Namaqua African Rally, no smelling the daisies!

| May 13, 2014 | Comments (0)

I have never raced but this looked interesting http://www.namaquaafricanrally.com

The Rally Raid section which I entered follows the race route but participants don’t race. I decided to do it on my KTM 1190 R which at 200kg’s + is more of an on off road touring bike than an offroad racer.

But hell what’s adventure —-

I upped my exercise regime & started doing long weekend rides standing the whole time & finding lots of technical routes where only little scramblers venture. On one ride I entered the river bed & struggled through the sand. Some little 250 & 300 bikes came past me as I rested at 1 spot. “are you lost bru?” one shouted. “no practicing on sand” I said. “You’re mad” he shouted & rode off!

On another day just after some big rains, I struggled through the black cloying mud until my front mudshield snapped off. The others on little bikes couldn’t make it through either!

At the start at the CT waterfront about 90 odd bikes & quads assembled, impressive expensive race machines & pro riders. In this presence my bike looked like an elephant at a gazelle gathering, I was slightly perturbed especially when a few pro looking guys walked past my bike, examined it carefully & then shook their heads in disbelief!

I did the required scrutineering basically a check on your bike to see it can make the event, which was a real waste, after spending days getting everything ready & buying things like antibiotics which for some reason had to be in the medical aid kit, we were handed a checklist & ticked off the items in 30 seconds. I got my race number, 69, I though this appropriate with my surname! Sue approved

After this we just sat around doing nothing which was a little irritating. A fancy ceremonial start had us lined up & introduced, then were told to meet at Vredendal 300 km’s away for the start.

The first afternoon was a prologue, a 50km race to determine starting positions, not racing I joined anther Rally Raider, Ralf on what I expected to be a leisurely ride to Vredendal. I had met Rolf at the start & he was riding a 450 Husqvarna with a long range tank. Dressed almost casually in a tattered denim riding jacket & very battered riding boots I wondered to myself how he would last & how slow the ride would be!

Leaving Cape Town at 7 it was still dark & cold, I followed & settled in for a slow ride behind Ralf. This illusion was gone in the first 5 minutes as Rolf tore off with a roar racing through the bends of old Kaapse Weg like a man possessed. It’s our prologue grinned Rolf as we did a speedy 580 km mainly offroad route to Vredendal instead of 300. Malmesbury, Piketburg, Kapteinskloof, Citrusdal, up a magnificent pass to Algeria!!, then we headed back south to the Cedaburg Oasis for a quick lunch, then U turn & a 4×4 track to Wuppertal, Clan William, along the river to Klawer all on twisty cool gravel roads. Ralf has two setting on his bike, off on its side stand or flat out as fast as he can go & he wasn’t racing! Now I was getting nervous!

Fairly bushed from my breakneck speed unexpected almost 600 km ride I was quite happy to settle into my new home sweet home, the Namaqua Rally Bivouac on the Vredendal Sports Grounds.

Some teams had a proper setup with full support teams, others like us were a pup tent & a trommel. The Namaqua wines guys had set up a massive truck & bar with free & flowing wine.

The Rally Raid group on motorbikes was led by Shaun from my local dealer RAD on a 990, Ralf the racing Swiss on his 450 Husky, Francois on his battered trusty 690 & me on the 1190R. Two side by side quad type things & a quad lumbered along behind us, although we waited for them at the start it was like waiting for a herd of buffalos, & we soon left them behind!

Day 1 started with a ride through the Namaqua wines brewery which was quite cool, the whole rally group rode past these huge brewing tanks a couple of daredevils wheeling through!

The start, riders leaving 1 minute apart, us at the rear.

On the count we rocketed off eagerly, the dust was insane as we caught the rear riders. The road books give warnings of dongas, sharp bends etc, in our case we were following a GPS route with none of this. We did not get lost but we also hit some huge obstacles. At one stage a massive donga appeared out the dust & too late I rode into & power wheelied out the other side my heart pounding. Shaun showing how it’s done!

The first 40 km’s were just dust, race, bends appearing out of nowhere, oh shit s& patches, jump shit that was a big hole, fuck I can’t see, & a lot of bikes ahead, around, overtaking. I got my first experience of proper s&, a long twee spoor bendy route with thick soft s&. I leant back gave the overpowered 1190 its head & powered along at one stage surging past a bunch of BMW race bikes. It was fun but scary.

At the briefing we had been told that there was a sensitive conservation area with a 25km speed limit. The front few bikes respected this. The next batch mainly quads no doubt powered through here at speed. The farmer was having a quiet braai & I can imagine his face & his friends as 20 odd quads & a few rally bikes powered past showering them with dust. They must have felt like the Iraqis when the American armored brigades burst in, farmers & sheep scattering & cursing in every direction.
As we arrived at the start of this section we found the gate locked. This was the second lock, the first having been broken by a rider! As we milled around trying to work out what to do one of the quad bikes with us pushed down the fence & asked us to hold it down while everyone took turns to ride over it. Are you mad we shouted stopping him, retracing our steps & finding a detour we re-joined the route about 10km’s later.

After finding a detour we hit the route again, a great twisty track through thick Protea scrub, some of the Proteas in flower. I did consider stopping to smell the roses as it were but the quad bikes lumbering behind gave so much dust that they were an incentive to stay ahead. A mix of rocky tracks which were very twisty with sandy surprises were followed by long flats.

We chased the back end, at one stage stopping to refuel a quad, 1190 fuel bowser … even they need love! When I sent this pic out on whatsapp I caused consternation, sue and the rest of the people at home decided I’d broken down! BAD karma guys

A great day & over 350km’s riding. The sand was wild but number 69 blew all before it
Ralf came too fast through the dust & a concrete causeway appeared out of nowhere, trying to keep control he hit one of the concrete blocks on the side. Without a proper boot he’d be without a leg! A few riders had falls cranking it through the insane dust. The next day we decided to keep a Rolf Gap, hanging back out of the dust.

Day 2 Beautiful country. LOTS of sand at first I was nervous & did some waddling but then got it, power up, lean back & let the bitch shake between your legs! Long fast sandy sections handled best at speed..

I’m famous for how many punctures I get, this time it was the Husqvarna! Snow in Namaqualand!

And this great spot, Brandewynkrall, reminded me of my friend Andy who married a US girl called Brandi for a while.. I think this is where they were to live!l?

The last part of day two was stunning riding, & the last 100km’s particularly so, Shaun, Francois & Ralf got some serious speeds sliding through corners & generally having a blast.

I was slightly more circumspect although at times I was doing between 100 & 130 km’s an hour along these routes. Circumspect would pay off later!

Near the end I came too fast into a sandy river section with a 90 degree bend, I knew I should look into the corner, I knew I should be shifting my weight & powering through, but I kept my eyes on the bush & s& bank, my arms locked tight! The bike crashed through some bushes, leapt over a s& bank & then number 69 gave me a blow job, well actually a massive blow on my leg as it landed on top of me. Fuck what an idiot I cursed using the other leg to push the bike off my trapped leg!

Day 3 Ankle looking shocking but not that sore so I’m ready to ride. Then the stage was cancelled.

Not sure why but the organisers blamed the weather, then they blamed the fallout caused among the farmers by the first days race through the 25km section, plus apparently the traffic police changed their tolerant attitude towards all the quads which are not road licenced. Whatever the real reason was, there was serious unhappiness among the racers directed at the organisers! We came to ride so a bunch of us decided to go down to the sea & found quaint little Doring Bay to explore. Doring baai in the mist..

Then we found the wine cellar on the jetty!

Wine tasting on the jetty trying to sip the wine & look sophisticated… after a snoekkoekie starter, & no that was not any local bokkie, lots of red wine, calamari & fish later we stumbled onto our bikes the hot riders wheelying very responsibly down the road!

Beers at Strandfontein followed & just to show how responsible we all were we rode across the caravan park, between the no access bollards & shot up a fishing track along the edge of the ocean having our own little rally along the edge of the cliffs. The views were awesome!

Day 4 ; Our little group of Rally Raiders decided to leave ahead of the racers that morning so that we could find a place ahead of the racing to watch the racers come by.

Watch the wash aways” said George Booker the organiser as we passed him at the start of the race section. Shaun rocketed ahead at his normal speed Rolf eating his dust & I at the rear. Washaway!

Something about 990s when I’m around! Shaun found a donga at speed, might have been called a washaway but it sure looked like a donga!

The 1190 is both a fuel bowser & tow truck. I towed unfortunate Shaun back to the refuel point then the remaining 3 of us raced ahead to find a viewpoint. Not long before Brett Cummings rocketed past at speed leading the pack!

We even had a little time to smell the flowers

We found a BMW at the end of one of the stages, Francois towed him to the checkpoint only to realise that he was just low on fuel, a few litres from the 1190 fuel bowser & he was off.

My ankle was not looking good!

Sue’s comment Omg!! that does not look good please go see the medics! Khonya “get medical advice you could get a blood clot!”
I decided to go & checkout the foot with the medics. The medic in charge was a let’s say strong chic just back from Afghanistan, no snoekkoekie this one. She was short on sympathy & after prodding my swollen member disdainfully said “the only cure is wine for you & ice for the leg”. Great diagnosis I gasped as she prodded my angle again, I leapt away before she asked me my bike number & got any ideas! The Namaqua directors readily agreed with the diagnosis & brought me a wine box & Shaun a bucket full of ice. Crikey I’ll get gout before a clot! & the leg will be amputated for frost bite. Johan made sure my treatment was adhered to fully!

Day 5, the last day. Today we have 250 km’s with a 90 km racing stage along the sea

The start by da sea on the last day.

The route was beautiful & we took it easy on the easy track until the sand arrived! OMG sand seemed to go on forever. The big 1190 doesn’t float across the sand so I worked hard. After a while I came to terms with the fact that the bike was better than me at this , relaxed got some speed over the sand & started enjoying it. Shaun on a borrowed 500 shot off doing the section in a top 10 time!

Pretending to be stopping for a photo opportunity when actually recovering from serious arm pump.

The end of the racing section & the end of the rally. Ralf & I limping along from bike related bangs, Shaun without his 990 & Francois the only one injury & crash free although his 690 needed more attention than my foot!

The winner Brett Cummings showing his style!

& for me … looks like I found myself a more appropriate rally machine.. does this mean the formidable Amageza Rally in November http://amageza.com/web/ , racing the Namaqua next year? Hmm ……

 

Category: South Africa, TRIP REPORTS

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