8.12.05. East London, South Africa.
Welcome to South Africa
Massive steaks. Poor quality mega-lagers (like Castle, SA's version of Fosters). The best burger chain in the world (Steers). Some repressed bigotry. Thunderstorms so violent that you fall out of bed and whimper for 10 minutes, shocked at how close you came to soiling yourself. It's all here. The constant question now is "Weren't you worried you were going to get robbed/killed/whatever as you went through Africa?" The answer of course is no, not until I got here.
In reality the only times things have got a little tense even in SA have been when I've been sitting next to a white person in a bar and, after one or two ales, have had to bite my tongue as the racist drivel starts to spew from their poisonous chops.
These people, thankfully, are few and far between. East London seems pretty mixed and people of all flavours chat in the pub. Umtata is 100% black. That feels unusual for a big town in Africa - in Malawi, Kenya or Ghana you'd expect to see the odd white face. The coast south of Durban includes a nearly all-white stretch that reminds me of Eastbourne - B&B's and tea rooms aplenty.
Anyway, the weather's great and the food is meat-heavy, which I like. The backpacker hostels are dens of vice which make you fear for your liver. The Spot in Port Shepstone is a prime example. I arrive at 3pm to be greeted by Evan, the barman, with the words "It's beer day!". As he shuts the bar many, many hours later, I begin to suspect that every day is beer day at The Spot . Evan is an excellent fella from Ireland and happily he's "allowed" to drink while he works. It's a spectacularly debauched night. I wake up and see it's 4.30. I stumble to the toilet thinking it's 4.30am and go back to bed. Imagine my horror when I wake up again at 8.30 and it's dark. I've lost a day. I stumble to the TV room where Evan, wrapped in a blanket and looking like something the dog threw up, gently explains to me that we didn't go to bed until 6am and the first time I woke up it was already the afternoon. Thank God.
No need for that
After a few days at The Spot I need a quiet B&B with a TV and 48 hours of mineral water and orange juice. No problem in Port Edward. Soon I'm battle-ready again and heading for Amapondo in Port St John's. Ed the barman is an even worse influence than Evan. Things are messy even before the mushrooms turn up. I meet Rudi from Holland and we're matching eachother pint for pint. We swap tips on B&B rehab techniques - no man alive could survive several uninterrupted weeks of South African backpacker bars.
Yes - Swaziland is a real place. Very green and rolling. I'd have stayed longer but my documents were expiring.
-My wife's gone to the US. She wanted to stay in Manhattan but it was too expensive.
-This old thing? I've had it for years.
-No, she went in that smelly old tracksuit, the slovenly mare.
Yes. I did.
18.12.05. Swellendam, South Africa.
After it survived over a year of being carted across the worst roads in the world, keeping me entertained in the ghastliest, most joy-sucking rat-pits on the planet, some piss-swilling, dog-faced, son-of-a-thruppenny-strumpet, thieving, pig-arsed, cat-wanking shit-sucker has stolen my bloody guitar. Sod and bastard. ("At last we are free!" - African music lovers).
Of course it's my fault. Morocco to Swaziland - zero crimes against property or person. I became blase. Last night I left the instrument outside the tent. Now it's gone. *seethe*
SA lager report; most of it is rubbish. Windhoek is excellent but it's from Namibia.
The worst drivers in Africa live here. It's the combination of perfect roads, expensive SUV's and, I suspect, buckets and buckets of lager. With all the luggage on, the best I can do (with a tail wind) is 64 mph.
I've lost count of the number of times some nurk in an Isuzu Trooper has overtaken me with 1 cm to spare, an event which occurred exactly once in the previous 20,000 miles.
That's enough SA-bashing. The people - even the bloody bastard bigots - are far more open and friendly* than Europeans. (Too open in the case of the BBB's). The weather, from about East London westwards, is like a perfect Southern European spring. The scenery is constantly changing. The food, and here I'm talking largely about meat, is world-class and often served in near-USA portions. You can drink the tap water, there's no malaria and there are ATM's everywhere.
HOWEVER! It's quite easy to forget it's now a democracy in a place like Knysna. The centre of town is all waterfront restaurants and upscale retail outlets; but a three minute ride up the hill reveals a sprawling shanty town where - would you credit it? - only black people live.
*er... if you're white...
HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!
"The calendar is magnificent!"
"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"
We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!
Next HU Events
- Canada Ontario: Sept. 11-14
- NEW! UK - Haggs Bank: Sept. 19-21
- USA California: Sept. 25-28
- Aus Queensland: Oct 3-6
- Aus Perth: Oct 10-12
- Germany Autumn: Oct 23-26
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- NEW! Aus NSW: Oct 31-Nov 2
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 13-16
- NEW! USA Virginia: Apr 9-12, 2015
- NEW! HUMM Morocco: May 13-16, 2015
Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!
Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).
"Inspiring and hilarious!"
"I loved watching this DVD!"
"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."
Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.
What others say about HU...
"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA
"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada
"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia
"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders
10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!
NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!
Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!
What turns you on to motorcycle travel?
Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!
New to Horizons Unlimited?
New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!
Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.Read more about Grant & Susan's story
Membership - help keep us going!
Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.
You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.
Books & DVDs
All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.
MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!
Story and photos copyright © All Rights Reserved.
Contact the author:
Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.
Hosted by: Horizons
Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!