Earth's Ends: Riding DR650's from End to End

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by micko01, Jan 18, 2015.

  1. Boxall

    Boxall Adventurer Supporter

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    Subscribed! This is GREAT ONE!

    Thank you for taking the time to write it! And the pictures are awesome!

    :clap
    #81
  2. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    Tan here - Thanks very much guys! We think we've come along way with our photography after being on the road for 6 months now. You'll notice a big jump in quality in the Namibia pics I think
    #82
  3. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    Blog 6 by Tan: In the Shadow of Moshoehshoe

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    After entering Losotho we headed straight for Katse Lodge overlooking Katse Dam, where upon entering we were greeted with a glass of fruit juice complete with coloured sugar around the rim, offered up on a silver tray. The sugary drink served to replace the energy expended on the ride in and also to reinforce the point that we had almost certainly arrived somewhere outside our budget. We winced at the cost of $50 per person for their cheapest room, a twin room with shared bathroom in the old dam builders barracks. But having drank their commitment-juice and bought dirt and their lobby we felt obliged to stay. Turns out the price included a pretty excellent 4-course dinner, so between that and the views over the dam we couldn’t complain.

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    Tan on route to Katse Dam probably stopping for a lolly break

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    Views over Katse Dam

    The next day we did a tour of Katse Dam which had us taken from the top to the bottom of the wall and all the way into it for a couple of hours for the grand total of $1 each. The dam was pretty impressive to behold at 185m high and 60m thick at its base and Michael seemed to have enjoyed getting an engineering fix.

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    Photo of Katse Dam taken before embarking on our $1 tour

    It turns out that Lesotho’s biggest industry is water, which it sells to South Africa along with the bulk of the electricity generated. This naturally upsets people a bit and looking at the photos in the blog you’ll get a sense as to why. Lesotho struggles with water shortages and semi-regular droughts. In fact, no water has gone over the dam's causeway for three years. And if I had a dollar for every time I saw someone traipsing up a mountain with a bucket of water of their head I’d have enough to stay in the fancy rooms at Katse Lodge for a month. People complain that the government sells off resources the country needs, pockets a lot of the proceeds and fails to put any of the money back into improving the lives of the locals. That old chestnut. For all the beauty of Lesotho there is no kidding oneself that it would be an easy place to live. Life in Lesotho even from the back of a motorcycle seems bloody hard. The only thing that would make me choose to live life on the land in those mountains would be to escape marauding bands of murderous Zulu, which was, incidentally, the reason why people moved up here in the first place.

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    Yet more incredible views

    The story they tell in Lesotho goes that the people that went on to form the Basotho nation got sick of being near annihilated by the Zulu who were by all accounts pretty terrifying in a fight. So to the mountains they fled. The leader of the Basotho people was a guy blessed with the inordinately cool name of Moshoeshoe (mo-shweh-shweh). Moshoeshoe wasn’t at all into war and employed the ‘can’t we all just get along’ style of rule. He united the warring clans, giving everyone land and cattle. He was the forgiving type too, even when it came to cannibals who ate his granddad. A Basotho lady told us how, upon catching the anti-social cannibals who dined out on ol’ granddad, he gave them some land and cows and told everyone else to be kind to them and show them how to fit in to a peaceful, not so human consuming kind of society. I suppose that was what he had to do with the cannibal misfits in absence of an island territory like Tasmania to exile them to like the Australians fortunately had.

    Our visit to Lesotho coincided with a bit of a military coup type situation that made it apparent that Moshoeshoe’s reported peace loving tendencies were not inherited by the contemporary leaders of the country. But we’ll get to the coup in the next blog.

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    Yet another incredible mountain pass

    After Katse we travelled the amazing mountain roads to a town called Roma where we stayed for a few days of rest and relaxation. While sadly the roads were all tar they did come with the extra challenge of having no lines or road markers. On dramatic, windy mountain roads like these, it made for some rather abrupt and exciting decelerations around sharp corners overlooking what would be a scenic though guaranteed death.

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    Mick surrounded by enthusiastic children – clearly in his element

    While staying in Roma we met a couple of young German kids who were at the beginning of a year’s stint working at a community centre. Through them we learnt about some of the harshness of modern life in Lesotho. Riding through the country we had seen what seemed to be a disproportionate amount of funeral parlours for a country of its size or any size really. It seemed that at least 1 in 3 businesses outside of the capital were funeral homes (most of the others are liquor stores or taverns) and they were certainly the most impressive looking structures in most places. Death it seems, is big business in Lesotho. The AIDS rate here is approximately 25% which makes it the third highest rate of AIDS in Africa with Swaziland and Botswana ahead of it – granting the tiny kingdom a bronze medal in the world’s shittiest contest. It certainly fits with what we were seeing as we rode past small villages. You would see plenty of children and a few older people, especially older women, but the middle generation was conspicuously absent. They have lost an estimated 200,000 people to AIDS related illnesses reducing their population to just 1.8 million. Sad stuff and especially disappointing considering the huge number of NGOs in operation in Lesotho. Lesotho is 80% Christian and it seems this fact has contributed to the large scale of foreign and especially American charities operating in the country. I was told by a guy working there that there are more NGOs per capita in Lesotho than anywhere country in the world. I'd believe it.

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    A rare photo of the two of us together in civilian attire

    We joined the Germans for a walk with the kids from the community centre to see some dinosaur footprints which seem to be all over the place in Lesotho. Most of the footprints are said to be about 180 million years old and most of them are just sitting there without any signage or commercialisation. We hiked up to the top of a nearby hill with the kids. One feisty little guy informed Michael that he’d be sitting on Mick’s shoulders for the duration of the hike and Mick, figuring him to be a tenacious fellow, judged compliance as the easier path.

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    So children – much cuteness

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    A stunning kid

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    I didn’t do a single paleontology subject in my geology degree but if I’m not mistaken these are the footprints from a juvenile male Seagullasaurus

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    Yep, these were defiantly not made by humans

    Earlier in the week we had heard about an enduro race that’s held in Lesotho every year called the Roof of Africa. Turns out the guy who owns the place where we were staying is heavily involved in route planning for the race. Ashely’s family had been living in Lesotho for 5 generations and he had the admirable passion for growing the country’s tourist profile. He has the idea of building a world-renowned trekking route through Losotho, modeled on the Annapurna/Everest base camp like treks of Nepal. An awesome idea.

    Seeing our interest in the Roof of Africa, he offered to take up along to scout out some of the possible trails for this year’s event. We jumped at the chance to go scope out some of the route with him. The Roof of Africa ('the Roof') is known as one of the most extreme enduro events out there. After checking out some of the routes for this year’s event I am not at all surprised by this. Nasty, steep, never-ending, whole 'nother level of rocky, rocky trails up and down mountain sides. Absolutely gnarly hellish looking stuff. On the right bike and almost certainly in retrospect, it looks like it would be a lot of fun. From the looks and sounds of things this year’s event is going to be a real killer. It starts 3 December for those interested.

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    Hiking up potential Roof of Africa routes – these pics don’t come close to showing how harsh the terrain was

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    The route designers had the philosophy that nothing is too hard for the Roof but it could be too prone to bottlenecks

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    The guys in charge of the route were encouranged seeing horseshit on the potential routes – employing the philosophy that if a horse can get up the path then some nutter on a bike can make it up there too

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    With the routes for the bronze, silver and gold categories for the Roof largely sorted out we made our way back to the car - thoroughly knackered

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    Country in desperate need of rain

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    Little dudes posing demurely for the camera

    Another one of the guys in charge of route finding for the ‘Roof’, Justin, owns a motorbike shop in Mesaru called Cycle Centre. Before continuing our journey through Lesotho we needed to source a new front tyre for Mick and service both the bikes which were at 5000kms. After much too-ing and fro-ing Mick decided on a Mitas E07, which although we’d been satisfied with the E07s on the rear, was a disappointment on the front. With of bike maintenance complete we hit the road in search of more epic views. The south of Lesotho naturally obliged…..

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    Mick’s flogged out front tyre a Dunlop 606 all the way from Australia. Funny how my tyre had the same amount of kms but nowhere near the wear – curious-er and curious-er

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    Justin and his garage
    #83
  4. TSSRA

    TSSRA KTM 350 Rider

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    As usual, stunning photos! Thanks for the update. Excellent report and much appreciated. Be safe.
    #84
  5. Tsotsie

    Tsotsie Semi-reformed Tsotsi Supporter

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    Back in my youth (early 70's), we backpacked up from what was then called the Royal Natal National Park, some 14 miles and an additional 8000' past the Sentinel before the road to the Sentinel was built. Then across the Amphitheater front (and Mountain Club hut) to the source of the Tugela river. Camp the night under the stars and hike back down to complete the 28 mile hike in 2 days.
    #85
  6. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    Hey tsotsie, yeah there are lots of great hiking trails up there we noticed. We spoke to a father son duo who had done something similar to what you just described but finishing in the sentinel car park rather than all the way back down. I believe you can also hike the escarpment all the way to Sani top too if you're dead keen. Chilly evenings in August though when we were there! And no water over Tugela falls that time of year either sadly.
    #86
  7. Tsotsie

    Tsotsie Semi-reformed Tsotsi Supporter

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    We always backpacked in winter/July due to the summer thunder and lightning storms. Unfortunately, after the road was built, toothless wonders with their beach sandals and an orange could then wander around at the top, the mist would come down and we would have to rescue them. Before the road, only serious climbers and backpackers would get there.

    Always had the Tugela flowing over the amphitheater when we were there. Always covered in a good few inches of ice too!

    Did a lot of business in Lesotho too. Decades of political upheaval. A really tough mountain people!
    #87
  8. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    Blog 7 by Tan: A Cozy Blankie with your Coup d'Etat?

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    In the last blog I mentioned that there was a coup type situation going on in Lesotho while we were there. Call me cynical but it appears that it was a squabble between two sets of political elites, all keen to secure the top job for themselves in order to facilitate the efficient plundering of the country’s wealth into their own pockets. I have been noticing a theme in African politics where leaders seem to be in a race against time. They know their period of gathering (read: stealing) wealth is limited so they look to get as much as they can, while they can. It reminds me of the chocolate game we used to play at children’s birthday party (dare I say it) back in my day.

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    Plowed fields waiting for rain for planting… and what is known locally as Tit Hill (also the Two Tits or just the Titties, the little mound in the middle called "Middle Tit") in the background. They look more buxom from the other side of the valley.

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    Common country here in Lesotho

    The game involved a 1kg block of Cadbury chocolate, a dice, a pair of oven mitts and a knife and fork. Kids would takes turns rolling the dice and when you rolled a 6 it was go time. You would don the oven mitts and grab the knife and fork and get cracking on the block of chocolate. You had until the next person rolled a 6 to consume as much chocolate as physically possible. It became a frenzy of unadulterated greed and led to many a near choking death. I excelled at this game as I adopted the squirrel method of packing my cheeks full to the point of bursting. When someone else rolled a 6, I would bow out of the game with feigned dignity; then set about enjoying my chocolate wealth, by then a pile of spittle covered, half chewed chocolate in my hands. I recall it tasted all the more sweet for having deprived others of it. I see a lot of parallels with this game and the actions of many politicians I’ve been hearing about here. So there you have it; my high level analysis of the governance problems in Africa.

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    Where we stocked up on supplies for our hike

    Now getting back to the coup, the general agreement among those we spoke to was that the leader of the opposition (himself the former PM), backed by the military, had a crack at a coup d'etat. This happened when the Prime Minister got wind of a possible vote of no confidence. The PM responded by dabbling in a bit of authoritarianism by getting the King to dissolve parliament before the vote could be cast. Well played indeed. He then sacked the head of the military. Another wise move. Only he did not count on the leader of the military engaging in high-level statecraft by saying that the letter of termination didn’t arrive and must be stuck in the post. Therefore he was still in charge. I am not kidding - that really happened.

    The army then surrounded the PM’s house, sending him running off to South Africa for help. The army also raided police stations to get their weapons, which led to the death of at least one policeman. At one point the leader of the military was said to have had missiles aimed at the capital, all the while denying that there was a coup going on at all and claiming to support the government. Rrriggghttt!

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    Sourcing fresh bread and exposing my legs to the sun for the first time in months

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    This shop was owned by a Chinese guy who was only mildly surprised when I spoke Chinese with him. He didn’t speak Sesotho and almost no English. Apparently this is the case for a lot of the Chinese shop owners in Africa. sounds like a lonely existence

    All this activity was mainly restricted to the capital Maseru so we mostly avoided the place. I have since read that parliament was re-opened with MPs singing and dancing in parliament chambers in celebration. This naturally conjured up horrifying mental images of Australian politicians (overwhelmingly composed of humourless middle-aged white guys) doing the same thing. I shudder at the thought.

    Dancing MPs aside, it doesn’t look good for Lesotho long-term as the PM still has the support of the police while the Opposition Leader still has the support of the military and each of them is accusing the other of corruption; making them both almost certainly right. And old mate, the defense force commander, still refuses to leave his job. With all these dramas going on I guess it is easy for them all to forget that a quarter of their people are unemployed, half are under the poverty line and the fact they are only living to 48.7 years old. Meh…politics!

    Anywho, back to the fun stuff.


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    On the way to Katane Falls


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    Little dude on his way to town. So impressive seeing such young kids on their own riding bareback up and down mountains


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    Windy as..


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    One of the many characters on their way to town. We found the people in Semonkong to be the most outgoing and friendly people we came across in Lesotho. The local chiefs encourage everyone to be friendly to the tourists as they bring important funds into the community


    Our next stop was Semonkong Lodge where we splashed on a great room with a fireplace and did little for the first couple of days but chill out and read by the fire. The staff at the lodge were great and we had some really interesting chats about life in Lesotho. Many were worried about the coup as it was already affecting tourist numbers and therefore the money they were taking home. With the tourist high season just a month off people were right to be concerned.


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    This guy had a guitar made out of a ~6L container and rubber bands. And a kick-arse hat to boot


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    This gentleman is sporting the playing cards design of Basotho blanket. Can you see the spades? More on this shortly

    After 6-odd weeks in South Africa, Mick and I have both been noticing that our clothes are becoming tighter and we have been using a little more effort than usual walking up hills. We were fairly certain this can be explained by the soap powder used in Africa causing our clothes to shrink and the altitude causing us to move like geriatrics. However, we started to suspect that we might actually be getting fat off good food and cheap beer. I, for one, started to wonder if dessert for lunch and dinner was not a bit excessive. In the end we decided to leave the bikes and go for a two-day hike to get the heart pumping. We walked through villages, across plains and up and down many a mountain over the two full days of hiking to get to Katane Falls and back. The falls are stunning and as they are quite an effort to get to, they are not heavily touristed. We spent the night in a traditional rondavel and cooked a passable dinner of Lesotho’s most beloved canned semi-food, Chakalaka. After the hike we slept like the dead. All in all it was a fantastic walk but I couldn’t help but think it would have been far more enjoyable on the DRs.


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    Packhorse on his way to graze while we schlepped up more mountains


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    Wishing I could fit hiking boots in my luggage

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    Alright, we’re here…now where’s my beer?

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    Katane Falls 162m. Quite impressive

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    The view at sundown. Also impressive

    After we returned from our hike one of the waitresses asked us if we could now appreciate how hard it was for people living so far from town. It was clear to us that despite the beauty, life is HARD for these people in the mountains. Our waitress explained that by law, pregnant women living remotely must come to town a month before their due dates in order to ensure the safe arrival of their babies. Women are not permitted to have their babies at home as it is seen as too risky for mother and child. When I mentioned that in Australia there were people who chose to have their babies at home she looked at me in horror and seemed utterly gobsmacked that anyone would do this when they had access to doctors and proper medical facilities. I felt quite embarrassed and didn’t go on to discuss how there were people who chose not to vaccinate their children as well. It seems that in these places where life is so much more difficult they embrace anything that is going to help to make life a bit more secure for themselves and their families. Or perhaps back home infant mortality is such an infrequent occurrence that it doesn't seem like a reality for the people who make those choices. Anyway I’ll shut up before I upset the angry mummy blogger hordes.

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    Local sheepdog – this is the mother and her puppies live in the kraal (stockyard) with the sheep and goats so the dogs grow up to see them as their pack and protect them

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    All the animals in the kraal for the night. Note the donkey rubbing his arse on the rock? He did that for a good 5 minutes

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    King Cock

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    Our abode for the night. Our Rondavel doubled as a primary school during the day

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    Shepard with his homemade guitar. Note the corn cob used as the bridge (I think thats the right term anyway?)…

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    This guy had a really eerie and beautiful voice as he sung in Sesotho

    That same woman, Elizabeth, happens to be the only person in the country that gives talks on the Basotho blanket that Lesotho is famous for. Just to clarify, the people who live in Lesotho are Basotho while a singular member of the Basotho is a Mosotho and they all speak Sesotho. Anyway, Elizabeth is passionate about the Basotho blankets and we were curious to know more so went to her house for her presentation. It turned out to be one of the best things we did in Lesotho.

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    The Malasunyane Falls drop 196m into the canyon

    We learnt that there is a whole lot of meaning in the blanket designs, how they are worn and the various milestones in life that warrant a new blanket. Boys get them prior to and after initiations, women when they get married and have their first child and people get new blankets when they pass away to name a few.

    There is a practical element to the blankets too. The good ones are usually about 90% wool making them rain and fire resistant, warm and lightweight. In the mountains it is said no one leaves on a journey without a blanket.


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    Elizabeth in her grandmother’s 100 year old cow skin blanket

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    Laying out the Maize design

    Women use blankets to carry their babies. This is done with two blankets and a couple of large safety pins. One blanket ties the baby to the mother and the other covers it from the elements. Elizabeth told us how there is the risk of suffocation of the babies so many women have the babies with their faces to the mothers back so they can feel the breath of the child. Clever.

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    Elizabeth was a wealth of knowledge and had such a passion for her culture. Our 1.5 hour talk ended up going for nearly 3 hours as we kept asking questions and Elizabeth kept answering

    I asked the lady how women avoided getting baby poo all over their blankets as I didn’t see much in the way of disposable nappies in the shops. Her response blew my mind! In Lesotho they toilet train their newborns so there are only occasional accidents they have to deal with. Nappies are not necessary. It is amazing. I am not going to give you the details as to how this is done as it will be in my upcoming parenting book. The working title is 'The Lesotho Method: How to Make Your Baby Shit on Command.' It will no doubt take the world by storm. Best be kind to me now before the riches start flowing in

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    Elizabeth’s son… probably wishing he was playing football right now

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    …in one of the kid sized blankets. You should see how cute the ones for toddlers are

    The patterns and the colours of the blankets all had hidden meanings behind them and it was quite gratifying spotting blankets ‘in the wild’ and knowing what they represented. One of my favourite styles was the playing card blankets, which had hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades in their designs. The story goes that the King wanted them included in designs to show foreigners that they were viewed as equals and very welcome in the Kingdom of Losotho. Playing cards were an exclusively foreign game at that time so that is why they were used. Other designs had wheat, rams horns, the stones used for building the traditional rondavel houses and firewood to name a few.

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    Me getting dressed Lesotho style

    It was all very interesting stuff and if it weren’t for me being on a bike I would have taken one of the wheat ones with me. The highest quality of Basotho blankets go for about 800 rand, which is about $80. Not a bad investment for something that they say can last forever.

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    Looking like the moron tourists we are

    With that it was time to bring our ride in Lesotho to a close. We had such a great couple of weeks but it was time to be moving on. We travelled the impeccable, brand new, Chinese built highway to Qachas Nek using the brand new bridges over the Orange and Little Orange Rivers, which were previously 2 of the biggest obstacles in the region. Not any more, xie xie very much.

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    Getting ready to leave Semonkong

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    The new bridge over the Senqu (Orange) River
    #88
  9. Gobby

    Gobby Trust Me!

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    Thanks for the lesson - I lived in South Africa for 20 odd years, and always just assumed a blanket is a blanket. :deal

    Keep safe.
    #89
  10. Tsotsie

    Tsotsie Semi-reformed Tsotsi Supporter

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    For those with Southern Africa experience, Mines etc, those blankets hide pick axe handles and other items of persuasion...too.
    #90
  11. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    Yeah, we thought so too - Lesotho is cold so people use blankets. Makes sense to me. But learning about the stories behind the designs and the cultural significance was interesting.

    Axe handles in the SA mining industry doesn't really surprise me sadly. However it must be said that we really enjoyed our time in lesotho and had a great time with the people. We found them very open and friendly.
    #91
  12. michnus

    michnus Lucky bastard Supporter

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    subscribe :D
    #92
  13. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    Blog 8 by Mick: A different kind of Coop

    We re-entered South Africa in the mid-afternoon starving for lunch, so made our way to the nearest food joint we could find with good parking. Security is such a problem here that parking our bikes, our most significant and important possession with all your worldly possessions upon it, becomes all important to the point of paranoia. We simply cannot afford to have a bike stolen, or things stolen from it. So when we stop somewhere and I cant stay with them, it either needs to be in a place which is secure, and there aren’t too many of those in public in South Africa, or we need be close and have direct vision of the bikes.

    And even then, as the bikes are so unique, they draw so much attention with people looking and pointing and taking photos, we stress, or more accurately, I stress about them. I put so much time and effort into those bloody things that I should baptise them and apply for formal birth certificates. So where we stopped for lunch in Matatiele, the first major town after descending from Lesotho through Qachas Nek, was a cheap and nasty fast food joint simply because we could park the bikes directly in front. Which was perfect, apart from the food, which was proper shit.

    We inhaled our lunch and headed south into a nasty headwind. Our destination technically was the town of Rhodes, although in actuality that was merely a convenient place to sleep after doing the highest pass entirely within South Africa – Naudesnek, our real destination. You might have thought that after a big bunch of mountain riding in Lesotho that the last thing we would want to do is another high altitude mountain pass, but you thought wrong.


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    Tan on the road to Rhodes


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    Stopped at the top of the pass


    Naudesnek provided some great views of the Southern Drakensberg but not too many technical challenges. We descended the other side of the pass into the quaint Victorian era town of Rhodes, which is famous for bikers for its roads. Other forms of tourists might enjoy the lovely views, the trout fishing, or the old and very well preserved 19<sup>th</sup> century architecture, but we don’t worry about them so much.


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    Coming down the back of the pass


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    Some lovely light at the end of the day


    We pulled in to the Walkerbout Inn for the night; how two Aussies could pass up the opportunity to stay in such an aptly named establishment is beyond me. And we then did what any self respecting Aussies would do in such a named establishment – we walked straight to the bar. There we walked in on a couple guys in dusty motorbiking gear plus a real big grey bearded fella in breaches, all speaking Afrikaans. We ordered some drinks and got chatting – in English after they politely swapped for us – and turns out they were part of a group of 11 who were having a weekend of riding in the area. And the big guy was the proprietor, Dave Walker, hence the name of the place.

    It turned into a very interesting evening for us as we discussed the good riding roads in the area, farming, farm murders, the government (always a hot topic), Lesotho, and the Lesotho Coup of 1998 and South Africa’s bumbled involvement in it, all while drinking a few beers and a couple rums with a good steak dinner and maybe the odd brandy too. Tanya knocked over the apple cart when she mentioned to a big group of half cut stocky Afrikaaner farmers drinking brandy and coke that such a beverage was for grandma’s in Australia; I quickly ducked and announced quite loudly that I had no idea whatsoever who this crazy woman was, but they forgave her insolence with a good chuckle.

    Another enlightening topic for us was that there was no working service station in Rhodes, a reasonably sized town by the look of it on our map, which was a hell of a problem as we hadn’t fueled up since Maseru in Lesotho something like 540kms previous. I guessed we might have had enough to go maybe 60kms, which coincidently was the distance to the nearest fuel bowser in Barkley East.

    When invited on the following days ride with the group of bikers, the consequences of the problem escalated as their planned early departure meant an even earlier start for us to get to Barkly Easy and back. Early starts are mean business for night owls like us. Dirty mean business indeed. But with the opportunity to ride with a group of welcoming bikers on unmarked back roads, I endeavored to get up in the morning and face the cold, hangover or no.

    I woke at 6am a little seedy and hit the road a little later than I would have liked. It was quite chilly and I pushed to make up time so I would be back and ready for the planned 8am departure. The road was hilly and twisty and great fun, although freshly graded with a very loose top layer of gravel which made for a few arse puckering moments, especially with my new Mitas E07 front tyre. The E07 is marketed as a “50/50” tyre, as in it’s apparently designed for 50% use on tar and 50% on gravel. But after experiencing this tyre first hand, I tend to think of that moniker as a marketer’s macabre piss-take, that 50/50 is actually the expected survival rate of any rider silly enough to ride this tyre hard on loose gravel.

    Truth be told, being used to proper knobbies, I probably pushed the tyre just a little outside its design brief by doing the ~60min trip to Barkley East in 45, and paid the price when the front tyre washed out with little warning and binned me to the low side. Bloody thing. And extra embarrassing as I’d just overtaken the rider’s support vehicle who were also in the middle of a fuel run to Barkly East and they managed to witness the entire incident. Oh well.

    I returned to Rhodes with 40 litres of fuel between the front and rear tanks, and we decanted the ~10l rear tank into Tanya’s bike in readiness for the days riding. We headed back up to Naudesnek and turned left, uphill, north, towards Lesotho. Within a couple kilometres of easy dirt we had reached the 5 star hotel at Tenahead, and we barged in unannounced and uninvited like a proper gang of dirty bikies, and politely ordered tea and scones.


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    The gang


    Moving on from our scone stop we headed further up hill. The road we were to ride follows the Lesotho border and comes in on South Africa’s only ski-field, Tiffendell, from the East, and sees little, if any maintenance. It provided quite a few steep and tricky climbs and descents with large and loose rocks. Within the group of riders there was a swag of F650 Dakars, a pair of R1200GS, a Yami S12, an XR650R and also an L, and a 640Adv, although none were loaded to any level of consequence, certainly not to the point of our fat DR piggys. Tan was the only lady and on one of the bigger bikes, yet handled it with aplomb. I think with such an audience determination alone was all that was needed to ensure she didn’t drop it.


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    Chris, local sheep farmer and former military man on his F650 Dakar


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    The road from Tenahead to Tiffendell. Lesotho on the right and South Africa on the left


    We had a brief stop at Tiffendell to admire the melting slush, and descended back down through a valley I’m not too sure what it was called. Nevertheless, the views and the riding were first class and it was a shame when it all came to an end at the bottom. There, everyone split up and went their separate ways. The night previous one of the guys, Dassie, had mentioned that we were welcome to stay at his farm near Aliwal North if we would like. Staying with local people in their homes is such a rewarding and educational experience that we’ve made it a habit to accept invitations if we can fit it in, and the opportunity to stay on our first farm in SA was too good to pass up. We gladly accepted.


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    Having a breather at a farm gate on the way down from Tiffendell


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    The final descent down the valley

    We promised Dassie that we weren’t axe murders and followed him back to his house through some vicious gusting wind. I was glad for our fairings, as although the wind was pushing the bikes all over the road, our bodies had a level of protection. Dassie was on an XR650R with no protection, and the same winds that were knocking our bikes around looked like they were trying to knock his head right off. Talking about it later, he did mention it wasn’t a particularly pleasant riding experience.

    A kilometer or two after entering through a farm’s boundary gate, Dassie came to a gentle stop with his bike idling away happily and him twisting the throttle frustratedly - his throttle cable had snapped. After a quick chat we backed up my DR with the towrope and dragged the Honda the last 4km home. Dassie’s wife heard the bikes coming and came out with the kids on a farm quad and was mightily amused by site of Dassie coming home on the end of a rope.


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    Dassie being towed home

    We had settled in on the stoep with a few beers and the braai fire going when a cute little creature wandered up to the table. “Oh wow you’ve got meerkats here” I remarked. I looked at Tanya, with her intense affliction of loving all things cute and cuddly, knowing the mere thought of meerkats would be near enough to make her wet her pants, and I wasn’t half wrong. She could barely contain herself at the sight of them, and then stroking, and then holding them. Luckily we brought a few external hard-drives for photos storage as Tanya ran the camera battery flat clicking away maniacally.


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    Fantastic view of the Kraai River from the stoep


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    Mick and the mother meerkat


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    Tanya in a state of delerium


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    Classic meerkat pose


    We, and by we I mean Tanya, ended up cooking another sticky date pudding with Dassie and Elanie’s kids which went down a treat. When staying with people we like to contribute in some way and the Sticky Date, the pudding by which all other puddings are judged, is not such a common dessert here, so always goes down well. We are just a little worried that we are leaving a trail of type-2 diabetes across the country…


    [​IMG]
    Saying goodbye to Dassie and Elanie our wonderful hosts

    We hit the road the following morning after some fond farewells and thankyou’s, and made our way to Lady Grey and Joubert’s Pass. 2 days previous when saying our goodbyes on the side of the road with the group of 11 bikers, we had actually received a second invitation to stay on a farm the other side of Aliwal North, so we didn’t have far to go. I put together an interesting looking route over Jouberts Pass, whih was quite scenic, and made our way to Rob'’s house.


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    The road to Joubert’s Pass


    We arrived after Rob had finished working his cattle for the day, and immediately jumped on his little farm bikes to see the farm. Tanya was in love with his little CRF230L, its 120kg weight was a far cry compared to the ~175kg of the DR, and probably 200-210kg’s all up loaded and fully fueled. We packed a couple beers in a backpack and made our way to a nice spot overlooking the farm. It was a tough way to finish the day.


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    Tan enjoying the itty bitty CRF230L, and employing the ATGATTEWOAFTIOK mantra (All the gear, all the time, except when on a farm that is OK)


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    Sundowners with Rob on his farm

    Rob was working his cattle again the next day, so we woke to the sound of cattle in a stockyard and much complaining as mothers were split from their calves.** At lunch Rob twisted our arms to stay another day; we’d planned to stay a day and move on to the Wild Coast somewhere, but Robs farm was such a nice spot and Tanya needed a bit of quiet time for her study, so we decided to stay a second day.


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    Rob’'s Nguni cattle, an African breed

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    Rob wanted to work out how many calves he had, how many cows were with calf, and how many old cows he had. These cows about to get… tested


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    The Barry White tunes were playing….


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    Say cheese! Checking teeth to see how old they are

    With Tanya studying externally for her BComm, I was idle so offered Rob an extra pair of hands to help out where I could, and on farms, there is always work to do. He mentioned that he wanted to build another chicken coop, his original one had become old and it was difficult to keep the chickens in and the local chicken eating wildlife out, and also to keep clean. He was interested in making a mobile coop so it could fertilise his Walnut Grove and simply be moved once an area had been covered in droppings. Now I’m no chicken expert, but I know shit and that made good sense to me.

    Rob had an old shed that a willow had fallen on in a storm, so the frame was bent beyond repair and had been stacked up. He also had an old trailer that wasn’t being used, and wondered if it was possible to use those together to build the coop? Sounded plausible for sure. He asked if I could design something up and that got me thinking.


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    The old bent up shed frame all piled up under the offending tree


    Over dinner (we cooked a curry and apple windsor) I mentioned to Rob that to go through all the steel and stocktake what was there and what was usable and what was not, and then design it would take probably two days. And the likelihood of the design being not right would be high – designing and building from new steel is easy but building from scrap requires a certain degree of improvisation. “Why don’t I just build it?” I offered – I figured I could design it on the fly and build the frame in about 3 days. Now, no matter how many times I build things and massively underestimate how long its going to take, I always seem to do it. 30min jobs take 2 hours, 2 hour jobs take 4 and 3 day jobs take….. 3 days of course, this time would be different!

    Rob had the steel brought up to the shed in a couple separate loads throughout the next day, and by the afternoon I’d sorted through what was there, found a suitable floor material from the scrap pile, come up with a plan of sorts in my head of what was achievable with what was available and started cutting and welding. Day 1 of 3 was complete and I hadn’t gotten very far – this wasn’t a good start.


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    The start of the coop frame

    Over the coming days while Rob worked with his cattle, I worked on the coop, Tanya studied and worked on her upcoming essay. We generally finished the day with some sun-downers, although there was one early start where we rode up the nearby hill for wonderful views for sunrise – a sun-upper. During this time I did some welding and fabrication training with two of Robs employees, but even with the help of some extra hands it became apparent that my 3 day estimate was wildly optimistic.


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    Off on another Sundowner on Rob’s bikes, including his paint-shaker 640Adv


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    Enjoying a flask of tea and the view on a sunrise ride over looking Rob's farm


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    Trail riding on the fat DR on some farm tracks


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    Another sundowner on the DR riding stock trails up an escarpment overlooking the farm. This was ok but was starting to get a bit technical for the big piggy


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    It was a fair bit steeper than what it looks. And narrow and a bit loose too. ATGATTEWOAFTIOK


    6 days later the coop frame was finished. Our 1 day stop over had turned into 8. While we had been there, one dog had puppies and we tried to adopt another, family had come and gone, we got to know some of Rob’s staff, we found a favourite restaurant in Aliwal North, plans had been made and changed and we joked about getting on Rob’s payroll. We felt like part of the furniture by the time we hit the road. But it felt good to be on the move again.


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    Nap time on the farm


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    T-bone at The Little Ranch. The best t-bone I’ve ever had, by a mile - cost about $10


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    Keeping an eye on the fella’s welding on the frame. They were pretty rough to start with but got better with practice. Even then they were impatient, I was always telling them to slow down


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    Putting together the last of the base frame. It needed a fair bit of extra stiffening as the shed frame was quite lightweight steel


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    Putting the roof in place ready for lifting. Two of the 4 original roof trusses were straight enough to use (one needed a bit of straightening) and they went at each end of the frame. We had to make a 3<sup>rd</sup> roof truss out of some random bits of steel that were straight to go in the middle. The fellow with me, Johannes, helped out whenever he had spare time and seem to enjoy the project. He had a good feel for welding and fabrication


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    When lifting the roof, we used a gantry to hold one end steady. We then lifted the non-gantry end onto the trailer by hand and tacked it in place. And braced it when it was square


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    Handing over the finished frame to a happy Rob. Its braced asymmetrically to leave room for a door. The original shed frame was quite light weight so I strongly braced it, especially as when it gets pulled around and moved it will twist and rock and will need to be very stiff


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    Saying goodbye to Rob - legend
    #93
    Phipsd, LM15, BIG OIL and 4 others like this.
  14. RiderRick

    RiderRick Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2013
    Oddometer:
    271
    Location:
    Southeast Minnesota
    What a great story, I'm so glad you are sharing. :clap:clap:clap:clap
    #94
  15. refokus

    refokus Hmmmmmm

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,238
    Location:
    Arizona
    This is a great story and I am checking in every other day. Awesome job in keeping it up to date. :clap
    #95
  16. Tan101

    Tan101 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2014
    Oddometer:
    177
    Location:
    back in west oz
    Hi Refokus. This is Tan of Mick and Tan. I wish we were up to date with this ride report! This post of the ride report is actually from September and about 15,000km ago. But we are working hard to get things up to date. Lots of good stuff to come. If you want a sneak peak of what we've been doing here in Namibia, go to the DR650 picture thread Mick's posted. Gnarly riding on that one
    #96
  17. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Oddometer:
    565
    Location:
    Back to reality.... WestOz
    Massive Post and Naughty Word Warning! Also, the end of this post discusses a pretty sensitive subject matter so I sincerely hope I don't offend anyone, if I do please PM me.

    Blog 9 by Mick: Fairies and Wildlings and 3 times the Weirdness

    It was a little strange to be on the bikes after so long in staying on Rob’s farm, but it felt right to be moving again. We made our way to Bethoulie, a nearby farming town and home of a quite famous “book house” which Tan was interested in visiting. We circled the block a number of times looking for it but for the life of us we just couldn’t find it, so we went to the pub instead.

    There was interesting pub in the main street which seemed well patroned (especially for mid afternoon) called “Die Au Kar”, literally “The Old Car” in Afrikaans. The facade of the building had been decorated, nay better than that, it had been enhanced, beautified, maybe even bejeweled, with the nose cone of a HR Holden (a classic old australian built car for Northern Hemisphere readers). There was no way I wasn’t going into said establishment.


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    Die Au Kar with a bit of Australian History attached to the front


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    Another bit of Australiana –- an Emu. It was just a little out of place….


    We settled in for a late lunch and, yeah, suppose I better have a beer too, and we ended up staying most of the night. It was National Braai Day, hence the patronage, so we cooked up some tjoppies (lamb chops) and boerwurst outside and had some good chats with some locals. We met a young lady who had just inherited a game hunting farm from her father who had recently passed away, and she regaled us with many horror stories of paying international (no guesses for where the majority come from) tourist/hunters who had sufficient money and insufficient skill. It seems that animals dying messy deaths are sadly reasonably frequent, and uncontrolled discharges of weapons due to general incompetence (I prefer the term “dickheadedness”) are also reasonably frequent. It also turns out the book house guy has semi-retired and only let people in to check out his massive book collection by appointment only, and generally only to larger groups led by a guide. We were out of luck.


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    Leaving the next day, a big group of Harley riders stopped by


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    The guys were great to talk to and gave us a bunch of tips for SA and Namibia


    We hit the road the following day for Hogsback taking some nice back roads through to Molteno where we stopped for lunch. Further on in the town of Whittlesea, we were surprised to see a couple cows and a few horses grazing on the nature strip in the main street of town. It was a little strange to say the least, but the locals didn’t seem overly concerned. Sadly we missed the photo opportunity.


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    Some back roads to Burgersdorp


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    We followed the railway line for a fair while


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    The road from Burgersdorp to Stormberg


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    Blockhouse from the Anglo Boer War guarding the railway at Stormberg


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    Stormberg Trading Co –- closed down I believe?


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    I loved this sign, "TREKKER, Die Lekker KOFFIE"


    We rode into the back of Hogsback on some little-used roads that gave some great vistas and really captured why Tolkien (supposedly) used the region as inspiration for Hobbiton in the Lord of the Rings series. It’s a fact (one that is debated, as Tolkein left the area as a child) that hasn’t escaped the local populace trying to attract and extract every tourist dollar available either – suffice to say every company in town has some sort of Hobbit, Fairy, Lord and/or Ring reference. We soon checked in to the “Away with the Fairies” Backpackers.


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    A nice road cutting on the way to Hogsback


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    Tanya is down there on the bridge. You can see the Hobbiton connection


    The following day we chilled out with some book reading and some blog writing, which is always on the to-do list. Its only since we’ve started writing this thing that we’ve began to understand just how much of a time consuming commitment it really is – I hope its being read!


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    The Away with the Fairies Backpackers. Even the sign writing uses the Lord of the Rings font.


    We wandered into town and did a bit of shopping for our braai dinner and had quite a bizarre encounter with a couple well dressed school children, maybe 10 or 12 years old, who begged for some money and were told no. It was obvious they were just opportunistically trying their luck on the tourists in town. One young girl then quite brazenly grabbed Tanya on the boob, and casually walked off. What a rude little shit, it took me ages to get that far, and they already had money for lollies anyway.


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    Braai-ing up a storm


    The weather turned bad with plenty of mist and light rain making the town feel even more like Hobbiton in the books. We got chatting to couple from Port Elizabeth who were staying at the backpackers for the weekend and they invited us to the local pub to watch the Wallabies play the Springboks. Sadly the Wallabies got toweled up in the last 10 minutes of the game but it was still a great evening chatting with Mark and Jean. Mark was originally from Rhodesia and he described some of his experiences there in the seventies and early eighties when it transitioned to Zimbabwe. I won’t go into the details but it was an incredibly enlightening discussion on a subject I had only read about in books.


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    Saying goodbye to Mark and Jean


    The weather was still quite crap in the morning, which fitted with our moods after so many beers and rums and brandys in the pub the night previous. The miserable weather was fine by me as it gave me the opportunity to binge read book 5 of a Song of Ice and Fire. It was pretty depressing to get to the end though as now I’ve got to wait for George Martin to actually finish writing the 6th book. That old bugger better not die.


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    The two dogs belonged to the backpackers and sat in front of the fire all day when the weather was crap. The lighter coloured one farted often. Really often.


    The Hogsback area is famous for hiking and waterfalls, so with some good weather and our recovered constitutions, we did a walk for a couple hours to a few local landmarks; an enormous yellow wood tree and a waterfall called “Madonna and Child”. My pants duly exploded around a few welding holes on my right quad from building the chicken coop for Rob. It was just my luck that it happened right before we met a family (personally I think it was just their luck) on the walking trail, and I was quite amused by their discomfort of trying to ignore seeing half my leg and a goodly portion of my jocks through the enormous tear.


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    Start of the hike


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    We found this amazing spiky tree


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    Which was pretty cool


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    The big Yellow Wood Tree. The trunk at chest height has a diameter of 2.7m and its 38m tall.


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    Madonna and Child Waterfall


    The backpackers offered a bunch of activities and a lot of them, such as Fairy Card readings and Tree Hugging (yes, really), fell deeply into the “Hippie Bullshit” category. But they also offered “Sunrise Pancakes” looking over the valley, and that sounded like an effective way to force two night people like us to get up at an early hour so we could get on the road at a respectable time.


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    Tree Hugging on the menu. See, I wasn'’t even exaggerating.


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    The backpackers also had this amazing bath looking over the valley. Tanya booked the bath one afternoon and the staff lit the fire to heat the water, however some little backpackers found it all warm and had already jumped in when she got there. Surely they must have thought “I see this fire has been lit to make the water warm, I wander who did that?” Apparently not.


    But even that didn'’t work. It was a cold and miserable morning, and the mist ruined the view of the sunrise and the valley. Plus we had also stayed up the night previous drinking lots of good coffee, so after pancakes it was just far too tempting to go back to bed and catch a few extra hours sleep. So we did.

    The weather was still pretty wet and cold when we rode down to Beacon Bay in East London and found a store to replace my ripped pants. I noted that there was a motorcycle store just around the corner from where we had stopped, so I figured we might as well drop by and see if they had a new front tyre for Tanya. I had actually already rung the store but spoke to a guy who didn’t seem all that confident when I asked for a road legal knobby.

    We walked into the store and I found a Michelin T63 hidden at the back of the rack, and the shop attendant seemed a bit surprised when I pulled it out and said “fit this”. They had a couple of 50/50 tyres and some even more road orientated than that, and he found it strange that I wasn’t interested in any of those style of tyre that sell well here. But with the type of riding we like to do, my experience with the E07, and the fact that decent road-legal knobbies offer a tremendous amount of grip on tar anyway, the T63 was always the way to go.

    With that fitted, we headed north to Cintsa and Buccaneer’s Backpackers. The place was nice enough but had a bit of a “backpacker factory” feel about it, a lot like Amphitheater Backpackers in the Drakensberg but at least the manager here had a personality. These types of places, where every aspect of the business is engineered to extract money from the customer, feel very non-genuine and we don’t enjoy so much.

    The following morning we rode around to the other side of the river to Cintsa East for some fuel and found a nice little café for breakfast. It was still raining so we settled in with a few coffees and chilled out for a couple hours reading. A wonderful painting by a local artist of Jimi Hendrix was for sale on one of the walls and really caught Tanya’s eye. We spoke to the shop owner about it, and about some good places to go on the Wild Coast, and after hearing that we weren’t interested in the commercial backpacker factories like Buccaneers, we ruled out Coffee Bay and she recommended Mazeppa Bay which was reasonably close by.


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    The Jimi painting. Tan ended up buying it and getting it sent home a bit later on


    We had a second very bizarre encounter here. While at Buccaneers, we had slept in a little detached apartment type building with 3 private bedrooms but shared kitchen/living space and bathroom. This suited us as it kept our costs down but also gave us a bit of privacy and security for our gear, and also because we had the building to ourselves. In the middle of the night, it felt like 3am or so someone came through the front door, made a fair bit of a racket in the living room, and went to bed. Seemed like someone had checked in late and just got back after a big night on the turps, which is fair enough I suppose in a backpackers.

    We get up in the morning and there is a pair of little skater-boy shoes spread over living room floor, some bananas spread over the dinner table, and the door to one of the bedrooms closed. Seems old mate is sleeping off his late night. The cleaner comes in and goes to work while we pack our bikes, and comes out to thank us for our quite modest tip we left her (which is customary here in SA) and ask if we had left our shoes behind, while holding up the little blue skater-boy shoes. We tell her “no they aren’t ours they belong to someone else” and check out.

    Now back at the café at Cintsa East, while Tanya is up admiring the Jimi Hendrix painting closely she notices a table of young ladies and one older lady looking at her motorcycling boots, my motorcycling boots and generally giving us a bit of a once over. She also caught a bit of their conversation but thought nothing of it, the young ladies saying “blah blah blah we should call the police….” and the older lady cautioning them “you have to be sure, you have to be 100% sure”. I’m oblivious to all this as I’m quite bored by now sitting at our table and eager to get on the road.

    We finally get up to leave and we grab our stuff and start our dressing and packing regime, which takes ages on a bike and even longer when its raining. One of the young ladies walks up to us and asked if we stayed at Buccaneers last night? “Yeah yeah we stayed there, we stayed in one of the self contained apartments down the bottom”. “Did you see a pair of shoes there?” she asks. “Yeah we did see a pair of blue shoes there, the cleaner picked them up on our way out”. “My brother, he stayed in the same apartment as you and his shoes, his bananas and his contact lenses and the cleaning fluid have all been stolen” she informs us gravely. “It his only pair of shoes” she stresses, like I give a shit.

    I'’ve cottoned on to what’s going on here by now but Tanya is much too trusting and carries on “yeah the cleaner she found the shoes while we were there and I’m assuming the contact lenses and the bananas too and I’m pretty sure she would have taken it all to reception”. You can see the little mice turning the wheels over now, albeit quite slowly, and that maybe, just maybe 2 people wouldn’t steal some little skater-boy shoes, a bag of old bananas and someone else’s used contact lenses, and maybe, just maybe the cleaner would have taken them up to reception as she didn’t realize some drunk guy checked in at 3am?

    It was pretty funny that a couple days later, Tanya walked out of the shower and exclaimed quite insulted “I think that girl thought we stole her brother’s shoes!!”, which is of course exactly what she thought. “And who would think someone would steal used contact lenses, that’s disgusting!”

    After that little encounter we hit the road in a break in the weather that didn’t last very long. We were soon getting rained on some more, but thankfully both of us have some good quality rain gear that kept us dry and warm. We were riding into an old Bantu State called the Transkei, and we had been told that we would see people living traditional Xhosa lives here. It should have rung bells at the time, but it didn’t, that people describing life as “traditional” was actually a romanticised code word for “poor”.

    After the wealth of Beacon Bay and Cintsa, crossing to the northern side of the Kei River was a bit of a shock – the area was poor and undeveloped to say the least. I’d planned a route to Mazeppa Bay from the map and checked it on the GPS, but even the main dirt roads in the area weren’t well signposted or maintained. The GPS couldn’t tell the difference between the secondary roads and walking trails, which were all plotted the same. It slowed navigation as we would get to an intersection and the GPS would tell us to turn onto some tiny trail, so we would have to stop, check and re-plot.

    The roads were wet and muddy and very slippery on my E07 front tyre. I was very glad we had bought the T63 knobby for Tanya as quite a few times I was struggling to keep my bike straight and upright, and then I would look back and see Tanya handle the same obstacle much easier. We came to a valley were the road descended reasonably steeply to a river crossing. The road had been churned up to a red muddy slush, and slippery mess of wet clay.

    A bakkie (ute for aussies, pick-up for others) was parked on the left hand side of the road with an old guy waiting for his turn to drive down the road, which had a very narrow dry patch on the right hand side. I slowly rode past him and the tread of my front wheel very soon completely clogged up with red mud and the bike started sliding. I had zero control and the bike slid sideways and then it was down, like falling over on ice. The old fellow came up to help but I had the bike back up before he got there. We shared a bit of a chuckle as he helped me push it off the road. Tanya came up with minimal issues and parked a metre or 2 behind me and maybe 2 or 3m in front of the old fellas bakkie; her knobby was throwing the mud off and clearing the tread where my front tyre was clogging.


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    My front tyre clogged with mud. This is just after the old guy and me push the bike to the side of the road and just before Tanya got there


    And here was our 3rd bizarre encounter; and it was the most bizarre, most weird, and most worrying. There was another bakkie slipping and sliding its way up the hill. It had stopped maybe 30m from us on the right hand side (the RH side looking down, which is his side) of the road. He had the tray full of people to try weight the rear wheels for traction. He drove up a little further before slipping to a stop. He had a few people pushing, and waited for them to catch up and push some more to get him started again. Which he did, but he was very, very sideways this time, with the front of the bakkie pointing to his left at a ditch against the side of the hill, and the back of the bakkie sliding out to his right. Right towards us and my bike.


    [​IMG]
    I’'m standing next to the parked bakkie taking this photo, and the other bakkie is coming up on the dry line in the oncoming lane. You can see the wheel tracks were my bike slid sideways before slipping over in the red muck


    I could see it happening, and was thinking, all he has to do is take his foot of the accelerator and the car will stop. He doesn’t even have to brake, he only has to take his foot off the gas and gravity will stop the car in a couple metres at most. But he didn’t, he kept his foot flat, the car continued to slide out and the back of the car came right around and clipped the back of the bike and knocked it to the ground. The car then slid nose first into the embankment on the left hand side (facing up hill), and ended up near 90 degrees to the road – completely sideways. Tanya had been standing in front of me and in between the 2 bikes and thankfully moved out of the way as the car approached all crossed up, or she could well have had the bike thrown on top of her.

    I could not fucking believe how reckless this idiot was – he had a tray full of people, including a heap of kids, as ballast and slid out on a steep muddy slope towards two bikes and the parked bakkie just behind me with 3 pedestrians (Tan and I, plus the old guy) on the side of the road, and then crashed into the ditch.

    I’m pissed off, in retrospect far more pissed off than I should have been, but this idiot just wiped out my bike and nearly Tan and I with it. I walk to the car and said “Oi! You hit my bike! You hit my bike!” The driver, a quite young scrawny guy of about 25, got out yelling and ranting and walked right up and into my face screaming something – I gave him a pretty healthy push in the chest and knocked him out of my face and back towards his car, I had a good 30kg or more on him and it showed.

    I turned and walked away as the ballast people in the tray started to get out, I realised I was well and truly outnumbered and this guy was clearly nuts. I walked back towards my bike, my immediate concern being my carby; with the bike on its side the fuel bowl could be open and overflowing petrol onto the ground. That is when this guys ranting’s filtered through my helmet and into my skull, it had all happened in such a tiny instant that his rantings hadn’t actually crystallised before I pushed him out of my face. He had gotten out of the car screaming:

    “Why did you park there? Why did you park there? Why are you so racist?”
    True. Story.
    Hang on, what the fuck? Racist? Fucking what?

    I pick up the bike fully expecting the sidestand to be a twisted mess and am surprised that its not – thankfully the mud was so soft it just pushed in as the bike went over. The only damage seems to be my number plate holder is twisted up and the second stop/tail light completely smashed. I look up at this nutter and the ballast people are holding him back, but he breaks free and comes back at me, screaming and yelling and calling me a racist. “Why do you hate black people?” he is shouting.

    “What the fuck are you talking about?” I ask at this crazy bastard. “You are a racist! Why do you hate black people?” He shouts in my face over and over and over again. “What? I don’t hate black people! What?” I’m knocked well and truly off balance by this accusation, its genuinely confusing to be angry with someone because they just ran into your bike and nearly ran you over, and their defense is “you’re racist”. We had heard this was quite common here in South Africa, that every issue irrespective of fault is due to racism. It’s the trump card to end all trump cards, and everyone from the President down uses it. In fact, if you look into South African politics, it’s almost a sport.

    Thankfully this nut seems to have little to no support, the ballast people are looking on confused and not getting involved. He goes on and on repeating his mantra that I hate black people. “Calm down, calm the fuck down” I tell this guy, but he won't calm doen. This is going very badly; I'’ve got a fucking insane nut-job screaming in my face. I change the subject.

    I point at the broken light on the back of the bike and shout “You broke my bike, you’ve got to pay for this damage, give me 1000 rand right now!” That gets the nutter’s attention and the subject changes from me being a racist to me paying for the damage to the bakkie. I look across and the right hand side tail light assembly is completely smashed, but there seems to be no panel damage. The tail light had just clipped my number plate holder.

    “You’ve got to pay for the car!” he screams, “Give ME 1000 rand!” he parrots. I look around and the only person involved is this nutter, everyone else is just looking on. I look up at the old guy, the driver of the bakkie parked only 2 or 3 metres away, the guy who helped me move the bike off the road originally. He motions that we should leave – he points down the hill and waves us away. I nod and take the hint.

    I look at Tanya and put on a very broad Australian accent speaking very quickly – there is no way this guy can understand “lez getouta ere”. I go to get on the bike and the nutter starts pushing me and knocking on my helmet. He is now combining his rants about me being racist with his one about paying for the car. I ignore him. Tanya sees what’s happening and calls him over to her. She is on her bike but could see there is no way I can move with this psycho in my face.

    I hear them shouting about 10m from me down the hill, Tanya is telling this guy that we are tourists and Australians, not South Africans. I go to start my bike and there is a fat old lady knocking on my arm. “You need to pay for my car” she says. “He is a taxi driver but it is my car, and you need to pay for the damage, we have to go to the police station” she says. “You have to pay for my bike” I try, but she is having none of it. “Lets go to the police station” she repeats. She knows that if we go to the police station, it will be my fault and I will be forced to pay for the damage to the bakkie.

    But I know this too, and there is no fucking way I’m going to a police station so I change tact again. “Where is it?” I ask, “Where is the police station?” She says it’s a couple of kilometres away, up the hill. I tell her I’ll follow her, blatantly lying. I look back up at the old guy, and he shakes his head and quietly says “leave, go now” and waves us down the hill again. I again tell the fat old lady “I’ll follow you” and start the bike. She leaves and goes back to the bakkie to try and get it out of the ditch.

    The nutter hears the bike start and comes back to me screaming “I want all the whites out! All the whites out of South Africa!” over and over again. “I’m a tourist, I don’t live here, I’m Australian” I shout, pointing at the big “AUS” sticker at the back of the bike and the West Australian number plates. “That’s bullshit, that’s bullshit, you’re South African! Get out of South Africa! Get out of South Africa! All the whites must get out!”

    “You are an absolute fucking idiot” I tell him, and rev up the bike. Its very slippery and it takes quite a lot of effort to get the bike to face down the hill again. The nutter is shouting with renewed vigour; I don’t think he has ever been called an absolute fucking idiot before and he seems to have taken some offense, but I ignore him.

    Some other people realise we are leaving and help us, thankfully its not us who are outnumbered, its actually the nutter and the fat old lady. A couple young guys, in their late teens or early twenties, direct Tanya into a little washout where the bike is essentially rail roaded and cant slip over in the mud and she starts down the hill. I follow her, and the nutter runs after us, but thankfully past us, and he runs down to a waiting taxi, ranting all the way. He drives the taxi past us, yelling and flipping us the bird, but he has given up. We get to the bottom, cross the river and leave up the other side of the valley.

    We ride straight through to Mazeppa Bay without further incident, find the hotel and check in. It’s a bit above our budget but we don’t care, the hotel has secure parking with a security guard and a bar, which was in dire need. We settle in for a few drinks to sooth the nerves, a nice dinner and chat with some of the staff who are outraged at the story we tell them, and very surprised it happened in their neighbourhood. Its still raining, and apparently will rain for a few days yet.

    Fuck this, lets go to the desert.


    [​IMG]
    Inspecting the damage at Mazeppa Bay. I think I’'m saying “What the bloody hell just happened?” or something like that


    [​IMG]
    On of the staff at the Hotel – she was working in front of the flag and made for a great portrait


    [​IMG]
    Enjoying the views of the coast on the way out of Mazeppa Bay in the morning


    [​IMG]
    It certainly is a Wild Coast….

    EPILOGUE:
    Tan and I have discussed this event a couple of times now, and tend to think it sort of happened like this:
    1. The fat old lady got her bakkie stuck on the incline and couldn’t get going again on the muddy slope.
    2. The taxi driver probably got frustrated waiting at the bottom of the climb with the bakkie stuck in front of him, so got out to intervene.
    3. He decided to be the hero and drive it up when she couldn’t and asked his customers to be the ballast to hold the back of the bakkie down, and witness his awesome driving ability.
    4. He lost control of the bakkie, collecting my bike and crashing the old ladies bakkie into the ditch in the event.
    5. He then tries to recover some pride and deflect attention away from the fact he just crashed some random old ladies bakkie by being the hyper-aggressive bonehead he was. He was trying to be a big tough guy and buy back some credibility in front of all his customers after making a complete arse of himself. He was probably also angry as he knew the old lady would want him to pay for the damage to her bakkie.

    Total damage for the record was:
    1. Smashed 2nd LED stop/tail light – removed and not replaced, couldn’t find anything suitable
    2. Bent up custom aluminium license plate holder – removed, straightened and reinstalled
    3. License plate light stopped working, turns out the impact actually pulled and unplugged the light from the loom – plugged back in and all good
    4. Headlight switch on the dash broke, not sure how, but the guts of the switch popped out – replaced from carried spares
    5. Sidestand mount was bent slightly. The sidestand was fine, but the actual mounting point was out of alignment. I found this about 3 weeks later when I noticed some rub marks on the swingarm. Swingarm has some marks and is a bit thinner in one spot than it should be but sure it will be ok – removed, straightened and reinstalled

    This was a pretty damn dramatic event for us, easily our most dramatic so far, and even though it took a couple pages to write about in actuality was only about 10 minutes from start to finish. We had been warned about crime and violence in South Africa and the risk is very real, but thankfully for us this was the scariest moment we had in our 85 day stay in South Africa (we are in Namibia as we publish this).

    We did have a few other times where we didn’t feel comfortable, for example riding into the back of Phuthaditjhaba after descending Monantsa Pass, and into some shanty township after riding some back roads into the back of Knysna. But in truth, even those times it was just us being worried, maybe overly so, as at no time in those places did anyone ever look like threatening us.

    So apart from these times, during the other 84.99 days in South Africa we enjoyed some warm and generous hospitality, friendly people, good food, good wine, great scenery, great riding and had an all round fantastic time. We would have stayed longer if we could have, but we ran out of visa. What I’m trying to say is that the risk of being caught up in some violent crime is probably overstated somewhat, especially if you exercise a certain degree of care and attention.

    That said, the risk is still real. The murder rate per capita in South Africa is something like 30 times greater than in Australia. Muggings, home invasions, car-jackings; in fact the rate of just about every type of crime is far higher, often orders of magnitude higher, here than at home. And the vast majority of South Africans have suffered at the hands of some sort of crime at some stage, and often a number of stages.

    Tan and I did plan on writing a bit of a “South Africa Wrap” type post (whether we get to it or not I don't know, but there are many great books available on modern South Africa so if this sort of stuff interests you, there are plenty of great resources available), so anyway, I wont go too far into this, other than to say that the racial tension inside the country is palpable. 20 years after its demise, the wounds of apartheid are still raw, festering even, and those now defunct laws of “separate development” still manifest themselves in socio-economic division along largely racial lines. Although this is definitely changing, especially in the cities, it affects who people are and how people act to this day. We had been warned of this propensity to blame “racism” for any incident, and sadly this is real, and it comes from the very top down. But we might save this topic for another time.

    What we can say is that we met many very friendly South Africans all over the country. Many waving kids and smiling old men. Some laughing and dancing ladies, and only 30 minutes after this horrible incident happened, Tanya had a very young girl, a toddler, lean out a taxi window and tenderly blow her a kiss as we rode by. That’s the good things that happen and what people should remember about this blog, not the psycho nutter.
    #97
    Rich Rider, Phipsd, LM15 and 4 others like this.
  18. Schussboelie

    Schussboelie Kicking up dirt Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2013
    Oddometer:
    1,048
    Location:
    Belgium
    You bet it is!!!
    And if nothing else it will serve as a great memory for the two of you. ;)

    I love how you travel lightly and how you've taken on of the most challenging legs of your journey first!
    Anyway, if at some point you pass by Belgium, there's beds and food right here!
    #98
  19. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Oddometer:
    565
    Location:
    Back to reality.... WestOz

    Thanks Schussboeli. I must say that since SA we have managed to send some more unnecessary stuff home and consolidate our packing some more, so we are even more compact now in comparison to these photos.

    And we will probably make it to Belgium - we have some friends in Antwerp so will very likely come through your neck of the woods!
    #99
  20. Ride Far

    Ride Far Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 18, 2004
    Oddometer:
    201
    Location:
    Central NY
    First post here Mick -- your posts and pix are great! Top notch. Been subscribed for weeks now and you've derailed more than a few of my mornings with your posts LOL.

    Dicey one with that nutcase. Only takes one serious wacko to ruin a trip, take care bud...

    I'm flying into South Africa in October and riding up the east side, so the info you share is valuable. Did Morocco to Cape Town a few years ago, this will complete the Africa circuit -- all on DR650. :)