Thursday, October 28, 2010

Paardeberg Road and a small patch of sand

As I am always trying to take the scenic route, no matter where I am going, I did the same when I went to go fetch my passport in Malmesbury. I wasn't planning on taking the day off, so I left early with the hope of being back at the office early as well. I left at 7 am and knew that if I take the shortest route that I could be back shortly after 8. But I was hoping to get at least some gravel roads in, and to do that one has to do quite a bit of zigzag riding to Malmesbury and back. The temperature was around 14 deg C, but I think that 14 degrees in summer is different from 14 degrees in winter. I never once got cold and it was rather pleasant riding in warmer weather again.

The first gravel road was Malanshoogte, and after that Occultdale Road. Both of these roads I have done many times now and even though I nowadays ride them with the same enthusiasm than the road to work, it still beats taking the N7 to Malmesbury. From the Occultdale Road I came back to the Kalbaskraal Road, a tarred road but very bumpy. The bumpiness makes up for another boring stretch of tarred road.

When I arrived in Malmesbury and after thinking to myself that I can surely do better than this, I decided to head towards Riebeeck-Wes with the hope of finding other "yet-to-be-discovered" gravel roads. I was hardly out of Malmesbury, just past the Riebeeck-Wes turn-off when I saw a sign saying Paardeberg ("Horse Mountain"). Because I've always wanted to see what Paardeberg really looks like (compared to Table Mountain you cannot really call it more than a molehill), I decided to turn off not knowing where this  road was going to take me. All I knew was that I wasn't going to mess around too much as I wanted to get back to work. This road was heading in the right direction, back towards Table Mountain and Cape Town.

Paardeberg Road with Paardeberg in the background
Table Mountain in the distance

The Paardeberg Road started off well, the road was well kept and hard, so it was basically just a repeat of Malanshoogte and Occultdale road. The nice thing though is that I have never been there before and I had the opportunity to explore a new area. I was doing around 100km/h on the road with enough confidence to look around at the farms and vineyards. Every now and then a farm worker greeted me from the fields and I was thinking how nice it must be working and living there. Maybe they were thinking how nice it must be going for an early morning bike ride? Before too long the road started getting narrower and with some bends and up and downs. It didn't bother me much until I hit a patch of sand. What a way to raise your heart beat and lose bladder control. Fortunately the latter didn't happen, but I really got a fright when my front wheels started slipping around like on a wet floor feeling as if I had lost all control of my steering abilities. I immediately slowed down, wondering if that was the right thing to do. I guess hitting the ground at a lower speed will cause less damage to myself and the bike, but fortunately none of this happened. I did however realized that I still haven't fully recovered after my last fall in the sand and that my confidence when it comes to sand is still very low. I can manage the gravel roads pretty well now, but sand still seems to be a problem.

I'll swop my motorbike for this farm ;-)
After reaching tar again I worked my way back towards Cape Town, back to Occultdale Road and Malanshoogte. At this point the wind started picking up and I was thinking that riding in cold weather is probably much better than riding in windy weather. I don't think this was one of my best or most memorable rides ever, but it was still a much nicer way to go fetch a passport in Malmesbury without having to face the long and boring N7 with its constant traffic. A round tour of 120km which took me less than 2 hours. Not a bad way to start the day.

When I arrived back at the office I quickly looked for the contact details of the next sand riding courses. I emailed for a go on the 13th, but it was fully booked. Guess I am not the only one who still nearly wets his pants when he hits sand. The only place available was for the 11th of December and then early next year, but unfortunately I already have something else planned for then. I guess I am in for some more hair raising experiences before I finally get an opportunity to do that course.

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