Feeding the Starving Adventure Bug

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Jan 11, 2018
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Some of you may remember a Little Red Zontes that was previously tragically infected with the adventure bug virus:

From this you might recall a green companion who travelled with me on the topbox of the Red Little Zontes. That adventure bug has since then became my dog’s best friend. Unfortunately she has the ruthless habit of tearing best friends to pieces. I’ve since also, with a heavy heart, sold the Red Little Zontes. But fear not. I give to you the Orange-not-so-little-but-also-not-so-big-Zontes. The 310T.


It’s been awhile, and the bug that once bit has since been neglected. Poor thing. So when the December holidays suddenly came crashing down on all of us I decided it’s time to feed him. And seeing that it’s Christmas time, why not prepare him a meal which he will never forget?

But where should we go? Previous trips I had done I had meticulously planned, but this time around I didn’t know where I was going, and when I’d come back. A proper Coddiwomple – a fitting name for the 310T I thought. So on the evening of 21 December, I loaded my trusty steed with everything one would need to survive a journey to the centre of the earth, including my passport. And with the lyrics from Bat Out Of Hell ringing in my ears that night, I went to bed. Like a bat out of hell I'll be gone when the morning comes. I gotta get out before the final crack of dawn!

22 December: Cape Town to Tankwa (306 km)
The road out of Cape Town feels limiting: West Coast, Karoo, or Eastern Cape. Beyond those borders sit a maze of gravel roads I have yet to explore, like the Drakensberg range. So in the back of my mind I keep the mountains as a potential end point for the route. Yet somehow I found myself on top of Bain’s Kloof pass early in the morning. It’s not quite in the direction of the Drakensberge, but the Great Karoo is as untouched as those great mountains.

Sitting in Ceres and grabbing a quick brekkie, I find myself thinking about the AfrikaBurn festival. Looking at my Zontes companion and contemplating the treacherous road that leads to AfrikaBurn, the evening’s roosting spot becomes a reality. It’s decided. I have heard horror stories of tyres being lost and guys getting stuck out there in the desolate Tankwa, but I walk over to the Zontes and explain to him that his 125 brother took me places I thought I’d never be able to see unless I had a 4x4. Now it was his turn. And like a bigger brother, he was going to want to show he is better than little bro.

And so the journey begins. We set off from Ceres in the direction of AfrikaBurn and stop where the gravel road starts. A car approaches, crawling, limping forward. It was as if I could hear the two machines communicate, the car all dusted and worn out screaming at the Coddiwomple not to take another step forward. The driver stops next to me and asks “Môre, jy’t nie dalk ‘n elektriese pomp daar by jou nie”.
“Nee ongelukkig nie” (apparently you don’t need an electric pump on your journey to the centre of the earth).
“Het jy nie ‘n spaarwiel nie?” I ask the man.
“Nee die een IS my spaarwiel, ek’t twee wiele in 100km verloor. Sterkte vir jou, boeta.” comes the reply, and with that we part ways.

Is it too late to turn back? Never. On my adventures I’ve frequently found that it takes a day or two to wake up to the adventure itself. Upon setting off it feels like just another day at the office, but then things change and the adventure-spirit wakes up. The adventure smile creeps up on you and you find yourself with a permanent smile stuck to your face. So with a gauntlet of guillotine sharp rocks to be run, the flaming Zontes and I set off. Both with big adventurous smiles on our faces!

I’ve seen worse roads. It’s really just the sharp rocks that get you. Seeing discarded tyre carcasses every 5 kilometres does not exactly build your confidence but we eventually reach the AfrikaBurn campsite. We find the nearest shade as it’s between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius, and we can and walk over to reception. If they are fully booked I’m taking land without compensation. I’m done for the day. Luckily I’m one of only four other guests, so I book a tent and offload. It’s still boiling hot outside. All the guests find shelter in the bar. One other BMW adventure rider and 3 bachelors touring in their Land Cruiser, or whatever. It’s too hot to pay attention to your neighbour’s car.

In the Karoo, if you’re a visitor, you live for the early mornings and evenings when the temperature is bearable. The Karoo itself goes to sleep during the day. During my visit I saw a couple of ants and one crow. The ants were on a mission although I think the crow was properly lost and dehydrated. Or maybe the adventure bug got to him as well this festive period?

The 5 strangers had a blast in the bar. Before we knew it we had a proper game of Djenga going. That was until someone discovered McChrystal’s snuif, or Mr Crystal as we dubbed it. Having never tried snuif before, I thought I’d give it a go... This is the AfrikaBurn festival grounds after all. Ok, I’m sure this is pretty low on the list of things that ‘have been tried’ in this part of the world. But whatever. Then Mr Jägermeister showed up. I sure as hell didn’t invite him. I’ve tried him before so approached with caution.

It was also at this moment when we noticed the hundreds of empty Jäger bottles on the shelves. And then the rubber on the wall... and then the tyre marks on the bar table? What the hell goes on in this place? The barman shows us the video. When the Jäger gets going, people get imaginative. So what happens in the Karoo is that you bring your bike into the bar, lift the back wheel onto the bar counter, and let it rip. The discarded rubber is splatter against the bar wall, almost as a form of art.

Deciding I’ve had enough snuif, I turn in for the night. But not before looking up at the sky. In the Karoo, the starts are not in the sky. They sit on the horizon. If you want to hear silence, go there. The saying ‘silence is deafening’ comes alive here. You can hear nothingness, and it hurts. The Karoo truly is a breath & sound-taking place. I go to bed, struggling to wipe that adventurous smile from my face. Next to the tent I can hear the Zontes whispering to the BMW: “Don’t you just love this?”

23 December: Tankwa to Sutherland (205 km)
Knowing what scorching temperatures the Tankwa has in store, I make an early start. Leaving camp by 6am, I ride east, the sun directly in my line of sight. The orange Zontes is glittering in the sunlight and he seems happy in this part of the world. I studied the maps the day before and asked a lot of advice on the roads in the area, and decided that we’ll go and explore the Tankwa-park today. Sutherland is not too far away and that’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit.

But the Tankwa had other plans for me. Naturally, there are a lot of farms in the area and you frequently have to open and close farm gates as you go along. So with each gate, I stop, put the (keyless) key (which I keep in my pocket) on the bike to leave it running, drive through the gate, close the gate, and put the key in my pocket again.

You can probably see where I am going with this... sure enough, reaching one gate, I repeat the process, but forget to put the key back in my pocket. It’s on the backseat. For those of you that have been in the Tankwa you’ll know that the roads are relentless. I have never driven on such badly corrugated roads, coupled with sand patches. So the inevitable happened. I lost the key. And keyless cars & bikes don’t cut out when they are separated from their keys...

Reaching the next farm gate, I stop and decide to give the Coddiwomple a rest. I switch him off and immediately an eerie sound breaks the Karoo silence. That sound I know all too well. The key is not in range! It’s now 7am and the sun is already dancing in the Karoo sky. It may be high 20s already, but an ice cold feeling comes over me.

The previous farm gate is 6km in the opposite direction. It’s been an hour since I’ve left camp, I haven’t had breakfast, and I have water, but it is locked in the topbox, of which the key is now also somewhere in the vast Karoo. Haha! Here we go. Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself, but that laughter comes usually after the dust has settled. And a Karoo whirlwind was still very much dancing around me at this point.

When certain things happen to you, your body instinctively goes into survival mode, or whichever mode is required. My brain starts firing off solutions to the problem. Do I wait by the bike and risk not having another human passing me today, go search for my key in the endless Karoo, walk back to where I know there are people (probably a good 25kms), or is this it? Are they going to find my bones here come the next AfrikaBurn and mistake me for a million-what-year-old Homo erectus?

I start walking, but these boots weren’t made for walking. I have no other option but to find the keys. Full panic mode kicks in and I’m scouting every speck of dust in the road! The walk quickly turns into a slow jog. But there is just absolute nothingness, and I see that dehydrated crow from yesterday starting to circle above.

After 5km my mouth is so dry and the immensity of the Karoo starts to swallow me whole. But all living beings have a natural instinct in them to survive and we are driven forward by this. And so, off in the distance, about 200 meters from the previous gate, something catches my eye. The key! Never in my life have I experienced such a feeling of relief. The saying ‘Nood leer bid’ is really an understatement. Now for the Groot Trek back to my keyless steed begins, the reality of how dangerous things can get in the Karoo hitting me hard. Again here I was reminded about the guys that ride the Dakar. The amount of respect they deserve is as massive as the Karoo itself. But maybe they don’t have keyless bikes, so they’ve got it a bit easier than I had.

You can see what is was like here:

Reunited, the 310T and I set off again, with the now paranoid key tucked away safely. We manage a full 10 kilometres further and reach a 4 way crossing. I have no idea where we are, even though I studied the map carefully. With the memory of how quickly things can go wrong out here, I go for the risk averse approach. A farmhouse is off to my right and I ride up to the house, greeted by the locals. Even the geese could see this guy has no clue where he is going.

Having established that I’ve taken a couple of wrong turnoffs and being cautioned that the road only gets (much) worse the further you keep going, I walk back up to my trusted friend. After looking him over and seeing what toll the road has already taken on him (some broken pieces of unimportant plastic), I discuss the alternatives with him. We reckon it is best to head back and find an alternative route around the desolate Tankwa. So we backtrack our steps, carefully passing through the cursed farm gates and return to base camp where we are, I kid you not, greeted by another passionate game of Djenga.

After studying the map again and having a couple of litters of water, I return on the same road that brought me to the Tankwa. We reach the Padstal and take another break. I strike up a conversation with one of the locals who eventually ends our conversation with “Ok sien weer! Ek moet gou my aarbeie gaan plant.” Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder about this corporate life I am living.

We hit the road that runs underneath the Tankwa-park itself. The road is in a good condition and along the journey we meet an adventure riding German family of 3. We had quick meet and greet under one of the few trees available in the area, nearly starting WWIII for the little shade that’s available, and part ways. The shadow-fighters would later become great companions along the trip.

The Zontes and I have an absolute blast on the road, becoming more and more familiar with each other and starting to push the limits, with the trust between us growing with every kilometre passing. Then suddenly I hear an awful clutter! I pull to the side of the road and think, this is it... The BMW owners are going to say I told you so. I inspect the damage and find only a broken chain guard. A piece of plastic is scraping the chain as we ride along. Pushing it aside and establishing it won’t cause any harm until I get a fix for it, the flaming arrow roars back to life, laughing at me for getting such a fright!


We arrive in Sutherland and check in at a B&B after an unforgettable day in the Tankwa. Like hell am I going to pitch a tent now. I need a shower, and quickly. Even the Zontes was sticking his forks in his intakes. It’s been a long day in the saddle and I give the little Zontes some much needed rest. I promise him that tomorrow morning I will give him some well-deserved TLC.

That evening I take a stroll through town. I was blessed with a clear sky, and being in Sutherland, I go to the nearest planetarium to gaze with amazement at the show all around us, meeting the German family there as well. A telescope is pointed at a black spot of nothingness in the sky, and I was told to have a look at what I see. Thousands and thousands of stars! The immensity of the universe is too difficult to comprehend. So I look down at my hand and think about what all happens on a microscopic level. From the trillions of microscopic cells in your body, to the trillions of stars in the universe. From the protons, electrons and neutrons that make up the atoms, to the colossal VY Canis Majoris star, life is something to marvel at.

It’s only been two days on the road, but with so much to take in it feels like I’ve been on a month-long adventure. Please may this never end!

24 December: Sutherland to Seweweekspoort (204 km)
Today I’ll take it slow. I wake up, have some breakfast and walk over to my trusted partner. He’s got a massive smile on his face, cause he knows, it is day three and we are about to do it all over again. But I look him over and can see that yesterday’s shenanigans has had an impact. The Tankwa corrugated roads really tests if all the nuts are fastened properly, and it doesn’t stop at the mechanical nuts...

So after some TLC we make our way to the SALT telescope where we were treated to a tour of the observatory and met our German friends there again. It’s really a privilege to be the host country to a project such as SALT. After an amazing tour of SALT, I find myself wondering where to next. The German riders are heading towards Laingsburg, and I remember I’ve got family camping in Hartenbos. So why not?

Reaching Laingsburg by lunchtime I take a right, for some reason thinking I am heading towards the Tradouw pass. But after a couple of kilometres, I realise the Tradouw pass has never had such red-rocks. Then I recognise the Seweweekspoort hills for what they are. There are worse places to be a bit lost in.

But it’s already 4pm and I wouldn’t mind a break. So we pull in at one of the farms offering accommodation. Why is everyone in the Karoo so nice? Is it just the season to be jolly? Unfortunately there was no space available here, but a quick phone call by the owners to their neighbours got me a campsite for the night.

Reaching ‘Ons Karoo Plaas’ I was greeted by Christo and Ann who showed me around their newly built facilities. He offered that I stay in the caravan, and not having to setup a tent sounded great to me. So here I am, on Christmas Eve, and not another camper in sight. But Ann, or Mrs Claus on that day, wasn’t going to let me spend Christmas Eve on my own. I was invited to spend what became one of my top 3 Christmas’ with a family who were complete strangers to me, but at the end of the evening I felt like part of the family. Thank you guys for being such great hosts! I wish I could have stayed longer, but the gravel road was calling, and the Coddiwomple was already revving his engine by 7am the next morning.


*tried to tow a caravan.. kinda.

25 December: Seweweekspoort to Hartenbos (165 km)
Greeting my new family, the orange Zontes and I pass through the red Poort in the early morning sun. It’s just too beautiful. Today’s road, I’ve decided, is going to be the R327. The Attakwas. Hell yeah. I’ve seen stunning images of this place but have never been in the area. Having quickly looked at the map in Ladismith, I figure today is going to be a rather uneventful day through easy terrain. Little did I know what the adventure bug had in store for us.

The R327 is a real gem in the Western Cape. The road is in a good condition and the Attakwas mountains offer a unique arena for exploration. I loved it, and the flaming Zontes was chewing up the kilometres. Right until we came around one bend... then, in the middle of the road, we found ourselves a little tortoise. So I stop to admire this tiny creature. I tell the Zontes stories of his younger 125 brother who could easy have been compared to this tortoise. We cruised at 80kmh on the highways, wind in our hair, we felt part of everywhere. And everywhere we could go, just like this tortoise, with the adventure bug by our side.

After making sure the little guy was safely into the thicket, we set off again. But reaching Herbertsdale, I realise we took a wrong turn, again. No worries though, we turn around and the Zontes is just too happy, cause this means more gravel road time! There is a gravel road that connects the R327 with the R328 which I want to take. After another half hour of driving through beautiful country side, taking a couple of turnoffs, I reach an open and quite prevalent ‘farm’ gate. It’s open and I enter the area. A sign to my right reads “Beware, dangerous animals”. Yeah, whatever. Then a few metres on, I see another sign saying “Lion”. No way. That’s not possible.

So we continue and within the next kilometre I pass impala, zebra and wildebeest. I must be in a wildlife reserve? Haha, I laugh out loudly because this is something I’ve always wanted to do! Be on a motorbike and be in something the likes of the Kruger. Ah man I swear my smile was so contagious even the impala were starting to smile.

But as we come over a crest I see a heap of dung centre of the road. And this belongs to one animal alone. Elephant! Never in my life have I experienced such a sense of where one’s focus shifts immediately from looking at where you are going, dodging rocks and potholes, to scanning the immediate surroundings and horizon for animals that are far more dangerous that a pothole. It was sensational. Indescribable. To be in an area where elephants roam!

Whether or not I was allowed to be here on a motorbike was another question, but the Coddiwomple was wompling on. We weren’t turning around now! Eventually we reach the gate at the opposite end which reads ‘Welcome to Gondwana Game Reserve’. Home to the Big 5.

The flaming, lion ludicrously, Tankwa tenacity, elephant epicness, and zebra zealousness Zontes reaches Hartenbos late afternoon. Nothing can calm us down now. The euphoria is rushing through our dusted arteries.


But all good things come to a temporary rest. It’s great to see family and we are just in time for a Christmas lunch. We’ve got a prime camping spot, right on the beach, and I reckon we’ll stay here for a day or two. The adventure bug never saw a trip like this coming.

Route Map:

to be continued...