After the excitement of the previous evening, Saturday morning brought clear, almost perfect riding conditions to Katse and the Moloti Route. Unless you have enjoyed the crisp mountain air and almost endless views across the dam, you probably wouldn't understand the true essence of riding in Africa.
The team at Katse Lodge had outdone themselves the previous night - both in terms of providing an incredible table, but also spotless rooms and comfortable beds. Breakfast was a another feast and by the time everyone had filled-to-capacity, we were ready for an exciting day.
We started with a tour of the Katse Dam - arguably one of the largest and most impressivee engineering projects on the continent and after a briefing in the Information Centre, we were taken down and into the dam wall itself. With many thousands of workers involved in the construction of the project some eight years ago, only three fatalities were ever recorded, and we were assured that no-one was buried in the 45-metre thick walls! If you are planning a ride to Katse, you must do the tour as well, if only to learn about the vision of the full scheme - once it is completed sometime in 2030! Once everyone had done their ooh and aah moments - and believe me vertigo works upwards as well when you look up the front of that wall from the base, the group was led back up to the top and then across the wall itself. Memorable!
We then left Katse and traveled back along the road that we had traversed in the dark the previous evening. It winds itself from Katse up to a height of 3300 metres at the Bokong Nature Reserve winding along 140 curves, corners and sheer moments of terror for those that become distracted. But this is without a doubt the most awesome riding experience anyone could wish for. The scenery changes at almost every corner - and yet another vista presents itself as you head to the next corner. We passed through villages where tradition still ruled - at times almost seeming as though time had stood still, but perhaps it is the people themselves that makes this such a remarkable destination. From the villagers to sheep and cattle herders and children along the road, we had nothing but smiles, waves and happy faces as the fourteen bikes trundled through.
Popular opinion in South Africa is that bikers and even motorists often run a gauntlet of stones along this road but we can honestly say that we found none of this during our ride. The way visitors behave or ride could easily lead to this kind of 'welcome' and past practice of stopping to hand sweets to the children created a sense of expectation which when it stopped, led to the incidents. So, don't ride like fools and while you can be friendly and enjoy the hospitality that you will get along the road, avoid creating expectations that others that follow cant fulfill.
We stopped at the information centre at the very-top of the pass at the Bokong Reserve for a picnic lunch on the very edge of the valley. While the development of the information centre hasn't really gone further than the creation of a world-class building for some future use, it is the views that really go-on forever that amaze. New chalets have been built and although not yet furnished, this will become a must-stay spot in the next year just because of the views and the absolute quiet that one experiences. After all experiencing difficulty in breathing after the slightest effort, we realised that we were at three thousand metres above sea level and we decided to return to Katse so that the fans of pain could watch the Currie Cup Final!
For those that either knew the logical outcome of the Final, we piled onto a sunset cruise that took us up-river through magnificent gorges and towering peaks. Again, this is a 'must-do' for anyone visiting the dam, and although it is not widely promoted, it was unforgettable. But - as they say in Katse, 'what happens on the boat stays on the boat', and we returned at sunset and made our way back to the by now miserable and downtrodden Bulls supporters for a wonderful Katse barbecue at the Lodge. Mike, the manager, proved to be a master of the art and the evening eventually faded into another glorious night with laughter and swapping of tall tales (some about rugby as well).