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Rob en Dafne de Jong

Ride-on South Africa 1

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Date: June 1998

Hoe gaan die? (Afrikaans)

We have arrived in South Africa, with the generous help of South African Airways, who gave us a 50 percent discount.

We surely had to get used to a lot of things again. It's getting winter in South Africa, which means that we plunged from temperatures of 50C (122F) to around 10C (50F), but were soon acclimatised and enjoyed some nice sunny autumn days. One of the first things we did was sightseeing in a big supermarket. Yes, we bought some things too, as well as a piece of real Dutch old farmer's cheese, yummy yummy!

Camping in the bush is not so easy here, so we chose to pitch down our tent in Fish Hoek at the campsite, where camp manager Brian, an old light house attendant, used to drive a Kawasaki GPZ 1100. We commuted to Capetown by train, stunning the ticket seller when we asked him for 3rd class tickets. Yes, Apartheid is no longer, which means that 3rd class is not only for black and coloured people any more.

Differences are huge in South Africa. How to interpret it all and how to feel about it ourselves keeps us busy every day. "Mandela says we are one nation, but that is not true," we hear from many mouths. South Africa is home to many different groups of people, who mostly do not like each other. To name a Xhosa a 'kaffer' is now being heavily fined, but nobody seems to have a problem with calling us 'witkoppen' (cheese heads).

South Africa still has a long way to go and we keep trying to find out how this complicated society came to be. For one we wonder how the Bantu people can get away claiming that the land is theirs as history shows that they all immigrated from as far as thousands of kilometres to the north, killing many of the original inhabitants, the Bushmen, before the white men almost finished them off. The Bushmen, now living in the harsh Kalahari Dessert, have probably too little numbers left to make a claim of their own.

The Cape Peninsula

One of the beauties of South Africa definitely is the Cape Peninsula. So when we finally had freed our sidecar from the harbour officials late that afternoon we were very eager to ride the road over Chapman's Peak. Right on top of the pass I felt the sidecar pushed from side to side and knew it had happened. A flat tire. We'd come all the way through West Africa without problems and here, with light running out fast, we break down.

Pushing the sidecar is impossible and filling it with foam does not work as we find out that the tire has a big hole in it. I start flagging down cars, but no-one stops and by now it is dark. As I shine our flashlight in my own face to show car drivers that I'm not a scary dirty man, a car stops. It's Biba who works for Harley Davidson Capetown and thought we'd had an accident. He tells us that it's not really safe to stay here and I join him to his house to get a ramp so we can load our sidecar on his pickup truck. When the work is done Dave invites us for dinner and so it happens that a hard time turns out to be enjoyable.

The World on a Children's Drawing

We had to work hard to replace the tire the next morning, for we had an appointment to visit a school in Fish Hoek with our project. Apart from this school we visit three other schools in Capetown area, from which two are black township schools in Langa and in Khayelitsha. It is in Khayelitsha that we get the most memorable and warm welcome ever, as both sides of the street towards the school is lined with children waving little flags and at the school gate a real drum band is awaiting our arrival.

"The youngest classes only speak Xhosa, so the principal would like to be your interpreter," we hear as we first have to drink Coca Cola's and eat cookies, before we can start setting up our exhibition of drawings from most of the countries we travelled before. Then we find out that we will get a total of 1000 children. My head turns heavy for a while and we decide to split them up in 4 groups.

Everybody, the children and the teachers alike, are so enthusiastic that the conversation, the talking about the world, about South Africa, about our travels, leads itself and of every group all 250 kids are able to join in. We hear how proud the children are of their school. "Before it was very bad, but now we are really improving and building," the principal explains afterwards and we hear about programs to help poor families keeping their children in school. "Sometimes we first had to teach the parents what it is like going to school," the principal continues. Some children would just turn up without having had breakfast or without being decently clothed. Others did not know how to hold a pair of scissors or even a pen. The children also need to get the support of their parent in being able to do homework at home. Sitting on the floor with a candle is much harder then having a desk and an oil-lamp.

At the school in Langa the SABC (South African Broadcasting Company) is present and also the major newspapers cover our tour and project. Then a call comes from a program-maker, who wants to film us doing the project for KTV, a children's channel that broadcasts Africa-wide via satellite. We phone the school in Fish Hoek, where we do the whole thing again, only now in front of a camera. (The program was put on television two months later and from then until Zimbabwe children recognised our sidecar on the street).


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de Jong's Home

Travel Stories, English:

January 2002,
Ride on 2002...
October 2001,
Ride on Home
July 2001,
Russia and
April 2001,
Jan 2001,
Dec 2000,
Oct 2000, L.A
to Fresno via
Sep 2000,
New Zealand
July 2000,
Australia part 2
April 2000 India
and Australia,
part 1
Dec 1999,
to Kathmandu
Nov 1999,
Shoeshine boy
of Gondar

Sept 1999,
Uganda to
May 1999,
Zimbabwe to
Dec 1998,
South Africa
and Namibia
Sept 1998,
Swaziland &

June 1998,
S. Africa 1
April 1998,
W.Africa 2
March 1998,
W. Africa 1

Travel Stories, In het Nederlands:

July 2001,
Rusland en
April 2001,
Jan 2001,

Top of Page

Off course we still have time to explore the Cape Peninsula before we leave Capetown. We visit the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, where the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans meet and also go to Boulders beach to see the Jackass penguins. To climb the Table Mountain is a must off course and we find Capetown to be a very pleasant city.

Then we start travelling along the Garden route for a while, to go north from George towards the Karoo National Park, an area of 44.000 ha, where sprinkbokken, rode hartebeesten, black wildebeast, different sorts of zebra's among which the quagga are roaming around. The quagga was long extinct, but relived after DNA from a piece of recovered skin was taken and genetic manipulation using a different zebra that belongs to the same family gave new life to this very pale and thin striped zebra.

Normally you are not allowed to ride your motorcycle into a National Park, but when we contacted the National Parks board in Capetown, we were not only welcome, we were also invited to join a park-ranger on a days work. We went to see the black dessert rhino's, of which there are 5 in the Karroo and unfortunately for us they had all be captured to be moved to another National Park. The park-ranger tells us a lot about the native plants and their difficulty to survive the harsh dry climate. We also hear of a program to teach local firewood-choppers not to chop down native trees, but to help getting rid of a pest that carries the name: Australian Acacia trees, which grow fast, but are so thirsty that the Great Karroo is getting dryer and dryer.

From here we will go back to the Garden route, Knysna to Port Elizabeth, from where we are heading for Johannesburg, mainly because our dear sidecar would like to receive a major service, which she really deserves, running so well for almost 100.000 km already.

A greeting and a smile,
Rob and Dafne de Jong
Ride-on World Tour

Story and photos copyright © Rob and Dafne de Jong 1998-2002.
All Rights Reserved.

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

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