The Cederberg on two wheels

Posted by Chris Davies on 23 November 2010 Tags:,

My two friends, the father and son duo Fred and Freddie, are very much to be envied. In three short weeks they begin an epic two-month motorbike adventure up through Africa from Cape Town to Cairo. Having recently completed a similar (reverse) journey myself, I’ve been more than happy to throw in my two cents and provide whatever help and encouragement I can, and when Fred called me up last week with an offer to hit the back roads of the Cederberg to test out their new pannier system and bike mods, I was sold on the idea from the moment I saw his caller ID flashing invitingly on my cell phone.

I’ve been to the Cederberg many times over the last 20 years, but not recently, and never before by motorbike. It’s hardly an undiscovered wilderness for bikers, with plenty of weekend riders making the most of the beautiful scenery and largely empty dirt roads. Newly returned to Cape Town, and not having had an off-road bike here before, it was all completely new to me and a real eye opener to just how much the fun the area has to offer on two wheels.

We took a fairly direct route out of Cape Town, up the N7 and then off onto the first dirt just after Citrusdal. Personally I hate the N7. It just seems to be one of those roads that brings out the worst in drivers, a feeling well justified just outside Moorreesburg when a red Toyota something or other nearly flattened Fred as it tried to set a new land speed record for family hatchbacks. As far as I was concerned we couldn’t get onto the dirt soon enough. Next time I’ll find another route.

Once in the mountains, the perils of the highway faded rapidly away, to be replaced by (to me) the far more enjoyable perils of rocks and sand and mud. After a quick foray back to tar and lunch at the Yellow Aloe in Clanwilliam, we hit the gravel again, down to Wuppertal and up over the signposted 4×4 trail to Matjiesrivier. What a great ride and a perfect microcosm for the kind of roads greater Africa has to offer.

A couple of steepish climbs, plenty of lose rocks, a shallow river crossing or two and even a few (short) sections of deep sand to give us a bit of a work out. In the bright blue sunshine it was absolutely perfect riding… I must try and get up there in the winter. Those roads must get messy after a good rain.

We had a lot of fun and took it slow with plenty of photo breaks. The KLR’s fan was also acting up and the bike was overheating a bit with the strong tailwind denying airflow over the radiator. We didn’t mind. There was no rush.

The comedy moment of the day was provided by Fred senior shaking his head disapprovingly as his son narrowly missed clipping his new, wide panniers against his father’s parked bike. Not particularly funny in itself, but it set things up beautifully as, only moments later, Fred senior still tut-tuting over his son’s rash maneuver, pulled off, clipped panniers, and sent both father and son sprawling headlong into the bushes. Extremely amusing for me. Arguably less so for them (but I think they’ve got the feel for their new bike width now).

My own blonde moment came later that evening as we set up camp at the Cederberg Oasis. I was embarrassed to find that even after 22,000kms of sleeping in a tent, I was still capable of forgetting my tent poles back in Cape Town. Luckily my companions were happy to share and after plenty of beer (I do love ‘honesty bars’), about half a sheep’s worth of braai, and a solid (if rather cozy) night’s sleep we were on the road back through the rain to Cape Town the next morning. I think I’ll be back there very soon.