Blog 13 by Tan: The Namibian Border Hop


After a few hours sleep we woke up at 5:30am and set about packing our things and saying our temporary farewells to our awesome new friends Danie and Sara. Packing our bikes is officially my least favourite thing to do. With space at such a premium on the bike, the packing must be done very systematically. It is basically the least enjoyable thing you can do outside playing cricket or having root canal surgery performed. People we meet on the road are generally highly envious of our trip… until they witness the elaborate ritual of packing our things in the morning and getting dressed in all our bike gear. It is at that point that people say…’you know what…on second thoughts, bugger that’ and then they cruise off in their spacious, air-conditioned cars. It is such a time consuming and ridiculous procedure very much like a really shitty game of Tetris. The worst thing is when you have everything packed after 40 minutes of determined stuffing of bags and grunting and straining to do the straps up only to see you forgot to pack the running shoes which will ONLY fit if you place them ¾ of the way down in the left hand pannier next to the toiletry bag and below the coffee percolator. Everything must be unpacked and repacked once your adult temper tantrum has subsided. But oh no! You forgot that you bought a new pack of ground coffee and the shoes only fit when the packet of coffee is at least half empty. Better unpack the other pannier! It is at that time I wonder why we aren’t doing this trip in a Landcruiser.


Bikes all packed and farewells in progress. Sara looks happy to have had us….or perhaps to be rid of us???


Anyway we did manage to get things packed and set off on our pain in the arse visa dash to the Namibian border. As it was the last day of our South African visa the ride was nothing but a long slog with the only stop being at a little café in Piketberg for a savory muffin with cheese and grated biltong and a half decent coffee. This was a necessary stop as I was quite literally dozing while riding after having had so many late night chat sessions with Sara and Danie.

Extensive roadworks along the way slowed us down and made us overheat in all our riding gear. We couldn’t muster any sympathy for our plight from the road workers who were all making us wait with the cars and trucks, slamming down their stop signs with all the flourish of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings ‘You shall not pass bikers, you shall not pass!’


It is on these roads that the DR is at its happiest


We did the 300km stretch from Bitterfontein to Vioolsdrif border post in one go to try and make up some time. The scenery was of the monotonous Australian variety so we utilised the cunning old biker trick of chewing gum to stay awake. We got though the South African border post without a hitch despite the less than perfect Carnet de Passage paperwork. Before leaving South Africa officially we confirmed the new visa rules would allow us to re-enter the county for 7 days.   South Africa had recently bought in some strict visa rules to stop people working illegally in South Africa and to stop the scourge of cashed up foreign tourists pumping money into their economy it would appear. It was disappointing we couldn’t stay longer in S.A. but we saw it as a perhaps necessary nudge out the door as we had a lot of Africa to see and the longer we stayed in South Africa and the more friends we made, the harder it was getting to leave.


On the way to Ai Ais


We finished up the long day by riding the awesome dirt roads to Ai Ais for the night. After the +800km day we were less than enthused about the idea of setting up a tent in the dark. We jumped at the idea of staying in the resort as it was my birthday therefore the indulgence was fully justifiable. As we checked in so late there was no one at reception to tell us the price of the room until morning. We requested their cheapest room/linen cupboard fit for sleeping and crossed our fingers that it wasn’t too expensive. When I saw that our room came with bathrobes and 3-ply toilet paper in the dunnies I started to worry that it was a $300 a night type establishment and we’d have to spend the next few weeks sleeping in ditches beside the road, subsisting on a diet of soya mince and Chakalaka to re-balance the budget.  Luckily it was only $120 for the two of us with breakfast, which, while WELL outside our budget, was not a tragedy for a single night.


Camp ground at Ai Ais


The fantastic outdoor warm spring. Too warm during the day but perfect at night


That evening we met two other motorbikers who we shared dinner and drinks with; Peter a South African on a BMW R1200GS and and Ido an Israeli guy on an F800GS. All in all it was a pretty fortunate turn of events for Mick as the hotel room got him off the hook for a birthday present and the presence of the bikers meant he got out of having to be all romantic-like to me on my birthday. But don’t you worry! I’ll wreak my lady vengeance by giving him the silent treatment in 8 years time, insisting that I am fine then finally let him know I am furious at him for the time we were riding bikes in Namibia and he didn’t get me a proper birthday present and romantic dinner. Mwah-haw-haw! Mwah-haw-haw!

We stayed on another night in our rightful place this time (the campground) and chilled out and enjoyed the outdoor hot springs. From there we headed to the Cañon Roadhouse to get some internet that would allow us to arrange to fix the tooth I broke at the most inconvenient of times. Our 7-day South African visa timetable now had to include getting from the Namibian border to Stellenbosch, receiving and fitting the new gears, getting a crown made and fitted for said broken tooth and riding all the way to Botswana. No worries!


More Namibian scenery. Note me in my stylish summer riding gear – all the rage in Paris this season


Michael is insisting that I write the reason why my tooth broke as a type of public shaming exercise that will hopefully mean the end of dentist related dramas for the rest of the trip. Fair enough! My name is Tanya and I like the sweeties. Especially sweeties of the chewy variety that have the odd tendency of creating such forces of suction that burst blood vessels and pull teeth from your head. Mick has always been at me over this (my only vice) but has never pushed things too far lest I decide to nag him about his beer consumption. So, like the Mutually Assured Destruction of the Cold War we both had something that could destroy the other so things kept on very much as usual. However, that night I broke a tooth on some candy, which represented a significant escalation in the conflict. I don’t make it a habit of lying to Michael but at that moment I felt it best to do so by omission. I told him about the tooth which broke while I was ‘eating something.’ My expert level deception however failed when I neglected to destroy the incriminating evidence. While cleaning the room to check out in the morning Mick found a half eaten packet of sweets in the bin and knew there is only one thing that would make me throw away sweets… the jig was up. I have since resolved never to eat chewy sweets again and bury (or preferably incinerate) all incriminating evidence from now on. There you go Michael.


Quiver Tree at Canyon Roadhouse


Hanging out at Canyon Roadhouse – incidentally they do a great Amarula cheesecake


As we left the Ai Ais/Richtersveld Transfronteir National Park we were treated to an awesome display of animals. We raced the DRs against ostriches running alongside us and saw a heap of Oryx (Gemsbok) which are the most stunning of creatures. I was riding along as spied a medium sized springbok that looked a lot like he was going to dart out in front of me. Sure enough that is what he did but I had enough time to slow down to have him pass right in front of me in full flight with both of its feet a good meter off the ground. It was an amazing sight to behold. Man I love riding in Africa!


A blue truck…that is old


A weathered old beast…sitting on his bike in front of a corroded car


We booked in to the Hobas camping spot near Fish River Canyon and drank a few beers by the pool. There was a 2-year-old child of one of the camp workers there who was more than a little interested in the bikes. He ran straight up to Mick’s bike and set about mounting it. Mick tried his hand at child engagement and supervision, which naturally ended in tears and injury to said child. In Mick’s defense he told the kid to keep away from the exhaust demonstrating that it is hot and he should not touch. Unfortunately something was lost in translation and the little tyke appeared to see Mick’s demonstration as some kind of instruction and immediately put his hand on the hot exhaust. Fortunately the dad told the kid something along the lines of ‘that’s what you get for not listening’ and I emptied the contents of my Camelbak on his hand and threw him on the bike before the wailing started.


The motorbike enthusiast


Mick smiling at avoiding child abuse charges


That night Mick noticed that a bolt had come loose from the exhaust can end cap and the exhaust leak had burnt a hole in his side plastic and pannier bag. Mick realised that the only way to rectify the situation was with a Windhoek Draft can and duct tape.


Mick’s bush mechanic skills in action


We spent the night sleeping under the stars with just the cots out instead of the tent. It was awesome and no baboons tried to eat our faces during the night providing an added bonus. It also meant less packing in the morning by not using the tent. We are a little bit in love with our cots which almost didn’t make it on the trip with us as we feared taking a bed along would in some way diminish our status as tough, rugged world motorbike travellers. Luckily we decided to bring them in the end and we have fantastic nights sleep as a result. The cots are made by a great company called Helinox that sells lightweight outdoor adventure equipment. We discovered when searching for a good travel chair to take with us. We found the chairs, and a table and two beds but unfortunately no wardrobe and chest of drawers. The cots weigh less that 2kg and while they are a little bulky we have enough space for them in our luggage. But when it comes down to it after a long days ride it is worth it to have a comfortable bed no matter what the ground is like.


Minimalist camping


Fish River Canyon


Next stop was Fish River Canyon which is reportedly the second largest canyon in the world behind the Grand Canyon. The local Nama people say the canyon was formed by the writhing and thrashing of a giant wounded snake as it was being chased down the valley. As a professional geologist I must say that based on the evidence we have it is probably not the case. Instead it looks a lot more like it formed by a couple billion years worth of wind and soil erosion and also by the collapse of the valley floor due to the shift in tectonic plates. A smattering of sedimentation and metamorphism, some intrusions in the form of dolerite dykes, bit of an ice age and inland sea type situation, add in some faulting and subsequent hot springs and Robert’s your mother’s brother, you have Fish River Canyon.


Mick at the canyon


Loving how the panorama shots make me look so thin


Soooo hot in this joint


Next up we headed for the Quiver Tree forest near Keetsmanhoop along more awesome, desolate dirt roads. Mick got a pinch flat and tore a hole in the sidewall of the front tyre after binning his bike in a slippery algae covered culvert that I suspect he did not slow down sufficiently for. Mick had been hating his front Mitas E07 for some time and this latest incident was the definitive end of the E07 front experience. I put my hand up to fix the flat while Mick watched on patiently frustrated at my slow and deliberate tyre changing. He was made to feel a little embarrassed when carload after carload of farm workers finishing work for the day drove past to see him standing there twiddling his thumbs while the lady changed the tyre. Now that I think of it, some of the guys gave thumbs up gestures that may not have actually been meant for me.


Me carrying out the world’s slowest tyre change – didn’t pinch the tube though


Quiver trees


More Quiver trees


Yet more Quiver trees – it was a forest after all


Interesting quiver tree factoid before everyone falls asleep; the name comes from the San (Bushman) use of the tree for storing their arrows, the Quiver Tree wood is tubular, very light and very soft inside so a tree branch could be easily hollowed out for use as a quiver


We made it to the awesome Quiver Tree Forest campground where we met a 3-legged pug dog, watched the sun go down behind the trees and prepared a braai of springbok steak and milli pup for dinner before spending the night under the stars again. While there we met a friendly guide touring Namibia with a truck full of Germans that offered us a place to stay (and more importantly wash clothes) when we visited Swakopmund. Yet another kind and unexpected offer of hospitality.

After the customary lazy start to the day we went to the nearby Giant’s Playground for another rock fix. The area around Keetmanshoop has some pretty impressive dolerite dikes that are about 3-6 meters thick and up to tens of kilometers long and are aged at a rather youthful 180 million years old. The rocks at Giant’s Playground are from one such dyke. The giant puzzle piece looking formations are a result of spheriodal (woolstack) weathering caused by water flowing through cracks and fissures in the dolerite and ongoing weathering causing further cracks to develop along with wind blown sand erosion for good measure. Namibia – geologists’ paradise.


Geologies!   Geologies everywhere!


Giant’s Playground


Pulling into Keetmanshoop for fuel for our 300km ride to the coastal town of Lüderitz, we noticed Mick’s front tyre had gone flat due to the tear in the sidewall getting larger and pinching the tube. When leaving camp in the morning we had already decided to scour the town for what replacement front tyres might be available, however we weren’t confident in such a small community. We went around to 3 different tyre shops, all friendly and helpful with advice but none of which stocked motorbike tyres. The best we could manage was to get a tyre transported down from Windhoek to arrive the next morning. With time of the essence, Mick tried one last tyre place. Sure enough the bloke had a thoroughly bald Metzeler Tourance which he was selling for the princely sum of 200 Rand (a bit over 20 real dollars). It was clear we needed the tyre badly so negotiation was pointless. We accepted that we were getting completely shafted and paid up with relative cheer. However, a greater indignity was still to come.


The long awaited end to Mick’s much despised E07 front tyre


It was a scorching hot day (as most are in Namibia) and Mick asked if he could change the tyre in the relative cool of his workshop. After spending a small fortune on a barely road legal tyre that the guy no doubt got for nothing, we thought that was a reasonable request, especially as he had no business going on at the time. Our tyre hawking rip-off merchant however said that he would have to charge Mick a further 50 rand for the privilege; all this confirming our suspicions that the guy was a thorough douchbag. Mick responded “Mate I’m not paying you for shade” and walked out.

The nice part of the story however is that the whole time I was waiting with the bikes in the ample free shade of the Bridgestone dealer across the road. The guys there were fantastic to us. Despite the fact we didn’t spend a cent there they let us change our tyre in the shade of their workshop… in fact they insisted on getting one of their guys to change it for us. Not only that, they repaired a couple of tubes for us too. They refused any payment. We did however go and buy a cold coke for everyone, which cost us more than 50 rand but we were happy to pay it. So in summary, Keetmanshoop Bridgestone dealer = champions, Stumpys Tyres ie the guy across the road = doushbag tyre pirate.


The ample and free of charge shade of the Bridgestone dealer – thanks guys!


We rode into the worst head wind of the trip to get to Lüderitz. The last 40 km in particular were HORRID. I swear I am not exaggerating when I say that it was SO strong the last 40km were ridden with all abdominal muscles fully engaged and arm muscles and teeth clenched in order to stay upright. All this led to the shocking fuel consumption of 13km/L. Which reminds me, Mum – please send money (haha).

We stayed at a nice little hotel called the Bayview Hotel where the lady running the place (a fellow biker) gave us a ‘biker discount’ on a huge room. Lüderitz is an interesting looking place with distinctly German colonial architecture, awesome rocks, great seafood and with a pleasantly eerie look to the place.


Oryx – these guys are the ultimate survivors. When water is scarce they can they can minimise its need for by allowing their body temperature to rise from a normal 35.7°C to 45°C. They have also been known to impale lions on their horns


The ride to Lüderitz is extremely desolate with barely a tree in sight and just the odd Oryx or ostrich to entertain you. The last 120 km of road into Lüderitz is lined either side by vast diamond fields which is ‘Forbidden Territory.’ Signs warn you that you are not permitted to go anywhere off the road lest hordes of ninja police employed by the diamond companies come and get you. Casual fossicking for diamonds is not looked upon kindly, which is a shame as a couple diamonds would supplement the trip budget quite nicely.


Amateur prospecting not allowed – bummer


Michael risking the wrath of the DeBeers sand ninjas


On that topic actually, it is quite funny when we meet people and they hear we are taking 3 years off work. People are so keen to know how we can afford to do that while at the same time not wanting to be rude by asking. Others come straight out and say that we must be rich. Our explanation that we saved the money by working is far from exciting so instead we are thinking of claiming to be Australian aristocracy; ‘I hope you wont treat us any differently to know that I am the sole heir of Lady Charlene von Trundlebed while Michael’s Dad invented the UGG boot so we are both gloriously rich.’ Anyway, I digress.


Bluey in the sand


Sand, sand… look, whats that? is it? nope nope, thats sand too


The desert that lines the road to Lüderitz has produced copious amounts of diamonds since the fields were discovered in 1908. During the diamond boom the desert gravel was so rich in diamonds that at night, men on their hands and knees scoured the desert floor for diamonds that were easier to spot under the light of the moon. It is said that at this time proper handfuls of diamonds could be grabbed. Imagine ladies, imagine! This might sounds pretty romantic but the reality was that this work was often performed by black workers chained at the legs and made to crawl across the desert floor on burning hot sand all day searching for diamonds. A sad business.

The diamonds themselves come from Kimberlite pipes located many hundreds of kms away in southern Africa (Lesotho and around the Kimberley area) by weathering, mostly from rain but also by wind, which eroded diamonds out of the kimberlite pipes and swept them into river systems which over the past 90 million years have flowed from east to west and emptied into the Atlantic Ocean. This is why there is also a lot of sea floor mining of diamonds along the coast of Namibia and South Africa. The interesting thing about the marine diamonds is their extremely high ratio of gem quality diamonds which is as much as 95%. This is because the inferior diamonds with fractures and inclusions that would be only fit for industrial purposes simply don’t survive the trip from pipe to ocean. To put that in perspective, the world average mined gem quality ratio is only around 20%. At Argyle mine in Western Australia, it is just 5%. Any adventurous friends with scuba diving licenses and no fear of incarceration should message me promptly.


Arrived in Lüderitz just in time for an impressive sunset


An incredible seafood poitjie. Tasted even better than it looked


For us the big draw in coming all the way to Lüderitz was to visit the abandoned diamond mining town of Kolmanskop. At its height the town was home to over 1,500 people. The residents of Kolmanskop lived the high life during the diamond boom where they are reported to have had champagne and caviar parties that ran for days. The reason for all the partying, you ask? Consider this little factoid. In just the first 5 years from when the first diamond was found, 5 million carats – a tonne of diamonds (literally a metric tonne!) was plucked from the sands around Kolmanskop. But it wasn’t all champagne and caviar, as summers were hotter than Hell, sand storms raged and water, which needed to be shipped in from Cape Town, was often so scarce that people bathed in soda water from the soft drink plant. Is it just me or does that sound wonderfully refreshing? Swap the soda water for tonic, source a few lemons and bottles of gin and get ready for the 3-day caviar party, I say!

Today Kolmanskop is derelict and the desert is encroaching to such an extent that sand fills the old buildings making for what I imagine to be an interesting sight. I say this because we didn’t actually get to see it in the end as we’d missed the limited opening hours. We managed to see a tiny bit of the place before being shooed away by security. We figured that we had better follow instructions to leave as I don’t think they would look too kindly on two mining professionals hanging around the Prohibited Area. We were gutted and have resolved we might just have to ride all the way down back to Lüderitz when we come back into Namibia in December.


Kicking ourselves for missing the opening hours while trying to gauge just how seriously enforced they were


Prison, you say!….alright better be moving on


We headed back to town to gorge ourselves on seafood and drown our sorrows before riding all the way back to the South African border. We were running a bit late as the decision to share a bottle of wine while mildly dehydrated led to me being a bit too pissy to battle the gale-force winds of Lüderitz with any real expectation of staying upright on the bike.


Not a bad spot for lunch


Ocean fresh calamari that melted in the mouth…oh I do like to be beside the seaside..


We rode to Rosh Pinah which is a mining town (lead/zinc) near the border. In the grand tradition of mining town’s, accommodation was insanely expensive with them wanting $150 for the night in crappy motel room. We opted instead to go to the national park right on the Senderlingsdrif border post and find somewhere to bush camp. We ended up finding a great spot in a quarry for another night under the stars. We chose a more isolated part of the quarry to set up camp so that we wouldn’t wake up in the bucket of an excavator the next morning.


Our humble abode in the middle of a quarry. Me…true to form, refusing to get out of bed


Ferry over the Orange River at the Senderlingsdrif border post


The next day was another sprint from the border to Cape Town so I would be there in time for my 8am dentist appointment the next day. Instead of fighting the boredom of riding on tar we rode through the Richtersveldt instead. We rode down to Lekkersing on some softish roads and then hit the tar briefly toward Port Nollath before heading south on the dirt again toward Kleinsee. We followed a bit of the coast which included entering a couple of closed off diamond mining towns that required us to show our passport and quite possible unknowingly agree to on the spot cavity searches if we are caught even glancing at the ocean. Luckily it was a Sunday and no-one found us at all suspicious so with continued without incident.


Awesome gravel roads of the Richtersveld


Sunny, desolate, sandy, dusty…we love this stuff


Keen to avoid the extensive roadworks around of Clanwilliam we instead took the dirt road that followed the highway on the eastern side of the Oliphants River and Clanwilliam Dam. It was dirt road, scenic and less frustrating than negotiating the roadworks but probably no quicker in the end. It was dark by this point and unknown to us there was a widespread blackout at the time. As we rode into the first town in a while we were met with no electricity and people all over the place. At this point I was convinced we had ended up in the type of place we really should not be in. All the horror crime stories people regaled us with when we told them we were going to South Africa circulated in my head and in the end I absolutely gunned it though the apparent shanty town like a maniac…stopping for nothing and no one. I later found out it was actually a nice little town that simply had no electricity at the time. The blackout we discovered was actually caused by one of the major electricity generating coal silos in the country collapsing. The government claimed that there was NO indication that the silo was going to collapse. It just…like…collapsed. Sure there were cracks appearing all over the thing but seriously it was like completely out of the blue.


After dead straight roads that go forever, this T-junction was pretty exciting


Anyway, my brush with imagined danger and sore back from long days on the bike made me decide to stay the night at the nearby Piekernieerskloof Resort. It was yet another one of those places that we walk into and know it is too good for us. However, we were pleasantly shocked by a more than reasonable room rate and one of the best rooms we’ve stayed in during our whole time in Africa. We were obviously looking a bit worse for wear as the receptionist requested that we pay for the room upfront. I took it in my stride and told her if I saw people that looked like us I’d get them to pay up front first too. After a full days ride we annihilated a pizza and put away a few gin and tonics. The next morning we left before 6am and made our way into Cape Town, lane splitting like crazies, and made it in time for my dentist appointment.

A 5.30am start and an early morning dentist appointment is the price I had to pay…….because I am Tanya………and I like the sweeties.

Blog 12 by Mick: What goes clunk when it should go splash?


Stellenbosch, our destination for the following evening, is just 30kms north of Somerset West up the main road, but going that way would be pretty boring with so many other great options available. So we started off that morning riding south, in the completely opposite direction of our destination.

R44, known as Clarence Drive, is a beautiful road hugging the shoreline in much the same vein as the Great Ocean Road in Vic, and is quite famous in this region for its fun corners and its ocean views. It lived up to the reputation. We rode past many a biker giving his sports bike a bit of a twist of the right arm, which made me pine for my (now long sold) MV Agusta. Never mind, the 80’s tech dirt tractor DR650 was fun enough, plus the views were great and soon enough we were presented with many great photo opportunities.


It was a great day to be riding Clarence Drive


Lovely views of the Atlantic


We stopped for brunch in Kleinmond, but quickly found that the café we were in only served coffee and cake. Considering the venue was Tanya’s choice it should have rung alarm bells – “Ah shame! They only do cake! Oh well we are here now :)”. Leaving the café a little sick after 2 coffees and a large slice of quite reasonable baked cheesecake, we headed east and then north and after some dirt back-roads we hit the tar twisties of Viljoens and then Franshoek Pass. The vantage point at the top gave us great views of Franshoek and its wineries.


Some dirt roads coming to the bottom of Viljoens Pass


On the edge of Theewaterskloof Dam before going over Franshoek Pass


View of Franshoek from the top of the pass. You can hear the local poppies from all the way up here. “Ahg shame!”


We stopped for a very late lunch at Grande Provence, one of Franshoek’s more well known wineries and we were not disappointed. After parking our bikes a little worried that Winery Security must surely be mobilised and we stinky bikers were about to be forcefully escorted from the property, we settled in for a wine tasting and some food. We got a little more tipsy than one really should when travelling by motorbike, so ended up staying for a couple hours. Nevertheless, it was quite interesting to observe the more affluent echelons of South African society after some of the sobering places we had been recently.


The driveway for Grande Provance. “I don’t know if we should keep going? The might shoot us on sight?”


Tan and some wine tasting


It was a pretty decent way to spend an afternoon


And there was funky art in the garden. This horse statue made of old car tyres was worth a photo


We arrived at Danie and Sara’s after riding 193km (my GPS counted for me) to finish up about 30km from our start point, and were welcomed with great conversation, great wine and a great meal of South African specialties. Danie, a member of the Wild Dogs adventure riding forum in South Africa, had invited us after we had introduced ourselves there are about 2 months previous. Little did we know at the time that if we had been on BMW’s we may well have been walking into a trap, but thankfully the humble Suzi’s, while certainly no Yamaha, were acceptable enough for Danie to permit them to stay inside the gate for the evening.

We woke a little late and a little lacking energy after such a late and well lubricated evening, and tried to muster some energy to get moving. We failed. Danie had a very nicely setup workshop so I knocked off a few little maintenance jobs that were still to be done – adjusted my valve clearances, fixed my horn which hadn’t worked since the whack the bike got on the Wild Coast, plus a few little odds and ends. We did finally hit the road quite late in the afternoon, but not before organising with Danie and Sara a return visit to continue some discussions on riding in Angola, have a braai, and meet some of their friends.

We made our way down to Cape Town thankful that the traffic was pretty casual on a Sunday evening, and met Hannah and Steve, kids of our friends Beth and Pete back in Howick. They had kindly offered to accommodate us in Rondebosch for a couple days while we sorted out some issues with our bike paperwork and saw the place.


One handy feature of our pannier bags, a bottle of wine fits nicely in the front water bottle holder


Our bikes are still registered back in Western Australia and are in essence just holidaying in Africa like we are. To do this they travel on a kind of passport for vehicles, a Carnet de Passage, which allows us to temporarily import and export the bikes for personal use without incurring any duty. It’s a pretty simple document with 3 parts, an importation voucher that goes to customs when the bike is brought into the country, an exportation voucher that customs takes when the bike exits the country, and a counterfoil which stays with the Carnet that shows when and where the bikes have been.

Sadly, when the bikes entered the country through Jo’burg airport, customs hashed up the importation. Tanya’s Carnet had the importation voucher filled out but not taken and counterfoil was uncompleted, whereas my Carnet had the counterfoil completed correctly but both the importation and exportation vouches were taken. On face value it looked to us that Tanya’s bike was never properly imported whereas mine could well be already exported.

We needed to sort this out, and Cape Town was our last and realistically best chance. South Africans will freely admit that their bureaucratic systems are not particularly robust, however in the Western Cape they tend to work a bit better then elsewhere in the country. Hopefully Cape Town customs could resolve the issue.

We battled our way into town, parked on the footpath and got to the customs office without too much hassle. After clearing security where we were asked to declare our sidearms (“err what? like a gun?”) we settled in for a long wait. Thankfully the process wasn’t quite as painful as I was expecting, although to be fair I was expecting very painful – maybe that’s why they asked me to hand in my pistol before letting me in? Anyway, there was the usual ‘no you need to talk to so and so’ and when asking them ‘no you need to ring this person’ type handballing, but after bouncing around between a few people, leaving and coming back 2 hours later because the person we now needed was out for lunch, then talking to them and getting yet another contact in Pretoria, we finally got to talk to the person we needed and they were very helpful. It seems Carnets being filled out incorrectly is a common occurrence as she was not at all surprised and had the issue resolved quickly and efficiently. An awesome result.

Since arriving in Africa, Tanya has had a broken filling that she has been avoiding fixing to the very limits of her highly developed procrastination skills, however with Cape Town being the last proper city for while she finally succumbed to the discomfort of the dentist chair. She was able to get a temporary crown put in, but with our visa ending so soon there wasn’t enough time to get a permanent crown built. So the fix would have to be put off once again until probably Windhoek in Namibia.

With Tan still grumpy and a bit numb from the run-in with the tooth torturer, we made our way back into the city to look around and do some touristy stuff. My anxiety levels were pretty high the day previous with the bikes parked downtown for the entire day and that was something I wasn’t keen to repeat, so we decided to try the public transport system instead.

Let’s just say catching the train was an eye-opener. It wasn’t the lack of air conditioning or the general untidiness of the ageing carriage which was surprising. It was the abundance of stickers advertising the likes of home abortions (yep, really), penis enlargements, treatment for premature ejaculation, tender submissions, contract evaluation, unfair dismissal conflict resolution, how to win back your lost love in 4 days and other crazy crap. And often all offered and performed by the same doctor/contract lawyer/miracle worker/life coach/hack scammer scumbag. Some areas of the carriage were basically wall papered with these ads.

Made me wonder…… who on earth would be sitting on some grubby train on the way to work thinking “that cream from the bus stop just left me with a nasty itch and my willy definitely hasn’t doubled in size, in fact I think it hasn’t grown at all! I wonder if there is a better way??? Mmmmm I wonder??? Oh hang on what’s this? Dr Jaju’s penis enlargements? Wow he sounds legit, and 100% guaranteed! and he can re-write my resume and give me some interview training while I wait. What a pro!”

Surely people don’t fall for that shit? Surely… and surely the Police would be interested in tracking down Dr Jaju and his backyard abortion clinic and the Municipality would want to remove the very public advertisements? It wasn’t a great look for Cape Town.

I think Tan had jimmied the doors open, alighted and was making a mad dash for the relative safety of downtown Cape Town (scary thought) before the train had even really started to slow down. We made our way towards Bo Kaap, a famous street of colourful houses built by indentured Malay labourers. On the way there we stumbled upon a famous hipster café called Clarkes, which did sadly watery micro-brew beer but one of best sandwiches I’ve ever had. I know that’s a pretty big call as we’ve all had the odd sandwich in our lifetimes, but here goes – it was slow cooked pulled pork, melted mozzarella cheese and kimchi on bread fried in butter. Nom noms.


Bo Kaap. Paint some houses pretty colours and bam – instant tourist attraction


Back to the beer though, and I can say this now that we are safely across the border in Namibia and can avoid the ramifications of such a declaration of war, but South African beer was a bit of a let down. Common lagers like Castle or Hansa are very much the same as any mass-produced beer like our common ones back in Oz; that was no surprise. But at every opportunity there was to try something a bit different I did, from the micro-brewery at Nieu-Bethesda to Stellenbosch restaurants and Cape Town hipster café’s with local craft brews on tap, and never managed to find a good gutsy ale.   Maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places, but I tried everything I could find (often a few times to be sure) and my expanding beer gut is testament to that. There is definitely a market here for a good master brewer to set up a craft brewery.

Tan and the worlds best sandwich. Even she thought the beer wasn’t so good


The other repercussion of the unsatisfactory beer was that I then went to our next engagement sober. We arrived at the Mount Nelson Hotel where I was excitingly told that some sort of semi-famous TV person had also gone for high tea once upon a time. Can’t remember now, Opara or Ohpra or some bloody thing. Whatever. I sat there pretty bored while Tan ordered the high tea option that included champagne, which was pretty good of her. To be fair the place was pretty flash, the staff were very attentive, the food and nibbly things were excellent, as was the champers and tea. It’s just that those types of places aren’t really for me; just not my cup of tea, so to speak. Tan loved it though, and for everyone’s info, to get home we used the safety of a taxi…


Tan is happy


I’m bored


Tan doesn’t care, she is really very happy


With our customs and dentist chores complete, it was time to get our tourist chores done and see some more of Cape Town, and then get the hell out of Dodge as our visa was rapidly evaporating. We hopped on the bikes and had a good look through town, had another spectacular pulled pork sanga at Clarkes (the beer was still underwhelming though, I checked again to be sure – I’m thorough like that), did Table Mountain the cheat’s way (up and down the cable car), plus Signal Hill and Lion’s Head.


The cable car to Table Mountain

Great views from the top – Table Mountain rises to over 1000m above sea level.

View of Cape Town from the top


We rode to Camps Bay and then onwards down the Chapman’s Peak Rd, which was fantastic and well worth the R40 toll. We were keen to get all the way to Cape Point but we were running out of time and we had places to be – places that had beer and meat and good red wine. There is a lot more to Cape Town than what we saw but cities, even ones as nice as Cape Town, aren’t really our thing. So, happy that we had enjoyed our short time and seen enough to get a feel for the place, we packed up, said our goodbyes to Hannah and Steve and made our way back up to Stellenbosch.


Chapman’s Peak Rd south of Cape Town


It was a pretty cool road, closed for a number of years and re-opened a couple years back mainly as a tourist attraction


The fire was cracking and the beers flowing by the time and we belatedly arrived at Danie and Sara’s house for a braai with their friends. They had invited some riding buddies and other travelling types to come over for the occasion. It was a fantastic evening of great food washed down by a number of bottles of the local produce. We poured over maps of Namibia and Angola discussing interesting offroad routes through Kaokoland and north of the Cunene River. I have read over the years a couple reports about the Doodsakker and have always been dead keen to do it; Tanya was coming along whether she wanted to or not. It was invaluable to sit down with people who had firsthand knowledge and discuss the risks of the route, of which there are a number of rather significant ones. Little issues such as the 700kms between fuel stops, the complete lack of civilisation, and the itty bitty fact that the most treacherous part of the route is only open at low tide and is known to eat vehicles that don’t get out in time. See sounds like fun!


Some pretty big pieces of cow were cooked up


Waking the following morning was a real mission, a good sign that the night before was a great success. I had planned a busy but achievable route through the Cederburg and Tankwa Karoo to Sutherland then up to Botswana for the coming 5 days. I wanted to knock off the last of our SA “must do” list before being forced out of the country. At some stage I mentioned to Danie that the bikes were due for a service and he suggested I do it in the convenience of his driveway – he has a drum to store sump oil and gets a small sum of money from the recyclers when its disposed of. Knowing that I wasn’t encumbering anyone with 5l of old oil, I went for a quick ride to the local auto store for supplies.

Loosening the sump plug, I pulled my hand away quickly and heard a good sharp “clunk” as the oil went into the pan. Oh shit. Oil doesn’t go clunk. Oil goes splash, it always goes splash. Oil. Does. Not. Clunk. I had a look at the magnet on the sump plug and was greeted with slivers of steel. Lots of them. Oh shit, this is not good; in fact, this is very, very bad.


Oh shit


I stuck my hand into the warm sump oil and fished around for the offending piece, and pulled out a broken tooth. It looked like a gearbox tooth to me, although there are a fair few gears in a motor so technically it could be a lot of things. I called over, “Hey Danie do you mind if stay over for a few more days” and showed him the oil covered tooth. Now Danie might ride a Yamaha but he is still a decent bloke, and he was more than happy to accommodate us unemployed and now immobile itinerant foreigners.


The tooth


Tan had been out picking up some supplies for our coming days riding and returned only just a few minutes after we discovered the gear tooth. The reality of it all was starting to sink in as she walked over and saw the concern on our faces. “We aren’t going anywhere” I told her and passed her the tooth.

We considered the options. Forget about it and keep going came to mind, although was quickly eliminated as not really a valid option, more of an ignorant disregard of reality. I was lucky enough to be given a free-motor-life by the gearbox tooth fairy, as the broken tooth came out in the oil and did not lodge in the gear cluster, which would instantly result in complete motor annihilation. Another significant probability was that with one tooth broken there was more soon to break off. Doing nothing when we have still so far to go was not an option.

Getting someone else to fix it was also considered, but paying people to do things when we have no jobs and no income isn’t really an awesome plan either. Back in Oz, paying a mechanic to strip and rebuild a motor would easily turn into thousands of dollars, and doing that for a cheap bike seems a bit like polishing a turd, or putting My Family stickers on the back of a Nissan X-Trail; i.e. a pretty poor use of our limited resources.

The final option was to strip and fix the motor then and there. While I’ve never rebuilt a motorcycle motor, I have stripped and rebuilt a few car motors with my old man. So with access to Danie’s well set out shed, the service manual, and my fairly passable knowledge of how motors work, I figured it was the best course of action and set to it.

It was about this time I figured I better ask Danie what he actually did for a living. I knew he ran his own business, which is common in South Africa, and he did it from home. But that was the limit of my knowledge and seemed plenty sufficient considering we always had much more interesting topics of discussion; such as types of motorbikes, riding motorbikes, and places to ride motorbikes. So when he mentioned that he was a motor mechanic I was mightily surprised, and thankful (again) to the gearbox tooth fairy that of all the places for something so significant to break, to do it in the driveway of a motor mechanic in wine country was pretty fortunate!

I had the motor out and sitting on the bench in pretty good time. With Danie taking the lead, we took the side covers off, and when we couldn’t see any damage, stripped the head and then split the cases. I came to realise pretty quick that while the basic principle of car and bike motors is the same; the layout is significantly different and I was thankful to have Danie show the way.


When taking the motor out by yourself, its easier to tip the bike over first


The flywheel and all the starter gears were fine. On the clutch side however, the primary drive gear was loose on the thread. Researching this online, apparently they can come from the factory this way. Scary thought.


Bit of blow-by past the first ring


This looks important; we better remember where this one goes.


Eyeballing the gearbox cluster, we soon found driven 5th gear was the source of the problem with one tooth snapped off, a couple more teeth looking very sad, and lots of wear also on drive 5th. Both drive and driven 3rd weren’t looking too flash either and with the DR’s reputation for disintegrating 3rd gears leading to catastrophic motor failure, that was added to the required spare parts list.


Broken tooth on driven 5th, the one on the left


Inspecting driven 3rd


Close up of the broken tooth


And a close up of driven 3rd. The hardening is coming off.   A number of teeth on both sides of 3rd and 5th had damage like this


While this was all happening, Tan was looking into the visa issue as ours now only had 4 days left. What we had been told was that if we could get out of the country for a day or two, or according to some even just a couple minutes, we could re-enter with a new tourist visa and we would get anywhere between 30 and 90 days depending on the mood of the immigration officer. We booked a hire car for pick up the next day with a plan to drive to Namibia, and cooked some dinner and dessert to pay the rent.

Back in the shed some phone calls were made and we found that new 5th gears where available in 3 to 4 days, however 3rd gear would be ex-Japan and take about 4 weeks! Another option was to get a custom made billet 3rd gear pair from a gearbox engineering shop in England for the princely sum of about A$500. In comparison the Suzuki gears were about A$150.


Even the dog was worried


Danie thought there could be a 3rd way, as he knew a mate that had a DR650 motor that had been abused to death by a rental client. This motor was brought to the party and stripped, and wouldn’t you know it, 5th and 3rd gear were also worn. Certainly not to the extent mine were, but they were showing all the same signs of deterioration. This wasn’t a long-term solution, so I bit the bullet and bought the Suzuki 5th gears from the dealer and the custom 3rd gears from Nova Racing in England.


An extra job while we waited for gears, I repacked the exhaust cans with stainless steel scouring pads. The idea is they provide nearly as much noise attenuation as proper fiberglass exhaust packing but is much cheaper and lasts much longer


The following day our rough plan was to pick up the car, have Tanya go to her dentist appointment and have a crown made, then pack and hit the road for Namibia and our new visa. Ursina, one of Danie and Sara’s friends from the braai a few days previous, invited us to a wildlife sanctuary she volunteered at. We made time to come say hello to the baby cheetahs and other critters and were on our way when the hire car overheated.

We limped into town, wasted a few more hours getting a new hire car, and arriving at the wildlife sanctuary in the afternoon we received yet more bad news. When chatting to another employee about our predicament, we were informed that now our 90 day tourist visa was complete we may well be denied access if we tried to re-enter the country! She had some family members trying to return and they were facing this problem. We drove straight to a winery to calm down a little and consider our options.

A bat-eared fox at the wildlife sanctuary. These critters have such large ears they can hear bugs crawling around in the ground and then dig them up and eat them. Unfortunately their hearing is so good traffic scares and disorientates them and they are commonly run over. We saw some roadkill bat-eared foxes later in the trip.


A baby cheetah. The main purpose of the sanctuary is to breed and raise cheetahs


Snoozing after a long day of entertaining tourists


Ursina, Tan and I with one of the adult cheetahs


Hello, we would like to drink all the wine please. Yes you heard correct, all of it


With a few bottles of wine came some clarity, and the following morning we got up and set to rebuilding the motor with the second hand gearbox. We had done some research and with no useful information whatsoever on the Department of Home Affairs site, and all other info on the internet so contradictory, we decided we would have to ride the bikes to Namibia. If we could re-enter SA in a couple days we would, and if we couldn’t we would have the gearbox parts and Tanya’s crown couriered to us in Windhoek and we would do the work there. Working all day, the motor was back in the bike before dinner and the bike was started around 9pm. We celebrated with a Sticky Date Pudding and some liqueur for Tanya’s birthday, and tried to get some rest ready for our early start the next day.


Cleaning the stator cover readying for reassembly


Danie made a unsaid statement by wearing a spotlessly clean Yamaha shirt


Torqueing the head down


The donor motor. Its was from a rental bike where the client had overheated the bike riding in sand like a douche noob, then seized the motor redlining the bike down the highway. The piston melted into the bore


Putting the motor back in. I couldn’t get near it for Danie and his friends. Bike started first go

Blog 11 by Tan:  Big Fun in the Little Karoo


We were excited to be staying with relatives of our friends from Howick, Fiona and Charlie. Sheila and Rodger were rather trusting to be taking in a couple of smelly, road weary bikers but we later discovered as life long yaughties they could relate to living like nomads. We had a great night sharing stories and it was a real shame to be moving on so quickly, however our visas are fast running out and we had a lot more of the country to cover.


The lovely Knysna Heads


Sheila and Rodger took us for a tour of Leisure Island and the Knysna Heads which afforded gorgeous views and a whole ‘nother part of South Africa. On the lookout tour of the Heads we came across a seat dedicated to a guy that Rodger knew that had passed away. He was a passionate biker and yaughtsman. Prior to his death he had resolved to be cremated and arranged to have his beloved Harley Davidson taken out on to his yacht and his ashes put into the air intake and blasted out to sea through the motor. Unfortunately the ashes proved not a good thing for the bike which had a lot of carby trouble after that. Sounded like a cool guy. So much so we could have forgiven his lapse in judgment of owning a Harley.


Cheers to you Jürgen!


They took us to the most expensive street on the Knysna heads which fit very much with the saying that ‘money can’t buy taste.’ Some of the multi-million dollar monstrosities looked like an unholy marriage between Vagas casino and Alcatraz. At the top of the cliffs there were 2 blocks for sale for R1.6M (about AUD160, 000) for a ¼ acre block at the top of the cliff overlooking the ocean and The Heads. They were right on the cliff top so can never be built in, and also relatively flat so not difficult to build on. And it would not be too hard to build the best looking house in the street. Very cheap for a fantastic block. We considered buying it then relocating the Bikie Pikie caravan from Baviaanskloof and living the highlife. But in the end we opted to keep riding.


Mick and I looking like civilians and contemplating a sedentary life on Rich People Street ‘The Heads’


Crack dens in Australia cost more than this ¼ acre block with stellar views was going for


Sheila and Rodger Clancy – our hosts in Kynsa. With their awesome names, love of the water and laidback attitudes you could  easily mistake them for Aussies


After saying goodbye to our wonderful hosts we rode along the coastline to George before heading inland and doing the dirt road up Montagu Pass, which afforded yet more awesome views. The pass was built to safely and quickly access the diamond fields at Kimberly. The earlier ox cart passes up the Outeniqua Mountains were very slow and dangerous, taking a couple of days and littered with dead animals and the occasional ox cart. Montegu Pass was named after the governor of the time who commissioned the pass. Being the former governor of Tasmania, he utilised the Australian colony technique of getting convicts to do the work for free. We stopped at the top of the pass for tea, sandwiches and fantastic scones at a lovely Cape Dutch style house as has become a common occurrence for us – to my supreme approval I might add. The guy who ran the place joked about giving us a discount for not riding a BMW like the vast majority of bikers in the country. We suggested that he might want to instead consider a tax for any Beamer rider and allow himself to retire earlier.


Views of the coast


The stunning Montegu Pass


We don’t have a clever caption for this photo


Cape Dutch style tea house for Devonshire tea


We carried along the winding backroads past a bunch of ostrich farms out to a relaxed and low key campsite called Amber Lagoon located about 25 km west of Oudshoorn. The place is owned and run by a cool German lady who was highly gifted in the art of pancake making as we were soon to discover.


Geometric tortoise – one of the 100 most endangered species on the planet. I think I know why. They seem to spend a dangerous amount of time on roads


Backroads to Oudshoorn – lined on either side by ostrich farms


We spent the next few days chilling out, planning routes and trying to catch up on blog writing and other chores. We had an incredible ostrich egg omelets in cheese pancakes for breakfast. We have done some significant revision to the originally proposed trip, including aborting the West coast to Europe in favour of travelling up the East coast. We had been happy to avoid Sudan and the infamous border crossing into Egypt, which is said to be the most horrendous and corrupt border for crossing with a vehicle in the world. It looks now like it may be on the agenda after all. Although we are still considering freighting the bikes from Ethiopia to Spain where we can still zip down to Morocco. We’ll see what happens.


Route planning, ditching ebola and boko haram on the west coast for the ‘relative’ calm of the east coast


In other exciting news I thought I’d go for a short 3km run to see just how bloody unfit I have gotten on a diet of steak, toasted sandwiches and copious amounts of milk tart. I ran past a number of ostrich farms and was amused to have a couple of ostrich running along with me before leaving me in the dust. I was rather pleased and shocked to discover the run to be easy meaning the bike riding is not just getting us stronger but has some cardio fitness element to it as well….even if there appears to be extra cake on the both of us. That night we braaied our first ever ostrich fillet and ate it with vegies and millie pap. It tastes a lot like kangaroo but with a much coarser grain.


Ostrich steak – very lean and very tasty


After a hearty biker breakfast of chocolate and cinnamon crepes with Amarula for breakfast we left for a day trip to Swartberg Pass (Black Mountain) and Die Hel. Of all the passes in South Africa these two came the most highly recommended and as we soon discovered, for very good reason. We had one of our best days of riding of the trip. The scenery was on another level! We rode through the eastern end of the Groenfontein Valley towards Swartberg Pass, where there was a mountain bike race in progress. It was hard enough motorbiking up the pass in the scorching heat of the day so we felt for the poor, tired and fit buggers doing it by bicycle. We felt sorry for them and then we were like ‘brrrrrrppppp eat our dust suckers’.

From Swartberg Pass you can travel down a 48km winding dirt road that takes you to a valley that was once a hidden village of sorts set up by Boer farmers who wanted a bit of privacy one would presume. Nowadays it is a bit of a tourist draw helped along by the fact it is called Die Hel which means ‘The Hell’. With a name like this and given what we had heard we expected some really hectic road conditions but instead it was well graded and just simple riding fun. It was an extremely hot day so when we arrived we looked for shade and a cold coke before jumping back one the bikes and doing the same trip in reverse. It wasn’t as hard as we expected it to be but it was still a fantastic ride. We went to Hell and back with a smile on our face the whole way.


Use this road at your own risk – Challenge accepted!


On the way to Die Hel


Mick and hairpins extending into the distance


Me accelerating into the water crossing for maximum photographic effect


A scorching hot day I really wouldn’t have minding if I had binned it here


About to descend into Die Hel valley


The valley and its hairpins


We continued our way down Swartberg Pass and were totally blown away by the views. It would appear that all the hype was warranted. It was so impressive that when we got to the bottom be rode straight back up again. It was hands down the best pass of all the passes we were fortunate enough to ride while in South Africa.


On the way down Swartberg Pass


Tilted 90 degrees, this is known as the ‘Wall of Fire’


Mick’s bikes and the Wall of Fire


Tanya – gobsmacked and remembering why she became a geologist


The pass dissects some spectacular geology and is said to be one of the world’s best example folding in any range, anywhere. 700m high quartzite cliffs – anticlines, synclines – isoclinal, recumbent and overturned folds – you name it, its got it.


View from the top of Swartberg Pass looking south


That afternoon we did an ostrich farm tour with one of the local farmers which was really interesting. We learnt that historically ostriches were farmed for their feathers, where at one stage the value of white ostrich feathers was the same as gold on a weight basis. They say that at the turn of the twentieth century a single quality ostrich feather could get you a first class passage from Cape Town to London. However, once ostrich farming was found to be lucrative, the level of farming increased domestically and then ostriches were allowed to be exported overseas, breeding programmes in Europe and California flooded the feather market and the feather price dropped significantly. Interestingly the rise in motor vehicle travel, which at the time was mainly in open top cars, was one of the nails in the coffin of the ostrich feather boom. It seems the ladies couldn’t perambulate in new fandangled motor vehicles and sport their ostrich feather embellished fashions at the same time. Either the feathers went of the cars did. Then when World War One broke out the world had more pressing matters to attend to and the ostrich feather market completely collapsed.


The average ostrich egg weighs about 1.5kg and is the equivalent of 24 chicken eggs


The males are black and the females brown. During the mating season the males woo the ladies with their highly stylized dance moves 


These ostriches had been recently plucked of their nice white feathers


Today’s ostrich farmers have looked for other markets for the animals besides the feathers, which unsurprisingly are sold principally to Brazil. Leather was found to be a good potential market as ostrich leather is quite lightweight but strong. Lots of the leather that our farmer guide exported made its way from Oudshoorn to the fashion capitals of Milan and Paris. Also, meat became a good market domestically and then internationally as ostrich meat is very lean. When the bird flu crisis hit all ostrich meat exports to Europe were banned and many ostrich farmers struggled with 50% of farmers leaving the business. And due to huge culls there was a shortage of ostriches so the poaching of feathers took off. Europe then re-allowed ostrich meat imports but only with strict new controls, which the farmer spoke about. Lots of the work of ostrich farmers is tracking movements of animals and also testing so if one were to test positive to bird flu it is easy to cull all animals that have been in contact. Most money (about 60%) is made from leather, but a significant amount comes from feathers and meat also. The carcasses are then sold for fertilizer. Only 25kg of meat is butchered off of a 100kg ostrich. Another interesting fact is that the male ostriches have all their male bits on the inside. I learnt this upon observing the disturbing sight of one of the males defecating. When this happens EVERYTHING sees the light of day before the waste is removed and EVERYTHING makes its way back to where it came from. It was an alarming sight like something from a horror film. Bet you’re glad I bought that up.


You can see the malicious intent in the eyes of this ostrich


Be gone vile, featherless being!


One of the ladies looking coy for the camera


Mick with a recent hatchling – the fatality rate with these guys is 10-50%


That night we went to an excellent braai restaurant called Karooboom where we gorged ourselves with steak and ribs and spent the evening chatting with the proprietor about the region and his experiences growing up during Apartheid and then post 1994. He spoke how the ANC (African National Congress the current (and if they get their way probably indefinite) ruling party) had recently (in May) been voted out of Oudtshoorn in favour of the DA (Democratic Alliance, thought of as a progressive/liberal party for whites). However the ANC is refusing to leave the offices so the DA can move in. The central government won’t intervene to get the ANC to move out. When we first got to South Africa and people rather grimly suggested that South Africa would one day be like Zimbabwe we thought surely, surely that is an overreaction. But then you hear unbelievable stories like that and shudder.


More tortoises – Found these two guys fighting each other in slow motion with a bigger guy nearby

Views of the Groenfontein Valley


Before we knew it, it was time to move on to our next homestay at Swellendam. We rode out through the western end of the Groenfontein Valley to Calitzdorp then through to Rooiberg Pass which was great riding and views. I came within an inch or so of hitting a crazy bushbuck that chose the worst possible time to cross the track. It took a good 10 minutes to calm down after that.


I rescued this little guy from the middle of the road


Then Mick rescued him from my excellent plan of taking him around the world


Views from Rooiberg Pass – different scenery and not as steep as other passes but really scenic nonetheless


We were running a bit late so went for the tar to get to Barrydale a little faster and stopped at Ronnies Sex Shop for a beer. The place is a bit of a biker haunt and a must stop sort of place. The ride through Tradous Pass on the way to Swellendam was another stunner of a pass. Our host for the next two nights was Lauren who is the sister of our mate Charlie from Howick. She cooked some great food and plied us with great wine and kept us entertained.


Ronnie’s Sex Shop – it’s a bit of an institution. Story goes that friends of Ronnie’s thought it would be funny to pain the word sex in his sign. And that is all it takes to make the punters come – including us – sex, hehehe


Tradous Pass on the way to Swellendam – great views, nice windies and asphalt smooth as a baby’s bottom


The next day’s miserable raining weather fortuitously coincided with a day of bike maintenance. Mick checked the valve clearances on my bike which were tight and fixed the neutral light which had been routed poorly and was rubbing on the chain. He also repaired his license plate light which had stopped working when his bike got hit on the Wild Coast. We said a fond farewell to Lauren and were sad to have to leave so soon but the next day’s ride was to be quite the milestone for us. We were to visit Cape Agulhas which is the first of the ‘4 ends’ of the trip. When we came up with the trip we liked the idea of riding from the southern most tip of Africa to the northern most tip in Europe. We aim to do the same thing with the American land mass too.


This is the kind of hospitality that these South Africans have been showing us. Still can’t believe that people invite us smelly, stranger, biker Aussies into their house and go to so much effort for us


Lauren – sister of Charlie, provider of warm bed and conversations, cooker of lasagna and supplier of wine


The next morning however, my bike was not playing ball. When my fairing was put back on the power supply relay decided not to work. Mick did some diagnoses and with 12V in all the right places, decided the relay had failed. We stopped at a local auto store and bought a new relay and sure enough, that didn’t fix it. Mick by this point was thoroughly shitted off with all these minor motorbike issues.

We came up with an interesting route to the end of the African landmass. We rode down to Malgas on the eastern side of the Brede River and crossed on the last hand drawn pont in South Africa. The wind on the way to Agulhas was hellish, and the last 25kms from Bredasdorp was really bad south easterly that made our necks sore and the bikes work really hard. Wind is the enemy.


Tanya pulling the hand drawn pont


Mick chilling out after a horrendously windy ride in


We made it to Cape Agulhas and got the obligatory photographs. We then celebrated the milestone at the local famous fish and chippie where we met a lovely Polish now South African woman who took a keen interest in the trip and just generally made our day. We then rode to Somerset West on some back roads through some timber plantations and pass a small nature reserve. We got to the coast and we were going to do the famous coast road to Somerset West but it was so windy we headed inland onto the N1, which was a pretty poor decision as the traffic was busy and most drivers seemed to be on the crazy side of the sanity ledger.


Happy to be where I am


Sometimes we can’t believe we are doing this trip. This was one of those times


We snuck the bikes past the pedestrians only sign for a sneaky photo op. We are the outlaw bikers they speak of


The first of the ‘ends’ – next one is Nordkapp the top of Scandinavia


Tan packing in some awesome fish and chips – now cannot eat chips without vinegar


Tan and the bottom of Africa


We were put up for the night at Stu and Ros’ (friends of friends from Howick, Beth and Pete) place where we met their gorgeous kids who relegated us with tales of their pet hamsters. I particularly loved the story of their “friend who had a hamster but she fell on top of it one day, but it was ok as it only had one of its eyes pop out of its head so they took it to the vet who sewed its eye shut and now it’s a pirate hamster”. Classic.