Richtersveld, South Africa. A great 8 days riding

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by kamanya, Aug 17, 2009.

  1. kamanya

    kamanya Andrew to most

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,515
    Location:
    Southern Tip of Africa
    I’ve known the Richtersfeld quite intimately for many years; I spent 8 years of student life guiding trips on the Orange and have been on it from Onseepkans close to Pofadder all the way to the Fish River near Rosh Pina. I find that part of the world very calming and beautiful. I always feel very comfortable there. The nights are magic, the skies are carpeted in stars so thick that it is possible on windless nights to be able to easily see without the aid of a torch.

    I don’t care too much for 4x4’ing, so till now the only opportunity to see anything of the Richterfeld has been from the gunnels of a canoe. Nick & Wouter from Wildthing along with KTM Cape Town got together just so that I could expand my experience of the Richtersfeld from a bike, a rare opportunity.

    But, getting there is 700k’s of pretty boring tar. Not an option, so I put out feelers for who would join on a trip up trying to stay as close to the coast as possible all the way to Alexander bay before turning inland to Wildthings camp.

    This was the story

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    This is a video of the trip paired down to a few minutes, hard to get it all in and give a feeling for the trip.

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    We met up at the Sunset beach Engen at 8.30 on Tuesday;

    Eric of Metaljockey fame and Nardus his side kick, had already slabbed it from the Eastern Cape the day before. Jacko and I were the Town clowns who&#8217;d rolled out of bed that morning.

    Paternoster was breakfast, a good solid full English one with Eastern Cape coffee. I don&#8217;t drink coffee much but Eric introduced me to this. I like it a lot!

    I had spent more than a few hours gathering info on the trip from other people who&#8217;d ridden the coast and scouring Google Earth and Garmap. From Paternoster there was a great little sand track that cleared the cobwebs.

    Elands Bay was impossible not to have another coffee in the Hotel and then from there up the railway line and onto the sand road to Doringbaai. I have a friend that has a house with 8km of beach, unfortunately no one was home to abuse the privilege of their hospitality and beg another coffee.

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    It was here that I found out that my camera gave up the ghost, my cat had pulled it off the counter just before I was about to leave so from here on all my photo&#8217;s are from my cell and the good ones come from Nardus.

    The original idea was to either camp or B&B on the way up, the west coast being the west coast makes camping a chilly affair so the B&B option was going to be the evenings choice.

    If you ever want to stay here, I recommend the other bar at the beginning of town for food and drink and find somewhere else to stay. The attitude of the younger lady who ran the accommodation side left a very bad taste. She was arrogant, rude, humourless and had no idea of customer service.

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    Jacko and I know each other from 2 or three drinks and meals. Eric and Nardus I have ridden with once in Hogsback but only really know them through their online personalities. So the first evening was the sniffing out dance that new friends make. Many a trip has come undone due to a personality clash or different agendas, expectations or objectives. So far though, things were pretty smooth and quickly being lubricated further.

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    I had warned them that my intent for the trip was to make as many turns off the beaten path as my fancy took me. For me, as I felt that as I had put the trip together there was a certain leadership type of responsibility that can make me less prone wandering off the sort of agreed track. I discussed this with them, Eric and Nardus both almost simultaneously retorted rather practically that they fully expected me to do a bit of exploring and if I got a bit too up my own bum and pissed them off, they&#8217;d just turn off and part ways.

    A WTF moment.

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    Due to the above mentioned hostess we were forced to sleep 3 and 1. Eric got the one and we got to share. Nardus and Jacko had to snuggle and I got the cot.

    Next morning, Eric&#8217;s shock, that new fangled air thing that BM have, was really squeaking badly and as he was going on a month long tour once we got to Vioolsdrif he was on the phone to his closest BM dealership. His friendly BM dealer asked him to get to Veldrif to get a bike dealer there to look at it so that if it was a problem a new shock could be couriered to the border post in time for him. The plan was to get onto the Eco trail that starts at the mouth of the Oliphants river. We would go slowly along that and find a place to chill and Eric would catch up after his detour.

    Immediately the coast is very wild and desolate, not the place to break down. The riding was great with the odd stretch of sand. Only real signs of life are the odd sheep and the ever present holes and mounds left by the diamond diggers.

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    It was around here, that he got us... and he&#8217;d thoughtfully bought some iced coffee for us!

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    As the day wore on the sand tracks became thicker and more difficult, but the scenery is stunning. There were massive swells pounding the rocks and shore and just kilometre after kilometre of great riding.

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    Somewhere about mid afternoon, Jacko took a huge tumble. We&#8217;d settled into sort of order in the deep sand riding. There are only the two jeep tracks and the two guys who go first get the easiest time of it. I find sand fun to ride and was trying to ride last as it was pointless hogging the best of the sand. The other 3 were swapping around. It was on one of the sections where Jacko was third and riding in Erics tracks. I was right behind Jacko and had a grandstand view of the crash. Unfortunately my helmet cams remote battery was flat and I missed it all. Actually I missed the whole day because of this. A serious let down.

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    In sand when the bike starts to swap ends, it starts as a gentle sway and within two oscillations ends as a vicious highside. Nobody rides one of those out. The bike flung Jacko down the track and flipped landing on its handlebar.

    A crash does things to your head and for the next few hundred meters he was not as smooth as he&#8217;d been. After we&#8217;d gotten onto some solid ground another check of the bike revealed a loose flicker and worse a cracked handlebar clamp.

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    The bars were moving in the clamps and after a quick torque&#8217;ing they were tighter but it played on the mind. At first he was sure his trip was over and that he&#8217;d best just ride out and go home. But after he&#8217;d cooled down a better plan was hatched; We&#8217;d ride out the day and get to the Groen River Mouth and camp there, Jacko would then ride out to Garies the next day and on to Springbok and have it welded and meet us at Wildthings on the Friday.

    I really enjoyed this stretch, if you are comfortable in sand it is a must do. Actually even if you are wary of sand, there is always escape routes that lead you to a parallel gravel road that has less sand.

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    It wasn&#8217;t long before we&#8217;d gotten to Groen River Mouth, a more uninviting place to camp would be tough to find and with Garies a mere 70k&#8217;s away on good gravel, well, it was a chip and putt and we were...

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    Another night of getting to know each other better was pleasantly passed. A quick note; both pool tables slant wickedly north.

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    So, Jacko got to lie in, I got to lie down whilst filling the bike. Fortunately, though I had both caps open, I&#8217;d yet to fill the tanks so nothing was spilled.

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    We&#8217;d decided to cut the corner and get back on the trail close to Hondeklipbaai rather than going back to the river mouth. It was a highlight of the trip. We sat at a waterfront restaurant and did another breakfast and coffee, this time it came in oversize mugs. It was a fun few hours. I like Hondeklipbaai

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    In a tough world things can be rough, these guys were fixing a starter motor on the beach

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    The plan was to get onto the Shipwreck trail north of Koiingaas, unfortunately we missed the turnoff somehow and only got to do a 10k stretch of it. Some unfinished business has been left for me the next time I go up there.

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    Port Nolloth was going to be the next place to sleep. Eric knew of a house letting business in McDougalls Bay just 3 k&#8217;s south of Port Nolloth.

    After settling in we went back to Port Nolloth for a quick bite to eat and meet some of the locals.

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    Eric doing his over the shoulder coy look.

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    All you really need to know was that we met the locals, debated some philosophical viewpoints, whipped the locals at pool and made a dent in the bars Stroh Rum supplies and got back home about 3.30am, debated a bit more and then the debate ended apparently, with me falling asleep mid sentence on the couch somewhere around 4am.

    It was a long ride the next morning to Alexander bay. Eric was keen to stay for another night as he had felt that we hadn&#8217;t really met all the locals the night before. But myself and Nardus had seen or rather drunk enough.

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    One thing about this part of the world is the huge impact that the diamond mining has made here, its bordering on criminal. Go check out Google Earth. A real pity. They have these massive holes and mine made mountains and every now and then a rehabilitation sign in front of a 200m square piece of ground that has been flattened and has some green wind sheet to protect the replanted flora. It&#8217;s an affront and only serves to highlight just how hypocritical big money is. You can&#8217;t ride on the beach but you can push a wall of sand hundreds of metres into the sea and strip mine the beach to the bed rock all the way inland for, in some cases kilometres?

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    Here, they see fit to just start digging right where the road goes through

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    Eric and Nardus&#8217;s plan all along was not to go to the RAW. They were to leave us at either Port Nolloth or Alexander Bay and ride the Richtersfeld on their own. Eric&#8217;s wife was due to drive up to Vioolsdrif on the Friday to join him for their epic and Nardus was going to ride back on Sunday to the Eastern Cape. Due to some bureaucratic issues Eric&#8217;s wife was only going to make it up on the Sunday. So we loosely agreed to meet again at the Widlthing camp later that day to see if Nick and co would take the riff raff.

    After a short attempt at trying to get into Oranjemund, I was on my way to Wildthing via crossing into Namibia at Sendlingsdrif.

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    I had a go at riding up the Fish River for a few k&#8217;s and then up the Gamkab river

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    and out the back to visit my old friend Carlos at the Felix camp. If you ever have the opportunity the road on the northern side of the river back to Vioolsdrif from Rosh Pina is a stunning piece of road.

    Next the riding...
    #1
  2. dezertpilot

    dezertpilot Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Cool thread! I love coming on ADVrider and seeing all the awesome ride reports from places I will probably never visit.
    #2
  3. LC8TY

    LC8TY must......find.......fuel

    Joined:
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    was Kununurra, now Carnarvon, Australia
    Keep it comming mate! :thumb
    #3
  4. kamanya

    kamanya Andrew to most

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,515
    Location:
    Southern Tip of Africa
    The rest...

    The Wildthing camp was clearly a KTM second home, there were banners all over the place.

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    The evening saw all the guys arriving, including Nardus and Eric who had had an epic of a day. We were given the briefing and after a good meal and a few beers it was off to my tent to join the chorus of fellow wood choppers.

    There were routes to suit all tastes, Wouter had volunteered me for the River route. All I knew was that the first section was pretty tough. There were 3 of us big adventure bikes, 2 640’s, and a bunch of guys cheating on smaller plastic bikes.


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    Well, the first section was pretty tough, the sand was a mixture of silt and sand and the trail wound its way over boulders and rock gardens. The smaller guys were having a ball but it was fairly sweaty going for me. But, once past that it was just stunning. The trail rides up a river bed and it was the combination of awesome riding and amazing scenery that was quite a privilege to experience.

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    In the video you also get to see the big crash. Lots has been written about it on other threads. All I want to say is that get the very best gear that you can’t afford. I walked away from this because I wear the best and latest protection gear. If I had just been wearing my touring jacket, I am convinced that I wouldn’t have faired so well. It also speaks volumes as to how well the big KTM’s crash; I only lost an indicator and cracked a fuel tap spigot on the one tank and got a slow puncture, all easily fixed. I have a tubliss system on the front so it as a case of plug and play.

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    Once back the Wouter got me to play the videos through the bars TV... more than once. I was feeling a little tender and opted to go easy that night.

    I was amazed that I felt so well the next morning, I was only slightly stiff and sore.

    I wanted to get more footage of guys riding and some scenery so opted for the dune route. Sadly I never turned the video on and once over the pass about 8k’s into the ride, I had another crash.

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    This one was caused by a sudden deflation of the front. The plug came out at speed and I immediately lost control and ploughed into the desert. In the bar the previous night showing the videos, a lot of people had asked what were the speeds that I was riding at as it is hard to tell and looks pretty fast. I really couldn’t answer so on this straight piece of sandy track I was commentating and calling out the speeds so that later people would be able to then get a feeling for what I was doing.

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    I had just got up to 130kph and was tapping off saying that that was enough silliness when the front let go. I think that I must have been doing about a 100kph at the time.

    As there quite a few who were behind me there were people to help almost before I had come to a stop. The funny thing was that almost all of them asked if I had got the shot before they asked if I was ok. But all of it was for nought as I hadn’t turned the damn thing on when I left.

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    Again I was not hurt and again the bike only lost its other indicator and nothing else. The only other damage was that my camelbak’s straps had been torn off in the crash.

    I was now not in the mood to carry on, mostly because I now had zero trust in the plug system and just wanted to get back to camp. I replugged the tire and sent the guys on their way. I sat in the desert for a while and ate an energy bar from the packed lunch that I had landed on.

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    I got about 500 meters before the plug again came out but this time I was riding very slowly. The next plug did it and I was halfway home before I realised that I had left my phone/camera at the crash site and had to ride back up the pass to get it. Doofus!

    Once back at the camp KTM WC had a selection of tires and I replaced the Pirelli MT21 with another.

    It wasn’t the ideal way to end the ride but as rubber lips Mick says, “you can’t always get what you want”, he also adds that, “but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need”.

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    My RAW adventure was what I needed; I had ridden up with some great company on excellent roads, I had survived two massive crashes with astoundingly good luck and fortune, I was in a place that I really enjoy and has always been good to me and of course the Springboks won! It was great to have a really good time with a bunch of people that we there to have a great time.

    That night was a good one and for my efforts I was very kindly rewarded with a 3l magnum of red wine. There were some really generous draws. I am sure the unique event will grow to become a much anticipated date on the calendar.

    The return.

    When I had planned this trip I was very keen to ride back via the Karoo and not just bullet back on the N7. I asked if anyone would join me for the ride back but got no takers.

    There is a section of 4x4 track that runs from just south of Vioolsdrif all the way to Klein Pella. I have driven around that area but never on the trails. My plan was to do that section and then come down through the Karoo. The 4x4 section is from what I had read a stunning track to ride, my challenge was that no-one wanted to ride with me. This could be a problem.

    It is a very desolate and barely populated section of the world. There is no cell reception, the nearest cell reception is a days walk at least through the desert. If I got into trouble my choices would be either try to walk to the bigger dirt road to the south or head for the Orange River to the north. Of course, if the trouble was more than bike related and I hurt myself, there could be some nasty consequences. So, I let my wife know where I was and what I was going to do and gave her some times that I expected to call her and who to call if she did not hear from me by a certain time.

    I felt that riding on my own increased the risk, but, I have confidence in my bike, myself and my friends in Noordoewer that brought the risk to within acceptable limits. In this day of trying to make everything as safe and predictable as possible, there is the risk of making things too safe and then losing out on possibilities that make life worth living. Its not called adventure for nothing. So with something along the lines of Helen Keller’s perception of risk in my justification; “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”, I turned off the N7 and onto the Namaqua Eco Trail for my next adventure.

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    Again I hadn’t turned the video on for the first stretch so this really beautiful section is not recorded. I was riding way within my limits for obvious reasons but what a trail!

    These two photo's courtesy of Michnus, he travelled here last year

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    An interesting thing happened whilst riding this section. I could see that within the last day or so someone on a bike had been here before me. It is not always obvious which trail to take and I had to double back a few times. The funny thing was is that on more than 3 occasions whoever was riding here before me had made exactly the same mistakes and choices right down to some of the off piste riding that I did to get back onto the trails. Once when I was slowed right down to check the gps and to try figure out where to go I could see that his tracks also showed that he was riding slowly and looking around and exactly where I made my decision to turn off the track to cut across the veld, there were his tracks to show he’d done exactly the same! Spooky but at the same time quite reassuring. Later on I saw a pair of tracks, one clearly not having much fun in the sand, the other a few times doubling back to help. I think that they were bigger bikes like mine. One of them must have slept well that evening.

    I have an ipod that I plug into when I ride alone, at one point everything was just perfect; the bike was humming along, I was in a groove, the track was spectacular and the lady in my ears was adding to the experience. If i had to try to encapsulate my ideal riding, this would be about as close as it gets. I am sorry that none of the RAW crowd chose to share it.

    It is certainly not for those who are unhappy in sand, more than half the route is gravel river sand with the odd rocky section thrown in, but if you ever get the chance and are within a days ride the opportunity shouldn’t be missed.

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    A note on what I think is a vital aspect of my ride; I have an aftermarket fuel tank that can hold 45 litres if needed. It makes a huge difference to the ability to make choices and greatly adds to peace of mind. The 950 is a thirsty beast and is not much fun to push for any distance. It was the first time that i was going off the beaten path with the tanks and it was great not to have to basically aim for the next petrol station, they made a huge difference to my trip. I can now do 6-700k’s of exploring.

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    I made Pofadder before sunset. Lets just say that Pofadder would be fairly low down my list of desirable places to live.

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    Today the objective was to ride through the Karoo trying to stay off the major dirt roads and trying to stick to the the tracks that the GPS refers to as “other roads”. From my track you can see that it was not the most efficient way of making distance but what I lost in efficiency I more than made up in the experience. I had started the day with Bill Brysons “A short history of nearly everything” playing on the Ipod. If ever I became the minister of education I might have to make this form of learning compulsory. It was a surreal experience to be doing what I love whilst getting a science lesson. I was fully absorbed in the ride, dodging ground squirrel holes and having to ride on loose red Karoo desert sand, often stopping at abandoned farm houses and water pumps. I was having to backtrack and make choices, speak to farmers and open many gates. I discovered an abandoned quarry with all sorts of equipment and machinery slowly rusting next to a huge salt pan. And all this time I was getting an amusing science lesson. What a day!

    To quote wiki –

    “A Short History of Nearly Everything is a general science book by Bill Bryson, which explains some areas of science, using a style of language more accessible to the general public than many other books dedicated to the subject. It was the bestselling popular science book of 2005 in the UK, selling over 300,000 copies”

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    I had grand designs on making Cape Town but as the afternoons shadows became longer I realised that if I hopped onto the N7 I could be home in 3 or so hours but then I would have to miss the Cederberg so off to Nieuvoudville for the evening.

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    Bugger! Morning came along with heavy rain. It was very cold and riding in this would be unpleasant.

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    I am not happy riding in mud, I don’t have much experience in it, it is the least favoured aspect of riding terrain for me.

    I had offloaded as much stuff at the RAW into the KTM WC van so that I could travel light so I didn’t have all my warm stuff. I was contemplating staying another night but when the owner said that he was fully booked and would have to chuck me out at 11 my decision was made. I had several layers of thermal wicking kit on along with a MTB wind breaker under my pressure suit.

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    The local farmer co-op provided me with a labourers rain suit and rubber gloves. I had to get the ladies in the shop to get my pants on as the Michelin man can’t touch his toes and neither could I.

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    I was surprisingly warm as I headed out gingerly onto the dirt roads. I was intending to ride to Wuppertal, hopefully via Hueningvlei and then from there to Algeria to the N7 and home. In this weather is was going to be ambitious.

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    The front tire tracked surprisingly really well in the mud, I only had a few SM’s (sphincter moments). I was continually in and out of the rain and by the time came to make the critical decision to carry on to Clan William or go through the Cederberge I was sufficiently confident that I could make it. What a ride, it was wet, cold, muddy and with many river crossings and much mud.

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    I got to Wuppertal just as a big group of DS riders were leaving the way I had come. They were from the George area and were being hosted by the George KTM dealership. Here I was thinking that I must be the only one mad enough to be riding in this part of the world and along come 20 other mad hatters. It’s good to know that I am not alone.

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    It was whilst stopping somewhere close to Eselbank trying to warm my hands on in the exhaust that I noticed snow on a few hundred meters above me. Aha! So that’s why I was so cold. Coming from desert like conditions only the day before to snow, it was quite a change.

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    It was now that I was getting white line fever, it did not take long to get off the dirt and onto the N7. Two hours later just after sunset my week long ride came to an end.

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    2644 kilometres, maybe 500 of which was tar.

    I really want to go again.
    #4
  5. kamanya

    kamanya Andrew to most

    Joined:
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    1,515
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    Southern Tip of Africa
    Jacko's input culled from another local site;

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    #5
  6. Narri

    Narri Unlimited

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2007
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    East London, South Africa
    Kamanya. Great report and pics. It was great riding with you and hope to do so again soon. What a great country we have for DS riding !!:photog
    #6
  7. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
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    :clap :clap Thanks for the awesome ride, report and pics!! :clap South Africa must have the best ADV riding in the world! (Sorry Aussies.. you're in second place!) Glad you weren't hurt in your high speed biff! And thanks for sharing your fantastic adventure with us :thumb
    #7
  8. hilslamer

    hilslamer 2XRedheadedstepchild

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    Dig the maps and video, excellent stuff. Someday...
    #8
  9. kamanya

    kamanya Andrew to most

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    When ever you're ready, it's not going anywhere. It really is a fantastic part of the world.
    #9
  10. kamanya

    kamanya Andrew to most

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    Ok, for those of you who have the bandwidth here is the extended version of the video.

    The first 3 days are in this one, missed all of day 2;

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    If you should only watch one or two the next two have a lot of the River Route in them and are the more exciting ones;

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    The second day of the RAW (not much) and the section along the River towards Pella.

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    Into the Karoo

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    Heading home, the mud and rain, the Cederberge

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    Thanks for all your comments so far.
    #10
  11. roadholder

    roadholder Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,009
    Location:
    Ottawa, Canada
    Awesome!
    #11
  12. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

    Joined:
    May 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,044
    Location:
    Santa Barbara
    apparently my bike will do the trip.....too bad about the rider.....thx....Bruce:D
    #12
  13. mookymoo

    mookymoo Mookish Mook

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    4,400
    Location:
    Either UK or Australia ...
    What an awesome part of the world!

    :clap
    #13
  14. Clansters

    Clansters Tour Aegea

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    209
    Location:
    Izmir/TURKEY
    Great videos :clap:clap
    They should be remembered! :ilmostro
    #14
  15. ButchH

    ButchH Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    69
    Location:
    PMB KZN South Africa
    Gooi nog Boet :deal
    #15
  16. daizawaguy

    daizawaguy n00b

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2009
    Oddometer:
    8
    Goeie more!
    #16
  17. kamanya

    kamanya Andrew to most

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,515
    Location:
    Southern Tip of Africa
    Dagse' ou boet. lekker om jou te ontmoet.
    #17
  18. Tsotsie

    Tsotsie Semi-reformed Tsotsi

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,414
    Location:
    South Texas
    Brings back memories!

    Dankie!
    #18
  19. Pickup man

    Pickup man Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2011
    Oddometer:
    361
    Location:
    People's Socialist Republic of Ontario, Toronto
    Thanks so much for sharing this with us. South African RRs are among my favorites!!
    #19