but i felt so alive!

my friend rp had suggested that as we go over the franschhoek pass towards villiersdorp, that i should take it easy, as there might be a breeze which would take my little 125cc bike for a fly. i was happy to note that as we came over the pass yesterday, there was not the even a hint of a breeze. i must confess that today, though, there was a slight one. a slight, gale-force breeze. followed about an hour later by a touch of torrential drizzle.


i have never in my life, that i can honestly remember, felt so cold. 60km along a national freeway with rain lashing at your body, collecting in shoes & clothes, and getting a bit of a wind-chill while it sits there, left me shaking like a leaf when i arrived home.


but in the beginning i felt so alive! and by the beginning i mean the pre-rain period, and the first 20km of rain i remember taking a walk in newlands forest with a friend a few years back, where we walked in the pouring rain. we were soaked to the bone, down to our last items, but we felt so good! probably because it is not the done thing, and we didn’t die doing it. and that is how the first 20km felt – great! then it got uncomfortable.


well, we took a chance on the weather, and we were lucky for the majority of our adventure. i’d been checking weather websites every day this week, with colleagues suggesting several never-wrong options, all vaguely indicating a hint of rain for later on saturday.


friday morning my alarm goes off, and it is raining. by the time i need to leave for work, the rain has stopped, the clouds are lighter and i am vascillating between going by car or taking a chance on going in by bike. i didn’t want to get wet on the way to work, and sit there for 4 wet hours… so there i was standing on my patch of grass, looking past the ever-present table mountain, deciding whether there were any vicious rain-carrying clouds between my home and the office…


in the end i strapped on my moon bag and rode to the office on skynin (the bike’s name) – and i didn’t encounter another drop of precipitation until today.


i am very proud at how lightly i packed – only a moon bag with camera, socks, jocks, backgammon set and toothbrush. i even managed to buy a book and fit that in on the way back (admittedly by wearing the spare socks & jocks…) going light is so much more fun – nothing on your back, and nothing unnecessary with you.


s.b. met me at the office at noon as agreed, and a few minutes later we had hit the national road north towards the winelands… me at full throttle on my 125, he coasting along casually on his 500cc bike… if it had been possible i would have seriously considered upgrading to a bigger bike in stellenbosch… not because i want more speed… no, no, just a little more power to handle the uphills and the long distance…


but we felt free… the open road, no work phone… nowhere to be… just go-as-you-please…. aaahh…


we stopped for lunch in stellenbosch at a place where we could sit in the sun… then went off to kfc for an avalance ice cream dessert… and it became clear to me for the first time how you are automatically “cool” and “admired” if you are wearing a black leather jacket with a helmet on your head and a motorbike between your legs.


yes, another friend of mine did once admit to “finding something sexy about a man straddling a bike”, but this is different. i’m not sure if it is just admiration, or if there is a small level of fear in people as well – not quite sure what to expect from a biker.


after the ice-cream we headed over the helshoogte pass to franschhoek, up the main road and then up the franschhoek pass. and down the other side towards the theewaterskloof dam.



this was, without a doubt, the part of the drive that made everything worthwhile… yes my bike took a little longer up the pass than others, but i don’t care. the view was stunning, and the windy road down the other side was sooooooooooooooooooooo much fun! (sorry mom… i promise i took it easy, i have no desire to die. i need to do this again!)


to feel the road wind along beneath you, to swing from side to side through the turns, to feel the sunshine on your back, to see the views, wow, it is so hard to explain. but it is what made the whole trip.


we cruised along the theewaterskloof dam, with more water than i have seen in a long time, into villiersdorp, where i instantly became glad i had checked the location of our overnight accommodation on our electronic map at the office. the new local authority has seen fit to remove all old road name signs while creating new ones. leaving all the roads nameless… but i figured out which way to go (yep, i’m good with maps like that!!!).


and as is becoming of a small town, the owners had gone to worcester for the day, leaving the cottage open for us, with the key inside the door, allowing us to settle in and immediately embark on a tour of the town.


this didn’t take long, but we did find second hand books in one of the local tuisnywerheid shops that also sell homemade bakes and jams… so i indulged and bought my 701st book… luckily i had space to take it home…


we made a booking at the only restaurant that would be open in town that night – it seems the restaurants take turns being open on fridays and saturdays – and headed back to our cottage with red wine in hand, and chilled on the stoep, watching the goings on of the neighbours. quite as is expected in these dorps. i know not who was more intrigued by the mutual watching – us visitors or the locals. all sitting on stoep watching each other. without making it obvious of course! and all the while the kids on their bicycles riding around care-free in a way that is seldom seen in cities anymore.


we had our annual backgammon challenge over dinner, in which i was beaten 2-1, much like every year i guess. and i still enjoy it and go back for more.


after dinner we headed to the local pub – yes there was one open. it seemed a little quiet for a friday night, and by the evening’s end we discovered why – when young women in fancy dresses walked in with young men uncomfortable in suits on their arms. the school’s matric dance seems to have taken place on friday.


this morning we took a pre-breakfast drive to elandskloof – the owner of ‘our’ cottage had suggested it as a nice ride with our bikes. skynin struggled a little, but it was well worth the effort. the views from up there! breathtaking. it went into a dead in kaaimansgat, finally revealing to me where the once-famous high noon safari farm had been, so popular in the 70s. these windy roads are very contagious…


after a breakfast in town, we headed on to the theewaterskloof dam wall – quite an impressive piece of construction. this visit was in keeping with our stop at the brand new breede river dam near franschhoek yesterday on our way in. for some reason i have always been fascinated by dams. not to the extent that i will fixate on them, but when i have a chance to stop and visit one, i will jump at the opportunity. and this one did not disappoint – showing us with it’s choppy layer of water just why we were passing “wind” signs on the roads in this area…


and so it is that i found myself in a moerse strong head-wind, travelling along the theewaterkloof dam towards the pass and into low-slung clouds that i knew would only bring rain. as a last minute peace offering, mother nature did send us the most incredible rainbow though. a full arc, over the water, and so bright i thought it was in neon-lights. a real beauty, which deleveloped into a double arc just before the first drops hit. thanks…


but the pass was no less fun in the opposite direction… just as exhilarating on the way down the other side, putting just as much of a grin on our faces J


we had a cup of coffee and piece of cake in franschhoek – which was interrupted by my bumping into no less than 4 people i know, weird – before we headed towards stellenbosch.


it was just outside franschhoek that the rain started… first slowly then getting unrelentingly harder and harder. we stopped briefly in stellenbosch to agree that we would not have a cup of coffee here – sb thought it would be uncomfortable… i thought that no-one would allow two drowned water-rats to sit in their chairs… but we both agreed that we were having the time of our lives, that we felt really alive.


this changed in the next 60 km, as  became aware of the true length of the road back to cape town… every moment colder…. less feeling and motion in my hands… less smiling on my face… less singing of “on the road again”…


but now as i write this a few hours later, after a hot bath, a snooze under a feather duvet, and ready for an evening with friends, the pain and discomfort is already…


nah, this was still dam cold!!



what bugged me today:  those first drops of wind-chilled rain water that flowed down the centre of the bike’s seat  into my … jeans…


what i learnt today: where the old high noon – so popular in the 70s – was situated


what i am grateful for: having hot water on top at home… there are still too many people in africa that don’t have that, yet so many of us take it for granted

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s