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South Africa Cont. & Swaziland

 

28/05/2009

Melville (Banana Beach Backpackers)

Another quiet day. Lorraine is doing laundry. We are going up to Leopard Rock for lunch, recommended by Debs when we went to Oribi on Monday, but it is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Leopard Rock got it’s name because of a ledge of rock that sticks out over the Gorge and for R5 you can walk down and take a pic hanging out over the Gorge. Lunch eaten and photo’s taken we return to the BP’s.

29/05/2009

Melville (Banana Beach Backpackers)

1st day of the “Chicken Rally”. Andreus is waiting for PJ, his “Road Captain” to turn up around 10:00 and we will ride together to the site around 11:00.

12:00 and we haven’t heard anything yet so we ask Debs what is happening, they have already left!! As it is the first day we don’t expect much to be happening just yet anyway, so we get directions from Debs and stop off on the way for lunch at “Fish on the River” Spillers Wharf, nice fish and chips.

We arrive at the site and book in, ticking the box to enter for the “Furthest Travelled” prize. Wonder if we’ll win!!

We find Andreus, he is sorry but was excited about the Rally and forgot to come and get us when he left.

We were introduced to a lot of the “Thumpers”, a nice bunch all very interested and impressed by our travels, one of the guys dragged the DVD production crew that were filming the Rally over to us to conduct an interview, I’m sure they will cut it from the finished product.

A couple of the guys have a trip planned for Mozambique in a couple of weeks, keep an eye out for us and we’ll grab a few beers together!

We stayed on site until 19:30 meeting a great bunch of guys and girls and being made to feel welcome by everyone.

Debs wasn’t going to stay over at the Rally, but when we got back to the BP’s she had changed her mind. Packing a mattress in the car she left us to our own devices and the dogs.

30/05/2009

Melville (Banana Beach Backpackers)

We were going to go back to the Rally this morning and join the ride out to Pistols Saloon in Ramsgate. As they were scheduled to leave the site at 10:00 and we never got up until 09:15 needless to say we didn’t join them. The way most of them were partying while we were there yesterday we didn’t expect many of them to make it either!!

We decided to go to Pistols for lunch before heading back to the site and were surprised how many bikes we passed heading back to the site, a lot of them did actually make it on the run.

Pistols Saloon is a museum and eatery in a Wild West style, with a Donkey that wanders around and eats the menu before you have a chance to read it! We eventually manage to order lunch then take a ride back to the Rally.

Met up with some of the guys we met yesterday, not looking very healthy after the partying, but keeping it up anyway!

Out in the bike park we spotted a couple of Yamaha XT’s with number plates that looked familiar, on closer inspection we decided that they were from Zimbabwe as they have a similar registration system to ours. As we got closer to the bikes, we spotted one of the bikes riders and went over for a chat and to discuss how similar their plates were to ours, turns out they are exactly the same because Pete and Bruce are from Manchester, small world. Guess we won’t be winning the longest distance then. They have been riding Africa for a year now, similar route to ours except they shipped from Accra in Ghana to Kenya. Now they are waiting for a shipping date to Thailand.

We had a good evening with Pete and Bruce, swapping stories, phone numbers and email addresses and planned to meet up with them tomorrow to watch the GP.

We stayed at the Rally until the prize giving was over, as expected, neither of us won furthest travelled!!

As we weren’t camping and had to ride back to the BP’s, alcohol wasn’t being consumed. We left the Rally at 22:00 looking forward to a beer back at the BP’s but when we got back the fridge was empty!!!!!!!!!!!!! Andreus had forgotten to top it up.

31/05/2009

Melville (Banana Beach Backpackers)

I started watching the GP and Lorraine wandered off for supplies, forgetting the ‘no alcohol sold on a Sunday’ law here - again. So no wine for her today. Pete called to say they had a heavy night last night at their place (beer in their fridge then) and they would call round after the GP. We had a few drinks together once they arrived. We ordered a pizza in for supper, but it was more trouble than it was worth. They could not understand our English over the phone, then it arrived an hour later, and they tried to charge us double for delivery.

01/06/2009

Melville (Banana Beach Backpackers)

We got all the updates ready to go to the internet café in Port Shepstone. Just before we left, DHL called to say our package was here, but they needed R150 tax paid before they could deliver. Sorted that out and hope for delivery tomorrow. The internet café was very expensive and they were going to charge just as much to use their power. Upload can wait for another day! We tried to get more Malaria tablets at a chemist, but they needed a prescription and we were not prepared to pay a doctor for this, as it is possible to get them direct at some chemists. We stopped in at Pete and Bruce’s backpacker on the way home. We had to ask Bruce where her name came from and it is actually short for Brucella, one of the many unusual names she has.

02/06/2009

Melville (Banana Beach Backpackers)

Couldn’t go out today, waiting for DHL to delivery our I-Got-U. They eventually arrived mid afternoon and all was well with our new toy.

 

03/06/2009

Start Mileage-11736

Mileage-165

Melville (Banana Beach Backpackers) - Eshowe (Zululand Backpackers)

Andreus and Debs gave us one of their Backpacker T-shirts each as we left. Thanks guys, different clothes to wear after all this time on the road. We left around 11:00 and popped in to say our farewells to Pete and Bruce. Hopefully we may meet them again in South America.

On the way to Eshowe we decided to stop off at BMW to see if they had brake pads in stock. If they did not, we would not order them and wait. We have had enough hanging around in Durban for one thing or another! Fortunately (or unfortunately, they cost more than the sevice!!) they were in stock. After having a coffee, a muffin and a good natter to the guys in the showroom, we got back on the road for Eshowe. We had to pay a toll! Only the second toll fee we have paid all trip.

Zululand Backpackers was a nice place, and the locals were great. Within half an hour of meeting some of them in the bar, we were invited to a birthday party with a spit roast on Saturday.

 

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04/06/2009

Eshowe (Zululand Bacpackers)

We went on the recommended sightseeing trip in the area this morning; Dlinza Forest, then round to an original settlers house which is now a restaurant for lunch, and onto the Norwegian fort, Fort Nongqayi and the Zulu museums, one of which has the largest collection of Zulu art in Africa. We saw very few animals of any sort in the forest. We then could not get through the recommended route to the museums as part of the road went through the forest and did not allow motorbikes in case they scared the animals - what animals! The museums were all at a cost, so we just looked in the windows before heading back to town.

We did find a chemist that sold the Malaria tablets without a prescription, so some success today. Lorraine started to cook dinner, but could not operate the cooker at the backpackers. She called me, and I could not get it working either. So we enquired at Reception. They tried too, then declared it ’dead’ and told us to cook in the restaurant kitchen. Lorraine panicked as everything was on a large scale, so I took over. The chef chatted away as she showed us round. She admitted she had never been trained as a chef and was very intrigued as she watched me at work. Lorraine says she has seen it all now as even the professional chefs admire my skills!!

05/06/2009

Eshowe (Zululand Backpackers)

Thought we might go to Shaka Land today, however, we were fed up with the tourist set up attractions. Another option was to take a trip into a Zulu village, but again we thought this was too set up for the tourists. So we decided to update the website as a fairly decent internet connection at a fairly decent cost was available at the hotel. We also studied the maps and books to plan out the next few weeks.

06/06/2009

Eshowe (Zululand Backpackers)

Tonight was the spit roast party. We got a text from Ian who is currently in Mozambique and we hope to catch up with him and go into Kruger Park. We had a day of domestics; washing, emails and managed to catch most people on Skype. Rosemary, the lamb that was strung up over the BBQ had been cooking all afternoon. The party started late afternoon.

Again, all the locals were very friendly and welcomed us. We had a good time chatting to some ex-pats and Rosemary was delicious! Ness, one of the locals, offered us her bakkie if we wanted to head out very early in the morning and get in to Hluhluwe (pronounced Shoeshoewe) Game Reserve to see the Big 5. It was a very generous offer, but it was late in the evening (or early in the morning by now) to collect the bakkie and we had planned to leave the area in the morning.

 

07/06/2009

Start Mileage-11908

Mileage-192

Eshowe (Zululand Backpackers) - Hluhluwe (Hluhluwe Backpackers)

It had been raining through the night - rain what is that again?? It had dried by the time we were packing up, but started drizzling again when we left. We had drizzle on and off the whole ride today. I set Hluhluwe in the Garmin intending to go via the quickest route, but must have been on the ‘scenic’ setting. This did not please Lorraine much, it would have been scenic through the mountains if it was not for the miserable weather.

The road to Hluhluwe went through the Game Reserve at one point, motorbikes are not usually allowed to travel through Game Reserves so we were a bit wary about carrying on. We were stopped at the entrance reading the entry sign, which had a restriction on pushbikes but not Motorbikes. We flagged down the next passing car and asked if it was safe for us. He assured us it was and said he would keep behind us till we were out the other end. We, of course, stuck to the speed limits. He did not seem to like this, and shot off and left us about a third of the way in! Lorraine perked up through the park as she was on a big game hunt with the camera at the ready. It was a fairly busy main road, and all the animals obviously steered clear of this area of the park, as we saw nothing! Just as we left the park area, a few cars were stopped and people were looking at something, so we stopped too. You would think you could spot a huge elephant behind a bush easily, but you have to look carefully at the picture! Never mind, our plan was to go into the park tomorrow, so we could get better pictures.

As we arrived in Hluhluwe, two BMW R80s came up behind us. They were Swiss and we stopped for a quick natter. They were heading for supplies in town, and looking for the same backpackers as us. All the shops were closed (Sunday), so basic supplies only at the petrol station. Fabien and Janine, the Swiss couple, had travelled through West Africa. They started earlier than us and had made it through Nigeria, Cameroon, etc without too many problems. Well done guys!

 

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08/06/2009

Hluhluwe (Hluhluwe Backpackers)

We got up bright and early today with the intention of going to the Game Reserve, parking up at the entrance and thumbing a lift in with any vehicles that were going into the park with space for two extra passengers.

Fabien and Janine packed up and left in the rain, headed up the East Coast.

It had been raining all night again and was still raining, Dave, the owner of the Backpackers who is also a ranger in the park, suggested that it wasn’t a good idea to go to the Park today as the animals do not come out to play in the rain. We are destined not to see any wildlife!

Another option is a day trip to St Lucia to see the hippos and crocs, as they do come out in the rain. We’ll see if the rain eases up any. . . . . Guess what? It didn’t, another day sat around.

 

09/06/2009

Start Mileage-12100

Miles-105

Hluhluwe - Manguzi, Thobeka Backpackers (Kosi Bay)

Raining again. Guess the park isn’t going to happen again today! We decide to move on.

We are going to pack the bike in between downpours and leave by lunchtime no matter what the weather.

By 11:00 the rain has come to an end, just a very fine mist and even some patches of blue in the sky. As we leave Hluhluwe backpackers the sun comes out, typical!

A nice easy ride all the way to Manguzi, not much in the way of scenery, mostly Sugar Cane fields.

Coast to Coast, the alleged Backpackers bible which lists a lot of Hostels, isn’t always spot on with directions, so not knowing exactly how far out of Manguzi Thobeka is, we didn’t stop for any supplies in the town.

Just out of town we pick up the sign for the Backpackers, a mile or so further on the signs point us off the main road onto a sandy track (not had one of those for a long time). We should have realised, the Coast to Coast describes access to Thobeka as “easy in a town car” ….. meaning not a tar road!

2Km’s of deep tyre ruts filled with sand and we make it to the camp with only a few “moments”.

We offload the bike and get settled in at the dorm, we are the only people on site so we have it to ourselves. Lloyd, who runs the BP’ers is going into town to get some supplies and a fuse for his Bakkie so we cadge a lift in with him. He has to go to see a mechanic first to get a fuse replaced which is apparently causing the Bakkie to run rough and cut out, when we get there the mechanic says it isn’t the fuse and sends is off to an auto electrician to investigate further. 2 hours later, there is still no cure and major hunt is underway for a plastic cap that the electrician has dropped in the engine bay. Lloyd says that the Spar closes at 16:00, it’s now 15:40, so we should walk up there and he will pick us up when he’s done.

Food and beer bought we head back to the camp, Bakkie still not fixed!

10/06/2009

Thobeka Backpackers (Kosi Bay)

A slow morning, We have booked a hike to one of the lakes for the afternoon leaving at 13:00 and lasting around 3 hours, not looking forward to it!

The hike turned out to be not too difficult, quite interesting being shown a bit of Zulu life and the surrounding countryside. We were hoping to be able to sample some traditional Zulu beer in one of the villages we passed through but when we got there they hadn't any left!

The British and Irish lions are playing the Sharks tonight (rugby), Lloyd is going to a local Hotel to watch  it (no TV here) so we cadge another ride and go off with him to watch. We were the only people in the bar watching, every other Lions game we have watched have been in crowded bars.

 

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11/06/2009

Start Mileage-12205

Miles-114

Kosi Bay - Pongola (Umuzi Inn)

We had planned on entering into Swaziland today, but looking at the map, Pongola Game Reserve was very close to the border. We decided to try again to see some animals, fingers crossed!

Heading South again, we had a good ride around the Lebombo Mountains bordering South Africa and Swaziland and down to Lake Jozini before arriving at Pongola. Nothing in the Coast to Coast for accommodation, we had passed a caravan park at the edge of town which would do if there was nothing else around. We found a tourist information office which recommended a cheap Hotel (run by one of their staff). After a quick phone call, their prices were a bit high for us but they also had a Backpackers just out of town more in our price range. Back to the tourist office for directions and we head off in search. The Umuzi Inn was supposed to be about 8 Km’s out of town and 2 Km’s from the border. We reached the border without seeing any sign of the Inn. One of the border guards gave us directions back down the road we just came up, but still we couldn’t find it. Pulling into what looked like it could be a backpackers (if it was then we were going back to the caravan park!) we asked if it was the right place, luckily it wasn’t, but we were told to carry on down the dirt road and we would find it. At the end of the track we run into a barnyard full of cows and cowsh**! Again we ask for directions but all the staff that are around only speak Zulu … are we part of a game???

Back on the main road, we see another place that could be a Backpackers so turn into their drive way. Either it is the right place or we are going to get shot for trespassing!

We didn’t get shot.

Not a bad place although not what I expected, no bar, I thought it was an Inn!! Lucky I had a couple of beers in the panniers that we didn't finish at Kosi Bay, straight in the fridge.

There was secure parking in a shuttered garage, and the owner agreed to let us leave our gear there tomorrow while we go to the park and pick it up again on our way back to the border.

 

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12/06/2009

Start Mileage-12388

Miles-54

Umuzi Inn Pongola - Nsoko (Ngwavuma Backpackers, Swaziland)

Up early for an 08:00 start to go to the park. We had passed the entrance on our way in to Pongola yesterday, about 20 miles back down the road. When we arrived, the guard on the gate told us that it was a private Reserve (expensive!) and wouldn't let us in to wait for a passing vehicle that we could jump in and share the ride. We were directed back up the road to another gate where we could ask if there were any tours available today, or, we could go further on and see if we could get into the Government run Park. As the Wild Card only works in Government run Parks, needless to say that’s where we headed, Phongola Nature Reserve.

As expected, we weren't allowed in the Reserve on the bike, but could wait and see if we could jump in with someone. We didn’t have to wait long as a Safari Truck from the nearby Shayamoya Lodge turned up. It wasn't a Game Drive as he was going directly to the lake to pick someone up, but we got to see some animals at last ….. Impala (lots!), Wart Hog, Buffalo, Giraffe and Hippo. Not the Big 5 but wild animals none the less.

We stayed in the park for about an hour before the lift was ready to head back. After being dropped at the gate, we waited a little longer to see if anyone else would turn up to take us in. We waited an hour before we called it a day and headed back to the Inn.

On the way back we stopped off for lunch. Parked up alongside 12 shiny Harleys on the way to a rally in St. Lucia we looked a bit out of place.

We collected all our kit and set off for the border. The border was just a small one and only had an immigration officer at the desk, customs clearance and VAT refunds need to be done at the Golela crossing ……. Just around the corner from the Phongola Nature Reserve gate!!!!!!! Back we go again.

Stamping out of South Africa into Swaziland was easy, the Carnet wasn't stamped out as Swaziland and SA are basically one and the same along with Botswana and Namibia. The VAT refund on goods bought in SA was a different matter. We waited in the sun for 30 minutes in line behind a Swazi couple who had been shopping and had receipts galore. When it at last came to our turn, we weren't allowed to claim any of our VAT back as we were re-entering the country later on .. We were looking forward to getting that back!

Hacked off with not getting the VAT back we rode on into Swaziland, but with the time it took to clear the border, and the running around between the two borders, we only got a couple of miles into Swazi before pulling up at the first Backpackers for the night.

 

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May 28th - June 12th 2009