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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Underboning, Aug 16, 2011.
Very glad for the brief update. Been thinking of you and am grateful to know you are making way.
Excellent report, thanks for sharing. I love little bikes, a lot, and have been thinking about getting something even smaller than my 250.
Will you all be riding to India, or doing Southern Africa and then shipping the bikes to India? Did I miss this detail somewhere?
How long have you been reading RRs here? It took about 4 years of reading about other people's adventures before we decided we had to do it. Be careful or you may find yourself in the middle of something stupid, too! Thanks for the good wishes.
We are loving the little bikes but I must confess that I sometimes wish for 150ccs or more, especially here in southern Namibia where it is a loong way between places.
We will be shipping the bikes to somewhere in India from somewhere in Africa (most probably Dar or Mombasa or Durban). It is impractical and/or impossible for us to reach India by land. As Americans we can't travel through Iran (and Pakistan would be no picnic) which leaves the "Stans", which is a really long way and each country requires a letter of invitation and expensive visa. I wish we could do it by land but we'd still have to ship the bikes from India or Nepal to Thailand by air since Burma is closed to overlanders and China requires that you ride with a government minder at $100 per day. Since our budget is $75 per day....
Yeah, I can imagine that in wide open spaces, more ccs would be nice.
That's one of the biggest issues with RTW trips as Americans. I always read these reports by Brits and Aussies where they get to go through Iran, it stinks that we have to make such huge detours!
9/20 Museums and Laundry
Because we missed the museums on Sunday due to the rain, we decided to get some culture today. We first went to the Castle of Good Hope and wandered about. Re and I were both left with an odd feeling after visiting this museum. Most of the displays in the museum were military in nature (obviously) but dealt with the area's history from the perspective of the people who colonized it. Prior to this, whenever we visit a museum in another country, the history has been told from the perspective of the native people. Strange.
After the Castle we walked up to the District 6 Museum. This museum traces the history of the District 6 section of Cape Town before, during, and after it was declared a whites only section in the 1960s. Since District 6 was populated entirely by black and coloured people, they were all removed, sometimes forcibly, to townships far away from the center of Cape Town. This policy destroyed the communities of District 6 and eliminated all the industry and jobs that used to be. We both left this museum feeling sad and angry. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing laundry and reinstalling luggage on the bikes.
9/21 Ride to Hermanus
We got up early, had breakfast, and got to work on getting on the road. The bikes survived their flight well, but the tires all around were 2 psi low. After remembering where all this crap went, we piled it on the bikes and rode out of the courtyard, down the hallway, and into the streets of Cape Town, where we promptly stopped for gas. We headed east on the N2 and were excited to finally be on the road again. One of the issues we've come across in Africa is maps. Before we left the US, we purchased the Michelin Central and Southern Africa map. While it's a large and pretty map, the one thing it lacks is road numbers of any kind. Oh, it shows the roads, it just neglects to tell you their names. So here we are, heading down the N2, and I am navigating using a not to scale map ripped out of a hotel guide. This shouldn't be a problem since I know it's the N2 to the 44 to the 43 to Hermanus. It's a cool but sunny day as we zip down the highway when suddenly, I spot the M44. That sounds right, so up the exit ramp we go. When we get to the top, we both experience a moment of panic when we realize we are not in Kansas anymore. Stretching on as far as the eye can see, both north and south, is a shanty town of shacks, homes, and businesses. We turn south on the M44 and ride right into the Khayelitsha township. We follow the road through at least 10 miles of this township, never stopping completely at the stop signs, but smiling and waving at all the kids as we ride by. To see the township after visiting the District 6 museum really brought home to us how much these people lost to Apartheid. The road eventually ended at the coast, and we knew we had taken the wrong road. I pulled out the GPS and punched in Hermanus, and it led us back to the N2 via a different road. Once back on the N2, we came across the R44. What a difference a single letter makes!
The R44 soon led us to the coast and to one of the most beautiful rides anywhere. The ride from Gordon's Bay to Bettysbaai is breathtaking, it's a beautiful ribbon of road sandwiched between the cliffs and the ocean.
We stopped in Bettysbaai to see the colony of penguins (aren't we in Africa?) and a quick lunch outside the takeaway shop. Maybe we are in Africa, since the shop had a hand-lettered sign to keep the door shut in order to keep the baboons out.
We spent the rest of the afternoon winding our way to Hermanus, which is a beautiful seaside town that is famous for the whales that calve in the bay. We spent the night at the Hermanus Backpacker's Cottage and had a delicious dinner of fish and calamari at the local fish house.
100 beautiful miles today, bikes ran great!
9/22 Ride to Cape Agulhas and Back
Re decided that we needed our picture at the southernmost point in Africa, so after breakfast and a quick look over the bikes, we hit the road. It was a cool ride today, but another sunny, clear morning. This area of South Africa is known as the Overberg (over the mountain) as a ridge of mountains runs from the sea northward through this region. We spent the day riding up and down some fairly steep hills. The scenery was not what we expected when we imagined Africa. It reminded us of Scotland and somewhat of the Cascade Range of Oregon. Since it's currently spring, there are wildflowers everywhere, and we also saw baboons, ostriches, and blue cranes as we rode.
About 20 miles from Cape Agulhas, we stopped to pick up a picnic lunch and then rode the final distance. We were both amazed at the color of the water when we saw it. It was turquoise water running up to white sands.
We wound our way to the lighthouse and then rode the final 1.5km to the parking area 150 meters from the southernmost point. We had a picnic lunch on a bench, chatted with a few other riders, and walked down to the marker.
Cape Agulhas is also the point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, and Re dipped her hand in each ocean just for fun. We rode back to Hermanus and hit the cliffs for some whale watching. One of the splurge items we are carrying is a full-size pair of binoculars, and we put them to good use watching the four whales we spotted within about 30 minutes. We hit the grocery store for some ostrich burgers, new potatoes, carrots, and a bottle of local wine and went back to the guesthouse to cook some dinner.
180 miles, bikes ran well, but I lost my sheepskin seat pad along the way.
9/23 Ride to Citrusdal
After an interesting breakfast of mealie pap and toast, I gave the bikes a once-over while Re packed up the room. The bikes finally seem to be broken in, as no adjustments were needed. One piece of equipment we are still missing is a gas can for Re's bike. We checked in a few stores in Hermanus but came up empty handed. So as we were returning the keys at the guesthouse, I asked the receptionist if she knew where we could get one. She assured me they would have them at the Total station on the way out of town. We stopped there and I went inside to ask for a gas can, and the lady behind the counter said they didn't have such a thing and directed me to one of the guys working the pumps (all gas in South Africa is full-serve). I asked him if he knew where to get a jerrycan, and he smiled and asked if a 5 liter can would be okay. Sure, I said, how much? 5 Rand (about 66 cents), he replied. Since the last gas can I bought in South Africa cost $17 USD, here is where I became a little suspicious. I followed him around to a door on the side of the building, which he opened to reveal a storage closet. He pulled out a 5 liter plastic bottle that formerly held some kind of cleaning fluid and was ignominiously hand-lettered with the word, “toilet” on the side. Awesome, I thought. He rinsed it out with some fresh (?) water and proceeded to fill it up with Total's finest dino squeezins. I just giggled as I carried it back to Re's bike and giggled even more as I strapped the toilet bottle to the front rack on her bike.
With that, we were off. Our route today took us west along the R44, taking us back through all the pretty scenery from a couple days ago, and when the R44 turned north, we continued on it through wine country. At one point along the coast, we stopped at a scenic overlook to refuel and were surprised when a sightseeing van unloaded next to us, and there were several Americans in the crowd. Some of them were from Washington state, and we ended up chatting with them for at least a half hour. They were incredulous that we are here on these bikes. We had a good time telling them all about our trip, bikes, and gear. The ride through the wine country was scenic and became more mountainous as the afternoon wore on.
We eventually made it to the small town of Citrusdal, our destination for the evening. We rode through the orange orchards on our way to The Baths, our campsite for the night. The Baths is an old resort with a range of cottages, rooms, and campsites, but the real attraction is the mineral hot springs that feed the baths. While the guidebooks and their own website describe The Baths as overlander friendly, we didn't find them friendly at all. There are a lot of riders of a certain brand in South Africa, and our reception from them has been unfailingly chilly. We pitched our tent, cooked up a dinner of sausages and apples with oranges from the local grove for dessert. Then we grabbed our suits and headed for the baths. We soaked in the pools for a couple of hours as the sun set and the moon rose before heading back to our tent for the night. As we zipped ourselves into the tent, we were both a bit nervous since this was our first night of camping in Africa.
199 miles in about 7 hours.
Ride to Kamieskroon
After a surprisingly good night of sleep (we weren't visited by lions or elephants or even giant spiders in the night) we woke with the sun and started breaking down camp. After a breakfast of scrambled eggs, more oranges, and coffee, we set about preparing to get on the road. The bikes needed nothing – even the tire pressure has been holding. We enjoyed the most powerful shower this side of a firehose before suiting up and jumping on the bikes. I hit my starter button and the crank didn't even spin a half a revolution before coming to an abrupt stop. Since we had a similar incident with Re's bike in NC, I had an idea what the issue was. I tried to give the kick starter a quick jab, and it wouldn't move. While I popped the spark plug access panel off and removed the plug wire, Re retrieved the factory “toolkit” from under the side cover. I pulled the spark plug, kicked the bike over, cleared the fuel from the cylinder, popped the plug back in, and buttoned everything back up while Re stowed the toolkit. The entire procedure took less than 5 minutes, and my bike fired right up. We pulled out of the campground and went back toward the N7 with my bike showing no ill effects of my little hydraulicing problem. Note to self: install petcocks sometime.
The ride up the N7 was relatively boring, just a long straight highway and a headwind to boot. We've been off the bikes too long and need to get back into riding shape, as both of our butts were barking by late afternoon. We did however, see some animals along the way: ostriches, weaver birds, and our favorite was the pygmy giant land tortoise (at least that's what I told Re it was. I don't think she believed me.).
This little guy was cruising across the highway, and I have a soft spot for things that are even slower than us, so we banged a u-turn and went back to rescue him. Apparently African tortoises are just like their American cousins, as this one peed all over Re's glove while she held him.
The day's ride was warm, but that changed in mid-afternoon when we crested one hill and it got just plain hot. The landscape suddenly changed from orchards to rocky, dry desert. The heat made the ride seem even longer and our butts even sorer, and we decided to stop riding early today. Our original goal was Springbok, but Kamieskroon was 50 miles sooner. Upon exiting the highway we spied the Kamieskroon Hotel, which the guidebook said had camping as well. Since we were the only campers there, we made our choice of the sites and set up camp. We needed fuel and food (and beer) so we rode into town in search of sustenance. Unfortunately, everything was closed, which seemed odd for a Saturday at 5:30pm. The only store with food that was open was adjacent to the gas station, and Re made the best of the limited selection and we headed back to camp, where she fixed a sort-of corned beef hash with sweet potatoes, chips, and more oranges from Citrusdal. The sun sets early here, it's dark by around 7pm. We did enjoy the early sunset tonight since the sky was completely clear and there is no light pollution in Kamieskroon. We pulled out the binoculars, laid on the patio on our backs, and looked at more stars than we've ever seen anywhere in North America.
221 miles in about 8 hours. Once we got my bike running, they ran fine.
You mean those guys are there too? When I went to Bike Week in Daytona I felt quite the minority being an ADV'er. We like to call them pirates!!!
No, I'm not referring to Harley riders. They have actually been the friendliest bikers we have met along the way. Interested in our bikes and ride and wishing us well. The brand I am referring to is what people typically think of when RTW bikes are discussed. In the US and here in Africa they take one look at our bikes and turn away. It has happened more times than we can count.
They are feeling their inferiority, the fact that they have all the gear but not the balls (clearly metaphorical in Re's case) to do what you are doing.
Please do remember to wave to them as you pass them broken down with final drive failure or perhaps a fuel pump controller failure or even a ring antennae issue. Probably though you'll make them feel even more inadequate by stopping to render assistance
OK, gotcha. Snobs of a different brand. That's one reason I bought a Triumph instead. Thanks for a great thread, my wife and I spent time on Hondas similar to yours in Thailand. When I saw your thread, had to follow you!
I always wanted a big bike (1000cc) and finally I got one that can pretty much go anywhere according to most of the threads on the forum,,,
This only to realise what I'd gotten is not exactly what I want or need...
Thot about getting a deutch name bike, but found the owners not exactly my type of folks...
then found the threads of small bikes ADV chaps,
one of the first stories I read was about a chap and his Honda Wave 125 who rode South East Asia alone...
now subscribed to this thread...
next bike will be a small bike, functional and not flash...
Keep going underbones, Ride Save together and keep the stories for those us stuck in daily life chore coming...
Am in Malaysia if you ever cross this way, give me a holler
Malaysia is definitely on our itinerary for this trip. We spent about 2.5 months there on our backpacking trip a couple of years ago. We spent over 5 weeks in George Town alone, eating everything we could! We also visited Melaka, Kuantan, Taiping, KL, Perhentian Kecil, Khota Bharu, and more. We had originally planned to only be in Malaysia for a few weeks but loved it so much we couldn't leave. Maybe we will see you when we are there again.
perfectly said and behavior that is not in the least surprising.
I am really enjoying this report, especially since I have a C70. As much as I like the constant updates, I think I'd take Nathan the Postman's advice and ride for yourself and not think about the ride report all the time.
You're doing a great job keeping the maintenance up on the bikes (though I have to smile a bit at the air pressure exactness :) ). And having known a fellow who contaminated his oil with gas, thinned it out, and had a bottom end failure, that petcock is probably a good idea. Vice grips work nicely in a pinch (no pun intended) but any type of in line shutoff valve would obviously do. My mom's riding lawn mower even has one.
(sorry for the unasked for advice)
i am SO digging your RR, thank you! but where are the pictures from the hot springs???
I never mind constructive advice, I sure don't know everything and wouldn't be where we are now without the collected wisdom of ADV and HUBB. And yes, I am a little anal about tire pressures - too may years racing I guess. The bikes do have a vacuum petcock but we have discovered how they seem to work only about 99.7% of the time...
As for the Ride Reports I have only really been doing them in the evenings or on rainy days like today. I actually enjoy doing them as much for myself as for others. Re and I took an 8.5 month backpacking trip a few years ago and didn't really keep any kind of journal of our trip. We find ourselves frequently asking the other about names, dates and places. So the RRs work out to be a journal for myself so I don't forget the details this time and if other people enjoy them, all the better.
Unfortunately, these weren't that kind of hot springs.
The day did not start well when I realized that the sun was already well up in the sky by the time I finally awoke. I looked at Re's iPod Touch that we were using as an alarm clock and realized that I had created a new alarm time but had failed to activate it. Instead of getting up at 5:30, it was now 6:30. Grr. Normally we snooze for 30 minutes or so, but now we had to bounce. I wanted to get on the road early today since we had a short day yesterday and didn't know how long it would take to cross the border. We made a quick morning of it and got on the road by 8:30. The bikes have me spoiled now, needing no adjustments or fiddling for the past several days just a shot of chainlube and the usual checks. No repeat of the previous day's fuel problem, either. The one worrying issue is that our new rear tires seem to be wearing quickly. We only have about 1000 miles on them, and they have squared off noticeably and are losing tread depth faster than I would like. Considering we got over 5000 miles on the no-name stock tires, I am disappointed in these Michelins so far. We do have another spare tire each but we will have to start looking for another set of rears before we hit the more remote regions. The fronts, however, are still going strong with over 6500 miles on them!
The ride this morning started out warm and felt like it was going to be a hot one. We are carrying 5L of water each and haven't yet come near to drinking it all in a day, but we are making a concerted effort now to drink more as we ride. We continued north on the N2 and stopped for fuel in Springbok, we filled up the bike's tanks, my fuel jug and Re's toilet bottle as we were unsure about fuel availability further north. It is a long way between places out here. We also stopped at the local grocery store to pick up some provisions for the day, Re went in for a loaf of bread, some biltong (dried meat), and some apples. While I sat and waited with the bikes, I enjoyed the curious stares of the local people who were obviously surprised to see me and the bikes in the parking lot of their local grocer. After getting back on the highway for the final 70 kilometers to the border, we hit an even hotter headwind that slowed us to about 40mph and (as we discovered later) killed our fuel mileage. I would estimate that it was nearly 100 degrees or warmer. The scenery continued to change as we rode further north, all vestiges of greenery were gone and the land got rockier. Traffic was also extremely light after Springbok, 20 minutes or more would go by between vehicles overtaking us. The drivers in South Africa have been extremely patient with our slow progress; the majority give a friendly wave as they pass.
We finally made it to the border with Namibia at about 12:30pm and were amazed to see that there were no vehicles waiting to cross. Maybe it was because it was Sunday, or maybe its that Namibia is a nation of only about 2 million people and most can't afford motorized transportation. Whatever the reason, we breezed through the South Africa side and found them to be very prompt and professional. The border area is secure and surrounded by a tall fence and guards, so no border helpers to deal with. We hopped off the bikes, went through immigration, then to customs to have our Carnet stamped and finally to a check of our passports by the police. Then back on the bikes to the final inspection station where we met Constable August, a most funny and friendly fellow. We suspect he was just bored but we ended up chatting with him for 15 minutes or so until another vehicle showed up and he waved us on.
The Namibian side was different. Much less professional, people were just kind of hanging around and watching the world go by. The immigration official was the cheerless sort but processed our paperwork efficiently and sent us on to the road tax department next door. Here we met two women who appeared more interested in chatting with each other than helping us fill out the odd paperwork required. We struggled through and eventually paid our 140NAD each (the guide we have says it was 70NAD each in 2010?) and received our receipt. Then onto the Customs department where our Carnet was processed, but no one even ever looked at our bikes or verified anything. Strange. But we were through and headed back to the bikes to start turning wheels in the fourth country of our trip so far. The whole process took about an hour, and we did get very warm while crossing the border and were feeling very sweaty by this point. Our Darien Lights do a remarkable job of keeping us comfortable in fairly hot weather, but only when we are moving. Standing around at counters waiting for stamps is another matter. It felt good to get some airflow as we pulled away.
We soon spotted a fuel station and dove in for some more 95 unleaded. We were happy to see that fuel is a little cheaper in Namibia than in South Africa. The Namibian dollar is pegged to the South African Rand and can be used interchangeably, which is handy as we still had about 1500 ZAR on us. After fueling up the bikes, we sat in the shade and had a lunch of the items Re bought earlier and a couple of cold! Coke Zeros. Back on the road, we headed north on the B1 for Grunau, our destination for the night.
If we thought there was nothing in northern South Africa, we were wrong. There is really nothing in southern Namibia, no towns, no houses, just fences stretching on for miles and miles. The afternoon wore on, still hot and still nothing to see. This is the part of riding I don't like, just grinding out miles, and I did find myself wishing for a faster bike (gasp!). We were also picking up elevation the whole way and found ourselves around 4000 feet above sea level at times. The long hills and still strong headwind slowed our progress and it took nearly 3 hours to go the final 100 miles to Grunau. When you only have 7hp, you learn to dread headwinds and long climbs.
Once we reached Grunau we were underwhelmed by it, to say the least. We didn't expect much, but it is a name on the map so we expected more than just a few houses, one hotel and a gas station. Re checked the hotel and found that a room would be nearly 70 USD for not much. We rode on a little further, and I spied a sign that said Accommodasie on the side of the gas station so we pulled in to check it out. They had bungalows next to the gas station for about $65 USD but they did also have camping for about $14. Camping it was as it was nearing 5:30, and the next town was over 150 kilometers further. The camping was actually very nice, and we were the only campers that night. Each campsite had two concrete walls to screen it from the wind and a private (lockable) bathroom. Built into the walls are a braai pit (bbq grill), an outdoor sink, and some counter space. The compound was also surrounded by a 7 foot tall electric fence?!? We felt very secure and a little weird once they closed the gate for the night, why do they need such a fence. We ate dinner in the restaurant at the gas station and drank an entire 2L Coke Zero between us. We also enjoyed their wifi until they shut it off when they closed the store at 8pm. We were very sad to see the beer cooler locked and the sign that said there were no beer sales on Sunday. We must have looked sad enough at this as the cashier later sold us a couple of Windhoeks (since we were staying at their campground it was OK, she said). One of the best parts of the trip so far was later that evening when Re and I sat on the counter, drinking our cold Windhoeks, talking about the day's ride, while the moon rose and the electric fence hummed faintly in the background. The air was rapidly cooling, but the concrete of the counter was still warm from the day and we talked and laughed into the night.
229 miles in about 9 hours, with a border crossing. The bikes are starting to wheeze a bit from the altitude, and the headwind was hard on the mileage.
Your writing is impeccable and engaging. One of the few ride reports I follow daily. Inspirational. Re: Penang-Georgetown- after loads of time in SE Asia, my wife ( from Thailand) and I return frequently and the food is always the foremost topic in the conversation. Guess we are not alone in this regard.
Am really enjoying your R/R...Will be checking back daily.... Thanks