BARN OWL Tour
Bike SA|October 2021
NICK YELL TOUR
Nick Yell

Swaddled in our multilayered outfits, Annette and I mount our respective steeds and head off into a bone-chilling Overberg winter day. Our destination is a shabby-chic-cumboho barn on a Klein Karoo farm outside Ladismith. In theory, the 300km ride on the back roads should only take us five hours, but the effects of the recent heavy rains could waylay us.

Riding the coltish Blouperd (DR650) after the recent long journey on the mighty V-Strom 1050XT Adventure, is certainly different. Gone is the planted feel and back is the roguish agility of my pumper-carb driven thumper. Different as it is, I’m certainly not complaining; particularly that I’ve now had its old rock-hard saddle softened with plusher foam. Only a sheepskin-covered saddle would be better; but I’ll leave that until my backside turns 70.

Also recently fixed is the starter motor whose brushes decided to give in, but I suppose this was bound to happen on a bike that stood around for a long time and wasn’t started regularly. With all the bits and pieces I’ve now replaced and added I’m hoping Blouperd will see me over many a new horizon for years to come. “How’s Yeeha handling the mud?” I ask Annette as she ploughs through another patch of gruel on the Tractionator Adventure tyres fitted to the KLR.

“Fine,” she replies a little curtly, “but you said we’d miss the mud coming this way today.” Okay, so what I actually said is we should avoid the rain by going the southern route today and taking the northern route on the way back. But, as I heard a comedian say the other day, when God made woman from man’s seventh rib, it clearly was the one that would’ve given us males a sense of prescience and greater levels of emotional intelligence which women now seem to have in our stead.

Lo anyway…as the day goes on, and the sun on the canola fields dazzles our eyeballs yellow, so Annette’s confidence and enthusiasm returns. And there’s no better evidence of this than when I take a short new detour and guide us to the base of a massive wind generator.

Not only is she smiling at my canny ability to guide her to awesome sightings, but the visceral experience of this beast’s giant whooshing blades cutting through the yellow landscape has also her oohing and aahing as well. It’s on the odd occasion like this that I do get things right.

The rest of our ride to our petrol, coffee and sarmie stop just outside Swellendam is a blur of sunshine, butterflies and unicorns. Having ‘run out’ of petrol on my last trip on Blouperd (contrary to what my addled brain initially understood, there is a reserve function on the Acerbis petcock!) I was keen to see what sort of fuel usage I was getting. In-between draughts of delicious Oude Bistro coffee and bites of Annette’s egg sarmies, I calculated this to be a respectable 18, 7 km/l which, in theory, should give me a range of at least 350km. While I’ve been expecting a bit of a snotty ride on the mountain hugging dirt tracks from Suurbrak to Riversdale, I’ve not breathed a word of this to Annette. No use spoiling a good day with unnecessary angst is my thinking. But I’ve never seen the roads so wet and slippery, particularly when we pass by the many dairy farms en route whose herds’ hooves have stirred the ground into a mixture of chocolate mousse topped with Castrol GTX.

Yet, when I stop and wait for Annette on a flooded causeway, flaunting what I hope is a disarming boyish grin, she seems unfazed and turns down my offer to ride her bike over the 30metres of strong flowing river, saying she can handle it. Clearly, she has her off-road mojo back or her hormone pills have just kicked in; regardless what alchemy has brought on this change of heart I’m stoked and leap on Blouperd before my illusions can be shattered.

Seriously, though, for an occasional adventure rider on a bike that is really too tall for her, I’m impressed at the way she is handling the slippery conditions. Abreast of Heidelberg, I eschew the steep climb up Ertjiesvlei se Berg and make for the SonneskynJonkersfontein turn-off instead. It’s not the climb of the former road through “Die land van die Egiptyn’ that concerns me, though; it’s the seasonally flooded Zeekoeigat drift en route I know will not only flood the Formas, but freeze the nether regions, too.

Smug at my ribless foresight, I speed up the seemingly dry route I’ve chosen. But five minutes later, after passing through yet another herd of cows (yes, they were finally going home!) the beguiling dirt track turns to gruel. Thank God for knobbly tyres, otherwise I’d be seriously more unpopular than I’m sure to become as we both sashay drunkenly up the hill.

After doing so well, Annette is lured into the grassy embankment by a particularly alluring rut that has plotted her demise. When I look back again the bike is on its side and she is standing with hands-on-hips, indicating: “You brought me on this terrible road, now fix it!”

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