09-Nov-2002 -- Having set our sights on 30S 18E we set out from Cape Town on two motorbikes at around 04:30am on Saturday, 9 November 2002. Previously we have carefully planned our route using a high quality 1:250,000 survey map and AA road map. Heading almost due north up the N7 towards Springbok, the weather forecast promised rain, with the detailed forecast adding an expectation of cloud in the early morning, developing later through the day to fully overcast.
Setting out from Cape Town with my GPS indicating 443 km at a bearing of 354 deg in the pouring rain (so much for the prediction of rain later in the day), I was consoled by the fact that at least the travelling conditions were unlikely to get worse. After meeting Riël at Swartland for a quick fuel stop, we set out for Trawal (our second fuel stop) near Clanwilliam, and onwards to Kamieskroon for breakfast.
Certainly the N7 northwards provides a spectacular route, with good roads suitable for higher speeds, and scenery that is without equal. Route highlights include Piekenierskloof Pass, the Olifant’s River Valley, and crossing the Sishen Saldanha Railway and a river (albeit dry) simultaneously just north of Vanrhynsdorp.
With continued light, steady rain, a downpour or two, and mist (over the pass), we finally reached Kamieskroon at last slightly north of the rain and cold front. Breakfast at the local Kamieskroon Hotel is a standard orange juice, coffee, two eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and marmalade at ZAR 26 (about US-$ 2.60) per person. Served on the stoep, this is an offer impossible to beat inside a few hundred kilometres. A 1:50,000 map at the hotel provided additional detailed terrain information, settling the argument as to the best local road to use to approach the Confluence.
About 10 km northwards of Kamieskroon at a sign saying Arkoep, we turned east onto a local gravel road, complete with the occasional farm gate to be opened and closed. With some concern we began to observe some serious slopes, and hills, something we didn’t expect given a few minor contours shown on our map.
The debate as to when, if, and how we should approach the local farmer for permission was resolved as we found ourselves approaching the farmhouse at Theunis-se-Dam on our chosen route that took us literally through the front garden. Any doubt that we may avoid the farmer disappeared as we observed three children and the farmer within meters of our path. Mr Carstens proved to be the most hospitable and friendly farmer one could hope to encounter. He greeted us with smiles and a handshake, introducing us to the whole family, offering us full access to his farm before we managed to complete the first sentence of our request. Permission to visit any place we liked on his land was rapidly followed by an offer of coffee, which we accepted.
Over coffee (with the alternate offer of a beer extended more than once) we learned of his farm, the heat in summer, and that contrary to expectation this farm ran cattle, rather than the sheep and goats typical of such a hot dry area. We also learned of a young cow, struggling to give birth to her first calf. In return Mr Carstens learned of our quest to conquer Confluences, and apart from observing (correctly?) that we probably lacked enough useful things to do with our lives he supported us enthusiastically, but I’m sure will describe us to his friends as somewhat crazy.
After an hour or more of pleasant conversation, an offer of a bed for the night if required (extended even though the farmer and his family were leaving later that afternoon, given that we could just leave the key under a rock the next morning) we set out to cover the last four and a bit kilometres to reach 30S 18E. A local farm road took us to within 500 meters of the point, a distance we covered on foot up a gentle slope.
Returning home the same way we came, we passed the farmhouse, noting that Daisy had obviously experienced more difficulty than envisaged, and was now hanging upside down, in an advanced stage of slaughter, on a three legged slaughter gantry erected on the concrete causeway crossing the stream running past the farmhouse. This being the only route we were forced to pass through the gantry, as the farmers did their best to pull the meat to one side. We decided to spare the photo opportunity. Life is tough in this part of the world.
The rest of our journey home to Cape Town followed without incident, against gale force head winds, something I don’t remember seeing in the detailed forecast.
As always one learns a few lessons:
- Never trust a weather forecast.
- The locals may be friendly.
- Plan your route carefully with a good large-scale map.
- Finding a Confluence with a GPS is easy. If you plan to use only a map you need a really good large scale map and some experience.
- Don’t underrate the apparently minor distance on the map between the road and the Confluence.
- A few minor contours on the map translate into some serious slopes on the ground.