Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The long(er) weekend in March: God's Country

Hardy couldn't get leave for the Monday of the long weekend ... so we made a longer weekend by taking the 3 days after the public holiday. Friends recently relocated to Lydenburg, so we were looking for an excuse to go visit and to explore their playground. 

It was going to be a holiday with the mode of transport being a bike, rather than a 'bike tour'.

Prologue: Tuesday 21 March
We loaded the bikes on the back of the bakkie and drove to Lydenburg. Tuesday afternoon Hodge (our host in Lydenburg) took us to Long Tom and then showed us around some secret forest Jeep track that he found ... parts of it looked and felt a lot like some of the trails we might have ridden on during the Sabie Experience mountain bike event. 

Wednesday 22 March: Sabie - Pilgrims rest - Swadini
From Lydenburg we rode over long Tom pass to Sabie, and then to Pilgrims Rest via the R533. We were slightly too late for breakfast at the Royal Hotel, so although it wasn't quite lunchtime yet, they opened the buffet for us. Glad we were there early before the tourists arrived.

It's a ghost town - I thought remembered a touristy coffee-shop or 2,  a trading post,  a pharmacy/photographer of sorts - but the town is a bit emptier than what I thought I remembered..

Royal Hotel Pelgrimsrus

From Pilgrims rest Hardy found us a quiet dirt road roughly snaking along the Blyde river to the Blyde River Canyon viewpoints, and from there to Swadini past the Strydom Tunnel. Even though it was only about 200 km for the day, we were tired after the long day (mainly because of all the tourist stops!)

Boabab tree on the way to Swadini

Thursday 23 March: Swadini
Was lovely to wake up and know you're on holiday: nowhere to rush to, not necessary to pack the bikes, and having the quiet resort all to ourselves (except for a school camp of 10-year-olds and maybe some of the parents stalking them from a distance.)

We spent a lot of time in the warm swimming pool, took the bikes to see what the dam look like, explored a little hiking trail to a waterfall and investigated the area where the Australian 'survivor' was shot the previous few weeks.
Found some skilpadjies, Impala wors and Kudu wors at the resort's shop and we braaied up a feast!

Bridge on the way to the waterfall
The Australian 'survivor' set

Waterfall at the end of the hike

Friday 24 March: Swadini - Graskop - Sabie - Mankele
When you stand on the top of the escarpment at the Blyde River viewpoint, looking down into the Canyon, you can see a steep path winding down the mountain on the other side. At the bottom of the path there's a campsite next to the river.

Hardy found a 'regional' road from Swadini-area that would take us towards Mariepskop. We didn't go all the way down to the campsite because it looked a bit technical and we had time constraints and lots of mileage  - but we'll go back for that. And possibly camp there next time.

The plan was to continue on the 'regional' road (forest trail, jeeptrack, mountain bike path) as long as we could, but somewhere missed a turn-off and came down the nose of the mountain on a discontinued road where very often half of the road caved in.

 This was a great regional road. You would love it. It was the BEST regional road....

We came out at Bushbuckridge and then followed the tar road to Graskop via Kowyns pass. Parked at the biker pub and walked across the road to the 'coffee beanery' - but it closed down 20 years ago. So we continued to Sabie where the fuel attendant pretended to remember our fuel-stats from when we filled up there 2 days ago. It started drizzling, so we stopped for a hot pot of tea and then rode on to Mankele in the rain.

Was only around 200 km but took a long time and we were glad to arrive in Mankele. Supper was leftover Kudu/Impala wors, and the leftover skilpadjies that wasn't plastered to the inside of my topbox or our rain gear.

Saturday 25 March: Mankele Kaapsehoop Barberton Waterval Boven 
By the time we got to KaapseHoop it was raining. Found a beautiful dirt road to Barberton. In time for Breakfast, then on towards the Bulembu gate (Swaziland border). Turned off from the tar road just before the border gate, and then followed the road through Songimvelo Nature Reserve through an ancient ghost town and then through a bit of a rural area with lots of traffic and speed limit 30 for thousands of kilometers. We filled up at Badplaas, and finally on to Waterval Boven. A Long day at 350-ish.
Really need to come here again with mountain bikes and friends for climbing / braaiing / riding / running.

The road from Barberton to the Belembu border post. Drove this in November last year with the Jimny and ever since wanted to ride it with the bike.

Adri and Hodge (our Lydenburg-hosts) joined us for the evening's camp.

Sunday 26 March: Waterval Boven - Lydenburg
It was cloudy when we left Boven, and by the time we got to the N4, it was drizzling. After a short while on tar we turned off on a dirt road through farms and then started climbing up to the forests. Lovely riding ... then we got into the muddy bits! 

Wonder what's around the next corner?


This is exactly what it looked like. Visor steaming up from the inside and rain on the outside and no hand free to wipe it clean to see where the road goes ...
Luckily this didn't last long.

It was a holiday by bike, rather than a hardcore 'bike trip' - and we'll have to go back soon.