2008 started of on a serious foot for me, the first two months were consumed by a legal battle of note and two days after the conclusion of the court case my son was nearly killed in a stupid accident. My riding was confined to the odd breakfast, lunch or sundowner run to some place in the mountains. As winter rolled in I was beginning to suffer from some serious PMS (P
yndrome) and every fibre in my body was longing for the open road. I needed to feel the wind in my face and experience the rush of the LT swinging low through a curve.
Needless to say that when the ABBG 2008 Venue details were published there was no hesitation on my part. Bookings were made and diaries were adjusted. This year the gathering was going to be in the picturesque Central Drakensberg region and I was looking forward to the trip.
The week before our departure date the country was gripped in some unusual cold weather and I was between two thoughts ... use the old faithfull Tourance suit or have faith in technology and use my newly acquired Comfort Shell. These thoughts stayed with me right up to the morning of our departure. On Wednesday afternoon the LT was washed and loaded. Everything was ready apart from the final choice of riding gear.
Thursday morning dawned with a thick cover of fog that milled and swirled through my garden and there was a bite in the air. Now by bite you have to understand that I live the Lowveld, a sub-tropical region and anything under 10 C is a bite to me. I sat in my office and looked through the window while sipping on my second cup of coffee and the fourth Camel ... the fog was not lifting out of the valley and I could see the droplets gathering on the grass and leaves. So it would be wet as well as cool. Time was running out and I went for my morning shower and shave.
Fresh out of the shower I made my decision ... what is the value of new technology if I am not willing to test it. My mind was made up ... it will be the Comfort Shell.
The trip over the one kilometer stretch of dirt to the tar was filled with a few exhilarating moments because the Tuesday night we had a massive thunderstorm and Hell's Height was riddled with holes and ruts. The fully laden LT was no filly when it came to conditions like that and I just grinned as the big bike picked a route up that incline.
Once on the tar I flipped the visor down and let the LT have his way, the bike was eager to run and I let it.
Breaching the crest in Ferreira street the view of the Lowveld was everything but inspiring. Low clouds everywhere.
I rolled into El Madre Garage and filled the bike up and checked the tyres. The run for today was around 600 kilometres and we will be crossing the Eastern Escarpment, through the Eastern Highveld onto the Midlands of Natal and then into the foothills of the Drakensberg. There will be some serious riding at stages and a well prepared bike is a happy bike.
My brother Wouter, Grizaan and Rynhardt arrived soon after me followed by Roan and Suzanne. The party was all present and we were ready to roll. Due to the chaos of the construction works between Nelspruit and Baberton we decided to go to Barberton via Lowes Creek. This is roughly a 60 kilometer deviation but will spare us the aggravation of sitting at single line control points and most of all keep us of the nasty dirt and sometimes mud of the detours.
The added bonus of this route is that we will travel through the spectacular Crocodile River Gorge and travel down the historical Goldrush country between Kaapmuiden and Barberton.
Joining the N4 to Maputo. This road is usually very busy and big trucks are a hazard for bikers.
Approaching the gorge and there are signs of sunshine ahead.
Traffic is as expected and I settled back to concentrate on the road. Here in this Gorge have been
many horrendous crashes and I have no intention of becoming part of the Statistics.
One glance in my mirrors to ensure the group is coming and and I clicked the big bike back into third gear. Many long distance riders prefer it to just roll on the throttle but to me the sport bike genetics of the LT is there to be explored and exploited. The tune of the engine noise stepped up a pitch or two and the bike surged forward at every twist of my wrist, overtaking the vehicles without effort and immediately settles down as the throttle is rolled back ... ready for the next sprint.
Now allow me a moment to rave about my bike, a 2005 BMW K1200 LT. Let me express my pride and joy in a machine that in so many ways is underestimated and understated. To many it is just a big tourer and that is all. Well to me this bike is the ultimate long distance bike. Deep under the immaculately molded skin beats the heart of a thoroughbred ... the guts of a runner and the agility of steeple chaser. Cloaked in the couture of a grande dame but under that is the lingerie of a really spirited bird.
Back to the Gorge ... every now and then I note the bright lights of my partners in my mirrors as they leapfrog the traffic but my eyes were glued to what is in front of me. The N4 is in excellent condition and the long sweeps through the gorge with the subsequent straights is supreme LT country. Unfortunately the traffic was so thick this time that I took no more pictures as I navigated the road. The temperature was climbing rapidly as we streamed through the gorge towards Kaapmuiden and I was glad that I settled for the Comfort Shell. Pretty soon the Kaapmuiden turnoff appeared and I geared down to take the turnoff.
Compared to the N4 the Lowes Creek road is quite crappy but yet it was a lovely route to travel. Lots of ups and downs and quirky turns. The type of route that keeps you awake.
Even in winter this part of the country looks good.
The Brazilian Puff Trees are coming into bloom. A vivid indicator that Winter is here.
The late rains has generated a lot of growth and I shuddered as flashbacks of the previous
year's runaway fires shot through my mind. Lots of fuel here.
Whenever I travel this route I try to imagine the wild days of gold diggers and robbers, battling it
out in this neck of the woods.
Approaching Barberton and clouds were covering the sky once again.
At this point we have now canceled out the detour and we are basically back on track. From here we will begin the long climb to get over the escarpment and into the Highveld.