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South Africa Cont.

 

14/05/2009

Kamberg (International Backpackers)

Horse riding day today, we arrived at the stables for 10:30 and spent half an hour selecting the horses and then getting them saddled up. Lorraine wasn’t sure about her horse, Thunder Cloud, sounds like it could be a handful! Not to worry though as it spent most of it’s time fertilizing the area or wandering off course to eat. The trek was quite pleasant, just walking through the forest at a steady plod and not too painful on the backside. One of the guides asked if we wanted to try a trot, Lorraine refused but I gave it a try .. My timing was all out and got a bit of a thumping from the saddle, ouch. The guide said that cantering was easier so  I gave that a go as well, no it isn’t!! I’m going to have trouble walking after this. A good day out through some nice scenery we got back to the stables around 15:00 not as sore as expected.

15/05/2009

Kamberg (International Backpackers)

Legs are aching this morning after the horse riding.

Ian comes in with Chameleon on his shoulder, he found it while cutting some trees, apparently they are supposed to be hibernating now so he has taken on a new pet and let it loose in the lodge for it to find somewhere to carry on hibernating.

Back to Giant’s Castle today, better prepared for the hike to the paintings. Leaving the riding gear in the managers office we set off for the 45 minute walk to the caves, not too strenuous. We got to the main cave entrance to find that a group of school kids were also waiting for the tour guide. There are only supposed to be 20 people at a time on the tour so we are expecting to have to wait another hour at the gate for the next tour, luckily they allowed us all in at the same time, saved me having to have a moan when we got back down! A very interesting tour learning about the San Bushmen and the meaning behind the paintings, some of which have been dated as far back as 4,000 years.

On the way back saw a couple of animals that looked like Beavers without tails, later we find out they are Rock Rabbit’s or Dassies, very closely related to the Elephant with the same skeletal structure.

During the night the backpackers was invaded by about 30 cows that had broken out of their field and were wandering around the gardens, mooing, pooing and chewing and keeping everyone awake, I never heard a thing!

16/05/2009

Kamberg (International Backpackers)

Earlier in the week we had picked up some pamphlets for the annual “Highland Games” at Fort Nottingham. Lorraine thought it would be nice to go for a bit of home from home, and Miranda and Anne Marie were keen to go, mainly to see the guys in skirts, so they took us along for the day. It was a hot day and the queue of cars heading to the venue stretched a couple of miles back to Nottingham Road, the registrations of the cars were from all over South Africa, so bodes well to be a good do.

How wrong were we?? The car park was bigger than the venue, just a small field with all the stalls and a smaller arena for the games. The queues for the tickets to buy food and drink were miles long, the queues for the food were just as long, 20 minutes queuing to buy a Worst and Saurkraut, when I got to the front they had run out of the Saurkraut, they have only been open 45 minutes!! Lorraine queued for 30 minutes for some Scottish Sausage which was stone cold when she got it.

They had the usual events for the games, tossing the caber, tug of war and a kilted 1 mile race up a hill, all happening at the same time. Not very entertaining for us.

We met a guy, Tony, while we there who will be leaving SA around Christmas time to raise money for charity by driving around the world on a tractor, not the pink one!

Bored with the games we left after an hour and decided to go on a pub crawl. Every pub we went into was full of people in Scottish dress who had the same idea as us, maybe it has passed it’s sell by date!

A few beers consumed, most of us were in bed early tonight.

During the night the wind picked up and got quite strong, at times we thought either the roof was going to come off the chalet or it would be blown down as we could see the walls being blown in.

17/05/2009

Kamberg (International Backpackers)

Everything was surprisingly still standing this morning after last nights storm, a few bits of minor damage but nothing serious. Some of the thatch had blown loose from the lodge roof and a shower door had been blown off it’s hinges. Our chalet had been blown out of shape resulting in the doors not closing properly.

Anne Marie and I went to the local golf course in the afternoon with Lorraine tagging along for the walk. Anne Marie hasn’t played for 3 years, and I haven’t picked up a club since before we left home, should be interesting, luckily it wasn’t busy on the course. We lost a few balls and it took a couple of holes for us to get the swing back but had a good day.

We had planned to get back on the road tomorrow but received a text from Ian (trombone) saying he was in the area so decided to stay a bit longer to meet up with him again.

Had a really nice meal tonight, a whole beef fillet cooked in the fire pit.

18/05/2009

Kamberg (International Backpackers)

Lazy day catching up on the website again. We took a ride up to Highmoor after calling them to find out if they sell the Wild Card. A nice ride of about 12 KM’s way up to the top of the moor, but when we arrived they told us they don’t sell the card. Obtaining the card is proving to be more difficult than expected. Failed mission, we head into Nottingham Road for lunch and to upload the website update. We had a call from Ian saying he was in Kamberg looking for the backpackers. It will be good to see him again.

Ian was at the backpackers when we got back, so had a catch up on what everyone had been doing, another good meal cooked by our hosts and a marathon Rummy O session until 01:00 in the morning.

19/05/2009

Start Mileage-11021

Miles-128

Kamberg (International Backpackers) - Himeville

Ian was packed up early this morning and was heading to Estcourt to get a puncture repaired before coming back to Giants Castle.

We were planning on a short ride to Sani Pass backpackers in Underberg to give us an early start for the Pass the following day so packing up wasn’t a rush. Ready to leave around lunchtime we said our goodbyes to Miranda, Anne Marie, Ian and Zulu. We have become good friends during our stay with them, and enjoyed every minute there.

116 KM’s to the Pass from Nottingham Road, the last 60 KM’s to Himeville being on dirt, Lorraine’s favourite. Mostly good dirt, there was a few rough patches to contend with but both the bike and Lorraine coped well.

Arriving at Himeville, we decided to get lunch before trying to find the backpackers. The Himeville Arms looked nice so we stopped there and found they also cater for backpackers. After not too much haggling we managed to get their price down to the same as Sani Pass backpackers and stayed there for the night. Clean comfortable rooms and half price food on a Tuesday, it is also a lot warmer now we are out of the mountains so no need for hot water bottles!

Rigged up the helmet cam onto the bike ti video the ride up the pass tomorrow.

20/05/2009

Sani Pass

The plan - pack up and leave early for the Pass then spend a couple of days in Lesotho before coming back into SA.

The actuality - we were up early for breakfast, the weather wasn’t looking very good though for an attempt at the Pass, very misty. Speaking to the manager of the pub about the weather, he reckoned it would be cleared up by 10:00 but even if it wasn’t it would still be nice up in the mountains looking down on the mist.

Breakfast finished, the weather wasn’t looking like it was going to clear up but we decided to go ahead anyway. A couple of KM’s out of Himeville we turn off the tarmac on to the Sani Pass road, a dirt road which after a couple more KM’s turns into a construction site, the start of the work which is going to see the Pass completely surfaced by next year, even though surveys etc. have proved that it is going to turn the area into an environmental disaster. The going is good, but the road is very slippery as they are spraying water to keep the dust down. 5 KM’s and we are clear of the roadworks and the Pass proper begins with another 8 KM’s of rough but negotiable dirt and rock up to the SA border post. After around 30 minutes we reach the border intact although a bit worried about what is still to come on the last 8 KM stretch into Lesotho. Most of the people we have talked to have said that the pass requires a 4x4 and that low range is essential, although there have been some difficult bits up to the post none of them I thought would have required low range. We ask at the border how the rest of the road compares to what we have already done, a bit rockier and steeper we are told.

Ah well …. onwards and upwards.

Straight out of the border area the road starts to get steeper, then, a couple of hundred yards later we come to a river crossing with a rocky bed then an incline littered with loose rocks. Stopping just before the water I see the line I need to take to negotiate both the river bed and the incline, so off we go. Dropping off the concrete slab into the water the front wheel hits a rock and sends us off line straight into a big patch of loose rocks on the other side. The back wheel gets jammed in the loose stuff and it is slow going trying to move forward out of it. We are moving forward a couple of inches at a time with the back wheel getting stuck behind rocks and the clutch smelling trying to get over them. I can’t get a good footing either on the loose rocks and on the fourth attempt to move forward the bike goes over … bugger!!!

Now we have to get the bike upright, past experience says that it is not going to be easy, Lorraine wants to walk back down to the post to get help but I’m determined we will do it ourselves, surprisingly we manage to get it upright without having to offload all the gear, just the tank bag.

Now, do we try to carry on or turn around?

Discretion being the better part of valour, we decide that it is safer to turn around now rather than carrying on not knowing how much worse it gets further ahead and getting ourselves into a more difficult situation and possibly injuring ourselves or damaging the bike.

The bike is still stuck on the loose rocks and it takes us another 45 minutes to get it turned around and pointing back down the hill, with Lorraine moving whatever loose stuff she could and watching where the wheels are going. Some of the rocks are quite large and I have no option but to ride over them which could be another topple as I have no way of getting my feet down for balance and it needs a bit of throttle to get over them then dropping off with the front wheel at an angle running into loose stuff.

Eventually we make it back to the border without further incident, get our breath back and re-affix the pannier mount that has come adrift again.

Disappointed but still in one piece we head back down the Pass to Himeville. We don’t want to go back to the Himeville Arms and have to tell everyone that we have failed so we stop at a coffee shop for a cuppa and ask if they know of any accommodation in the area. They recommend the Underberg Inn or Khotso Backpackers. The Underberg Inn is way to expensive so we opt for Khotso Backpackers. After unpacking we notice that there is a very apt quote written on one of the walls - “The pain of giving up far outlasts the pain of finishing”.

At least we tried.

See the video of our attempt here. Warning: This file and may take some time to Download!!!

21/05/2009

Underberg (Khotso Backpackers)

Plans to be in Lesotho today obviously out of the window. My legs and left shoulder are aching a bit after all the riding I have been doing lately standing up on the pegs, so we decide to have an easy day today and re-arrange our plans.

I phone BMW and get the bike booked in for a 12,000 mile service next Wednesday. Durban is not too far from here so a couple of easy days are ahead.

Making a coffee in the morning, Simon, the resident friendly horse, sticks his head through the door looking for breakfast, and is closely followed by the three very noisy geese!

While we are out for lunch, a familiar sight drove past us, Ian (Trombone). We called him and he stopped by for a chat. Ian decided he would stay at Khotso as well while he sorted himself and the Land Rrover for the Sani Pass.

We had decided that we could not leave here without doing the Sani Pass one way or the other, we had already considered a local tour for R420 per person, not overly expensive for a full day, now with Ian appearing we have another option if he is willing to take us. Ian said he would be willing to take us tomorrow if he could re-arrange his gear to accommodate two extra people, but, he was going on into Lesotho so couldn’t bring us back down. We called into the tour office and enquired as to whether they would be willing to bring us back down with one of their vehicles, they could for R120 each. Return seats booked, we also still have the option of doing the whole trip with them if Ian can’t fit us in.

22/05/2009

Underberg (Khotso Backpackers) Sani attempt No.2

Up early to give Ian a hand sorting out the Land Rover, but we were just making him nervous and on edge as he knew we had to have a definite yes from him before 09:00 or we would have to take the tour before it left. So we let him get on with it. Not to worry, everything was sorted and we are on our way by 09:15. I rode the bike to the tour office and Lorraine jumped in with Ian.

We’re off up the Pass again. No problems getting to the border as expected. Passports stamped out of SA for the second time, and video camera’s set up to record the rest of the Pass, we set off.

The rest of the route was a mixture of, “we could have done that” and “Hmm, that bit would have had us over”, mostly the latter. The Land Rover did it easy though. Some great pictures on the way up, but because of the difficulty stopping the car, I had to take them on the move. Unfortunately the rough going made it hard to get sharp pictures.

45 minutes after leaving the Border we arrive at the Lesotho entry point. Paperwork sorted we drive the last couple of hundred yards to the Sani Top Chalet, the highest pub in Africa. And what a view!

We are glad we managed to get to the top but disappointed we couldn’t do it on our own and carry on down the Pass into Lesotho.

The transport back down was already waiting at the top but we had plenty of time for lunch and some photo’s.

Time to leave, we said our goodbye’s to Ian and set off back down the Pass. Close to the bottom we passed 7 GS’s headed in the opposite direction, a mixture of 1200’s and 1150’s, all solo and not overloaded. Were they going up the Pass or headed for Sani Pass Backpackers??

We received a text from Ian later on that night just to piss us off .. they were headed all the way, 5 of them had made it but 2 were stuck on the pass at the time of the text, we hope they made it in the end and good on them for making it, it couldn’t have been easy.

See the video of our 2nd attempt here. Warning: This file and may take some time to Download!!!

 

23/05/2009

Start Mileage-11176

Mileage-162

Underberg (Khotso Backpackers) - Melville (Banana Beach Backpackers)

We had planned a couple of short mileage days to get us to Durban for the bike service next Wednesday. Heading for Kokstad today, about 100 KM’s away, we had a slow pack and left Khotso BP’s at 11:00. A nice ride along the back roads, we arrived at Kokstad, hmmmm, didn’t feel too inviting and it didn’t seem to be of any interest, so we carried on through and stopped for lunch. Looking in the guide we called Banana Beach BP’s to see if they had any availability, which they did. Not sure if we would be there today, or stop off on the way we carried on. Apart from being a nice ride, nowhere on the way appealed as a stopping off point, so we went all the way to Melville. We decided we will stay there and day run out until Wednesday.     

When we arrived at Banana Beach BP’s, which is right on the Indian Ocean, we were greeted by Andreus and Debs, the owners. Andreus was very glad to see us, he is a biker himself.

After unpacking and settling in, the evening was spent in the bar with us telling our story so far to Andreus, Debs and a cop friend of theirs, Andre.

Andreus is a member of a local bike club, The Thumpers, and he tells us there is a rally this weekend just down the road at Port Shepstone. The “Chicken Rally” is the oldest running rally in Natal, this is their 29th year, so we make our minds up to stay here until the weekend and visit the rally.

24/05/2009

Melville (Banana Beach Backpackers)

I made a call to the Wild Card help desk to find out if there was a supplier in the area, we can get the card just up the road at Port Shepstone Pharmacy but as it is Sunday they are closed.

Not a lot happening today, just checking out the area and what there is to do in the vicinity, a bit of shopping for dinner tonight and the evening spent in front of the telly with a couple of beers.

25/05/2009

Melville (Banana Beach Backpackers)

Andreus and Debs had told us about a good day out near here. Oribi Gorge, a 4 hour drive, mostly dirt, that we could do on the bike, through the Gorge and Reserve where we could at last get to see the real “Wild Animals” close up, and they are part of the Wild Card scheme.

We head into Port Shepstone and eventually find the pharmacy, and their machine is working!

Card in hand we set off for Oribi Gorge, a half hour run up the N2 from Port Shepstone and we arrive at the Gorge, a nice run on tarmac with some good twisty’s up and down the Gorge, but no dirt tracks or animals! We find the office and enquire about the alleged tracks we can follow to see the animals. There aren’t any in Oribi, we have to go to Lake Eland (a private Game Reserve) for that, which is at the end of the circular route around the Gorge. After signing in, free entry with the Wild Card, we finish the Gorge route and head to Lake Eland. The first thing we see when we turn in to the reserve is a sign saying “No Motorbikes Allowed”, bummer! We can do a tour with their guides but it is R100 per person with a minimum of 4 people, and they aren’t part of the “Wild Card Scheme”, double bummer.

With nothing else to do we stopped at their restaurant for lunch. We left our phone number with reception just in case another couple booked a tour we could share. On the way out, the guy at reception told us about a 15KM dirt road we could take back to the N2 which was a scenic run around the edge of the reserve, nice scenery but no animals spotted.

26/05/2009

Melville (Banana Beach Backpackers)

Quiet day. Playing with the website. Met Brian & Joy, some biker friends of Andreus and Debs.

27/05/2009

Melville (Banana Beach Backpackers)

Service day.

We left the BP’s at 06:45 for the run up to Durban, a bit drizzly to start but nothing much. We arrived at Auto Umhlanga just after 08:00. the bike is booked in and transport arranged to take us to Gateway Mall, the biggest Mall in SA, where we can wander around while the bike is done. 

1st order of the day is to get some breakfast. While having breakfast I get a phone call from BMW, their mechanic is querying why I have booked it in for a 20,000 KM service when it only has 11,500 KM’s on the clock … thought they would have spotted it was miles not KM’s!!

Wandering around the Mall, we got regular updates on the status of the bike, the spotlight can’t be re-attached without ordering a new bracket from Germany, the stone catcher on the rear wheel needs the bolt I lost from it in West Africa replacing but they have to get it delivered from Jo’Burg and will cost R400, leave it. The oil sight glass is leaking and needs replacing, the part again needs to come from Jo’Burg and will cost nearly R2,000. I ask about replacing it on warranty but as it is not a South African bike it can’t (I thought BMW were Global!!). I told them to leave it and I would give BMW UK a ring to see what they could do, not holding out much hope.

We must have walked around the Mall at least 4 times while we were waiting, it’s not that big! And  drunk so much coffee. At last we get a call that the bike will be ready by 16:30 and the transport would pick us up between 15:30 and 16:00, time for one last coffee then!!! Coffee ordered, as soon as the waitress disappeared to get the coffee the phone rings again, the transport is waiting outside for us, they will have to wait.

Back at BMW, the bike is looking nice and shiny for a change. Not looking forward to the bill, we were quite surprised when it turned up. They have replaced the oil sight glass free of charge and a major service for only R2,100 and change. Very pleased.

We arrived back at the BP’s around 18:30, in the dark, working headlights make a difference!

A few beers and early turn in, we’re not used to these early morning starts.

 

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May 14th - May 27th 2009