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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by micko01, Jan 18, 2015.
I will send you a PM.
Just found this great rr. Gonna be good following you two. Safe travels.
Another thing I should add, if your coming to just do africa, then buying a bike in Sth africa is an excellent option. Bikes in sth Africa are pretty cheap compared to aus prices and there is a pretty decent size market do a fair bit of choice. A friend of ours bought a KLR 2nd hand through a dealer and they organised all his paperwork. Then once you have a SA rego'd bike it's very easy to travel Africa and you don't need a carnet.
Great write-up guys. So insanely jealous of your adventure. Those are some seriously interesting looking DR's.
And hey... living in New Mexico I do know my way around the desert southwest (I know a spot you can camp primitively right on the north rim of the Grand Canyon a half mornings ride from the nearest highway) so when you guys finally make it State side look us up. For planning purposes the southwest is really nice from late August on through November, getting through the high terrain in Colorado by mid to late September. Spring can be nice too but the weather can be very unsettled and the high passes often don't melt out until July, and then the Monsoon's come. But if you guys actually manage to ride the Road of Bones, desert mud will be no challenge at all.
Blog 3 by Mick: Ambush at KwaGengeshe
After fixing my bike and still with access to a well-stocked shed, I was keen on checking Tanyas stator to ensure it didnt meet the same fate as mine. Thankfully everything was still tight and in its correct place, but I took the opportunity to Loctite the stator securely so it couldnt happen in future.
With that done, Charlie and Fiona offered to show us to the local Mandela Monument at his capture site and around some local trails in Howick. With Chalrie on his XR500 and us on our unloaded DR650s, we then headed off onto some forestry tracks around the Karkloof area. It was a great ride and climaxed with a hill-climb known locally as Kyber Pass, a steepish climb with water bars that gave the opportunity to give the DR-osaurus a bit of airtime. Best of all however, was that my DR was back to 14.4V and doing everything it should. The stator repair was successful.
Mandela Monument with Fiona and Charlie
Admiring the Mandela Monument
Lovely photo from Charlie
And another view trail riding in the Karkloof area
On Saturday we figured we better actually do something and get out of Charlie and Fionas hair; our claim to be world travelling nomads was becoming questionable as we were doing quite convincing impersonations of squatters. So we took the opportunity to cook them some dinner to thank them for their hospitality. For the record; Beef Madras with Lemon Yoghurt Cake and Mulled Wine turned out very nicely indeed.
So Sunday we hit the road with Charlie and his friend Fred on a R1200GS. Our destination was the Cobham National Park in the Southern Drakensberg. Charlie had recommended Cobham as one his favourite places to camp in the area and that was too good a recommendation for us to ignore. We took some forestry trails and a railway service track to Nottingham Road, a town just north of Howick, and then a fantastic winding dirt road with great views of the Drakensberg which came into the back of Himeville.
View from our Camp Ground at Cobham
Tan riding back on the Loteni Rd
And me on the Loteni Rd
We spent the next 2 days sleeping, resting, reading, eating, and not much else. We sat down by the creek for a quite a few hours and did some trail walks. Lunch at the local pub, the Himeville Arms was great as it gave us a bit of time to chat to the publican about the area. He was a biker himself and quite interested in our trip. Sadly though, as with many of our discussions with locals, the conversation turned to the current state of South Africa and its increasing levels of crime. This fellow, an obvious and unashamed Africaphile, loved his country but was disheartened by what was becoming of it. Three separate farm murders the previous summer, including a close friend of his, had left the community shell shocked.
After a couple days we returned to Howick to pick up some new tyres. Our rears were the same tyres had headed out on our shakedown trip on the Holland Track in Australia on, and they had worn reasonably quickly. We had tried to pick up some replacements on our first visit to Fiona and Charlies, but Goodenough, the fellow at the local Yamaha dealer who Charlie had ordered the tyres through, didnt live up to his name and didnt actually order the tyres.
This was a blessing in disguise though as it gave us an opportunity to spend some more time with Fiona and Charlie and their friends. Fiona, a primary school teacher, asked if we would come and talk to her students. So we made our way down to Pietermaritzburg and spent an hour or so with her class talking about our trip and Australia with her enthusiastic pupils. Some bizarre questions were asked but it made for a fun and interesting afternoon.
Chatting to the kids
Tan's bike was popular
Group photo with the class
That evening we spent time with a group of Charlie and Fionas friends; with their riding buddies John, Fred and Jimmie pouring over maps and scheming cunning routes for our coming weeks; and with Pete and Beth, kind neighbours of theirs reviewing our medical kit. Peter, a doctor, then thoughtfully sourced for us a variety of bits and pieces to augment our supplies. After another successful Sticky Date Pudding, Charlie and I spent quite a bit of time in the shed putting his Yamaha XTZ750 back together. Charlie had removed the motor and rebuilt the top end and I was keen to help with putting the motor back in, a job much better done with two pairs of hands. We finished up after 4am with a few extra jobs on the DRs done and the XTZ looking like a proper bike again.
Saying goodbye to Peter and Beth, Charlie and Fionas lovely neighbours
It was an understandably late start the next day. Tan and I had thought of heading off into the Drakensburg in the morning, but the late finish the night previous for me and the opportunity for Tanya to spend some time with Eryn, Charlie and Fionas daughter, meant we would spend yet another night with our surrogate South African family. The extra day gave Charlie and I an opportunity to finish off reassembling his XTZ, which was soon running as sweet as youd like. We also spent some time with Paul, one of Charlies neighbours, who shouted us a few beers and was the proud owner of a mid 30s 350cc Velocette RSK and an early 50s 500cc Vincent Comet, both beautifully restored.
Charging Charlies battery though our bikes
Tan on the lovely Vincent
Awesome bevel gear driven camshaft on the RSK
And Tan partying up on the Velocette
With the Yami running again, on Friday Charlie and I went off trail riding while Tan spent the day studying and then doing an exam. Tanya is finishing her Bachelor of Commerce degree while we are travelling and paid the price for her hard work and diligence by missing out on some great riding and views! Charlie and I swapped bikes for a bit, and if I was to embellish just a little then youll have to forgive me, he duly led me into a deathly quagmire capable of swallowing bikes and brave men whole. The stench of death in the air was overwhelming. The DR floated through like an angel, while on the XTZ I suffered the fate of any earthly bike in a mud tsunami of biblical scale. After a heroic fight, the XTZ went down and the rear brake lever bent, minor collateral damage considering the gravity of the situation. Thankfully I managed to lift the bike and extricate myself from the obvious trap before photographic evidence was taken.
Sadly, the actuality in my humble opinion is not so interesting so I wont bother to bore you with that
who would want to hear of someone dropping a bike in puddle that could be bridged with a newspaper? Bah, consider this gonzo blogging
Charlie's awesome Dakar Replica S10 at Karkloof Falls
Trail riding near Midmar Dam
The other benefit of not heading off to the Drakensberg the day previous was the invitation to a braai that evening at Jimmie and Nickis house in Hilton, near Howick. Nicki skillfully cooked many lucky animals in various forms on the braai, all topped off with garlic bread laced blue cheese and local red wine. We went to bed very fat and happy.
The following morning, we cooked our favourite breakfast of French Toast, bacon, maple syrup, yoghurt and berries to power everyone up for the coming days ride. We were to ride to the bottom of Sani Pass via back roads with Jimmie leading the way on his KTM 525, Fred on his XR400, Charlie on his XTZ750 plus Tan and I. We rode towards the Mkomazi River valley and up to a high lookout post used for spotting bush fires to view Helehele Pass and our next challenge KwaGengeshe.
Charlie, Fiona and Eryn on the morning we left. Sadly our photos aren't the best
Jimmie showing us where we were, and where we were going
Fred pointing at Kwagengeshe.
At KwaGengeshe, there is a small track that leads to the Mkomazi River via an incredibly steep trail, part of which was so steep it has been concreted. We descended into the valley and the trail got narrower and narrower, almost to the point of single track. Then the concrete road started and the track steepened to probably 1 in 4 i.e. very bloody steep. In fact so steep, I stopped halfway to ensure I didnt over heat the brakes on the loaded up DR.
At the bottom of the concrete road, Charlie, who was leading, turned right onto a narrow rocky trail for the final descent to the valley bottom. I followed, and soon realised I was in big trouble on the loaded DR. The track was so steep, and so rocky and loose I was struggling to keep the bike up. I wanted to call to Tan on our intercom not to follow but her battery was dead. I looked up to see her coming down. We were committed. Im not sure what Mkomazi means, but that river on a fat DR is certainly akin to shit creek without a paddle.
Tan looking back up at the climb out
We all managed to get to the bottom and had a look at the river, a bit of a chat and then decided it was time to attempt the ascent. Charlie went first, and half way up slipped into a loose depression on one side of the track, which robbed traction and knocked him off line. He turned around and came to the bottom for a second attempt. This time he got further but still slipped to a stop near the top. Thankfully he was close enough to walk and wheel-spin his way to the top to loud applause from us spectators at the bottom.
Next up was Fred. Attempt one had the XR400 halfway to the top, before losing traction, spinning sideways and rapidly accelerating off into the bush at right angles with Fred hanging on for dear life. From the bottom, all we could hear was Charlie filling the valley with laughter! Fred came back down for attempt two, which got the XR further up the climb. I walked up the trail and we helped to get Fred to the top.
Fred in the rocks. He wasn't the only one to end up in this situation.
And then it was me. I made my first attempt fully loaded, my reasoning being every metre done with lugguge on the bike was one less metre I didnt have to carry it. I hit the bottom of the track in 1st gear, maybe 4000 rpm where the DR makes a good amount of grunt. The bike skidded and slipped underneath me but I managed to keep in pretty straight. There was a slight left turn near the top and the bike slipped and the rear wheel spun as I turned. I feathered the clutch to control the wheelspin, but released too quickly lofting the front wheel high and nearly dumping the bike and all my luggage on top of myself.
I vented quite a few loud and choice profanities as I nearly had it, so close but Id fluffed it. Charlie and Fred helped me stabilise the bike and unloaded the luggage. With no momentum, finishing the climb loaded was never going to be achievable. With their help, I managed to walk the unloaded bike to the top of the climb, then came back for the luggage.
Jimmie on his light KTM put on a hill-climbing clinic for us. He came up at a fair rate of knots making a mockery of all our struggles.
Last up was Tan on her DR. First attempt had her rear wheel spin out in the rocks. We unloaded the panniers and she turned around for a second attempt. This time she got further before spinning the rear wheel and going offline to the right. She valiantly turned for a 3rd attempt, sadly this time with the same result. She conceded defeat and I jumped the yellow DR-osaurus.
Charlie stabilising the bike while I got on. Gives an idea of how steep it was.
I was so physically tired by this time after helping lift, stabilise, and turn bikes on the steep slope, carry luggage, and walk up and down the hill a few times for various reasons, all in the midday heat, that once back down the bottom of the valley on Tans bike I turned off the ignition for a few minutes of rest and silence to focus for the coming climb.
I hit the climb much like I did on my bike, but this time managed to negotiate the left hander near the top without too much wheelspin. Right at the top, with the rear wheel spinning I hit a rock about the size of a rockmelon and dropped it, but I was at the top and out of the valley proper. I picked it up and put down the side stand. It had taken us over 3 hours to get the bikes out. The Ambush at KwaGengeshe was over.
We all rested for a good 30mins in any shade we could find, my bash plate water tank coming in very handy as Charlie and Fred had both finished all the water they were carrying. It was hot and we had all been working hard. Extra water is always good.
We rode out of the valley through Helehele Pass and on to Bulwer, a small town where we had lunch at the Nip Inn, a local pub. I had a few celebratory beers and there we said our goodbyes to Jimmie who had to head home. In that short time, the tiring ordeal in the valley had faded to a fun adventure and we all thanked him for leading the ride. Everyone agreed on that; it had been tough but was fun. A bloody good days riding was had.
Riding through to Bulwar
Charlie knackered after our efforts at KwaGengeshe
Bikes lined up at the Nip Inn
Saying goddbye to Jimmie, our guide for the day.
We finished the day with a short ride to Sani Backpakers for a well deserved nights rest, readying ourselves for a motorbiking blitzkrieg on Lesotho
Damn, that hill looks pretty nasty, especially on the big loaded bikes. How much difference would you say the forks off the RMZ makes?
Hey guys - looks like a great trip so far. Your DRs are really tricked out!
We're also a couple headed up Africa east coast and across Europe (now in Egypt), but 2-up on a 2007 DR650. RR here:
Thanks especially for the review of the panniers - I've seen those on the road once or twice and lusted after the extra volume. We've got the Ortlieb ones that lack some of the well thought out features and are a bit small, but I've found them really tough after years of abuse and overall really good value.
anyway - great blog, ride safe, maybe we'll see you on the road somewhere..
Way cool RR keep it coming.
Hey Gregdee - the forks are fantastic. They really do transform the bike, I think they are the best mod we did to the bikes, they really are that good. My bike beforehand had the standard forks with Gold Valves, Progressive Rate springs and a fork brace, which is about as good as the standard forks can get, and the Showa's dominate them. They don't flex, they are plush and the damping is standard RMZ and works very well for adv riding. Highly recommend bypassing the whole upgrading the standard forks route and go straight for the Showas. And if you get headlight mounts from a DRZ SM your headlight will mount straight up. Mounting the ignition is still another thing to do and you lose the steering lock, but its worth it.
Hi Garnaro - yep we have been enjoying your RR immensely, and using it as a good source of info as we are coming up the east coast too. We should be in Egypt in May and Europe in June. Hopefully we catch you somewhere along the way!
Blog 4 by Mick: The Roof of Africa
We woke still quite stiff and sore from our exploits at KwaGengeshe the day previous, however it was a beautifully sunny and still morning and we were all excited about what was to come. After fueling ourselves and the bikes, we all had a bit of fun and a blat on the rough track to the South African Border Post at the base of Sani Pass. We got our exit stamps and a few envious looks from tourists who were about to make the climb stuffed like cattle into crowded four wheel drives.
Looking up towards Sani Pass
The tight and steep switchbacks towards the top of Sani Pass had worried Tan on our previous flying visit to Sani Top, the weight of the DRs being a lot to handle at such slow speeds. But to add to the challenge, this time we were fully loaded with all our possessions, and 30 litres of fuel to boot. Lessons had been learnt though and everyone made there way to the top incident free; Tan whooping it up on the intercom as she successfully negotiated the last tricky hairpin and sighted the Lesotho Border Post.
One of Charlie's photos of me on one of the switchbacks
Fred near the top in the tight switchbacks. Unfortunately the photo doesn't do the gradient justice
We got our stamps and headed for the pub, as you do when arriving at Sani Top. That our watches only read 10am was irrelevant. After some chats, photos and a chocolate infused milk stout (one of those things that has to be tried), we hit the road, or what was left of it after the Chinese road works crew had done their thing. The Chinese are investing in infrastructure all over Africa, generally in exchange for favourable business and trade deals, many involving access and rights to minerals. And here they were at the Roof of Africa destroying the rough and steep tracks that fill the dreams of adventure riders the world over and replacing them with the nightmare that is boring tar.
On that note, there is talk (and apparently has been for quite a while) of sealing Sani Pass from top to bottom. The tourist operators are resisting this development as the state of the pass, and Lesothos neglected roads in general, are a tourist attraction in their own right. This sparked a serious discussion among us, should the business operations of a few affect the ease of transportation of many? Submit your answers in 500 words or less.
Anyway, a serious message to advriders: get to Lesotho now, before it is too late.
Tan enjoying the view from the top
Some local Besotho boys busting some phat beats
Young fellow with a homemade fencing wire truck
We motored over Black Mountain Pass; all of our bikes struggling in the thin mountain air above 3000m. The cold weather system that had crossed South Africa a few days previous had left snow on the high peaks that made for spectacular views and some great photo opportunities. On our descent, Fred was forced to turn around and head for home due to work commitments the following day. Unfortunately no amount of peer pressure, emotional manipulation, or encouragement to chuck a sickie could sway him.
Snow over Black Mountain Pass
Last efforts to convince Fred to stay with the party
400 needs a push
We rode on to the first major township of the northern route across Lesotho, Mokhotlong. A remote centre in the north-east of Lesotho, Mokhotlong is full of Besotho in traditional dress of woolen blankets and straw hats, many on horses or donkeys. While everyone we met was friendly and polite, and most kids waved as we rode by, our observations of Mokhotlong suggested the vast majority of business enterprises were Liquor Stores and Taverns set up in roughly made shanties. It seems the vices that ail the poor and disadvantaged are universal the world over.
The road to Mokhotlong
We stopped for some lunch that arrived at nearly dinner time, our pizza chef by all accounts had a watch set to Africa time minus a few hours, which he had then broken. And then lost. We found some very basic local accommodation and made a plan to hit the road early, our untimely encounter with the worlds most casual pizza chef had meant we hadnt got as far as we had hoped.
View from our hut
Tan went for a ride on Charlies XTZ750 and loved it
The sun rose at 7am and we were on the bikes at 7:30, all three motors protesting against starting in the extreme cold much as we had done when the alarm went off half an hour earlier. While the thermometer on our speedos is a little unreliable, the reading of -5C that morning as we started riding seemed about right and was confirmed by the thick blanket of frost on our seats.
We hit the road with our heated grips set to inferno and headed west. Two and a half hours later, after spending more that 50kms above 3000m and travelling past Lesothos only ski field, we stopped for morning tea at Oxbow, a small settlement only 110kms from our start point. Such is the slow nature of travelling in Lesotho, ~50km per hour on a motorbike is normal. In a car it is 30 to 40.
Section of road above 3000m. Also cold
AfriSki, one of two ski fields in southern Africa, is probably our most sobering sight so far in Africa. A single 700m long, 40m wide, low angle run of man made white slush serviced by one t-bar sent us to a new emotional low. Like a gruesome traffic accident, it was hard to look at, but harder to turn away.
This is when you know youre really in the 3rd world
Past Oxbow the road turns to tar and we had a blast on the winding road that culminated at Moteng Pass. There, I pulled over for a photo opportunity and to regroup our party and was followed in to the lookout by a modern duel-cab ute with some sign writing down the side. Ahh so, perhaps I was having too much fun through the twisties was my initial thought.
Out popped a South African fellow who introduced himself as Gary aka Mr Zog. The week previous I had introduced Tan and myself on South Africas adventure riding forum, WildDog.co.za. Mr Zog, who works at a large diamond mine in Lesotho, had given us some on-the-ground information regarding the cold snap that had frozen the highlands for a few days. He had recognized the bikes and stopped for a chat and a few photos of the awesome views of Lesothos lowlands (their words, not mine) from the pass.
Gary aka Mr Zog, Tan and I at the top of Moteng Pass looking at the Lowlands
The temperature rose dramatically as we descended to the base of the pass. We turned off the main road towards Monantsa, a remote pass in the northeast corner of Lesotho. The rough dirt road wound along the valley of the Caledon River and made for spectacular views and riding. The saying of the afternoon was definitely How good is this riding?; Charlie, Tan and I continued to ask one another in exasperation just incase the ask-er was hallucinating or the ask-ee (I think I just invented a word) was somehow riding with their eyes closed.
The bottom of Moteng Pass
The road hugged the side of the valley for many kilometres
Tan in the Caledon River Valley
Getting further up the valley
We rode through remote villages that obviously dont see many tourists; we met many kids with mouths agog, some begging for sweets or money when they came to their senses, but most just waved and smiled and chased the bikes on foot as best they could. The pass itself was very steep and thankfully concreted as it would have been a real handful unsealed. We came to the top and were greeted with fantastic views of South Africa.
Charlie and one of many small villages. Some of the grass had dried into a surreal purple colour
There were a few little creek crossings
Some rudimentary transportation. And a donkey too
(joking Charlie :) )
Tan getting to the top of the pass and off the last bit of concrete
Not half bad view from the top
With no Lesotho Border Post at such a remote pass, we entered straight into South Africa and rode down to the township of Phuthaditjhada where we were greeted with high razor wire fences and litter. We left as quickly as we could refuel the bikes and made our way towards a simple backpackers at the base of the Sentinal, a striking rocky peak in the northern Drakensburg accessed by a paved road, literally paved with pavers, with incredible views.
The backpackers turned out to be more basic, more rudimentary, than simply simple. An old brick building of a single dorm with lifting lyno floors, old and sagging bunk beds, many with no mattresses, and a long drop was all that constituted the establishment. But at R65, or less than $7 a night, and with views to kill for we werent complaining.
The Sentinel from the backpackers carpark
The road to The Sentinal. It was ok
On the way to the Sentinal, we had ridden past a small mountain resort called Witsieshoek, and we decided to backtrack slightly and enjoy a proper dinner and maybe a soothing ale at the restaurant before crawling into our sleeping bags for the night. Once there we settled in with a Windhoek Draft and got chatting to the managers, Barbara and Jan. They listened to our tale and offered us their hikers hut, complete with actual beds and showers, for the same price as the backpackers up the hill. We gleefully accepted and our tired bodies relished the hot showers.
The final episode of our riding escapade with Charlie would be Bezeidenhouts Pass, a little known technical descent down the escarpment that constitutes the border between the Free State and KwaZulu Natal. We got to the pass after riding some lovely farm tracks, some of them eerily reminiscent of Australia; Eucalypt lined dirt roads through brown paddocks.
Farm roads to Bezeidenhouts Pass
Tan and I at the top
Bezeidenhouts Pass is best described as an unmaintained and heavily eroded farm track down the steep escarpment. The top of the pass was very loose but didnt pose too many problems. At the first major obstacle though, we all had to stop and plan our lines down the considerable drop-off. Negotiating these drop-offs, and there were quite a number of them, took a fair degree of planning and commitment on the loaded up DRs. The 10km of the descent took about an hour to complete.
The top of the pass. Rocks and drops for 10km
Tan negotiating one of the earlier drops
Picking lines at one of the more serious obstacles
Yep, it was a big drop
Charlie at the top
Tan was visibly relieved when we got to the bottom, Bezeidenhouts easily being the toughest riding we have done so far and bloody hard work on the loaded bikes. We finished the days riding a bit after midday at the nearby Amphitheatre Backpackers, however we were denied the right to order lunch until after the uber-intense manager had finished his quite regimented introductory spiel.
Success! At the bottom with the gate closed behind us
Once granted permission to have some food, we exchanged videos, photos and farewells with Charlie and he hit the road for Howick and his family and we settled in for some well-earned rest.
Appears to be a great place to ride. Enjoying your updates every day!
Thanks for letting us ride along with you.
The pictures are amazing!
Great Stuff all the way round!
Yep SA has some seriously good riding. We ended up spending 3 months in SA and Lesotho and still I didn't get to see everything we wanted. Between SA, Lesotho and Namibia you could easy spend 6 months riding all sorts of great tracks to interesting places.
Just so we're clear, at least for me, you guys are the epitome of what this site is all about. Thanks for sharing and double extra thanks for the enticement to keep exploring. I know how hard it is to write a coherant ride report and it has to be all that much harder to do it while on the road.
What a trip ! Stay safe, keep uploading pictures ! Im gonna follow this closely...
Blog 5 by Mick: Return to The Mountain Kingdom
We woke more rested but found our room at the Amphitheatre Backpackers had been booked out that morning, so we moved to the campground as we were still in need of some quiet time. We settled in for a couple days of chilling; with me reading, writing blogs, and admiring the views of the Drakensberg with a beer or three, while Tanya was far more disciplined and used the time to do some study. It was a good time to be inside as the westerly wind was hellish and our tent flapped like crazy.
Setting up camp at Ampithetre Backpackers
Sunset wasn't half bad
Some interesting characters materialised, one being an aussie fella, Liam, on a 1981 Yamaha XT500 which he had just bought and wanted to ride throughout Africa. He was also an avid photographer and offered many of the guests a free lesson in nighttime photography as conditions were near ideal; the moon set early and we were in an agricultural area with minimal light pollution.
The Milky Way in all its glory
A fire on a local hill made for spectacular photography
Liams XT500 wasnt running particularly well, at full throttle it was protesting loudly with lots of backfiring. We did a bit of investigation, pulled the plug, checked the air filter and did a couple test rides; it seemed it was running a bit rich so we did a poor-mans rejet and removed the cover off the airbox. The bike ran better so we assumed we were on the right track.
The following day we figured we better go see what this old XT was capable of, so I plotted a route of interesting looking local tracks on the GPS and off we went. Alarm bells should have rung when we started going through a few farm gates, but I assumed that if the tracks were plotted on the map (in this case the GPS) they must be public access, farm gates or not, much like many station tracks are in Oz. Just leave them like you found them and all is well.
About to hit some trails on the XT500
Im going to go out on a limb here and assume thats not quite right though. After about half an hour on some really nice trails we ran into a farmer who was very, very confused as to who we were and why we were there. He let us move on once he realised we were dumb tourists and pointed us in the direction of the main road. The magnitude of our folly crystalised as we arrived at the back of a quite high-end accommodation village called Little Switzerland, complete with rows of European style cottages and a couple Zebras. We amused the security guards greatly as we appeared from nowhere and exited past the guardhouse and through the boom gates.
Just gone through a farm gate on the way to Little Switzerland
We pushed on up Oliviershoek Pass and out to Retiefklip, a small memorial for early settlers who travelled through this way from the Free State and down to KwaZulu Natal. The XT was behaving itself and was managing the dirt roads without a problem so we followed a sign out to Retiefpas with a hope of finding an interesting way back down the escarpment. There was a small trail plotted on the GPS but it didnt seem to join up with the road, but maybe with some investigation we could find a way.
Bikes at Retiefklip
Unfortunately there was no way down we could see at Retiefpas, which was confirmed by a grumpy farmer at the end of the road. We turned back the way we came, but not long later the XT disappeared from my mirrors. I turned around and found Liam stopped over a large puddle of fluid a few metres after a 200mm high square edged lip where the dirt met the tar. Oh shit, this isnt good.
Thankfully my initial thought that the bike had cased out and cracked the crank case wasnt the case at all. Liam had slowed enough to avoid that, but the sharp hit had caused the float mechanism in the carburetor to unhinge and fuel was leaking everywhere. It was starting to get late so we decided to tow the XT home, which was about 25kms away including the descent of Oliviershoek Pass.
We didnt get home without incident however, at one stage the XT got out of alignment and the DR went over the towrope, wrapping around the rear wheel and snapping. Thankfully no damage was done to the bike, and after cutting the rope from the rear hub, we got underway again and the DR tractored away and lugged the XT home. Liam shouted the beers that night.
We pulled the carb apart the following day and fixed the float, checking the main jet and needle while we were in there. The cause of the rich mixture was found with the needle lifted nearly as high as it could go. Some owners are so damn clever sometimes, especially when it comes to making power. We dropped it to the middle of its travel, gave it a clean and had the bike running sweetly again.
Liam with his carb in bits
I took the opportunity to reverse my front tyre which was wearing unevenly
That night while everyone was enjoying themselves after dinner, two quite drunk and quite large local farming types turned up (driving, it should be mentioned) and looking for trouble. They unsuccessfully tried to pick a few fights and when asked to leave, robbed one of the vehicles in the carpark after trying to break into some of the rooms. When confronted by the owner of the bakky (ute) which was robbed, they attempted to run him over. Twice. Caught in the act, they raced off and clipped the gate on the way out. With all that excitement, it was time for us to go.
We all hit the road the next day, Liam heading north on his XT and us heading west. We made our way back up to Witsieshoek, where Barbara and Jan, the managers there, remembered us and once again looked after us very well. During our flying visit to the Sentinel with Charlie the week previous, we had decided had to return. We had been told there were some great hikes with chain ladders and we figured we better see them.
Liam all packed up and heading to Ladysmith on the old girl
We settled in with a few rums, a fantastic steak and caught up with the news. To our great concern, we learned of a coup de etat in progress in Lesotho, which we planned on entering in the next couple days. This was quite worrying, as there were reports of police fighting in the streets with elements of the army who were attempting to overthrow the government.
We had a wonderful nights sleep in the suite that Jan and Barbara had upgraded us to, and made our way up to The Sentinel carpark in the morning. With little real knowledge of where we were actually going, we set off up the trail, which must be said, isnt particularly well marked. We had left under the assumption that the chain ladders are used to climb The Sentinel itself, but after about one and a half hours of following our nose, and then about 15 minutes or so of backtracking to find the trail to the top of the Sentinel, we realised it doesnt actually exist. So we carried on, found the chain ladders, and finished the hike at Tugela Falls at the top of the Amphitheatre.
Hiking trail below the sentinel
Tan on the first chain ladder
We relaxed at the top of the falls for half an hour so enjoying the spectacular view, when a group of young French guys arrived and we got chatting. They had planned on touring Lesotho, but had recently been advised by the French Embassy in Joburg to not enter due to the political instability. That night we had a good chat with Barbara and Jan about the situation, and as they seemed not overly concerned by it, we resolved to get some reports a little closer to the action before deciding whether to abandon the Lesotho leg altogether.
Chilling in the sun
The walk back down
We dawdled the following morning as we endeavored to get the blog to upload. Reliable internet has become a perennial struggle for us it was one of the reasons we stayed so long at Amphitheatre Backpackers and left so frustrated, their internet was horrifically slow and hideously expensive. Thankfully Witsieshoek was better and got the job done, and our delay meant we ran into a local fellow who stopped for a cuppa.
We chatted with Mark about Lesotho and he mentioned the Roof of Africa Extreme Enduro, a tough offroad motorcycle race through Lesothos rocky passes which he had competed in a number of times. Talk of the race peaked our interest, so we checked out the website and found on the ground and up to date Lesotho info and news articles on their facebook and twitter feed. A quick look there confirmed that all was quiet in the capital Meseru and we decided to go have a look at the border the following day.
We left and rode out to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, the location of the Besotho Cultural Centre. We did a tour there, learnt about Besutho history and culture, dressed up in cow hides and blankets, drank some traditional sorghum beer, ate some sorghum porridge and quite enjoyed the visit, not so much the sorghum.
Milling sorghum by hand
Witch doctor can tell your future from some bones for 30 rand. I passed up the opportunity......
Tan getting dressed up
The ride to Clarens through the NP was stunning, a great road past overhanging cliffs of wonderful oranges and reds, including spotting a herd of Zebra. Clarens was an eye opener, a lovely little town on first sight and very reminiscent of Hanmer Springs in New Zealand with a very touristy village feel. The backpackers we stayed in was an eye opener too. The walls between the toilet cubicles were about waist high giving a quite communal, community feel. And Tan got the fright of her life when she found a fellow traveller sitting in his car checking if his pistol was loaded. Rest assured we slept with the doors and windows locked.
Lovely views in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Our planned ride the following day was only a few hours so we took the time in the morning to check the bikes over and lube the chains. We found Tans bike a little low on oil which was strange and I was in need of more antihistamines. The westerly winds that had started a week earlier were playing havoc with my sinuses and I had quickly consumed our meager stock of medication.
We rode through to Caledonspoort, a major border post in the north west of Lesotho. Everything at the border was functioning as normal so we were happy to enter, however we hit a hiccup when we got to the Lesotho side. Our immigration official was very unhappy that hadnt gotten stamped out the previous time we left the country through Monantsa Pass. We had been advised by some locals who had used this route previously that when re-entering Lesotho the next all that was needed was an explanation that you had exited stampless through Monantsa and all would be fine.
This is not so.
Our official was a very grumpy lady indeed that we had left this way unstamped and put us in the naughty corner to wait for her boss to return from lunch to decide what to do with us. We pleaded ignorance and begged for forgiveness but werent overly concerned, we could always just head back into SA, and settled in for our estimated hour and a half or so of time-out before the big boss would return.
15 minutes later the lady called us back and stamped us through, her patience was a little feebler than ours. Two foreigners camped up in the middle of immigration reading books would be rather annoying I would assume. So we were told to have a good hard think about ourselves and promise to be good next time. We got our visas and made our merry way, returning to the mountain kingdom.
Subscribed! Great Report. That hike/climb looks epic and your photography is awesome.