Reader's BMW GS 800 bike trip to the Cedar Mountains

Paolo Stermin
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 EPIC ROAD TRIP: Wheels24 reader Paolo Stermin and his friends took their bikes on a weeklong road trip and uncovered some true gems along the way. Image: Paolo Stermin ~ Wheels24

Date of trip: November 10-13 2016
Motorbike: 2011 BMW GS 800
Experience level of rider: Novice (I have owned a bike for 6 months, though I do commute with it daily)
Off-road training complete: None (I have watched a number of basic off-road riding YouTube videos)

Day 1: 300kms covered (6 hours on the road)

My motorbike trip started from Durbanville, Cape Town. I was planning on riding by myself for two days and then meeting up with some work colleagues on the weekend, then continuing to ride with them over the weekend.

I kissed my wife and daughter goodbye and headed for the dirt roads of the Cederberg Mountains. I don’t recommend riding on your own but it was something I was eager on doing at the time - sometimes you just need peace and quiet to recollect your thoughts.

Gallery: Finding gravel roads on a BMW GS 800

I headed for Citrusdal via the N7. After filling up with petrol in Citrusdal (this was the last fuel stop for roughly 450km for me), I hit the dirt roads. I took the old Clanwilliam road which runs parallel to the N7. At the Algeria crossing I turned right and I rode over Nieuwoudt's pass followed by Uitkyk pass and continued to make way through the Cederberg.

Image: Paolo Stermin

The Algeria Cape Nature camping grounds are awesome, definitely worth a visit but be prepared to pay top dollar to stay here.

I continued through the Cederberg mountain range until I came to the T-junction at Matjiesrivier. At Matjiesrivier I turned left towards Wupperthal along the 4x4 route. Caution; this route is very technical and should only be undertaken by experienced riders - thank God I have some prior 4x4 vehicle experience so I understand the basics of off-roading.

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Even so I still had a few close calls and eventually hit the ground, lucky in soft sand (due to a lack of momentum) but it still cost me unpacking my bike in order to pick it up again.

The descent into Wupperthal is scary! There are some concrete sections in the road but often it is separated by some serious soil erosion sections.

Wupperthal is an oasis in the middle of nowhere. Not much to do here but the veldskoen factory is worth a visit.
From Wupperthal I made my way to the Biedouw Valley. I found very nice accommodation at the Mertenhof Guest Farm. Needless to say I was the only person in the campsite that night but it was just what the sole needed.

Image: Paolo Stermin

Day 2: 450km, mostly dirt roads (9.5 hours on the road)

My day started off by heading through the Biedouw valley, making my way to the R355 (a 250km dirt road joining Calvinia and Ceres).

I must have opened and closed between 12 and 15 farm gates along the first 60km stretch of road through the Biedouw valley! Not something which I enjoyed doing but one needs to respect the farmers, after all you are a guest on their land.

At Jai Yen Yen camp, near Uitspankraal, I had to attempt a water crossing over the Doringrivier. The water crossing was about 100m in length, with the water level above knee height. Thanks to Kyle from Jai Yen Yen camp who assisted by walking behind me through the river ensuring I stayed upright.

Image: Paolo Stermin

After the river crossing I hit a short 4x4 route taking me up into the Northern Cape. Along this stretch of road I saw a fair amount of game along the way but my highlight was riding alongside some ostriches, clocking them at 40km an hour for a few hundred metres along the road.

I then turned right onto the R355 (about 70km below Calvinia) and headed towards Ceres. The only vehicle I saw for 100 odd kilometres was a donkey cart! The gentlemen in the donkey cart stopped me to ask if I had seen another donkey cart further on up the road (no jokes!).

I stopped for a bite to eat at the Tankwa Padstal - this is a must stop location! It burnt down in 2014 after a local set it alight but was rebuilt by the community and travellers who have stopped here over the years.

After leaving the Padstal I turned off the R355, about 40km short of Ceres (at this point I realized I had enough petrol to make Touws River), onto the R46 and headed to Touws River to fill up.

I then headed towards Montagu, taking the R318. This stretch of road, about 80km in length is a most do route. I rode through the Koo, followed by the Keisie valleys (I regrettably did not stop to take photos as I was chasing daylight at this point).

I met up with my colleagues at Doringlaagte for the night, just outside Montagu - this is a must visit campsite, especially if you have kids!

Image: Paolo Stermin

Day 3 & 4: 600km covered

From Montagu we rode over the Ouberg pass to Touws River, then headed for the Tankwa Padstal (again) via the R355.

On the R355 we came across a biker lying on the side of the road, at first I thought he had fallen, turns out the moron was drunk! His mates had left him on the side of the road to sober up.

The Tankwa Padstal reminds me of a saloon from a Wild West movie - anything goes here. A must visit destination though!

Image: Paolo Stermin

From the Padstal we rode back to Touws River via the R356 to refuel, and then pushed on towards the Gatsrivier campsite in the Klein Karoo.

Along the way Ockert, one of my colleagues, lost control of his GS 1200 and did a proper job of taking himself out - thankfully he walked away unharmed - needless to say we photo bombed the event.

Gatsrivier really is "in die gat kant van die wêreld". It is a classic Karoo campsite. Facilities are very good, and if this is your type of thing, then this destination is worth a visit. But be warned, there is not much to do here.
Sunday morning we made our way home from Gatsrivier. This brought an end to four days of some hard riding for me, thoroughly enjoyable though - sole resting stuff.

Image: Paolo Stermin

Accommodation along the route

Algeria Cape Nature campsite
Mertenhof Guest Farm
Jai Yen Yen camp (Uitspankraal)
Tankwa Padstal 
Doringlaagte campsite
Gatsrivier campsite