The Country Garden Tour
Bike SA|November 2020
The day didn’t start well. With the two old legends serviced and prepped the day before, the last thing you want to do is run out of petrol in your driveway.
Nick Yell

Especially when you then have to get in the car with your adventure kit on and drive to the garage with a petrol can, all the while knowing your better half is gnashing her teeth at your startling ineptitude.

But things improve dramatically once the bikes are fully fuelled and we are whistling up the N2 on this brisk spring morning in the Overberg. Our destination is the appropriately named guest farm, The Country Garden, in an uber fertile valley below the Klein Swartberg outside Ladismith. It’s here that my old friends, the Tuffin family, decided to lay their hats after selling up their successful horticultural business in Cape Town ten years back.

In a quest for a slightly different route plan, Annette and I will be following Overberg dirt tracks to Stormsvlei, a tar stretch via the Bonnievale wine lands to Montagu and then onto my old favourite, yet never boring, the Ouberg Pass and Kannaland route to Ladysmith. The next day we plan to wash the Karoo dust from our hair by dousing our heads in the warm waters off Witsand and then to head homeward via the new pont at Malgas.

With the Cape’s dams, at last, overflowing and the farmlands sodden with unusually high spring rainfall, the verges of the Jongensklip dirt tracks are bursting with exuberantly colourful wildflowers, their honeyed floral scents pleasurably intoxicating. The landscape has been washed clean (thanks for that Annette) and not even our knobbly tyres are able to coax a plume of dust from the damp dirt tracks. Riding conditions are perfect.

But with the fields so wet and even more unseasonal rain predicted, the farmers haven’t been able to harvest their burgeoning fields of wheat yet, and for those few that have, the danger is that if it rains heavily again, the wheat can rot in the windrows before the grain can be sorted from the chaff — the latter stored and the former baled.

For Annette and I, though, wholewheat grain addicts that we are, the sight of thousands of acres of fluffy golden wheat ears rippling in the wind currents are not the only testament to the immense farming talent we have in SA (hopefully the government will wake up before they all disappear to safer and more appreciative climes) it’s simply heart-warming for us to see.

Being a Monday morning, there’s even less traffic than usual on our chosen back road through the grain silo hamlet of Klipdale. It’s only the occasional spurring goose or flocks of balletic blue cranes that share this perfect pastoral tapestry with us as we make our way to the T-Junction at the R317 to Stormsvlei, outside the next village with a silo skyline: Protem.

I’ve recently forked out a fair chunk of cash on my two old bikes to keep them running well (valve settings and general servicing for the KLR and a new rectifier, fork seals and general servicing for the XRV750) which is fairly punitive to a wandering journalist’s meagre income. But as we burble along contentedly in newly married bliss, none of that matters at all. Clearly owning two older bikes allows us to ride together, and with Annette having her sights on another, less tall DR650 (a legend in its own right) in the near future, hopefully, we will soon have three bikes for around the price of a new Honda CRF250L or a Kawasaki Versys 300 — long may their old hearts beat strong and true.

After enjoying a hearty brunch of cheese omelettes and chips at Kloof Padstal in Montagu, we take up residence in two comfortable wicker armchairs in their garden. It’s here we indulge not only in quietude, birdsong and people-watching, but also tuck into a majorly decadent chocolate cake and another pot of coffee. Highly recommended. With the recent wet weather, I’m expecting the drifts on the Ouberg Pass road to be full of water and the track a little snotty; yet clearly the bulk of the rains have missed this south-western corner of the Klein Karoo. Having not ridden for eight months, Annette is very happy with the cool and dry conditions and slowing down a bit from my normal cruising speed of 85 km/h, I’m reminded of what it used to be like wandering around the Karoo in the days of my old Yamaha XT250* and how much more you’re able to take in around you. *(For those of you who’d like to read about Nick’s dim and distant past, his book, Circling the Great Karoo, is now available online at: https://www.printondemand.co.za/ online-book-store.html#!/Circling the-Great-Karoo/p/117287582/ category=31490169 )

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