From Houthoop to Koringkorrel Baai, Seamus shares with us day 4 - 6 of their Bikamino Reece through the Namaqualand.
Read Part 1 here
Photo Credits: Jacques Marais, Frans Fourie, Frans Fourie and Seamus Allardice
Day 4: Houthoop to Luiperdskloof | 71km with 1 335m of climbing
Heading back inland, after a night spent near the coast was always going to include some climbing; especially as the day’s final destination was the Luiperdskloof cottage in the North Eastern mountains of the Namaqua National Park. But first we had the plains of the Sandveld to re-cross as Zane and I rode to Komaggas.
The by now familiar sparse Sandveld vegetation is, I will admit, not my favourite of the Namaqua floral regions; so I was amazed and frankly delighted when the grey shrubs suddenly gave way to thorn trees and green grasses just before Komaggas. It was like cycling unexpectedly over a rise and into the bushveld.
We stopped under a tree for a bit, as by that stage both of us were looking for any excuse to get our backpacks off for a couple of minutes. The constant weight of a pack on your shoulders, regardless of how comfortable it might be, gets wearisome after three and a bit days on the bike…
After our bushveld stop we made our way into Komaggas were we stopped for a lunch of Frito chips and a shared Black Label quart. It was hands down the least healthy meal we had on the trip, but at least we could ride it off. And the next section provided the opportunity to sweat out those calories pretty quickly as the route began to climb through a steppe like terrain into the foothills of the mountains. The climb to the Messelpad, which runs along the top of the mountain range, took us from two hundred meters above sea level to a shade over six hundred meters in eight kilometres. It was pretty steep in sections, but the amazing riding on the Messelpad and the views over the more Namaqua mountain meadows it provided more than made up for the exertion required.
Zane provided the excitement of the day on that section of the route when we rode through a flock of grazing goats, only to be chased by the Africanis dogs which were guarding the flock. Zane had been fiddling with his GoPro as we past the dogs, which had hardly batted an eyelid until we got between them and their flock – then they decided we were a threat and proceeded to give chase. Zane came flying past me as the barking started, but was too intent on not getting bitten to get a photo, despite having a camera in hand. Fortunately the pair of hounds were of a medium size, if one of the big Anatolian shepherds – which are so popular in the region – we would still be fleeing.
A few kilometres later we opened one of the Namaqua National Park’s unmanned gates, descended the top half of the Wildeperdehoek Pass and then started the agonising final ascent to Luiperdskloof. The final six kilometres of the day were filled with false summits, but eventually we reached the exquisitely secluded Luiperdskloof. It is definitely worth the climb and if you ride in on your own I’d suggest taking hiking gear and spending a couple of days off the bike exploring the mountains on foot to really soak up the remoteness of the location.
Day 5: Luiperdskloof to Hondeklipbaai | 72km with 586m of climbing
By the fifth day fatigue was starting to set in, in a big way. I was therefore not particularly sorry to hear Jacques’ plan that we reroute down the Wildeperdehoek Pass, which would cut ten rather mountainous kilometres from the day’s ride.
We set off, climbing and then descending out of the mountains around Luiperdskloof before regrouping with Jacques, Frans and Karien on the Wildeperdehoek Pass. We made roadside coffee while they took photos and video footage, before setting up to capture the panoramic vistas over the Namaqua grasslands which the Wildeperdehoek Pass offers.
With the cameras rolling we sped down the pass and set our sights on Hondeklipbaai, which required a third traverse of the Sandveld in as many days. I will confess to a serious sense of humour failure… The relentless corrugations were starting to fray at my nerves. Then when Jacques told me, erroneously, that there were only eighteen kilometres left in the day I could almost taste the fish and chips from the Rooi Spinnekop restaurant, in Hondeklipbaai. By the time eighteen kilometres had ticked away we were still at least fifteen kilometres from our destination… so I lost my cool and angry pedalled the remaining distance at the fastest pace I’d managed throughout the trip.
Fortunately double lunch and double servings of coffee cake were on hand to improve my mood. Along with the promise of a surf in the morning.
Day 6: Hondeklipbaai to Koringkorrel Baai
After a typically slow start to the morning, which had seen us get up an hour earlier than usual to hit the surf at sunrise, we eventually rolled out of Koingnaas where we had spent the night – after filling up with fuel and getting lost (no mean feat considering the town has about 12 streets). We did manage to have a surf though. I joined Zane for an hour before he left and Jacques took over in the water with me.
Unfortunately the surf proved to be the final straw for me and I came out of the water feeling exceptionally nauseas. Zane meanwhile had decided to drive the first section of the day to save some time, as we were already running late. By the time Jacques and I caught up with the rest of the crew, post surf, Zane had been riding for about five kilometres and was off the main gravel road onto the jeep tracks towards the coastal campsites in the Namaqua National Park.
I joined him briefly but only managed to ride five kilometres myself, before it became clear that riding was a bad idea. So I joined Jacques in the bakkie for the rest of the day.
I was disappointed not to be able to finish what would have been my final day on the Bikamino, on the bike. But it does leave me with unfinished business in the Namaqualand.
That night we set up camp at Koringkorrel Baai; where in 1941, ex-South African Olympian turned Nazi agent, Robey Leibbrandt rowed ashore as he began what would ultimately prove to be an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Jan Smuts.
After five days of carrying all the camping gear on our bikes it was great to get the chance to pitch the Starlight II tent. I’d used the Explorer sleeping bag a few times by then and so I knew I would be warm in it while camping, regardless of the weather blowing in from the North West.
At two in the morning I awoke to the sound of drizzle on the tent, a rarity for such a dry area – but also a hint of what was to come for poor Zane who would be carrying on alone from day seven onwards.