Badplaas Weekend Trip: 5 - 7 August
a very beautiful Friday morning not so long ago we got together at Sidecar
Africa for bacon rolls, coffee and Chocolate cake! And off course, most
important to set off on our Badplaas trip.
Richard Wear, the instigator of this particular trip, made us bacon
rolls and because it was Louise Wheeler’s birthday earlier in
the week her and Greg brought a home baked fabulously iced chocolate
cake all the way from Melville in Impi – no mean feat! Also cannot
believe it’s been a year since Impi was her birthday gift. It’s
not only sidecars that fly – time does too!
Enough with the feeble jokes, onto the trip! At 9 o’clock sharp
we were all ready to leave and then we remembered we have to take photos
of ourselves, or at least Isaac must take pics of all of us. Seeing
as this is very NB, it took us approx 10 minutes to get everyone together
and smile at the same time. What can I say the monkeys really are an
had quite a few first time trippers – Arno & Zeta on Sputnik,
Mike & Birgit on Alice, Jude & Sheilagh on Layla and Greg &
Louise on Impi (who’ve been doing their own trips that you can
read about in the Trip Reports on our website, but joined us for first
So finally the merry band set off – Ry and Emma on Vladimir, Klara
and moi on Lola, Richard on Paisley (who refuses to take a monkey –
blow up or real) and our new comrades. We were heading to Badplaas via
via as Ryno had concocted a fabulous route for an ugly part of the country.
Once we got off the highway at Rigel offramp and onto the road to Delmas
the nerves settled and we found our riding rhythm.
Some of us scared ourselves more or less with the big trucks and road
and traffic but generally we were loosening up and the roads were in
infinitely better condition than anticipated.
Delmas we hit the dirt and immediately the day brightened up. I even
started thinking the landscape isn’t that ugly after all but I
think that was just brought on by the happiness of riding some lekker
dirt roads. After topping up with fuel in Delmas we high tailed it out
of there and drove on to Hendrina. I got so inspired with the riding
and the sunshine and the wind on my face and my little monkey smiling
and being as hungry as a lion that I did not come to a complete and
utter stop at a T-junction 4 kms outside Carolina and got a R1 500 fine
for disobeying a Stop sign! Anyway after a Wimpy burger, the only inspiring
thing in the whole of Carolina, I felt a little better and when Birgit
picked up R200 in the Ladies, she donated it to my Fine Fund. Very kind
Once I got over my stupidity and misfortune and realised if this was
the worst thing that happened on our trip we would really do well. So
fortified by my burger and everyone else smiling their Wimpy smiles
we got on to the last leg of our journey for the day. Wow did the scenery
changed fast and fantastically. Within a few kilometres from Carolina
we were flying through long lazy curves bombing up and down gentle hills
and dales – even the air changed! I swear I could hear it snap
crackle and pop – magnificent!
Badplaas hier kom ons! It was at a very civilised hour of the afternoon
that we presented ourselves at Neil and Nicky’s farm Maji-Ningi,
which would be our base for the next 2 days. We were made to feel real
welcome and after the intro and once everybody had found their place
to stay and unloaded sidecars and unpacked luggage we all headed for
the Hunter’s Camp where a fire was crackling and some cold, wet
we could say hello to the rest of the Badplaas Trip buddies –
Vic & Marianne on Igor, Madeleine and Liette on Olga and Dennis
& Jana on the Nameless One and of course last but definitely not
least, Kobus & Tes from team G’n Banggatte. The weather was
excellent, the company raucous and the food fabulous.
Saturday morning dawned beautifully. Today Neil would be leading out
his row of Ural ducks (as it turned out we were only Urals on this trip)
into the oldest mountains in the world with his friend and riding buddy
Gary riding sweep. Personally I had not given the ride for the day much
thought as it was Neil’s problem and I had complete faith and
trust that it would be good. Well, it wasn’t good, it was positively
fracking fantastic! I had no preconceived idea of what to expect so
it was one long series of surprises.
Once we got out of Badplaas and onto the Lochiel road I wasn’t
exactly ecstatic, but the mountains in the distance did promise some
interesting riding. As the rural settlements disappeared and the road
works turned out to be fun as opposed to a hindrance, my smile got wider
and Neil had spoken about doing us a brunch at the Club House of some
deserted old asbestos mine. That sounds nice I thought- wow, I had no
idea! We were riding deeper and deeper into the mountains, and I mean
mountains. Not hills, not koppies – real jaw dropping mountains
where they seem to have a back bone of granite. These are the oldest
mountains in the world and they were demanding respect, not just because
of their age!
The Mtsoli Asbestos Mine, now abandoned, is like time travel. 15 years
ago the residents of this little mining town was given 2 months before
the mine would be closed and all mining matters wrapped up. Unbelievable.
The houses, more than 200 of them are still there, just empty. For us
Gautengers it was a strange site to see so many abandoned, empty houses
that have not been vandalised. Nothing but time and nature have touched
these buildings. There is a thatched church, school, sports club, pool,
bowling greens. It felt quite Stephen King riding through this deserted
town and it felt to me if I turned around fast enough I would see people
on the tennis courts and hear them laughing and the noise of a car coming
down the street and a dog barking and and and………
Neil & Nicky both grew up in the town, so it was really special
to be able to ask them what it was like and them recalling childhood
days. The town is nestled in this incredible valley between very impressive
mountains. Nicky says one of her overriding memories from her youth
were the snakes in Mtsoli. I had to laugh as my thoughts as we were
turning to go down towards the Sports Club was ‘there must be
some impressive snakes here’. Mamba valley deluxe! Mambas or no
mambas we had a really good brunch supplied by Nicky and her daughter
and boyfriend which we wolfed down in no time.
Mtsoli Neil led us in the general direction of the Havelock cable way,
which we went under twice that I remembered. We were now travelling
in the direction of Bulembu in the Songimvelo Nature Reserve.The road
was just twisty enough to keep the adrenalin level healthily active.
It was on this section of our journey that I witnessed one of our intrepid
Ural riders tilting at a hill in true Don Quixote style! I have no idea
what was said but the next thing I saw Kobus riding down to the bottom
of this almighty hill and in true Don Kobus fashion give it a real go.
Although from our vantage point it was kind of clear that the chance
was slim, I still cheered for him. After his first rush at the hill,
which sat motionless and never budged, or blinked as far as I could
see, it became obvious that he was not going to win this one.
At the turn off to the Shiyalongubo Dam we were given the option for
the short road home via Barberton,
or to ride on to the dam and then return via Barberton to Badplaas.
What a question!? 3 sidecars headed on to Barberton on the tar road,
but the majority of us just grinned wider and geared up with glee. This
was really inspirational riding with us riding up into the mist clouds
and heaven according to my monkey and then down down through some untouched
indigenous forest that smelt just like heaven. There were some spectacular
ferns and all throughout the road twisted and turned up and down with
sometimes a glance through the trees of just how far it was down should
you lose your way.
It was as we came round a nasty left bend that I got a lot more than
I bargained on. To the immediate right of me Richard was underneath
his Ural with Kobus and Tes having found bush parking under some trees.
It looked like they had gone in there quite fast but they seemed okay.
After the initial ‘what the $@*&**%’!!!! resulting from
seeing a rider under an upside down Ural I managed to park Lola and
my monkey safely without flipping us too and out of the way of the following
sidecars and get to Richard. By then Richard was on his feet and in
no time Kobus and Mike and Jude had helped to put Paisley back on its
seeing as it seemed that the only real damage to Paisley was a cracked
speedometer glass, scratches on the petrol tank a missing indicator
at the back and the sheared off handlebars, it was definitely decided
by Kobus that this is fixable. The handle bars were not looking so great
but Kobus gave it one look and having been there before and most definitely
gotten the t-shirt he set out to re-attach the handle bars to the bike
with zip ties and straps. It worked like a bomb. True Ural fashion she
literally started on the very first push of the happy button. Rich had
some grazes on his hand which had by now been bandaged by the paraat
monkeys and he was no worse for wear other than that. By now Neil had
come to see what took us so long, he did look faintly surprised about
the attachment of the handle bars to the bike with cable ties and straps
but like a true adventure rider he didn’t look too fazed.
Although our spirits were not dampened by this at all as everybody was
just fine, we did check the pace a little. It was not too long before
we caught up with the rest of our party at the Shiyalongubo Dam.
Between Ryno and Mike and Jude somebody was always chaperoning Rich
so we all rumbled into The Digger’s Retreat for some refreshment
and revitalising so to speak. Some had hot chocolate some had coffee
and some had something a lot stronger. Strange place, it was the Saturday
afternoon of what was effectively a long weekend and there seemed to
be no one. Reminded me of holidays of my childhood in what was then
still Rhodesia – properly colonial and all.
Now it was the home stretch from Barberton to Badplaas on the R38 going
through Bothasnek and Nelsberg. Hey why has nobody ever said anything
about what a fabulous stretch of sidecar road this is!!? My monkey was
fast asleep and we flew sidecar style and had our last blast for the
day with Beethoven’s 5th as the sound track in my head.
When we pulled in to the Hunters’s Camp at Maji-Ningi Nicky had
already made the fire and we proceeded to celebrate the fact that all
of us had returned in one piece (sort of) and that we had really been
spoilt by Neil and our ever most patient sweep, Gary.
The only thing I want to say now is – when can we do this again!?