TG Newsletter: WITKOP PASS

Witkop Pass

(17 February 2018)

Sometimes you must come up for air… just one breath, even if it’s just a 48hr ride into the bush. It puts life into perspective and as the wind tangles your hair, it snares a wisdom or two.

Packing for the two of us entails a bottle of Jack Daniels, a sleeping bag, a camelbak, and lip ice – in that order, one each! Needless to say, to get us on the road takes all of 3 minutes.

Heading to a pass not wandered before – the Witkop pass. It is situated just outside Lephalale, close to the Botswana border.

We anticipated a challenging weekend, as this pass is also known as the ‘bike-killer’! I was back on Brom (my Suzuki DR650). The two of us have survived an attack by a hot-water geyser on the N1 before (…remember that time?). How difficult could this weekend be?!? Bring it on!

Screw the Romans…


I have considered investing in this herberg-property as a halfway house overnight facility.

For the adventure biker, this old house/church/spaza is a landmark. The gate to the North. The entrance to the home of SAND!

At the petrol station in Bela Bela I did a quick tyre check and still mentioned how old and scrappy the gauge was.

I am not the world’s best sand rider. I have vowed that before I die, I will one day ride sand – maybe not better, but with less screaming…

I kept pushing through all the sandy oceans, sweating profusely, yelping like a jackal at midnight. It felt like I was riding two monocycles, each wanting to go in a different direction.

Until we stopped and checked the pressure again…

Hey! Come ride with me! I’ll show you how to sand-surf on 3 BARS!!!

It’s always handy to pack in an extra bar or two – you never know when you might need it.

YOU HAVE SURVIVED ALL THE DIFFICULT MOMENTS OF YOUR LIFE: Think of all the things you’ve been through in your life. And if you are reading this – you are still here.

Time for breakfast

Chikita pulled a mussel…

…and we washed it down with ‘foamy’ water.

Did You Know…?

They use little baby ‘Cottonseals’ in the making of canned mussels. It’s a whole industry!

We finally found tar again…

African Line dancing!

D’nyala Nature Reserve

We passed the site where F.W. de Klerk and Cyril Ramaphosa had their first bosberaad back in the early 90’s. These onderhandelings lead to the release of political prisoners and eventually to the first democratic elections. It was almost like Kamp Staaldraad, but with less bruising.

(BTW – later that same day, Oom Ramaphosa became our new president)

Medupi Power Station

We stopped outside the controversial Medupi. This facility was initiated in 2007 with an estimated cost of R69 billion. But like all things of power in South Africa, the pockets are never deep enough, and the end is NOT in site. Currently the completion date is set for 2021 and the total cost, WAIT FOR IT… will be R195 BBBBBILLION!

When completed, it is expected to become the largest dry-cooled coal-fired power station in the world. GOOI KOLE!

THERE IS NO WRONG DECISION: Should you go left or right; should you quite your job; should you fall madlessly in love; should you buy a new bike; should you wheelie past the spietcop? You need to know that there is no such thing as a wrong decision.

Grootegeluk Open Cast Coal Mine

We were hoping to find an unpatrolled road that would take us to the edge of this impressive hole. We started circling the area on some of the smaller dirt roads.

The coal mined here feeds the power stations in the vicinity. As a geologist I am always drawn to either a pile of rocks or a hole in said rocks. But the further we rode, the higher the fences got. It wasn’t as if we were going to try and jump a fence with a bag of coking coal…?!?

Impala on the other hand - can NOT be trusted!


A long day of saddle time makes a chicken thirsty. We stopped at the Bosveld Pub & Grill contemplating our activities for the rest of the day, maybe continuing our travels in search of a hotel…?


Chikita and Skinny paying for a place to rest our heads!!! We can be so funny sometimes…

Around the back of the pub was one unoccupied ‘chalet’.

VIP Bike Parking – this place is 5 sterretjies worth!

It’s not every trip we get an en suite unit.

I think this was the conceptual design for the first dragline.

Doesn’t a fire in the bushveld smell differently than anywhere else in the world?

The next morning we woke up to a finger-painted sky.

We woke our derms with a cup of tea.

Word wakker! There’s a day of pass riding ahead.

EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY: Nothing lasts forever. Plants die. Buildings collapse. Tires go flat. Hot cups of tea go cold. Everything is always in transition.

Witkop Pass

An 18km gravel road pass in the Grootwater nature reserve, but it is a public road accessible to anyone with an adventure-drive.

From the turnoff I was anxiously awaiting this sand-monstrosity that I read about. I would slow down around every bend expecting to see red dunes engulfing the horizon.

We said hello to the famed Witkop kudu hiding in the shade of a giant Mopane tree.


Over a little hill I found Chikita jumping off her bike and pointing into the grass. A makhulu snake gave her right-of-way before it crossed behind her. This is what we call traffic congestion in Limpopo.

“2 METER! Ek seg vir jou, daai ding was 2 METER!”

Breakfast was custard and as much as I tried to re-enact the Liqui Fruit add…

…it just didn’t have the same sultry effect.

Magies vol – throttle oop!

BE STILL AND FOCUS: Focus on one idea. One task. One moment. And find joy in that stillness.

New equipment to test out:

The Tirox SnapJack

…even though it did entail us having to lug a can of chain lube with (there’s always a first time for everything).

Purpose: A portable side-stand for bikes like Brom that doesn’t have a centre stand. Now you can lube your chain single-handedly. It also makes you look all technical and stuff. Boys might actually think I know what I’m doing. Ohhh, how I love playing ditsy.

Girls don’t throw stones…

They ride over them!

We were told the game reserves in this area has lions. Yup, that fence aught to do it. Here Kitty-Kitty-Kitty!

Plan B on the left

We finally got some sand, but without a pump to inflate our tyres to 3 bars we had to come up with another challenge.

“The floor is lava!”


Eighteen kilometers of silence, blue skies, camaraderie and serenity. Coincidentally the word LIFE in Hebrew is CHAI. Chai has a numerical value of 18.

“En so sien nog ‘n pas sy gat.”

We stopped at the Vaalwater hotel and asked some of the local bikers about alternative routes back to Pretoria. Even though most of the suggested roads had already felt the thread of my tyres, coming back to this side of the country does not take much convincing. It feels as if you are riding straight into a Pierneef.

Jan Trichardt Pass

It’s a short pass with a magnificent view. It’s like having an ice cream on a brooding hot summers day – it finishes too quickly.

It could be a heart, an acorn, or an oddly shaped window. Use your imagination!

Crying over baby cottonseals, poking at 3bars of stupidity, trying to sneak into Medupi and then nearly getting caught, discovering a new species of glove-shongololos, and watching the 47th sunset together.

TRUST THE UNIVERSE: It is an entity much bigger than yourself. Choose to believe that where you are is okay. You are enough!

What is the meaning of life?

Life has no meaning. You ARE the meaning to your life. You already have the answer. Stop searching. GO RIDE!


Skinny tries out a few new tricks on Billy-Bob her Yamaha R6. Getting her wheelies up, starting with stoppies and fishtails! Though, no everything is successfully executed…


A hundred and ninety-five billion rand?!? I don’t even have words for that. Asking for an honesty contribution now is like sneezing in a hurricane…

If you're familiar with the rural concept of the honesty bar, this honesty newsletter ain't much different... I'm a completely un-paid journalist, relying instead on readers using the honour system. You read the newsletter and then leave an amount you see fit for the entertainment you've received.

If you don't find it particularly amusing, then you fork out NO dosh. I won't stop sending you the letter – it is still mahala to those that count their coins and... I love sharing my stories.

As requested by my overseas readers, you can donate to this newsletter on my PayPal account:


You can do an EFT transfer to the account below.

YOLO – Your Oil Light’s On!

Skinny YouTube: Skinny van Schalkwyk