men to reconnoitre Natal. Our simple lunch was unpacked; sarmies, nuts, chocolate coated nougat and cappuccino – all carried in the tail packs with flasks of hot water. We also had tea – Dear Heart drinks tea… A fantastic picnic was enjoyed after some slightly harrowing but entirely enjoyable adventuring!
Time waits for no man; or woman; or Honda and after strapping everything back on board we rode out to locate the road back to Geluksburg. We found it and it was a veritable highway; we were on top of the world! A hot shower and home cooked dinner back at The Homestead beckoned…
After dinner our weary bodies once again relished the comfy beds and we all slept well, perhaps dreaming of our recent conquest – Bezuidenhout’s Pass – quite a tick in any biker’s book!
And suddenly it was Sunday morning! This time we suited up and then trotted off to breakfast, another wonderful farm style affair. A couple of coffees (and some tea…) later we moseyed over to the Hondas. We rode out but not before finding Roger’s reading glasses – Sharon had taken a detour past the chicken coop and there they were – lying just where the Jack Russel had left them – thoroughly chewed! We travelled back up the Middledale Pass to a certain dirt track turn off that Roger had found on his maps. “A nice little doddle this morning methinks… yesterday was quite epic!“. Roger’s words were still top of mind when we eased onto the gravel. Not thinking that things could be much more taxing than yesterday, I took the lead… Well; one should never under-estimate the gravel track! The steepish stuff soon manifested itself and we found that first gear, feathering of the brakes and using engine compression was the order of the day going down some of the stuff on offer… It must be said though, that a little spice sprinkled on any situation will always bring out the flavour of the adventure! What Roger hadn’t told us was we were riding Sandspruit Pass! And the spice can also simply be the view! We enjoyed magnificent panoramic views of the Drakensberg on one side and sprawling farmlands on the other! And why not have coffee and chocolate biscuits (and tea…) while enjoying the scenic wonder?
The picnic over, we dropped off the mountain track onto an absolutely sublime gravel road. The little Hondas found their wings and we fairly raced along; comfortable at about 95km/hr, still enjoying great views of the Drakensberg. The Homestead soon appeared through our visors and after parking the bikes the sad job of packing-up began.
It was after midday when we said our thanks and goodbyes to Penny Human, the friendly owner of The Homestead. That same Pig ‘n Plough in Winterton was calling; a late-ish lunch to top off a superb weekend of adventure biking was to be a good call!
Download the Track Logs here:
Enjoy the movie:
Bruce, Sharon, Roger and Pat.