Yesterday was fun - third crating experience, different yet again from the previous two. Had to do a bit more dismantling this time than previously as the crate is a tad smaller, but it all jigsawed in satisfactorily in the end.
The only Hazardous Cargo stuff I had to do was to let down the tyres a bit, make sure the tank was less than a quarter full, and disconnect the battery. This is because she's going on a cargo flight instead of a passenger flight, probably via Washington.
Blue Moon Cycle in Atlanta provided the crate, lifting device and nice young man to help, and two hours later we'd finished. With luck The Old Dear is now in a bonded warehouse at the airport and will be winging her way to Johannesburg within a day or two. Nothing will happen today, of course, as it's Independence Day and everything's closed. So with a bit of luck I can fly on Friday, probably via Dakar (the alternatives are Washington or Paris CDG, aargh). In fact, if you plot a Great Circle from Atlanta to Jo'burg, Dakar is almost exactly on the route.
I wish I hadn't sent my Winnie-the-Pooh hot-water bottle home - it's freezing here at night, and there were three inches of snow last week.
I'm back into serious oeno-research mode again, and find that a perfectly drinkable dry red costs less than a fiver for a 1.5-litre bottle. Which is nice.
As you may have surmised, I'm in South Africa (Johannesburg), which makes it seven continents (so that's all of them) and 38 countries, and now just two hours ahead of GMT. First impressions are of a friendly place, with everyone introducing themselves by name with a sunny smile (like Alfred the taxi driver), mirroring South American courtesy.
The challenges now are paperwork for The Old Dear, who allegedly flew to JFK yesterday and should arrive here on Thursday, and to re-learn riding on the left. I've spent more than two years on the wrong side of the road, and am having difficulty getting to grips with everything being the other way around. By sheer luck I've managed to pick a hotel a mile from a big BMW dealer, which will make it easy to get herself checked over and fit new tyres before I get on the road again. I like to do that after uncrating just in case I've missed something - you can't beat a jaundiced eye to spot nasties.
The Old Dear missed her flight connection in Luxemburg (I think she did it deliberately in order to have a bit of a gallivant) so didn't arrive until a week later than scheduled - James Cargo knocked 10% off the bill for the hassle, bless them. Roddy's a good chap (and a biker).
The agent in Jo'burg, Junaid dealt with Customs and even stayed late on Friday night so I could uncrate and ride away.
Then yesterday morning I beetled round to the BMW dealer to see if my tyres had arrived. Not only had they, but they fitted them straight away (that's the 13th pair). I couldn't believe the bill - 70 quid for a pair of Trailwings, fitted, including new inner tubes, and at a BeeEm dealer. Blimey.
The driving here is of the Italian persuasion, so riding back from the airport in the dark in a distinct dearth of streetlighting and on the wrong side of the road was quite stimulating.
So I'm off to Lesotho tomorrow, and my first 'proper' border crossing since last October (Mexico/US). Last I heard Ewan and Charlie were in Uganda, so I reckon I've a good chance of avoiding them.
I hope none of you have floated away. The flooding is the major item on the domestic news broadcasts here.
And for your delectation and delight, and for a giggle:
The Cape Times (Cape Town)
"I have promised to keep his identity confidential,' said Jack Maxim, a spokeswoman for the Sandton Sun Hotel, Johannesburg , "but I can confirm that he is no longer in our employment". "We asked him to clean the lifts and he spent four days on the job. When I asked him why, he replied; ' Well, there are forty of them, two on each floor, and sometimes some of them aren't there.' Eventually, we realised that he thought each floor had a different lift, and he'd cleaned the same two twelve times. "We had to let him go. It seemed best all round. I
understand he is now working for Woolworths."
The Star (Johannesburg)
"The situation is absolutely under control," Transport Minister Ephraim Magagula told the Swaziland parliament in Mbabane . "Our nation's merchant navy is perfectly safe. We just don't know where it is, that's all." Replying to an MP's question, Minister Magagula admitted that the landlocked country had completely lost track of its only ship, the Swazimar: "We believe it is in a sea somewhere. At one time, we sent a team of men to look for it, but there was a problem with drink and they failed to find it, and so, technically, yes, we've lost it a bit. But I categorically reject all suggestions of incompetence on the part of this government. The Swazimar is a big ship painted in the sort of nice bright colours you can see at night. Mark my words, it will turn up. The right honourable gentleman opposite is a very naughty man, and he will laugh on the other side of his face when my ship comes in."
At the tollbooth there were a couple of bikes in front of me. Naturally, a ciggie stop was in order after paying the toll.
"We're going to the Dragon Rally down the road."
"Can I come too, please?"
"'Course you can."
So I went to the Dragon Rally not in Wales with snow. Christo, Victor, Quintin and all the others made me very welcome, dispensed large amounts of cold beer (Windhoek - jolly nice) and generally looked after me. Obviously, there was a man from Torquay as well (Chris). I even won the long-distance award (which was cheating really).
The Kingdom of Lesotho is a fine place. Like Laos it has three paved roads and dirt roads in good nick. Spectacular scenery, friendly people, highly recommended. Phone boxes are tin huts with 'Public Phone' in brightly-painted letters.
When I came back into SA the border chap looked at The Old Dear. "Can I have a ride?"
I looked him up and down.
"Nah, your legs are too short."
Collapse of stout official.
Ladysmith and Rorke's Drift were interesting, of course, and General Buller's Rest Lodge in Ladysmith can be recommended for an overnight stay or two.
The pair of us limped from East London to Port Elizabeth today. Me because crossing the Transkei yesterday was in a brutal crosswind of Patagonian proportions requiring a lot of heaving just to keep vaguely somewhere on the road, and She because not only has the oil leak got worse again but the charging system (yet again) went intermittent. It's also bloody cold.
We arrived in Port Elizabeth very close to the BMW dealer, and stopped in a car park to investigate. Chap in a 4x4 stopped next to me. Nigel, has an R1150GS, took me to the dealer, and is coming round for a G&T tonight. The dealer is brill. No mechanic who knows airheads (as usual), but they let me use a lift and general workshop facilities, providing help and excellent coffee where necessary. They even insisted on a nice 735 with a William to take me to an hotel (and Will will pick me up again tomorrow morning).
Robots are traffic lights. I kept seeing 'ROBOT' painted on the road and it took me ages to suss it. Doh.
Next HU Events
- Brazil: Feb 22-23
- Germany: May 29-June 1
- HUBB UK: June 19-22
- NEW! Canada Maritimes: July 4-6
- USA Colorado: July 11-13
- Ireland: July 18-20
- Canada West: Aug 21-24
- USA North Carolina: Sept. 4-7
- 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
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 14-16
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