We said goodbye to Clayton and headed east, on gravel, past Die Mond, towards Arniston. I had hoped to ride through the De Hoop Nature Reserve on the way to Malagas but this came to nought because access to the western end of the reserve is controlled by Spearchuckers Inc (missile test range), who simply refused to let anyone not piloting a missile through the gate. So we took the "long way round", via Bredasdorp, to the Breede River crossing at Malagas. This remains, to the best of my knowledge, the only hand-drawn ferry in Mzansi.
We stayed close to the coast, passing the beautiful villages of Vermaaklikheid, Stilbaai, Vleesbaai en Boggomsbaai, including crossing the Gouritsriver, en-route to Mossel Bay.
It was while refueling, at the 1-stop just outside the town of Mossel Bay, that Hugh discovered that the one-and-only top box which does not break the R1150's tail piece was indeed making serious progress breaking the tail piece of his R1150. A quick strap-up ensured we could continue to Oudtshoorn where he would attempt to fix it.
We traversed the impressive & delightful Robinson Pass between Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn with the temperature going from a very reasonable (for me) 17C on the one side to a downright hellish 41C in Oudtshoorn. I just made it into the swimming pool, with lifesaving beer in hand, at Lodge 96 where we spent the night.
I believe a little "skinder" is in order here. I don't know when and/or how he came to this conclusion but Hugh was totally convinced that I would not survive the first few days, never mind the entire tour, unless he schooled me in survival techniques during the short time he would ride with me. I quote:
"Many things may or will happen to us on this ride. It is even possible that we may die as a result of one or more of these events, but we will definitely, absolutely, NOT die of hunger!"
This was not just talk - I believe he lives this belief. He somehow managed, in addition to battling with his broken tail piece, to find the time to go shopping AND cook the 1st of many braais. I suspect the fact that I was wallowing in the pool, consuming copious volumes of rehydration fluid, did not help to change his view.
His luggage, which is enormous by any standard, bears further testimony to the above. He pulled stuff (mostly, but not exclusively food) out of those bags - two soft panniers and the aluminium top box - that simply defies belief. It reminded me of a time way back, before Television discovered South Africa, and probably just around the time South Africa discovered that one can publish books with nothing but words in them. I am referring to the photo-books with titles like "Kyk", "See", "Ruiter in Swart" etc. of the late 60s and early 70s. There was one title "Chunky Charlie", documenting the life and times of a rotund black dude who always wore a full-length raincoat, regardless of the weather. His singular claim to fame was that he could pull more than the proverbial rabbit from that coat. Anything from small weapons, to office furniture, to supersonic aircraft came out of that coat - not necessarily always at the appropriate time, but out they came.
Another time we had a discussion about emergency food - the stuff one has to eat when one has not been able to procure a meal by any normal means. I pack simple stuff like 2-minute noodles, tuna and oats for this eventuality. Not Hugh! He would proceed to treat me to "Emergency Food" as the consciously intended meal on our first night on the Wild Coast.
How cool is that?
We were treated to a scrumptious breakfast by my siblings-in-law (Thank you Aubrey and Susan!), after which I popped off to greet my other in-laws, while Hugh went in search of a locksmith, having broken the key to his top box earlier that morning.
He got a temporary fix in Oudtshoorn but the tail piece didn't last the road down to George. Hugh bravely risked riding down Montagu Pass with the now clearly out of sorts tail piece.
The Montagu Pass was, unfortunately, swathed in mist, which obscured the otherwise spectacular views this pass has to offer.
After another visit to a locksmith, this time in George, Hugh resolved to leave the top box with friends in George. This brings me back to my earlier "skinder". Mense! If I have to abandon my top box, I would probably find a way to carry on, but it would be accompanied by lots of gnashing of teeth, lots of weighing of pros and cons of taking this and leaving that. Hugh, on the other hand, just took EVERYTHING out of the box and put it in his side panniers and another bag on his rear seat. There was simply no indication, NONE whatsoever, that he had started the trip with a top box!!! (In case you're wondering, yes, there is a word for it.)
We dropped the box with Oom Lionel Esau (in George) who instructed us to visit the community of Zaaimanshoek on our way through the Baviaanskloof the next day.
The start to the so-called Seven Passes Road (officially just the Passes Road) was closed off due to roadworks in response to flood damage, so we headed off on the N2 until we could rejoin the Passes Road, several kilometers further, for a delightful ride with the constant threat of rain. We were eventually treated to gentle rain through the Knysna Forest, over the Prince Alfred Pass to De Vlugt & Avontuur and on to Willowmore from Uniondale.
We stopped at Jumper's Place, in Willowmore, for a very special reason. Rony "Die Malletjie" DeSodt was my first off-road riding instructor shortly after I acquired Mwendo in preparation for this tour, back in April 2011. Thanks Rony!