Gatsrivier â¦. Gats What! I had never heard of the place but an overnight, off-road ride with the BMW club was all I needed to get shivers of anticipation for a great outing â whatever the destination!
So it was that early on February 8th, my ever enthusiastic pillion and I were fighting our way through the heaviest mist imaginable along the N1 to the Plattekloof rendezvous. First to arrive, we got stuck into a greasy but pleasant egg and bacon breakfast and waited for the troops to arrive.
The pelaton left bang on time and there is definitely a feeling of superiority riding in formation along the highway with the combined roar of 20 something motorcycles.
Our route took us over Du Toits Kloof pass; past Rawsonville; Robertson and Ashton, where we finally reached the dirt roads and deflated tyres. The road from there took a winding, variable course through the desert scrub and the views were just marvellous. There were enumerable drifts, each one different to the next. The riders spread out and the puff of dust from front riders can be seen miles ahead. At each cross-road and intersection, a rider will wait for the next to arrive to ensure no-one is lost along the way.
The first mishap of the trip was Jacqui, whose bike flew off into the desert when an un-anticipated patch of mud at the bottom of a drift tripped her up. Fortunately, rider and bike escaped injury and many helping hands recovered the bike and a small amount of duct tape secured the left indictor.
I was the next casualty and misjudged my entrance to a river crossing. This ended with the bike facing the way we had come and my long suffering darling and me floating gently in the sludge. In the process, one pannier broke from the bike and we were grateful for the back-up vehicle onto which both side panniers were transferred.
Next came a shortish section of thick sand (fesh-fesh) were I distinguished myself by falling twice! The only saving grace at this stage was that I wasnât the only one and furthermore Darling seemed to take this all in her stride. Once back on reasonable terrain, we rode for another half-hour or so until we came across a section of road completely washed away and impassable by the enduro bikes. Just when we were thinking that we had to back-track again, an intrepid rider found a detour around the river bed and we all crossed safely, barring the back-up vehicle, which broke the jockey wheel of the trailer.
Ultimately, after a flat, fast section of road, we arrived hot and very dusty at Touwsrivier, where we all piled into the local Steers for much needed sustenance.
Refreshed and invigorated, we set off once again, heading 2kms North on the N1 before turning off onto the dirt again. What followed was a long and blissful ride through the desert, seemingly the whole countryside was ours and ours alone. Not even the other riders in the group were visible, except when it became necessary to take over directional duty from the rider ahead and pass the responsibility onto the rider behind. The last 10 kms following the Gatsrivier turn-off were rocky and slippery and a small challenge to a rider like me after so many hours in the saddle.
We arrived at the camp at about 4:30 and it wasnât long until the entire team were ensconced in the plunge pool, or cuddle puddle, as it was affectionately called, ice cold beer in hand. Conversation was filled with war stories and jokes and everyone was really chilled.
So what is Gatsrivier? It is actually the Gatsrivier Holiday Farm, on the confluence of the Gats and Tankwa rivers. It is owned by Hennie Visser and boasts numerous camp sites and 5 cottages of varying sizes. It has a lapa and a conference centre. There is only one road in and one road out and it is in the middle of nowhere. GPS co-ordinates: South 32 degrees 53â 26.64ââ; East 20 degrees 16â 56.19â. Contact [email protected] or phone: 082 875 0940.
The camp sites are delightful with lush green grass and shade at every site. There is an honesty bar at the lapa and it is here that dinner was served. Cooked up on a large braai, we were presented with an unbelievable meal of ribs; chops; sosaties; boerewors; kebabs; braai cooked bread; salads etc. An amazing effort from Hennie and his team. The lapa has mist sprayers, so if the heat is too intense, you are catered for. Oh, and the ablutions are great.
We had a very social and entertaining evening with a number of forfeits issued to riders for various (concocted) reasons. Needless to say, I won the Red Bull prize â to give me wings and the obligatory down-down.
Sleep came early (to some) and the quiet and the stars of the Karoo are always a tremendous treat. No cellphone reception here!
Next morning breakfast was truly amazing â equal to most 5 star accommodation. How they achieve this so far from anywhere, has to be admired.
Back on the bikes by 9:00, we were about 5 minutes into our journey when Megan fell on the rocks and injured herself. Her left hand in particular was really sore and the poor brave girl had to continue the ride in obvious pain. The ride itself was fantastic in the early Karoo sun and I canât helped feeling really privileged to have such amazing countryside to ride in.
At the Ceres turn-off, the group split and Megan and husband, Henk, went ahead to get home as soon as possible. Half the riders elected to take a mountain pass but the idea of a section of over 500 metres of fesh-fesh put the rest of us off and we took the road toward Ceres. One luckless rider was given no choice. His ailing motor cycle had to be transferred onto the trailer.
The ride to Ceres continued to be marvellous but we soon left the gravel behind us and travelled the last few kilometres into Ceres on tar. There, we had a final refuel and re-inflated tyres. We said a fond farewell to the remnants of the team and all threaded our way home.