Blog 2 by Tan
After a wonderful nights stay in the palatial honeymoon suite (complete with double open air showers and the most scenic of views afforded from a toilet seat I have ever come across), we reluctantly moved on to experience some more fantastic dirt road riding through mountainous Zulu country. I managed to survive some tricky descents without the aid of a rear break which Mick went on to fix the next day after I suggested leaving me with no rear break was his attempt to turn this trip into a free wheeling bachelor adventure. The riding was world class and the views got better and better around each bend. Unfortunately the better the view and the better the riding, the less chance of taking the time to take photos so you’ll just have to trust us that the views were a notch above epic.
Just as we got on to the tar road approaching the famous Zulu battlefields we had our first mechanical misadventure of the trip. My bike started to hesitate, which I later learnt to be the correct terminology for the problem when the bike starves for fuel. My first attempts to describe the fault to Mick where met with befuddlement; apparently my description of the bike “going like ‘rrrehhhh then like ruuurrghhh’ and it pulls back” didn’t quite cut it. We suspected a fuel issue (or at least Mick did, I suspected gremlins or voodoo), so off came the luggage, sides, and tank. Upon seeing a quite loose spark plug, Mick thought that might be leading the motor to lose compression and be the cause of the problem. So that was tightened and everything went back on and the bike started again.
The time lost on the side of the road had us hightailing it back to Stuart’s house in Peitermeritzberg, but not without my bike protesting within about 20 minutes with the same symptoms. It came to a stop in Tugela Ferry, unfortunately not the best place for an impromptu visit. Once again everything came off and the carb, fuel lines and fuel filter were drained and the source of our woes revealed itself. Water in the fuel was to blame and we were on our way again.
We spent the next two nights with our trusty guide Stuart where he and his family treated us with wonderful hospitality. For Stuart’s last day of motorbiking freedom before heading back to work we decided on a unencumbered blast up Sani Pass. With all our luggage sitting in Stu’s garage we were able to enjoy the riding to its fullest. The road up to the highest pub in Africa is rough and fun but not crazy and winds steadily up through the southern Drakensberg Mountains, aptly named for the resemblance to the spine of a dragon. The views were astounding and only improved the higher you went.
Thankfully there was no ice or snow on the road which can be common in winter (thanks, global warming!), but we still had to negotiate some very loose, tight and steep (never a good combination) switchbacks towards the very top of the pass. Mick ate them up for lunch. I did not enjoy them quite as much, especially on the way down where I demonstrated my displeasure by momentarily overheating my newly functioning rear brake. I should mention that Mick valiantly rode my bike the rest of the way down so I had the security of both functioning brakes – my hero!
After a fond farewell to Stuart we headed back to Zingela Safari Lodge to pick up some gear that we had inadvertently left there. Naturally we were happy to return to stay with Linda and Mark whose kindness was only exceeded by their incredible story telling ability. It was that evening that I succumbed to the most wicked of flus, which saw us staying at the park for another 6 days. We were spoilt rotten during this time and I spent most of my days sleeping, coughing and taking baths in a divine claw foot bathtub overlooking the river. No, it was not all bad.
Once I was feeling up to the challenging riding required to leave the game park we were on our way, though it must be said it was hard to tear ourselves away from our little oasis and second home. Sadly, after a 100% giraffe spotting success rate anytime we got on a bike at Zingela, we were snubbed by the giraffes on our way out of the park. Oh well, 3 out of 4 ain’t bad.
After a quick snoop about the Anglo-Zulu battlefields of Isandlwana and Rourkes Drift (that was for you Dad), plus lunch and a look at the museum at Dundee where we were surrounded 3 or 4 deep by local school kids gawking at us and the bikes, we made our way to Howick to stay with Charlie and his lovely family. A fellow traveller and motorbiker, Charlie contacted us through HU with the offer of a bed and access to a well-stocked shed, which we were in dire need of as Mick’s bike had recently stopped charging. Some quick investigation revealed that the stator had come loose after its modification in Aus. There was damage to the stator by the flywheel, but was fixed with some dexterous soldering and extra epoxy. Hopefully it holds up.
The highlight of our time here by far was been introducing a friendly group of South Africans to the joy and wonders of a mean Sticky Date Pudding whilst they recalled their favourite quotes from the classic Australian movie, “The Castle”. We certainly approve of these South Africans! Next up on our travels, we are going to Bonny Doon! No no, unfortunately not, but we will head back for a much better look through the Drakensburg and into Lesotho where I am sure we’ll enjoy the serenity… “Ahhh the serenity”.
Blog 1 by Mick
We were trying to think what would constitute a fantastic first day of riding here in South Africa – the first day of our round the world trip. Meet some welcoming local people and strike up some genuine friendships? Yep, that is always first on the list. Eat some unique local food? If we can, that would be great. Find some local roads and see some new and interesting landscapes? Now we are talking! Well then, how about ride some reasonably rough and technical trails on a private game reserve, spot some giraffe, kudu, impala and bush buck, have a fantastic dinner around a fire with some wonderful hosts, then fall asleep in a African safari style open room looking out over a river after a handful of beers?
Yes, that was our first day of riding in South Africa!
Before we left Australia, we sent a callout on HU to local Durban riders in the hope we could find someone to show us around a little while we settled in to riding in a foreign country. We received a handful of very friendly responses of accommodation and any other help we required, and one from a fellow who was hunting geodes. Tanya, being a hopeless geologist, was love struck.
We met Stuart while waiting for our bikes to arrive in Durban. We thought we had been ever so cleverly organized for our bikes to arrive the day after we did, but alas, they did not. The bikes arrived a few days late after being stuck in Jo’burg for no apparent reason, which in retrospect was probably for the best as it gave us a couple of days of convalescence after our utterly hectic, borderline chaotic departure from Australia. We had about one and a half hours sleep the night before departure; we conscripted the help of family in packing, threw most things we needed and lots of things we didn’t into our bags and hoped for the best.
Stuart showed us around Durban while waiting for our bikes to arrive. We walked along the beachfront, and contrary to all the over zealous foreign affairs warnings, managed to not get shot, stabbed, mugged or even accosted. He then took us to eat at a genuine local haunt where we tried the Durban specialty, the Bunny Chow. An Indian curry served in a loaf of bread, it was a great introduction to Durban’s multicultural history. Especially so, when chased down by a local lager.
The following day we picked up the bikes from the local trucking depot and after not quite two hours of crate unpacking, bike reassembly and luggage packing, we hit the road. With Stuart in the lead we rode up through sugar cane fields and into Zulu country. We grabbed some lunch at a teahouse were we enjoyed a Vetkoek, literally “fat cake” in Afrikaans. And the name lived up to the reality, the Vetkoek was deep fried bread covered in curried mince. Good fuel for hard working farmers, maybe a little excessive for sitting on a motorcycle.
We continued deeper into Zulu Country and the landscape got drier and poorer. The greens of the sugar cane fields turned into the brown of dust covered cattle country, accentuated with the yellows and oranges of various aloes in flower in the winter time. The predominate architecture was small, round stone and brick huts with thatched roofs and small outhouses 30m or so from the single roomed living areas.
We rode through some small villages and onto a narrow, rocky trail leading up through some Zulu farms and onto the Zingela private game reserve. We continued up the trail, which proceeded to get steeper, rougher and more technical – our overloaded bikes not 4 hours ago in pieces in a crate were eating up the opportunity to hit some rocks and ruts. And that’s when I heard it; high-pitched squeals. Completely nonsensical squeals of delight interspersed with the odd failed attempt to form a coherent word.
“Use English words Tanya” I called on our intercom. “Je Je Je JARAFFF!!! Omagod omagod omagod jaraf jaraf there is a GIRAFFE!!!” she pointed.
Tan was shaking with delight as she went for the camera. A giraffe was only 30m away in the scrub, looking at us suspiciously trying to decide if we were trouble enough to run away from. It stood for a while and must have decided Tanya was far too emotionally unstable so it beat a retreat into the bush, but not before we had photographed it from every angle we could manage.
Our first day from there was really a dream; we continued along the fun and challenging rocky trail, spotting Kudu and other antelope, before arriving at the banks of the Tugela River where the Zingela Safari camp is located. We then settled in around the campfire for a number of beers and a great meal with lovely company, before retiring to fantastic open rooms built into the mountainside looking out over the river.