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Baldy & Blue in South Africa May 2015

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Baldy & Blue in South Africa May 2015

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Baldy and Blu decided to wing it on a pair of F800GS' in South Africa in May 2015 for a 9 day trip. It turned out to be an adventure that we will get mentioned over a cold beer for years to come.

Below is a bit of a story and a few photos about our trip.

Written by Darin Rowley (Baldy) – Adventure Motorcycle Equipment
darin@adventuremotorcycle.com.au

The Idea
Blue was on the phone with an almost percievable pang of excitement in his voice? As Blue is generally uncontactable through electronic media, it could mean only one thing……. Blue must have a graus idea for a ride!

Beechworth Pub - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment

The pre-idea of a South Africa Ride being born – Beechworth Victoria

The Organisation

The phone call pleasantries were wrapped up in 3 seconds and Blue finally got to the point. It went something along the lines of “Hey you little bald headed bike riding menace, I am in South Africa in late May, why don’t you get your butt to South Africa, we can hire a couple of F800GS’ and go for a wander?”. Instant answers came into my mind which can be summarised as, I can’t because of every fat middle aged white bastard first world problem excuse I could think of. So, I answered Blue in my deep masculine Rambo style voice, “yeh, I’m in”. Further details were sorted out in a number of one line emails.

Getting Started on the Ground

Motorrad Executive Rentals - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment 

 Getting Started – Motorrad Executive Rentals make it happen

The time had come and we were sitting on a pair of Motorrad Executive rental F800GS’ in Pretoria South Africa about to head off into the wild Blue yonder. We looked at each other and Blue said, “we probably didn’t need the third roady last night? Which way are we going?” I cracked up laughing as several events from bike trips that I have shared with Blue over the past 25+ years flashed through my mind. “Lets head to the highest mountains in South Africa! ” We fired up the bikes, programmed the GPS not to put us on main roads, blipped the throttle for piece of mind, grinned like a pair of underaged teenagers with their first case of beer and a box of condoms en route to a big party and rode off with unknown horizons beckoning.

During the first few kilometres, the typical personal insecurities that you have at the start of an Adventure ride manifested themselves. What if………..? We had a South Africa map very loosely marked with crosses of areas not to go and ticks of areas to go. This was done at the bar and during the signing of the F800GS rental agreements. We had no real plan of where we were going, so by default no one else knew where we were. South Africa had a reputation for land pirates. Some of the animals considered humans food. We didn’t have a gun. With all the negative what ifs out, I started thinking “Let’s enjoy this! There are 50+ million people in an area a similar size to NSW and VIC. It can’t be that dangerous, else these people wouldn’t be alive! As long as we exercise a bit of common sense, we can deal with whatever pops up.” A quick crank of the throttle had the 800GS singing which made me remember “dam it, I still haven’t paid that speeding ticket in Spain”.

Do not want to see lions - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment 

Don’t want to meet these guys on the road

Programming the GPS to not take motorways had us feeling very white and vulnerable in the back streets of Johannesburg. After about 40km of traffic and keeping our eyes peeled, we were out in the country side using the sweet engine of the F800GS to chew up some road miles. It was delightful to have the F800GS singing and not have to worry about traffic infingements! Apparently, road rules are guidelines in South Africa.

We arrived in Bethlehem on dark where guest house accommodation, food and beer easily presented themselves at good clean value for money.

F800GS, Map & Preparing - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment

Daily Route Planning – very flexible

Getting in the Groove

The next morning was crisp, clear with trees showing their autumn colours. We departed Bethlehem for the country of Lesotho. Lesotho has the biggest mountains in South Africa and is populated by the Sotho people that lead their traditional life styles. We ended up taking an old track that took us into Lesotho crossing the border in a slippery river crossing (GS had a lay down here). We road through the northern part of Lesotho marvelling at the enscarpment scenery and the friendliness of the locals. We got lucky leaving Lesotho as the border crossing was unmanned and we flew through at a fair rate of knots. We may have had some issues at this border crossing from Lesotho into South Africa as we had entered the country without a visa and hmmmm passport?

Lesotho, Blu and the F800GS - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment

Heading through Lesotho

Zulu

We wicked up the throttles and proceeded south through a patchwork of friendly Zulu communities, agricultural land, pine plantations and enscarpment country. As luck would have it, we happened upon the White Mountain lodge on dark which provided superb amenities and fluffed pillows for us weary motorcycle riders. The highlight of the White Mountain Lodge stay was joining a Zulu birthday party. Those Zulus seem to absorb the music and then release it in completely choreographed booty shaking. My hamstrings were sore from just watching their traditional dancing! It was great to have been a part of it.

Riding in South Africa - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment

South African High Country

Rehydrating while riding in South Africa - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment

White Mountain Lodge – Always good to re-hydrate. Blue sometimes smiles?

A Blissful start to a day's riding - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment

A blissful start to another good day of riding

Mountain Passes

Again, completely refreshed with perfect blue skies, we boarded our GS’ and motored south to Rhodes. The route to Rhodes took us over Naudes Neck which is a superb mountain pass that required the GS traction control to be turned off for the mandatory toothy grinned power slides. The GS motor was singing albeit a little wheezy, the air getting thinner and the wind was howling in strong enough to blow you completely off line! The view and feel at Naudes neck (2500m ASL) is what Adventure Riding is about, seeing unknown horizons beckoning and being free to explore them. We soaked up the view and bee lined it down the rocky dirt roads and again found some fluffy pillowed, cold beered accommodation, just on dark, that rejuvinated us for more riding.

Naudes Neck on the F800GS - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment

Mountain Passes Naudes Neck 2500m ASL

The road ahead - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment

The Road Ahead

Room to Breath - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment

Room to Breath

The Indian Ocean 

Another beautiful crisp morning presented itself. We looked at the map and thought, let’s have a coffee at Coffee Bay on the Indian Ocean. Our route took us down through  large spaces of enscarpment country and into the area that Nelson Mandela was born. The fig and blue cheese pizza at the Stone Junction Cafe in MaClear was a superb refreshment for a weary traveller. Further south towards Mthata the scenery became a hopscotch of funny little round and rectangle houses in different colours. These were the homes of tribal people and all sorts of things were flying onto the pot holed dirt roads. It was a relief to get to the White Clay guest house that could not be any closer to the Indian Ocean, wash the dust out of the throat with a cold bevvy and sate the hunger with some local seafood.

Sunrise brings new horizons - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment

A new day brings new horizons

Coffee Bay - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment

Our digs (White Clay guest house Coffee Bay) couldn’t get much closer to the ocean – great seafood

After another leisurely breakfast, we headed north through a number of dirt roads with scenery open in all directions. We saw lots of tribal shepherds tending their flocks and had to keep waving to excited children. Once we got to the top of the enscarpment near Ugie, we were amazed at the difference in agriculture style. We were certainly in white mans land with first world agricultural and forestry practice in place. The enscarpment geographic border may as well have been a country border. A little oasis of a cafe (The Cock and the Cat cafe) provided a superb meal in a relaxing environment.

The Blast back

 We headed through Elliot and over the Barkly pass on bitumen. It was bloody great fun! The GSs were on the stops, the sweepers and road surface perfect and the huge relief of the enscarpment scenery under a clear blue sky was superb. We pulled up at Sterkspruit which was very obviously a Sotho people only community. We managed to rent a house and slept with the motorcycles in the lounge room after being advised to do so. The out of site out of mind ploy worked and we got going early in the morning not looking back on this stop. I don’t think my leathermans being held by my stumpy little arm would have went well against a gun?

Luxury

As time was running out, we punched north at high cruising speeds, up a network of bitumen and gravel roads towards Johannesburg. We happened on a 5 star farm stay (Die Kuierhuis) west of Ventersburg where we were spoilt with old world hospitality from Andrius and Amanda, absolutely tasty home cooked meals, serenity, and great accommodation. All this at really good value for money. It was our last night on the trip and we could not think of a better way to spend it. 

 Die Kuierhuis Farm Stay - Adventure Motorcycle Equipment

 A cold and tasty beer at Die Kuierhuis Farm Stay

We awoke to some great coffee and a first class breakfast. We then motored trouble free into Johannesburg where we returned our noble steeds to Albert at Motorrad Executive Rentals. The journey home began and before we knew it, we were in our respective homes and domestic lives.

In summary:
– South Africa offers superb adventure riding, scenery and diverse cultures
– Motorcycle riders do not appear to be targets of violent crime
– Most people speak reasonable english or better
– There wasn’t a lot of wildlife where we travelled which transpired to safe roads. The nearest miss was running over a meerkat, ducking under some bush turkey things and an evil look from an Alpha male baboon. Some animals I saw, I don’t know what they were but they looked like herbivores.
– We covered 2600km in 6 days (50% dirt, 50% road)
– We mainly used dirt roads that required intermediate level riding skills. Tar roads were generally better than Australian roads.
– We couldn’t fault the BMW F800GS
– BMW engineers could fault our riding skills
– Hard luggage secures gear
– A South African salad is chicken
– Don’t attempt to explain the meaning of a vegetarian meal, let alone order one.
– We spent about $130 AUD per day for fuel, reataurant food, accommodation and beer
– Bikes were about $1200AUD each for 7 days with a GPS, hard luggage, top insurance cover and unlimited kilometres
– We mostly used our credit cards for purchases
– Take dental floss as you will have meat stuck in your teeth
– South Africa can be ridden without to much planning
– There is a massive difference between white and black South African cultures
– This was a 9 day trip with all connecting travel included.
– If you want to do it, make it happen.

 

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