South Africa

Hotel securityThe plane was late leaving Sydney, only a couple of hours but that was more than enough to put paid to the 1½ hour connection at Johannesburg. The result was extra time at the Jo'berg airport, not one to relish. There was however time to get a Lonely Planet for South Africa in the Sydney airport something that Whitcoull's in Auckland Airport don't seem to stock.

I sent an email from Sydney and the motorcycle tour operator, Tony France , and by the time I got to Jo'berg he had fortunately sent me phone numbers for the hotel and the taxi company. These were put to good use and Ali picked me up from the Cape Town for a very late arrival the Hampshire House  www.hampshirehouse.co.za (I'm in the Hedge End Suite would you believe? Very nice it is too). Mine host, Ricky, was up late anyway as it was the 'old fart's night out'. I gather there there several bottles of red wine involved.

 

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Read more: 29 October 2008

townshipJet lag being jet lag I was wide wake at 4:30 but stayed in bed for an hour to tough it out. Not really very helpful.

I called Tony France about 8am and he was round by 8:40 with a very nice BMW F650GS, plainly quite new. He gave me a brief run down on the driving, what to expect on the tour and such like. It seems that the tour will be a collective arrangement but no, we won't be a convoy. Anyway that's not until Sunday.

In the meantime Tony suggests a couple of rides that I might make and of course there's Cape Town to see. Anyway I can't wait to get out of the door (which I might say is permanently locked, clearly there is a serious concern about security. I'll see more of that later in the day)

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Read more: 30 October 2008

Cable Car to Table MtnSleep a bit broken but slept mostly through the night.  Care will need to be take on the eating front otherwise there will be several extra kilos of me returning to NZ. A cooked breakfast every day is a bit over the top.

The forecast is for good weather so sightseeing around Cape Town is the go. Lacking other transportation I take the bike and put one of the panniers on to allow for a change of clothes , I looks like it will get hot.

Table Mountain and the waterfront are both well sign posted and tossing the mental dice I head for the former. The mountain is truly spectacular rising over 1000m in a more or less shear cliff it dominates the city.

There is a cable car that runs to take those of us who figure the walk is too much but you can, and I do, buy a one way. How hard can it be to walk down? I had to take my jacket up with me as one pannier wasn't enough to stow it. This was lucky as of course it was much colder at the top, but what a spectacular view.

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Read more: 31 October 2008

Safety BarrierThis is to be my night away. I'm pretty convinced that Ricky expects me to pay for it regardless but I've packed my bag to clear the room so we shall see. Tony arrives at 8:15 to guide me through Cape Town and out to the north. I'm not convinced that I need this but he seems instant. The only fly in this ointment is that I've had a text from my cousin David and today is the only opportunity I have to see him.

The Lonely Planet suggests that driving on the N1 is the most dangerous road on the Cape. Seems that this is where I'm at. So pulled over at the side with a map in one hand and the phone in the other I talk to David about how to get to their place (out to the east of Cape Town) taking copious notes in the back of the LP.

After about 10 minutes I decide on a route with a place called Wellington as a morning coffee destination. The LP describes it as a pretty little town.  Getting there is quite problematic and apart  from some nice country roads I end up in Durbanville heading the wrong way, back to Cape Town. At least there are road signs from here as well as more shanties which look just as repellant as the ones I've seen earlier. I'm left with the inescapable conclusion that there's going to be trouble and the 'haves' concerns about  security are well founded. It also seems inescapable that the limited actions that people are taking will not be adequate if the great unwashed get well pissed off as well they may!

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Read more: 1 November 2008

Cousin dave and BonnieA walk is planned for early this morning but there has been heavy rain overnight which I suspect would exceed rather flimsy protection of the Joe Rocket jacket. The trousers might be alright, on no the zip is broken, a wet crutch is inevitable. By morning things seem much better and David says the rain while unexpected will blow away soon.....

And so it came to pass that the rain exited stage left and a very enjoyable walk was had around the local nature reserve. First rate.

A quick run back via the coast road and Muizenberg, the only way I know back to the guest house.

Good job I went to Table Mountain when I did, the last two days it's been clouded over (predictably they call it the table cloth). Add a comment
CavortingMet the team on arrival at the Hampshire House and waled down to the local pub. A very pleasant evening.

The first day's ride is a little bit follow me for the out of Cape Town bit and we all seem to run at much the same pace when we are turned loose.

The baboons were not in residence at the coffee stop back at Betty's Bay but we heard about them. Apparently they are pretty destructive and if it's not tied down it's going to be gone.

Lunch at Hermanus was interrupted by whales cavorting in the sea just outside, something I've not seen before, we stopped again in the town and there were at least five just offshore. They are hard to photograph but I've done my best with limited resources. 


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Read more: 3 November 2008

Dawn at the Cape
Dawn at the Cape
A long day today from Cape L'Agulhas and stating with a brisk walk to the look out point out back of the hotel we are kitted up and ready to go by 9am.

Returning via Bredasdorp there are a series of  long flatish straight roads. I begin to think that the Romans were the first people to colonise South Africa. Our first break was at Swellendam where we split up as there are two options, the main N2 direct to Knysna (on the Garden Route) or the 'back' way with a couple of big mountain passes.

Basically we cross a short but gorgeous river gorge to get onto the N62 which traverses an arid, scrub covered, mountainous region, not dissimilar to the Mackenzie basin in the South Island. The road is all tar seal but there are some features included by the road builders just to keep you on your toes. The speed limit is 120kph and the ride is quite exhilarating.

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Read more: 4 November 2008

Shanties
Shanties
Something different today. A trip to see the local township just outside Knysna which turned out to be not at all as expected.....

Jay, our guide is a very personable young man and has been running this and other tours for  aboout five years.

The township is certainly rough and ready, and very home made with stand pipes for water and many with no electricity. That said there are many enterprising people with shops, repair workshops, hair dressers and all sorts. In some places there is a lot of replacement work going on with new houses but Jay is a but cynical about the amount of corruption and the slow progress.

The school on the other hand is spectacular and you could be in the UK or NZ except the pupils are all black (the ones we saw anyway) with proper classrooms and two computer suites. We met the headmaster and the school is one of the top ones in the country with places highly sought after, very different to the ones we saw in Tanzania.

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Read more: 5 November 2008

Road Works
Road Works
A long tedious drive up the N2 motorway to Port Elizabeth. You'd better not be thinking M1 here although in parts it is dual carriageway. There's a stretch of toll road and for the most part the surface is good. With the wind and some of the more stupid drivers it's not great though.

Worst are the one way road works, miles of them. If you miss the green you're up for a 20 minute wait (more or less) while the traffic clears, the opposing traffic comes and then it's your turn again. The green comes suddenly and you need to be ready

Early on we had a couple of interesting diversions one into a nature reserve and the other the southern hemisphere's highest bungee jump. The latter from the arch of a bridge but although we went over it the sea 'mist', which was a real pea souper, precluded any sightseeing at all.

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Read more: 6 November 2008

Karoo
Karoo Cactus
Started the day with a walk to Addo after an excellent nights sleep, really it's just as bad as it was on first acquaintance.

Lovely breakfast at the Homestead, it really is an old place (we saw pictures from 1912 and it was goings strong then). Now we are driving through some spectacular scenery like the Mackenzie country on steroids. We stopped in Cookhouse for rubbish coffee and Cradock for a very indifferent lunch. Both places are well worth a miss although the latter has a church with magic jacaranda trees.

The roads were however blissfully empty and great fun. Uneventful is good. I see monkeys, springbok and ostriches which just proves we're not in Kansas anymore. The distances between anything are very large, these are simply vast areas of mostly emptiness with occasional splashes of green from irrigation.

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Read more: 7 November 2008

The Small Karoo
The Small Karoo
The breakfast was great and we took a walk into Graaf Reinet. The town reminds me of Hastings in New Zealand in many ways, charming old villas but fallen on slightly hard times. Spookily quiet too.

Once back on the motorcycles we were very quickly out of town and the roads are simply stunning. This would be the first time that I have seen the vanishing point before the horizon, the road just simply goes on and on through the Karoo. It's a very good day to have music in the headphones but it's very hear to hear over the noise of the wind.

Monkeys, ostriches, lots of sheep, a couple of baboons and even a tortoise crawling across the road. There are lots of warnings about gazelles and the like running across the road but there's nothing like that on offer. Probably just as well.

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Read more: 8 November 2008

Meiringspoot Pass
Meiringspoot Pass
Surprise, I went for a ride. Breakfast was a bit of a let down after the past few days, buffet style, the Old Mill caters for coach parties in the main I'd judge. No deal with the internet access, apparently the wireless link is often down and certainly the cell phone coverage is rubbish.

A walk around the place revealed another shed with even smaller ostriches, this time stood in cardboard buckets. I think they have a bit of a dud life really. I couldn't find the walking track unless it was one with a big locked gate. I was very reluctant to go through the grass knowing about (and having seen) a small snake and having heard about the ticks (don't ask, it's not nice)

Our ride is to be a circular trip from Oudtshoorn (more or less), through the Meiringspoot Pass, lunch at Prince Albert and then return via the Swartberg Pass.

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Read more: 9 November 2008

The attractions at Ronnies Sex Shop
The attractions at Ronnies Sex Shop
This mornings discovery is that the staff take clothes from the bed and launder them. The cost is by the kilogram and is very low but the cloths on my bed were already clean. The dirty stuff was in the bag. Terrific.

Not a huge distance today, mostly down scenic route 62, through places like Calitzdorp, Ladismith, Barrydale and Montague. Much of the first part was flat and desert again with ostriches and a tortoise scampering out of the way on the road.

By mid morning the temperature has climbed to a very reasonable 30ish and still not a cloud in the sky. I've been assured there may be rain in the next couple of days which would be sad but tomorrow is another optional ride through the mountain passes which would be fearsome in the wet.

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Read more: 10 November 2008

KWV Brandy
KWV Brandy
The forecast rain turns out to be drizzle. My morning walk is returns me somewhat moistly for breakfast.

I think Tony is surprised when I decline the 7 passes route, all the mountains are covered in crud, it's drizzle, the roads are clearly going to be wet and it's blowing. I elect to go on the sightseeing tour with Clive and Mary.

Worcester is not a great place but the KWV brandy factory offers a most illuminating half hour tour. Really not too long and a tasting at the end. The trouble there is that 10:30 is a bot early to start drinking.

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Read more: 11 November 2008

The view from my door
The view from my door
An interesting night. The rain started in earnest shortly after I got into the hotel and there were some telltale clues, like the buckets hanging from the roof in the reception area. Anyway high tide in my bathroom struck at about 4am at least that's when I noticed it, the drip drip drip turned a bit more serious. Some rapid redeployment of my clothing arrangements i.e. picking them up, was called for.

The dogs I mentioned before seem to live outside but they would very much like to live inside, the white poodle started a pitiful scratching at my door, it looked like drowned rat. I left it there. I should also mention that there was thunder and lightning. A lot.

I lay in bed for hours (it really wasn't very comfortable) thinking about the ride to Cape Town in the morning through the Deluge in Joe Rocket's rubbish kit and how nasty that would be. I got up and took to the trousers zip with my tool kit. The fly remaining open is clearly not an option. On detailed examination at 5am I discover the fastener is made from beer can metal, so soft you can move it with your fingers. Utter rubbish. On the plus side it can be made to close, hopefully one or two times more. Great care will be required.

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Read more: 12 November 2008

Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope (note hat placement)
Rather a sad breakfast, you do get very familiar with people on trip such are these, 12 days together and it's sad when it's over. We have an invitation to Malta and I have extended one to stay with us on Clive and Mary's inevitable motorcycle trip around NZ.

It's actually Mary's birthday and Clive has ordered a birthday cake to celebrate. It's a bit rich first thing but a very nice though. Even Tony turns up to wish us bon voyage.

Mostly the gear is dry enough to wear and although Tony is willing to guide me down to the Cape I'm quite happy to do it myself. There's a park down there and I see a number of baboons and a large 6' plus snake in the side of the road! I think better of stopping for a photograph.

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Read more: 13 November 2008

Baboon Family
Baboon Family
Quite a day really. The original plan was to set of via Stellenbosch and Wellington, through some of the passes (again) and then out to the west coast. It all worked out pretty well withan entire family of baboons today as well as great weather.

Sitting in a cafe in Wellington I had to reappraise Wellington, parts of it are much nicer than I thought although several people went through the dustbins outside while I was sitting there. Looking at the map I saw that Tony had marked and recommended the Aquila game reserve as well worth a view and it seemed near enough to make a worthwhile detour, after all coming to Africa and ignoring he wildlife seems a bit silly.

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Read more: 14 November 2008

Workers Cottage
Workers Cottage
As I was paying the bill this morning I asked about the pressure of bookings over the weekend and mine host told me that the room I have been in was available as the result of a cancellation for the whole weekend, otherwise he would have been fully booked.

Thinking about this it struck me that a second night here would hardly be an imposition and would take the pressure off finding a room for he night as well as allow me to ride without the baggage. A deal was done and and I was off within minutes without panniers.

Todays' route, devised over breakfast, is to head back to Ceres, through the Gydo pass and on to the Cederburg wilderness area. What was not clear from the map is that the tar seal would run out a good distance into the first part of the trip. Assuming this was some form of road works I carried on into the Middelburg Pass. This has never been sealed and is quite scary in parts. Tony would have been very pleased there was no luggage on the bike because of the vibration of the very poor road service. I know I was pleased not to have it.

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Read more: 15 November 2008

Not really Indiana
Not really Indiana
Last day and what to do? The Lonely Planet suggests that the only other thing on the agenda should be the West Coast and it's not really that far, really. It's an easy route, mostly long straights trough wheat fields, a bit like Indiana but there are mountains here. Endless road works are an issue but the road is very quiet so it's not to bad.

Paternoster is supposed to be a quaint fishing village, obviously it might once have been but now it's chocka with quaint, fishing cottage style, white painted, holiday homes for the well healed. Doesn't really do much for me so back to the nearby town Vredenburg for lunch. Well actually not, the only restaurant I could find was a Wimpy and although I might have been tempted it was in any case closed.

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Read more: 16 November 2008

Sunset over False Bay
Sunset over False Bay
And so my visit to the Cape draws to a close. The last picture was of the African sunset at Gordons Bay, over an adequate dinner at an unmemorable quasi Italian place. Apparently the owner loves to prepare Italian food, he needs to keep working at it.

I left in good time to pick up some cash at the money machine to pay for the last few days on the motorbike and get to Constantia. What kind of stumped me was that Tony was not home. Indeed no one was home. Now I was a bit early but the worst goes through your mind and I was rather wondering if I would have to leave my bag (and all it's dirty clothes) for next time.

No obvious solutions presented themselves so I waved a branch in front of the motion sensor inside the gate and a very helpful security man arrived. I think he got a bollocking for helping me although he really wasn't any more use than ringing the numbers for me.

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Read more: 17 November 2008

TView from the Manorhree weeks, 7,000km, all sorts of weather, interesting and varied company and a fascinating country. The roads are great for motorcycling, the tar ones anyway, and there is little or no traffic in most parts. Hard to ask for more really.

View from the Manor

You can really see why people live here, it's a great place for the wealthy or even the not that wealthy, as property, wine and food are all cheap as chips even by NZ standards let alone those of the UK. Cheap labour to do stuff like clean your house, fill the car and fix the gardens must be a great perk too.

On the downside the climate is a bit too windy for my taste and I'll just bet the summers are very hot. The serious con though is the security issue. You'd be forgiven for locking everything and being suspicious of the large gatherings of black people in the towns. Eventually you'd just want to get out.

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Read more: Conclusion & Afterword