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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Douf, Mar 24, 2009.
D'ya really think I could organize something like that all on my own?
and Splat is in da house!!!
Fantastic report, Douf - having loads of fun reliving the trip
Glad to see your sense of humour hasn't changed. At least there's something positive the Brits gave us
My son spent a year in south Africa as a exchange student, It has been such a pleasure to see photos of that wonderful country again. Your report is outstanding. What a unique route selection. Thank you!
Did you ever get the Xenon light mount fixed? What did BMW put the value of that hardware at?
The little spot light?? Its still the same, cable tied as we repaired it.
Didnt even ask BMW about the price, but a mate who replaced his, says its R250, just the bracket, the spot light comes apart and the bracket can be replaced, doesnt sound too bad.
Thanks for reading the report. Actually going back through the picture archive, even between eight of us, it struck me how few photos we got of the stuff that was really worth seeing. At least the pillions were shooting a few action shots as we rode along; I barely got any. My motivation is primarily to be out there riding and I really don't want to spend too much time stopping to take 'proper' photos; but I'd be happy to take more 'snaps' if I could come up with an appropriate contraption. Something along the lines of a helmet mounted camera with a bar mounted shutter release (maybe bluetooth) would definitely improve the situation. Apparently the skydiving community uses the sort of thing that might work, but if anyone's got any specific recommendations
Suffice it to say that if this collection of gas station and restaurant pics, coupled with my limited descriptive powers is inspiring; then the reality of South Africa is so much better
British humour? Living on that shitty little rainsoaked island for over a thousand years, I can't imagine how the population developed such a cynical outlook on life It doesn't really fit that well in SA though, since the country's so inspiring. Oh wait, there is your political 'system' to fall back on
Welcome Paul: Thanks for reading: I've had a had a lot of fun writing it.
That sounds reasonable. They must be making all their profit on F800 headlights, eh Gary?
Nah definitely on the Mudguard Bolt, that cost me R800 to replace
Damn! I dread to think how much Paul's piston rings'll end up costing
About as much as my service cost after that little trip :eek1 :eek1 Thank god for warrany cos the instrument cluster went belly up too- all those sand roads Hate to think what that would have cost to replace :eek1
Please keep all stories of BMW questionable reliability coming: it's good therapy for me and my friends over at Orange Crush Actually, that F800 was the epitome of reliability though: even the chain didn't need adjusting in over 5000 miles (might've just been the Fluid Film working its' magic though)
great pictures, looks like you all are having a blast!
Thanks - There were even a few wild animals that weren't riding motorcycles. I'll post probably post a few pics of them in the not to distant future
Day 11: St Lucia - Tembe Elephant Park
The basics of today's planned route: Double back to the N2, north to Hluhluwe, then right on the R22 through Lower Mkuze, Mbazwana and Mseleni, then right to Manguzi and on to Kozi Bay - the border with Mozambique.
Then back through Manguzi and on to Tembe Elephant Park. The rest of the crew would carry on probably into Swaziland where, ironically they'd spend their first night in a foreign country without the two real foreigners.
The planned mileage for this particular day wasn't intended to be too demanding, especially for Gary and I, as we were required to be at the Game Reserve just after lunchtime for our whistle stop safari. Even given the legendary game viewing opportunities that Africa has to offer, this trip had always been about motorcycling first and foremost. However, to come all the way from the US and not make at least a token effort to see some of the magnificent creatures resident in these parts seemed almost sacrilegious to both of us. That being the case then, prior to our arrival we had booked a short stay at the Tembe Elephant Park, which would hopefully allow us not only to inconvenience the rest of the group as little as possible (the proposed route passed right by the park entrance), but to also catch up with them the following evening and continue on the rest of the trip. Prior to any of that excitement though, the third corner of this odyssey awaited at the Kosi Bay checkpoint: the border between Africa and Mozambique.
Narissa's new and improved accommodation - Mark one got burned up on the pipe just outside Port Elizabeth :eek1
Before setting out however, Gary and I had an unusually good meal to start the day. :dg Rather than the normal corporate crap that had become the scourge of our taste buds for the majority of this trip, we eagerly tucked into the curry care package that Koshik and Narissa had brought from PMB. Mercifully for Gary (who if I recall said this was his first Indian food) the curry was fairly mild by Indian standards. It was tasty though, and they'd also packed some Naan (correct Ksohik/Narissa?) bread that was also excellent. Thanks guys! Even though the curry was pretty mild however, I still remember thinking later on, that given the combination of
the previous night's beer and Greek food, plus this morning's curry, it was a good day to be riding a bike.
Unable to completely finish the substantial amount of food, and with the rest of the crew mounted up and waiting, we left the remaining curry on the hotel room counter which, along with the six-pack of Black Label left in the fridge would have made quite a feast for any unsuspecting primate intruders. That place is probably still looking for a new cleaning staff.
Where did I leave my shopping?
The ride up to the border was for the most part fairly straightforward, but inevitably it became punctuated with one or two minor incidents as usual . Before tackling any riding however, suitable riding attire had to be selected. Initially the morning had started off dry enough, but before it was time to depart the clouds had increased and a light drizzle was falling which, from the looks of things had a pretty good possibility of strengthening as the day progressed. Consequently as the bikes were filled up at the nearby petrol station and the riders topped off with their own caffeinated fuel of choice, there was plenty of time for second guessing just what the appropriate level of waterproof sartorial elegance entailed, and inevitably the protracted gasoline/coffee/dress-up procession delayed our departure briefly.
'WTF is this ungainly piece of shit for?' :huh
'Yeah, I was thinking of wearing the green jacket, but it won't match my socks'
It was still wet - and we're just about sick of it.
Having finally resumed the pursuit of blacktop Nirvana, which by this stage had been our sole mission in one form or another for almost two weeks; we were greeted with a stretch of pavement that in my estimation epitomized the dual sport experience........ without even venturing off road. :eek1 Initially after leaving the (relatively speaking) sublime surface of the N2, it became apparent the local settlements had each crudely achieved a desired level of urban speed restriction by installing a series of not insignificant speed bumps through their midst. :huh We soon learned to look out for the tell tale 60kmh signs which were an indication of their onset. The Dual Sport machines handled these obstacles without too much drama and by standing on the pegs it was possible to ride over them without scrubbing off much speed.
Looks a bit dryer here
The road bikes, with their relatively unforgiving suspension were having a harder time of it however, and eventually Cindy hit one with a bit too much speed and one of her panniers came flying off. :eek1 Fortunately it reattached without any problem and was even not too badly damaged after a little bout of asphalt surfing.
Cindy + Bike + Pannier - together again
Evidently though, there was some local reconnaissance going on and, the local speed enforcement bureau, being apparently unhappy with Cindy's refusal to acknowledge the local limitations, set phase two into action......
Still had to avoid a few cows too
Riding a little way behind the silver Beemer, I suddenly came upon a stretch of road that had feathers strewn all the place, reminiscent of some sort of airborne Kamikaze operation, that in reality turned out to be the remains of a Guinea Fowl. :eek1 Apparently in its' haste to avoid conversion into instant roadkill by the front tire of the oncoming machine, the unfortunate creature had elected to become airborne at the last moment and had smacked into the side of the ducking Cindy's head (with considerable impact judging by the resultant carnage). :eek1:eek1 As I recall, this was the second bird of the trip that Cindy had mercilessly executed with her head; and for those of you keeping score, the group tally now stood at two birds.... and one cat.
Manguzi dead ahead...
Eventually we pulled into a gas station on the outskirts of Manguzi, where the bikes were refueled and we stopped briefly for the inevitable nicotine and bullshit session. Since this location was at the end of the town's main drag, there were as usual, many people milling around. Looking at the residential conditions in these rural areas, it's easy to see why folks don't stay in their homes much, but on the upside there's an inherent community feeling that we just don't get back home; and it was quite noticeable how the people, obviously familiar with their fellow townsfolk, would wander down the street constantly greeting each other in what looked like quite a friendly manner. I liked it.
Part of main street
The gas station was the place to chat with local folks too, whether you liked it or not really; and so we got engaged in a number of discussions, basically explaining what we were up to, where we were from etc. Gary and I got chatting to a local guy on a Suzuki dualsport bike when he pulled up at the next pump and, it was especially interesting to swap stories for a few moments with a fellow rider from another (financial and physical) world.
From the gas station it was a short ride through the town and then on up to the border post. Technically we weren't at the true corner of the country, but since the remaining distance could only be covered by means of a pretty ugly sand road, it was concluded that this was close enough.
Di at the border
We got the obligatory photos at the border crossing after which the border guards were nice enough to let us step briefly into Mozambique just so we could claim we'd been to another country. We got pictures taken with the flag of Mozambique, but unfortunately no passport stamp.
NUMBER III BABY!
Ian got the first one in the book
A few miles into the country, according to my native companions, there are some pretty impressive diving sites along the coast. However at least a 4x4 vehicle, or dual sport bike (+ a big set of stones) would be needed to make the perilous journey across the deeply sanded terrain. From where we stood at the border, I couldn't really see anything going into the country that resembled a real road as we understand it; just a few vague sandy tracks that quickly disappeared into the bush. It did look fascinating though and I got the impression that our level of adventure would have immediately ratcheted up a few notches if we'd really crossed into that strange land.
Gary + New Country + Flag = Happy Gary
Bikes at the border
We'd been on the road for a while by now, so with the third corner successfully conquered, our collective thoughts naturally turned to food (even Gary and I who were still somewhat full of curry from earlier on). :dg
It's gotta be here somewhere - Fluid film homing device
Since the likelyhood of finding a Wimpy looked pretty remote in this neck of the woods, after a few false starts the Maputoland lodge was located and we stopped there for lunch. From the route we took to get there, this place had obviously been preselected by our General as a suitable eating establishment, since there's no way that we just happened upon it. We rode back down through the main street in Manguzi then suddenly turned off up a back alleyway which had so many people wandering around that it was almost necessary to nudge them out of the way to make any progress. After a couple of further turns, the surroundings suddenly looked extremely questionable - security wise. The place was literally teeming with folks in every direction, we were completely out of sight of anything resembling a main (or even a paved) road and, we were the only white faces to be seen. :eek1 Just as quickly though, rolling down one of these alleyways, we pulled through a gateway and we were suddenly confronted by the rather splendid Maputoland Lodge. Surreal!
'Sorry about that - still got a bit of curry left in there'
We sat under a thatched roof, next to a pool and ate a pleasant lunch together. Ian even went for a swim as he waited for his food. Cindy didn't seem too happy with the service, but in retrospect she was probably pissed that they didn't serve mega coffees. Actually as I recall the waitress was incredibly grateful for the tip we gave her (I think it was about $10 or so) and even came back to thank Di for our generosity. I think both Gary and I enjoyed tipping the wait staff in SA, since they were usually really appreciative of any small token, which is in sharp contrast to the entitlement mentally we usually get back home. It felt good to think you'd actually made a little difference in someone's life, and briefly made them a little happier because of it.
Parking at breakfast - bikes were still intact
Eventually we finished breakfast and made our way back out to the bikes. I was looking forward to getting a few shots of the locals who'd been milling around outside the lodge compound. The logic of riding through these backstreets had seemed questionable coming into the place, but I think everyone was at ease with situation as we left; but eerily as we rode through the compound gates, all the surrounding streets were now completely deserted. :eek1
(I did a little research on Manguzi and came up with this news article)
On September 5, 2007, two female residents of Manguzi, Mangubane Msaba Zungu and Qibile Thabitha Thusi, were dragged from their homes and taken to a sports field by students of Manhlenga High School. They were accused of practicing witchcraft against the students of the school and were doused with gasoline, then burnt alive. Zungu died at the scene, and Thusi died later at hospital of her wounds.
Get me the hell out of here
Safely out of Manguzi, the crew headed for towards Jozini and onto the Elephant Park. During this part of the journey the road quality was diabolical. Potholes were scattered all over the place in sufficient quantities to make safe progress somewhat problematic. Riding the GS wasn't much of a problem though, I just stood on the pegs, stayed back and yanked on the bars whenever an unavoidable pothole appeared. As some of them were a pretty good size, it was surprising that we didn't end up with a couple of square wheeled streetbikes. The prevailing road surface being freshly laid chip seal was also an issue, with enough loose gravel to make steering the bikes a bit squirely. :eek1
But despite all of these challenges, eventually the game reserve came into view without any of the bikes or their riders being any the worse for wear. The crew parked at the entrance to the Elephant park and BS'ed for a while before Gary and I made our way through the large compound gates. As it turned out, hardly any of the SA guys had been on a safari themselves, which I found surprising at the time. But in retrospect I guess it's no great surprise: although living half an hour outside the capital when back in the UK , I'd never been to the Tower of London until visiting from the US; and Gary who lives right on the doorstep of NY has never been into the city, despite passing right by it more times than he can remember.
'And slow down you sons of bitches'
As we made a few jokes about the potentially tenuous time that lay ahead with the wild animals inside the game park, it was with a sense of sadness that Gary and I said goodbye to the rest of the crew. Truth be told: at that moment I'd have preferred to continue the ride rather than go on this safari. This SA crowd had welcomed Gary and I into their midst like a couple of old friends and it was difficult to leave them there on the side of the road. Anyway the gates opened and the two of us went in to continue the next part of our adventure.
See ya later guys - hopefully
Actually its not Naan .. its Roti (naan is thicker)...
and the unsuspecting primate intruders on got the beer cos Ian finished the rest of the curry.
Before entering the Elephant Park here’s a little Elephant background. Looks like there could be a couple of potential inmates in the herd.
Bulls: Bulls live alone or in bachelor herds which are in a constant state of flux
Matriarch: Elephant herds consist of females and the young. A herd is led by a matriarch (grandmother). As young males reached maturity they are chased away by the herd. Bull elephants join the herd for mating.
Food and intestines: The approximately 250kg food eaten every day passes through 18m of intestines. 'Yes, I'd like 600 Executive specials, please'
Tongue: Helping the swallowing process is a 12kg elephant tongue.
Digestion: Elephants digest 40% of what they eat, They need to spend two-thirds of everyday eating.
Big Pile of Crap: The daily food intake is eventually processed into about 100kg of elephant dung per day. :eek1
Gas: An elephant 'releases' 2000 litres of methane gas per day! :eek1 :eek1 Damn!
Water and trunk: To drink its' 9 litres of water at a time, the elephant uses its trunk which weighs 113kgs
Urine: An Adult bull produces approximately 50 litres of urine per day
No wonder the vegetation was so lush
Day 11 (pm): Tembe Elephant Park
I looked back at the massive gates that were closed behind us as we entered the park. After filling in some visitor paperwork at the gatehouse, the guards called up to the main lodge and soon enough a 4x4 vehicle appeared to transport us into the game reserve. However, after looking at our bikes and asking us if sand riding presented a problem, they decided that Gary and I would probably be OK riding to the lodge instead.
As the guide set off with us in pursuit it quickly became evident that these were some pretty tricky sand trails. Exclusively used by four wheel drive vehicles, the trails had a raised central portion with two tracks of soft sand that were intermittently fairly deep. As we slithered along, I contemplated how much fun the rest of the guys would be having right now in this situation. Copious wildlife was obviously present in this area, which was apparent from the regular piles of dung along the trails and also the condition of the trees. On the infrequent occasions I averted my gaze and concentration from the job at hand, it was quite striking how worn all the tree trunks were, presumably from being used as wildlife scratching posts. The lower boughs had significant damage too, evidently from being used a food source by many of the local residents. Although thankfully not coming face to face with any animals on the ride, with the undeniable evidence of wildlife activity all around I wondered just how safe we really were. :eek1 Probably not moving any faster than 20mph at any point, any likelyhood of out running a hungry predator was pretty remote to say the least. Speed would 'definitely' have been my friend at this point.
On a lighter note, there were also signs sporadically along the trail warning vehicles to give way to Dung Beetles, which I thought was quite funny.
Eventually though, with great relief and using a few dabs and paddles, the pair of us managed to muddle our way through a gate into a fenced area which I assumed was there to keep the beasties out. That made me feel a little safer and soon enough we arrived at the entrance to the lodge.
There was a welcoming party waiting for us at the gate and they sung what I assumed was a traditional song as we unloaded our bikes. I'm not really that big on doing the typical touristy stuff to be honest (way too hardcore for all that dontcha know ), and although it was pleasant enough, I felt a little uncomfortable with the whole thing. :huh
'Everybody: Y..........M C A'
However the rest of the arrangements were very agreeable as far as I was concerned; best of all there were only two other paying guests that day in the whole place (a German couple who it transpired had been happily returning to SA for years). Through the entrance, a short pathway lead to a makeshift campfire area, which was surrounded by two or three indoor/outdoor buildings that housed a bar, lounge and a buffet area.
The sleeping quarters were located along additional pathways and hidden from the main area (and also hidden from each other too if our tent was typical). The accommodation that we had selected, although the cheapest of the various options, was still more luxurious than I had pictured, but struck just the right balance between rustic and comfort, with the general perception of being out in the bush feeling quite authentic (since I guess that's really where we were, duh!) The pathway leading to our tent was actually quite long and winding which further added to the sense of seclusion (when the sun finally went down it was pretty tricky to find your way along it and there were also plenty of overhanging branches to add to the sense of unknown/uncertainty). :eek1
'Honey! I'm home'
'Yeah, Gimme a medium peperoni pizza, 20 wings and a litre of Diet Coke'
Not bad for a 'tent'
After checking in, and being informed that the first game drive was scheduled to depart shortly, there was just enough time to unpack our belongings, grab a soda, quickly freshen up and then we were off.
Give me a ride on the back of Rossi's Yamaha, any day.
As Patrick, our guide for the afternoon, turned the truck out onto the trail, it felt good to be out of all the bike gear for a change. The Tembe employees had told us to take a sweater along to wear at sun down, but with such hot temperatures it was difficult to imagine they'd be necessary. However as we rode along in the truck with its' canopy shielding us from the sun and nice breeze blowing, it was really pleasant.
The first animals we came across were the dung beetles that amusingly had been the subject of all the entrance trail warning signs. Our guide Patrick however, took the task of avoiding them very seriously, repeatedly sawing on the steering wheel, running on and off the trail to preserve as many of the little crap rolling critters as he could.
Pile of crap + Dung Beetles
Carefully rolled up pile of crap + Dung Beetle
After explaining how important these seemingly insignificant creatures are to the well being of both the immediate environment and it's inhabitants, we started to take his efforts more seriously (Patrick turned out to be extremely knowledgeable about many things in this strange land.) After seeing a few dung beetles however and being keen to see something a bit bigger, we eventually came across a few Nyalas. To finally see some real wildlife at close quarters was very impressive. Patrick was very respectful of the animals, approaching slowly in the truck and telling us to remain quiet whenever we encountered any creatures.
The Impalas and other similar fast moving creatures were generally indifferent to our presence, which I assumed was a reflection of their confidence in being able to outrun any likely predators. As a consequence we were able to get pretty close to them. Other animals though, relied on different methods of survival and consequently proved more difficult to observe. Zebras for instance have a well developed hearing sense which made it somewhat difficult to get close enough for a decent picture without them running off. Other creatures just seemed to be plain reclusive. Rhinos are some of the most secretive creatures in the park, which I found puzzling as surely not too many predators are a threat to these hardy beasts.
Finally our first Elephant came into view. It's almost spiritual seeing one of these majestic creatures in the wild for the first time and I must admit it almost brought a tear to my eye as we approached it. Fortunately and unsurprisingly this big guy couldn't have cared less about our intrusion and he grazed contentedly as we looked on in admiration and snapped away. A little further along we spotted a group of Giraffes that seemed as oblivious to our presence as the elephant did; wandering around and, like most of the other creatures we saw, grazing constantly. Looks like a pretty good life to me.
Taking a break at the midpoint of the drive, we spotted a crocodile and got out of the truck to take a (slightly) closer look. From our remote vantage point, he didn't look very threatening, but no one got close enough to check.
Our guide had stopped the truck in a fairly open area and a couple of our group wandered off to answer nature's call. Patrick advised us not to go too far from the vehicle as it was anyone's guess what was lying in the long grass watching us. I suddenly lost all urge to take a pee and didn't get very far at all from the truck after that. It was easy to forget that we were in the midst of a potentially deadly environment and that there were plenty of its' occupants that would think nothing about turning one of us into a tasty snack. The fact that the gun was left back in the truck didn't make me feel much safer either. :eek1
Crocodile (Edge of water on right - I wasn't that impressed at the time either)
Presently however, we continued the game drive, seeing a decent sized buffalo herd and a few other creatures as we rode along. The day eventually seemed like it was starting to come to an end, but that was about to change.
Patrick stopped the truck when we came across two or three Elephants that were just off the trail munching on some low lying vegetation. We stopped and watched them for a while and as we did, movement in the nearby undergrowth signified the arrival of other members of the herd, and before long we were surrounded by a dozen or more elephants happily munching away on the available foliage. Obviously (from my subsequent research) this was a herd of fully grown females with their young (the adult males are chased off and only come back into the herd to mate). It was a wonderful experience, obviously way beyond my limited descriptive powers to put into words and it seemed we were with them for quite some time before they slowly wandered off.
By this time the schedule was slipping and it was starting to look like we might be late for dinner. Our guide/driver Patrick had other ideas though and he set off up the trail at what I can only politely describe as an 'enthusiastic' pace. I got the impression he was on the clock and was soon going to be working for free, which obviously wasn't a situation he appeared to be particularly looking forward too. The performance of that 4x4 was pretty impressive to be honest. I've never been in one driven 'in anger' before. It tore up the trails at an impressive pace and the grip from the all wheel drive was much more tenacious than I'd expected. At some point during the frenzied drive back to the lodge I remember that Gary mentioned that one of his friends had been injured on a game drive. Since we were sat in the back of the vehicle and bouncing around a fair bit, I wasn't too surprised when he confirmed that the injury was as a result of the victim's head being banged on the canopy frame.
The Dung Beetles were having a rougher time of it on this part of the drive too. Far from being concerned for their welfare, Patrick even seemed oblivious to their existence at this stage; and in addition to the Dung Beetle massacre, we also scared a Black Rhino shitless, when we came 'round a bend at warp speed and surprised it. In keeping with its' reclusive nature, the beast ran off before any of us could get a picture of it; but rather than giving any thought to mere photography, in reality all the passengers were probably too busy holding on for grim death. :eek1
Thankfully, and with no apparent injuries to the paying customers, the truck finally screeched into the lodge parking area and with a sense of significant relief, everyone jumped out.
'What's the most dangerous predator in the jungle?'
After wiping the perspiration from our brows and having one or two stiff drinks, we all sat down to an excellent dinner at the outdoor dining area.:dg I tried the Impala steaks (which I suspected Patrick had probably flattened earlier that day) and they were quite tasty, somewhat reminiscent of venison in fact. The staff was friendly and the more senior members even ate with the guests. Additionally there were a couple of guys from North Carolina staying at the lodge, who were involved in some missionary work, and they ate with us too.
After dinner there was a small campfire prepared where the assembled crowd sat around and chatted for a while, before heading off to bed.
The pathway to the tent was quite difficult to follow in the dark and I was glad to make it one piece; and once inside, after washing up for the night I noticed a couple of small lizards scurrying up and down the walls. Considering the remote likelyhood of catching and removing them from the tent, I went to bed hoping to sleep with my mouth shut. :eek1
Day 11 - Redux
Yesterday's banzai game drive/pre run must have really done a number on Gary, 'cause this morning he looked pretty ruff. Thanks Patrick
(Pic: Lovebug classic - RIP Marley)