Cape Town, 6 December 2007
In South Africa many folks had warned me about police check points in Mozambique where poorly paid officers would stop me and find an excuse to 'fine' me as I went through. In reality as with the rest of the trip all I got were smiles. But as I drove along with minimal traffic apart from the odd South African registered SUV flying past me at 150kph or so it became pretty obvious why they stop South Africans and fine them... Then leaving the country to enter Swaziland I was stiffed well and truly by the border guard who had insisted that my visa wasn't properly valid, I was in the country illegally and if I didn't want to give hime the money for a new one then I would have to go back to where I entered Mozambique and sort it out there. Heated discussions followed and off course with him holding my passport and threatening to confiscate it it ended up with me coughing up for a new visa. Then of course no visa appeared, he stamped me out and I guess the money went into his pocket.
I had a great ride across Swaziland on dirt roads and rode the old dirt road pass from Piggs Peak to Barberton. Then I got stiffed again by the South African customs officer. Not for money but there was a mistake on my visa and it actually ended ten days after had been written on it. I thought I would get a new one but he just corrected the mistake, said I would have to visit the Home Affairs Office for an extension and then studiously turned his back on me and made a point of shuffling papers around on a desk.
This made the weeks' stay in Joburg stressful. A three hour queue in the Home Affairs visa renewal office and all I got was told that I didn't have the right documents and they wouldn't even speak to me until I had, not even to tell me what the right documents might be. This was delivered by who I thought was the rudest person in all South Africa (that's you Lietze baby!) until I went to Graff Reinet. A day to get the documents I needed and then back in for a long wait and to drop them off. Then a week's wait before the decision..
In the meantime I rebuilt the Bullet's gearbox, gave it a good service and enjoyed the hospitality of the guys at the Royal Enfield SA shop again.
All this left me about 8 days to get down to Cape Town and I wanted to ride through Lesotho.
First stop was Clarens, a really beautiful place and hugely friendly locals. Everywhere I've been in South Africa the Bullet has turned peoples heads and served as a fanstastic vehicle to get to know some great folks.
Lesotho was noticably poorer than South Africa and the Northern part I went through was a bleakly beautiful place, yes it was another spot that looked a lot like the Scottish Highlands. At the top of the first major pass I met Elliot. Locals seem to make a habit of trying to cadge food off of passing tourists but Elliot was a nice guy and I couldn't scoff a bar of chocolate without sharing it. He's a shepherd but supplements his income by taking his sheep every morning to a nearby view point and essentially begs from passers by in a friendly way. I said I would post his picture on to him but as his address was basically, 'Elliot, behind Oxbow, Lesotho' I'm not confident it would get there. If by the miracle of the internet anyone reads this who is passing by that way, how about printing off the picture, passing it on and sending my regards!
I exited Lesotho down the Sani Pass. It's a route that holds mystique with South African off-roaders. It's beautiful and an amazing drop from 2800 meters to rounds about 1000. It wasn't easy but then it wasn't too tough either.
I congratulated myself on the descent and then for the next two days wondered why the bike was handling strangely. I tried everything, tyre pressures, wheel alignment and then noticed the lower fork yoke had snapped. Whoops.
I had been thinking of riding down the coast but then heeding Brit Bike enthusiast of Barberton Camp Ground Wayne's advice to 'just remember Prince Albert!' (PA is a town in the Karoo) and getting tired of the identikit beach fun party backpackers hostels on the coast I headed into the Karoo and stopped at Graff Reinet. Here I stayed a couple of days, stripped the forks and got the yoke welded up and then met definitely South Africa's rudest person. Please, I hope to God no-one outdoes him. I had seen a sign saying vintage tractors, cars and other miscellany for sale. This is the sort of thing that gets my interest so I wondered to the outskirts of town to take a look. I walked in and saw a very fat old man moulded into a deck chair barking out order to his sweating workers.
'Good morning, I'd like to have a look at your vintage cars.', I said.
'Are you a buyer?' He then barked.
'Well only buyers can look'
'How do I know if I'm a buyer if I can't even see what you've got'
'Are you going to buy something. Only buyers look'.
Then I kicked him in the bollocks and said buy that you old toad. In my head at least but the reality was I shrugged, said thank you in a vaguely sarcastic tone that had no effect at all and slouched off.
The guys at Clarens had said that I must ride into Cape Town down Route 62 as it is one of the premier bike roads in the country. I took the advice. It was a nice route but probably only a premier route if your machine has a turn of speed considerably more than the Bullet's 80kph. One of the stops on the way is the famous 'Ronnies Sex Shop' It is in fact a cafe and one of the stops for all motorcyclists on the route. The story goes that it was called 'Ronnies Shop' and then in a prank someone painted in 'Sex'. It was judged to be humerous and the name stuck. Friends, South Africa is not a place noted for subtle humour or gentle irony. I had a cup of luke warm tea and a pretty tastey slice of carrot cake served up by a sullen waitress. Or 'waitron' as they seem to like to call them here in a non-gender stereotyped but weirdly 1950's futuristic 'Dane Dare meets the waitrons' kind of way.
Now I'm in Cape Town. I've finally made it after one year on the road and Sascha flies in for a three week holiday tomorrow.
Three weeks of holiday to get ready for the ride home..
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.
Posted by Richard Miller at December 06, 2007 12:21 PM GMT