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Hotter Than I Have Ever Known!

Hotter Than I Have Ever Known!

I always knew the ride to Augrabies was going to be a long hot one. luckily i had a fantastic nights sleep in Vryburg. First taste of air conditioning in a long while.

I was we’ll prepared for the journey. Left over spareribs in a takeaway box that I had put in the freezer the night before and my hydration pack had been in the fridge also. I had no idea just how important those things were going to be.

PofadderIt was one of those rides that was always gong to be hard work . I worked out on my map that it was around 400kms to Uppington where I needed to turn off to go to Augrabies. So off I set. Katie had a full tank and I had topped up the oil again….she has started to get a bit of an oil habit !!!! It got very hot almost straight away and the road was no better than yesterday with very long straight road which just seemed to stretch for miles. The only real respite from riding came in the form of stop go road works. In the past few weeks I bet I have come across at least 20 sets of stop/go roadworks where it is not unusual to sit and wait for up to 20mins. All very well if you are in a car with the aircon blasting but on a bike you are prone to overheat very quickly. Thank goodness for the cold water in the hydration pack. Many at time I pulled to the front of the que and took shade along side some of the massive trucks that also use this road.

imageJust outside Vryburg the landscape took a dramatic colour change. Nearby Kathu is a major mining area and the red dust from the mines is evident on everything from the road to the trees. Just about everything has been turned a bright ocra for miles around. Another sight that greeted me as I rode what seemed an endless landscape of scrubland was a rather peculiar sight at the top of some of the poles carrying the power lines. I had seen similar nests out in the bush created by Red Billed Buffalo Weavers but they are made from small sticks and twigs. These community nests are almost thatched. They do look very cool and vary in size from about .5m3 to absolutely massoosive! I still don’t know what bird makes these nest so more investigation needed. But very impressive, although I am sure Eskom don’t agree!!!

The ride was starting to take its toll on me, mainly from the heat but as I approached Uppington I knew I was pretty much at my destination. Or so I thought! Arriving in Uppington and refuelling once again I was rather put out to find that I still had another 120kms to ride in what must have been 40C+. Needless to say the water in my hydration pack had warmed up a little but it did its job.

Eventually I arrived at Augrabies Falls National Park and boy was I surprised. The journey up to the rest camp is pretty unassuming compared with what waits you when you actually get into camp. Typical SANParks chalet accommodation awaits with camping for those that want. The chalets once again were excellent standard for the costs. There is a restaurant on site and activities include bush walks and night game drives. You can also drive around the park yourself if you wish during the day.

Augrabies FallsThe main feature in the park has to be of course then falls itself. Falling a height of 56 metres the noise is deafening which is where it gets its names from. The park has gone to great effort to ensure that the best views of the Falls can be obtained by visitors. Decking walkways have been installed alongside the Orange River and viewing platforms built right up close to the Falls.

BatI took my first look at the Falls late afternoon as the swifts dive bombed the fly population.

We need more swifts!! As I watched, the swifts suddenly seemed to give way to the local bats who although the sun was still shining turned up on mass to join in the feeding frenzy. I can’t tell you what type of bats these were but I am pretty sure there were several kinds. One very small one took me completely by surprise and flew through the railings landing on my foot, of course I didn’t get a photo but I did get one of this little fellow that I at first thought was dead.

I had dinner in the restaurant which was very nice indeed especially as the chef went out of his way to make me something that wasn’t on the menu. After this I took a walk back down to the main Falls to find that it had been illuminated by massive flood lights. It looked awesome. This is done between 20.00 and 22.00hrs each night.

imageThe next morning after breakfast I decided that I would go on one of the walking trails. I chose the Dassie Trail as it was medium length and I didn’t want to get caught out during the hottest part of the day. It wanders alongside the river, crossing several times and up and over some fantastic rocky areas. It was certainly challenging in places but I managed to keep my spirits up without too much trouble as all the way around the trail there were some great tracks to be found of Giraffe, buck, Dassie and porcupine. I would guess it took me around two hours to complete and 2litres of water! Once back at the main camp I realised not for the first time on this trip that I really must get fit again!

The rest of the day was spent relaxing around the camp with the odd nap thrown in for good measure. Dinner again in the restaurant that evening but not as successful as the previous night unfortunately. Maybe it’s me but when I see Home made Pie on the menu it conjures up an image of a fresh pie…not a frozen one that’s been nuked. Hey ho can win then all. It filled me up!

AJGlovesNow I am not sure if the sun had got to me but I came up with a great plan for the next day. A plan for keeping cool, or at least for starting the journey cool. There was a fridge freezer in the chalet so once again my full hydration pack went in the fridge and I earmarked the ice to be added in the morning just before I left. Now here where the experiments started. When riding out here I do not used leather gloves. I rather use fabric MX style gloves as I find them much more comfortable. I thought they could do with a wash so they got soaked and soaped then rinsed in the sink….now here is where I had a brainwave…. Instead of drying them off I put them in the freezer. Before you start laughing and pointing I should tell you it worked a treat! Yes they were solid when I took them out but only for about 30 seconds as it was already so warm they thawed immediately. Plus they remained wet so the wind kept them and my hands cool. All for about ten minutes till they dried…..but it was a start!

Back on the N14 and heading for Springbok I got an SMS from a old friend Ashley Baud who owns KTM Cape Town. He and a group of mates were heading north out of CT and heading towards Springbok. We couldn’t miss each other!!! I headed West setting myself goals of the next town each time so I didn’t go crazy from the heat. I swear it was even hotter than a few days ago. Maybe the air conditioned chalet had spoilt me? All I knew was that I should have put my jacket, trousers and boots in the freezer also! I hit Springbok at around 13.00hrs and treated myself to a Whimpey. Now the park I am staying in next it 100% self catering so I must buy food for the next couple of days. Bike is already loaded well but as they say in SA, I will make a plan!

Who ever heard of having a public holiday on a Thursday???? Whilst chatting to the staff in Whimpey to try and find the best place to go shop they inform me that there is a local Spar….that closed at 13.00hrs for the holiday. Great thanks, I needed to lose weight anyway. Luckily there is a small shop that saw the potential for getting my business so I was able to buy a bag full of sandwiches. I shouldn’t complain really about the shops shutting…..some of the cafes around where I live close during lunch break.

My accommodation for tonight is at Namakwa National Park. Also run by SANParks it is famous for its wonderful flowers during August. Although totally self catering there is a very small private farm stall which sells basics such as braai wood and beers. Sorted!!

Namakwa sunsetAfter the hot ride today I took the time to sit out on the stoop tonight as the sunset on the mountains with a cold one. Tomorrow I am going to take a ride around the parks many 4×4 trails and have also been promised a visit to were they are breeding and training Anatolian sheep dogs. Tell you about that later!

I wonder what happened to the KTM group…….ah yes, dirt roads!!

Namakwa sunriseHow did my day start today? I woke slowly to a cool morning and freshly made coffee ( ok I had to make it but still…) then I stepped outside to see the same sun that had set behind me last night throwing its shadows up the mountains , raise its head slowly over the same peaks. This travelling lark is really rather respectable you know. Breakfast consisted of a bowl of pretend weetabix and long life milk….mmmmm

Flower land I then took a walk around a small section of the park before it got too hot. Stunning scenery surrounds this massive park. It stretches from the N7 right across to the coast ( look on a map!). It’s hard to believe that this stark and arid landscape is totally transformed during the flower season which attracts thousands of people a week. The SANParks accommodation here consists of 4 self catering chalets based about 2km in from the reception area,which its self is a 21km ride off the main road so it most definitely remote. Each chalet can sleep two adults and two children so a group of 8 motorcyclists would be well suited here. The roads are good condition but with a little loose sand here and there so you do need to know what you are doing.

ZoroLater in the afternoon I was taken to were SANParks are involved in a breeding programme of Anatolian sheep dogs. This breed originates from Turkey and the dogs are raised with the herds and live amongst them for their working life. The dogs involved in this programme are given free to farmers or co operatives that agree to use them as a way of protecting the sheep against predictors rather than using traps and snares which don’t discriminate on what they trap. This protects the local bok, jackal and even aardvark population. The big guy in the picture is Zoro, he’s the head man when it comes to breeding……he looks happy hey??

I have decided to dine at the local farm stall tonight which has a pack packer style set up. I dont think this self catering thing suits me at all. I have definitely been spoilt at home, plus my cheese sandwiches had started to curl and looked rather limp! So meat and veg it is then. Yay!

Tomorrow I head south to ……who knows yet? Will decide when I get there.

Happy weekend

AJ