A mini Karoo Gravel bike packing weekend. 

This past weekend (5-6 September 2020) we set out on a tiny bike packing adventure. On paper, designed by co-graveluer Jarryd, it was a very beautiful, scenic two-day adventure from Maitjiesfontein to Sutherland and back. Some 350kms on the cards. The weather however had other ideas.

On Friday evening we got acquainted with our bikes and bike-packing bags. There was more laughter than anything else; and productivity was at an all-time low with a few guys puzzling together clothes, food and other necessities for the trip into their frame, seatpost and handlebar bags on Friday evening before dinner. We felt like a bunch of school boys, buzzing with the same excitement as when we received our first bicycles years ago. 

About 60km into day 1, we turned left onto a dirt road that felt like a highway for the first 200m. Thereafter it quickly became a tad muddy, bumpy and lumpy as we made our way to the bottom of the mighty Oubegrpass. Before we could begin our assault on the pass in earnest Chris suffered a mechanical. While he struggled to fix it we took shelter under a solar panel in the middle of nowhere.

Fortunately, the mighty Gary was on hand to fix it. After our stop we soldiered on with trench foot, from hours of riding in wet shoes, and shivering bodies.  Few of the crew had been on bike-packing adventures before, which played quite well in the favour of some not so familiar with the procedures. Meet Gary. It was his first real gravel ride, never mind gravel ride; but put that all in together with frame bags and a two-day trip into the unknown. He would later become a key part in fixing things… A long story short, Gary is a champion in a few cycling disciplines, often those involving going downhill fast. So, he embraced the challenge with open arms and threw a few of us into the deep end by descending like a bat.   

The climb was brutal.  We rode and walked and rode again, reaching the summit, finally, after a 2-hour slog. By this time, we were so cold, words can’t describe it. I think Munnik came closest by saying it felt as if the worms in his body were climbing out, to escape the cold. We had a good chuckle before marching on towards our destination, Sutherland. 

Cokes, coffee, beers and long warm showers later, we took up a table in the local restaurant for possibly the best value for money burgers in the Southern Hemisphere. Broken bodies, full fed soles, we embraced warm beds before rolling out on Sunday; in the Sunshine. Thankful of the much warmer weather. Jarryd took us on a stunning route, navigating over some hidden valleys before spitting us out onto the tar road about 30 kilometres from Maitjiesfontein. The route was 70% gravel, we took all our own snacks, liquids and the traditional peanut butter sandwiches. We learnt once again on these past two days that no matter what age, or background; we all share in the joy of bicycle riding. (Out of interest, the ages of those on the trip ranged from 25 to 59).

We love what we do, this lifestyle fills us with joy and for sure we’ll be doing a few more of these rides, with friends, in the summer months.

We still need to go back to Oubergpass to actually see the view…


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