Sunday, August 18, 2013

Plan B - A Bike Ride

If there are two things that you should never depend on for your own happiness then it is people and the weather. You are bound to be disappointed by one of them at some point. That's why you should always have a Plan B in your back pocket if you were looking forward to something that might add to your happiness and well-being.

After being bombarded by cold fronts for more than a week now, I have been dying to get out. When a hiking trip was unexpectedly cancelled I fortunately had a plan B...a bike trip to find waterfalls. After all the rain I was confident that the mountains around Cape Town were going to deliver some awesome falls and even though I was aware that they would be high up in the mountains, taking a ride and finding them was part of the fun. The only thing that might still stand in my way was the weather.

When I left my house at 8:15 the sun was struggling to push through the clouds which were the remains of the last two cold front that hit Cape Town the night before. I knew it was going to be a chilly ride, I was just not sure yet if it was going to be a wet one as well. Thirty minutes later I stopped at Klein Joostenberg Farm to have a breakfast and kill some time. I hoped that another hour would give me time to assess the weather, because in the direction of Paarl the clouds were hanging dangerously low on the mountains. 

When I left an hour later with a full stomach I have made up my mind, there is no way I was going home now. I was heading towards Du Toitskloof Pass despite my thermometer saying 8 degrees Celsius and the clouds still looming in the far distance. As I was ascending the mountain the only thing that was falling was the temperature, fortunately no rain. I was barely a few meters up when  I saw the first waterfall but could not stop. There was no place to pull over so I reluctantly pushed on. When I eventually stopped to take my first pictures I met up with a couple in a pick-up also on a mission to find waterfalls. We talked about how beautiful this country of ours is and met a couple of times along the way as we were pulling over from stop to stop to appreciate the views and take some pictures.

After I crossed the mountains the sun started breaking through, but it was still very cold. The temperature was fluctuating between 5 and 10 degrees but I was rather confident now that it was not going to rain. I took the Rawsonville road towards Slanghoek Valley. I was heading towards the Bainskloof Pass where I was expecting to find the best waterfalls. All along the way I could see that a lot of water must have flown over the past couple of days because "Flooding Ahead" warning signs were everywhere. Just after I turned off onto the Slanghoek Valley road I saw a sign saying that the bridge 17 kilometers ahead was flooded. I turn around or do I go check it out?

On the 17 km stretch towards the flooded bridge I passed a couple of cars coming from the front. Maybe they were farmers going into town, or maybe they were fools like me who decided to ignore the warning sign. I would only get my answer about 15 minutes later. Bummer. The low level-bridge was in fact flooded and there was no way I was going to swim through that. I have seen enough "World's Craziest Fools" to even attempt that. I had to find another way to Bainskloof so it was back on the road I came from.

After doing a 48km detour via a short gravel road called the Goudini Road, I reached the start of the Bainskloof Pass about 40 minutes later. I was a bit worried that there might also be problems with flooded roads as there were quite a few low-level bridges before you actually start climbing the pass. If that was the case then I was in for an even longer and boring detour. While I was taking pictures of a small waterfall next to the road, I took the opportunity to ask a passing motorist if they had come from the other side of the mountain and if the road was open. A confirmation eased my mind and all I had to do now was enjoy the rest of the ride and soak up the scenery.

The Bains Kloof Pass is probably my favourite tarred-road pass. In summer this place is extremely hot and one should actually walk the whole pass with a camera and a few cold beers to get the best shots. The scenery is amazing and I wasn't disappointed today either. Waterfalls galore. What was a bit of a disappointment though was the outcome of my pictures. For some reason my iPhone did not capture the good pictures it usually does, and even though I had my SLR camera with me I found it a bit tedious to take out all the time. I will not make this mistake again to pack it away in a backpack. Next time it is back in my topbox with its easy access. I am not sure if it was the weather or if my lens was dirty, but the focus was horrible out. Unfortunately you only realize that after your trip.

When I reached Wellington I was a bit disappointed that my trip was soon going to be over. From Wellington home-bound it is rather a boring road through the farmlands. Usually not much to see. This time I was wrong. I stopped a few times to have a look at the hills and some other rivers that were also in flood. I am glad the weather gave me a break today, but I definitely have to go back and take proper photos. Besides, any excuse to get on the bike again.....

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