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Photo by Josephine Flohr, Elephant at Camp, Namibia

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Elephant at Camp, Namibia

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Old 27 Jan 2013
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Location: Base Camp - Isle of Man & Portugal
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Cape Town

]R1100Gs - Botswana - Zimbabwe -'Namibia -

"Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood." Helen Keller

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About the Author.

I gave everything up in 2010. The house, the pots and pans, the vacum cleaner and the wife. I had had enougth. It was time to leave the past and future and start living in the present. My new home is a tent. I have no fixed address and my life weight is down to 25kg. I work periodoically to finance the next trip which has no ride plan. Plan A is no plan. It is the best thing I have done in my life - Less is more. I don't trust the banks or governments and believe in a life which should have no frontiers and that our purpose in life is to love as much as we can. Courage is to step out of the comfort zone. We came into this world with nothing and shall certianly leave with nothing. I can't take the bikes or the money with me so I bury gold and silver bars on my travels which will become my sons inheritence if he wishes it to be, but he will have to go and find it! I ride three bikes. They are a K100RS, R1100RS and a R1100GS. Experience has taught me that it is far easier and cheaper to keep one bike in Europe, one in the UK and one in Africa. I get off the plane - pick the bike up and discover new routes instead of riding thousands of unnessary miles over "have been there journeys to reach point B" and point B is where the real journey starts.
It is neccessary for me to write what people want to read and to write articles that people can easilly understand without getting to technical so my observations are a broad understanding of what I experience and write about. If I live I live and if I die I die. It is the way of life.


28 January 2012

It was a shocker of a day full of nasty surprises. I awoke early, packed the bike and was on the road at 8.00 am. I planned to ride to Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape for I had been told that it was worth taking a looking at it. By 10.00 am the temperature had reached thirty-two degrees and finally peeked at forty-six degrees. In spite of the heat, it was a superb road and the countryside varied between rocky mountains and flat arid desert. The first town with any real life in it was Vanhynsdorp near a mountain called Gifberg (meaning Poison Mountain). Apparently there is a rare poisonous plant growing on the mountain which might kill you and where bushman used to obtain poison for their arrows to hunt game. So – a town of life and death. The following town Clanwilliam had real water from the Olifants River which feeds the great wine and fruit harvests of this region and connects to the town of Citrusdal. Without this river nothing would grow there. The farmers have built huge concrete canals to divert water from the river to their crops. The north and west provinces are very short of water, and are large, arid, and hot territories. The surrounding population heads for the beach at Saldanha Bay and Langebaan to fulfil their dreams. These places seem as though they are still in the desert for there is no water there apart from the Berg River, thirty kilometres away. This river contains a lot of salt from the inflowing tides at the mouth of the river. It is a carbon copy of Swakopmund – a desert town where people spend a fortune to buy land and build properties, and not one green shoot to be seen. It’s all about sun and ocean: who needs water if there is ? I feel uneasy about this state of affairs.
There is another problem here. I could not find a campsite that accepts motorcyclists. I tried three and was refused entry each time. After the third refusal I gave up and headed for Cape Town via the R27.

What has the ANC have in mind for South Africa? For an evaluation of South African State mineral assets click here.

I would have thought that on entering Cape Town I would see signs directing me to B&Bs and hotels but there was not a sign to be seen. It was getting dark and the traffic was heavy. I saw my first B&B sign in Muizenberg. This guy wanted R680 a night for bed and breakfast. His excuse for this high tariff was that “It’s all relative”. I declined the offer and moved on. The next suburb was Fish Hoek. I found a hotel there for R780.00 a night which included breakfast. I was too tired to quibble about the tariff, so here I sit. These are extortionate prices. The B&B was only R100.00 cheaper than a four star hotel! How is that price relative, I ask? These high prices must make Cape Town one of the biggest rip-off cities in the world. I can’t wait to get back to the country bumpkins who charge an honest price for accommodation. I always think that when I see high prices like these, it means that there is far too much money around, and it won’t be long before there is a great economic collapse. It’s going to be a quick visit to Cape Town for me or I shall end up bankrupt. It has been many years since I was in this city. I climbed Table Mountain in my youth, and lodged in youth camps at Glencairn. Perhaps I imagined that nothing would have changed, but I guess the city and I have both changed.
If one is on a motorbike in Africa, a visit to Cape Point is a must for it is the most photographed bike point in the world. Most motorcycle books I have read always seem to have a picture of the writer and his bike at Cape Point. It just has to be done. Don’t ask me why!

The other thing I want to raise is the discrimination against bikers at caravan parks. My money, my integrity, and manners are as good as those who drive a car or a horse cart. I suggest to anybody reading this that they give the South Western Cape a wide berth and that will keep everybody happy. Stick to the country bumpkin stuff in the north and your wallet will thank you for it.
On the other hand, Cape Town is a beautiful city. It is clean and there is a plentiful supply of litter bins in the city, the most I have seen in any city on my travels so far. Simon’s Town is also stunning. There is plenty of money about there too, with packed restaurants, multimillion Rand homes, and many good shopping areas. The worldwide recession has not reached the shores of this land yet. I was reading an article in The Daily Reckoning edited by Bill Bonner, co-author of the book Empire of Debt, which had researched the best retirement places in the world. Ecuador was listed as number one out of nineteen destinations, while France, Ireland and Spain were listed as the best European destinations. South Africa was not mentioned at all. I wonder why? I suppose the bankruptcy of its various provinces, government corruption, unemployment and AIDs, coupled with high inflation do not help matters, no matter how appealing the land and weather might be.
I did what had to be done, but I was ripped off yet again. It costs R85.00 to get in to Cape Point in the Cape Peninsula National Park. It is shockingly expensive and I saw a few people turn around at the gate to return to where they had come from. As usual there was no warning sign twenty-five kilometres beforehand to advise that there would be a stiff entry charge. There are all sorts of excuses justifying the expense: one, to keep the riff-raff out, and two, the cost of maintaining the area as a national heritage site. So what do poorer folk get? They simply don’t get a chance to see their own country. They just have to read about it and look at pictures on TV and that will be good enough for them. In spite of the high entry price, it was a glorious day with blue skies, crack the flags sun and no wind.
Sunday seems to be bicycle exercise day on the Cape Peninsula. Thousands of cyclists hit the roads at 6.00 am for what I assume is a cycling breakfast run. Bicycles, cars, motorbikes and pedestrians all compete for road space. The heavy traffic slows everything down and you miss the view whilst you concentrate on avoiding the dangers on the road. Still, I mustn’t complain. There is always Monday.
On my return from Cape Point I discovered a beautiful camp next door to Simon’s Town. This site allows motorcycles in small numbers. It is expensive at R140.00 a day but it is in a stunning location, overlooking the bay. During the week it is very quiet but it is full of locals at the weekend. I shall stay here for a couple of days before heading north. It will be good to eat fresh fish and have a little rest.

The campsite emptied the following day . It is Monday and just three souls are left in the camp. Where are the tourists? Perhaps they have super deals with bus tour companies of which there are a few about. I take a short trip day today from Fish Hoek to Kalk Bay. At Kalk Bay one can view Elephant Seals who are hoping for a free feed at the harbour wall there.
I had an issue with parking in Fish Hoek. A sign at the car park entrance states that there is an entry fee of R7.00 and one should ask for – or even demand - a receipt. There are two problems: the price and the receipt. The receipt is in order to counter corruption at the gate. I understand that the money goes to the boys at the top, whilst the gatekeeper retains the money paid by customers who do not bother asking for a receipt. Everybody is a winner. I wonder how this is accounted for with VAT and revenue tax. I am, of course, not suggesting that this is actually going on, but this system suggests that it might be. As for the price, it’s pretty expensive parking if one were to hang around town for a month.

I am drawn to the desert again. It is a four hundred and fifty kilometre ride from Cape Point to Prince Albert through what is known as the Great Karoo (a dry, arid place) in the Western Province. The Karoo is semi-arid desert with hardly any water. It is also the vast area where Karoo sheep and wild game are reared for the tables of the city inhabitants. It is hot and dry and has landscape which looks like another planet of nothing, but something at the same time. I packed up and left Miller’s Point early. I had seen what I wanted to see of the Peninsula and didn’t want to spend any more money unnecessarily. Miller’s Point, although very nice, was still a hefty R140.00 a night. I headed out of the city via Chapman’s Peak where I forked out R20.00 for a single trip over the pass. Cars cost even more than that. The small stuff adds up. It’s a good ride out of Cape Town, seeing all the city folk in traffic jams heading for work at 6.30 am to avoid a traffic jam. I don’t know how they do it, day in and day out. There are alternatives, such as giving it all up, changing the direction of one’s life, and living with less rather than more. I stopped at a bike dealer in Worcester to buy a new rear tyre. This cost R1,100.00 fitted and balanced and I thought this was a good deal.
Prince Albert was originally known as Albertsberg when it was established in 1762, has been around for over two hundred and fifty years. The town was renamed Prince Albert in 1845 in honour of Queen Victoria’s husband. The town is at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains where there is a plentiful supply of clean fresh mountain water stored in a manmade dam forty-five kilometres out of town at Gamkapoort. It is a real oasis where farmers produce fruit, vineyards and olives. The virgin olive oil is first class, and huge investments are made by farmers in this region to produce profitable crops. Take olives, for example – one small farm of twenty-three hectares of olive trees, with three hundred and thirty-three trees per hectare. It takes five kilograms of olives to make one litre of oil. State of the art olive press machinery costing millions is imported from Italy and set up for the farmers by the Italians. In a town with a population of only ten thousand, there is a small cookery school, where local Africans are taught how to cook.. The town is clean, has little crime, and the majority of policemen are white, including the commanding officer. Apparently the local butcher has left his keys in the ignition of his car for over thirty-five years without any problems. But all this comes at a price. It must be the only place in the country where property prices are still rising, and where the cheapest house will cost one and a half million Rands. The food is superb if you like kudu and lamb. Six hundred grams of kudu fillet came to R65.00 and it was delicious, simply grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper. People from all over the world come here and decide to stay. Without doubt, it is a gem of a place to live, with shaded trees, bird life and living water.
I am much more comfortable with a campsite price of R50.00 a night and with everything one could wish for. The Swartberg mountain range is a World Heritage site. Architectural styles range from Cape Dutch to Victorian and there are thirteen national monuments here. Gold was discovered in Prince Albert in 1890 and at that same time, the town made a lot of money with the export of ostrich feathers, and mohair from its Angora goats.
The British built a garrison in Prince Albert in 1899. Prior to the arrival of the European, Prince Albert belonged to the Attekawa Bushmen tribes, who are believed to be the original inhabitants of Southern Africa. The Swartberg Passleading to Oudtshoorn is a gravelled mountain pass, twenty-seven kilometres long. The pass was built in 1881 by prison convicts and rises to one thousand, five hundred and eighty-five metres. It is a stunning ride over the pass, complete with dan gerous switchbacks and hairpin bends. There is a great deal of historical interest in this region featuring power struggles between the British and the Dutch. (Klaarstroom) There is a place nearby called Hell’s Valley (Gamkaskloof) a valley of twenty-seven kilometres between the mountains where farmers lived for generations without seeing the outside world. The route is a hectic 4x4 job, and not suitable for me on my motorbike. I only had to look at the damage caused to 4x4 vehicles and bikes returning from the area to be persuaded not to travel on that route. What is the point of risking thousands of Rands of damage to your beloved vehicle for the sake of an afternoon’s drive? This kind of damage would not be covered by insurance, and you would still have to return home by some other means.

It is very pleasant to sit beneath the trees and drink tea in this campsite and not have to rush off anywhere. This is how the world should be enjoyed, as one merges in with one’s surroundings in a very now moment. I love the idea of the tent and the concept of less being more. I can source and cook local foods, and interact with local people without feeling attached or obligated to them. I meet wonderful people from all walks of life and can still be alone when I wish to savour the feeling of being richly blessed, connected with nature and my own soul. It would have been very hard to have undertaken this trip with a partner for the journey would have been a very different experience. It might have worked out with two bikes and two tents, but one would never know this until it was tried.
I suppose the worst mistake the South African government made was making apartheid its official policy. This changed everything, because all over the world people still prefer to associate with their own kind. In spite of the abolition of the policy of apartheid since 1994, many here still prefer to live in their own areas, gather in their own churches, restaurants and pubs, and there is not a thing the government can do about it. You can’t force different cultures to mix. I suppose one can make them work in so far as everyone has equal human rights, but, at the end of the day, oil and water soon separate and go their own way. It is difficult to see where the country’s policies are actually bearing fruit. After twenty years there is mass unemployment, failing infrastructure, and a social security system the country cannot afford. Millions of young people just don’t want to work. They want income without commitment, and to feed off the guilt of the former government and the colonial masters, who donate cash to the country to earn forgiveness for past policies. The price of land and property is astronomical, costing far more than in Europe in Rand terms, thus making it virtually impossible for the young to be motivated at all. Credit without a down payment is easy to obtain, but the interest rate there-after is crippling society. At a single stroke the minimum wage has been adjusted to European levels, along with the adoption of all the European trade laws, equal rights, and health care, making it almost impossible for small businesses to grow, let alone survive. Young boys are begging on the street and the education system is failing young people. This failure appears to be the fault of the teachers and corrupt municipal workers who won’t work a minute beyond a forty hour week. I see restaurants, hotels and businesses employing a great many staff, but with little trade to justify the expense of this labour. All the laws are designed to protect the employee regardless of the cost to the employer. I see civil servants driving fancy new cars, building homes in the country, staying in the best hotels, getting fantastic salaries. All this expenditure hasn’t moved the country forward one inch in the last twenty years. People say to me it is “Just Africa”. I am tired of this excuse, tired of its newspapers exposing more corruption in nearly every headline. It is difficult to shut one’s eyes to this corruption as it is in your face all the time like an irritating fly. There is a hard rain coming.
It is over seven hundred kilometres from Prince Albert to Reddersburg in the Free State. The first four hundred kilometres is through semi-arid desert. There are no campsites or caravan parks to be seen, let alone trees. The B&Bs in small towns demand a king’s ransom. In the town of Smithfield prices range from R280.00 to R480 for room only. They need to wake up and smell the coffee. I turned off the N1 at Colesberg to view the Gariep Dam, which looked good on the map but turned out to be a disappointment. There was one Forever resort camp there that wanted R120.00 a night for a tent pitch in the off season. I moved on and joined the R701 to the town of Smithfield. There was a superb tarred road, fast and devoid of traffic, where one can really let the bike rip here. The N6 from Smithfield to Reddersburg is currently being rebuilt and entailed five stop- and- go road closures in seventy kilometres. It was getting late so I found a B&B in the town of Reddersburg, sixty kilometres from Bloemfontein. The Hunters Lodge is a superb B&B owned by Lena Hagemann. She runs it like a five star hotel, with tea and biscuits on arrival, and clean comfortable accommodation. Her late husband was a big game hunter, and if one is interested in that kind of thing, the home is adorned with stuffed animals, including two lions. It is a stunning house in this quiet backwater town.


It was a further three hundred kilometres to the town of Fouriesburg, the second time I have visited this part of South Africa, in the eastern Free State. The road is known as the Maloti Route. The best biking road in South Africa has to be the road between Fouriesburg and Clarens. Since I last used this road three months ago three more potholes have appeared. If I ever wanted to settle in South Africa again, this part of the country would be an excellent choice. It is away from mainstream tourism, a forgotten gem with a rolling mountainous landscape of trees, rivers and animal life, untouched by expansion. The nearby town of Clarens is not on my shopping list as I feel it has been over-commercialised with too many pubs, restaurants, curio shops and B&Bs. I found a stunning guest farm called Lesoba twenty miles from Clarens in the direction of Fouriesburg. It is magnificent, located four kilometres off the main road, and is accessible with a motorcycle on its gravelled route. The tent was soon pitched under fig and pear trees laden with fruit, overlooking the valley below. The owner wanted R200.00 a night for camping. I knew it would only be me staying here, so I am glad she woke up and smelt the coffee and we eventually settled the price at R80.00 per night - and let’s face it - R80.00 a night is better than nothing from her perspective. I have great respect for her climbing down on the price, which reflected common sense over greed.

Deneysville is a small town on the other side of the world to the Isle of Man. It is a town that draws motorcyclists from all over the country although very few foreigners have even heard of this out of the way location, which has the only officially-recognised vintage motorcycle museum in Africa. The curator and owner of this private enterprise is John Boswell, a chap from Wolverhampton. John Boswell is a British motor engineer, bike restorer, race preparation mechanic, and hotel owner, dogsbody, and sometimes complimented with the title of genius. He once raced in the Isle of Man – and, let’s face it – to get round the Isle of Man circuit is a feat in itself – even if you don’t win. Well John’s a good old boy now, still getting the s in, spending his days restoring bikes, and looking after the magnificent collection of motorcycles, some contributed to the museum by sporting owners. He is a serious motorcyclist, not a fly by night racer, married, with a kid working quietly as an accountant in London. Johns passion for motorcycles has stayed with him all his life and one has to visit the museum to understand this. His workshop, though old fashioned, has all the tools of a motor engineering shop. It is also very clean, which shows his professional attitude to his work. A huge wall in the museum is adorned with a hand painted map of the TT course in the Isle of Man. TV monitors around the lounge bar screen TT videos, and race meetings from around the world, while live bands play in the open air concert area outside, next to the pool. It is Sunday afternoon and the place is packed, not only because of motorcycles, but also for the charity work he supports, such as saving timber wolves from extinction in Southern Africa. There are a hundred and sixty timber wolves being cared for in the town Reitz at the Husky Romi Rescue & Wolf Sanctuary. The greatness of a nation is judged by the way it treats its animals. With the current depression in the UK, hundreds of animals are being dumped every day. It seems that the mobile phone bill is more important to people than caring for their pets.

John restores vintage motorcycles under the banner of the Historic Motorcycle Group or HMG. The aim of this group is to preserve the history of motorcycle racing, and immortalise the lives of the people dedicated to the sport. Where do people like myself and countless others like me, fit in with this travelling round the world lark with a tent, burying gold and silver bars and risking life and limb, never witnessed by a live audience? I would be interested to learn the death rate amongst those people since 1908, in contrast with the number who survived without serious injury.
The music is very good as is usually the case in venues like this. There is a live Sunday rock concert on, provided by two talented bands, Cold Turkey and Black Jacket. The young lad in Black Jacket, aged only fourteen years old, is a superb lead guitarist and natural genius and could do all the stuff Jimi Hendrix could do, and probably more. It is a shame that talent like this is not recognised on a national level. There simply isn’t a large enough local audience for these boys to launch their careers on the national stage. For example, an all-white rock band might draw five hundred people, where as an all-black rapper group may draw an audience of ten thousand people. It is the different population ratio that puts the smaller ratio at a disadvantage, and restricts them to amateur status. There was no doubt in my mind that this young musician could win the Britain’s Got Talent TV series in the UK hands down for this particular instrument. I wished I could donate my passport to him, and give him a better chance in life. Many talented Southern Africans leave the country, armed with inherited passports, and go on to do great things in a fair, equally competitive society such as the UK or the United States.

John is happily married to his suffering wife Charmaine, whom he recognises as the real boss and brains of the operation! She operates the catering and accommodation side of the business, supervises the staff, and monitors standards to keep them high. One look at the pool told me immediately that good housekeeping is practised in this joint, which gives me all the confidence in the world to go to the bathrooms and try out the restaurant.
You could spend a very nice day here: – visit the museum, have something to eat and then take a ride out to Weltevrede Lion Farm located ten kilometres north of Heilbron on the R57. There is a manageable seven kilometres of gravel road off the tar road turnoff. Wives, children and girlfriends can handle the lion cubs close up, while the boys are viewing the big stuff. Besides lions, there are cheetah, caracals, serval, Canadian wolves, bat-eared foxes, wild dogs, owls and porcupines. At the moment there is no entry fee. The food is good, and for the wild at heart there is fishing, hunting, 4 x 4 drives, clay-pigeon shooting and hunting. I was impressed.

And, of course, there is also the historic motorcycle club’s racing schedules, held at the Mid- Vaal racing circuit, where these machines compete in a non-competitive fashion, and the boys and girls give their old machines a good airing, still maintaining their historical heritage. Most machines are maintained in their original stock form with only minor performance modifications. It’s another good day out to go and watch the performances of different classes, drink coffee, have some banter and eat bacon baps. Mid-Vaal racing circuit is located a few kilometres away, on the outskirts of Meyerton, and is funded by race entry fees and club memberships. There is no public entrance fee and one can wander around the paddocks viewing preparations for the races, and noting the presence of marshals and medical service personnel. The motorcycle museum also has luxury accommodation facilities for overnight stays.

South Africa is a high risk Zone in spite of all the pretty pictures - keep your wits about you!
Meanwhile - Back in London
This is not Financial Advice
Musique de reflection

Shaun – Unbeknown to John I have hidden ten ounces of bullion within this motorcycle museum, which could be worth thousands by the time you reach it (If the good Lord spares us) and who knows, perhaps one day you may be able to ride away with a couple of classic bikes, so do remember to bring a trailer! The bullion will be quite safe in your absence. The museum has state of the art security with movement sensors, cameras and alarms. Each exhibit also has a polite notice stating, “Please do not touch”. I wonder how you will solve this puzzle. As for me, perhaps I will be the lucky one as John has invited me to live here in my tent for the rest of time – free. This experience gets more amazing every week, because every day I discover more that happiness is about people doing all the good they can – as much as they can.
Love Dad! XXX

Copyright 2013 Stephen Nesbitt Registration number 2535918494

Up next Morocco? Maybe.
heb 1 v 11

Last edited by r1100rs; 29 Jan 2013 at 13:46. Reason: Add Images & txt editing
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Old 28 Jan 2013
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Reminds me of the Scottish winter- damp and miserable...
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