Map and information on South Africa, Click here
Entered South Africa 18th February 2001.
Exchange Rate: 1USD = 8 Rand
Fuel: 1 Litre = R3.7 (97 octane)
Backpackers: – From R30-R55 for a dormitory, R140 for a double room.
Road conditions: – Generally very good. Mostly sealed roads, but plenty of great dirt roads if you look.
Speed limits: – Mostly 120kph on the highways, and enforced by plenty of laser speed guns.
Border crossings: South Africa encloses Lesotho and Swaziland, and borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Many crossings, and no Visas required for most nationalities.
Food & Drink: – 1L Water R5, 650ml Beer R8, 330ml Pepsi 3.50, Main Meal (steak and vegies) R30
Note: Most photos can be clicked on to see a bigger image.
Before I get into this story, I’ll fill you in on what I did between Indonesia and South Africa (SA). It is a bit trivial, so you should skip the next few paragraphs if you feel so inclined.
I had shipped the bike from Surabaya, Indonesia. It would take about 4 weeks to get to SA, so I had planned to go home to catch up with my family. It’s a long boring story so I won’t go into detail, but it worked out about the same cost to fly to London, then back to Australia than a direct flight. Considering how close Indonesia is, that is just plain crazy. So I went to London to visit a friend I’d met in Switzerland the year before.
London was great. It was cold, but the weather was clear until late afternoon, when the rain started every day. I love London (when it isn’t raining), and I never tire of walking around the city. On the weekend, we took a trip to Avesbury (a big Stonehenge), and Salisbury. It was close to 0 degrees Celsius, but that didn’t stop the mad British bikers from touring around. I spent 6 days there in all, then on to Amsterdam, then home. Fortunately, I love flying. Once I got home (Townsville, North Queensland), I caught up with my oldest son and some friends, then flew to Brisbane to see my youngest son. From there, I flew to Tasmania to see my parents. They also live in Townsville, but were in Tasmania catching up with relatives, as that is where we were all born. If you are not familiar with Australia, Tasmania is the big Island south of the mainland. From there, I flew to Perth, Western Australia to catch my flight to Johannesburg. I flew from north to south, then east to west, a total of over 9,000klm in Australia while I was there.
While in Indonesia, I noticed my computer was getting slower. I had bought a new IBM notebook computer in Singapore, and by the time I got home, the hard disk was dead. I didn’t have time to get IBM to fix it, so I bought a new hard disk, fitted it and reloaded the software. In South Africa, my new hard disk died again. These IBM drives are obviously not as robust as the Toshiba ones, because I had carried my Libretto for nearly 18 months without a hiccup. As far as I know, is still going fine in the hands of Cuan, the South African, who has travelled around Australia with it, and probably back in London by now. Essentially, I have been without a computer for 10 weeks, and that is why there has been so little done on my web site of late. The biggest problem with the failure in SA was getting a replacement. I tried to buy one locally, but the price was about double what I pay in Australia. I ended up getting my failed IBM drive sent from home, and got IBM in Cape Town to fix it. IBM were great. They had it fixed in 2 working days. The problem was getting the old drive from Australia. It took 16 days by air mail, then a weekend before IBM could look at it, so I was stuck in Cape Town for almost a month before I was on the road again. This would have a serious impact on my trip later, as as I write this in Botswana, I have less than 10 weeks to exit Syria. That is going to be tough! For a first-world country, SA has a third world postal service.
This story will cover both South Africa and Lesotho. Lesotho is a small kingdom totally enclosed within South Africa (as is Swaziland). I entered South Africa by plane at Johannesburg. I stayed a few days with Cuan’s brother Dave. My first impressions of SA were….crime! Driving in from the Johannesburg Airport, I noticed every house has big fences with razor wire or electric wires on top. The driveway gates are solidly built from steel, and usually remote operated. Later, getting around the commercial part of town, I noticed gun shops on every street corner (OK, I’m exaggerating, but they are prolific). Most shops have solenoid operated steel barred doors to keep undesirables out. I asked my host about getting into the city centre, and I was emphatically told that if I went in there, it wasn’t that I might get mugged, I would get mugged. There were daily reports of ‘car-jackings’, muggings, murders, corruption, theft etc, etc.
The country is in a strange position of being governed by the black majority (estimated 40 million and growing), but economically driven by the white minority (5 million and shrinking). Many whites are leaving the country, to start again elsewhere. Perth, Australia is a popular destination because the climate and culture is similar. In fact There are so many there now, they joke that they are going to make Perth the capital of SA. Ignorance is a big problem here with the blacks and coloureds. I read a news article of some young guys who wanted to be bullet proof. They went to their witch doctor who gave them some herbs to rub on their bodies for 2 weeks. They did so, and at the end of the time, decided to test the treatment. One of them volunteered to be a target while one of the others shot him. He dropped dead instantly. The others chased the witch doctor and killed him. In another incident, one man claimed that a someone from another village had cast a spell on him to shrivel away his penis. His village turned on the others, and around 20 people died in the ensuing battle. If his penis did shrivel, I think it more likely it was from putting it in places it shouldn’t have been. Most incredibly, both the presidents of SA and Zimbabwe came out saying that HIV does not lead to AIDS. Both have since retracted that statement. Many of the young black men don’t believe they can catch AIDS. They think they are too strong and fit. In many black African cultures, if a man wants a woman, he simply rapes her, and it is his right.
This paragraph relates to the whole sub-Saharan Africa. AIDS………. Probably the biggest single problem facing Africa today. Over 6% (minimum) of the South African population is HIV positive. Most African nations are claiming infection figures of 10 to 20%, but the figure is closer to 60% in some countries. By the year 2010, it is estimated 100 million sub-Saharan Africans will have died, including professionals and skilled workers. Manufacturers and skilled employers are very worried about the impending loss of their workers. This is going to have a very negative impact on their commercial viability, not to mention the social calamity. I cannot emphasise the enormity of this problem. This one event is going to claim more lives than were lost in all the wars of the 20th century. The problem isn’t going to stop at 2010. Hopefully that will be the peak, but not necessarily. The country does need population control, but not like this. There are going to be millions of orphaned children, and most of them with AIDS too. A whole generation of 18-40 year olds are going to be decimated. The child-bearing and most productive working group. I was always aware of the AIDS problem here, but it was not until I spoke to an aid worker from Australia that I became fully aware of the extent of the problem. All the armed forces recruits are screen for AIDS before they join, yet over 20% of them now have AIDS, acquired since joining. I hope I never have to have a blood transfusion here. I am sure they screen all blood, but I wouldn’t like to rely on their accuracy. AIDS awareness campaigns are being run everywhere, but it seems only a token effort. Condom adds are everywhere, and they can be purchased everywhere, or are given out free. One popular myth is that the lubricant on the condom is what causes AIDS, put there by the Americans to wipe them out. Like many developing countries, they are not big on accepting responsibility for their plight. It is always the fault of the white west, especially the Americans.
Economically, the country is in trouble. The Rand is weak, which is great for tourists, but bad for locals. Imported items are expensive. Of course that means motorcycles, and I wouldn’t like to be in the motorcycle industry here. You definitely have to be relatively wealthy to own a recreation motorcycle here. From what I have seen, bikes cost about 10% more than in Australia, yet they make about half as much money. That would be like paying $30,000 Australian dollars for my bike in Australia, where it costs AUD$13,500.
You would think that with the crime, economy, AIDS etc, I don’t like South Africa. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I thoroughly enjoyed SA. The people are the most hospitable I have met anywhere. The scenery is absolutely incredible. There are first world health services, great roads both sealed and dirt. The place is probably better set up for backpackers than any place I have ever been to, and it is cheap. If you follow a few basic rules you can get through the country without experiencing any problems, as I did. If you have never considered SA as a holiday destination, I urge you to reconsider. I love the place. I will return one day, no doubt in my mind what-so-ever. Even though many whites are leaving, most of the ones I met loved their country, and would never leave. There are few places on earth that can offer a lifestyle that SA offers, though Australia is one obvious one. They love their braai’s (barbeque), and enjoy the outdoor life. Camping is extremely popular, and they are very social people. I was invited at several campsites to join them for a meal and a beer. This fits in well with my lifestyle at home, and that is why I love it. No one cares how much money you have, or haven’t as some societies do. They judge you for who you are, and they really appreciate adventurous people, because they are themselves. Of course it doesn’t have the cultural attractions like London for example, but you can’t have everything I suppose. If you were wealthy enough, you could live in SA in the Summer, and Europe in their Summer, which reminds me of an amusing quote I saw recently: ‘The only thing money can’t buy is poverty’.
My planned route took me from Durban south to Cape Town, then up the west coast to Namibia. I considered Swaziland, but it was too far off my track, and would have involved a lot of back-tracking. I have heard that a lot of bikers ship their bike directly to Cape Town, but they would have to miss either Namibia, or the South African east coast, otherwise do a lot of back-tracking. I don’t know about other people, but I would rather have teeth pulled than back-track.
After being in Johannesburg a few days, and having arranged some visa’s (more on that later), I flew to Durban to pickup my bike. I had shipped the bike by sea from Surabaya, Indonesia, and it arrived the day I arrived in Durban, which was good timing. I organised a customs clearing agent, which turned into an expensive exercise. I was told I had to use a customs agent, but I’m not convinced that is true. His fees were R350 (US$45), which is reasonable, but then I had to pay the local shipping agent, and wharfage fees which are worked on a percentage of the value of the bike. I was unaware of this charge, otherwise I would made it clear that the current value of the bike was not what it was on the Carnet, which showed it’s new value. I was charged US$150 for wharfage, which is outrageous considering it was consolidated freight, IE the box was loaded inside a container with other goods. All the wharf had to do was unload the container onto the local agents truck. All up, I paid US$280 to get my bike from the agent, which is more than I paid to get it boxed and shipped from Indonesia. In hind sight, it would probably would have been cheaper to send it by air, since there are no wharfage fees, and it is easy to do your own clearance at airports. By the time I finish this trip, I will have a pretty good idea on how to ship bikes the most efficient way, but until I learn, I pay.
The first thing I had to do before picking up the bike was get a new set of handle bars. As you should have read, I broke mine when I came off on a diesel spill in Indonesia. I found the local KTM dealer for Durban was actually on a farm half way between Durban and Pietermarizburg, some 60klm west of Durban. I emailed them and asked them about getting one delivered to somewhere in Durban, and if they would mind if I put my tent up on their grounds while I service the bike. They emailed me back no problem. What actually happened when I landed was to set the standard for the hospitality I experienced in SA. The dealers name is Alfie Cox. I hadn’t heard of him at all I must admit, but in SA, he is almost folk hero status. Everybody knows who Alfie is, even if they aren’t into motorcycles. He has been racing off-road bikes on the world scene for years, and has 4 ISDE gold medals (the top enduro race in the world) and has placed in the top finishers in the Paris-Dakar 4 or 5 times I think, maybe more, including 5th in this years event. KTM won the first 5 positions this year, is that domination or what? Alfie is a world class rider, and yet a really friendly, unassuming guy. He runs his business along with his lovely wife, Hazel.
Alfie picked me up from the airport, and dropped me in town, where I was to be picked up by a guy I had been conversing with via email, but had never met. Somehow Trevor found out I was coming, and had arranged for me to stay with the family he was staying with. Mike and Gloria were wonderful hosts, and invited me into their home without even meeting me. Apparently their home is always full of travellers. I spent a few days there all told, and tried unsuccessfully to up date my web site several times. The internet service providers in Durban were hopeless. Trevor and Noah (whom I didn’t meet) had just completed a big ride themselves on similar bikes, except that they did the Americas, Europe and Africa, a total of 70,000klm. Their web site is www.globeride.com . It is well written and worth a read. Trevor was of enormous help too, helping me get about Durban before I had my bike.
After getting my bike reassembled, I headed out to Alfie’s shop, where I planned to fit a new tyre, chain and sprockets, brake pads, and a general service. I arrived, and instead of camping, I was given a cabin to stay in. Not just an old cabin, but a brand new one with two beds, an ensuite, wardrobes, fully stocked fridge. He has 6 or 8 of these that he uses for his motorcycle adventure ride business. Clients come from all over the world to ride the brilliant and scenic off road tracks in his area. He provides the latest KTM 200EXC off road bikes which are perfect for the sort of rides he does. If you are looking for a holiday with a difference, check out Alfie’s web site at www.alfiecox.co.za . He also has a fully equipped workshop with the head mechanic and the spare parts man are former SA off-road champions. He had one of his guys thoroughly clean the bike, and another helped me replace the fork seals, because I had never done upside down forks before. They are much easier to do the conventional forks.
They gave me a good discount on my parts, but they were still expensive by Australian standards. I think bikes have a luxury tax on them here, which just makes the whole rate of exchange problem even worse. My gold plated handle bars cost US$150. At least I think they were gold plated, they cost so much. During my stay, I joined some of Alfie’s German clients here for the adventure ride, to a restaurant and a game reserve, and they fed me for several days, yet refused any payment. I expected to pay, and it would have cost more than any modest profit they would have made on the parts. That is real hospitality. While there, there happened to be a round of the national motocross series being run only a few klm away, so I went along, and really enjoyed the racing. SA really produces some world class riders, with names like ex US national champion Greg Albertyn, and recently Grant Langston who is wowing the Americans with his abilities (riding a KTM too). Again, it was an orange event. KTM cleaned up just about every race, and Ryan Hunt in particular is one very impressive rider.
While there, Alfie gave me some tips on where to go in Lesotho. The Kingdom is very close to Alfie’s shop, and is in the famous Drakensburg mountains. These mountains are really spectacular. All sandstone I believe, and about 2900m at the highest point..
Two wheel drive vehicles are forbidden to use this pass, but it is quite easy on a motorcycle. One hairpin in particular is a particularly sharp, rocky and steep, so you have to choose your path quickly, and keep on the throttle. The slightest hesitation here could lead to stalling which could be a real problem. This wasn’t the sort of slope you could just put it in gear an take off. Many four wheel drives have to do a three-point turn to make it.
It is about 2800m here, and the pub sits on the edge of the escarpment looking down the Sani pass. Accommodation, hot food and cold beer all year round. They ski here in winter too.
You will have to click on this image to see it, but this is a typical Lesotho village. Round huts and thatched roofs.
On reaching Lesotho, I had a route worked out to get to Semonkong, but the trail was very poorly defined, although marked on the map as a major road. It was very slow going, and I soon realised I wasn’t going to make my intended destination by nightfall. I found out later that this path takes 8 hours by four wheel drive. I turned back and found another route. The road was still dirt, but quite fast in most places. I stayed the night in a small village called Moulong (I think), not far from Mokhotlong, a major town. The guest house there was pretty shabby, no power, no food, no drink, but a roof and a cold shower none the less. The next morning, I set out for Semonkong.
I enjoyed the stay there. It was a very clean and comfortable place. There is not a lot to do there except hike and relax.The Lesotho people moved into the area back when Shakka, the King of the Zulu’s was causing trouble for all non-Zulu tribes. The Zulu’s consider themselves to be the king of all African races. The locals are renowned horsemen. Everyone seems to have one, though they are very small horses. They can canter through rocky ground at unbelievable speed. They are also extremely poor people. Mostly subsistence farming, as well as rearing cattle and goats. They can’t afford fertiliser and they have no irrigation, so farm productivity is poor and very susceptible to bad seasons. If the rain doesn’t come on cue, they go hungry. They have no industry to speak of, so no jobs, barring on the dams the South Africans are building to supply South Africa’s future needs. Katse dam is one such dam that has been completed. I didn’t go there, but I read later that the road built to service the dam is now regarded at the best motorcycle sealed road in Africa. Wide, well made roads, winding through the mountains. Sounds like fun, but I did have a sample of the quality of the roads on my way to Semonkong. Real road-racer stuff, with fabulous views. There are dozens of passes at an altitude of about 2500m, one of which is called ‘God Save Us Pass’, probably uttered by someone when told to build a road over that mountain. Most of the roads were dirt, but were sealed over the passes, because of their gradient.
While at Semonkong, I met a Swiss couple who had just come from Malalaya in a 4X4. It took them 7 hours, yet it is less that 100klm away by GPS. He showed me his route, which wasn’t on my map, so I decided I would try to find it. The route was part of the roof of Africa rally, which is run every year in Lesotho. It was a fun track, and I did it in 2 hours 15 minutes. I would love to do it on a light dirt bike with knobby tires and no luggage. It winds up and around mountain passes, with spectacular views, and through dozens of small villages. In one village I managed to spook a young horse, and I thought I was going to wear him for a while, but he turned away at the last possible moment. Thankfully horses have more brains than cattle, and even plants have more brains than a kangaroo.
Malalaya is a popular tourist destination, but I didn’t think that much of it. Much hotter and drier than Semonkong, and not that inspiring a view. The main attraction there is horse riding. I get enough of a thrill riding the bike, and at least I have some control over it, so I passed on the horse riding.
Western Lesotho is thoroughly uninteresting. Just flat ground, and the capital Maseru even less so. I exited Lesotho at Maseru, then rode up the western border, around to just above Lesotho where there is a beautiful SA national park called the Golden Gates. Spectacular sandstone mountains and rivers. Good camp sites, including this one, which I had to myself. This was taken at sunrise, with a small water bird filled lake in the foreground.
Alfie took me and his other guests to a game park only 30 minutes from his shop. This is a private park, but well stocked. In a ninety minute evening drive, we saw 5 Rhino’s, a huge buck Giraffe, 8 Hippo’s, Warthogs, Ostriches, Kudu, a variety of Gazelles and more. This is a white rhino. White does not refer to their colour obviously, but their type. These only have one horn. They are endangered because of their horns. The Chinese believe eating the horn is an aphrodisiac.
This buck is the biggest Giraffe I have ever seen. They feed mostly on Acacia trees, which have the most fierce looking 5cm thorns all over them, but the Giraffe has a leathery mouth and tongue to cope.
Durban. Nice beaches, good weather, good surf, lots of attractions, and less crime than Johannesburg, though still a major problem. A very big Indian population, though they have spent many generations here. Mahatma Ghandi spent some time here after being educated as a lawyer in England, then successfully employing his peaceful confrontation with England to secure India’s independence.
I headed south from Alfie Cox’s place to the coast just south of Durban, called strangely enough the south coast. It is lined with beach houses, and show the relative wealth of some South Africans. Property prices are incredibly cheap. I saw a new one bedroom flat, close to shops and the beachfront going for US$12,500. I had had an offer of hospitality from Barry and Coco near Port Shepstone. Barry had read my stories, and emailed me while I was in Oz. The first night, I was treated to my first Ostrich steak. It is a very red meat, not white like I had expected, and it was absolutely fabulous. It is very low in fat and more healthy that beef or pork. I isn’t outrageously expensive either, but I can imagine it would be in other parts of the world. Ostrich farming is really big time here. I must have seen hundreds of thousands of them on farms in the very south near Oudtshoorn. I’ll bet they are doing a good export trade to Europe right now. Barry has a new BMW 650 Dakar, having just got rid of a BMW (Aprilia) Funduro. He told me of an organised ride taking place that weekend. It was a bit expensive, and I was a bit hesitant, but when someone dropped out, I picked up his ticket for half price. It is run every year by Dirk, who also runs a superbike school at the Kylami circuit near Johannesburg. There were about 40 bikes, most were BMW 650, 1100, and 1150 GS’s, though there was an Africa twin, a Transalp, an old Tenere, and two Kawasaki KLR650’s.
Barry, Coco and I headed off to meet another group in Matatiele, south of Lesotho. On the way, I was leading and was nailed by a speed gun. I was doing 76 in a 60 zone, but pleaded ignorance. The cop let me off, which is a first for me. The only people to get out of speeding fines in Australia are pretty girls and politicians. At Matatiele, we waited an hour because one of the other group came off on the way. Not a good sign! They had intended to go via Lesotho, and I was keen to return there as it was by a different route to the one I had already taken. Another couple had turned up in the mean time, so they headed off they easy route. I decided to wait for the others. Within 10 minutes, they had turned up, and went straight to a hotel for lunch and a few beers. Yet another bad sign! Finally underway, we headed for a pass that means ‘accident’, but I can’t remember what it’s real name is. We started with 6 bikes. One turned back when he saw the pass. Paul on the Tenere and I headed off first. I went straight to the last turn before the top and waited. Paul was just behind when I last looked, but he was nowhere in sight, nor were any of the others. The road was a little difficult. Big erosion ruts and rocks. I did have to ride very gingerly along the edge of the ruts, because my front tyre is getting close to being a slick. I stalled once, but otherwise had no problems.
I finally saw movement down below. Paul had bounced off a rock down a gully, and it took him half an hour to get out. I didn’t see him until he dragged it back onto the road. I considered going down to see what the problem was, but it wasn’t the sort of track to do a U turn on. Finally, Paul made it, but after waiting a while, we decided the others must have turned back. We both agreed it would be a mother of a hill on a BMW. Once going again, we were making good time. We had a ball on the rough dirt roads of Lesotho, and though Paul admitted to being more a road rider, he was doing well on a 19 year old Yamaha. Once we got to the South African border, we decided to take the dirt road to Barkly East. The trouble is, it is really only a track, and it wasn’t signed. We came to a fork in the road. I looked at my GPS and made an educated guess which way to go. I was wrong! The track finally petered out to nothing, so we had to backtrack. It was getting quite late by that stage. We were sure where we went wrong, but decided to take the safe route back via the sealed road. The trouble was, it was a few hundred kilometres going in a very around about way to get there. We rode flat out until dark, then I slowed because of my poor headlights. The last 100klm or so to Rhodes was dirt again, and I arrived 10 minutes or so after Paul at 9pm. So much for never riding in the dark again. I was pleased to get there, but I was still fresh and ready to party, but most of the others were exhausted went to bed early, so I followed.
Much later in my trip, on my way out of South Africa, I met a family of three generations holidaying at a dam. They had invited me to join them in a Braii (barbeque). The senior gentleman, a doctor, came from the Rhodes area as a child. He told me the story of how Rhodes came to get it’s name. Originally, the township of Rhodes had a different name. The local school committee needed funds, so they approached a wealthy colonial by the name of Cecil Rhodes for money. He gave them 150 guineas on the condition that they changed the name of the town Rhodes. The town clerk took the money, and was never heard from again, but the name stuck. Cecil Rhodes later established Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe). He obviously didn’t have an ego problem.
Next morning, the others from accident pass had still not turned up. They did make it through the pass, after dropping their bikes several times, but one of them got a puncture, and none had a repair kit! They were stuck in Lesotho for the night. I gave Paul one of my tubes the next morning, and he went off to help them. They finally met us again at the end of the trip in Lady Grey. They paid a lot of money, and missed just about everything! Mike with the puncture won the hard luck award for the final night, and a free Michelin tyre, but I don’t think that was compensation enough. Perhaps they could console themselves that they saved one hangover. (Mike, if you read this, perhaps you could email me the whole story so I can publish it. I know this only scratches the surface of your problems).
The next morning, after seeing Paul off with the tube, the group rode up to Naudesnek pass. Apparently on a clear day, you can see the ocean 120klm away. It was clear, but clouds on the horizon prevented us from seeing the water. This about half of the group. One rider broke his leg on his way to the event. By the time we reached this pass, one 1100GS tank was badly damaged.
At this point, we broke up into two groups. One to do the ‘adventure’ route, and the other to take the easy route. I think 15 or so went on the adventure route. It was very rocky and eroded, fairly easy going on my KTM, but by the end of the day we had 4 or 5 damaged tanks, at least as many damaged rocker covers on the boxers, even in one case with BMW crash bars (which appear to be useless. The Hepco-Becker ones proved far better), one broken diff housing, busted front fender, and severe scratching, but no injuries fortunately. The Africa Twin was running like a dog and stopping regularly.
Off cambers and loose surface caused a few to come to grief. This Funduro rider christened his new bike with huge gouges all down one side of the bike, and destroyed his front fender.
I Another off camber coming down from a ski lodge we visited claimed Tim’s bike. I was right behind him at the time, and was surprised it suffered this damage. He didn’t even come off.
I think everyone was impressed by the performance of the KTM. In spite of my handicap of 50Kgs of luggage, I was fastest through the rough stuff by a big margin, excluding perhaps Dirk. I didn’t get to see him ride too much because he was at the back trying to sort out the carnage. This trip really emphasised the difference in the class of suspension, and one of the main reasons I chose the KTM for the trip. On the fast dirt roads, I didn’t even try to keep up. They were being lunatics! Another Chris said he was doing 180kph in one place. These roads were cambered and loose. ABS or not, I wouldn’t go that fast.
Coming into Lady Grey, I broke my third clutch cable for the trip. I rode the last 20klm or so without it, over some pretty rough tracks. I had another cable in place ready to change, but there was a big storm looming, so I kept going. That night, the drinking was on in earnest. Another Mike was insistent on buying we rum and cokes all night. I resisted valiantly, but lost in the end. They are a wild bunch of great guys and girls (I think three girls were riding). I had a thoroughly great time, and thanks everyone for your company. I shall return!
This is what they call the Wild Coast, on the South-East corner. There are hundreds of shipwrecks off this coastline, and no harbours for hundreds of kilometres. This is just north of Coffee Bay, a popular surfing destination. This is where I became aware of the healthy (?) drug culture in SA. It seems almost everyone smokes weed, grass, Mary Jane, gungah, dope, marijuana, what ever you want to call it.
After Coffee Bay, I went via ‘Hole in the Wall’ to Cape St. Francis, another surf haven. Had a great time here. Even had live music one night. The beer was cheap, and even then they discounted it a bit more for me. There was a masters surf competition on at the weekend, but the weather was closing in, so I moved onto Oudtshoorn, the centre of Ostrich farming in SA. It is inland, and doesn’t get much rain, but when I got there, I had just missed several days of drenching. Getting there was an experience. I took the famous ‘Garden Route’ to just before Knysna, then turned up north over about 200klm of dirt, make that mud roads through the spectacular Prince Alfred pass, or it would have been spectacular if I could see through the rain. At the top, it was cold, but it had stopped raining at least. Some of the mud was really treacherous. Baboons foraged along most of the mountain passes. They can be dangerous, but only if you provoke them. Generally they seem to ignore humans.
On my way over Swarzberg pass. Again spectacular views over a drier country side called the ‘Red Hills’. Notice the blanket of clouds over the crest of the mountains. I had to ride through them. It was cold, wet, slippery, and dangerously windy.
The view from about half way up to Prince Albert pass, the view over the ‘Red Hills’.
If you are as ignorant as me, you too might have thought that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern most point in Africa. In fact Cape Augulas is.
Finally in Cape Town. I think the most livable place in SA. This is the view from the top of Table Top mountain. I climbed it the hard way, behind the cable car station, by myself. Most of it was easy, but there are a few places that one slip would end in a disaster. On the way up, two young gung-ho looking guys backed out. I thought I would keep going and see for myself what it was like, but I soon found myself in a position where it would be more difficult to go back than keep going. It was worth it in the end. I came down the easy way though!
The view of Table Mountain from a beach called Table View. I saw several pods of dolphins off this beach.
Again from the top of Tabletop
Looking up towards the cable car station. That is where the walking track goes.
Simonstown, home of the SA Navy, and a healthy penguin population. These guys don’t seem to mind humans hanging around too much at all.
The Cape of Good Hope. The meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic oceans. The sea often ‘boils’ here, and has incessant Antarctic winds that plagued seafarers for centuries. The Suez Canal finally solved the problem. There are hundreds, if not thousands of shipwrecks off this point.
I ended up spending almost 4 weeks in Cape Town, thanks to my computer failure. While it is a great place, I was really desperate to get going again. I stayed in a place called the Oak Lodge, which is a really good if you like the music they play (I didn’t). Virtually all they play there is ‘Trance’ dance music. I love most forms of music, but as far as I am concerned, if you have no musical abilities and you want to be in the music industry, you play Trance, Techno, or Rap. I had my hard disk addressed there, so I had to stay.
I serviced my bike again here in Cape Town. I searched the town for a full synthetic motorcycle oil, but drew a blank. I finally used a Halvolene full synthetic car oil, which turned out to be a disaster. Several years ago, Castrol released an oil called GTX. This was before motorcycle specific oil became readily available. Castrol put a friction modifying additive in it which impregnated the clutch plates, and made them useless. Thousands of clutches worldwide were destroyed. There were a lot of unhappy people around, and Castrol then released GTX2, minus the additive. I have been using car oils in motorcycles successfully for years. Mostly Mobil1 (a semi-synthetic, despite what the label says) and Mobil 1 Gold (full synthetic). Well it seems Halvolene are using this friction modifying additive. I changed the oil again with a semi synthetic, and did a days running around to flush out the Halvolene. I changed again to a Castrol GPS full synthetic, which the local KTM agent did have. Tony was a big help. He let me use his workshop free of charge while I removed the clutch plates (several times). The clutch was still slipping, so I decided to buy new friction plates. They were expensive at R1400 ( US$175), but they weren’t available for 2 weeks. My only choice was to try to resurrect the old ones. I bought a can of brake cleaning solvent, reasoning that clutch material and brake material are similar. I used Tony’s pressure cleaner and detergent to blast any oil off the plates, then I washed then in the brake cleaning solvent, and finally, gave then a light rub over with 400 wet and dry sandpaper. This solution appears to have worked, but time will tell. There are KTM agents in Namibia, Kenya, and Egypt, so I should be OK if the problem resurfaces. That turned out to be the most expensive oil change I have ever done. Oil in SA is double the price of what we pay in Australia. Over US$10 a litre for Castrol GPS, where at home I pay about US$5 for a litre of Motul 6100 full synthetic, and US$3.50 for Mobil 1.
I was worried that my rear shock was leaking oil too, but that turned out to be a false alarm fortunately, because I would have had to send the shock to Johannesburg to get repaired. Another hold up was the last thing I needed.
Finally on my way, there is not much to report on the west coast of SA. Mostly uninteresting flat ground, but I did have a great night at the Port William dam, thanks to an invitation from Kevin, Barbara and family to join them for a Braii. The dam is popular for water sports, but it is down to 9% capacity, highlighting the current water shortage in SA.