The new front tyre is all done and dusted, so I can go off the tarmac again. All being well, will depart tomorrow for Clanwlliam with the idea of heading for Lambert's Bay on the Atlantic, and thence by a mixture of tarmac and gravel all the way down the coast to Cape Town.
There are a few things to see on the way to Clanwilliam so that might take a couple of days.
After fitting the tyre I took the road towards Kleinsee, also on the coast. Along the way I got equipped with a phone line.......
..... well, the arms at the top of the pole were right next to the lay-by so it seemed a better photo-opportunity than another straight road.
Certain readers with a sharp eye may see the optical fibre cable amongst the open wires. It was quite thin, so only carrying, I suppose, around half a million phone calls and a few hundred thousand broadband internet connections, or whatever they have in Kleinsee, pop 826.
Then there was this:
It does exactly what it says on the signboard.
Beyond the pass the tarmac ended. It was followed by gravel, blatantly defying Einstein, stretching out straighter than straight.
So I returned to Springbok to prepare for the next day's departure.
I arrived at Clanwilliam much earlier than planned. The countryside along the way is supposed to be covered wall-to-wall with wild flowers of every possible colour at this time of year. But no, not along these roads. So I turned westwards to Lambert's Bay and the Atlantic Ocean again. Which is where I am now, having discovered that the famous wildflower season was very short this year, and has already finished, because of warm winds through the winter drying out the land.
Will post up a couple of winery photos when I find internet faster than a donkey cart and cheap enough not to need two visits to an ATM to pay for it.
Wandering around Lambert's Bay, I half expected to see Mack and the boys pop up somewhere, hatching some hare-brained scheme to earn a bob or two, or to do someone a good turn.
Anyone who's read John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, or seen the film with Nick Nolte (brilliant music from Big Joe Duskin and others) will now know what Lambert's Bay is like, I hope.
If you don't know Cannery Row, then this might give an idea of the place:
In the tourist information office, in the windows of various shops, and outside the museum, is the following notice:
Please don't encourage the following bad habits in our town -
Right next to the tourist office is a car-washing yard.
I learned that crayfish grow very slowly, requiring a rigorously-enforced closed season to prevent them being wiped out, hence the plea not to buy from the smugglers.
The town is not yet a hundred years old, and up until 1918 only five families were living here, fishing the stormy Atlantic Ocean.
Then a crayfish canning factory was built, and the town grew to what it is now. That is, a small working town with derelict fish cannery, but with a newer factory next door making frozen chips and fish-meal, right on the water's edge. Plus a few B&Bs and a hotel, making it a compact holiday resort as well.
It seems a colourful sort of place, with sociable groups of beggars keeping an eye out for new faces to approach. I think they do it just to pass the time of day.
The road entrance to the potato and fish-meal factory has big steel gates carrying signs saying "Stop - No Entry - Report To Gate House. No Pedestrians."
Nobody does (stop, that is). People walk in and out (including me), because inside, in a corner of the factory, is the best restaurant in Lambert's Bay. Here, it enjoys prime views to the quayside, the ocean and the setting sun. Also inside the gates are the car park and the ticket office for boats to Bird Island, a nature conservancy a little way off shore. Maybe the marine biologist (played by Nick Nolte) lives there.
It's that sort of town, a bit anarchic.
So I'll borrow a phrase from Cannery Row - 'the world here seems to run in greased grooves'.
Quayside yard of the fishmeal factory. Best restaurant in town is behind the camera.
(I should say here, that the 'best restaurant in town' is just that - a restaurant. You need to have seen the film to know the need for that clarification!).
The Atlantic Ocean at Lambert's Bay..........
........... from the yard of the disused canning factory.
The factories and a bit of the beach. Mack and The Boys hang out by this car park, hawking shell jewellery, next to the "No Hawking" sign.
The smart resort beach.
On the ride here, the road from Springbok to Clanwilliam follows the route of the Olifants River for a while, and passes through the Olifants River Irrigation Scheme.
It looks like a huge amount of water is extracted from the river judging by the extensive plumbing arrangements in all the fields, to feed the massive rotating sprinkler contraptions that trundle on wheels around the circular fields.
The vineyards, because of the way the vines grow, can't accommodate this type of irrigation-on-wheels so they are watered by aquifers winding along the sides of the slopes, fed from the river by various pumping stations.
Two small lakes on the Olifants River near Clanwilliam.
And a tiny section of the vineyards alongside.
I phoned the agent used by most travellers wanting to ship motorcycles out of Cape Town. They said to turn up in a week to arrange air-freight for the last week of October.
So after a few days at Lambert's Bay I continued down the coastal route to Cape Town. But there were no more colourful Cannery Rows. Instead, there were little holiday resort towns dotted along the coast, all very modern and manicured. Africa had become the south of Spain or the south of France.
And it got pretty cold. That's the Atlantic for you, without the Gulf Stream.
On my map, the small coastal town of Yzerfontein looked like it was separated from the southbound road by a respectable distance, and only about two hours from Cape Town. So it'll be my last stopping place before the last city. And, the last oil-changing place. It seems to come round so quickly now.
(But journey's end is still planned to be Cape Agulhas, a day from Cape Town, after all the freight bookings are done).
There's an acronym commonly used by foreign travellers in Africa, that I've mentioned before somewhere: TIA.
"This Is Africa."
To pin on any situation that doesn't immediately fit any sort of western expectation.
Which is more-or-less everyday, and why most foreign visitors are here.
Well, here's another - TINA - "This Is Not Africa."
Yzerfontein is a very nice place, I ended up staying three days. It's a holiday-home village at the end of a 16-mile long beach, north of Cape Town. The imaginatively-designed holiday homes crowd around a small sandy bay, complete with little marina and launching ramp for visitors' boats. There are two small supermarkets, a couple of bottle stores, a few restaurants, lots of B&Bs, but the most numerous of the businesses is estate agents. There's an active trade in the buying and selling of holiday homes, and of vacant plots for more holiday homes.
Like most of the places south of Lambert's Bay, as far as I can see, it's a TINA.
But, a few of the season's colourful wild flowers were still hanging on, so here are some photos from the area. The colours aren't quite the same as the real thing though.
First off, this fellow hitched a ride to Yzerfontein on one of my panniers. Don't know where he got on so I didn't know what the fare should have been.
In amongst the wild flowers.
These are all vacant plots up for sale, so the displays will disappear when the homes are built.
The white sands of Pearl Bay, next to Yzerfontein. A TINA place.
Typical street in Yzerfontein. TINA again.
In view of the loss of the African atmosphere I decided the airport needed to be visited to sort out the options for the return home. So after one more oil change, off I set towards Cape Agulhas, stopping at the airport cargo area on the way.
The day after visiting the cargo area:
"Hello, is that Bradley?"
"It's Ken here."
"I came in yesterday to have my TTR weighed and measured for London. 223kg."
"That's right. I've booked my ticket now, back to London. For 27th October."
"When do you want me to bring the bike in for crating?"
"OK. See you on the 26th. Bye."
So there you have it. Journey's end will be 27th October - arriving Heathrow the following morning.
Now, where's that owner's handbook? This is the first time H.M. The Bike has ever been on a set of scales.
Let's see - total weight of bike is 124kg. (Including oil and fuel).
Maximum load according to Mr. Yamaha (rider, luggage and accessories) is 90kg.
Add those together, equals 214kg.
The difference between 214kg and 223kg is........ 9kg.
So, that leaves 9kg for the weight of the rider. Errrr, that's me.
No, there must be something wrong there. Work it out some other way.
Weight of rider is......... haven't the faintest. Assume 70kg - lost some weight on this journey, good African food.
So, weight of bike and luggage at the airport cargo area was 223kg.
Weight of rider is 70kg which makes 300kg total more-or-less.
Handbook says maximum weight of bike, rider, oil and fuel, tent, malaria tablets, mosquito net, Eet-Sum-Mor biscuits, spares and tools is 214kg.
Difference - 86kg.
It still doesn't make any sense.
I definitely told that nice policeman in Malawi that all my luggage would only weigh as much as if I was carrying one passenger. After all, motorbikes there carry three adults, one child and the family shopping.
So it must be OK.
It's these kilos. They never work out right. Everything should be in pounds, then it would all be correct.
Look - total distance Whyteleafe to Cape Agulhas has been 19,716 miles.
That's miles not kilometres - and dirt, rocks, corrugations, powder, pot holes, not just tarmac - and nothing's broken (so far). Not a single spoke, elastic luggage strap, nor GPS mounting bracket made from Meccano. Nor any 15mm copper water pipe held on with zip-ties.
So the error must be in the maths for the kilos, not in the loading of the bike. It would all be OK in pounds.
Anyway, the captain of the cargo plane said he'll fly it all to London as soon as I fill his pockets with money, so it must be alright.
That's another thing, how much will his pockets weigh on that flight........? I hope his GPS is fixed in place with Meccano as well. Or H.M. The Bike will end up in Vladivostok.
I stopped off at Caledon on the way to Cape Agulhas. On loading the bike the next morning, for the final stretch to the final destination, I saw this message on top of the headlight:
How can 19,700 miles be a 'short spin'?
Well, in the context of a lifetime, or the world's journey around the Milky Way, maybe it is.
How did this message get there anyway?
The wind blew things around a bit in the night. On top of my headlight I have a lightweight bike cover and a pair of ex-military gaiters (for the rainy season) all rolled up in an orange high-viz vest. Now, here were the washing instructions for the gaiters, on a little label, flapping in the breeze for all to see.
Hold on.... washing instructions? On military gaiters? What's the army coming to anyway?
But, there was the message, placed there somehow. Whether it meant a short spin from Caledon to Agulhas, or from Whyteleafe to Agulhas, maybe one day I'll find out.
Next stop, Antarctica.
Or for me and H.M. The Bike: Cape Town and London.
On the empty road from Caledon to L'Agulhas, and more so on the emptier stretch from Bredasdorp, a few people by the roadside give a knowing wave, or thumbs-up.
It seemed quite an occasion. I wonder how many bikes per week rumble down this road?
So at Struisbaai we completed another zig of the zig-zag - Indian Ocean at Mombasa, Atlantic at Swakopmund, and now the Indian Ocean again @ Struisbaai. And a few minutes later, with the danger of becoming quite dizzy, here's the Atlantic yet again a yard beyond the marker cairn at Cape Agulhas.
The deed is done!
At twelve, twenty and thirty eight seconds precisely.............
....... on 7th October 2010. Six thousand and fifty four miles, as the crow flies, from home.
A small collection of photos from the tip of Africa:
To provide the final finishing touch, the last three-quarters of a mile here is on a stoney gravel road - very appropriate!
H.M.The Bike on its throne at last. One wheel in each ocean.
A pair of white horses race from one ocean to the next.
The Atlantic weather was winning that day. Dull, dreary and windy, even rain in the night.
The next day was brighter, so a couple of photos of the lighthouse that stands above the track leading down to the headland.
Phew! I took a bit of a rest there. Eight days or so at the "suidelike punt van die vasteland."
And a very nice place it was to spend some time in. The tiny village of L'Agulhas, the tinier hamlet of Suiderstrand (population less than a hundred), and the slightly larger village of Struisbaai (only one pub but a couple of restaurants).
The tarmac road ends at L'Agulhas, you can go no further on it, but a little gravel track continues past the lighthouse and marker cairn and then another four miles to the very end of the road at Suiderstrand. So it's nice and remote.
It's out of season still, so not many visitors. But a few South Africans exploring their own country by road come down here to see their version of Lands End. Normally they go north to the parks of Namibia and Botswana.
"Hey! How did you find those nice straight roads up north? Don't they go on and on and on? Never-ending! The land of the dead straight roads!"
So I wasn't alone in my comments.
There were some busy interludes.
Well, one. Being interviewed by the local newspaper.
That is, a five minute chat in the proprietor's front garden.
They must have scouts and lookouts, waiting for weary-looking foreigners arriving at the southern-most marker cairn and tracking where they're staying. I have a copy of their publication - it's not on the web, but they said they'd email me a copy of the article.
So much for celebrity.
I have a number of things on the bike which are held on with zip ties. The rack being the most notable.
All have survived.
And now I find a like-minded soul: the person who maintains the Agulhas Lighthouse.
It's open to the public when the light isn't shining, ladders inside all the way up to the outdoor look-out gallery. There, on the outside, there's another narrow ladder stretching up to a tiny circular gangway above, surrounding the lantern-room itself. Massive curved windows enclose the lantern and lenses, held in place by vertical struts next to the gangway.
The bracket on one strut has long-ago fallen off. This is the repair, holding a window, about six feet by six feet, against the gale-force winds:
Sharp eyes may notice that the zip part of the tie isn't even holding the bracket in place - but just a single loop of a knot, sort of, in the end of the plastic tie. At least it goes through the bolt-holes, so that's alright then. But if I'd had my Meccano set with me I'd have done a proper job.
This is how it should look, a little higher up:
Here's a view from the gangway looking south to Antarctica:
And a view through the lantern-house window with a tiny section of one of the four huge lenses.
In the opposite direction, most of L'Agulhas, and the edge of Struisbaai in the distance.
H.M. The Bike even gets in this scene. Well, one has to, doesn't one?
After Lighthouse Inspection it was time to explore Suiderstrand for a few days. Entertainment there comprises sunrise (above the eastern half of the hamlet):
And sunset, above the western half.
Very nice, just what I wanted.
Now, if the longest journey starts with but a single step, what does it end with?
I'm on my way back north to Cape Town now, stopping here in Hermanus for a few days, then Cape Town a few days, then the airport to have the bike crated, and me installed on a flight to Heathrow.
Hermanus is billed as 'the Whale-Watching Capital of the World'.
I think the photos below will back up that claim. For a lot of the time, the huge Walker Bay, with Hermanus at its northwestern end, is alive with spouting and splashing whales. Southern Right Whales at this time of year.
They seem to circulate round the bay in an anti-clockwise direction, so any you see way over to the south east will slowly make their way to the rocky viewing areas below the main square of the town.
Slow is the key word here. They certainly take their time. About the speed of the average mountain, or maybe a red London bus making its way along Oxford Street.
Popular viewing place just below the town square. It's a bit like a whale boulder itself.
So I ventured down to the front stalls with the rest of the folks.
On the far side of the bay some headstands were being practiced.
This marine performance was all very well, but there were other things to be done.
A road climbing up into the mountains above town leads to a viewpoint:
Hermanus, and Walker Bay.
And probably the last bit of dirt road of the trip:
A tricky little track up to the top of the Fernkloof Nature Reserve overlooking the bay, just to round things off.
The descent needed a bit of care - sharp right corner just ahead and nothing but views of the whales in the straight-on direction.
Now, all being well, it's the final tarmac run to the Mother City, Table Mountain, Signal Hill, and a crate to London and Whyteleafe for H.M. The Bike.
It's not really 'Africa', but a jewel in South Africa's crown must be Pringle Bay. A tiny seaside hamlet down a dead-end road just beyond Betty's Bay, where I had stopped for tea on the way to Cape Town.
I almost didn't take the turning, except the view seemed to indicate something worth seeing beyond.
A little village of houses (mostly holiday homes) and a shop or two squeezed between the mountains and the jagged Atlantic coastline. Just about every road leading away from the shops takes you to a seafront scene like this one. I took all these photos from the same spot.
And there's wildlife here as well.
A closer look at the supports under the verandah.....
........reveals the anti-baboon precautions needed to keep your outdoor afternoon tea safe and sound.
This is also Black Oyster-catcher nesting territory, meaning that the numerous sand dunes lying between the houses are out-of-bounds to mankind.
Then commenced the road that had been recommended to me by a few South Africans and British ex-pats: "It's to South African riders what the Peak District's Cat and Fiddle Pass is to English ones. And whatever you do, don't go along there on a weekend, there can be nasty incidents."
Well, it was Friday, and one of quite a few memorial crosses that I saw at the edge of the road was being reverently recorded by a professional photographer, with what looked like the family present.
So moving on not too quickly, this is the R44 road between Pringle Bay and Gordons Bay.
No ugly Armco barriers or safety railings here to spoil the views. Just short lengths of low stone walls where the frequent, but small, parking places are situated. Elsewhere there's nothing but fresh air and the Atlantic Ocean on the seaward side of this twisty road, and vertical cliffs on the other.
As if that's not enough, just as the wind-blown sea spray is splashing your left boot, this sign appears........
WHERE does this road go now???
A bit of a worry.
- But never mind, my snorkel, a Christmas present from Caroline back in the Sinai, is still strapped to my bike.
The bigger picture:
Just a measure of how twisty and tortuous this road is.
While taking these photos, this fellow was hovering motionless in the wind, above the waves alongside the road, waiting for dinner to be served.
So it was time to press on to Cape Town and my dinner. It's a city that demands secure parking which a few days earlier I had found and booked easily enough, and I took a circular jaunt around Signal Hill on the way there. This taught me what a hilly city Cape Town is, some of the back roads appearing near enough vertical.
This is inside the B&B, the mountains are neither Signal Hill nor Table Mountain which are just behind me. This is yet another set to the south-east. No wonder the city is all steep inclines with brake and clutch repair shops behind every petrol station.
And a full moon rising to round off the day.
And finally, an administrative error to report.
Earlier, I had guessed that on arrival at the B&B the speedo on my bike would clock up about 19,988 miles since Whyteleafe.
It's now showing 20,012 miles. So we must have reached the magic twenty thousand somewhere on the steep slopes of the Atlantic Ocean side of Signal Hill.
Took a little ride round the town the other day, while it was dry. The next day the rain was pretty torrential but my sheepskin seat cover, I noticed, dried out very quickly. More of that later.
A few visitor photos:
Table Mountain from Signal Hill, with some local bike company.
That football, errrrrrm...... thingy. South African newspapers are already reporting it will be demolished as there's no use for it now, so people are arguing angrily, from both sides, in the letters pages.
That mountain again.
The 'Lion's Head', up on Signal Hill.
And lastly, the highlight of Cape Town if you're of a certain age and profession, otherwise it's for my GPO workmate Pete (who provided the photos of our reunions in a previous posting). He always insists, whenever it's mentioned, "There's no such thing as the GPO anymore."
Well, there is here, right outside my B&B. Here are two of their joints. Buried in concrete:
I hope they don't need to get to it quickly for repairs in an emergency.
The two of them, and near-vertical hill in the distance.
Reminds me of an incident long ago (while on the subject) - a fault on a cable carrying BBC TV pictures from Broadcasting House to the TV Centre in White City. The fault was in a pavement manhole near the top of Sloane Street and was a bit of an emergency, as the customer wanted to get (a very young) Michael Fish's weather forecast on to our screens in good time.
But alas! When the repair gang arrived at the spot, they found a 200-foot high vertical scaffold pole standing right on top of the manhole cover. The Bowater building was being renovated, with scaffolding ranged all the way up its outside, the manhole lid providing part of the foundations. That caused quite a fuss as I recall, so I hope the scaffolders up at Hillside Road aren't placing their poles where they shouldn't.
Mr. Fish's weather forecast, as always, got to our TV screens on time by some other route that didn't involve (younger readers may gasp in awe at this.....) satellites! As they weren't invented yet (not for TV weather forecasts anyway).
Moving on..... as this journey is drawing to an end, and it was rainy yesterday morning, I spent a while on the internet trying to nail down something that I've been looking for off and on since my posting of July 10th. Or even before, going back to the end of May in Kericho (Kenya) where I first heard this memorable piece of local music.
Elephants, and those with good memories, will remember that in Kahoma, Tanzania, I met some locals in a hotel restaurant, Christopher, Anthony and Charles. The Kenyan song started playing, so Anthony wrote down the title and singer for me.
Well, since then I've asked in many music shops in Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and so on, and looked high and low on the internet, fast and slow, and drawn a complete blank.
So I searched again while it rained. Still nothing. Not even on Google Kenya.
As a last resort I searched simply for 'Kenya popular music', and of course I got a googol of results, or whatever it is.
(For anyone interested, the name 'google' is derived from the word for the number ten followed by a few hundred zeros. I forget the actual number of zeros and the actual word - it's not really the sort of thing anyone needs to know. Except it would have been something interesting to have remembered when riding the most boring road in Botswana).
But there, at about number eight in this endless list of results, was a heading, 'Trends in Kenyan Popular Music', shining like the Agulhas lighthouse. That looked like it might lead to some scholarly content rather than all the advertising and junk material under the other 999,999 headings. Sure enough, it was a scholarly article by Douglas B. Paterson, Ph.D. (So a word of encouragement to Beau, embarking on his Ph.D, - get it done and you'll have the world beating a path to your websites).
But no. Not a word about the artist I'm looking for, Tonny Myadundo.
Right down at the end of the piece there was a page of all the artists mentioned, plus some more, all in neat alphabetical order. Staring right out of the list was Tony Nyadundo.
A few megabytes of keyboard work later I found he has two CDs, with samples on various websites, and the song I'm looking for is 'Isanda Gi Hera' from the CD of the same name.
Some progress at last! But where will it lead to??
Well, I'll tell you. It led, by a road just twisty enough to be interesting, to Warren Street in Central London, right round the corner from the office that I used to work in.
It's getting like that here. Small World Syndrome. While spending time at scenic viewpoints and such like, I've lost count of the number of times I've heard, "Oh yes, we lived in Biggin Hill/Caterham/Oxted/Streatham for ...... years (insert your own number) before moving down here." I've yet to meet anyone who lived in Whyteleafe, but a campsite I stayed on in Tanzania was managed by a chap who was the Station Manager at Euston Station, when I was working in a large office above the forecourt. So we reminisced a little about the pubs surrounding it.
Then there was the South African I met in Namibia: "You worked for who? - I installed the electrical switchgear in that GPO Tower when it was being built, before I returned here."
So, moving on again, with the name of CD and singer spelt correctly, it was straightforward to find that none of the big music stores in Cape Town have ever had it on their lists. Nor Amazon in the UK or the US.
But nil desperandum - there's the rest of the world to check yet. And the good old internet revealed that there is only one solitary shop (amongst all those having a presence on the internet) with the CD in stock - Sterns Music in Warren Street.
And just to complete the circle, Warren Street is but a short walk from Euston Station in addition to being round the corner from the other office I worked in....... Will be home any day now!
Anyone wanting to know what all the fuss is about, there's a video here:
(Anyone who's got this far may notice this video is entitled 'Kidi Oba Etoke', but the piece being played is definitely 'Isanda Gi Hera'. Don't forget, 'This Is Africa')
The internet here was only good enough to play a couple of minutes of it, but it's about ten minutes long. And you probably don't remember, but I mentioned that back in those Kenyan bars it was played two or three times in a row!
This clip on the internet certainly conjures up vibrant memories of those little streets back in Kericho.
Just to end this bit of ramble, for anyone interested in this detail (well, maybe Beau is reading this), Tony Nyadundo is Kenya's leading exponent of Ohangla music, the music of the lakes in western Kenya. He's from the same Luo tribe as Barack Obama and his second CD is called 'Obama'. Ohangla music was originally the music of funerals before being brought into mainstream popularity (funerals being joyous occasions in much of Africa).
There's no end to what you can learn on a journey like this.
So what else about Cape Town? Well, I'm only here for two days really, but it's the sort of place that, if you spend at least a week here, you'll certainly find it very entertaining. In addition, wherever you are, the massive Table Mountain with its swirling clouds looms over everything, making for spectacular scenery everywhere. Yesterday evening I was in a nearby pavement restaurant (without camera). Swivelling around to look behind me I could see a rainbow stretching right over the far end of the mountain, high up above the street. (It had rained on and off). When I turned back again, my first instinct was: the other end's on fire! A huge ball of ragged cloud above the other end of the mountain was being illuminated for a few minutes by the red setting sun (out of sight), turning it into a real volcano.
I rode around the town a little, stopping here and there. But two thoughts occurred to me. The roads are very steep, the little engine has to work hard to get up them all. And, H.M. The Bike and I have an unmissable appointment at the cargo depot Tuesday morning to drop the bike off. So I have to minimise all possibilities of anything getting in the way of that. Thus, I've kept the riding around to a minimum.
Now, I'm off to the hotel at the airport, to unload all the luggage, lay it all out in the hotel car park, and sort out everything that will fly with the bike, making sure it includes everything needed to remove the front wheel and screen, lower the handlebars, and anything else that might need doing. Also, to make sure all of that stuff can be strapped up next to the bike once it's on its pallet. And there's one thing that I have to make a real effort to remember. Unlike riding out of every other town and city on this journey, I really must remember NOT to fill up with petrol on the way out to the airport. No senior moments, please!
Tomorrow morning I ride the half mile to the cargo area, have the bike strapped onto the air pallet, luggage and front wheel distributed around it, all weighed and measured for the fare calculation, take the customs carnet and air waybill to customs to be stamped out of South Africa, return to the cargo depot, fill the pilot's pockets and walk back to the hotel, bikeless....... Memories of the Aswan to Wadi Halfa ferry.
I hope what they say, about B.A. now being as bad as the ferry, is an exaggeration.
I've been a fan of theirs for more years than I can remember. Since turning up at Gatwick one afternoon for a flight to the US, about twenty minutes before takeoff. Well, in those days, that sort of thing was OK, even flying to the US. Although I suppose I had cut it a bit fine. But I was lucky enough to be flying business class (for work) and I could see there was no queue at the check-in as I approached it. But then one of the two attendants walked up to me, extended his hand, and said, "Good afternoon Mr. Thomas. We'd like to welcome you aboard our flight to Dallas this afternoon. But time is moving on so my colleague here will look after your bags and I'll nip over to passport control with you so we can get you straight to the gate where they're just boarding now."
"Phew!" I thought. "What's all that about? There's twenty minutes yet."
As we headed to the passport desk, I thought there was something strange happening here.
"Wait a minute, how did you know my name? I haven't even had time to get my ticket or passport out yet."
"Well, sir. You see, there was only one passenger remaining on our list, so I took a chance that you were that passenger."
Bet that's never happened on the Wadi Halfa ferry.
But a reader has summed it up for me, I think.
Probably the most stressful part of the whole Whyteleafe to L'Agulhas trip will be the check-in and security at the airport.
How do these things happen? Is there a message in there somewhere?
The bike has run faultlessly the last 20,000 miles across the continent of Africa.
It must like it here. The petrol's cheaper I suppose. Or there's more sunshine than back in England.
Because this morning, ready to leave for the last half-mile to the cargo shed, it was dead to the world. Not a spark of life from the starter button.
No...... it must be nerves, mine or the bike's.
Check everything again.
Ignition on - Check. Double check.
In neutral, make sure, down first, up second, down a click, neutral - Check.
Ignition cut-out on - Check. Double check.
Any lights? Yes there are lights - Check.
Starter button - dead.
One of the many hotel guests who have passed by wanting to know all about my journey, comes up to me with the usual greetings and questions.
"Yes, it's been a wonderful journey, a magnificent continent!"
"Had any problems, any breakdowns?"
"No, it's just not starting right now, doesn't like the idea of going on a plane, never flown before."
It's like that poem:
"Fear not, fear not, thou Hotel-Guest!
This bike won't let me down.
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide land!
And never my bike has failed to start
Despite it not liking the sand."
Until this morning.
Another round of checks, including all the lights so the battery doesn't get left out. Check.
No, no action at all from the starter button.
So it's the kick-starter then.
The first prod results in a definite cough and firing, so everything's OK there.
Second prod and the engine runs!
Well, what's all that about?
But no time for philosophical ponderings, off to the cargo area.
I pulled up next to the loading ramp and they're expecting me.
"Go round to the airside so we can get you up onto the bay. I'll give you a pass."
I knew the way airside as I had to go round there for the weighing a few weeks earlier. It seems quite something to be riding through the Cape Town Airport security into the aircraft taxi-ing area, in front of the noses of the waiting freight planes. Years ago it would have been unremarkable, you just needed to be driving a car with "Post Office Telephones" on the side, and you'd be waved straight through in amongst the BOAC 707s and whatever else was flying around in the 60s.
With pass in hand, I switched on again, tried the starter button. And there was life. So it's a mystery. That won't be solved, if it needs to be solved, until H.M. and I get away from this cargo shed and back to my shed.
The wrap-up photos:
The cockpit, with one year's flight plan, tyre pressures and fuel range in the head-up display on the screen. Along with GPS navigator, master key for the toilets (wooden trowel handle) and map compartment.
Close-up 1: Maps and navigator.
Close-up 2: Stowed under the navigator's seat (on the right), is the ship's log. 68,282.8 statute miles. Subtract 48,236 (from flight plan in top picture above), gives 20,046 miles covered.
And, suddenly, it all looks like this:
Grounded. In dry dock!
Final flight plan on the dismantled head-up display.
Reversed, to reveal the other name for H.M. The Bike.
Hoping for some weight-loss, it's placed on the industrial bathroom scales. (Flat square plate on the left).
Then I learned something that arrived just too late. "Things I wish I'd known at the start of the journey."
As I've said before, the bike's air filter just doesn't seem up to the job. The oil consumption is OK still, but considerably higher than on joining the road to Dover. A paper cartridge is needed really, but it would be too big.
Here's the answer, but too late now I'm afraid. To anyone starting out on an African adventure, or even just going to the local shops in Tanzania, I strongly recommend you try this set-up to keep all the dirt and dust out of your engine:
No wonder H.M. The Bike didn't want to start this morning......
Our veteran travellers share their tips (and great stories) for staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure.
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