I try to blast my trusty BMW up the mountain pass on the Tea Plantation Route but fail dismally. The slow moving timber trucks have left a dark band in the middle of my lane from the oil that they drip constantly. This is fine when the truck is doing 100kph on the flat where the drips are separated by hundreds of meters but when reduced to 30kph the millions of drops band together with time to make this greasy looking strip. I have not idea of the quality of the traction that it offers and decide to leave that investigation to some sportbike owner of Japanese persuasion.
I check into my budget accommodation, a B+B on the side of mountain with a view all the way to heaven. The owner assigns me to the Ďgreen roomí where I find pink pillowcases, blue bedding, cream curtains, white cupboards and a yellow exterior. The inside walls however are green and so I know Iím in the correct place. It is just fine and I spend a lot of time over the next two and a half days sleeping and praying.
|I mention the praying because as Iíve said Iíve been miserable and have lost my centre of gravity. My GS1100 provides hours of euphoria but when the road runs out your heart has to come back to earth and face stark reality. Later I also find a comfy spot in the indigenous forest to face the spiritual demons that have accumulated over 18 months of spiritual neglect. The sounds and sensations of the forest are calming and cathartic. The demands of the city life seem unreal, remote and less important.|
I ride the dirt roads in the area. The more technical the better, and yes on my own. I donít propose this practice but here is the thing. Iíve attended CountryTrax off road courses, have ridden the red routes and am well equipped with emergency equipment.
As a kid we always had Readers Digest in our house. I remember reading the ĎDrama in real lifeí stories every month. The stories would always start with this Ďwalking and whistling along with my hands in my pocketí kind of way. Then disaster would strike usually because of a poor decision. At that early age, I resolved never to be the subject of one of those stories. Therefore, when I ride on my own I ride accordingly, 10% below my ability while still maintaining my smoothness and confidence. Iím not shy to walk a very bad section before I ride it and am happy to turn around if necessary.
I love riding the forests of Magoebaskloof. The air is cool and damp. The air vibrates with the sound of busy insects. Pockets of thick white mist lie in the hollows and folds of the mountains. It is butterfly season and each is bigger and more colourful than the last. The experience is tropical and exotic with the chatters and squawks of birds and animals from the dark green foliage. A matrix of clear streams makes my bottle water taste dry and dusty by comparison.
One of the many streams in the indigenous forest of Magoebaskloof. This one is near De Hoek.
The roads are perfect with heaps of traction without tyre slashing edges. Even in the rain the surface does not become slick and greasy. The roads through the plantations have a layer of pine needles but not enough to make traction difficult and help is never out of reach as the forestry staff are friendly and helpful.
|The iindigenous forest is surrounded by thousands of hectares of pine plantations and tree harvesting goes on all the time.|
Iím also a motorcycle rider who likes to practice. I believe that skills practiced in a controlled environment become second nature when things go wrong. This tour I have chosen the skill of hard braking on the front wheel, on a steep downhill track that has loose stones. In the past I used the rear brake only but herein lies a point of critical mass. This is when the descent gets so steep that the weight on the rear wheel evaporates and it locks up due to lack of traction. When this happens, the rear of the bike usually slides off true and you find yourself picking up speed in a direction you donít want to go in. By contrast, the traction on the front increases on a steep descent and I have a lot of fun exploring the stopping power it offers.