To Hell on a motorbike

26 November 2003

“Everyone should take a trip to South Africa’s mecca, The Hell, at least once in their lives – preferably on a BMW motorcycle,” says German-born Juergen Muess, owner of Karoo Biking: BMW motorcycle tours and rentals in South Africa.

Operating from Cape Town, Karoo Biking offers an increasing number of international visitors, as well as locals, four standard BMW motorcycle tours – two of which include an overnight stay in one of South Africa’s best-kept secrets, the Gamkaskloof valley, known as The Hell by residents of the Small Karoo.

The 14-day Karoo / Garden Route / R62 tour takes the biker through some of the most beautiful landscapes that South Africa has to offer, travelling along the famous Route 62 through the Small Karoo and then along the East Coast to Port Elizabeth before heading back to Cape Town via the Garden Route.

Day 4 of the tour is described as follows: “It’s hell. Today is certain to be one of the tour’s highlights. We’ll be leaving again at 9am after breakfast and be travelling over the Huisriver Pass, through Kruisriver and Matjesrivier to the Swartberg Pass.

“At the pass’ summit (at around 1 568m) we’ll be taking a left and be heading off down Gamkaskloof to a place better known as The Hell. A majestic gorge characterised by soaring rock faces, fascinating plants, and clear falls of mountain water – this is one of the most isolated areas in South Africa. We’ll picnic in the mountains for lunch before the exciting trip down the valley to the Hell begins.

“We’ll be staying in The Hell for the evening in original houses restored by the Nature Conservation Board. Mod cons are not the order of the day here, but we can guarantee you that you will be hard pressed to find a more stunning heaven anywhere in the world. We will barbecue in the evening and enjoy a few beers under the African stars …”

Karoo Biking is not the only operator inviting tourists to discover SA’s diverse, spectacular landscape on two wheels (see Related Links on the right). MOTOBerlin is a BMW motorbike and adventure tour specialist offering tours in South Africa’s Garden Route, KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho, Mpumalanga and the Kruger National Park, the Kalahari Highway, and the Johannesburg to Cape Town route.

“Few countries on earth can rival the grandeur and beauty of the South African landscape. Mountain ranges, sunburned deserts, deep forests, fruit-filled valleys and the endless coastline beckon you the traveller to come and see for yourself”, MOTOBerlin declares on its website.

“What better way to traverse this giant canvas than on two wheels?”

Muess says the South African motorcycle tourism industry is an untapped market worth investing in, pointing out that South Africa is now the fourth most popular holiday destination for the American market, which has around 20 million motorcyclists.

South Africa is also a popular destination with German and British tourists, and Germany boasts nine million registered bikers, while the United Kingdom has about eight million bikers.

For this reason, Karoo Biking will initially target the US, UK and German markets, with plans to expand into the Spanish-speaking market.

The Karoo is a particularly good destination for bikers, offering wonderful hospitality, the opportunity to get in touch with local culture, and the opportunity to ride on both tarred and dirt roads.

Karoo Biking’s machines come from the latest BMW ranges, to ensure its clients enjoy the best possible touring experience.

Pieter de Waal, general manager of BMW Motorrad South Africa, says motorcycle touring is becoming an increasingly popular pastime: “Sales of our touring motorcycles have doubled during the past three years. This growth reflects the increased desire of South Africans to explore our wonderful country by motorcycle.”

Says Muess: “You can bet that Karoo Biking will do its part, and make every effort to market South Africa and its more interesting nooks and crannies to the world, by taking its international clients to some of South Africa’s best-kept secrets in style – astride a BMW motorcycle.”

SouthAfrica.info reporter