Scratches and Bruises, klip jumping like Dassie Cruisers. Gate Crashes and Ghost Ride Flashes, Bunny Hops, and Shebeen Shop Stops. Steep down-hill Fire Break Dares, and a splash of Bike Repairs. A ton-a-Fun and miles of smiles. These are a few of my favourite things.
And of course, many, many BRAAAPs!
This is the short of the short to describe the first ever Roof Of Zoutpansberg (ROZ) Lite, held over the June long weekend, just outside Louis Trichardt in Limpopo province. The weekend saw riders riding, slipping, sliding, crawling and manoeuvring their bikes on, over and around the beautiful Soutpansberg Mountains. ROZ Lite is not a race – it’s a lekker chilled outride weekend through breathtaking forestry plantations, natural sub-tropical forests, bushveld and rocky plateaus.
But before I continue, first a big thanx to our generous sponsors for all the handouts at the event. In alphabetical order: ACC Billet Engineering, BB Motorsport, EMD Racing, Full Throttle, Musgrave Racing, RaceStar Graphics and Superarc. You guys are great!
Back to the story… With peeps joining us from Vereeniging, Pretoria, and Messina, most of us set out early Thursday morning in a 5-car convoy from the Petroport just outside P-town. I lead the way north in my Jetta, lugging a moerse trailer laden with bikes, bicycles, and other (mostly female) gear. 4 bakkies stacked with BRAAAP mobiles followed in close pursuit. The drive was easy and eventless, bar for my e-toll tag not working at several toll gates. This caused me having to reverse the monstrosity of a trailer back out of the lane with other e-tag holders all frantically trying to get out of my way. I saw them glaring at me. I know what they were thinking. This is the e-toll lane poepol. Get outta-the way! Pssshhh! Tourists! But that’s part of the “fun” in getting there. So was accidently taking a wrong turn in Polokwane. I immediately realized my mistake, and continued to make a wide heuey around the first traffic circle. Convoy in tow – although everybody seemed a bit confused suddenly seeing me approaching from the front.
Anyway, the rest of the journey was pretty uneventful, except for the friendly banter on the weekend ROZ Whatsapp group, a painting of a ‘very gifted’ semi naked lady on a rural hardware store’s wall, and a few very well executed local wildlife mating calls.
We reached Hengel Paradys, our base camp, on the banks of the Albasini dam by mid afternoon. We quickly unpacked and introduced the weekend guides – the Bouwer Boeties to the riding group. Then we did a quick kit-up, and made dust clouds into the mountains to have a well deserved sun downer. Overlooking the trees and large dam far below us, soft, golden yellow light flowing over the landscape, appreciation for the beauty of the mountain started to settle in.
Friday morning brought a
gift of some dry mist which quickly cleared. While it may have been in the middle of winter, we had nice warm riding temperatures in the low to mid twenties. Freezing your butt off was not going to pose a problem.
The group’s skill level ranged from people (read single person) still trying to remember to put out their (read her) feet when stopping, to a few slightly bonkers advanced Roof of Africa riders – aka the MOAM team (real nice okes). We split up into two roughly even groups – the novice and the advanced team. Intermediate riders could choose which group they’d like to join.
As I offered to sweep the beginner group, I can’t say too much about what the advanced group got up to, except that they rode far and they rode hard and they had fun abusing forestation roads and intensely steep fire breaks. Apparently there was one firebreak so steep, nobody could scale it…. We did meet up with them briefly as they came down one fire break in the forestry plantation area, and Stefan was smiling from ear to ear.
…that Nikolai, one of the younger advanced riders, decided to take on a fris pine tree at speed, but that this tree prefers Jap bikes, as it stepped out of the way of the KTM at the last moment…
…and that the Janse van Rensburg broers had to convince the guide to go down a (nearly impossible?) decline. All Richardt, an experienced guide who grew up in these mountains, could say was: Ok, maar jy eerste!
Anyway, as the advanced team’s dust cloud settled, the beginner group headed out of base camp towards Rietbok – another farm on top of the mountain. We started out with the dirt road through the lush natural forestation, crossed the main tar road, and got swallowed up by seas and seas of pine plantations. We continued up-hill, around countless bends, air so fresh it almost burns. Keeping an eye right allowed one to appreciate the view offered by the climb, eventually overlooking villages poking out of the forests in the distance far below.
The route offered many beautiful photo opportunities, and we made regular stops to allow the ‘youngsters’ to catch their breath. This also sparked the interest of some locals, who insisted on taking a few photos with the riders and their machines.
Now I should probably mention here what a typical beginner group consist of. We had two ladies on DRZ125’s, two ladies and a guide on CRF230’s (still the best dirtbike there is), an intermediate rider accompanying his wife on a GasGas, three gentlemen on a KTM300, an XR400 and a CRF250R, and then good old me (and my four year old boy sitting pilot seat) on my trusted Mr. Balboa, a CRF250X. As for the terrain, it was just challenging enough to make it interesting, but not so difficult that one would feel overly intimidated. Most of the ride to Rietbok can be described equal to a lekker two-track veld road. Fairly flat and easy, with some jumping opportunities here and there, and one moerse long and deep firebreak to get the adrenalin rushing (for beginners that is).
But don’t let this fool you. As a beginner rider (or somebody who has not been on a bike for a while), you do need some level of offroad bike fitness. I would suggest preparing by taking on 3 WW blue loops for 4 weekends in a row. If not, your fitness may start letting you down, and you may just be too tired on day two. This is where you find yourself starting to make mistakes – one after the other. And that is not a lekker ride.
After about an hour and a half’s riding, we exited the forestation and headed further uphill on a tar road some 4km long, before entering a local village. Here we stopped at the Shebeen for a refreshment or two, and a well deserved nibble for some others. I thought I saw Red Rooster there. Tried to take a picture, but he just ran off into a vegetable garden behind a hut. I decided not to follow.
With our bodies refreshed, we took on the last and most tricky bit of the leg – the rocky plateau. If you can do a WW blue, you can cover this section. With rocks and steps scattered all over, we made our way up to the ‘soccer veld’. This is one of the several spots where the next day my wife would try to show off her newly found Evel Knievel skills on her 230F (aptly named Stoffel Mudley). Straight on head first into the fence. Oh-nooo, riding through the GATE (just 40cm to her right) was a sign of weakness – a route for mere mortals. Wanna-be’s. Poeftertjies. She’ll show us… SHE’ll go….. t.h.r.o.u.g.h – t.h.e – F.E.N.C.E!
Well, that did not work out so well for her… (but she was OK).
We continued on for a few more k’s through some Eucalyptus forests and past some seriously intimidating front-wheel-sucking dongas before we parked the bikes on the lawn at Rietbok. Here we sat for a while and sipped some coffee while admiring the view of the cliffs on the far side of the valley. A little while later those who wanted to went out exploring the farm. We rode through the Avo (yuck) and Macadamia plantations, played a bit in the small sandpit, and took on the river section with its numerous step-ups and fallen logs.
Everybody helped everybody else and waited if necessary. This was not a race. It was a fun weekend out. Moerse lekker.
When the advanced group did not pitch (we would later find out some of them were low on fuel – something about certain European bikes not accommodating with inferior local 2 stroke ;c)), we headed back down the mountain around 4 in the afternoon – just to make it to base camp by sunset. Great day.
That evening we all gathered at the lapa for a lekker kuier, a few doppe, and chow a vleisie before catching some Z’s.
The next morning we were ready to head out again, everybody in great spirits, but some with a few newly acquired bruises and body aches. Some riders chose to sit this day out – either to slight injury causing discomfort, or due to lack of offroad fitness. As I said before, this can really bite you.
Again the pro’s headed out before we made our way up the mountain. This morning also brought mist, but thicker and more mysterious. There is something special about riding along a winding forest road on a mountain’s edge, with only 30 meter’s visibility, and a looong steeep drop to one side…. Ghostly shapes of monochrome trees drifting in and out of vision. Very eerie. But suddenly and without warning we broke through the clouds on top of the mountain, and enjoyed the lovely sunshine while continuing our ride.
As we headed up to Rietbok (where on day two the advanced riders will do a technical route of ROZ), my wife again entertained us with a jolly volley of whiskey throttle jobbies and ghost rides. I was well impressed the time when I tried to negotiate a bit more technical single track route over some larger rocks on the rocky plateau, when Stoffel Mudley came flying past in the bushes next to me, with my wife hanging on for dear life. The poor bike’s throttle was wide open. It sounded just like an old KDX200 getting ready to kick in that powerband… Legendary stuff…. As my gaze followed her, I just wished I had the guts to take on these rocks at the speeds she did. Jarvis, Walker, Wade… And then she disappeared.
I found her right where she went down in the tall grass. Maybe she decided to try out that one rule: “When in doubt, Look up, Stand up, Open up.” Although generally a very good rule, this time it did not work out so well for her. Fortunately (again) she was not seriously injured.
But on a more serious note – this is where fitness really comes into play. The slow but steady drain on the body from the previous day’s riding, together with the morning ride, allowed fatigue to set in. This is where the mind becomes too tired to fully concentrate, and the muscles unwilling to cooperate as they should. Considering that about 5 men decided to skip the next day’s riding (due to injuries and / or fatigue), and my wife’s bike riding fitness level compares on par to that of Stephen Hawking, I think she did very, VERY well doing the route between base camp and Rietbok three times. We wisely decided that her riding for the weekend was over, and to evac her and her bike on a bakkie to base camp that evening.
Anyhow, we met up with the advanced group at Rietbok, and took on the ROZ route while the beginners explored the farm and rode out to the cellphone tower. The advanced route was a tight winding path through forests and boulders, river sections and some very rocky areas. This area more resembled Red loop at WW, but we’ll work on throwing in some bigger obstacles next year. This time round it was my turn to hold up the group. Not having ridden since Peri at Funduro some 5 weeks before, the tech started to take its toll on my fitness as well. I had to stop more than I cared for to catch my breath and relive the arm-pump… Like I always say – if you miss more than two weekend’s rides, your fitness is stuffed. But once again, the guys waited for me from time to time without much complaining. I wasn’t sure if they at some point did plan to leave me behind to live with the Dassies. (?)
Once we returned to the farm house, we devoured countless boeries smothered in a magical sheba, and had a few drinks, generously sponsored by the guides and hosts of the farm. I think most guys ate about 3 or 4 rolls, but there were more than enough for everybody. Shortly after patching up one of the DRZ’s cracked engine casing from a rock bash, all willing and abled bodies headed out to the large sandpit. Everybody had a ton of fun here – popping slow wheelies, climbing slopes in excess of 55 degrees, spinning and falling over in the sand. Each rider trying to push their own skill level, or trying to outdo the previous rider’s achievement. We played here for about an hour before making our way back to base again.
I rode down with the advanced group this time round. One of the most memorable rides for everybody followed… We rode 2 riders side by side on the forestation roads, a convoy of 5 couples long – 10 bikes in total. As the sun started to set, the plantation trees devoured much of the remaining light. Our bike’s headlights illuminated the green leafy walls of our route, and the train of red rear lights flowed like a large snake through the forest. The perfect end ride to a stunning weekend’s riding.
That evening I had the opportunity to hand out the fantastic prizes sponsored by the great and generous sponsors. Rider’s numbers were drawn from a hat, and every single person actually got a prize, ranging from backpacks with bladders, to service and discount vouchers, semi custom sticker kits and full tyre sets, handlebar raisers and GPS mounts, shark-fin sets and even a welding machine. Great thanx again to our sponsors (in alphabetical order): ACC Billet Engineering, BB Motorsport, EMD Racing, Full Throttle, Musgrave Racing, RaceStar Graphics and Superarc Welding Supplies.
This brought us to the end of a great weekend. Everybody too tired to even take on a small ride on Sunday morning.
But was it a success? Well, the proof is in the pudding. People rated the overall weekend at 9.88, the ride terrain at 9.63, and the guides got a unanimous full 10. With already having several reservations from beginner and pro riders, both who attended this event and who have not, I think people generally enjoyed it. Some people requested that we host ROZ Lite twice a year – but we’ll have to see about that ;c)
We had a great group of people – friendly and courteous – no egos or chips on any shoulder – just a bunch of moerse lekker guys and gals.
Even the managent of the lodge complimented us on the great behaviour of a ‘bunch of bikers’. Thanx for making it lekker guys.
I would like to thank Richardt Bouwer for planning and making the route, Derrick and Richard Bouwer for being our fantastic guides. Everybody agreed – they were awesome, going beyond the call of duty, assisting and helping whenever and wherever they can. The route and terrain was fabulous. The hospitality out of this world. And finally thanx to Jacques and Regine Bouwer for all their effort and hospitality, and any other land owners for allowing us to ride on their properties.
We’ll see you at ROZ Lite 2017!
From: LeslieHooks, JeremyJudge, Danielgarne, Noobz, Poolstok, Bumble Bee, Russmann