January 20, 2012 GMT
Krugar National Park
Back to South Africa, what a difference crossing a border can make. On this side things work, like phone, internet and services. It was hot coming in though at or just under 40C, so we got a cabin with air-conditioning for a good nights sleep.
We headed South on N1 toll road for a way then cut off 200 meters before the next toll booth on R37. This turned out to be a good choice as not only did we not have to pay the toll but it is a very scenic route. Traveled through beautiful farm ground and then up into the hills and pine and eucalyptus plantations. Turned off of R37 and went over Robbers Pass then finally down to Nelspruit. We took the bike into the local BMW dealer for service and a couple of warranty items, rented a little red car and were ready for Kruger National Park.
Kruger National Park is huge covering 20,000 sq. K. and would take at least a week to just drive it all, we are going in on a Friday and will come out on Monday. After paying park fees and driving through the gate we were not 500 meters before we came upon a rhino. The first we has seen in Africa and it was big. Pictures don’t do these critters justice, you need someone to walk up side of them for a size comparison but Martha was not willing.
The first night we spent at Skukuza and pitched the tent. It was hot and miserable all night, even worse when the mosquitoes found where a zipper had got left open a little. They must have took me for a pint of blood. The next two nights we got a cabin with air and now mosquitoes.
For anyone coming to Africa this is the park to come to, the following is a list of critters we saw in our time here:
all the big 5
Lions African Wild Cat Common Duiker Kudus Warthogs
Leopard Black backed Jackal Giraffes Nyala Waterbucks
Elephants Blue Wildebeest Hippopotamus Zebras Wild Dog
Buffalos Baboons Impalas Spotted Hyaena Crocodile
Rhinoceros Cheetah Klipspringer Velvet Monkeys Leopard tortoises
Dinner in a former train station at the park. We had Crocodile.
Lions taking an afternoon nap
Lions and cubs, this may be why they don't let you ride in on a motorcycle.
We got back to the Nelspruit picked up the moto and turned in the little red car, (which had a smaller engine than the moto). They did a great job of cleaning up Elly and fixed minor issues.
We found a great lodge to stay at called the Bundu, with Zebras, ponies, an ostrich, peacocks and bunnies running around the grounds. From Bundu we headed to Sabie, in the rain, where we stopped at the Old Mill Pub where we had seen a sign that said “bikers welcome” when we came through before. Got a nice cabin and would recommend the place. We did make a stop on the way at the Elephant Sanctuary and got to play with the elephants. The camera refused to work so we got pictures on the cell phone, now if I only knew how to down load to PC.
The next morning the rain continued and we headed out for a very wet day. Was told that Nelspruit had 150 mm of rain and parts of Krugar got 500mm. It was starting get a break in the weather as we got to Marble Hall and got a room at the Buffalo Hotel, kind of a strange place but it worked.
Thursdays we went to Schlowy Custom Motorcycle to get an accelerator module put on the bike. Unit makes it run better and improves fuel mileage. Also ordered a tire for the rear which I will get put on Monday. The rear tire (Heidenau K60) got me about 12000 k, which is not bad for a traction tire. Putting a new one on now and we should be good to go for the next leg of the journey.
We are down to the last few days then we fly home.
Posted by Robert Thode at 05:05 PM
December 11, 2011 GMT
To the bottom of Africa
Up to Addo Elephant Park where we got a camp spot and took a two hour tour, (they will not let motorcycles ride into the park). It was a real nice camp ground and we saw many animals:
Leopard Tortoise, about 15 inches long. They said you should not pick them up because they will pee all there water out may not have enough water left to make it to water hole.
Warthog, cute buggers
When we left the park we headed to Graff-Reinet after a breakfast of eggs, sausage and reheated fries. Passed through citrus groves and some alfalfa. Saw our first monkeys but did not get a picture. Got our first taste of African heat as it hit 38.5C (aka 101 F).
Lots of wind mills pumping water
Cattle along the route
We got the G R and decided to go to the National Zebra Park where we hoped to get a camp site and tour. But they would not let us in with a motorcycle so we turned around and back to Graff-Reinet where we could get a camp sit, then it started to rain, then hail. So when I came past a neat old Guest House we gave up on camping. Graff-Reinet is an old town settled by the Dutch and would be a great place to wander around for a few days.
We could not pronounce Graff-Reinet right so we just called it "Grand Rapids"
Guest house where we had good B&B with dinner too
Ostriches hiking across the plane
Springbok on a game reserve
Then on to Dirk van der Merwe farm where we had been invited. GPS is wonderful, just entered the numbers and it took us 14k down a dirt road right to their house. The farm has been in the family for five generations. They raise sheep, cattle, alfalfa and horses in a very dry area by diverting the river to flood irrigate the fields when (and if) it rains. If they get water once they get two cuttings of alfalfa and three cutting is they can water twice. There have been years when it did not rain enough to irrigate. Had a great braii of springbok backstrap and lamb chops and sausages. It really makes the trip to be able to meet people and understand their way of doing things.
checking out Dirk's cattle
Dirk's Wague bull (can't remember how to spell it) Japaneses breed of well marbled beef, top of the line for restaurants.
Martha and Dirk
After a great nights sleep and a walk to see the cattle and Dirk’s Waugo bull. We left for a little backtracking to Williston and then on to dirt road south ending in Leeu Gamka at an old road house (1885). It was the cooks night off so they set out supplies for a Braii (BBQ) and we had more good food.
You could spend days just riding the back roads here, most of the dirt/gravel roads are well maintained.
Rode through Prince Albert Road and beautiful valley with grapes and feedlots for ostriches. The land is very rugged here with some good riding over passes and down to the ocean. We went into George found information and location of BMW dealer so I could get a bolt. At dealer we found the bolt was broken off, not just unscrewed, so they pulled it into the shop and fixed it up with a new bolt and new mud guard. No cost as it was under warranty, can highly recommend this shop as friendly quick and efficient. It is differant than what we would find at home because it also sold BMW cars.
Road down through the clouds for a splendid ride
many of these "camp"
From George we headed on to Stillbaii (still bay) and got a camp site. We had made arrangements with Chris Louw to pick up a set of tyres (tires for you back home). Called and told him we were close and to get directions and he hopped in his truck and delivered the tyres. Then we talked for so long the local store and restaurant had closed so he took Martha to get a take away (aka take out) a few k from where we were. The next morning Chris was back with his motorcycle and took us to where we could get the tyres installed. It is one of those thing I could do myself but much easier if you have the right equipment. Once Elly had her new shoes Chris took us on a route up in the hills then down a dirt road, back to tar and great stop for lunch where owner is a biker (Harley) and bikers get 10% discount. Met a gentleman there that was 77 and out for a ride on his BWM. Finally Chris had to head home and we set off for Somerset West.
View in the mountains
View in the uplands, Seattle may not have the bluest sky
Off to get the tyres on, not all roads here are dirt
Elly with her new shoes
Where you want to stop for lunch if you are ever on Route 62
Mail delivery by bicycle
Martha and Chris
Along the road
Small town with grain elevators
The address I had for Brian and Marganne would not come up on the GPS so we had to give them a call and get lead in to there house, where we are now getting really spoiled. When we got here Brian said we could go out on the rescue boat (he is a volunteer captain) that night as they were going to be doing some training on a new night vision unit that picks up inferred. Was a wonderful experience to see the bay at night and the city all lit up. I do not do well on water and this was no exception, very glad I went but not too well by the end.
Saturday we (Brian leading) set out on a tour of some of the best motorcycle roads I have traveled. We left at 9:30 with strict instructions from Marganne to be back by 4:30 and we did make it by 6:30. Absolutely stunning views and roads that are impossible to capture on film but some attempts are below. Saw our first Baboons along the road and Martha’s first picture was just of the wall it was sitting on. Told her I was going to post it as the concrete wall the baboon was sitting on. But we soon came to some more and got a few pictures. Ended the day by going out for a wonderful Chinese dinner.
the view on the ride
Martha on the beach ride, I think she is frowning due to long back side wear, we had been out about 8 hours here.
Today we do the laundry and update the Blog, tomorrow a hair cut, (getting a little fuzzy) then maybe Cape Town.
Posted by Robert Thode at 02:47 PM
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.
This is us, packed and on the road. We did not bring the kitchen sink but we have the refrigerator and stove.
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.
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.
Typical down town
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.
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.
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.
Beach at Salt Rock
Road construction and rain
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.
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.
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.
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.
Elly does a lay down
Beer and lunch at the top
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.
Road up second pass
Seven hours of riding these roads, I think we averaged 10kph
More neat road that you would not want to fall off the side of.
Where we spent the night
Lesotho village where we stayed
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.
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 07:15 PM