I want to ride to the place where the wilderness commences…

| September 27, 2017 | Reply


I ride my bike,
In a restless wind
I’m going to chase the road again
I ride down twisty roads
I won’t forget
I’m heading west
Without a sad goodbye
And I’m heading west

Apologies to Cindy Lauper for changing her song to suit my motorcycle trip. It started as a wedding invite to Cape Town and Zandi’s birthday and instead of flying in like normal people it made sense to ride there on my motorbike… but not straight there no ways, to go via the north western part of SA, the long way round!  Originally I had buddies riding with me, and when they pulled out I decided to ride solo…..   a daunting ride on hectic off-road sections with no people and no cell phone reception..

But I had this my new KTM 1290 R, one of the most technologically advanced and powerful dual purpose machines ever built…

And what the Zulus call inkani, a stubborn determination to take up any challenge, plus a love of the wild open spaces.. .what my mother quoted to me from her favourite song on my departure …

“Give me land, lots of land and a starry sky above,

Don’t fence me in. Let me ride through that wide open country that I love.

Don’t fence me in. I want to ride to the place where the wilderness commences…”

Waving a tender goodbye to my gorgeous wife Sue I headed off down the highway, cruising 950km’s to Kakamas.  Wide open spaces of tar roads, the 1290 purrs along at times cruising easily at over 200km’s an hour.  Hard to believe that tomorrow this bike must be an enduro bike, but today I fly West, speedo cruise on, heated grips warming my hands and music pumping on the onboard system!


Day 2: Bushmanland is probably the most inhospitable area in South Africa, arid and largely with infertile soil and highly saline groundwater. Its wildlife however, both fauna and flora, though sparse, even when there is some spring rain, what does appear is highly unusual and often hauntingly beautiful. (Wikipedia)

I stop in Pofadder. What do you call Pofadder, a town, a village, a little fuel stop surrounded by red sand, black rock and jagged ridges of stone.  I am heading deep into those today into Bushmanland!

I have a cup of coffee at the rudest tea room on earth, buy a sticker with a puffadder (pofadder) on it, message my brother Khonya that I am heading in (in case I don’t emerge) and switch on my satellite phone.  With no more excuses to delay I head out of town and turn onto the long gravel road heading down onto the Orange River, border of SA and Namibia, and for the Pella 4×4 trail.   I switch the 1290 over to offroad mode, wind my screen to its lowest, hook up my route on the GPS, switch to Tracks4Africa offroad maps and head into nowhere.

After some spectacular long straight gravel roads I turn off onto the Pella 4×4 trail at the dusty outpost of Witbank.  A skinny coloured guy with yellow stained teeth and a weeks’ worth of stubble leaps over a broken barbed wire fence, a scraggly skinny brak scampers behind him.  He waves at me, I chat to him briefly in Afrikaans, confirming the start of the 4×4 route.

He nods towards the track, “Ja dis hy”, and squints up the road I have come,

“Where are the other riders?” he asks, “riders always come through here in a klomp (bunch).”

“I’m alone, stoksteel aleen” I say.

He blows a squeaky whistle through his yellow teeth, one cracked enough to allow the whistle.

“What’s the problem?” I ask as the brak sniffs my rear wheel and prepares to piss on it.

“This bike is for the tar road not the 4×4 track,” he says, clearly an expert on bikes.  “And the tyres” he says watching his dog piss on them, “they are not for the rocks where this track goes”.

“But Ja good luck” he says “you’ll see”, wondering off whistling through his cracked yellow teeth towards the little corrugated iron shebeen down the road.

From there on my theme song became Badlands by Bruce Springsteen… hectic spectacular riding. I missed my offroad bike more than once, a 250kg KTM gets entertaining in the sand. I am on that trail for 5 hours of nothing… no-one not even animals. When I stop the silence wraps around me. Beautiful desolate very alone country.

As I ride alone in wide open wild spaces it’s scary and exciting, I’m on my own on a tiny twee spoor jeep track.  It’s dry as hell and 37 degrees. At one time i travel along the Orange, a green gash of life and water splashing like a green snake through the desert.

The desert is beautiful beyond understanding, space stretches out in red sand, black rock, golden dry grass.



At times I enter dry sandy riverbeds and ride up them fighting my bucking bike. I stop to take a breather in one riverbed, deflate my tyres a little and pull off. My bike sinks into the sand and gets stuck, my heart sinks.  I push and tug, the bike won’t budge… shit what now.  Then I notice my bike has for some reason switched to street mode, maybe it heard old yellow teeth!  I switch to off-road, rev and my bike rises above the red sand and floats along the riverbed dodging salt bushes as I climb out onto a flat red crater, red sand stretching forever in all directions.

I am a speck on the earth, I am alone but not lonely, I feel free and alive.  I am the only thing alive here, at one point I stop at some ruins, who lived here? Did they die here the elements overwhelming them?

And suddenly I am out, on a tar road, and head towards the SA border to Oewerbos camp a green oasis on the river, to quench my thirst and ponder the day to come.

Tomorrow I enter the Richtersveld!


Day 3: The Richtersveld is a mountainous desert landscape characterised by rugged kloofs and high mountains. It is full of changing scenery from flat, sandy, coastal plains, to craggy sharp mountains of volcanic rock. The landscape is sometimes described as “Martian”.  Temperatures are extreme, and in summer can reach over 50 °C (122 °F). Rain is a very rare event.

From red sand to rock every colour white, jet black, red, twisted and torn like the earth has been buckled. In the Richtetsveld the silence is silent. When I stop its instantly silent and dry, dry, dry, the harshness in my face. Hardly a plant grows and the odd tree aloe and little succulents look dead.

My rocky track follows a riverbed up from the green Orange and into high ridges of rock.  Near the start the rocky fields assume human form, thousands of cairns of rocks have been built, like rock figures spread across the landscape, as if a lost soul built one for company in this lonely world.  I too stop and build my own little cairn of stones, in Msinga the Zulu have sivivane cairns, no-one passes without adding a stone and invoking the wish “inhlanhla bo koko” grant me good luck my ancestors.  I too ask my ancestors for luck as u place a little rock on my little cairn and climb further on the track feeling a little more alone as I leave….

The black rock ridges rise around me, a few wasted tree aloes holding on desperately for survival.  The rock covers the earth and instead of flowers the colours of the rock paint the earth.  In one area I for a moment think by some miracle white daisies have grown, but it is white stone in black rock.  I stop my bike leaving it lonely and alone on the road and climb up a ridge and look over to the next and the next waves of beautiful multi-colour stones, a great rockery of lifeless silence.


Further on, a long abandoned windmill spells the forlorn wish for water a monument to either hope or futility. Not even a breeze gives even the lifeless windmill life.

Then I’m out of the park, do you call a giant rockery a park?

I pass little Eksteenfontein… the sign of white stones on the hillside is larger than the town. What do people do here? Did god throw them here?

Miskien vir jou is die plek lelik (maybe for you this place is ugly)

maar vir my is die plek mooi (but for me this place is pretty)

maar hoekom sal ons nou hier bly  (but why do we live here)

want die Here het ons hier gegooi (because god threw us down here) (David Kramer)

The road splits at a nameless sign, I know from my map, the one route heads to Lekkersing the Northern route to Khubus.  As one should although I am heading South, I take the long way North via Khubus.

I ride through an amazing little rocky pass, there are signs of farms here, rusty fences, sheep kraals, but it seems impossible, maybe there are years of rain and green, but not now the earth is stonefaced.   The pass leads me down to the flat sandy coastal plain, as I emerge from the rocky world the cold tendrils of an Atlantic breeze tickle my face.

I head down a long straight sandy track, the cold wind buffets me and whisks away my dust and I sing to myself David Kramer’s “Matchbox full of Diamonds”

O ja, vanaand ry ek alleen (today I ride alone)

op die pad na lekka sing (on the road to Lekkersing)

want daars ‘n wet wat jou kan mal maak

en n wind wat die reen kan bring

The wind pulls and tugs at me as I pass the tiny ugly town of Lekkersing… why call it that.. it should be Lekkersuip… this place could make you drink.   The wind races me along the road to Lekkersing, across rolling sandy stretches to Kleinzee and on to Hondeklipbaai and Namaqualand.

Day 4:  Namaqualand is an arid region of Namibia and South Africa, extending along the west coast over 1,000 kilometres. The Namaqualand area’s landscape ranges from an unexploited coastal strip in the west to semi desert areas in the north-east. Famed for its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, its wild flowers during spring, its wealth of minerals and cultural history. (Wikipedia)

Entering Namaqua Nature reserve I expect carpets of flowers where we saw them last year and instead its red sand, gnarled scrub and barren dryness. The drought is hectic. Replacing the fragrance of flowers I breathe the dead smell of sheep! Despite this for the first time on my trip there is life in the harsh drought. A family of meerkats bounce across the road tails high, a duiker jumps across and over a fence… 20 ostrich race me and sheep play chicken across the road in front.

Then I turn towards the coast and head to Groenriviermond.

As I approach the Atlantic the temperature drops and the cold wind gives me shivers… is it the cold or a little fear of the sand monsters on that coastal track? It’s a barren lonely windy cold point where I enter the West Coast 4×4 route which hugs the sea coast on a tiny sandy track.

As I ride this track suddenly there are flowers, vygies and namaqua daisies fed from that cold fog and nightly dew. The desert is fed life by the cold sea. I head down the coastal track, surely one of the most beautiful rides in the world…a sandy twee spoor on the edge of the sea. I stand and race over the sand, flowers pink, orange, yellow, white speckle the red sand around me the foaming waves crashing a few metres from the thick sand dragging at my wheels my bike bucking and twisting against the track.

I am awed and humbled to ride here. Ride this before it’s gone before it’s a gravel road plied by mines like the one which rises like something from Dune.

A tiny mouse runs along in front of me and then a wild grey cat in pursuit… they split and dash different directions at my approach. Later another two cats (wild African Cats) dart away and flamingos take flight in a splash of pink.

Then 80km later I leave that insane track the giant power windmills waving me a silent goodbye

Day 5:  The Cederberg mountains and nature reserve are located near Clanwilliam, approximately 300 km north of Cape Town. The mountain range is named after the endangered Clanwilliam cedar. The mountains are noted for dramatic rock formations. The predominant vegetation is Mediterranean fynbos, changing to semi desert scrub.

Leaving the land of grape vines and Namaqua wine I ride into the Cedarburg meandering among fynbos and sheep farms. This world here seems tame compared to where I’ve ridden. It’s still beautiful though jagged contorted rock rising into high angry mountains. The road flick flacks between the rock tip toeing apologetically in and around the rocky ridges.

I pass a farm named Klip-op-mekaar (stones on top of each other), an apt description of this place.  I head through Wupperthal and from there climb into the rocks, Klipopmekaar, following the Wupperthal 4×4 route.


What was once beautiful fynbos and cedars, a devastating fire has turned into a moonscape of charred veldt and fire blackened stone.


I have a quick drink at the popular bikers spot, the Cedarburg Oasis and then head towards Ceres on a lovely gravel twisty road flick flacking up and down the low mountain ridges.

Too soon I find the tar, stop, flick my bike to sports mode from offroad and my awesome 1290R and I ‘het wind gedrink’ (drank the wind) speeding past flowering pink and white fragrant fruit trees towards Cape Town.

Behind me I have diced dust devils, got high on silence and rode among sand monsters and rock gardens. I’m in love with a big sky and wide open spaces… and I want to go back…

“Give me land, lots of land and a starry sky above,

Don’t fence me in. Let me ride through that wide open country that I love.

Don’t fence me in. I want to ride to the place where the wilderness commences…”


Category: South Africa, TRIP REPORTS

About the Author ()

Leave a Reply