Mountain pass heaven!
The day of "Moonshine" finally arrived, and I still don't know who was more excited...our two amazing guests or us. We have spent days, if not weeks planning and re-working this route. For one reason only. We had to find a way to include almost all the spectacular mountain passes that the Cederberg mountain range has to offer. All and all we eventually managed to fit 10 passes out of 15+ into our Moonshine route. All thanks to the online route planning platform gpsies. We also made use of the good old trusted paper maps, which I prefer. For a well informed map on the region you can link here to Slingsby Maps.
As most days in the Tankwa Karoo, the weather played in our favor and we were set for another scorching day. Luckily we were ready as the sun rose over the Hantam mountains. Our Guest rider was in awe as I started to unpack brand new riding gear...yes, still with price tag and all. This seemed to set the tone for an awesome guided off road motorcycle tour.
We reached Skittery(shaky) Mountain pass within 25km from base camp and Approximately 5 km further, we stopped at the top of the spectacular Katbakkies mountain pass with endless views of the Koue Bokkeveld. I am no fundi in translations but from what I understand the Katbakkies pass name was derived from the the fact that the road was full of potholes, or means so because of direct translation from Afrikaans to English. It is also here at this very viewpoint where we were caught off guard by changing weather. The sky was cloud covered and the wind was cutting through our riding gear. A quick add to our wardrobe and off we went.
We soon reached another mountain pass called Blinkberg (Glittering or Shining mountain). There is a working watermill at the bottom of this mountain pass, but because of the scenery and excitement that too a hold on us, we completely missed this and quickly found ourselves at another mountain pass called Grootrivier (Great river)
Our other guest was a stunning City Lady and she opted to join the backup vehicle, much to her delight, as Blinkberg pass offered the best of the Cederberg by way of a tiny bowspit tortoise crossing our path. So did Grootrivier also offer a tortoise and by now in this heat I am certain she must have felt like deja-vu. We moved these little creatures and placed them next to the road in the direction they where walking to.
We reached out destination at about 14:30 and have quite a bit of daylight left. Cederberg Oasis is surrounded by mountains, offers comfortable tented accommodation, have a gleaming swimming pool and an honesty bar. Their menu is modest, the food however, is anything but. The Tankwa locals all suggested that we order Ribs and chips and true to the comments and advice from the other side of the mountain, it was amazing. We were also privileged to be in this exact place to witness a super moon over the mountains. Cederberg Oasis lives up to their name, by being an Oasis for many bikers travelling in this remote mountainous region.
The Sun Rise over the mountain offered a promise of yet another blistering hot day. As we arrive at the small bridge by the Matjiesriver a Small grey Buck (ram) crossed the road. A few seconds after the hole family was in tow. I myself am a visual person meaning I remember thing I see or have seen clearly, and do not remember names of people, places, things etc. I know for a fact, that through all my travels and all my visits to various game farms and shelters etc. that I have never seen this buck in my life, and it puzzled me all the way. Just as well, because my very unfit riding body really battled through this stretch of road. It has thick patches of sand and then very very thick shale surfaces in some places. I stopped my bike at one point thinking that something was seriously wrong with my awesome machine, but nothing. On top of it all we had to make our way down the very steep narrow Kromrivier mountain pass all the while negotiating some tourists in cars which took up most part of the road.
I was exhausted by the time we arrived at a pit-stop and although I have been riding for a few years now, I have never once experienced arm pump. With my arms so numb I could not even find myself buying a taster at the brewery, and just settled for a mouth full from each one in the group. The rock formation at Kromrivier Cederberg park is spectacular and here you can obtain permits to walk to various sites such as Disa Pools, Kromrivier Cave, Apollo Cave/Lunar Tunnel, Maltese cross, and the Stadsaal caves and bushman paintings (rock art) .
The entrance to the brewery /restaurant offered some valuable information on the area and this is where I found the mystery about my grey buck. It is called a Grey Rhebuck and they are very common in the area. Our guests sampled some of the brew and provided entertaining/lighthearted conversation en-route.
It didn't take much convincing from my better half . He got geared up and took over the lead on the bikes and I took a deserved rest driving backup vehicle for the remainder of the day. mmm...Rest...so I thought. I still had to make my way up the Kromrivier mountain pass with two spare bikes on a trailer. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of more steep and more narrow and more 90 degrees cornering to come. Just before we reached Uitkyk Pass (First photo in this blog) We came across the most colorful place since I have left the Tankwa and just had to stop to take photos. These photos however does not do any justice to the beautiful array of colors that laid before us. If this is not a motorcyclist bucket list tour, then definitely a photographers bucket list tour.
Uitkyk mountain pass was treacherous with the Van and trailer in tow. The badly corrugated gravel road was a nightmare to negotiate...Well, for me it was, as off road vehicle driving did not feature in the advanced driving course I did a few years ago. The views from here are spectacular and worth every broken nerve.
With Sweaty palms and shattered nerves I eventually noticed something shining in the distance and instantly knew that we have finally reached Clanwilliam dam.
We stopped over in Clanwilliam for a rest, something to drink and re-fuelling before we headed out for the next widely spoken about mountain pass. The Pakhuis mountain pass ranks in the top 20 longest passes in South Africa being 26.4km long, and has only in the last few years, much to the disappointment of many Enduro/off road motorcyclists been tarred. The pass offers scenery ranging from Grave sites, Picnic sites, weathered rock formations and amazing hiking trails.
As we left Pakhuis behind us and turned left to Wupperthal we were delighted to find our next mountain pass, Hoek se berg mountain pass, that takes you to the bottom of Biedouw valley. Biedouw valley is known all over the world for their flowers in springtime.
Our stop over for the night was at a working farm called Mertenhoff. The owners are welcoming and warm and accommodate every need. Dinner (we opted for a barbeque) with condiments supplied. All of which was homemade in their country kitchen with the ingredients such as fruit and vegetables from the farm.
We left early in the morning as we wanted to first visit the little town of Wupperthal which was founded by two German missionaries and based in the tra-tra valley. It did not take long for us to reach Kouberg Mountain pass. Stretches (50m sections) of this mountain pass has been tarred as this pass is very steep and also has sharp corners. Wupperthal remains isolated and the villagers mainly depend on subsistence farming for survival. Wupperthal is also known to be the home of the Veldskoen and the shoe factory provided a constant income to some villagers for many years prior to it scaling down.
The next stretch of our journey for our last day saw us heading out the same way we come into town, which meant negotiating Kouberg mountain pass again, before turning off the beaten track completely. When we first shared our dream to start Bike X Cape guided off road motorcycle tours with locals and many like minded individuals, all said that we had to ride the old postal route from Biedouw valley to the Tankwa Karoo. It is such a widely known, much talked about and much filmed and photographed route that we were intrigued by the idea and wanted to work it into the moonshine tour route.
What everyone have forgotten to tell us though is what they looked like and felt like during and after. For the average daily biker, no matter what you ride or what machine you do this route on, it is sheer torture. Add 45+degrees temperature, and you have one mean recipe for death on your doorstep. There are thick thick thick patches of sand, rocky terrain and some areas where no road is even visible. You travel through private property and have to negotiate grumpy owners with even grumpier dogs and no water in sight for miles. This road is what DAKAR dreams are made of, not so much for a relaxed fun sightseeing tour. Don't get me wrong. The scenery is breathtaking and once you reach the peak of the mountain a view of the whole Ceres Karoo and Tankwa Karoo awaits you. We did make it back to base camp safe, but not completely untouched. As we entered the gate the Tyre on the trailer finally had enough. Bikes all good and guests unharmed. They return home with amazing memories of Tortoises, mountain passes, grey Rhebuck, and gorgeous landscapes. So much did they enjoy this trip that plans for their return was already made on their last night, and we look so forward to hosting them again.