Saturday, August 09, 2008

Route 62 on a Suzuki Burgman 650 …

This is a blog post that documents my trip from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo, along Route 62, where I recently attended an environmental conference, a first combined conference of the ‘Fynbos Forum’ and ‘Arid Zone Forum’, nicknamed ‘Interfaces’. This was my first long distance motorcycle ride. The weather was forecast to be fine for the day of my departure from Cape Town and light rain for the morning of my return. As I would be arriving back in the afternoon and was well equipped to weather a little rain on my return I decided to keep my carbon footprint low and travel to the conference on my bike rather than travelling by car. As it transpired the likelihood of rain on my return evaporated during my stay in Oudtshoorn. To explain my interest in keeping my carbon emissions for the trip low I should explain that over the past two years I have been the project co-ordinator for the Western Cape Provincial Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan. You may like to download the Western Cape’s Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan Summary Document

I left Cape Town at about 08h00. Unfortunately the ride to Paarl along the N2 was directly into the rising sun. This was not entirely pleasant as under those circumstances one sees the world as a black and white silhouette. A motorcycle visor, even one with a slight peak, does not provide the degree of glare protection of a car windscreen visor. Of course the same black and white silhouette applied to the motorists I was traveling along the freeway with so I kept a wary eye on my rear view mirrors. I traveled without incident though. I topped up the bike at the N1 Winelands 1 Stop about 43 km from home, just outside Cape Town. As a concession to my lungs I decided before I left Cape Town that I would avoid riding through the Du Toitskloof Tunnel and instead took the scenic route over the top of the pass. The shade cast by the mountains was a most welcome relief. This is the view over Paarl from near the top of the Du Toit’skloof Pass.

Here I am down the sunny side of the pass towards Worcester. The sun was rising higher and now less of a problem. The road along the Molenaars River was in excellent condition and the traffic was light.

I turned eastwards at Worcester on to Route 60 into the Robertson Karoo. The sun was now behind me and I was warming up nicely. This picture is taken from a gentlepass, looking back along the route, just about 10km before Robertson. A gentle ride through Robertson, the village of Ashton and through the scenic Cogmanskloof to Montague followed.

Cogmanskloof just outside Montague, the western gateway to the Little Karoo. This is also the start of Route 62. The Little Karoo is a stunningly beautiful arid zone in the rain shadow between the Langeberg range to the south and the magnificent Swartberg range to the north. Further north beyond the Swartberg range lie the plains of the Great Karoo that dominates the inland plateau of southern South Africa

Route 62

After Montague a beautiful ride unfolds along the northern slopes of the Langeberg towards Barrydale. At Barrydale I stopped at “The Country Pumpkin” for a toasted sandwich and coffee. The hospitality included a complimentary Muskadel, for which the area is well known, and a Route 62 biker pin. Showing admirable self restraint I managed to resist the temptation to drink the Muskadel with my lunch. Perhaps they should provide the Muskadel to riders and drivers in a small bottle to drink later in the evening after completing their journey. Serious ‘brownie’ points were earned by this restraint! I’m sure that the issue of not drinking the Muskadel did not enter the mind of the biker downing his second (at least) beer at the table just across from me! I also topped up the Burgman’s tank with 9.19 litres in Barrydale. I had travelled 263km from home in Cape Town and 219km from the previous fill-up at the Winelands 1 Stop. The average fuel consumption for the latter distance was therefore 4.2 litres per 100 km (4.4 litres per 100 km indicated on the bike’s instrumentation).

Leaving Barrydale I stopped at the viewpoint above the village and ‘stripped’. It was getting up above 20degC now! Off came the riding trousers, the lining of my jacket and tracksuit top. Much better.

Now I set off right across the Little Karoo towards Ladismith at the foot of Towerkop in the Swartberg range. I traveled the entire route cruising easily on the Burgmann between 100 and 110 km/hr. Although the bike can easily travel faster than this I felt entirely comfortable at this speed and was relatively happy to ‘read the environment’ as I road along. Being a trained environmentalist traveling through any landscape is to me just like reading a fascinating book. I just can’t bear to travel fast and miss the whole story.

According to articles I have read the Burgman apparently tops out about 180km/hr although I have no intension of ever testing this stastic myself. My sense of self preservation is way too developed for that!

As I rode into Ladismith, with the first really close view of Towerkop this was the view that struck my eye. It’s ironic that during the studies for the provincial ‘Growth Potential of Towns’ study most small towns in the province touted tourism as the future economic mainstay of their municipal economy and yet the above photo illustrates the extreme lack of attention paid to this aspect in local ‘development’ initiatives. Shame!

Another view from the main road where I managed to exclude all but one telephone line!

Towerkop (Magic Mountain – 2197m) is topped by a huge sandstone dome with a huge cleft. The cleft dome of Towerkop is explained by a legend involving a witch. The legend is that, in a hurry to fly home, the peak loomed before her and in a rage she whacked it with her broomstick, splitting it in two. You can read the story of a Tyrollean traverse between the two buttresses.

I paused for a short biscuit break at the turnoff to Seweweekspoort. This is a gravel road pass through the Swartberg northwards to the Great Karoo. I have driven this road on numerous occasions in the past and once even walked its entire length as a family outing with a group from the Mountain Club. The Swartberg pass is the best place in the country that I know of to view the spectacularly folded rock formations of the Cape fold-belt mountains of which the Swartberg is a part.

Just opposite the turnoff to Seweweekspoort is the mission village of Zoar.

Looking north, in the background, is Seweweeks Peak, which at 2325 meters high, is the highest point in the Western Cape Province. As usual at this time of the year the peak had a light dusting of snow which is unfortunately not visible in the photograph due to the unco-operative angle of the winter sun.

As I walked around the back of the bike I spotted the opportunity for a self portrait. Perhaps next time I’ll also smile!

Further eastwards one arrives at the amazingly scenic Huisriver Pass. Unfortunately the pass is currently under maintenance but allowed for a short rest from the saddle.

The red cliffs of the Huisriver Pass with a Klapperbos or Chinese Lantern Bush in which a lesser double collared sunbird was feeding. Ah the joy of being out of the big city

While standing waiting for the Stop/Go I remembered driving over the original narrow gravel road Huisriver pass with my parents as a pre-teen. The ride through the pass was in a convoy of one-way traffic so unless one was prepared to wait double time for the next group of vehicles travelling in the same direction it was not advisable to stop for more photographs. I have many pics from previous trips anyway so cruised on gently, enjoying the scenery, towards the village of Calitzdorp

Passing through Calitzdorp at the foot of the Huisriverpass I had to make a detour to Boplaas, where I indulged myself by buying a bottle of award winning, five star Boplaas Vintage Port. This should ensure my survival during the remaining winter evenings at home

And now the final leg of the trip unfolded. With the Swartberg range extending eastwards ahead of me

The remaining 45 minutes ride down the long straight road to Oudtshoorn …

… where my ride ended at about 5pm. In all I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would be more than happy to tackle the ride any time again in the future. Topping up with 7.54 litres of fuel for the 176 kilometres gave me a fuel consumption of 4.28 litres per 100 km (4.3 litres per 100 km according to the bike’s instrumentation). In all a very satisfying fuel consumption figure. A total of 16.73 litres fuel (excluding the 43 km from home to the Winelands 1 Stop) for the 395 km covered at an average consumption of 4.23 litres/100 km (55.61 mpg)

I was booked by the conference organisers into Lavender House. I stayed in the Butterfly Room. Ya, well, no, fine! Any way a clean comfortable bed is all one really needs whatever the décor! I was actually lucky to get the accommodation. I registered rather late for the conference and was offered the room when a colleague’s wife, inconveniently for him, produced their first child early, a few days before the conference.

From the sign above the window in my room you would not believe that the country is in the throws of a serious electricity crisis.

Also in the grounds of Lavender House was a pond with both the noxious invasive Kariba weed and a black bass.

On my return to Cape Town I had to pause for a pic of these beautiful aloes just west of the Huisriver pass

A view westwards along the Swartberg Range.


Just beyond Cogmanskloof I came across this truck transporting baled paper for recycling

The truck's load had slipped ...

Spilling it's contents and blocking one lane of the road

Near Rawsonville ...

Beautiful vineyards and mountains

Looking into Stetynskloof

Half way up Du Toitskloof Pass

Into the setting sun

Du Toitskloof Pass

Near the top of Du Toitskloof Pass

Compare this with the weather we experienced on the same route a couple of weeks ago

All in all it was a great trip which I'll definitely repeat sometime soon.

Just out of interest for other Burgman riders the fuel consumption figure for the 531 km ride home (which included 89 km of town riding in and around Oudtshoorn) using 23.65 litres of fuel came out at 4.45 litres/100 km (52.86 mpg)


Andi Wolfe said...

Looks like great fun!

Anonymous said...

What an excellent looking journey Dennis! Try misting some ArmorAll on your visor to clean and fill the scratches, and it works wonders on turning faceshields as well. I assume that you must have that or similar products available? JamieD

Devaroux's Blog said...

This looked like an awesome ride. One that I will do soon on my bike. I currently ride a Suzuki Hayabusa but I am really interested in a Burgman as well. How was the comfort of the Burgman over the long distance? After how many kilometers did you start to cramp up?

Thanks again. Awesome pics by the say and great write up.

Dennis Laidler said...

Devaroux, I really didn't have much problem cramping up on the Burgman. Perhaps just a problem with the right hand but no problem with the legs as one can adjust position unlike normal bikes with fixed pegs. I took regular breaks to take pics so that also helps a lot.