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Rob en Dafne de Jong

Ride-on South Africa 2, Swaziland and Lesotho

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Date: September 1998

Hoe gaan julle .... (Afrikaans),

The road from Baufort West to Knysna is great; wanders over a beautiful mountain pass towards a rugged coastline. We pass towns with Dutch sounding names like Seekoegat, De Rust and Oudtshoorn and feel very much at home. Also the weather helps, being grey and raining from time to time. Although... Arriving at Knysna we kind of had had enough of the wet and longed for the sun to come out again.

It does not happen though. The rain keeps pouring down until we arrive in Port Elizabeth. We are stuck deeply in our MQP rain overalls that, in combination with our normal gear keeps us perfectly dry and peak out to what must be truly a wonderful area to drive through. If only the sun was there.

We dry up in Port Elizabeth, thanks to Bill and Melanie. Being South Africans, having guests means having a braai (bbq) and whatever the weather, Bill makes it work. Two days later, just as we had planned our take off, the sun comes out again.

The green hills make place for bare, dry landscapes. Townships are few out here. The view is endless. Baboons often inhabit the roadsides. In Jansenville we stop at an old 'auberge', where the interior looks and smells like being from the 1930's. In the guest-book we see that the latest guest stayed here 6 months ago. And even the coffee tastes oldfashionedly good. Then we drive on through Middelburg (another Dutch name) and spend a night with the Beets family (another braai off course).

Finally we have to get on the N1, the big highway running from Capetown to Johannesburg. But first we take a look at the Gariep Dam (former Henry Verwoerd Dam), that is built in the Orange River as part of an ingenious plan to irrigate most of the South African hinterland.

It's still a long way to Jo'burg, where we would not have gone at all, if it wasn't to visit Linex Yamaha, whose owner invited us to service our dear yammie. The odometer has gone full circle already and in reality the engine must have done about the same, for the thousands of kilometres we have done without speedometer cable (about the only thing that ever broke down until now), pretty much make up for the smaller wheels our sidecar is fitted with.

To make it the next day we take off from Bloemfontein at 6 in the morning. It's freezing cold. A traffic light at a roadwork site turns red and we have to wait. A group of black workers warm their hands above a fire and grin as we join them. 'Baie koud baas,' one of them asks if we are cold. It's 4C below zero. Any idea how cold that is when you drive 100 km/h? The men tell us that they work 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. Not much has changed for them. "Yes", one corrects himself, "now our boss is a coloured guy."


And work on our engine we do. First we only clean the carburetors and do a normal service. But, when Linex' mechanic Anthony wants to adjust the carburetors we have lost compression in one of the cylinders. "Open the engine up," is the advice and we get all the room and time to do so. For parts we get help from Yamaha South Africa, but more than a gasket-set and new piston rings we do not need. All this sounds easy and in fact, it would have been very much like that, if only the postal service hadn't planned a strike and our parts did not arrive. Dafne spend days working on a big scrapbook and presentation of our trip and we checked as much on the sidecar as possible, getting rid of rust on the frame of our sidecar. Douma did a great job repairing a crack in the fibreglass box.

After the engine was built in we had another job to do. Koni-Holland had sent us over two new pairs of shocks (thanks also to the Dutch ANWB). They are 6 cm longer with progressive springs for a smoother movement, modified and especially combined for our sidecar to improve the handling on dirt roads and increase the ground clearance even more. To make them work we had to bend out the tunnel of our shaft drive and adjust the sub-frame to give the rear tire enough room when coming loose from the ground.

Finally it was time for some fun and relaxation. And what's better than to go to the Superbike races around the corner in Khyalami? Thanks to the organisation we got press cards and off course Linex was there too, so we were among friends and celebrated all and everything, even the postal service, which in fact was the reason that we were still there.

The World on a Children's Drawing

Remember our project? In Ennerdale not far from Jo'burg, we visit another SOS-Children's Village where orphaned and abandoned children are given a permanent home and a new future. This is not an easy job and our respect for the organisation and especially the mothers in the village is great, who care for their children and manage to give them a real, normal home of 8 to 10 brothers and sisters with their own SOS-mother.

Our visit to the village was great and SOS invites us to go to another village in Lesotho, where we meet another lot of children at their primary school, where apart from the children from the village, the whole neighborhood also goes to school.

South Africa has a lot of problems and we see one of them as we pass Soweto when driving towards Ennerdale. Soweto is a sad sight. It's a pack of grumbling buildings, overcast by choking clouds of smoke, coming from fireplaces. It's home for the poorest among the poor, for whom the first necessities in life are a mere luxury and during these cold months of the year it's dreadful to see people warming their hands and bare feet above a small fire of burning rubbish.


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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,

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South Africa is also a country of enormous contrasts. We have been invited to go on Safari by three Lodges, who all made special arrangements for us as well as our sidecar to be safe from unfriendly predators. Our sidecar runs great and our engine is singing. First we go to Tsuhukudu Lodge, where you can see the big five (buffalo's, elephants, rhino's, lions and leopards) all in one afternoon.

Also at Djuma Game Lodge in the Sabi Sand reserve, we couldn't believe our luck. We learn a lot about wildlife and the bush, recognising footprints, dung, birds and the call of the leopard, that we track down at night. Next morning we see three cheetahs and a den full of young wild (dog) puppies. What a feast!

Then it was time to go to Timbavati, where Umlani Bush camp is an oasis. The huts are full of natural atmosphere and to shower under a dazzling starry night is only one of the great things. It's there that we see heard of (over 50) elephants marching trunk to tail to the waterhole to drink.

From now on we will have a bad time whenever we see these beautiful animals in places like zoos and other locked-up situations. Later on, when seeing an elephant chained from his feet with bare possibilities to move (it was a breeding project), the only thing we can see is how unhappy and stressed he is, the tasty molasses cookies only a small and very temporary comfort.

Blijde River Canyon

The Blijde River Canyon is a must for all motorcyclists. Full of winding roads offering mind-blowing views, for example at 'God's Window'. Another of nature's surprises is nearby at 'Burke's Luck' or the 'Potholes'. The holes were made by the ever moving waters of the merging Blijde and the Treur Rivers, but it was when Mr. Burke found gold here that the place was named Burke's Luck.

Gold was found in more than one place and we visit the village of Pelgrim's Rest, that still looks the same as when the miners were living and working there. There's a nice museum too and there are old claims nearby where a lot of the machinery used to mine the gold is still intact.

Sappi Forest

We hoped to be allowed to camp there and thus meet Barries and Elmarie, who invite us to join them to their private gamelodge, where we also meet uncle Koo'es, cook potjiekos on a fire and make panbread, that tastes superb.

We do get to camp in the forest though, at a marvelous spot. We try to catch fish and see all kinds of birds and a small Duiker, as well as a huge green tree snake, that swims across the river and jumps up in a tree on the other side.


It was long ago that we had crossed a border. At this border the differences are huge. First of all there is the customs officer who wants to know if our sidecar-box is a boat and thinks it very clever when we tell him that we came rowing all the way from South America. However chaotic, we feel welcome and ride the narrow winding roads that are full of goats, rubbish, cars and people over Pigs Peak with a beautiful view towards Mbabane.

Swaziland is a kingdom and the king is known for the amount of wives he has. "Oh, this one is better, he has only 9 wives," we hear as we visit the small museum, where we are told that the old one married 63 times and put enough new life in the world to fill a small town. Every year there is a festival, in which young girls dance for the king, whom off course cannot do without choosing some of them to extend his harem.

In the whole of Africa farmers burn off their farmlands and as we drive towards a famous candle maker, we see how the firedept. is monitoring such a fire: snorringly exact we may say. When we return the fire-fighter has woken up and is chatting with a friend, not at all aware that by now the fire is putting one of the firetruck's rear tires to ashes and already has crossed the road.

Fear is all over his face as we cry out warnings. That night the hill opposite of us goes up in flames.

Kwa Zulu Natal

We can write about the Zulu's and Kwa Zulu Natal, but in fact we are on our way to Lesotho and just passing through. It was in Zululand we though that we were chased by a 'rescue car' with 4 persons in it wearing parts of some sort of a uniform. When the going got dangerous we decided to stop. The 'rescuers' got out of their car, acting like they were police. One was very smart and said that our sidecar was on the wrong side of the bike (the right side for a Dutch sidecar).

It works to explain why things are like they are after which we ask an explanation for their dangerous behaviour and tell them at the same time that they have no authority to stop us and that thus we are going again.

Three man stand gasping as Rob starts the engine. "But you still have to change your sidecar over to the other side," says Smart-Ass. "I'll do that for you, tonight," Rob grins as he opens the throttle and drives off, knowing that if they would start chasing us again we better make it as quickly as possible to a real police station in the nearest town, for that was what the South Africans had been advising us to do in situations like this.

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From far we have seen the Maluti-mountains that hide the famous Roof of Africa road that we want to ride. 4X4 only, says our map, but the snow has mostly melted by now and the rains will not be there for at least a few more weeks. Our Yammie sounds happy and we feel like going.

The Basotho are mountain-people, who mostly farm cattle. With the highest lowest point in the world (1300 m), Lesotho wears the name Roof of Africa with dignity.

The road to Mokhotlong is paved and a relaxed drive. We pass places like Oxbow and Letseng, where stop to eat something in a small restaurant. Inside something is cooking above a wood fire in a three-legged pot. Some Basotho dressed in western clothes are eating. "We do not serve food," is all the owner says. We point at the pot and the people eating, but the fat owner turns his round blush face around and disappears in the adjoining kitchen, belly first, to steer in the pot.

Next morning we have a problem to leave Mokhotlong. The unrest caused by claimed election fraud in capital Maseru has woken up some people in this village too, who take the chance to demonstrate for work and higher wages. The demonstration is intensified as soon as we are spotted and we are not allowed to pass the roadblock. Some men in the back of a pickup truck, one using a megaphone, shout their misery and dissatisfaction out to us. If only we could understand Sesotho. The words disappear in the air while we get instructions to drive through the village, more or less through people's back gardens, to bypass this obstacle. The village looks like taken over by the military police armed with automatic weapons, whom we feel make the place a lot unsafer than all the demonstrators do together.

We reach the gravel road towards Thabe Tseke nevertheless. The road is magic, stuck to the mountainside with steep climbs and descents. Our new shocks make handling easy and our passage smooth. It's high up in these mountains that we find a place to camp and are joined by three Basotho shepherds.

They are dressed in leather underpants, decorated with beads and made by their mothers. Over their shoulders a grey blanket, pinned together on the right shoulder. One carries a guitar, made out of an oilcan. The strings are iron wires and the series of tones played never change, so that you get a 'pling plong feeling'. Any song fits with this never changing music and so the three shepherds sing happily until water is boiling on our stove and we drink tea together.

South of Maseru in the Paradise valley we visit the Malealea lodge. It's a great place to start your Lesotho experience, as Malealea has a very good relationship with the Basotho and organises tours on ponies with Basotho guides to their own villages. We cherish our drinking tea and singing experience with the shepherds though. Always have a problem when people start treating us like tourists, which we definitely are not. We went walking instead, for there are lots of things to explore near the lodge.


We are in Bloemfontein now, where the Kleinhans family had turned their house into a little post office for us, as so many friends had send over mail, stroopwafels, drop, and more very lekker typical Dutch food. The newspaper we write for (NRC Handelsblad) had mailed us about 250 new children's drawings as part of our project. Our articles in the newspaper seem to be happily read and more and more children start drawing, even if we can't visit them.

We have decided to try to find some work to add on finances. To write and travel go together very well, but we earn so little money with the publication of an article that it's far not enough to keep on going.

For now 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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