December 02, 2011 GMT
The Adventure Begins


AFRICA WE MADE IT! The general plan is to head South from Johannesburg, checking out Swaziland and Lesotho. To Cape Town where we turn north to Namibia, Botswana, to Victoria Falls then back south to Johannesburg. We have two months, then put bike in storage and come back next year to ride up the east coast of Africa. Well that is the plan and as always plans are just so you know what you are not doing that you thought you would.

Monday morning at 8:15 we departed SeaTac airport for a 22 hour flight to Johannesborg South Africa. With stops in DC and Dakar, with a ten hour time change we arrived at 6:30 PM. Met Ivan and Debra on the “Wild Dogs” web site where they offered to pick us up and get the bike sorted. We were met at the airport by Debra and off to there house we went. The next morning we picked up the bike with absolutely no hassels.

We flew the bike over due to time delays in getting the Carnet and I would need to take it to Canada to ship as no one will deal in shipping “less than container load” used vehicles out of USA due to customs delays. Air freight was $2331USD by ExFreight and $1191ZAR (8.45 ZAR to 1USD) at this end. By ship it would have been half that, but much more complicated in getting it out of port.
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This is us, packed and on the road. We did not bring the kitchen sink but we have the refrigerator and stove.

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This is the bike, R1200 GSA, after I added the graphic on the side we decided it needed a name. So, meet Elly, Elly meet world.

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First place we stopped felt like home, (which is 90 miles south of Seattle), but they did not have any chocolate or honey for the coffee.

After being spoiled for two days with good food , beer and good company we set off for two months around Southern Africa. The first days travel took us to Nelspruit through an area of coal mines and coal fired power plants, cattle and corn fields. They have been pushing the global warming meeting in Durban on the local TV starting the 28th which I thought strange with all the coal plants belching smoke. Oh well some day they will realize the world has been cooling for the last 13 years.

Got up on Friday and tried to find a place to get insurance on the bike. No one would do less than a year and was told it was not required in South Africa, so drive safe and hope no one runs into me. A note on the roads and traffic, good roads (toll roads are as good as any at home but spendy), biggest change from home, (other than driving on left) is the great speed difference between vehicles. Speed limit may be 120 kph (means some are at 130+) but the trucks may be doing 60 kph and busses (small van types) at 100kph. Traffic is always switching lanes and passing. On two lane roads most will pull over to side and let you pass, very considerate drivers. Lane splitting is tolerated if not legal.
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Typical down town
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On the road east of Johannesboug

Headed into Swaziland from the north on fun roads and to Piggs Peak, with a name like that I had to go see. Martha’s Birthday was the 26th so we splurged and checked into Piggs Peak Casino and Resort, real nice place with good food and friendly people.
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At Piggs Peak Casino Resort

After a good Breakfast at resort we rode through Swaziland and out the South. In the higher elevation of Swaziland there are large areas of commercial timber production, pine and eucalyptus trees. Not sure if this is an outside venture or run by locals. Wanted to find a place to camp as we traveled east, GPS said camping was available 18 K down a dirt road, so off we went. But when we got there it was a Game Reserve and they would not let us camp because we had a motorcycle. Not sure what the difference is if I take a tent out of a car or out of a pannier. So back down the dirt and found a nice place at Bayala.
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Swaziland
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Swaziland
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Stop for lunch back in South Africa
Sunday morning stopped and bought a pineapple along the road, which we had for lunch. Rode through area of sugar cane production and stopped at Salt Rock where we found a campground. Was a real test of the tent as the wind was howling and it was not too long before the lighting and thunder started. Heavy rain for part of the night but had quit by the time we got moving.
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Beach at Salt Rock
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Road construction and rain
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Valley
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Some really nice farms

From Salt Rock I set the GPS to take us to Underburg and Sani Pass. Was a great road to Underburg even though it did start to rain on us. Spent the night in back packer room at old hotel 5k out of Underburg. Interesting place but not going to give it a thumbs up, no water in the restroom so no shower and the internet they promised does not work. Was hoping to get an early out this morning but restaurant that was to open at seven did not open till twenty after while someone ran around trying to find a key, now to wait for the grill to heat.

Only problems so far has been getting my phone to work right. I got a new SIMs card loaded and phone works (now that I got the charging problem fixed) but still trying to get it to connect to internet.

Now the 1st Dec. and have not got this posted yet, soon. Hope to have the problem of getting my phone to hook to internet fixed today.

Sani Pass, how to explain, every once in awhile you need a challenge in life, so riding up Sani Pass and having a beer at South Africa’s highest pub was put on the bucket list. Martha thinks it was an IQ test which I failed miserably. The last four miles of the pass climb 1000 feet a mile with some slopes at 28%. Check the pictures for road conditions. Some areas could not be done on Elly fully loaded and two up so Martha got to walk up. We were lucky when a 4X4 tour group stopped and gave Martha a ride to the top.
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Road crew at base of Sani Pass, it will take years but the plan is to pave all the way to the top, we were told that pass would close next year so they can start blasting at the top.
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The road got a little lumpy, here I had to have Martha walk a spot, the bike would want to come up in front with too steep a climb with two up.
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the road
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If you look close at this poor picture you can see the switch backs at the top.

The only mishap was when I hit a hole where culvert had collapsed. I hit it head on with enough speed that I bounced through but stalled and had an unscheduled get off. It was just fascinating looking at the pass from the bottom as it looked like the last several switch backs were carved in a vertical cliff. This was kind of like a three hour bungee jump and the beer at top was great. Topped at 2850 M.
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Elly does a lay down
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Beer and lunch at the top
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Looking back down the pass from top

Fun did not stop there as we had another pass to go up on A14, not as steep but road may have had more loose stuff. Then we turned on to A3 to a small village 7k down one side of a canyon and up the other. Stayed in a former trading post turned backpacker lodge. It had been a seven hour day of hard work and shower (gas heated as they had no electricy) really was what I needed.
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Road up second pass
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Seven hours of riding these roads, I think we averaged 10kph
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More neat road that you would not want to fall off the side of.
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Where we spent the night
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Lesotho village where we stayed
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Stopped here and bought some apples and Martha tried to feed core to donkey but he did not know what it was.

Up the next day and back tracked to A14 and into Mokhotlong to get fuel. From there on A1 which was indicated on map as tar but much of it has be tore up or full of pot holes. Went over Moteng Pass, known as African Backbone and up to 3280 M. The road down the other side was paved but dropped fast, see pictures. Then across the border back to SA and getting a room in Ladybrand. Today I am going to find internet and get this uploaded. The crew back home must be sure we are lost or eaten by a lion.
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The way down on the other side of "The Mountain Kingdom" was steep and winding but was good pavement.

That is all for this installment, stay tuned as we now head toward Cape Town.

Posted by Robert Thode at December 02, 2011 07:15 PM GMT
 


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