Apologies for the incredibly overdue final post to my blog. I guess I’ve been putting it off because it means my trip is over and there is nothing else to write about for a while.. That and my website went all a bit wierd for a few months and I didn’t have the time to fix it…
Anyway, from Mozambique I arrived in Nelspruit in the North Easy of South Africa and settled into my first night in South Africa. It’s crazy just how modern South Africa is compared to my last 5 months of Northern Africa. It could almost be Europe. Everything suddenly got really easy and cosy Supermarkets are full of food I can recognise. Things ‘Work’ and everyone speaks English. This is like travelling in Australia but with an African undertone.
After a few beers I got on the phone to James as we had agreed to meet up again in South Africa. He was only a few KM away, hiding out in a field. Within an hour or two he rolled up and friendly insults and greetings were exhanged. It was good to see him again after riding alone through Mozambique. We had stories to share and had a good laugh about over the pool table.
For the last five months I had really wanted to visit a safari park and see some big game. It was always so expensive though. Literally a FORTUNE. Everyone told me “Wait until South Africa, it’s way way cheaper”… Alas I waited and waited and once I got to Nelspruit (the gateway to Kruger National park) I was keen to book a trip. Well, it’s not cheap at all. £500 quid for a day in a game park.. F**K RIGHT OFF !! Apparently its way cheaper if you have your own vehicle and bikes aren’t allowed due to obvious reasons. So, there goes that idea. I’m just grateful that I saw so much game just on the roads. I have seen Elephants, Zebra, Giraffe, Baboons, Hippos, buffalo, crocs and countless birds, deer, monkeys etc. I can’t really complain too much. The big cats will have to wait for another visit.
Well South Africa is a big place with so much to do. Swaziland wasn’t too far and tales of epic mountains and landscapes had us convinced. So off we set to Swaziland. As we got closer to the border the roads became twisty and headed further and further into the mountains. After getting lost down a couple of dirt tracks we finally found are way to the border and were greeting by a group of menacing border guards. After a “Hello” they soon came to life and ended up being super friendly and interested about our trip. They even let me jump in their jail van and we all posed for the camera, guns and batons in hand.. Only in Africa !!!
SWAZILAND was simply stunning. What a beautiful mountainous landscape. The jagged and seemingly endless mountains struck us in no time at all. As the broken road carried us further higher into the mountain passes there wasn’t much to think or do but listen to the sound of your engine and let the eyes absorb the images that you will treasure forever.
As we headed south to find accommodation the landscape would again take our breath away. We camped up at a lovely lodge that night and the next day climbed a small peak that overlooked us. A great day !!
As it’s such a small country, the following day we were again back into South Africa where we would head to the coast and check out the large Indian migrated city of Durban.
After a long and not so interesting ride we arrived in the large and busy city of Durban. Like most of South Africa, it has great beaches but again, lots of people, traffic, tourism and all ‘That jazz’. A nice place to stop off and check out but not much to hold us.
I’d been communicating with a cool guy that I met on Horizons Unlimited called ‘Moto Zuli’, a German guy who has moved to South Africa and was running a small rental company. He lived just outside of Port Shepstone in a place called ‘Umtentweni’.. James had an idea to check out Lesotho so again we parted with an agreement to meet in Capetown. I set off early and just 45 minutes outside of the city in rather a rough part of town I felt the dreaded squirm of a flat tyre. Oh great. So out come the tools and the spare tube that I’d bought in Tanzania. As I removed the shredded and unrepairable ‘patched 20 times already’ inner tube I realised that my new one was not new at all. I’d been scammed. The shifty bloke in a old shack bike shop had sold me a tube with the valve ripped off it. BASTARD !!! I should of checked it but that’s life.
So now what ?. I’d passed a petrol station with a car garage about a mile back. So I packed up my tools, wiped my brow and starting pushing my bike back down the road. It took me a good hour and it nearly broke my will. This is definitely another good reason to have a small, lightweight bike. Imagine pushing a bigger BMW type bike with a flat tyre. It just ain’t happening.
I park the bike up and have a look around. No bike shops and the car garage doesn’t have anything that can fix my tubes or use as a replacement. Also, being Sunday, there would be nothing open. I couldn’t even grab a taxi to a bike shop. FECK !!! It looked like I was destined to sleep in a petrol station forecourt in a very rough neighbourhood in South Africa. Not an appealing thought at all.
After 30 mins of faffing and heads scratching, I see two guys pull up in their Pick up truck. I ask them if there are any bike shops that they know of as I was stranding with no usable inner tubes. Not expecting anything but a shrug they tell me to jump in the back of the pick up, with no arguments, as they’re going to get me sorted. WOW ! South Africans are cool.
In one of those ‘I didn’t expect this to be happening this morning’ moments, I’ve left my bike in a petrol station and now I’m lying in the back of a pick up truck flying down the highway with a couple of strangers heading to god knows where. They took me to bike shop after bike shop looking for one that was open and thank god, the last one we tried was open and stocked plenty of inner tubes. An hour later I was back in the petrol station putting my new tube in. These guys wouldn’t even an ice cream for their trouble. Fantastic. Life on the road eh.
Finally I arrive in Umtentweni and check myself into the recommended hostel. Right on the beach with a lovely little garden and I was the only guest. Lovely. I spent a few days playing pool and hanging out with the super friendly hostel staff and chilled out with Moto Zulu. Just great, welcoming and super hospitable people.
After a really nice chill out, I headed off once again down the coast to Chintsa beach and Buccaneers hostel. A great place spread out over forests, beaches and hillside. Many a day were spent playing Vollyball, walking down the beaches, canoeing down the little streams and generally enjoying traveller life at the hostel. South Africa was growing on me. BIG TIME !
While in South Africa, I was determined to go to the very Southern point of Africa, to a place called Agulas. Over a couple of days I made my way down through a landscape which very much reminded me of Patagonia in South America. Wind and rain battered me mercilessly and I felt just like the weather torn landscape around me. As I rolled up to stone that marked the point, I wasn’t sure if it was worth the ride. Just a plinth on a rock next to the see. Still, one of the bucket list I guess…
Now what ?? South Africa… SHARKS !!! Even better, cage-diving with great whites. My guide book told me to head to Gansbaii for the best chance to see great whites. Off I go.
South Africa is such a great country for biking. The roads are all pretty good and there are petrol stations, shops and amenities everywhere. It’s really easy. Saying that, it’s still such a large and wild country, you can very quickly feel totally African again. I love this contrast and mixture. You can ride dirt roads through the mountains all day and still relax in a comfortable hostel with a cold beer the same night.
so, I arrive in gansbaii and walk straight into town looking for a shark diving boat. It wasn’t hard. The place seems to thrive on it. The next day I was in a boat heading out to sea with a bunch of other rather nervous tourists about to be thrown into the cold water with some hungry Great Whites. I totally recommend this to anyone going to South Africa. You don’t often get to stare a great white right in the eye and live to write about it.
I was getting close to my final destination. Cape town was literally a day away and I hadn’t even really thought about it. The next day would probably be the last day on the bike, travel wise… After nearly seven months, this was it. I was tired and ready for it but it’s a bag of mixed emotions. There would be no more borders to cross, languages to fumble over or maps to sprawl over.
My last days riding was a lovely end to the trip. Hugging the mountain roads all around the South West coast was a treat. I met quite a few local bikers who rode with me and insisting on buying me coffee. On the way to the capital, I obviously took the long route down to Cape point and took all the relevant photos. Here I was in Capetown, the end !!
Time to find my hostel, meet up with James, start looking at shipping and flights and get home.
Not before a couple of fun weeks with some more very cool people though… That is another story all together.