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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by micko01, Jan 18, 2015.
Yeah we're following along.....and enjoying your writing and pics very much!
Mick and Tan,
Just a simple post to let you know that you have a rapt audience. I very much enjoy your writing, am duly impressed with your bikes, and admire the fact that you are following your dream with this journey.
I appreciate the time and effort it takes to do a proper ride report. It's reports like yours that are the heart and soul of ADVrider.com. I don't care that it's not real-time reporting or that you can only update occasionally. I check every day just in case there is something new.
Seems we've just had a read of the last page, bit of a spoiler alert, but glad it's all good. I have no desire to visit Africa, yet am hungry to consume every morsel of your experience. Do hope you'll carry on with the rest of the story.
I enjoy your trip. your write up and pictures! Be assured that lots of us are watching every day for your posts. Those of us who can not go are impressed with those who can and do!
Hi RideFar - I just followed the link in your sig and it reminded me I actually read a lot of your blog already. When we were planing our trip we binge read most africa RR's we could find, and yours was one of them. Thanks for sharing, but its seems you're even further behind in your posting then we are! so get to it! chop chop
Otherwise, if you want info for anywhere we have ridden feel free to PM or post here - we will definitely point you in the direction of some great riding. Namibia is a DS riders PARADISE. We have just finished up some incredible riding here. Give yourself as much time as you can spare for SA and especially Nam - incredible riding here. Really incredible.
Madchap - thanks for the feedback! Writing this thing is a fair commitment but getting some encouragement really does help us along. Glad you are enjoying it.
Neil, wow fantastic post. Thanks indeed for you're kind words. We will carry on with it - stay tuned!
I'm here too, brilliant RR
And nutters are everywhere, even here in Oz
Mick and Tan
I can assure both of you that your blog entries are eagerly anticipated and consumed at my office here in Alaska where I would currently be preparing for a meeting if your predicament in SA hadn't pulled me away.
Although I understand that it was just one small part of your experience it saddens me to read about the direction that SA has gone with race relations. We are seeing a similar situation unfold here in the States (to a lesser degree) and having a black President is only making it worse. I had hoped but not expected to see the end of it someday but it seems to be an endemic problem which is easily exacerbated by anyone with an interest in doing so.
I wish you safe travels and look forward to reading about them.
Thanks for taking the time to write it.
Sadly Nutters are everywhere. Hopefully that is our nutter-interaction-quota filled for the rest of the trip! haha
Hope your meeting went ok sans prep! So sorry if it didn't
:) Before leaving we invested many an hour work trawling through RR's so rest assured you aren't alone on this one!
Not a problem, thats for reading.
I am very sorry that you experienced this sort of stress on your trip, but it does make for a very interesting ride report. I got to say I like the way you handled the situation. Good luck on your trip. Subscribed!
On the bright side, I suppose it does make for interesting reading. However, Mick and I have long joked that we aspire to have a pleasantly boring ride report; less confrontation and stressful times -> more nice riding and cruisey times.
mmmmm yeah looking back on the way I handled it and knowing a lot more about Sth Africa now then I did back in September, I think I did ok apart from the first 5 seconds. Walking up to the the side of the car with a head full of steam like I did wasn't real bright, in fact it was pretty bloody dumb. In SA, you just don't know who the hell has a handgun or some other weapon in their glove box or in a holster or in a pocket, and you never know what grudges people carry or how hate-filled they are. I just finished reading a good book on modern SA and putting aside everything but crime stats, SA not only is a society with a high crime rate, the proportion of crime that is violent is very high relative to other societies. It is an undeniably violent place. People don't just rob your house or steal your car, they make sure they stab you too, or worse. Farm murders in SA is a scary topic and if you gazoogle that shiznit you'll get a good feel for some of the horrific acts that happen here. Its scary - in some extreme cases people get tortured for fun.
I would strongly recommend anyone traveling to SA that if you end up in a similar situation to simply take a deep breath, keep your voice low and cool and calm and collected. Maybe I could have diffused the situation a bit quicker and easier if I had done that instead. But you live and learn I suppose.
I don't mean scare people though - SA was great. Just be sensible and careful with your stuff and your person. Use metered taxis, don't get too drunk and don't go walking around at night. Even in daytime, don't go anywhere that looks suspicious. Don't trust people in unusual circumstances. We've gotten through SA, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia and haven't had anything stolen or been hassled in any way by simply being sensible.
Anyway, thats way too much serious stuff - we'll try and get another post up in a couple hours to lighten things up a bit!
Awesome photos guys!! Thanks for showing us your trip. Lovin it!
Dr3amin, thanks very much for the comments, and your first post! Thanks a bunch and happy riding!
Subscribed and living vicariously through you.
Thanks for this report on my old home! You're doing an amazing job capturing the atmosphere with text and pictures...and tugging my heart strings!
It's true there is an extraordinary amount of gratuitous violence associated with property crime in SA. Apartheid lead to understandable hatred, but, apart from that, the fundamental problem of blending the black agrarian economy with the white industrial one was never going to be a cake walk, and the huge economic power imbalance has inevitable resentment. I hope that one of these centuries blaming apartheid and racism will end and forward looking industry will prevail. The current governance is so clumsily corrupt it makes you want to weep!
Regarding the ride.....you got to some pretty gnarly roads in SA! I get into crap on my DR650 in Canada on short trips. You have a long way to go - take the easy roads!
Thanks very much for your great report and good luck for a smooth journey.
Thanks Kalahari-K; wise words there. The NP system was never going to create anything but instability and resentment, and now the country is trying to deal with it. But its a massive cultural problem now, not just a social structure problem. You can't just break down the apartheid structure and expect everything to be rosy - unfortunately people don't forgive and forget so easy. And yep, Zuma and co are clowns of the highest order. And that red beret wearing muppet is downright scary. Terrifying actually.
Anyway, enough of that. Whats this rubbish about "taking the easy roads"? haha no way man. you just wait until the RR catches up to Namibia and what we have done in Damaraland and Kaokoland. Epic stuff coming. EPIC.:eek1
Blog 10 by Tan: Escape to the Great Karoo
We decided to leave the Wild Coast to avoid the rainy weather, which looked like it was going to hang around for a while. We felt that through the riding alone we got quite a feel for the place and given that our visa was starting to run out wed better get on our way. Our destination was the remote artist enclave of Nieu-Bethesda in the Great Karoo.
The little town of Nieu-Bethesda
The local pub
We rode our longest day of the trip so far at 550km, which is barely down the road and back in Australian terms but makes for a long day over here. We were looking forward to somewhere remote, quiet and dry and Nieu-Bethesda fit the bill nicely. This was a scheduled stop so that I could have a few dedicated days of working on my university essay. Over the next few days we spent most of our time in the garden of a local café eating crepes and drinking coffee while I tried to figure out all that is ill within the Chinese economy (answer: just about everything) and while Mick read the fifth Game of Thrones book like a man possessed.
With Ebola doing its thing in West Africa throwing our original plan to get to Europe out the window, we embarked on some detailed new route planning
Where we hung out for most of the day eating cinnamon crepes and drinking homemade ginger beer
Mick getting excited by vintage vinyl only to discover it was mostly 70s era Africaneer folk and gospel albums and he already has heaps of those
Security at the local honesty shop appropriate in Nieu-Bethesda not so much the rest of the country
The next few days passed peacefully in this way as we got into small town life and visited all of Nieu-Bethesdas tourist attractions. We visited the local craft brewery, the honesty shop, fossil centre, pizza restaurant, pub (where we watched the Springboks defeat the All Blacks), tennis club for braai night and browsed the weekend market. But the biggest tourist draw was the Owl House, which is a garden full of concrete sculptures/monstrosities built by a local eccentric old duck. It seems that the sculptures were her way of dealing with life long depression, and her house with its artwork have put the town on the map so who am I to criticise.
A local capitalist at work (note her earrings for confirmation). Was so cute I had to buy something from her. I got a loom band ring for 20 cents
We met some friendly local bikers who shouted us a beer at the pub and gave us some good tips
Mick in the Owl House
Weird-arse sculptures that haunt your dreams
We went on to cruise the awesome roads around Nieu-Bethesda and Kompassberg Mountain. We managed to see a bunch of game along the way including kudu, springbok, wildebeest and zebra. We then headed to the home of a fellow biker that was kind enough to extend us an invitation to stay with him on his farm under the proviso that we left his sheep alone; a stab at Aussies being sheep shaggers. Now this is a bit disturbing to hear that in South Africans are laboring under the misconception that we Aussies might take a second glance at a herd of sheep when everyone knows it for the New Zealanders that barn doors are closed. Addressing this gross misunderstanding should be at the top of Australia foreign policy agenda. The ride out to his farm was incredibly scenic with great rock formations along the road dolerite weathered away along joint planes leaving the rocks looking precariously stacked on top of one another. Nice!
Backroads of Nieu-Bethesda
The ride in
Awesome dolerite formations
Johan put on a braai for us and told us about life as a farmer in South Africa, which must be said, sounds pretty precarious. Many farmers face the risk of losing their farm and house to land claims, which are overwhelmingly successful when they are made by people claiming to have a family tie to that land however tenuous. This introduces an obvious level of insecurity to life on a farm but the larger preoccupation relates to the incidents of farm murders, which I must say I was quite ignorant to. It seems however that the government goes to considerable lengths to keep the numbers of these murders out of the papers. With creative reporting an instance when a farmer is murdered on his property but has a tv stolen it is a robbery and not a farm murder. We learnt that there is a private data recording body on farm murders which is sourced mainly from information provided by family of people murdered in farm robberies. According to them there have been around 3,800 farm murders in South Africa out of 42,000 commercial farmers, which is basically 1 in 11.
With these statistics it is no wonder that people are concerned. We heard of farming communities with neighbourhood security details replete with assault weapons and night-vision goggles. All this exists as there is essentially no realistic expectation of the local law enforcement providing any protection for the farmers and their interests. It is quite a scary scenario when you consider that the farming population of South Africa has been very nearly decimated, in the true sense of the word, and the farmers themselves are forced to provide their own protection. Sobering thoughts.
My studies continued to mess with our African adventure so we stayed on another day at the farm to get the essay written and submitted. We had a bunch of other boring chores to see to, like washing clothes as well as a bunch of little bike jobs that had cropped up and been duly relegated to the do it later list. Mick fixed my heated hand grips, adjusted his hand guards and replaced rear sprocket bolts and dash switch and rebuilt my steering damper which had been leaking for some time. With those jobs seen to and the essay starting to take shape we headed out with Johan and his wife Christa for a sundowner overlooking the gorgeous Aussie-like scenery of the farm.
Backroads to Graaf-Reinet
Puff Adder we saw a few of these colourful guys sunning themselves on the road
Massive tortoise lovely to look at but hitting one on a bike would be nothing like in Mario Kart
After a near all-nighter the essay was submitted with MUCH relief (and went on to get a mark of 97% I might add whoop, whoop). In the meantime Mick had a blat around the winding backroads to Graaff-Reinet. We stayed on for one last night with Johan and Crista and got to try some more traditional Afrikanner food which is quite sweet and therefore right up my alley. After bidding a fond farewell to our kind hosts Johan and Christa and their lovely dogs Piojie, Stoffel and Siene we made our way to the Valley of Desolation. Which again offered some great views and a nice little geology fix.
Our hosts and their boys
The Valley of Desolation
It was a long way down
Johan and Christa recommended this place for kudu biltong and droewurst great biking fuel
We headed south towards our next destination but I was struggling to stay awake on the bike after the last few late nights. We stopped for a coffee and a sugar hit at the next convenient place, which (no joke) happened to be the Daniell Cheetah breeding Centre. So we arranged for a cappuccino and a tour of the centre where we saw meerkats, cheetah, leopard, serval, caracal, and two lions that had been rescued from a planned canned hunt. Canned hunts take lions that have been raised in captivity, hand reared by humans and are then sold to hunting safaris. They are then released into unfamiliar surroundings, generally quite small fenced parks, for foreigners to shoot. These lions walked up to the mesh like house cats to rub their faces up against the palm of the guide for affection. The notion of some cashed up tosser going up to one of these pussy cats and shooting it and feeling impressed with himself for slaying a wild African beast is tragic and pathetic, if I might say so myself.
He was not yet full-grown, but already huge
The lion craved affection
What a stunner!
The best part of the tour was getting to get up close to Gia the cheetah. She was so beautiful, inquisitive and affectionate. She especially liked Mick, licking him and rubbing her head up against his. She jumped up on him for a hug and was so adorable. Sadly the guide disciplined her and she went off in a proper adolescent sulk.
Gia the cheetah
Happy to death!
Biker-cheetah love fest - She didnt mind me but loovveed Michael
We learnt that cheetahs can get up to full speed in just 4 strides and they can reach speeds of 115-120km/h. They are the only big cat with non-retractable claws which work like running spikes. At about 50%, they have the highest hunting success rate among the big cats. However they lose a lot of their kills, about half, to other larger predators like hyena, lion, or a wild dog pack, as cheetahs are way too specialised for running and therefore, quite lightweight and fragile and cant do all that much to defend themselves. In fact they mostly just run to hunt not to escape predators or hunters, they just hide in the bushes which is why so many get killed. Many die from heat stroke and dehydration bought on by excessive energy use through running. Females live alone except when they have cubs while the males form cheetah possies and have these epic bromances that can actually leave them to die of heartbreak at the death of one of their hommies. Absolutely gorgeous animals. Ill be eating Cheetos with a whole new appreciation from now on.
The black stripe below the eyes serves as a natural pair of sunglasses for the cheetah keeping the suns glare out of their eyes
The next day we rode through Baviaanskloof, the motorcycling mecca many a South African biker had recommended us to visit. The riding was fantastic as was the scenery. We didnt managed to see the rhino that roam the park but saw some big bucks of some description and heaps of baboons which is to be expected given that Baviaanskloof means Baboon Valley. There were some great winding passes and a couple of fun water crossings. I dont know what it is about water crossings but for some reason I cant help myself but floor it through them much to Michaels disapproval as he is certain Im going to go too fast one day in too deep a crossing and drown myself and the bike. Whatever buddy. Eat my waves!
Click here to check out some footage of one of the fun water crossings in the Baviaanskloof
Having said that I did have a near flying over the handlebars moment on a deceptively deep water section that I entered so hard and fast it produced a wave of muddy water over the top of me to the point that I couldnt see a thing and was totally drenched. But I stayed on the bike and had the sense not to turn around to Mick to see the I told you so face he was no doubt sporting.
We stumbled on a campsite already filled with a group of bikers and decided that was as good a place as any to spend the night. We opted to splash out on luxury caravan digs where for an extra $5 we were able to avoid dealing with the tent and the threat of rain. So for the night we were bikie pikies and it was fab. The bikers were mostly from East London and a really great group of guys. There were a group of 8 on a bunch of F650 Dakars, XT660 Tenere, KLR650 and an Africa Twin. Our quiet night of blog writing (always planned and always avoided) turned into a night of socialising, beer drinking and discussions of our collective motorbiking brilliance. Taking pity on our plans for dinner from a can they cooked us a braai feast and kept us entertained, which topped off the day of great riding.
Scenery in the Valley of the Baboons
Mick in his waterproof Won-z made by the Aussie company Jackson Racing
Our Bikie Pikie palace
After joining the guys for a hike through the kloof nearby we parted ways only to meet up further down the track for the traditional bikers feast of tea and biscuits at a local farm stall. From there we took the winding backroads from Baviaanskloof to Uniondale. Along the way Mick managed to run over a big black snake on the last pass out of Baviaanskloof called Nuwekloof Pass. Micks clutch cable snapped as soon as we hit the tar in some kind of cosmic act of retribution for Micks snake murder. Mick was able to stop in front of a tea house (many thanks) and replace the cable quickly enough. Glad we carry spares.
Our new biker mates stopped for morning tea
Tan with Izak one of our new found biker buddies
Totally my kind of riding winding, scenic dirt road riding punctuated by civilized tea breaks
Great dirt roads on the way to Uniondale
Mick replacing his clutch cable in front of the local cop shop
From there we headed to ride Prince Albert Pass, which had come highly recommended by biker friends. We were gutted to see the road was closed for maintenance but fortunately a local guy turned up while we were moping at the Road Closed sign and told us it was fine to do. We didnt know how reputable a source he was but he said what we wanted to hear so we went for it. Our reckless disregard for municipal road signage was rewarded with fantastic views and pleasant riding all the way down.
Road closed, eh?
Looked open enough to me
On the way down Prince Albert Pass
Check out the body language. Mick is totally charming a extra generous slice of milk tart out of the lovely old duck who ran the tea house
We stopped for tea, scones and milk tart at a lovely little teahouse at the bottom of the pass at De Vlug before heading on to a more the local bikers haunt called Angies G-spot where Michael could get a beer and feel like a tough guy biker again. From there we moved on to the coastal town of Knysa, via some dirt roads into the back of some shanty township to spend the night with family of Fiona and Charlies, our hosts from back in Howick.
Winning at advertising
Some of the bar paraphernalia. Mick was giggling like a schoolboy at the rude comics adorning the walls