South Africa: A Terminal Tyre

  • 16/12/2014

Jaap’s tyre was not only down to the canvas, but through a couple of layers. As a result the 120km ride to Springbok was a rather tentative one. We did however arrive safely around lunchtime, and were hopeful of being able to track down a tyre for Jaap. However it was a Sunday and the day of Nelson Mandela’s funeral, and the tyre outfit was of course closed. Miraculously we met someone who knew the owner and called him for us, but less miraculously he did not hold the tyre size we needed. We spent that afternoon and the Monday phoning around trying to find some way to get a tyre to Springbok urgently. I was running out of time before my flight to NZ, and was keen to explore the back roads on the way to Cape Town, rather than having to rush down. Unfortunately locating a tyre proved difficult, and it looked as if Jaap would get his tyre on Wednesday at the earliest. As Jaap was staying longer than me in South Africa and would have time to explore after Christmas, I decided to head off for an explore with him catching up so we could hit Cape 
Terminal tyreTerminal tyre
Terminal tyre
Agulhas together. 

Someone a month or so previous had suggested that I head into the hills southeast of Clanwilliam, so I stopped there for petrol and got into a chat with a dreadlocked guy with a ute filled with children’s toys that he was travelling around the country trying to sell. He suggested that I head for Wupperthal and then south from there. This proved to be an excellent suggestion. After winding my way up and over a pass I reached Wupperthal, an incongruous Germanic village in the middle of the Cederberg Mountains that had been founded by missionaries in 1830. After stopping for a snack from the town store, and then feeling quite out of place while I ate it, I followed a track on the GPS that looked interesting, but was slightly concerning in its ruggedness. I wanted to explore, but time was tight, and I didn’t want to be stuck by myself in the middle nowhere. However, my concern faded away after making it over another pass and encountering the spectacular scenery of the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve. Wow. Riding by yourself in isolated unfamiliar areas can sometimes be a bit nerve-wracking, but the thrill of having
They went all out on the design and materials for this sign.They went all out on the design and materials for this sign.
They went all out on the design and materials for this sign.
a spectacular landscape to yourself, without encountering anyone else on the road for an afternoon makes up for what-ifs like: “if I plummeted over that cliff no one would find me for days”. 

I emerged later in the afternoon onto a larger gravel road, and soon after stumbled across the Cederberg Oasis, a guesthouse with camping which was tucked amongst a spectacular landscape of sedimentary hills tilted by intercontinental tectonic forces and eroded by the grinding of ancient glaciers. The landscape, pool, cold beer, hospitality, wrist-thick steaks, and massive KTM banner behind the bar, meant that even after the thrill of the day’s ride, it truly felt like an oasis. 

The next morning I left with Werner, a biker from Cape Town, and we headed down through the arid environment of the Great Karoo and Little Karoo towards Cape Agulhas. Even with my blown rear shock the gravel roads were great fun, and I found that I would regularly end up being many minutes ahead of Werner – three months on the bike had meant that we had started to work pretty well together. This difference in pace was good, as it gave me a chance to stop, 
Near the Cederbarg Oasis.Near the Cederbarg Oasis.
Near the Cederbarg Oasis.
turn off the bike, take my helmet off, and soak in the landscape. 

Farmland greeted us as we approached the coast, and we stopped for a beer with one of Werner’s mates in Bredasdorp. Many a “lekker” was uttered before we left for a backpackers near Cape Agulhas. We shared an excellent burger dinner with an Icelandic couple on their honeymoon, and then washed it down with some impressive craft beer. The Icelander rode enduro competitively, and explained how they made ice tyres by drilling hundreds of screws through the tyres from the inside. I then received confirmation from Jaap that he would meet us there the next morning at around 10am for the ride to Cape Agulhas - brilliant. 

Jaap arrived as planned mid-morning. In tow was Kev, an Irishman on a BMW GS1200 who had chased us down the continent, asking questions as he went via the Horizons Unlimited forum and then Facebook. A bottle of bubbly was purchased in town before setting off for the cape, something that for me had grown in significance during the trip. On a trip like this you spend quite a bit of time within the confines of your helmet 
Cape AgulhasCape Agulhas
Cape Agulhas
imagining the arrival at your goal. The trip was always about the journey rather than the destination, but despite the different landscapes, cultures, and climates, our goal remained constant - Cape Agulhas. Regularly my thoughts would drift to imagining the moment our southward progression would come to an end – at some point we would run out of Africa. 

At lunchtime, on the 19th December we did indeed run out of Africa. With a possibly misplaced sense of entitlement, we ignored the signs forbidding motorbikes from the path leading to the marker for the southern-most point of Africa and the official dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Parked up with each of our bikes in front of a different ocean we popped the bubbly and savoured the moment. Rather than being a celebration of a goal, reaching Cape Agulhas allowed me to metaphorically look north and savour the many experiences we had had on the way through Africa: a taste of a new continent in Tunisia; war-torn and extraordinarily friendly Libya; ancient monuments and civil unrest in Egypt; endangered animals 4000m high in the Ethiopian highlands; deserted pyramids in the Martian deserts of Sudan; colourful thirsty tribesmen 
Chapman's PeakChapman's Peak
Chapman's Peak
and the Hell Road in Kenya; Lake Tanganyika leading us from the winding roads of Burundi, through the wildlife of Tanzania, and ending with a Zambia fish feast; the corruption, red dirt road and jungle of the DRC; lightning storms, baobab trees, and a tough afternoon in the saddle in Botswana, mind-blowing landscapes, thrilling riding, a ghost town, and a living desert in Namibia; and finally a solo ride through the Cederberg and Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve here in South Africa. 

It felt good to be at Cape Agulhas, and while I could have easily turned north to head up the west coast of Africa, I was also missing Trace and Finn, and couldn’t wait to see them in a few days for Christmas. 

A ride west under the monstrous looming cliffs along the coast got us near Cape Town, and as it was my last day on the bike I took a detour over the spectacular Chapman’s Peak. This meant I entered Cape Town from the south, which was strange as for three months Cape Town had been the epitome of “south”. 

The next day I rode the bike to the shipping company and prepared her for 
Table MountainTable Mountain
Table Mountain
the seaward trip back home. She had been a brilliant steed, as fun and sure-footed on the tarmac as she was off-road. Apart from the blown rear shock and a choked fuel filter, she had tackled a whole continent without missing a beat. Packing her into a crate and leaving her with strangers seemed pretty ungrateful. 

My last full day in Africa was spent walking amongst the unique ecosystem at the top of Table Mountain. Bare-footed on the flat stone of the mountain, with the sun overhead and a spectacular view over Cape Town and the surrounding area made for a fitting way to say goodbye to Africa. 

You might like