A Motorcycle tour of the KwaZulu Natal, Memel area
Steve Swanepoel Memorial Challenge

Page Two.

Author: Steve and Carole Eilertsen. stevei@icon.co.za

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Ride your own ride, or ride with the group? (Dion)

Now here is the question. Is it safer to ride with a group or ride at your own pace? I know I am a safer rider on my own because when I ride in a group I stretch my riding abilities. This question is relevant because the next section of 60km from points 9 to 12 were difficult ! Traction? What traction? I spent the next hour and a half encouraging the upper half of my bike to follow the lower half. You do not get any traction when your tyres are skimming over a thick layer of marble-like stones. Riding two-up with 20 liters of petrol with dual-purpose “road” tyres, my heavy bike floated across the surface like a bee looking for honey. “Give it gas”, you say? If I gassed my bike for an hour and a half just how fast would I be going? My round-the-world-trip, starting in Memel, would have been over before the braai that night! Fortunately, I found some good road surface (every few kms) where thankfully I could come off the gas for a while.

Here the stones did not cover the road entirely, offering a narrow strip of good traction. (Dion)

Finally, the surface changed at point 12 and I pulled off the road and waved the other riders on. I turned to face Carole. She was not happy! In addition, the hard rear suspension had compacted her spine every time we went through a shallow pothole at speed. Her breasts were also sore from her continued milk supply and no baby to feed, (did I mention she was still breast-feeding?) I told her that they looked very impressive but this did nothing to ease her sense of humour. This was a turning point in the ride for us. With the sound of the battery driven breast pump and Carole’s naked breasts bobbing about, I softened the tail of the bike. We had some lunch and enjoyed the afternoon warmth and stillness. The last hour and a half of riding had established that the GPS co-ords were reliable and that we did not have to follow the Crazy-Man up front. Now we would start our own ride – on our own. 

 


Pretty winding roads offering good traction (Dion)

The first 158km had been pretty in a country-farm kind of way but from point 12 onwards the scenery became more impressive. The narrow road offered excellent traction and a smooth riding surface. We loved the tightly twisted path as it wound its way through the hilly countryside towards Chelmsford Dam and Nature Reserve.

At point 14 we turned westward towards the most spectacular section of the ride i.e. Normandien Pass. This 30km section is the reason you spend part of your retirement money on a powerful dual-sport machine. Boring office meetings become a lot better when you can recall in your mind’s eye, mountain tracks like these. Rocky and uneven, it demanded every bit of grunty torque the engine had to offer. The steep incline without barrier protection on either side wound its way higher and higher. I had to scour the track ahead for the good stuff because a loss of traction on the rear wheel can spell disaster at that angle. Carole, an experienced pillion rider did her bit to keep the front wheel down on the ground where it belonged.


Summit of Normandien Pass

Once at the summit, we joined six other riders to enjoy the vast expanse of valley far below us. Standing 6 inches from a drop of 500m with the wind in your face is intoxicating. Unlike similar events, this ride is open to all makes of motorcycles, allowing you to see other big dual sport bikes in action. One of the other riders also had a woman riding pillion. I think the great-unsung heroes of biking are those chicks that put their lives in the hands of their motorcycle-crazy partners. Would I ride on the back of a bike scratching for traction on a high-speed dirt road? Never!
 


Punctures. Every bikers worst nightmare. (Dion)

In my early days riding off-road, I feared the steep downhills, especially on the loose stuff. As a new rider, you do not appreciate the capabilities of your motorcycle and regard “downhill” as an uncontrolled plunge into the abyss. In my previous life, I recall heading down a steep slope on loose stones. A sharp corner rushed up on me. Too terrified to turn I jumped my bike off a small cliff into the virgin bush below! Incredibly, bike remained upright and I rode out! Thankfully, a better rider now, I slipped the gearbox into second and let gravity do the rest. The occasional jab on the front brake and we eased ourselves off the mountain and into the valley below. Experience and training are wonderful things! and we arrived at point 19, 249 km into the ride.

Thirty kilometres of easy country riding brought us to the tar road that lead into Newcastle. We had been on the trail 7 hours and standing hurt, not to mention our dry throats. We cheated a bit and headed straight for the Spur in Newcastle and Yes you got it, a grade 9 town ! Fellow riders were already there taking in some of the game on TV. They gave us a knowing nod.

The remaining 50km back to Memel was 95% tar, the missing 5% being made up by the hundreds of potholes along the way. Enough said.

The event ended with prize giving at the Cliffdale Hotel that night. The trophy was awarded to that rider that most embodied the spirit of adventure so characteristic of Steve himself – in this case a joint award to the three youngest riders. A great ride, well organized and in an area I had never visited before. Maybe again next year!


Photo Ian McLaren +2711789 - 7196


Special thanks to Clive Strugnell and Jimmy Saunders for all their hard work in arranging this event and to McLaren and Associates for sponsoring the T shirts.

Also to Dion for allowing us to publish some of his photos!

Back to to Page One

 

 

Number

Description – often roadsigns or intersections

Co-ordinates

1

Memel. Turn right to Vrede.

S27 40.883   E 29 33.808

2

S226. Very small sign.

S27 36.947   E29 20.876

3

Turn right

S27 39.805   E29 20.832

4

Verkykerskop 29km

S27 42.996   E29 16.934

5

Verkykerskop 19km

S27 46.761   E29 14.425

6

Verkykerskop 17km

S27 48.692   E29 22.166

7

Verkykerskop

S27 55.270   E29 16.752

8

Normandien

S28 03.366   E29 14.064

9

De Beers Pass 43km

S28 03.293   E29 14.847

10

Collins Pass 51km

S28 08.721   E29 17.781

11

Sign Board Missing. Turn right.

S28 03.957   E29 28.614

12

Keep left

S28 11.678   E29 35.082

13

Cundycloigh 11km

S28 14.302   E29 44.214

14

Normandien 16km

S27 59.327   E29 46.694

15

Keep right

S28 00.819   E29 43.822

16

Roodepoort 14km

S27 57.598   E29 38.223

17

Turn left

S27 55.929   E29 38.835

18

Fellow Chevron

S27 53.245   E29 37.525

19

Mullers Pass 9km

S27 49.401   E29 39.012

20

Newcastle 19km

S27 52.475   E29 48.729

22

Newcastle

S27 45.303   E29 56.088

23

Memel

S27 40.883   E29 33.808

 

 

  

 

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