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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by maria41, Oct 2, 2018.
If you hear it say "feed me Seymour" run away just, run away............
Day 76 – South Africa, Komatipoort - Kruger View backpackers, Sunday 12th August, 370kms
We left the lodge early, at 8am, as we had a long way to the border. The road was good and we made good progress, so we decided, on the way, to just cross into South Africa.
The ride approaching Maputo, was slow going, as it was busy with trucks hard to overtake. The road had only 2 lanes and constant incoming traffic. Despite this, we got near Maputo, the capital city, by lunch time. We caught the ring road to join the road going west to South Africa.
The ring road was not fully built. The incoming lane was suddenly cut and some young lads, wearing high Viz jackets tried to stop us, saying there was a diversion. Alistair, being as usual, very British and polite, stopped.
I saw trucks and cars continuing, and being French and rude and grumpy, I waived the young lads out of my way and continued.
Whatever scam they ran I would be no part of it. An expensive looking saloon car went past and made us sign to follow it. As the road ended, we follow the car through sandy tracks across villages and slums, with the rest of the traffic.
Eventually, we got on the right road, with nice tarmac. The driver waved his arm out of the car to signal which way we should go. We thanked him by waving back and got on our way. So we did not part with one single Metical! Humbug!
Soon before the border, we stopped at a fuel station to use our last Meticals. Then we went to the border.
Immediately, as we entered the compound, a crowd of men ran along our bikes and surrounded us as we parked. As you may suspect, with my sunny and charming temperament (*sarcasm*) I was already shouting at them with some very colourful English words!
One guy, with a badge and a hat that looked kind of official, demanded our passports and that I stay with the bikes while Alistair had to follow him. I shouted at the crowd to disperse and leave us alone, in my most diplomatic style.
I knew they were scammers but Alistair was not so sure. The official looking guy kept asking for a document for our bikes. I told him we did not have it as we had carnets. He did not seem to understand that!
He also demanded our passports and for Alistair to follow him. Alistair being way to polite gave him the benefit of the doubt and with our passports the guy took Alistair to Customs.
Alistair snatched the passports back and asked the customs official: "Do you know who this guy is?", pointing at Official Looking guy. The custom official shrugged, not knowing.
Alistair stormed off and came back to the bikes with our passports. All the scammers were gone. I was relieved the guy did not run away with the passports. Never again!
We walked to immigration and had our passports stamped quickly, then we went to Customs.
The custom guy did not know what to do with the Carnets but was happy to follow our instructions and stamp and sign them.
So we then rode to the South African border. It was an oasis of calm and tranquillity in comparison with the Mozambique side.
We got our passports stamped in. I made clear we had a flight booked for the 19th of September, so I asked the lady for a 2 months visa, ready to produce a print of my plane tickets.
You see, after one spell in South Africa, immigration will usually only give a transit visa these days, unless you come straight from your home country. It seems to be the latest policy to avoid non-residents living in SA doing the border-crossing trip to renew their visa every 3 months! So the policy now is, if you already had a 3 months visa, to only give you a 7 days transit visa only. We got 3 months without any problem. Sometimes I worry too much.
Then we went to Customs. They were not used to Carnets, once again. This is when we spotted that Alistair’s Carnet had not been stamped out correctly and in the right section, when exiting Mozambique.
I usually checked that everything was correct with both Carnets. The carnet is a very important document as we could be liable to massive import tax for our bikes, if our documents are not properly showing that the motorbikes left each country we visited. But this time, I did not check Alistair’s carnet!
So while I got my carnet filled for entry to South Africa, Alistair went back to the Mozambique side to correct the error. He had it done without any difficulty.
We were then stopped at the border zone exit for a quick search of our panniers and a chat with the bored customs guys.
We had, on the way, decided to spend the night at Komatipoort, the border town. It skirts Kruger National Park and had plenty of accommodation.
I had spotted a backpacker place few days before, when we had WiFi. So we rode there. As usual, the GPS took us via the scenic gravel roads rather than the most direct road. This time I did not begrudge it, as it took us through a beautiful road and across a stunning little lake.
So, we were back in South Africa! We still had 5 weeks left to explore and there was plenty of that to do! But first, we desperately needed new tyres and the bikes needed some maintenance!
We were happy to be back in South Africa and leave Mozambique behind. It was only few weeks later that with Alistair, we agreed that we found the country depressing. There was something sad, a lack of hope in Mozambique, with its crowds, along the road, staring at us with their empty eyes. I found it unsettling.
It affected me like having a dark cloud in my mind for a while and damping my enthusiasm. Erik Satie Gnossienne 1 would define very well the feeling and my state of mind.
The land on the Mozambique side had been kind of wasteland, we did not see much agriculture. As soon as we crossed the border, it was like a vast garden with massive plantations growing fruit trees and lots of plants and things I could not identify, as I am a townie and know nothing about agriculture, but it was beautiful, plentiful and so full of life!
The contrast, from the stunningly fertile, tidy, beautiful South Africa to the scrubland of Mozambique, just a few hundreds metres away, was incredible.
Day 77 – South Africa, Nelspruit – 110kms, Monday 13th August
I had booked a hotel in Nelspruit, for 3 nights, within walking distance of the motorcycle workshop that had ordered our tyres (Pitlane).
We arrived at the hotel around lunchtime. It was reasonably priced, similar to an Ibis hotel budget, in term of set up, with a bunk bed above the double bed. It was clean, modern and totally adequate.
We arrived relatively early but the friendly staff gave us the keys. After dropping our luggage we rode to Pitlane and left the bikes with them, with a list of instructions:
· Leave the chains setting as they are (mechanics always leave the chain way too tight);
· Do NOT jet wash the XT250, as water was causing problems with the electrics;
· Do not touch the oil gauge window on the XT (it was glued in and already fell inside the engine once!).
My bike was leaking oil, as the oil filler cap was not original to my bike, and the thread was now broken, hence it would not close properly, splattering my right boot with plenty of oil.
Luckily, Pitlane found a good replacement.
Over the next day they did a good job. My back inner tube was damaged and they replaced it as well as filling it with Green Slime (we told them we had slime inside our inner tubes – for punctures).
My stomach was not too good, Alistair was also feeling unwell, so we did not do much else that day.
Day 78 – South Africa, Nelspruit, Tuesday 14th August
The morning was slow, as we were still both under the weather. With our limited 150mb of daily free WiFi, I found few places within walking distance, to rent a car.
We thought we could spend some time the next day, self-driving in nearby Kruger National Park. Obviously, motorbikes are not allowed.
Alistair walked to various places but either they did not exist, or they had no cars available. It was disappointing.
For a couple of weeks, I had been in contact, via the Wild Dog forum (a South African motorcycle website) with a lad called Canzius, who kindly offered help to find tyres in Nelspruit.
So we arranged to meet late afternoon in a pub downtown. The bikes were ready by 4pm so we walked to the workshop to pick them up and rode to the pub.
The good thing being a biker is that wherever in the world you go, you will have friends! The motorcycle community is always incredibly welcoming and friendly, and so was Canzius.
He advised us on places to visit the next day, on a loop north, and convinced us to cross Swaziland. It was not on our initial plans to cross Swaziland, but as usual, our plans kept changing as we went along.
My main problem with the new plan was that I had burned the pages on my guidebook covering Swaziland! Not out of spite, but in Namibia, trying to start a fire! We were camping and been told about the lions roaming around and to have a fire at night! We used some pages of the guidebook, and plenty of petrol, to start the fire (and failed!). Anyhow, the 5 or 6 sheets of paper on the guide were gone, and with very little WiFi, our plan would be even more vague than usual!
Day 79 – South Africa, Nelspruit, Wednesday 15th August – about 180 Kms loop
In the morning, feeling a bit better, we rode north across Sabie and various other places. It was a great ride to test our new tyres, and at last we had some mountains.
Later in the afternoon, Alistair did some more work and maintenance on the bikes.
On a twist of fate, one of those moments of “Most Unlikely Stuff” to happen, we saw on Facebook that the 2 lads we met in Luderitz, Namibia, 2 months before, those walking across Southern Africa, from coast to coast , were also in Nelspruit!
We thought about meeting them at their backpacker place later on, but it got too late as Alistair was still working on the bikes! So in the end we did not ride to meet them. It would have been cool, but we will meet them back in the UK at some point!
So we packed, as we always end up doing. The bikes were in their best shape since we started this trip.
Next stop would be yet another country!
Day 80 – Swaziland, near Maguga dam – Thursday 16 August, 150 kms
We did not have far to go, so we took our time. We only left the hotel after 9:30.
The ride to the border took us through stunning views through mountains, riding well above the tree lines and down again. The road was pristine and not busy, it was heaven.
The border crossing was probably the fastest and easiest we ever had!
On the South African side, we were the only tourists, no scammers or people hanging around, only the friendly staff. We were stamped out quickly and we had not need to get to Customs, as Swaziland is part of the South African custom union. Our carnet, stamped into South Africa, was valid in Swaziland.
Then we rode to Swaziland. Again, there were only few staff and us. The guys were friendly and gave us a newspaper issued for tourists. It had very good info about Swaziland, so I packed it in my backpack.
We were stamped in very quickly and we paid a tax of 50 rand per person (or bike, not sure).
That done, we got into Swaziland, the Mountain Kingdom. The country is an absolute monarchy, so we expected great poverty.
I was surprised at how nice the village over the border was. Not mud huts, well built houses, small but brightly painted. No women carrying buckets of water or taking the washing to the river anywhere. So I assume they had running water nearby or in the houses. I was told later that it was an orphanage and that they produced honey.
The road from the border was a bad track for about 18kms, very rocky and bumpy with deep holes, high engine clearance definitely was a must. Then we got to the tarmac which was in good condition.
There were plenty of cars in good state, stunning views of mountains and farms, very little littering, a neat tidy little country.
Our initial destination was a lodge and campsite near the dam Maguga.
The lodge was super expensive, and the campsite was down a mile, through a very nasty track, with no shade, nowhere to sit and no facilities other than the shower block.
It was not ideal and as it was very early we decided to leave and find something more confortable.
The GPS was showing a backpacker place few miles away. So we rode to Sobantu Guest Farm and Backpackers. It was a working farm.
The little round hut (Rondavels) with en-suite bathroom was very affordable, about 28 dollars at current rate (the rand was plunging at that moment).
So we took one rondavel instead of camping! We appreciate our comfort these days.
The farm had stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The main building had a couple of very big lounges, a kitchen and all the stuff you may need for a backpacker place, including several TVs! Ok no free WiFi, but free WiFi seemed hard to come in the region!
In the evening we cooked a pot of vegs with noodles.
We had a couple of glasses of wine from the little bar, as it was so cheap! There were only another couple staying in, from France, so we spent a while talking to them.
Day 81 – Swaziland, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Sondzela backpackers, Friday 17th August - 75kms
It appeared that Swaziland had a lot to offer. The little touristic newspaper that we were given at the border described few interesting places to visit. We also picked, at the backpackers place, a little free book called “Coast to Coast”, which listed all the backpackers places in Southern Africa, with a nice description of what was around.
The description of the Sondzela Backpackers, in that little book, was too tempting to resist: “ Sondzela overlook a Valley where wild animals roam and impalas, warthogs and zebras graze on the edge of the gardens. Campers are surrounded by fruit trees and roaming game”.
With such a description, we decided to spend a night there.
It was not far, Swaziland is a small country, barely 120 kms wide and 180kms long, so we took our time.
We still got there before lunch. We arrived at the game park entrance and stopped to pay the entrance fee.
Just there, with no fence in between, were zebras and wildebeests, totally unfazed by us!
Once in the park we saw many antelopes, zebras, warthogs and more wildebeest along or on the track! They were so close to us it was amazing!
They had camping space, dorms and rondavels.
Some of the rondavels were very cheap so we took one, as the weather forecast was not looking too promising. Once changed out of our motorcycle gear, we went for a walk around the compound, the gardens and the vast orchard with lemon and grapefruit trees.
Immediately we saw several antelopes, some very large, some smaller, and lots of warthogs, inside the camp, despite the fence. I saw the warthogs drop on their front legs knees and squeeze under the fence, to come inside our camp, and I guessed the antelopes just walked in when the gates were open!
Warthog running along the shower block:
The views over the valley and mountains were absolutely stunning. The little coast to Coast book was right in its review!
We were glad we had decided to cross Swaziland, as it is such a beautiful country!
Later in the afternoon we had a walk in the reserve, as it was safe to walk around and hiking. Once again, we got very close to zebras, wildebeest and many antelopes.
This backpacker place had probably the best views we ever had anywhere!
The communal kitchen was quite busy that evening. A large group of young teens with their teachers had been having "team building " games in the orchard earlier. Now the adults supervising them were cooking a big meal for them. We still managed to cook a quick something and we bought some eggs and bread from the shop near reception.
Later that evening it’s started raining. We had a great night in our little Rondavel. It had no facilities but the shower blocks were close by and very clean, with good pressure and very hot water in the showers. And the tap water was drinkable!
Day 82 – same place – Saturday 18th August
The day was still very wet with constant rain and fairly cold, all of a sudden.
We decided to stay an extra day. The place was so magical with all the wild animals wandering around and the most stunning views. We felt comfortable there. The large youth Swazi group left, another arrived and took over the dorms once again. This time they were from the UK. The place was very busy, and with good reason. It was a stunning place.
If you get the opportunity, make sure to go to Mlilwane!
More zebras in case you did not have enough:
That is a Nyala. In a previous picture two Impala rams. The Zebra are Birchall's Zebra. SA also has the mountain zebra down in the SW. Different, their stripes do not meet down low. The Wildebeest are the Blue species. There is another wildebeest which are the Black ones, somewhat rare. Their horns curl forward and not sideways as in the Blue
Thanks. So nice to know about the animals. It was so beautiful and impressive.
Day 83 – Swaziland, Hlane National Park – Ndvolu camp, Sunday 19th August – 105 kms
On Sunday it was time to leave the fabulous Mlilwane, the game sanctuary, and ride to Hlane, the main national park in Swaziland, on the east side of the country, near to the border with Mozambique.
The road was perfect; (allegedly built by the Chinese) the towns and villages tidy and clean, people were often dressed in their best Sunday clothes or traditional warrior costume for men, with traditional tools and weapons at hand. It was a very cool sight. Maybe it is traditional on Sunday to dress like that, as we did not see anyone dressed in a traditional way before.
Swaziland is such a wonderful little country. I expected grinding poverty. After all it is an absolute monarchy. I expected a banana republic with the king leading an extravagant lifestyle while the subjects would be dirt poor.
I don’t know about the king, but people seemed wealthy enough, compared to Mozambique, Malawi or even Zambia. I did not see, like in the rest of Southern Africa, women walking for miles and miles with heavy loads of washing, dishes, wood or water, balanced on their head.
I saw no men hanging around waiting for a customer to taxi on their bicycle, no one walking along the road, or very rarely. Everyone seemed busy, well dressed, lots of nice cars, lots of satellite dishes out of houses, electricity, proper glass windows in the houses and rondavels, no littering or garbage anywhere along the road. The lack of litter was very impressive.
After the depressing sights in Mozambique, it was so uplifting to discover a smiling welcoming happy country! And they didn’t even gouge you with the accommodation and parks. Prices were very reasonable and affordable!