Salsa in Cape Town – summer 2016

Cape Town - Best picks

‘sfar as I know there are 3 worthwhile regular places to be dancing

At Sun-kissed Summer Salsa Series 5 on the promenade in Seapoint on Sundays from 3pm, its free

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“The Bank” on Thursday nights, its also free

14183860_10154264100365783_5368113027544287535_nBuena Vista long streets on Sunday nights, 30ZAR with a complimentary shooter

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Any additional info, you’ll have to google for websites and contact numbers, don’t be lazy.  The music at all three weekly events is mainly salsa, with bachata coming in a distant second, and kizomba coming in a little further down the priority line.  The dancers for Salsa and Bachata are ‘full up’, with kizomba not much, if any to dance with really. The dancers are basically the same ol’ same ‘ol.  Important info for the ladies:  There are a few gentlemen few and far between who will actually ask for a dance but don’t expect miracles, “9 to 10” you’ll have to…

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Ready for a New Adventure: I Ask Myself “Why?”

Inner Workings of My Mind

Every single time I set off on an adventure, I can’t help but ask myself for the millionth time, “Why?” What seemed so logical and simple when the idea initially originated now seems so odd and out-of-the-ordinary.

“Why do I keep doing this sort of thing to myself?” I ask. “What do I get out of it? Why am I doing it?”

It is always at this stage, a few days before the actual trip, that fear, trepidation, and anxiety find their way to settle into my heart and mind. These are not new emotions for me. I feel these when I embark on any sort of change. ANY sort of change. I manage to get myself, like most others, into a daily routine that I am comfortable with. Anything that changes that routine, engaging in a new activity, writing a new article, meeting up with people for coffee, going…

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Freebie alert!!! Free Cape Town Walking tours!

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Dear People, I cannot believe my eyes!  I’ve just seen a brochure that my airbnb guests left behind, for free walking tours, by a company called Nielsen Tours ! Whoever offers this is brilliant!  They offer walking tours daily rain or shine every day!  For Free.  Of course we are going to tip them nicely.  There are still generous geniusses in this world.  Check them out here and their Instagram page.  I’m going tomorrow to do all the tours which run consecutively from 8.50 am to around 6pm.  The three daily tours are The historic tour, the Bo-Kaap tour, and the District Six tour.  I’m so excited I can’t even contain myself.  This is so brilliant.  All schools all South Africans, all people should do this.  This is the kind of new world order I’ve always dreamed about 🙂

Their details:

mobile +27 76 636 9007

email capetownfreetour@nielsontours.co.za

website…

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Weekend motorbike tour to the tip of Africa

Starting out early on a Saturday morning, we head out on the farm and mountain roads to the famous whale watching town of Hermanus, where stop for brunch.

Hermanus is well known for whale watching. Every Spring (September/October) scores of whales make their way to the waters of this quaint seaside town to mate. If the season is right, we have a good chance of seeing whales. From here, we head on through some more beautiful small towns along the gravel roads to Cape Agulhas. We spend the night here.

Cape Agulhas is the Southernmost point of Africa, where the Indian meets the Atlantic ocean. Sunday morning, we head out to the Cape Agulhas lighthouse, walk/ride out to the Southernmost point before the crowds arrive. There is a shipwreck very near the shore which makes for very interesting photographs!

Afterwards, we head out Northwards and Inland through beautiful gravel farm roads and mountain passes to the sleepy town of Greyton. Just before reaching the town, we stop to cool off in a river with a picturesque fairytale setting. After lunch in Greyton, we head back out via Genadendal, along the Picturesque Riviersonderend River and back to Cape Town!

The deal for the tour is $400 which includes motorcycle and whatever motorcycle gear riding gear is have available. You are also responsible for filling up your own petrol, and splitting the my costs (food, petrol, accomodation) with other members of the tour. My needs are basic. Food from the supermarket, and camping! A refundable deposit of $750 is required cover possible damages to the bike.

Go to GearDivvy to find out more

Dear Capetonian … FREEBIE ALERT!!!

Cape Town - Best picks

I am so excited, I can hardly contain myself.  Yet another Freebie!  Apart from free Heritage week Sanparks special, Iziko is also waiving all entry fees to all museums on Heritage week!!!! Thats 23 – 29 September.  They are hosting a special program on heritage day (24 September) which includes art, dance, and other performance.  Visitors can explore all the Iziko museums, participate in tours, public discussions, yoga classes, workshops, film screenings, musical performances, planetarium shows, interactive activities, natural history displays and more. South Africa’s collective national identity comprises of a multi-faceted cultural heritage. Under  the Department of Art and Culture theme, “Reclaiming, restoring and celebrating our living heritage”, Iziko will offer *free entry to all museums during heritage week, from 23-29 September 2013 (*Planetarium, free only on Heritage Day and Castle of Good Hope free only on Heritage Day  and World Tourism Day,  24 and 27  September).  Check…

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Sanparks heritage week … FREEBIE ALERT!!

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News just in:  Its been confirmed that Sanparks heritage week will officially be from 14 to 18 September.  The initiative started in 2006 and is aimed at linking the South African national parks system to the global national movement and to also showcase the best of South Africa’s national parks.The week grants free access to most of the 21 national parks for day visitors, especially people from the local communities. It should be noted that free access to parks does not in include free access to accommodation facilities and other tourist activities. Some of the parks will be extending the week to include the weekend.  Check out exact details on this page.  Note that the free entry is for South Africans.  Don’t forget to take your ID along.

July Winning Image European roller eating a scorpion in the Kruger National Park, by Colin Munro

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Nape Pasha allegedly involved in fatal hit and run – A South African Story

I never knew about Nape Phasha.  Until today that is.  I found out about him when I came across this post in my news feed on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10207146449718004&set=a.3549068403792.2162147.1185041970&type=1&theater

The comments on that post start out quite racist.  Firstly, for no reason, the witness (presumably a white South African) points out that its a black guy who drove the car that  hit the biker.  No real reason to point out the colour, but well, he does.  Then immediately, all the suspicions in the comments after that that it must be a stolen vehicle, or that they hope its not a stolen vehicle which would make identifying the perpertrator nearly impossible.  Well of course, because such a fancy car cannot be owned by the black person who drove it.

Later of course the tale takes a twist.  Some commenters have access to tracing the registration to the owners of the car and turns out to belong to the Phasha family.  Somewhat famous because their son Nate Phasha appeared on this Rich Kids reality thing, which I of course have never heard of before as I don’t have Satellite tv, and wouldn’t be watching that kind of thing anyway even if I had.  So all of a sudden the commenting takes a twist for the bitter.  The little bastard, and the cop files will get lost now because money wins etc.  Which may not be altogether unfounded.  Please South Africa, train your cops more, pay your cops  more, give your cops more counselling, and police your cops more so that less of that kind of shit happens.

Well, as is normal, curiosity overtakes me and I want to know more about this family, and how they got to be so rich.  So I find his mum’s twitter and her facebook, and his dad’s facebook and of course Nape’s facebook.  Man, the mum and son are damn fine.  He of course is just a normal young man, albeit typically ‘rich kid’.  Someone you might actually like to hang out with, especially if you’re into looking fine and taking selfies of yourself looking fine.  The mum looks like she could be her son’s girlfriend.  In a very good way.  And definitely no plastic surgery.  She is just naturally so.  Kiss  my ass hollywood.  She doesn’t seem very deep and bright on her twitter and facebook accounts though.

Then of course I came across their company website, and I realize, the answer to the question ‘how can this be?’ probably is that they have some connections for government tenders.  I would take tenders too if I had the chance.  That’s human nature.  I know I am not above that.  From my layperson’s investigative viewpoint, I think they started out years ago (1987) with a normal minibus taxi transport business, and then later, when democracy came, they had the right connections to be set up with a more high profile transport tender, and then later on they added on a construction company, a cleaning company, school modernization company, safety equipment company, security company, waste management company.  I think these were also tender connections.  I don’t know if I would be confident enough to take on all of that, but I don’t say I wouldn’t be tempted if offered.

Its a story that’s South African in the very present sense.  And shows alot of cracks in our society.  Cracks that are widening to separate us even more economically, and along ridiculously archaic skin colour definitions.

Its never  nice for any family of any economic level to go through such a thing.  And its never nice to die in a motorbike crash, especially when the person who hit you was blatantly disobeying the law.  Almost all of us disobey the law.  Its a case of extremely unlucky when, while doing so, you knock someone/something, especially if you hurt/kill or get hurt/killed.  Lets hope the system works for justice for all.  Lets leave race out of this.

Disclaimer:  This is is all my viewpoint, and assumptions based on my own Google and social media investigation.  I don’t claim anything to be factual.  Just my interpretation.  If I am wrong, or offensive, I apologize in advance.  I am only human unfortunately.

Free Jazz music at the V&A amphitheatre

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Winter Jazz Evenings at the V&A Waterfront

The V&A Waterfront is not a place I go to often.  Which is why I was surprised to find they have a Tenticle tents type cover over the amphitheater.  Which is bloody brilliant because even though its Winter, and raining sometimes, the show must go on!  And whats more, there’s weekly jazz music performed on Friday evenings from 18:30 to 20:30.  I’d say, thats bloody brilliant, especially if you (like me), have discovered the free parking 🙂

The line-up:
19 June: Gavin Minter Septet
26 June: Rukma Vimana and Tony Cedras & Errol Dyers
3 July: Allou April
10 July: Judith Sephuma
17 July: Top Dog
24 July: Kesivan and the Lights
31 July: Zoe Modiga and Lana Crowster
7 August: Bokani Dyer Quintet
14 August: Toya Delazey, Albert Frost and Lee Thompson

I’m so sorry that I didn’t know about this earlier 😦  However, they have saved the best…

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Liss for something local?

Cape Town - Best picks

Yep, Cape Town is one beautiful place.  Beaches, mountains, wine farms, fancy coffee shops, yuppie culture etc.  But after all these years, trying to relax and just really enjoy life in a wholesome way, I’m getting tired of spending time and money just to look at that pretty face.  I’m at that point where I couldn’t be bothered about spending money on the pretty face of Cape Town. I’m pretty much tired of Cape Town in make-up … in principle.  Mostly I’m tired of it because honestly, really, besides the beach and mountains where you can truly enjoy hanging out soaking up nature without spending a single buck, the rest is all about spending money in restaurants and coffee shops eating and drinking which I can pretty much do at home.  Nothing that you can really “do”. If you feel like a bit of socializing out of your usual social circle, I promise you, it ain’t…

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University freebies for the intellectual at Heart

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Check out these pages for information on events such as public seminars and talks on various issues:

University of Cape Town (UCT)

University of the Western Cape (UWC)

UWC will be hosting the Desmond Tutu Annual peace talk and a short documentary film festival in a few days.  Check the events website in the link above.

UCT are always hosting an array of interesting talks and seminars.  You may have to RSVP to ensure a spot.  Usually refreshments are served after the UCT talks.

Enjoy!

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Heritage week

Cape Town - Best picks

Gorge above Glen Reenen - In Golden Gate National Park in the Free State. Gorge above Glen Reenen – In Golden Gate National Park in the Free State.

Its almost that time of the year again… when we get a whole week of freebies!  There’s still enough time between then and now to plan an epic roadtrip to some South African National Parks! Its been the second week of September for the last few years, so keep a lookout for announcements on the Sanpark’s website.  Its usually starts on 8 September, but no date has been confirmed yet.  During heritage week, South Africans are allowed free entry into most national parks in South Africa, so don’t miss out!

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Cape Town Kizomba hotspot

Cape Town - Best picks

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I may have posted a while ago about Praia Morena, the authentic Angola restaurant in Cape Town, and the place to be for Kizomba in Cape Town.  At the time they weren’t doing lessons there yet.  It is the best place to be to hear the latest authentic Kizomba music and dance Kizomba with authentic Angolan men/women.  None (let me say hardly any – to be safe) of that anglicized Kizomba music.  Only authentic Kizomba enjoyed by the Africans who have the dance in theirbody, mind and soul.  Why I love this place is because its so far removed from the snobbery of Salsa.  Unfortunately the Kizomba circling the globe is coming from those Salsa snobs and they have turned it into a similar dance of the snob as they have with salsa.  Well, FOR THE BEST KIZOMBA LESSONS IN CAPE TOWN, YOU CAN NOW GET THEM AT PRAIA MORENA…

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A weekend in Maputo

Goodness, this trip was last year this time (2014), but I’ve been so sentimental about the memories, I didn’t want to relive it.  Luckily this post was almost completely written, but not yet posted, so its a good start:

After the exciting experience getting to Maputo all I needed was to collapse onto a bed and pass out.  I booked into The Base Backpackers.  It cost 400 meticais per night which is nice and cheap.  The place is clean, cosy.  The first morning waking up there though, I noticed that my groceries had been stolen.  I’m almost sure it was the American youngsters who were up in the wee hours of the morning getting ready to leave on the bus to Tofo when I got back from a night on the town and vomited in a packet (which is a story I will not say anything more about).   They were a miserable trio of serious blank faced travelers.  I wondered why they hadn’t just stayed at home and worked on each others nerves instead.  The Base doesn’t have a very social atmosphere.  And they don’t have mosquito nets.  So if you wana dance with death and catch some Moz Malaria, then go there.  I hadn’t realized how seriously a problem mosquitoes are in Moz.  I didn’t know that they were everywhere.  I have a good resistance, but more likely good luck, so I survived at The Base, but how absolutely inconvenient it is to itch all night long.  They wait until you are nicely settled into bed, lights off, and then they start to bite.  And they don’t stop till the sun comes up.  Also, while I’m on the topic, be warned, if you are planning to stay in backpacker accomodation anywhere in Moz, its cold showers only.  Ok, I’m going off track here.

After a couple of hours of snoozing,  I got up and explored the town a bit.  Maputo is big, There is one sliver that is well kept and kind of clean.  But the rest of it is quite dirty.  The roads are in good condition though.

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A street in Maputo city center

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Significant traffic circle in Maputo City Center

Its not easy walking around the city.  You need to be quite fit.  The roads are steep.  Especially if you plan to walk to the shopping hotspots and the harbour area.

Of course I managed to find a nice hotspot do dance.  Kizomba is big in Moz, but not as free as with the Angolans back home.  The Mozzies take it very seriously.  Mostly saving it for their partners.  It is very ”up close and personal.  Anyway, the place I found was Havanna Lounge … if I remember correctly, and I arrived early and got to watch these performers practicing for some or other show.

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dancers practicing at Havanna Lounge, Maputo

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dancers practising at Havanna Lounge Maputo

Mozambique – The getting there

I’m somewhat reluctant to write about Mozambique, I’m still getting over not being able to be on holiday anymore.  I feel sad thinking about the good times when they are over.  If I had the time and the  money, I would spend it exploring this amazing continent.  The more I see, the  more I want to see.

My plans were to meet my friend Gaby.  She was supposed to be back in Maputo by the time my holidays came around.  But it was not to be.  Life seems to be steering her in another direction, namely Latin America.  So, in the end, I got to do my favorite kind of travel … solo.  I would have loved to see her, but I am also kind of happy I was alone.  Hard to explain.

The plan was to take a bus to Johannesburg, from there a train to Komatipoort, and from Komatipoort, I would take a chappa to the boarder and from the border find Ressano Garcia train station and take a train to Maputo.  In theory that was supposed to happen.

So, Thursday evening, 18 April, at the bus station, planning to board and Intercape bus to Johannesburg, I was informed by the lady behind the counter that my ticket was actually for the next day.  And the bus for that day was fully booked, so they couldn’t rebook me for that evening.  What a nuisance it would be to go home and miss a day in Mozambique, and also lose out on my train ticket from Johannesburg to Komatipoort.    Luckily I had the sense enough to ask if there was another bus company operating who had a trip that evening.  Intercape was kind enough to refund me with a voucher, and I booked a ticket with Eldo Coaches, which turns out to be managed by a friend of mine (would you believe).  And the change was for the best because the Eldo Coach was very comfortable, and not fully booked.  I also realized that they are probably the cheapest comfortable bus transport.  If I had booked in advance, I would have paid ZAR500, but I paid ZAR700 instead for booking last minute.  SA Roadlink would be the cheapest, but they look a right old mess.  People were queueing (bundling) and nobody let them into the bus.  It looked alot like a service delivery protest gathering.  I think SA Roadlink are very very disorganized, and seemed to have overbooked their buses.  I felt very sorry for the people who were travelling SA Roadlink.  Their tickets are VERY cheap though, I think ZAR300 from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

I was a bit nervous, as always, I’m a very nervous passenger on the road.  The bus felt to me to be speeding, and it being dark I had thoughts of head on collisions, crashing, veering off the road, and all of that.  I met a nice lady on the bus.  She as travelling with her little baba, who was the cutest little podgy thing wrapped in a blanket.  And he had a smile to light up the universe too.  She was travelling to her hometown Bloemfontein for the funeral of her father.

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Nice lady and her cute baby on the bus

The bus stopped twice only, other than when the driver stopped to take a wizz on the side of the road.  They told us that they were not going to stop as much as they normally do because it was Easter, and it would be too conjested at the 1-stops and Shell Ultra Cities.  By 1.30 pm on Friday, the bus pulled into Park Station.  From here I would catch the 6pm train to Komatipoort, so there was alot of hanging around to do.  Park station is quite a busy place.  Its a hub of informal business.  Terminus for long distance buses, and a train station for long distance trains, local trains, and even the Gautrain.  Time can move quite fast when you have things to do.  So it didn’t seem like too long to wait.  I went to Burger King where I charged my phone,  caught some snoozies and a coupla coffees.  Then my friend who lives near Park station came to say hi and brought me food for the road, and then I boarded the train which left right on time.

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Park Station Johannesburg

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Selfie on the Shosholoza Meyl … just before Lungile came

Once seated, This young lady, Lungile came to ask me if she could sit with me.  She was told that this Shosholoza trains are very dangerous, because people will steal you stuff when you fall asleep and one should sleep ontop of all your stuff.  I chose the sitter option.  There was an option to take a cubicle with a bed/sleeper option, but for the experience, I chose the sitter option.  Not long into the trip, I was being told Lungile’s whole life story.   The reason she had come to Johannesburg was to look for a job.  She had a friend there who had offered to help her out.  From what I gathered, Lungile expected the friend to spoon fee her and find the job for her.  But things didn’t work out, so she was on her way home.  She claimed to be struggling alot, that there was no money at home, and no jobs.  Yet on the other hand, she was dressed rather modern, with a pair of Nike shoes, and pretty fashionable bags, halfway through the trip she changed into a pretty looking frock too.  I gave her some advice on where to start when she got home, in terms of going to study something so that she could have a better life.  But she was not really interested in that, saying it was too hard to go to local government offices and ask for advice on bursaries etc.  Before long she was playing on my sympathies asking for even just ZAR50 so she could buy her little brothers and sisters something nice at home.  On the other hand, Lungile was not short on airtime.  She was foning everybody all the time.  Cell phone calls are very expensive in South Africa.   And she was saying, she will never take the train again, its too slow.  The only reason she took the train is because it was cheap.  I thought she seemed very ungrateful and in some way spoilt with a sense that everybody should just help her and do everything for her.   She sent me a few please call me’s when I was in Mozambique and even when I got back to SA.  Wow, what a person.

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Lungile, in her pretty frock

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Check out Lungile’s Nikes

The train took a full 12 hours, and by the time we got to Mpumalanga province, the sun was coming up.   Just before Komatipoort, we passed some banana plantations, and I could almost feel Mozambique.

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A misty Mpumalanga

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The Shosholoza arrives in Komatipoort

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The Shosholoza arrives in Komatipoort

Once in Komatipoort, all the train travellers filed out of the station in two lines, to catch a chappa to Mozambique.

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Heading out of the station

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Heading out of the station

Eish, I think one has to have alot of patience to live on this continent.  At first the taxi guy told me it would be ZAR 60 and then later, 100 meters from the station, the taxi stopped, and everybody’s bags had to get taken off, and passengers names taken, and people came with merchandise to load onto the trailer of the chappa where our bag were to go, then stuff got taken off and put on, and people were given new prices for what it would cost for bags and stuff.  In the end I think I paid ZAR100.  Lost of people actually went to find alternative chappas because they were not happy with the deal this one was giving them.  The trailer was loaded to high heaven with merchandise to be delivered to businesses in Mozambique, and all our bags, and tables and chairs.  All sorts of things.  I think it was actually 2 or 3 hours before we got on the road.

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Things got put on, then taken off, then more things added, rearranged, put on, taken off, it took hours.

In the meantime, while we waited.  A lady with a stack of money came.  This is how they do foreign exchange.  I like it alot.  She gave exactly the 3:1 exchange rate.  Had I gone to a forex place, I would have definitely got less for my money.

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Foreign exchange the African way

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A scene in Komatipoort

Once on the road, one of the guys on the bus started making conversation, and before long he was proposing to me.  It was quite an entertaining ride.  He made it fun and interesting.

Some 10 km or so into the drive, the trailer got a flat which, by the looks of the load is not a surprise.

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replacing a popped tyre en route to Maputo

Crossing the border was quite an adventure.  Once one gets to the border post, everybody gets off, and passes through the SA customs, which is a proper building.  Then walking another few meters, one gets to the Mozambique customs which is a guy standing outside a door with a stamp.  Just the way I like it.  On the other side, my first purchase was a little cone of what the ladies said was something edible “para comida” they said, it turns out to be sand.  I guess they eat sand.  I still have my sand at home.  I was quite hungry, at the time, but not hungry enough for sand.

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This is a pic I took at the border, before inevitably being prevented from taking any more.

The journey became even more interesting as a result of my new love interest asking me where I was going, and I showed him on a map that I needed to be in Patrice Lumumba street in Maputo.  Then he said, no, that’s not really in Maputo, and the taxi ended up dropping me at another taxi station where they transported me to Patrice Lumumba township.  This was not where I planned to be.  But it was a unique experience in itself which money can’t buy.  It was still daylight and a friendly shop keeper lady got her friend to accompany me on the local transport to take me into Maputo.  Two buses, a tuk-tuk later and an hour later, I was infront of The Base Backpackers on Patrice Lumumba street in Maputo central.  All in all, it had been quite a nice experience getting there.  It was Saturday afternoon by then.

A week in Mozambique

My good friend and fellow India roadtripper invited me to go to Mozambique where she is based for the next few months.  I’ve been wanting to go for a while now, especially as part of my last road trip, but things didn’t work out that way.  So, now is a good time.  The weather should be mild.  Now however, I have quite limited time (18 to 28 April), to get there, get to see/know/feel a bit of Mozambique, and then get home again.  So, here was what I was thinking I could do:

A road trip – but my bike is not being very reliable at the moment.

A return flight – but at R6000+ rand this seems excessively expensive.

Combination of road, rail and air!

Now doesn’t option 3 sound exciting?  It seems to work out best to take an Intercape bus to Johannesburg, a Shosholoza train to Komatipoort, walk/taxi over the border to Mozambique, and take a local train to Maputo!  The ‘getting there’ starts with boarding the bus at 5:30pm Thursday 18 April, arriving to Johannesburg Park station Friday 1:20pm.  There’ll be about 5 hours to do something in Joburg perhaps before I catch the Shosholoza at 18:10.  Then arriving in Komatipoort at Sunday 20 April 6:38am.  And then do this bit of exciting stuff getting to Ressano Garcia and then finally Maputo by 1pm on Sunday!  Ok, so it may take unnecessarily long, but the journey should be exciting.  I’ve already booked the bus and the return flight so now I just need to book the Shosholoza.  I’m going with the sitting instead of the sleeper option.  It should be very interesting.  And, to make the most of the time I have left, I’ll just fly back from Maputo to Cape Town on 28 April.  Its about a 3 – 4 hour long flight.  Hmmph, now where did I put my passport …

Unplanned memory

Written for the Daily Prompt: Happy Wanderer

Planning is a waste of a good memory.  Which is one of the reasons I travel alone.  People stress too much about plans and cannot imagine that living without a plan is even possible.  Living a scheduled week after week after week after work week is more than enough for me to have to tolerate.   To plan to make special memories seems to me to create fake.  Like the big fancy wedding which looks so beautiful on photographs.  Each happy moment perfectly staged.  Yet, leading up to that moment, is a hell of a stress, usually from the bride(zilla) side.  So much money spent.  A day in such uncomfortable clothes (to look as good as possible), posing as if happy, so the photos can look good.  But this is off the topic already.

I like to travel unplanned.  Which is a bit restrictive in where I can go and when I can go.  In terms of when I can go, it is to my benefit, because I can go to places out of season when things are less ‘staged’ and more natural.  Things are usually cheaper too.  And I avoid that annoying crowds.  I hate crowds.  Drives me nuts.  Climatically, this is not always the perfect time, but in South Africa at least, with a moderate climate, its not that big a problem.  As far as where I go, I get to choose the places less frequented by tourists, for a fresh experience.

My Southern African Road trip in a nutshell Nov/Dec 2013

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Reflections on the road

There is some peculiarity built into drafting posts to be published at a later stage, it seems even after editing the scheduled date and time settings, they don’t show up in the reader.  For all ye bloggers who’ve been reading about my road trip, and missed the last few, check out the links in the list below.  Here are ALL the posts

My Southern African Road Trip Day 1, Thursday 28 November 2013 – Cape Town to Clanwilliam

My Southern African Road Trip Day 2, Friday 29 November 2013 – Clanwilliam to Bitterfontein

My Southern African Roadtrip day 3, Saturday 30 November 2013 – Bitterfontein To Springbok

My Southern African Roadtrip day 4, Sunday 1 December 2013- Kleinzee (Kleinsee)

My Southern African Road trip day 5, Monday December 2 2013- Springbok to Augrabies

My Southern African Road trip day 6, Tuesday 3 December –  Augrabies

My Southern African Road Trip day 7, Wednesday 4 Dec 2013 – Augrabies to Kimberley

My Southern African Road trip day 8, Thursday 5 December 2013- Kimberley to Bloemfontein

My Southern African Road trip day 9, Friday 6 December 2013 – Bloemfontein to Lesotho

My Southern African Road trip day 10, Saturday 7 December  2013 – Lesotho: Thaba Bosio to Malealea

My Southern African Road trip day 11, Sunday 8 December 2013 – Lesotho (Malealea to Quthing)

My Southern African Road Trip day 12, Monday 9 December 2013- Lesotho/Quthing to Port Shepstone

My Southern African Road trip day 13, Tuesday 10 December 2013- Port Shepstone to Port St John’s

My Southern African Road trip day 14, Wednesday 11 December 2013 – Stuck in Port St John’s

My Southern African Road trip day 15, 16 and 17, Thursday 12 to Saturday 14 Dec 2013 -Port St Johns to home

My Southern African Road trip day 15, 16 and 17, Thursday 12 to Saturday 14 Dec 2013 -Port St Johns to home

As my teachers from a bygone era would say: “Lets recap”.  My trip started in Cape Town.  In 15 days I had covered about 4000 tough, tough, tough, kilometers.  I had been riding in rain for 3 days.  That’s three wet and cold days, not seeing the sun.  

And that morning, in Port St John’s was no different.  It was as dull and dreary as ever.  And wet wet wet, and still raining like it would never stop.  There was not a choice for me though, I had to saddle up and get moving, and hope I would outride the rain.  The ride to get to Umtata was quite tricky with all the roadworks on the mountain passes.  There were interesting diverted routes.  In Umtata and close surrounds, there were already traffic control points up for the expected traffic in for Madiba’s funeral.  But the roads were surprisingly not busy yet.  There was rain all the way.  It cleared a bit through Umtata, and then it started again.   I did not take any photos.  I just wanted to get past the rain.

Finally, approaching Port Elizabeth, the sun peeked its pretty little face through the clouds and warmed my whole soul.  It could only get better from there, I thought.   The two highlights along the way was crossing the breathtaking Great Kei Pass and the Great Fish River Pass.

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Finally the sun shows its pretty little face, very very briefly

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Great Fish River Pass

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The river

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Reflections on the road

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road, endless road beneath a greying sky.

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Popping into Grahamstown, for a quick peek and snack

It was about 1000 km to go for home, and all tar (Much of my trip had been on dirt).  I had covered about 4000 km in total, when, in the region of Port Elizabeth, this happened:

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Chain snapped hitting a hole in the engine casing

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See the hole

My chain snapped, hitting a hole in the engine casing, causing all the oil to pour out of the engine.  I was not sure what I could do .  I was glad at least that the chain did not get stuck in the wheel (which is a terrible terrible thing), and also I was glad that I did not slip in the oil as I made my way to the side of the road.  Another thing I was grateful for was that my engine still sounded ok when I switched the bike off.  No loud bangs or other metallic knocking noises.  At times like these, its good to remember what there is to be grateful for.

It was about 40 minutes before sunset.  The police cars I tried to flag down just drove past.  Stranded on the freeway, I did not know anybody in PE, I did not have any roadside assistance, my cell phone battery was on half full.   I hoped that would be enough.

I called a roadside assistance service which I was not a member of.  I was about to allow them to approve my immediate membership which would cost me a ton of money on the spot, when I thought to check with them how long they would take to come.  When they said it would be at least two hours, I decided to take a breath and think about it first.  In the meantime, I called to the police hotline, and after much struggling and about 3 calls to them they finally understood that I needed somebody to come and stand by me while I waited for some roadside service in the dark on the freeway.  It was too dangerous alone.

By the time the two man police team arrived, I had called another pickup service.   There had also been a man kind enough to stop and offer me help.  He had gone to organize a pickup truck of a friend, and they would take me to the nearest police station.  This was as far as my mind could function.  What I would do after that I was not sure.  But I was sure I would be several thousand rand poorer than I was before this experience.

While waiting on the road, I started calling and messaging people back in Cape Town to ask if they had any contacts of mechanics and other people who might be able to help me.  One guy, a ‘friend’, who I was sure would have lots of contacts, got back to me immediately.  But he was not very encouraging.  He didn’t give me any contacts, but did ask me how I thought a mechanic would be able help me.  I just told him not to worry about me, and thanks.  In my mind I was swearing profanities of course.  Next day he sent me a message saying sorry, he had fallen asleep.  Another guy, one of my good friends, and occasional mechanic, who was actually looking after my cats while I was away from home gave me a bit more hope.  He asked me to send him a photo of the broken stuff, and after seeing it, he assured me all I needed to do was get some steel putty to plug the hole where the oil came out, and fix the chain somehow.  Then I would be good to go again.  Now that’s a friend.  That was what I needed to hear.  Worst case scenario, I could could call a listed mechanic and ask him to come collect the bike from the police station for fixing.  At least I knew it would not be that complicated to fix.

The policemen were really great.   They told me their life stories (which is a story for another day) and then they asked me about what the pickup service was going to charge me, and after they heard how much it was they said no, people are crazy, and they would get their police salvage vehicle to come pick me up (for free), and take me to their police station.  That was the start of my good luck.  We waited long, but eventually it came, and we loaded the bike on the back and drove off (no ropes!).  The police station was not very far.  The guys assured me that the chief of the station who would be in the next day knows a lot about mechanics and would be able to help me.   Then they took me to a hotel, which turned out rather scruffy, but it was a roof over my head for the night at least.

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Taking me in on the back of a police van

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Bless the police

Next day, I was still very unsure of what I was going to do, but  I bought a coffee and when to drink it by the river.  Two chaps on a motorbike also came to the river and were smoking some ganja.  I asked them if they knew anybody who could fix a chain, and they said, well, they’d fixed their own bike’s chain the night before.  They were so kind to agree to go check out the bike at the police station before they went to work.  After seeing it, they said, it was not complicated, it could be fixed.  I didn’t even need to buy a new chain, they would get a spare link themselves.  I myself had to hitchhike a ride to police station as there were no taxis from the hotel.  I spent much of the morning laying on the grass at the police station and then it struck me to go and check with the chief of the station.  Just in case he could help me as the guys of the night before said.  My word, in two ticks, so to speak, my bike was fixed.  The chief and all his deputies were getting their hands dirty, driving around getting parts and putty for my bike on the tax payer’s money.   Everyone at the station was kind and friendly.  Before 3pm, I was on the road again,  And the whole experience cost me less than a Macdonald’s happy meal.

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Bought my coffee from this man and his dog that was looking for a bitch

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Dog in PE with adorable identity crisis

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My two dope smoking river angels.

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The police chief of Zwartkops, PE ‘going down’ on my bike, assisted by his deputies.

It was a very good day indeed, And I got to Knysna just in time to rest my head in a very claustrophic dorm room full of young men.  What more could a girl want?  To be honest, it was not as nice as you’d imagine.

And from Knysna, it was home, home!  In another life I could have chilled around parts of the Western Cape for a few more days, but I was paranoid about something going mechanically wrong, and exhausted down to my bones and deep into my soul.  I finally arrived home on the afternoon of the 17th day on the road and slept for two days straight.

My Southern African Road trip day 14, Wednesday 11 December 2013 – Stuck in Port St John’s

Just deadly boring.  Raining raining raining.   Stuck at Madhatters backpackers.  It could be a nice place if they cleaned it up.  But its a bit neglected and stinky.  Here are some pics.

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I was stuck inside, not only because of the continuous rain but also because of my fear of going down this sandy, wet, STEEP and stoney path.

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At least there were kitties to love.

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Looking up to the houses on the hill across from madhatters

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Three kitties loving each other

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Three loving kitties

The day consisted of conversations with the barman, playing with the kitties, staring up at the sky looking for a glimmer of hope that it would stop.  Just waiting, waiting, waiting for it to be over.  I was glad when it was.  I nearly died of boredom.

My Southern African Road trip day 13, Tuesday 10 December 2013- Port Shepstone to Port St John’s

Breakfast with Thomas and Marta was nice.  And it was a good thing they took me to a place to buy a rain suit, because it was as rainy as ever.  Thomas warned me that although it was warm in Port Shepstone, the Transkei, where I was heading through, would be a good 10 degrees Celcius colder.  I don’t know why I didn’t believe him.  I should have listened to him and gotten gloves.  Before hitting the long road, I visited the lighthouse.  I was glad that even though I didn’t go to Durban, at least I’d touched the province of Kwazulu Natal.

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Port Shepstone lighthouse

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And then took a pic passing Shelley Beach.  I could not figure out how to get to the actual beach.

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After this, it started raining badly.

I never realized how bad it would be coming over the Transkei Hills.  If I’d had any sense, I would have waited the rain out in Port Shepstone.  The route between Port Shepstone and Port St Johns was once again, mountain pass upon mountain pass upon mountain pass.  Thats the Transkei.  Silly me, knew NOTHING about South Africa I tell you.  The mist was so thick, that visibility was less than 5 m, and it was raining on top of that, cats and dogs!  Honestly, I don’t know how I managed to stay alive.  Because if the weather wasn’t bad enough, there were wild mini bus taxis to make it more exciting.  If you’ve ever seen anything more pretty than the Transkei, in SA, you need to tell me about it please.  It was surreal.  Like storybook stuff of my childhood.  It was such a pity that because of the bad weather, I could not appreciate all of it.

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Two locals who also think the Transkei is great

About 50 km from Port St Johns Pick n Pay put a sign up saying something like “168 more turns left.”    Shoo, what a soulkiller in the rain.  And then halfway through, when you’ve managed to kid yourself that there can’t be too many turns left, they remind you again that there’s still about a million and one left.  Its like you hope it will just end.  In that bad weather at least.  Visibility was really bad and it was raining hard, so I could not ride with my visor up like I usually do in the mist.  Then there are animals which can just be trotting over the road at any time.  It happened a couple of times to me.  I really thought I would hit a young cow one time.

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Flooded, I’m not sure where this is, but its one of the towns between the hills of Transkei

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See the flooding

When I finally arrived in Port St Johns and took the turn in, I was met with the most horrible potholed, eaten out road I’d ever seen.  Worse than anything in Lesotho.  This coupled with serious flooding in places. Then there was the steep wet sandy pathway up to the backpackers.  When I was 1/4 way up that path, there was just no turning back, so I just went up, all the time wondering how the hell I was going to get down there again.  But I thought I would worry about rolling down that hill when the time came for that.

Madiba’s funeral would be on the 15th in Umtata.  I considered sticking around, because Umtata was like 50 km away.  On the other hand I was so tired, and I was sure it would be an impossibility to get into Umtata unless I went in the next couple of days and stuck around there somehow.  Umtata’s was going to be so full and crazy busy.  And I think that there was no way any civilians would be able to get anywhere near the funeral.  From what people told me, Umtata is already incredibly busy on any normal day.  I also met a nice looking chap, from Durban.  He seemed sweet, and was good for keeping warm a bit, for one night only.  It was about time I think.   After all that life experience on the road.

My Southern African Road Trip day 12, Monday 9 December 2013- Lesotho/Quthing to Port Shepstone

It was another dull day in Lesotho.   Lesotho did not deserve my ungratefulness, but I needed to get out.  I guess I’m too much of a city girl than I would like to admit.  The sounds of the animals were not so nice anymore.  The crowing roosters especially.  I slept quite badly.  The tavern next door to the BnB probably stopped blasting their music around 2am.  Etv had screened and interview/documentary with Madiba the night before and it made me very sad.  I did not look forward to breakfast made in a kitchen that could be smelling like boiling cabbage or rotting drain (you pick your preferred fragrance).  It had been good.  But I’d had enough.  And it was not just Lesotho.  It was the whole trip.  It had tired me out.  Pulled my soul from my body through my two little toes. I decided to cut out Durban, Mozambique and Swaziland, because I know feeling like I was, nothing good would come of going there.  They are being saved for another trip which could maybe including Zimbabwe and Botswana.  At that moment, I was thinking about making my way to Port Shepstone and then homewards down the laid back east coast of SA.  It was a comforting thought.

Riding Lesotho is riding a never ending mountain pass.    Hundreds and hundreds upon hundreds of kilometers of really really beautiful and intimidatingly scary mountain pass.  Lots of rockfalls.  Mountains held together by barely consolidated sand.  I think that road is going to be buried in landslides one day soon.  But for now, its the most incredible mountain pass I’ve ever done.  The road after Quthing starts out ok, with a few potholes here and there and the closer you get to Qacha, the more potholes and rockfalls you meet.  The road literally snakes to the very top of the mountains, and then some steep drops and SHARP turns, where the tar on the turns are very much degraded and eaten out.  At least it didn’t rain on the tar part.

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Views on my way leaving Lesotho

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Views on my way leaving Lesotho

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Views on my way leaving Lesotho

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I wish I knew the name of this mount

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rock falls, and the soft face of the mountain.

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Quthing River

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Quthing River

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The soft crumbling mountain

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this could be heaven

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Young entrepeneur. Beggars can’t be choosers. Fuel at twice the price.

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there are cows on the mountain

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Heaven

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From a distance, it looks perfect.

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The town of Qacha, where there is a border crossing into South Africa

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Qacha

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Dark clouds at the border post threatening to make this a nightmarish exit

The moment I crossed over the border at Qacha, the rain started coming down.  The gravel was NOT comfortable.  There were  30 km of it before hitting tar road in SA.  Very stony, and Lots of potholes.  I can thank my lucky stars that it was not a muddy road.  30 km is a long distance to suffer.  Back in SA, the first town I met was Matatiele in the Eastern Cape which Id never heard of before.  I thought while there is still sunlight I should ride in a direction which puts me closer to home.  And so I chose Kokstad.  

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30 km of this, only worse. Immensely potholed, the officers at the border warned me.

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The potholes welcomed me with gaping mouths

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Finally on SA tar again

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Signs of life, finally

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I knew I was home soil (I men tar). I could just feel it in my bones (and grateful bum battered by Lesotho).

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Riding through Cedarville in the Eastern Cape

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Dark clouds looming over the greens.

Kokstad is fucken ugly.  I called a few BnB’s and they all said they were booked out.  I suspect they didn’t want a coloured staying there (The evidence is in my accent).  Then I thought about Port Shepstone, which was really in the direction away from CT, but I called a backpackers and they had place, so at 5pm, with 2 more hours of light, I started the 130 km to Port shepston.  I rode ALOT that day!

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Any minute now and the rain would burst through the clouds

There are the most beautiful pine forests along the road, but It was raining badly, so I never fully was able to enjoy it.  There were lots of trucks too.  One made an especially big impression on me.  It seemed to slow down when I was behind it, and chase short on my tail when I was ahead of it.  What the intention of that fool was, I don’t know, but the weather was bad enough.  Jesus, what is wrong with people?  I was really cursing very loudly inside my helmet, about the rain.  Wherever I met a dry road, it started raining.  Even when I finally came into Port Shepstone, it started raining there too.  It was like doomsday in the life of me.  Once in Port Shepstone, I could not find the backpackers on my own, so they sent someone to get me after I called.  I met a nice couple at the bar.  German man and Namibian woman.  The man knew a guy I met in CT who helped me fixed my brakes shortly before the trip.  He rents out bikes.  And he suggested some nice roads for me to take on my way home.  Its dull again, but if its dry, I’ll take the roads he suggested.  I went with them for breakfast the next day and also they took me to a farm shop to buy a rain suit and gumboots.  True blessing.  It was pissing down with rain the next day too.  No more dirt for me in the rain.  There were choices now.

My Southern African Road trip day 11, Sunday 8 December 2013 – Lesotho (Malealea to Quthing)

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A cool morning in Malealea

Taking into account, my finances, and time before the roads started to get crazy busy in SA for holiday season, It seemed the best idea to not spend another night at Malealea, but I wanted to make the most of it.  So I booked a 5 hour hike to see some cave paintings and the waterfall.  My guide’s name was Max.  We walked through lots of farmlands.  He says that the farms I saw are all subsistence farms.  To obtain such a farm, when on has to be married and have started a family.  If you have reached this point, you go to the chief and ask for a piece of land.  And the chief allocates you land.  The chief knows all the land like the back of his/her hand.   The people plough the land old school way, with cows pulling a manual plough.  Max does not have land yet as he is not married and therefor still lives with his parents.  In the village, people will swop produce with each other.  And everybody has cattle and sheep and goats. 

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subsistence farming in Lesotho

At the moment the chief’s wife is chief because he passed away.  I love that women can be chief, and Max says the people respect her.  When the wife dies, then one of the sons will become chief.  Walking long distances is very normal to the Basotho. They need to walk kilometers and kilometers into the fields to get to their patch of farmland.  This all Max told me.  He also told me that the Basotho people came to Lesotho from South Africa to escape the wars.  The mountains of Lesotho offered them a way to defend themselves.  They found bushmen there.  And when the bushmen started hunting the Basotho’s cattle, the Basotho ‘expelled’ them from their land.  I was afraid to ask how.  The hike was really tiring.  Not really very very hard, but my body was exhausted from the road trip. 

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scenes on the hike

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scenes on the hike: the beginnings of a house

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scenes on the hike: A family lives here. How lucky are they?

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cute veggie garden

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scenes on the hike: Looking down to the river below

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Scenes on the hike: Max says it was a rainless winter. Everybody had it very tough.

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lush greenery

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scenes on the hike: spot the sheep dotted against the hillside

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ancient San rock paintings

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Max climbing this steepness as if it was flat. Basotho boys seem to float up and down the mountains.

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scenes on the hike: This is a cattle kraal

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scenes on the hike: some building happening

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scenes on the hike: cattle descending to graze among the green grass below.

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scenes on the hike: This is the life in Lesotho

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scenes on the hike

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nearly at the waterfall

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finally, the waterfall

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Spot the cattle grazing against the Mountain. These beasts must taste really good from all that mountain climbing.

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another dwelling

After the hike, I just had a shower ate and prepared to hit the road.  It was very overcast, but hadn’t started raining yet.  No sooner had I started riding – back up that harsh dirt road –  than it started raining.  Just about a km into the ride, it started to pour down  buckets and buckets of rain!  Hoping that I would outride it,   I didn’t turn back.  When I got about halfway back to the main road from where I would make my way to Qacha’s neck, I stopped.  I rode on to the first town where I could fill up petrol.  During the ride it started coming down really hard.  So hard it felt like hailstones through my jacket.  I rode with lightning flashing and thunder crashing, what seemed like right  next to me!  I was so afraid, so so afraid, but what could I do, I was miles from anywhere, just mountain pass after mountain pass, after mountain pass. Every road in Lesotho is a Mountain pass.  Wherever you are in Lesotho, you are surrounded by mountains.  Its a sight to behold.  And that day it was a scary sight for me in that weather.  It must be very likely to be struck by lightning.  Lesotho needs the rain though.  The animals were thin, their ribs were showing.  Max said it had been a hard winter without rain.  All of Lesotho came out of winter very brown.  There was nothing for the cows to eat, they were starving.  The people were happy for the rain. 

At Mateteng, I made a BIG FAT MISTAKE.  I forgot my handbag with money, cards, passport and everything at the garage.  I rode to the ATM and realized I didn’t have it so I went back, and it was gone.  I was so scared and worried, the petrol attendants carried on in what appeared to be a very dodgy way, but said, they are trying to help me.  Then it turns out a street vendor lady did see someone take it and run after me with the bag to give it to me.  They knew who he was.  Two more guys in a 4by4 by now jumped in also to help, but I was so scared I tell you.  What was I going to do without any money, no passport, no ID, no bank cards!

Its tough when you don’t understand a language, so vulnerable.  In the end 4by4 guys convinced me to go with them to the police station to find out if they guy had taken the bag there.  The police station really looked VERY informal and  the policemen/women, do not wear a uniform.  I felt very vulnerable.  Nobody had come to turn my bag in, but the policemen did have the guy’s number, so they called him, and he said he will bring it.  It took a while for him to come, probably 30 mins.  Longest 30 minutes of my life.  But he came and I was so relieved. 

It was after this that It started to rain hard on the road.  The roads are not straightforward in Lesotho.  One should always ask at a circle or a major junction which way to proceed.  At least along the main routes, most people speak English well.  Thus far, the main routes I used had very good roads.  Just the odd pothole here and there.  I kept to a lowish speed 80 to 100 because every now and then one encounters unexpected reckless shitty traffic, and also potholes.   There are a lot of blind rises which sometimes hide sharp curves.  Also, I came upon one accident in the rain, and was glad for my moderate speed.   My other saving grace is the the people.  They are just good to the bone.  Always someone to put the good spirit back in you.   The idea of Basotho man was playing on my mind.  Anything to keep me sane in the rain.  They really know how to work.  They all will own land, and have livestock, and they are quite easy on the eye.  Eish.

Finally, I arrived in Quting just as the sun was reaching the horizon.  Quting is not rural.  Its a busy place, because its only 2 km off the main route.  Its dirty and busy.  In terms of tourism, there are dinosaur footprints which I was planning to go see the next day, if the weather was good and my good spirit returned. If not, I would head straight for Qacha’s neck.  I stayed over at a decent enough lodge. At least they had a heater in the room, so I warmed up nicely after that soaking wet and cold ride.  The bike was wonderful in the rain by the way.

This day had been by far the most challenging.  I was tired in body and mind.  And I felt ready to  be at home.  But, Lesotho is so breathtakingly beautiful.  To see the sights though, requires between 10 and 40 km of dirt road riding at a time.   At the time I felt like I could never do this alone again.  In hindsight, I think I could.  And I think it could be a richer experience next time round.

My Southern African Road trip day 10, Saturday 7 December 2013 – Lesotho: Thaba Bosio to Malealea

Next morning, after breakfast, I let Rose, the backpacker owner, take photos of me and the bike for her brochure (she said), and then headed off to find Thaba Bosio, where the graves of the kings are.   So I started eastwards along the road to find Thaba Bosio.  There were two prominent hills which I suspected had something to do with it, but because there were no road or information signs, I kept on going.  The kingdom of mountains, Lesotho truly is!  So incredible.

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I suspected these had something to do with Thaba Bosio.

Further on, I saw signs showing that the Kome caves or Ha Kome as its known here was up ahead.  The lady at the tourist information by the Maseru border post had told me that they would be worth seeing.  It could not be too far, I thought.  I decided I might as well go there and on my way back I can attempt to find Thaba Bosio, which I suspected I’d actually missed. The road was scenic and beautiful .  Before long it turned to dirt and gravel.  Just where the gravel started, was a small settlement.  I decided to stop and ask if I was going the right way.  Its not difficult to find people when you have a motorbike.  Curiosity always draws them in.  With a massive verbal language barrier, it was hard, even to say HA KOME in various accents so that they understood where it was I wanted to go, Also lots of hand signs indicating caves.  I wasn’t sure in the end we understood each other, but felt that maybe their positive sounding responses (how I knew they were positive, is anyone’s guess),  meant I was on the right track.

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When the road turned to gravel, I thought I’d better double check with these folks that I was going the right way.

And a terribly bumpy track it was.  I found myself eventually on my first gravel mountain pass.  You can bet I was extremely nervous, and filled with self doubt for the most of it.

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The gravel road becomes a gravel mountain pass

Though the road was tough, it was also very beautiful, and I got to see how the rural people of Lesotho Lived.    I had never seen anything like this with the naked eye before.  It really looked like an amazing kind of life.  These are truly people of the mountains.   I thought that Kome Caves didn’t look too far on the map so I kept on going.

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This is the life in Lesotho

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Some grazing on the road to Kome Caves

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Looking down on the way to Kome Caves

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Scenery on the way to Kome Caves

Kome Caves didn’t seem to want to come any closer though, It seemed I’d been riding for ever, bouncing and slipping and drifting and half shitting in my pants too.  I stopped at least 5 times to check that I was still going the right way because there had been some little obscure turn-offs along the way.  Constantly in a state of contemplation about whether to turn back or keep on going.   At some point I was blessed with a km or 2 of tar road.  Eventually, I saw another sign for the caves, and some locals directed me to the place where I should go.  I thought I’d been on as bad a road as I was ever going to see, but boy oh boy was I wrong.   As the terrain got more and more harsh (and the view better and better).  Distances seem so very long when you are having a hard time getting somewhere.  It was not easy at all to get to the caves, and I kept stopping to ask if I was still on the right road.  Only few people understand english, but everyone is very friendly and tries to help. The road was really getting worse and worse.  Finally, down in the distance I could see the site of the Caves, as the locals had pointed it out.  To get there, I needed to descend a very narrow, very steep, very unstable, gravel path winding down a hillside.  There were two options.  Go back where I came from, even though I had come so far, and was about 10 minutes away in principle.  The other option was to face my fears and just go down.

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Blessed with a piece of tar road

It would be a waste if I didn’t go down there (or what do you think?).  The final spiral down to the cave site was so nerve wrecking.  Apart from worrying about getting down this path meter for meter, I was also very worried about how I was going to get up it again.  It was so bad, I switched of the engine and got down the last half of the hill slowly slowly letting the clutch out and in.  Once on this downward spiral, the ONLY reason I didn’t turn back around was because it was simply not possible to do so.  Wow, wow, wow.  It was a great relief when I eventually got to the bottom.

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The info center/ curios shop on the site of Kome Caves

Once down there were no regrets.  It was totally worth the risk and suffering.  Lesotho is a wild Goddess.  You have to work to find the most special places.  Every kilometer traveled here feels like an accomplishment.

The young lady at the desk took me on a personal tour of the site telling me the history of the area and mister Kome who came from the Eastern Cape to settle here in order to escape tribal wars.  I have no idea HOW they managed to settle and build and bring their cattle and other materials here, to this seemingly unreachable place.  But that’s the view of myself who’s never had to struggle for anything.

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Kome Caves

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Kome caves.

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entrance to one of the mud huts

The huts themselves are very basic inside, the guide said it was ok to take pictures, but I opted not to.

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the mud huts built into the cave wall

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Where they would keep the cattle at night, so that they wouldn’t stray or get stolen/eaten.

She also told me the story of the cannibals who were in the vicinity near mister Kome’s settlement and how if the skirt of the girl would be hanging outside the house of the cannibals, the family of the girl could know that the girl had been eaten up.  A girl’s skirt was unique, each one’s was different.

There was also the story of mister Shorty (because he was short), who later also came to settle and build himself his own mud house very close to mister Kome.  Kome suspected him of being a cannibal and so for about a year they didn’t even talk.  Its hard for me to fathom because they must have been looking into each other’s faces all day long, they lived meters away from each other.  That Kome didn’t drive Shorty out is kind of a sign of how peaceful the culture was in Lesotho, and still is, I think.  Thats besides the cannibals, which seemed to be an accepted part of society at the time.  They eventually ‘saw reason’ changed their diets from human to animal flesh.   Eventually though, loneliness on the side of sole alone mister Shorty broke the silence and Kome and Shorty became good friends with Shorty actually marrying one of Kome’s daughters.

The inhabitants of those caves are direct descendents of Kome and Shorty from 250 years ago.  They continue to live and expand on the site of the caves.  Living a life very much similar to their forefathers of 250 years ago.   For each 20 rand, the tourism center gives the inhabitants 3 rand, which I think  is very little for the invasion of their privacy.   But thats the way it is, and I think, like me, the other tourists put in an extra tip.

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Some locally made jewellery sold at the tourist center. Very unique.

As much as I was dreading the way back up that crazy hill, I had no choice, unless I wanted to become an inhabitant of the caves myself, so up, up, up, I went and it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  Up is never as bad as down.  Even the road back to where I came from, was not as bad, and didn’t seem as long as it did before.

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The way back towards Thaba Bosio

I vowed that that would be my last offroad for the day.  It was so tough.    I decided not to rush down to Quachas nek which was where I planned to go back into SA.  I drove past Thaba Bosio, deliberately this time because I was just to knackered to tackle any gravel, let alone hike up to the graves.  Next stop would be Malealea lodge, which came highly recommended by a few people I’d met.  Once I got back to the main road that I took from Maseru, I’d travel the 60 km towards Qacha’s neck and then turn in for the final 33 km to malealea lodge.

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Along the way to Malealea.

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Along the way to Malealea. Beautiful soil erosion is very common.  The landscape is constantly being reshaped this way.

The pamphlet for Malealea lodge was very inviting.  Little did I know a hell of a tough dirt road was waiting form me for the last 10 km.  By now, the usual dirt and gravel and stones and cemented rocks were fine for me.  But just when I thought that was as bad as it gets, then came the downhills with deeply weathered grooves and pointy rocks and gravel and everything.  There is just no way to use brakes on these parts, and you just have to keep calm and try to guide the bike on the most stable parts.  At one stage, at the gates to paradise, I felt, this was it, I couldn’t anymore, and as far as I’d come this piece of downhill just looked to hard to cope with.  Then a man came out from his house with a huge smile and he somehow in broken english assured me that this was the worst and after that piece, the road was good.

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‘wayfarer pause and look upon a gateway of paradise’

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Looking upon ‘paradise’

Not a good road of course there were many more worse pieces, than this gateway of paradise.  I think these were times when I start to hope God exists and can keep me safe if I ask Him.  Its more the mental fatigue that got to me.  I started cursing about how far this place was and that Its impossible to get there.  When I finally did get there, I was just so relieved.   Its a good place, they really involve the community so that everybody wins from the lodge.  And I can tell you this much.  These Sotho men were starting to look mighty fine to me.  They are strong from a life of doing manual farming and other hard labour.  Mmmmm.   I never realized wearing a blanket could be so sexy.  But eish.  There is a serious HIV problem there.

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Entertainment at Malealea

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Peacock just flaunting what its poppa gave it

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peacock at Malealea

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Infront of my humble Malealea dwelling

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donkey at Malealea

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Man, hard at work.

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weather station at Malealea

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Inside my hut

Locals from Malealea village are employed at the lodge, In the evenings these same people form a choir and a band with some handmade instruments to entertain the guests.  It was a nice experience.   And then it was off to bed.

Failaka – The abandoned Kuwaiti Island

In 2005, I worked in Kuwait. Perhaps there was more to Kuwait than I had known about, but at that time, there was nothing much to do other than smoke shisha at the many ‘coffee shops’, and shop, shop, shop. Then one day, I read about Failaka Island, which had been completely abandoned during the Gulf war (1990). There was a boat running to the Island on weekends. This island was by far the most interesting Kuwaiti experience for me.

Failaka Island belongs to Kuwait. It is 20 km off the coast of Kuwait City in the Persian Gulf. The name ‘Failaka’ is thought to be derived from the ancient Greek “fylakio” it means “outpost”. Prior to the Iraqi Invasion, the island had over two thousand residents and several schools. The village of Az Zawr is situated near the middle of the northwest side of the island. It was the longest continuously inhabited location in Kuwait. During 1990 and 1991, the invading Iraqis depopulated the island, expelling all of its residents to the mainland. The Iraqi military mined the beaches and used the island’s facilities and buildings for target practice in 1991.

Here are some of the photos:

Arriving by boat

playground in school yard

school yard

looking over to the mosque

The museum

fountain

Inside the mosque

My Southern African Road trip day 9, Friday 6 December 2013 – Bloemfontein to Lesotho

I spent the night in Phambile Guest house which was quite cheap, and the only problem is the fellow peeps who were occupying the other rooms in the house were a couple of fellows who made a big fat mess in the kitchen and bathrooms.  But the sleeping was fine.

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I awoke to the news that Madiba had passed away.  Emotions were mixed.  Sadness that he was no longer in our world physically, but also relief that his suffering was over.  And so, it was that I was inspired to find something in Bloemfontein other than the usual Voortrekker museums and monuments.  I got enough of that in my apartheid education.  After a bit of Googling, I read about Thomas Maphikela who was one of the founding members of the ANC.  He lived in the Mangaung township in Bloemfontein.  And the house was still standing with the Maphikela family still living there.  Though they could move to ‘better’ areas, they chose to stay there.  And apparantly the public could go and visit the house and sometimes could get lucky and be let in and chat to the family.  Built in 1926, the building can be found in Mangaung Township. It is known as the birth place of the African National Congress because that is where the party was founded and Maphikela was one of the founder members and a member of the Executive Committee of the ANC in Bloemfontein in 1935.  So my adventure for the day was finding the Maphikela house.

I also read about Navy Hill, which is the site of an observatory and doubles up as a private nature reserve which anybody is FREE to visit … for FREE!  Lord knows I love FREEdom

Nothing on a map of Bloemfontein is as it really is.  The roads of Bloemfontein are totally different to the maps of the roads of Bloemfontein.  And the signs on the road informing one of sites, and accommodations and stuff are also really confusing and misleading (as they were in Kimberly too).  Its hard to explain why, but it is.  After MUCH confusion I found Navy Hill.  I saw some zebra and Wildebeest (I think)  Just running up and down together.  Just playing with each other.  Running around, now this way, then that.  It was cute.   There was also a tortoise who was a bit shy, but came out and walked about when he saw I was not coming too close.  Then as I wanted to take my bike and reluctantly ride down the dirt road in the reserve, I turned around and saw two elegant girraffes just behind me.  I managed to get some nice up close shots.  One can really get close to these animals.  They are quite curious.  When I’d finally decided to go to my bike and leave, I looked behind me and they had followed me.  So cute.  So I took a few more photos.

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The observatory on Navy Hill

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Animals playing around on Navy Hill nature reserve

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Animals in Navy Hill nature reserve

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Giraffes on Navy Hill

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Shy torty on Navy Hill

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selfie with a giraffe on Navy Hill

And then it was the big hunt for Maphikela House.  At first, I attempted to follow the map directions.  Then I met Jeanette, who is from Lesotho, but living in Bloemfontein.  She crochets these cute hats out of plastic!  If you want any, give her a call (+27 82 666 6887).   She tried to help me with directions, and it helped to some extent.

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Jeanette crochets hats from plastic (+27 82 666 6887)

I found myself very lost, and a delivery guy on a motorbike noticed this, so he stopped and after hearing about where I wanted to go, he said he know how to get to that address.  The address was supposed to be at 52 Harvey street (So says one tourist information site). So, after many twists and turns, which I was sure I would never be able to find my way back through again (that was later’s problem), we found the address, and I bid him a big thanks, a big tip, and a ciao.  Now, where I found myself did not look at all like a township, It was an industrial area.  I went inside a car dealership to ask for advice on how to get to Maphikela house.  The kind lady at the reception didn’t know, but she did say there was a man standing on a corner near the towers in the distance who would know everything.  Indeed, there he was selling his wares, and full of information!  He sent me around the corner to speak to Albert, the man looking after the church there.  That man, he said, would tell me the history of it all.

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The knowledgable man underneath the towers of Mangaung

Albert explained to me that the church was more the political hub than the Maphikela house.  It served as both a church and a venue for secret meetings of the ANC.   I think the church is also the original site of the house of Thomas Maphikela (from what his great grandson told me later that day when I finally found the house)  After telling me alot of history, he explained to me how to get to Maphikela house.  He said it was a little distance down the road and into the township Batho.

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Albert guarding the church beneath the Towers in Mangaung

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Inside the old church which had been totally rebuilt, and would be used as a museum in future. It was no longer used for services. On the left is the original church piano, and at the front an exposed piece of the original wall.

The directions were clear, and I did not struggle to find it.  It was not very far from the towers.  It was easy to find and quite informal.  I knocked and went in, and asked the domestic if there was anyone who could tell me a little bit about the house and the history.  She called the grandson, Andile from upstairs.  He was very kind to tell me some interesting stories, about his great grandfather how he was not allowed to own two houses, so he built one ontop of the other (double story).  Also how his grandmother hid people running from the police.  They are turning Maphikela house into a monument.  But the family will not sell it, and are still living there.  This is priceless.  They are erecting an office just behind the house for the purpose of historical tourism I think.

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Signboard for Maphikela house

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Maphikela house in Mangaung

  

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Maphikela House in Mangaung

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Andile, great grandson of Thomas Maphikela

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A humble shrine honoring Thomas Maphikela inside the house.

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The family, with Sol Plaatje (I think) who is the man credited with recording Nkosi Sikeleli

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The lounge in Maphikela house

After this, came the worry that I didn’t know how to get out.  So after riding off in one direction, I came back and stopped at the Police station (right accross from Maphikela house) to ask for directions.  The friendly officer in a very animated way explained to me to go up the road, and not the first, not the second, not the third, but at the fourth robot, I turn right and that road is the N8 which goes All the way to Maseru.    When I got to Maseru I checked my fone and saw an email from the chap I did a road trip with that I’d rather forget.  After many months.  I felt very unconnected to that past, and still do, which is good.

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my savior in Mangaung

It was only about 150 km to Maseru.  And what a pretty ride it was.

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Road to Maseru

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Road to Maseru

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Road to Maseru

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Road to Maseru

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The road to Maseru

This is the border post between SA and Lesotho at Maseru. The border post is very informal.  At least it was for going into Lesotho from SA.  I didn’t even get ‘stamped out’ of SA, I don’t even know where that happens.  I actually managed to get completely to the other side without showing any documents.  I went back deliberately (on foot), just to get the stamp in my passport, for the novelty of it all.

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Pre-border post search point

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the place is a-buzz with activity

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One of the gates at the border post

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This is where you should get stamped in and out

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Filling up at the border post

After getting some advice from the lady at the tourist office by the border, I decided to make Thaba Bosio my first stop.  The road signs are non- existent so every now and then, I had to stop to ask if I was on the right road.  The people were all very gentle, and friendly, and helpful.  A few kilometers from the border post where there were some Chinese people supervising roadworks, a taxi sped through the stop and go, and knocked me over.  People in the other cars were in uproar, and the taxi stopped to help me pick the bike up again.  Luckily nothing was broken, including me.  The following pictures were my first impressions of Lesotho.  It was clearly another country altogether.

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The road to Thabo Bosio

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The road to Thaba Bosio

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Nokaneng Backpackers surrounds

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Nokaneng backpackers and the daunting rocky path going up to it

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Nokaneng backpackers surrounds

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across the road from the backpackers

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This is the grocery store across from the backpackers and also seems to be the local hangout

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Three very camera friendly girls

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The source of the playful tingeling

I decided to visit Thaba Bosio, the site of the royal graves, the following day.  Some rest was in order first.  I stayed over at Nokaneng backpackers.  Its run by a  German/American lady who says the rest of her family is settled in USA.  She says she came there 10 years ago with the UN corps, and planned to stay for 2 years only, and now its 10 years.  I think in the meantime, she started doing this backpacker full time.  Lesotho’s streets are so far really good condition.  But the driving is a bit rough.  Not nearly as bad as India, but one has to watch out for speeding drivers.

The main language  in Lesotho is Sotho of course, and where I stayed, is about 40 km from Maseru, its pretty rural, and they don’t really speak too much English at all.  The people are calm and friendly.  Just calm.  Like India only better.  Because its also clean.  In fact, the lifestyle, and the landscape reminds me alot of India.  In terms of lifestyle, if i think back to Egypt, Luxor west bank, it was pretty much similar.  Rural, is rural. They look like they are not overworked.  Its a good quality of life at a first glance.

Where I stayed over was not quiet.  There’s were cars passing on the road running past.  There’s the sounds of playful chatter in the distance, but still clear (The surrounding mountains make the sound travel/echo), there’s the bells tingelingelinging from the necks of donkeys and sheep.  When I first settled in at the backpackers, I heard this tingelingeling, and  tried to see where it was coming from.  I thought perhaps there were some children playing on make-shift instruments for fun, but when I found the source of the tingelings, I saw it was a bunch of sheep merrily walking along, with a little shepard boy of not more than 8 or 9 behind them.  Oh, the sound so reminds me of Heidi that animated tv show from my childhood.  The sounds put together is like a living orchestra.  Simple and sweet.  Between people’s properties, which are all like small holdings, is at least 50 to 100 m spacing.  There are not so much lights, so the night sky is filled with stars.  With such a dark sky, one can really see the satellites moving over.  There are so many.  If one just looks up at any patch it is really easy to notice 3 or 4 in just that piece of sky.

My Southern African Road trip day 8, Thursday 5 December 2013- Kimberley to Bloemfontein

Once in Kimberly, I struggled a bit but eventually found this place called the Gumtree lodge.  Its a very nice place to stay on a budget.  Check it out here

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The Gumtree Lodge, Kimberley

There was not much more I could do the night before besides conk out.  Next day of course, it was my duty to society to visit Kimberley’s main attraction, The Big Hole.  It is a arguably one of the largest open mines to have been excavated by hand.  Diamonds were mined there between 1871 and 1914.  Find more info on the history here.

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Entrance to The Big Hole complex

Lots of effort and of course money must have gone into reviving this old mine into what it is today.  It is a wondrous place.  Not only the site of the hole, but also the historical exhibitions, the actual diamond exhibitions, and the short movie about old Kimberley one can watch on site.

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walking out to view The Big Hole

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Information board on the schematic of the hole

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The actual hole with some perspective

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The headgear of the old mine

At some point, the security guard pointed me towards a lift and told me, I could go see the underground.  Nervous, I climbed into the lift and began the descent, which was a rattling, noisy, very nervous 20 seconds.  When the door opened, I found myself in this underground dugout.

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Simulation of the underground operations of the old mine

Turning a corner, I saw before me three flashes with a massive explosive sound.  I could almost feel the earth shake and I very nearly peed in my pants.  It was of course only a simulation.

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Simulation of the Underground operations of the old mine

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some information

Turning another corner, I found myself in the historical and diamond exhibition section which was actually very much NOT underground.  The underground had been done so brilliantly that I hadn’t even realized I was not really underground.

Just out side The Big Hole complex is a brilliant reconstruction of the historical mining town of Kimberley.  Most (if not all) of the buildings there are the actual original buildings of the old town.  They had been lifted from their original sites and transported to this Open museum.  One can walk inside the house of what could have been the house of Cecil John Rhodes for instance, and stare at the room where he slept.  At the foot of the bed, could be the last pair of shoes worn by some or other hopeful who came to the Kimberley in hope of striking a fortune.

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‘Garage’ in the reconstruction of the old historical mining town of Kimberley

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a Bar in the reconstruction of the historical mining town of Kimberley

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Somebody lived in this house about 100 years ago

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Funeral home

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hearse

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German Lutheran Church, was still used up to about 10 years ago when they decided to preserve it for historical purposes and moved it to this site by The Big Hole.

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Memorial for soldiers

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Laborer’s huts in the reconstruction of the historical mining town of Kimberley

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Diamond buyer’s office in the reconstruction of the old historical mining town of Kimberley

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Some remnants

After the Big Hole, I drove around a bit hoping to stumble upon some other unexpected things, maybe some diamonds.  I wanted dearly to see the old railway, but I struggled to find it.  After about an hour of random siteseeing, I hit the road to Bloemfontein which was much more full of greennes and other goodness than the road of the day before.  The Free State border is actually less than 10 km from Kimberley.

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Finally crossing into another province en-route to Bloemfontein.

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critters on the road

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soul alone again

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Welcome to Bloem

My Southern African Road Trip day 7, Wednesday 4 Dec 2013 – Augrabies to Kimberley

If there is one post I wish could get a lot of views, it is this one.  Why, because this was the day I met an amazing woman named Mary.  But more about that in just a bit.

Heading out that day, I had this unrealistic dream of getting to Kimberley.  Which was a good 520 km from Augrabies.  I think the most kilometers I had done in one day was not more than 300, and so, in preparation for this giant leap, I hit the road early in the morning.  Crossing the over luscious Orange River was a good start to the day’s journey.

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Crossing over the scenic Orange River

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Open road

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Passing through the Green town of Kakamas

The town of Kakamas was pretty and green.  It was starting to heat up.

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Kakamas main street

As I took the turn towards Keimoes, I spotted a nice restaurant hosted by a hotel, to have coffee.  There was a black piggy there who was having breakfast for a long time.  He didn’t look up once.  Just kept chomping on the grass.  I forgot his name, but the waiter did tell me what it was.  It was kind of cute, but I forgot it.

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Piggy at theKeimoes hotel/restaurant.

There were some ducks, swans and other critters in the little lake in the garden which was on the grounds of the Hotel behind the restaurant.

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ducks in the pond at the Keimoes

There were some springbokkies also, at least thats what I think they are.  Forgive me for my ignorance if they are not, I’m just a bit lazy at the moment to figure it out.

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Springbokkies (I think) at Keimoes Hotel/restaurant

Then on the road it was again, and on and on and on.  Hot, hot hot and hotter it got.  And brown.  The green had left the road.  And then came Upington.  Urgh, Upington is not nice.  Its like a big, ugly, dirty, busy, Hot.  Just NOT very nice.  But I figured I could do with another sticker for my pony, so I found one at this place:

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Curios shop across a dirty river in stinky/dirty/not good looking Upington

Behind the curios shop, I had unintentionally found a gem of a place.  I parked there, not knowing what it was, and walked around to the curios shop.  When I returned there were two (or three) ladies marveling over my luggage strapped bike.   Of course conversation, ensued, in Afrikaans.  My Afrikaans was quite good after only 7 days on the road.  All of where I’d been (and most of where I was still heading was Afrikaans).  Where was I from?  How long had I been on the road?  Where was I headed?  Aren’t I scared?  And then they told me about this place I was finding myself at.  It was the Oasis Skills Development Center.  Mary (the lady photographed with me in the picture below) started it as an NGO after being retrenched from her teaching post many years ago.   Together, she and her husband – with his illness and all – built this center from the ground up, in some ways, very literally.  She sourced funding and came up with initiatives which I believe keep this center sustainable.  It consists of a school for children with disabilities and is also a full blown center where people with disabilities and others learn skills and craft and ultimately partake in manufacture of goods/crafts to fund the center.  Mary says that its hard to find a market for some of their goods.  They have stacks and stacks of quilted goods and by now loads and loads of fresh produce.  And beautiful garden decor and furniture.  Its just incredible.  And so inspiring.  The team of people running this center are a blessing to Upington and I believe to South Africa.  In principle, there is a lot of systems in place to assist centers such as these with funding, networking, partners, etc, but in practice, when one seeks out the help of these structures, one often finds ones self on the one end of a phone line that never gets picked up.  Its frustrating.  I do hope that a whole lot of potential investors, – and people looking to perhaps to link up with them in terms of business – stumble across this post, and take the time to browse through the website of Oasis Skills Development Center.   It is truly remarkable.  South Africa needs more people like Mary.  May she and her team be blessed.

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Mary, the angel of Upington

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Oasis skills development center

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Oasis skills development center

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Oasis skills development center

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Mary shows me the school building at the Oasis skills development center

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Oasis skills development center

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Oasis skills development center

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Oasis skills development center

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The sewing team at the Oasis skills development center

After Upington, it was tough to keep the spirits up I tell you.  The road to Kimberley was very dry, very hot, and very long.   I put in petrol at Olifantsfontein (which had not seen and elephant since the time of Jan Van Riebeeck).  And hit the road.  Preparing myself to probably find a town a couple of hundred km down the road.  There was still about 400 km to go to Kimberley from Olifantsfontein, and I was already knackered.  HOWEVER, that road was so nasty, ugly and uninviting, that there was NO WAY IN HELL, I would rest my head anywhere before Kimberley.  Black hills both sides of the roads, blasted to hell for whatever they held in them that was valuable.  Trucks carting loads of this blasted mined stuff to wherever.  Slow traffic, and to top it off, lots of roadworks and all the glorious ‘stop and go’-s  that come with that.  Nothing My eyes could ever wish to see again.  Gosh.  I made one stop in Posmansburg for fuel and a bite to eat at the Wimpy and then it was back on the road which was incredibly tricky to get onto again.  By about Barkley West, the road was starting to look a lot more user friendly and easy on the eye, and by that time it was less than 100 km to Kimberley, with at least a couple of hours of daylight, so, while my body was feeling like it could take no more,  I kept on until Kimberley.

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On that nasty road to Kimberley via Posmansburg

My Southern African Road trip day 6, Tuesday 3 December – Augrabies

I stayed another day in Augrabies.  It would have been a waste have come this far and not do a day hike at least.  I tried to get going early, but as usual, this plan didn’t work out and I only got to the reserve just before 9am when it was already quite hot.  I took a hike along the Dassie/Klipspringer trail which are nearly the same, except for one section.  It was HOT HOT HOT.  Very little shade, and lots of those irritating slow motion flies who were fricken buzzing around my head all the time!  So, It was a struggle to appreciate what was going on around me while getting a good bicep/tricep workout flicking the flies away with the info leaflet about the hiking trails.  This must be how cows feel.  There are a few natural water features along the way, inluding a stream, a waterfall.  I would have loved to do some river rafting but the company that does that were not taking bookings that day.  Here are some pics I took on the day, mostly along the dassie/klipspringer trail.

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Near the turn for the Augrabies nature reserve, a reminder for me that there is some adventure biking down the road for future reference.

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A starling admiring the waterfall.

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signage along the dassie/klipspringer trail

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Rock formations early on the hike. Carved by water over a very very long time.

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A very very scary part along the hike clambering over boulders, accross a steep gorge

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Looking a bit upside down

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The relief of a stream. If it wasn’t flowing so fast towards a waterfall, I might have taken a dip there.

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wooden walkway over a tricky section

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Lonely, thirsty trees up on a hill

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Water hastily making its way towards a waterfall

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The same fast moving stream

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Interesting looking rocks. The top one almost looks like an alien skull (with a bit of imagination of course).

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elegant ‘potholed’ rocks

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looking up to moon rock

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Scenery from Moon rock. The 3 dimensionality of the situation is removed because it all blends together. I was in fact standing ontop of moon rock, probably about 20 meters above the rest of the landscape

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some landscape

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4by4 trail

I leave you with a piece of writing sent to me by my friend at this point in my trip:

A passage from Helen Moffett‘s anthology by William Dicey“….I considered the riverscape before me. What is it about these mountains, this river? What gave them this exulted quality? The startling contrast between wetness of water and the stoniness of stone, yes, but why did I find it so compelling? Was it the suddenness of the transition? A metre off the water you are already in desert. A few steps further and the onslaught of rock and hammering sun so overwhelms you, you can hardly conceive of water anymore, you begin to doubt of the Orange’s ability to wet you. Perhaps that’s where the magic of the Richtersveld resides, in the steep gradient between water and stone, in the tension it creates.”

My Southern African Road trip day 5, Monday December 2 2013- Springbok to Augrabies

Appropriately for a Monday, I woke up at 5am, packed up, and checked all my nuts and bolts.  The gear lever incident of the day before made me more vigilant.  Most of them had quite a bit of room to tighten, and also one bolt was completely gone.  Luckily I had thrown in a few spare bolts on the last minute.  And they actually fit!  So up I saddled and off I went.  But before I hit the long road, I had to get my sticker for Springbok.

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Appropriately up at 5am on a Monday

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A signal hill with a steep and angled road that Anton dared to go up once.

I found some at Springbok Lodge which opened at 7am.  Then I hit the long road.  Anton, from Springbok Caravan Park warned me that after Aggeneys, the mountains retreat and its just one very long piece of dead road.  I was worried about dying of boredom.  I was also worried that I wouldn’t have enough fuel to get to Pofadder where Anton knew for sure there was a petrol station (he wasn’t so sure about Aggeneys), so I took an extra 5 liter on my back.

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Starting out eastwards to Augrabies

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What the hell does THAT mean?

 Its not so good riding with fuel in a backpack.  It felt like I was riding with an ice block on myback.  When I got to the Aggeneys turnoff, I saw there was a sign for a petrol pump in the town.  But the town was 8 km down the road, so I was relieved that I didn’t have to go there.  Some more km down the N14, I threw in the 5 liters and then on to Pofadder, stopping of course a few times more.  Shoo, I don’t know how the Voortrekkers managed with their oxwagons on those gravel roads, and no shock absorbers accross the Kalahari.  I can see it now, the Voortrekkers trekking accross the vast plains of Kalahari gravel and bossies (bushes) in ‘n ossewa (an oxwagon), no shocks or nothing. They must have been (had) tough cookies, want my hol brand op ‘n teer pad (because my bum was burning from riding on a tar road).  Luckily, my back was ok.  Much better than my first local road trip with my Honda VFR 400.

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Turn towards Aggeneys

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kilometers upon kilometers of exquisite kalahari nothingness

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exquisite Kalahari

I was lucky that it was overcast, so it wasn’t very hot and other than a sore bum, it was comfortable.  It turns out that this long of road of nothingness was quite a novel experience for me so it was quite nice.  Every now and then there was a few kilometers of these hills/mountains spotted with Kalahari bushes, looking like stone heaps that were just plonked down there.  Apparantly these mountains are rich in minerals, from iron ore to platinum.  So says Anton.  I do believe its true.  There’s lots of mining going on here.  All the mountains have chunks out of them that have been blasted to hell.  The road is straight and very long.

Pofadder finally came, and as Anton said, the road widens into two lanes just at this section of the N14 that runs through Pofadder.  Classic.   Pofadder was so quiet! One would never say it was a Monday morning.  I asked the petrol attendent why it was so quiet.  He says, that by Friday the town starts Woeling (becoming lively), and the partying picks up, maar by Maandag, is die dorp weer mooi rustig (but by Monday the town is nice and quiet again).

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Pofadder at last!

I crossed over the road to the Petrol station on the other side, to get a sticker and to see this Ox-wagon at Pofadder Autos.  True as god, as Anton said, there’s an ox-wagon in the shop.  Its no longer a car dealer though.  There’s all kinds of oddments being sold there now.

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Pofadder Auto

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Ox-wagen inside

Then came a good enough time to get back on the road again.  The next petrol stop was many many kilometers away in Kakamas.

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Leaving Pofadder

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UFO

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Life in the Kalahari

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This is what it feels like to ride through a painting

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Picture Perfect

The landscape changes quite a bit as one nears Kakamas as the wine farms start springing up on the sides of the roads  in stark contrast to the desert vegetation.  I saw the turn to Augrabies, which is before Kakamas.  So I stopped to ask a guy on the side of the road where the nearest petrol station was.  He said “baie naby” (very near), “by die robot op die links” (left of the next traffic light).  His “baie naby” was 10 km later!  I had a lunch at the petrol station, filled up, and turned back towards Augrabies which was 10km back down the N14, and then right onto the R359 for about 30 km.

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baie naby

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As the Orange River wine route begins, the landscape becomes greener.

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wine farm near Kakamas

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Turn for Augrabies

I found a sign along the road for Augrabies backpackers unexpectedly after about 20 km, and was relieved to realize that there was a budget option.  The actual backpackers turned out to be a twisty kilometer or so down a piece of dirt road.  Its nice and isolated from the main road and quiet-ish.  On the property, there were lots of blooming fruit trees, and decent rooms.  They also had free wi-fi (with in reason-told to me by Cade the youngster running the place).  They are not in the current coast to coast, but they are in the alternative route.

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Blooming figs at Augrabies backpackers

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blooming grapes at Augrabies backpackers

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blooming oranges at Augrabies backpackers

After settling in and asking the Cade about what there was to do in Augrabies, he explained to me how to get to the Augrabies Falls National Park and that anything can be arranged from there.  So I went, and booked a game drive and then went to see the waterfall.  They call it Augrabies after the bushman word for “place of great noise”.  And it IS a place of great noise of the nicest kind.  Staring down from one of the lookouts at the thundering waterfall, I imagined what it must be like to fall into it.  You’ll be smashed to smithereens and whipped to a frothy pink pulp.  This waterfall was definitely one of the most beautiful natural things I’ve seen in my life.

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Finally there 🙂

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Quiver tree in Augrabies National Park

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walkway to the waterfall

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Augrabies main waterfall. There are no words …

Later, the game drive didn’t disappoint.  It was hard to see animals, we saw a few from a distance, a little giraffe, a few kudu, and Eland, a couple of very cute haasies (hares), klipspringers a spotted owl, and what the ranger said seemed to be a little fox.  What fascinated me the most was the landscape! You can see it on pictures, you can see it on tv, but to be in it is surreal.  The desert is so so so so beautiful.  There are no words to describe how I felt to be inside it.  The red gravel sand not completely covered by green, red and yellow bushes, and the golden bushes dressing the black rock pile hills.  The smell rising up from the yellow kalahari bushes after a gentle drizzle.  I will have to go back there again, when the season is open for it, to do a 3 day hike through the Kalahari.  Its too hot now and Cade told me that the season for hiking probably just closed.

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Dusk over the alluring desert

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giraffe in the national park

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can you spot the haasie (hare)?

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alluring landscape

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alluring landscape

The game drive was at night.  If I did it again, I’d rather do it in the morning.  At night, they shine spotlights on the animals which makes the animals run away.  They also allow people to do a certain part of the game drive in their own cars.  Motorbikes are not allowed unfortunately.  Riding back in the dark was a bit daunting, especially since there signage to the backpacker was not so good, but I managed, one km at a time, going slowly.  Once back, I played a couple of game of pool with Cade and then went to bed. He was soul alone there.  I was the only person staying there at the time.

My Southern African Roadtrip day 4, Sunday 1 December 2013- Kleinzee (Kleinsee)

Got off to a late start that morning.  At around 9, I started the trip, first stopping in at the office where Anton, the manager of Springbok Caravan park helped me with some useful information on getting to Kleinsee.  He also reassured me that the road was good.  He rides a Big Boy 250 cc dirt bike and knows alot about all the dirt roads and hills and old mines in the region.

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Off to a late start

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Anton looking up the number for Naries Police station in a very thick Northern Cape telephone directory

I stopped at the ATM in Springbok main road and when I got back on my bike, and clicked into first gear, there was no gear lever.  I looked down and saw that it was laying on the floor.  My first thought was:  “Shit, its broken”, but when I gathered my rationality back after 5 seconds and looked closer, I could see it had just come loose and fallen off.  So, after cutting my self several times with my utility knife gift, I managed to knock it on and went back to the campsight to fetch my tools which I should never have left behind, and there I tightened the bolt that squeezes the lever around the shifter.   I was just so glad that this had happened where I was able to find the gear lever and fetch my tools.  Had it happened on the road while I was cruising with my foot away from the gear lever, I would have been really stranded, and maybe even had made an accident in the dirt for lack of being able to change gears.  With that sorted, off I went.  I couldn’t help but worry about what could go wrong next though.

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The gear lever’s gone and fallen off

The ride was spectacular from beginning to end.  Fourty five km from Springbok, one hits the Spektakel pass, and oh, what a spectacle.  All the mountains infact are a sight for sore eyes.

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Begininning of Van Reenen Pass on the way to Kleinsee

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Posing on the way to Kleinsee

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Spektakel pass

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Posing on Spektakel Pass

Arriving in Naries, There was nobody manning the single petrol pump (Another ‘een-pomp’ kind of a place), so I knocked on the door of the house behind the petrol station.  He told me to knock on the door opposite the petrol station.  The man was home, but the lady not, and apparantly she runs the petrol station.  She was only going to be back at 4pm.  that is when I decided to carry on to Kleinsee.  I would make it there at least by 1 pm.  And there would at least be a security at the gate at all times, so if I was stranded there without petrol, I would not be alone.  They would definitely be open on a Monday (the next day).

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Single petrol pump in Naries. The house behind it is where the lady lives who is in charge of the pump. She was not at home.

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Naries is a gravel town

After Naries, the beautiful tar road turned gravel.   I wondered why Anton told me the gravel was nice.  It was very bumpy, so bumpy in fact that my tool bag vibrated loose and fell off the back of my bike.  A nasty kind of gravel, and I hoped that it would get better.

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Tools fell off on the bumpy gravel road

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Nasty gravel road heading out from Naries towards Kleinsee

I could not face 50 km of that kind of gravel.  Luckily for me, after 5 to 10 km the road turned into hardened mud, which although still had lots of ridges, was a good grippng surface, so the rest of the dirt ride was nice.   This must’ve been what Anton was talking about.   It was a very very very long road!

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Long, hard mud road to Kleinsee

Turning right into the last stretch heading towards Kleinsee was tar again.  The friendly security at the boom took my id num, name and licence plate and told me that even if the petrol station is closed, I could call the number on the door and someone would come out to help me for an extra charge ontop of the petrol.  That was fine by me.  For a Sunday in a ghost town, that was a pretty good deal.

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Last few km before Kleinsee

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Looking back for landmarks/signboards to know where to turn on my way back

Kleinsee is a deserted diamond mining town.  The diamond mine was run/owned by De Beers.  In 2009 De Beers started scaling down their mining operations there and since then it has been completely halted.  The town is more or less deserted now with the only residents being those who are involved in the running or the petrol station, rehabiliation of the vegetation and also retired people and those who have bought holiday houses.  Read an interesting article about it here.  Sounds like it was a little paradise back in its heyday.  I think that things have scaled down much much further since this article was written.

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This place is closed but call Johnny if you need petrol

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waiting for Johnny to come fill me up

I  went to the old mine buildings up on the hill for a look, then into the town.  The houses are still in good condition, with a few overgrown plants/weeds in little cracks.  There are  a few people living in the houses.  Retired or just used as holiday homes (security at the boom told me).  I think I would buy a house here just for the heck if I had the money.  I like deserted places.

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Posing in deserted Kleinsee

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deserted Kleinsee

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Deserted house fence falling apart in Kleinsee

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Creaking gate in deserted Kleinsee

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Forlorn piece of abandoned machinery, Kleinsee

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Scene in the deserted town of Kleinsee

Next thing was to hit the dirt road to the beach.  It was quite a nice piece of dirt road.  There is lots of potention to explore the stretch of coast on the dirt, but I didn’t want to waste petrol that I needed to get the 100+ km back to Springbok, so I just stopped at the nearest beach opening and cooled off a bit there.

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Road to the beach

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At the beach

At 4pm, I hit the road back home.  There were 2 options, one through the Springbok gate and the other back the way I came via Naries.  I opted for the way I came because I was too tired for surprises.  The way back seemed easier.  The dirt roads still scared me, but it felt like I was getting used to them.  The way back didn’t seem as long.

First thing when I was back, Anton came and popped in at my room, and spoke for what seemed hours. He knows alot about mine machinery and steam trains and weapons, and who knows what else.  I like him though, although he talks alot.  When I went to do my laundry down there near the office, I popped in and asked him to show me some of his photos, and then he showed me all the daring trips he did up to impossible hills and crevices with is 250 big boy.  The guy climbs into mine shafts and goes where he is not sure its possible.  Also likes deserted things, remnants of the past like I do.   I definitely would like to come up this way again, and take a few adventure detours with him.  Now its time for bed.

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Kids on the way back to Springbok

My Southern African Roadtrip day 3, Saturday 30 November 2013 – Bitterfontein To Springbok

The overnight in Bitterfontein was quite nice, especially after that hard day of riding.  John and Dawn who run Dawn Ridge guest house are the nicest couple of people that side of the Cape.  She’s nearly 80 and he’s nearly 70, they look quite good for their age.  Would you believe that Dawn still does all the cleaning and between them they do all the catering for their guests?  Its a very homely place to be.

Dawn and John are bikers too, even Dawn, only she stopped riding a while ago.  John had just sold his scooter and was looking for a new bike.  They say that the afrikaners, their fellow townfolk are very racist and even towards them were very unwelcoming and jealous about them running a sucessful guesthouse.  Its only after 8 years that they started making friends in the community when they joined a church.  Dawn says its necessary to be a member of the church because anything can happen to them and if they need to be buried, they’ll need a priest.  So thats why the finally joined the local church.

They also have some to say about the coloureds.  The coloured area is quite seperate from (and alot poorer than) the white area.  The say the coloureds are quite nice and harmless, like naughty children really.  Drinking, not working, sitting around, basically out for just a jolly good old time, and really there’s not work for them here.  Bitterfontein is 100km away from Vredendal which is the nearest town to find a decent supermarket to do some affordable shopping.  John drives some coloured folk there at a charge much less than the local taxis.

Dawn is a total sweety pie.  She told me some stories of the strange things the local afrikaners did to try to get rid of them.  the likes of throwing scorpions on their stoep, one which stung her causing her to nearly die.  A cobra got thrown on her stoep too.  Another local coming there to ask to buy a bottle of brandy, insisting that they should have some alcohol to sell.  She thinks they were trying to catch them trading alcohol illegally.  Then a couple of other strange stories about men pitching up there with young girls wanting to rent a room for a couple of hours, and also men coming there asking if they get a ‘girl’ with the room.  Sigh.  Lots of interesting tales.

The house is surrounded by plants which are not normally able to survive in these parts.  She really has a good hand with them.  After a hearty breakfast, I packed and prepared to set off back on the way to Springbok.  But alas, the flat battery problem delayed me a bit.  John luckily had a garage full of handy stuff, including a car battery which we used to jump start my bike.  Once it started, I decided to cancel my plans of seeing what there is to see in Bitterfontein and just head north on the long road straight away to charge the battery.

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Dawn and John from Dawn Ridge Guesthouse

As one crosses into the Northern cape, the landscape goes through a dramatic change.  Lots of  half worn down mountains, almost balding.  No more flat lands with only desert bushes.  Everywhere is green, despite the desert.

I stopped in Garies for petrol and did a bit of a walk down the short main street.  The town is nice and bright.  Lots of coloured Volkies (folk) just hanging about.  Two ‘drankwinkels’ in that one short main road, a loan shark and, 2 petrol stations, 2 or 3 guest houses, a police station, and a couple of grocery shops.  I’m not sure what the people do for work there, because there seems to be nothing really around.  But they are driving really nice cars.  I found it quite fascinating.  I had a bit of a snack there and carried on.

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Killer maltese living in Garies. Watch out!

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Welcome to Garies

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Garies main street

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Garies

I took a sho’t right to Kamieskroon.  There’s a nice caravan park there, which I may think about staying at if I’m ever on this side of the world again.  I made a turn at the petrol station, to top up, but they were completely closed (at 11am).  All the pumps with apologies pasted on them.  There was no petrol.  So on I went for 60 more km to Springbok.  Kamieskroon looks very very nice/cute/quaint/bright/relaxed.

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Sho’t right to Kamieskroon

The 60 kms were breathtaking, balding rolling hills, green and yellow and red bushes dotting the landscape.  Cows relaxing on open patches, some sheep, dirt roads darting off to destinations with the most imagination inspiring names.

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Scenery to Springbok

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The road to Springbok

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Balding mountains

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Intersection

I arrived in Springbok just after midday.  There are lots of signboards coming into the town.

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Welcome to Springbok

The info center was closed in Springbok.  Apparantly, Saturdays are much like Sundays.  Not much open in the town.  Even the backpackers next to the Shell garage where I filled up with petrol (and my packed lunch from Dawn Ridge) also looked closed.  On John and Dawn’s advice I contacted Springbok Caravan park and they had a little room available and several camp spots.  I was very tempted to camp.  The surface is nice grass which is perfect.  But once I saw the room and put my stuff down, I was sold for comfort over adventure.  The relaxing day of riding gave me renewed courage to tackle the road to Kleinsee the next day.  There was sure to be a whole lot dirt to ride there.  The tar road was becoming a bit monotonous.

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Feet up after at Springbok Caravan Park after a pleasant day of riding.

Introducing Shanti Devi – the only woman mechanic in India

This is what I call a real woman.

Metro

Mother of eight Shanti Devi is believed to be the only woman mechanic in India.

She also employs her 55-year-old husband Ram Bahadur.

The 50-year-old, who lives on the outskirts of Delhi, not only runs a home, but has run her garage for 18 years, working 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

‘I love my job,’ she said. ‘It’s hard work but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d be bored if I was sat at home.’

They used to run a tea stall on a main truck route and, while just surviving on their takings, saw the potential in learning the motor trade.

With her encouragement they decided to learn the basics from a friend and invested all their savings into buying tools.

Now they earn 48,000 rupees (£650) a month in the peak summer months, where some only manage 2,000 rupees (£26).

‘I’ve managed to…

View original post 80 more words

My Southern African Road Trip Day 2, Friday 29 November 2013 – Clanwilliam to Bitterfontein

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First challenge for the day

That morning, I had a major worry on my mind. HOW was I going to get down here?  This is behind the little cottage where I spent the night. I rode up to here the day before with the mindset that I would deal with getting down when the time came. It doesn’t actually look so bad here because the picture does not to 3 dimensional justice to the situation.

It cost me at least 30 minutes to line my path down with big flat stones which were lying around in abundance. I lay them in the gaps I felt the bike was most likely to slip in (and subsequently fall over). I really had no idea at this point how cool my DRZ actually is. Oh me of little faith. Anyways, I was a very big newbie to all of this rough and tumble still.

Folks, I am happy to report that it was a swift 2 seconds that got me down.  It was much easier than I had imagined – as usual.  Oh the mind is a killer.  So full of fears, unnecessary fears!  The problem is that one usually reacts to fear on instinct, and this is where the things (bike, luggage and rider) go belly up.  Instinctual reactions like hitting the brakes when going downhill in the dirt does that to a person.

Oh what a treat to ride Pakhuis Pass again, in the fresh, cool of morning.  Not a car in sight anywhere.  On the way back into town, I stopped at (what I thought at the time was) the Grave of Louis Leipoldt on Pakhuis Pass.  I learnt later – At the goal museum in town- that this was not his grave,  but rather a memorial site.  His ashes had been strewn on Pakhuis Pass.  At this time I had no idea what this guy was good for.  With a name like Louis Leipoldt, I assumed it was nothing too impressive.

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In Clanwilliam

Once back in Clanwilliam, I left the bike parking at a petrol station and got some breakfast and snacks for the road and spent a hour or two exploring the town’s main street.   The main street has lightness to it, colorful, bright and pretty.

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Clanwilliam’s main street

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The flower church on the main street

I visited the goal museum where they’d kitted out different rooms with various non-prison displays.

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The goal museum, Clanwilliam

It seems like a place people might just walk right past without knowing it was there.  Once inside, I paid my ten rand entrance fee, and it had a kind of  ‘insert coin’ effect.  The ‘keeper’ an old-ish man, probably late 50’s to early 60’s started reciting the history of Clanwilliam to me, and putting the museum’s displays in context with all of what he was enthusiastically reciting from memory.  It was pleasant and interesting to listen to him.    I liked the museum a lot.  I Especially appreciated the fact that the displays are not out of reach. One could easily climb on the ox wagons for instance.

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Once could easily climb on the ox-wagons for instance, and hug the dummies, although that would not be advisable.

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These dummies look upset with each other.  They could do with a hug.

But of course it would not be advisable.  Here I learnt about the amazing Louis Leipoldt…. author, medical doctor, child genius and some other things .  I am terribly disappointed in the very little information available about him online.  If I remember about it in the available future, I will attempt to get some library book on his life.  If all the info on him in the museum is to be believed, he truly was a remarkable individual.  Clanwilliam is famous for Louis Leipoldt, Tolla van der Merwe, rooibos tea, and of course the Cederberg mountains.   There is very little to be said about Tolla online as well.  The guy deserves a decent online biography.

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Interesting written document from the past regarding bastards and mixed breeds.

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Shrine for Tolla in the Clanwilliam Goal museum

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Amazing Rooibos

Just in the road adjacent to the museum, on either side of the road, are the oldest (thatched roof) houses in Clanwilliam.   The man at the museum told me about them after I asked whether any of the buildings in the photographs (of Clanwilliam ‘back in the day’) – on the walls of the museum – still existed.  The oldest one is from the 1700’s.   Apparently two weeks before I’d arrived in Clanwilliam, one of these houses had burnt down.

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One of the oldest houses in Clanwilliam – dating back as far as the 1700’s

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Another of the oldest houses in Clanwilliam – dating back as far as the 1700’s

After this, It was back on the road … Heading where you ask?  Lambert’s bay actually.

 Clanwilliam to Lambertsbay

This was not part of my original plan, but I was desperate to be near the ocean.  The N7 is a looooooooong road, and its beautiful to be in the mountains, but, I knew that if I didn’t visit Kleinsee in the next two days (which was a strong possibility), it would be at least 5 days before I would get to be near the ocean again.  What an unbearable thought!  The way to Lambertsbay was picturesque, I drove past Graafwater, which I wanted to drive into, but hesitated, and in a few seconds I was too far past to feel the urge to go back. At this point is where I told myself, “woman, stop hesitating over stupid stuff that cost you nothing really. Just do a Nike (Just do it)”

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The road to Lambert’s bay

Although I’d been to Lambert’s bay once before, and knew that at least there was Bird Island to visit across from the harbour, I went to the Lambert’s bay info center to find out if there was anything else interesting to see and do … just in case.  I did not learn of anything else, but what I did learn about was that the road I planned to use later that day to reach Doringbaai was a dirt road.  But that was later’s problem, so, off I went to park in the harbour and visit Bird Island.  And then for a nice crayfish in the harbour restaurant.  Its the first time in years I’d eaten crayfish.  I hadn’t had crayfish for so long, partly because I’m a cheapskate and partly because I’d developed a fear of it due to the fact that it looks like a giant spider (fears, oh unnecessary fears!), but that day, I happily snapped away at the delicious spidery limbs  doing what I had to do to get the juicy flesh out (slurping and crunching down with my teeth for example).   Mmmm, it was simply divine.

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Lambert’s bay harbour

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The walkway across from the harbour to Bird Island

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Gulls on the walkway to Bird Island

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Beautiful view on the way to Bird Island

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beautiful view on the way to Bird Island

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Entrance to Bird Island

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interesting info on seagulls I never knew

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statue made of old wood on Bird Island

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Path leading up to the viewing building overlooking the Gannet bird sanctuary.

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An enormous whale jawbone

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the Gannet sanctuary behind the jawbone

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Viewing the Gannets from inside the building.

Inside the viewing building overlooking the Gannet sanctuary, were two young chaps.  They were fun to talk to.  They told me about the behaviour of the birds.  What stuck with me, is that they said the female bird remains faithful to her mate, she only has one and will never choose another when ‘the one and only’ dies.  And then I asked about the males, and they said, that the males will mate again.  I told them, but that’s not fair.  And they said, no but its right, I must just look at the how it is in real life … President Zuma for instance.

Lamberts bay to Doringbaai

The lady who I spoke to at the information in Lambert’s bay informed me that the way to Doringbaai was along a 40 km dirt road, and that she’d been on that road several times, the last being 2 days ago, and its quite ok for a bike. Its marked as a Toll road on maps, so I’d never have thought it would be dirt.  Had I known that (it was dirt), I would have promptly scrapped the notion of Lambert’s bay as I would have to ride back along the same tar up until Clanwilliam to get back on the N7, and head Northwards again.  Dirt on my own???  That was just not something I was going to face.  The lady at the info center was pretty convincing though, she told me the surface was stable enough, and there wasn’t soft sand at all. I was inclined to trust what she said, I don’t know why though.  Its funny how when I was with Gaby in India, facing a dirt road was not so daunting, because she and Santosh were there, and if we got into shit, we were in it together. Like 6 arms, 6 legs, three minds, and if we were stuck in the middle of nowhere at least were wouldn’t be soul alone without cell fone reception, or a plan, or a clue or a hint of a good idea about where we were or how we would get ourselves out of the shit. At least we could have held hands in the dark to comfort each other. Difficult things feel so daunting alone.

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Coming face to face with shit-I mean dirt-street

To decide something like going down shit – I mean dirt -street,  is way harder alone, I have to admit.  Facing it, without moral support riding in front or behind, or on the side of you, is a rather soul searching experience.  I struggled to keep the spirits up and keep survival reactions down.  About it being a Toll road, the info center lady told me they don’t take money there anymore, only your registration and name.  Why?  Because when they were taking money there, it always mysteriously went missing.  In any case, facing the road, I really hoped I would get used to dirt quickly because there was not another good choice around.

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Let the dirt begin

If a road had ever seemed longer than this one, I have no remembrance of it.  This long strip of dirt was arguably the  most terrifying ride of my life.  slipping, anticipating, riding slowly.  WORRYING about whether the bike was going to last on this road.  The hard ripples in the road were the second worst thing to deal with, and the loose sand (WHICH CONTRARY TO WHAT THE INFO CENTER LADY TOLD ME) there was quite alot of, was by far the biggest bother!  Boy was I glad when it was over.  A 100 meters away from Doringbaai, where the tar starts again, there was a fork in the road, the alternate (non-Doringbaai) dirt road going to Donkiesbaai, and I remember reading about it on this blog. From what I read about all the SOFT sand, I was definitely not going to (mis)adventure down that road.  I had been through enough for one day.

I averaged between 30 and 45 km/hour on the dirt. Sometimes 20km/hr when my ovaries were popping out of my body, and at these stages, the heat gauge went really high, which put me under pressure to (wo)man-up and just go a bit faster. I have no idea what speeds people are doing on dirt with bikes, but for now 50km/hr is a maximum for me. I must say, one does get used to it after some km’s, but it didn’t seem less scary to start off with, when I had to face it again further on the trip.   The second thing, as you know, that was assaulting my confidence was the worry whether the bike would be ok (would the spokes last, would it stay cool enough, are my shocks and wheel bearings going be ok, the wheel alignment going to stay in, oh lordie, there is so much to worry about … the brain is a damn unnecessary pest sometimes).

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Boy was I happy to see the end of that dirt road! Pretty pleased with myself too for keeping it all above ground!

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finally in Doringbaai!

Doringbaai is a ‘een-geroeste-pomp’ kinda place.  There is only one petrol pump.  And its owned by a general supermarket.

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Doringbaai is a ‘een pomp’ kind of a place

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The general dealer-come-petrol station

In Doringbaai, I put in petrol, only 20 rand to fill up (going slow has its benefits), and then took a walk down to the bay, enjoyed the chilled air, and took some photos.

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Doringbaai

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kids in Doringbaai

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Doringbaai

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Doringbaai

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Doringbaai

Doringbaai to Strandfontein

Eventually I saddled up and carried back on my way to my next stop (Bitterfontein). The bike felt like it was weaving now. Of course I had heightened senses because of my imagination that the bike had been taking a very hard battering on the dirt road (Oh me of little faith). So I thought maybe the spokes were shot to hell, or a wheel bearing broken, or tires too soft, or heaven forbid, the lock nut on the wheel shaft had come loose. I checked in the best way I knew how, and everything still seemed fine. I then also checked my oil, noticing that the belly pan seemed to have a lot of oil on it. Good thing I did, because the oil was quite low, Maybe because overworking on the dirt, or maybe because of leaking. Either way, I went back to the single rusty pump petrol station and bought a can of oil, and slightly overfilled, just in case. It was only once I was completely out of Doringbaai that I felt the bike was completely fine.  It was the tar on the road that was uneven that made my bike feel like it was  weaving. At this point, I had great trust and faith in this darling of a bike.

(Sure you all know about Route 62 but …) Do you know that Route 362   is a wild beautiful  desert diamond of a route. Breathtaking. Cool ocean road with many many a square mile of desert vegetation, farmlands, hills, dirt roads leading off to everywhere in all directions, interesting signboards. Simply stunning. One signboard in particular read ‘Strandfontein’, and out of curiosity, arising from the fact that there is a Strandfontein in Cape Town as well, I was curious to see what this one was like. It was quite an interesting little meander down to the beach.

Beautiful pristine beach, and nobody with a toe in the water. All the coloureds were on the grass, ledges braaing and syping (drinking). I’m telling you, its an all too familiar sight for me. Coloured people throughout SA seem to have adopted this into their culture. They could be in paradise, but they are completely blind to it due to the fact that they are too busy syping. I went down to the beach to dip my feet at least.  I was savouring the  ocean because from Strandfontein, its a long way up to Springbok still, and then about 130 km more to Kleinsee to the ocean again, which I was not yet sure about. So I came back up to put my socks on. And then two oulike outjies (cute guys) with their beers were making eyes for me. I smiled, and they wanted me to come join them. But I thought, not now man, let me not turn this into a sexpedition. But I was friendly and eventually took the one guys number. Strandfontein might be a nice place, and I think Gaby might enjoy meeting Lesley and his friends. Maybe they could even arrange us cheap-ish accommodation in future, which would be very cool.

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left to Strandfontein

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Interesting meander down to Strandfontein beach

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Drinking and braaing

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Drinking and braaing

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And not a toe in the water on this pristine unspoilt beach. Perhaps its better that way.

Strandfontein to Nuwerus (wrong turn) to Bitterfontein

After the ride out of Strandfontein, I took a left to Nuwerus instead of a right to Vredendal (and did not realize my mistake). I had a look at the map beforehand and vaguely remembered that although the way to Bitterfontein via Nuwerus seemed more practical terms of distance, it was drawn as a not so important route. But all of this did not come to my mind again when I took the accidental wrong turn. Halfway down it started to worry me, but the tar was new and inviting in Nuwerus’ direction.

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the beautiful road luring me in the wrong direction

It was absolutely perfect.  As you can imagine, after that hair raising off-roading from Lambertsbay to Doringbaai, I was feeling like I didn’t quite want to see another dirt road for a few days after what I’d been through.  So, when I saw, with about 25 km left to go to get to Nuwerus, the right turn arrow for Nuwerus showed towards a dirt road, my uterus just clenched up in a bad way. I guess its the equivalent of balls shrinking. There were two cops out of their van there, talking to a youngster waiting at the intersection between tar and dirt. I asked them, mainly because I wanted them to say ‘it isn’t so’, that I didn’t have to ride over more km’s of dirt to get to Bitterfontein, but of course they were sincerely sorry to tell me it was so. That if not that way, I’d have to turn all the 60 km back and ride another 40 km to get to Vanrhynsdorp before I hit the N7 which would have put me about 100 km from Bitterfontein. So I plucked up my courage, which was really really hard to find, and opted for the 25km of dirt road, to Nuwerus, which would then put me on the N7 and less than 10 km from Bitterfontein.

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Interesting intersection where the road turned to dirt again

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Whether I liked it or not I would have to grow another pair of balls before the day was out.

That road, although having a lot less horizontal ridges, seemed less used, because the loose sand/gravel was all over the road. So there were no ‘clean’ car tracks for me to ride in (horror). Not none, but a lot less. Jesus, there is nothing more frightening that an inexperienced person skidding in the dirt. I KNOW it has to happen, its not tar, but its such a nerve wrecking sensation. I had to WILL myself just to relax, and trust (totally against what I was feeling) that it was ok, as the last 100 meters have been ok, and really, like with any riding lessons, the best advice is to relax, don’t tense up on the bars.  As you can imagine, when I did that nothing bad happened, the slight skidding wheel catches some solid ground and keeps the bike going straight in general. But the mind is a mad devil. It plays games with you. When the eyes see some dirt the mind imagines that a fall is imminent and then panic reactions kick in. Stiff arms, and everything else, unnecessarily braking – which makes the bike hell-of-a unstable. And also second guessing onesself. Often on the dirt road, I forget that Its not an exam, its not a race. That thinking I made the wrong choice to choose a dirt road didn’t make a difference.  It was totally irrelevant.  I was in the dirt, and I had to deal with it and calmly at that.   Just needed keep the rubber rolling steadily, one meter at a time, one foot ahead of the one before so to speak. Stop if it gets to tough, and then take a breath and go again. Remembering Gaby … Just another 100 meters, just another 100 meters. One step at at time.  I kept on telling myself that I’d been ok for all the kilometers before so I would probably be ok for all kilometers to come. This road had a lot of uphills and downhills, and real twists and turns (unlike the gentle one’s on the Doringbaai road). It was one heck of a challenge for me, but with the grace of who knows what, I made it out, and then finally made it down the N7 to Bitterfontein, where – God save the Queen – there was a petrol station.

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Thank you Jesus, I’m on the tar again!

After I filled up at the petrol station, the bike didn’t want to start again. And then I asked the petrol attendant to give me a push.   My heart might as well have sunk into my shoes when I felt the bike doing a slip slide.  I looked down, and there beneath my bike was a puddle of oil. I looked back, and it only started about 2 meters back. My heart sank, I tell you. Was that the end of my bike? The end of my adventure? I really thought I had blown my motor, and that THAT was why the bike wasn’t starting. But then the petrol attendant told me that, “no”, that puddle of oil was from another vehicle. And after another push my bike started. It was just the battery. I was so grateful. I just  hoped that the bike would start the next morning too.

The guys at the petrol station showed me Dawn Ridge Guest House which was that the pink house up in distance.  They said it was nice cheap place to stay so that’s where I found myself spending the night. The lady, Dawn, running the place is originally from Cape Town, she and her partner John both actually.  John was out riding some people from the town to do grocery shopping in Vredendal (100 km back down the N7). He had been away since morning and was still away until about 8 the evening.  Dawn told me stories of the town, basically that they were divided into Coloured people and racist Afrikaners. She put me up in a nice room, and fed me supper. I felt so at home, and comfortable. The rooms are great, and service is very homely and friendly. Anybody coming this way, should not be fooled by the pinkness of the place. Its a good, very affordable, very comfortable place to stay over.  I wished to see a Bitterfontein’s granite quarry, the railway and take a few pics in the town the next day.  I think its special because its this little town in the middle of nowhere, doing nothing in particular other than sending granite to wherever it goes to to be shipped to wherever else it needs to go.   Oh, I lie, they are quite well known for their water desalination plant (I think, I need to check).

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Basically, this is Bitterfontein

It had been such a day full of challenges and wonders, and self evaluation and nerve wrecking shit. I’m surprised I never popped a blood vessel somewhere.  I was so happy and so thankful that besides a flat-ish battery, all was still well with the bike, and all was still well with me. Life felt so precious and different from ordinary that night.

I admit that I’d lost a bit of trust in the bike since the no starting incident.  I hoped the battery just needed a bit of rest.  I was still not sure about Kleinsee because, as far as Dawn  knew, its all dirt road to get there. One hundred km of dirt road seemed a bit like hell to me at that point in time, but I was still open to being persuaded.  After all, that’s where the ocean was.

My Southern African Road Trip Day 1, Thursday 28 November 2013 – Cape Town to Clanwilliam

Feeling very unsure of myself, I hit the road.  The plan was to leave at 5am, but as usual, I left a couple of hours later and hit some heavy morning traffic as soon as I got on the N7.

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On the road

As the N7 stretched its legs to the wilder reaches of Western Cape, the traffic cleared up. And as the kilometers melted away one by one, so did my self-doubt, and that rare but familiar sense of being a little grain of sand, just flying away on the wind to who knows where, slowly took over.

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The N7 – Cape Namibia Route

All the way down the N7 lies wheat farm after wheat farm or is it grain? The landscape for alot of the way is rather flat, with some eroded hills which seem to provide alot of dirt road opportunities. At that point I didn’t feel I would do it alone though. But I felt for June, when Gaby and I plan to paint SA roads with rubber together its good to know there’s enough dirt to play on. Halfway between Cape Town and Malmesbury is ‘Zone 7’. I’d heard of it before. A nice place specifically for fun with dirt bikes and quads. A good place to spend a couple of hours polishing up some dirt skills. Further on is little berg also with a dirt road … more opportunity there. And all along the way there are nice little farm stalls and other little hills with dirt roads there.

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Open road and happy me.

Passing the towns of Malmesbury, Moorreesburg, Piketberg, and Citrusdal, and it was smooth sailing until just after Piekenierskloof pass. After Piekenierskloof Pass (Crossing the Olifants River Mountain Chain), which takes one into Citrusdal, there’s quite a few stop and go roadworks. They’re doing the road up nicely. Its at these stop and go spots that I discovered that the DRZ doesn’t overheat, the clutch cable seems to have adjusted itself in a way that didn’t disengage the clutch completely, making gear changing a little rough. Also stopping in gear and clutch in, still felt like the bike wants to move. The biggest issue was really the seat. Ouch, Ouch, Ouch. Not good for the long distance. Its motocross style, very narrow. My average speed was between 90 and 110 km/h.

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Beginning of Piekenierskloof Pass

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Scenery from Piekenierskloof Pass

Stop/Go roadworks on the N7

Stop/Go roadworks on the N7

Once in Clanwilliam, I started my investigations for places to stay over. The hotels/B&B’s in the town started at about R400, which was a bit much for my liking so I opted to ride a further 30km or so over beautiful Pakhuis Pass to explore a few more options.

The first place I checked out on the pass was called ‘De Pakhuis’ There’s options of rooms or camping. Which was fine and all, I would have taken a room there if not for the hectic 1km or so of soft sand which one has to ride through to get through the place. Going in was so stressful, and the 2km to the campsight was even worse, so I tried to get out there as quickly and calmly as I could manage and never looked back.  Little did I know that this little bit of dirt was only a very mild warmup for what was waiting for me in the days to come.

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Pakhuis Pass at the intersection for ‘De Pakhuis’

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Another section of Pakhuis Pass

In the end I settled on a little stone house at ‘Travelers Rest’. The terrain in was not too bad, and it was private, in the mountains, serene. In the R300+ price range, but I realized that there was not cheaper option anywhere unless I wanted to sand-surf into De Pakhuis again.

This place looks rather promising to the weary traveller (Brandewyn=Brandy)

This place looks rather promising to the weary traveler (Brandewyn=Brandy)

I booked in at Traveler’s Rest at 4.30pm and afterward I went to find out about doing the Sevilla Rock Art Trail which is linked to Travelers rest.  Its 5 km long, and took me about 2.5 hours.  Its an art gallery of the ancient past right there in nature. The paintings are quite faded. They have marked out 9 spots along the path which are sites with nice clear paintings still. These are not all the sites though, there are more. My only disappointment with this is that The Travelers Rest charges a further R40 to go on the trail. Which is not really a lot but I feel that at least they should permit people staying in their accommodation hike there for free.

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Bushman paintings on the Sevilla Rock Art trail

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Bushman paintings on the Sevilla Rock Art trail

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Massive rock along Sevilla rock art trail that seems to be impossibly balancing on a small corner of itself. There are several bushman paintings on this rock.

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The river running alongside the Sevilla Rock Art Trail in the Cedarberg

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The landscape on the Sevilla Rock Art trail

After cursing in my head about the price of the places, I stopped to listen. Its like a concert of nature. As the sun was setting, just the twittering of birds, and buzzing of flies. The soft breeze rustling the vegetation. When night fell, things started walking on the roof. A bit scary. The only synthetic sounds were a faint ticking at the electrical mains and the loud hum of the refrigerator which I switched off.

I nearly fell asleep, relaxing  belly up on the rock outside the stone house, looking up at the stars. Dark skies are a special treat for me. Brilliant stars against a pitch black sky. Wherever I fixed my eyes there was a shooting star, and 3 or 4 moving satellites. Stars twinkling. Hypnotizing. And then something moved in the bushes, and my city girl nerves were shot to hell and I spent the rest of the darkness sleeping behind closed doors and windows fighting with mosquitos.

To see more posts about my Southern African Roadtrip Nov/Dec 2013, follow this link

My Southern African Roadtrip [28 Nov to 13 Dec 2013] – The complete route

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On the road from Augrabies to Kimberley

The major route (not including the minor siteseeing inbetween) was

Day 1

Cape Town to Clanwilliam (230km +120 km)

Day 2

Clanwilliam to Lambert’s bay (62 km)

Lambert’s bay to Doringbaai (37km)

Doringbaai to Lutzville (35km)

Lutzville to Nuwerus to Bitterfontein (75km)

Day 3

Bitterfontein to Springbok (180km)

Day 4

Springbok to Komaggas (62km)

Komaggas to Kleinsee (73km)

Kleinsee to Komaggas (73km)

Komaggas to Springbok  (62km)

Day 5

Springbok to Kakamas (294km)

Kakamas to Augrabies (24km)

Day 7

Augrabies to Olifantshoek (270km)

Olifantshoek to Kimberley (254km)

Day 8

Kimberley to Bloemfontein (165km)

Day 9

Bloemfontein to Lesotho (Maseru) (146km)

Maseru to Thaba Bosiu (24km)

Day 10

Thaba Bosiu to Ha Kome

Ha kome to Malealea

Day 11

Malealea to Quthing (122km)

Day 12

Quthing to South Africa (Qachas Neck) (169km)

Qachas Neck to Matatiele (38km)

Matatiele to Kokstad (68km)

Kokstad to Port Shepstone (140km)

Day 13

Port Shepstone to Port St Johns (246km)

Day 15

Port St Johns to PE (577km)

Day 16

PE to Knysna (260km)

Day 17

Knysna to Cape Town (490 km)

The African way

Some interesting fact: In Transkei, whoever is the chief of the village allocates land to ALL his people. Everyone gets their fair share. It is the same in Lesotho. It is the African way. I’m sure it is the same elsewhere in the region. I don’t know where our greedy African born and bred politicians learnt their filthy ways. That is not the way of Africa.

RIP Nelson Mandela

The news of his passing fills me with mixed emotions.  Sadness at the end of the life of a man of such greatness, but also relief that he is no longer suffering.   Rest in Peace Tata Madiba.

One of the most magical Madiba moments of all time.

Today I find myself in Bloemfontein, which as a friend of mine put it, was the heartland of apartheid.  Like the yin and the yan, there is also another side to the Bloemfontein coin.  It is the birthplace of the ANC.  Built in 1926, the Maphikela house can be found in Mangaung Township in Bloemfontein. It is known as the birth place of the African National Congress because that is where the party was founded and Thomas Maphikela was one of the founder members and a member of the Executive Committee of the ANC in Bloemfontein in 1935.  

My naiive observation

Here is something that disturbs me about what I’ve seen so far, or rather what I’ve NOT seen. Besides the few (and very few it was) goats, sheep and cows, there are no animals. One has to go to a private game reserve to see some that have been especially brought in. What have we done???? Olifantshoek hasn’t seen an elephant since the time of Jan Van Riebeeck.

Sneak preview of whats been and what’s to come

Its been 6 days since I left home.

Along the road from Cape Town to Clanwilliam

Along the road from Cape Town to Clanwilliam

I’ve seen some ancient bushman art in the splendid mountains of the Cedarberg, in Clanwilliam.

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bushman art in the Cedarberg

Circumstances forced me to cover my first very first 80 km of South African dirt road riding from Lambert’s bay to Bitterfontein.

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Dirt road from Lambert’s bay to Doringbaai

Met the loveliest couple who run good wholesome affordable Dawn Ridge guesthouse there.

Dawn and John from Dawn Ridge guesthouse, Bitterfontein.

Dawn and John from Dawn Ridge guesthouse, Bitterfontein.

Trekked on up to Springbok, through some amazing scenery.

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Fine balding mountains of the Northern Cape

Stayed at the cool, affordable Springbok Caravan Park where the manager Anton could give me some great tips on dirt routes around Springbok, he also rides a dirt bike and has done some pretty daring routes in one short year.

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Springbok Caravan Park

From Springbok, I went West to visit the deserted diamond mining town Kleinsee, then back to Springbok.

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Dirt road from Naries to Kleinsee

House in the ghost town, Kleinsee

House in the ghost town, Kleinsee

 

Next day I trekked accross a couple of hundred kilometers of exquisite desert landscape to Augrabies, home to the majestic waterfall in the Kalahari.

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Through the desert to Augrabies

And thats where I am now.  The waterfall, or place of great noise as it was known by the original inhabitants, the bushman dazzles with its power and splendour.

Augrabies main waterfall

Augrabies main waterfall

HIke along the Dassie trail in the Augrabies Nature Reserve

HIke along the Dassie trail in the Augrabies Nature Reserve

I will spend a second night here and then head on eastwards.  Kimberly, Bloemfontein, Lesotho, Swaziland, Maputo, and then back down the east coast home.  Its getting hot in these parts. Lucky for me it only got to a maximum of 32 degrees, but the heat is coming in , so I better get out!

This is it …

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Flowers in Namaqualand

Tomorrow morning, according to my plans, I should start this trip.  Today, the irrational fear hit me as it usually does.  What do I think I’m doing?  Who do I think I am?  What kind of stupid idiot wouldn’t rather stay home where its safe and I don’t need to spend any money?  What if some shit happens?  What if?  The nerves and self doubt overpower my sense of reason at this point, but I know in my mind, I’ve thought it over and I know despite what it feels like now, for the last month or two, I’ve been burning like hell to do this.  So, tomorrow, If the weather is good, I will set off.  Its very windy today, and I don’t feel like starting on an unpleasant note.  The wind is not dangerous, but it does stress me out and make me tired.

Today was the day for tying up a few lose ends, one of these was to figure out the best way to fix my luggage to the bike.  Letting go of another couple of thousand at this point on proper panniers is simply not an option.  That can wait for later.  So, this morning, I found a good enough way, and that seems to be sorted, with some ski-rope.  It seems stable enough, but I’ll have to check it every now and then along the route to make sure that it actually is staying nicely secured to the bike.  It’ll be a bit of an inconvenience putting it on and taking it off, but oh well, win some, lose some.

The other important thing was determining the fuel consumption and if 10 liters of fuel (which is my fuel tank capacity) is enough to get me between petrol stations on the road.  It turns out I would get 156 km out of 8 liters (which puts me into the last 2 reserve liters of fuel).  This is good enough I think, but I’ll take an empty 5 liter bottle with me to keep extra fuel (on my back) Just to be on the safe side.  That should take me another 90+km.  You never know.  I’ll also just fill up wherever I come upon a little town.  Better safe than sorry.  I wish I could afford an over-sized tank, but once again, losing R3000+ for that is just not an option

The bike is not perfect, it still has slight issues with fuel struggling an eensy weensy bit to feed through the system, but after going for around 10 km, it seems fine.  I worry about whether it will overheat in the hot climate up north, but that would just mean all the riding should happen in the morning.  There’s the issue of the spokes too, but I think its not too big of a deal, unless I put the bike through too much rough terrain, so I’ll be a bit wary of this.  Just have to cowboy up and get on with it, because perfect never happens.

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The alien-like Cederberg region

The first leg of my trip is up to Namaqualand (see the rough route in this post).  Namaqualand is most famous for the blankets of beautiful flowers during spring time. Hopefully there’s still some of this left.  I’m going to take my time, and not rush to get to Springbok which is just under 560 km from Cape Town.  I will stay over in Clanwilliam which is 200 km north of Cape Town.  Clanwilliam lies on the western parts of the Cederberg region, and I would love to do some hiking there.  Pics of the alien-like Cederberg mountains have fascinated me for years and I just have to do some hiking and a bit of exploration of the town there.  After that I’ll stop in Bitterfontein which is a further 190 km north.  There there seems to be a freight railway that goes deep into the heart of South Africa.  I’m very very curious about it and would like to find out if its possible to hop on a freight train (which could make for a good adventure in the future). Bitterfontein also has a few granite stone quarries (I think, I may have read something somewhere along these lines) which are basically dormant now (I think).  So I’d like to see one or two If I can, and then, perhaps, if I need to stay over there I’ll do, or if there’s time, I’ll move on up to Springbok, and call it a day.  Nothing is set in stone, We’ll see how it goes

Thats all for now …

Road Trip South Africa- Nov/Dec 2013

In the next few days, I’ll be heading out on more of a ambitious South African road trip than the last one I blogged about.  Hopefully, I’ll grow another pair of Indian balls and manage to get myself to do some offroading.  Last month this time I bought my first dualsport motorbike, a DRZ 400E.  I’ve had it for a month now, and its one beast of a bike.  It has Chowed several thousand rands more than I’d expected in tlc so far, but aint that always the case with a second hand bike?  Not going to get upset about that.  When I start to worry about spending too much money fixing a bike, I Always remind myself how I spent R10 000 fixing an old dinosaur (Suzuki GS 550) for no apparent reason a few years ago.   Not to mention all the thousands I spent on tyres and brakes and even a spare engine and who knows what else to do trackdays.   In life one just has to do a Johnny Walker, keep on keeping on.   I was hoping though to be able to save for a second dualsport (for Gaby for when she comes down next year).  For new readers, Gaby is my most awesome-est bikerchick friend whom I did an Indian roadtrip with last September (2013).  Read about it here.  She provided the bikes and made most of the plans for the trip.  But nevermind about that now,  money usually seems to sort itself out when the plans come together.

So the feeling I get thinking about this new trip is pretty much the same as when I head out to do something slightly adventurous. The feet start to go cold.  My worries are not unfounded I don’t think.  The fuel tank might be too small for the distances between petrol stations, I might fall, I might get lost without cell phone reception.  I might meet with an accident, I might have a breakdown on a desolate road, It may get too hot for me to cope with.  And then worst of all, I may die and then my mom will find all my kinky toys and stuff sorting through my things.  This is by far my worst fear.  I suppose its normal to be afraid.  But of course there’s the alternative.   Doing nothing, seeing nothing, going nowhere.  Specifically this week, I’ve noticed my mom’s sister in-law, not much of a life, nearly 60, her sole purpose, cleaning the house.  And no excuse for why she does it other than the house must be clean.  I see photos on Google Earth of the places in SA I want to visit, if thats enough to make me not change my mind.  Here’s the rough, overambitious plan mapped out.

The route roughly:  Cape Town northwards to Springbok, Then Eastwards to Upington, then downwards to Kimberly, Free, State, Lesotho, Swaziland, Maputo, and from here all the way along the East Coast back home passing through Durban, Port Elizabeth, Knysna, George etc.

The route roughly traced in red: Cape Town northwards to Springbok, Then Eastwards to Upington, Kimberly, Free, State, Lesotho, Swaziland, Maputo, and from here all the way along the East Coast back home passing through Durban, Port Elizabeth, Knysna, George etc.

What I know about the bike so far:  Its a Suzuki  DRZ 400E 2004 model.  Its quite a bit heavier than a full motocross bike.  There’s a fricken LOUD aftermarket scorch exhaust on, which I tried to swop with the standard exhaust (to save fuel) but the standard one caused the bike to feel like it has dirty carbs in the low rev, so I put the scorch back on.  Probably adjustments were made to accommodate the more powerful Scorch.   Its quite easy to get the covers, seat and tank off.  However the carbs look super complicated to remove, but If need be, I’ll get a friend to help me take it off.  The standard tank is only 10 liters, which is a bit of a worry.  I seem to get about 80 to 100 km from one tank which is not very far.  I’m still considering whether to attempt to get an oversized tank, but it costs alot, and I’ve already spent so much.  I’ve had to buy a new clutch cover, put on tyres, new levers, bribe the guy at the roadworthy station to ‘pass’ it so that I could get it licenced to me.  I fear for the sake of my finances, I should probably try to manage with the standard tank. Besides that, I’ve found out I need to get the rims re-spoked.  For this, I may have to cut one of my arms and one of my legs off to pay.  I’m hoping that the spokes are not too serious at this point because I’m considering just leaving it for later (maybe Feb next year).   But  the tank … 80 km, darned, that’s not very far at all.

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The bike: Suzuki DRZ 400E

On the plus side.   The bike handles really well.  Its quite high so its one foot on the ground in stationary position, which is ok.  What’s not ok is making a U-turn from stationary position.  But with the height it feels really good in traffic because you have a good clear view of everything.  Other motorists cannot help but see (hear) the bike coming on which is great for safety.  I think that the carbs have been tampered with, and sprockets changed to favour stronger acceleration, which is good for some and bad for some.  I like standard in general, but for now, this will have to do.  So far, I’ve had a few close calls already where I’ve needed to do strong braking, and it was a relief that I could brake hard enough to lock the back wheel up with the bike still feeling stable in a skid.  My ex bike (Honda VFR 400) would definitely have been sideways on the tar at that point.  I’m hoping to be brave enough to venture onto some mild dirt roads.  Its why I bought a dualsport.  Watch this space for more…

India Road trip Take 7: Jaipur to Delhi, Friday 13 Sept

Early on what we thought was Thursday morning, we hit the road, wheels rolling, before the crack of dawn.  Was the first time I felt a slight big cold since I’d arrived in India.

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Gaby pre-sunrise

Gaby had spotted on Google Earth that there was a Salt Lake to be seen, which would be about a 50 to 100 km detour from our way to Delhi.  Since none of us had ever seen a salt lake before, we agreed it would be worthwhile.  At the turn off going towards the salt lake direction, we stopped to have tea with ‘Ali Baba and the 40 thieves’

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Stop for tea

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Having tea with Ali Baba and his 40 thieves also getting ready for their day.

And then carried on riding on some pretty empty roads.

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Waiting at a railway crossing

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at a railway crossing

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On the way to the salt lake

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The salt lake

The salt lake offered some pretty challenging riding terrain!  Buy by now you know Gaby, Never say “Can’t”.

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A very tricky crossing! I’m not sure this was meant for bikes. That we never landed sideways in the salt water could probably a topic for Indian mystics to ponder

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Navigating some rugged terrain at the salt lake

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Gaby and her KTM Duke at the salt lake

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navigating some rugged terrain at the salt lake

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Taking a breather from the offroad challenges at the salt lake

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Finally being shown a way out of the salt lake … we sure weren’t going to attempt the near impossible way back we came from!

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Trying to get back on the way to Delhi

Just alongside the salt lake was this town, all painted blue and green.  It was quite novel.  The things of story books.  If you look closely, you’ll notice gutters running alongside the houses.  This is actually the sewrage system.  People squat and do their business in these gutters.  In a pretty public way.  It smells bad, but after a couple of days in India,seeing someone squat in public to relieve themselves is not shocking.  You tend to have lost all sense of grand imagination of how posh we are, when necessity forces people to do what no human can avoid, with no doors or private rooms to hide.

The ride back was pretty much just a very busy, freeway with lots of trucks, lots of cars, lots of motorbikes.  It was hard work after the lovely rural farm roads we’d been riding the last few days.  Finally, about 30 km from Gurgaon, Delhi (Gaby’s home), Santosh’s rented Enfield let us down in a big way.  It had been having issues all along the trip with misfiring, and difficult starting.  This incident was kind of like a test for me, and I think I only passed with 50 %.  Gaby had ridden ahead of us, and didn’t know Santosh was stuck.  It was HOT, and Santosh and I were frustrated trying to get the bike to start.  Santosh was exhausted, and we were both dying of heat-stroke.  Several people had tried to stop to try to help us.  I called Gaby, to tell her we were stuck.  She was already about 20 km ahead of us.  Explaining to her where we were was not easy, because of the unfamiliar surrounds, It seemed that via fone, the language barrier between me and her was quite big.  In the end, me and Santosh decided to go wait at a cafe’/shop a few hundred meters from where we got stuck.  Which was not a good thing really because it made it harder for Gaby to spot us.  I think I handled things like an ungrateful spoilt brat.  I was impatient in my communication with Gaby, and she must’ve picked up on it.  She handled it really well though.  She was very patient and tolerant.  She has alot to teach me on being a good sport.

Such a hero she is, she organized for the freeway patrol to come and help us, and they got a mechanic to sort Santosh’s bike out for free.  There were nice guys.  And they said, that this is what the freeway patrol service is for.  I’d trade our freeway service back home (who are just out to catch you misbehaving) for these guys any day!

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The freeway patrol fixing Santosh’s bike

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The friendly chief on patrol

With a couple more minor hickups, we eventually got home in one piece.  I can’t say the Enfield was in one piece though, The top box was basically only being held on by one single bolt.  The others had fallen off along the way.  Also I had broken one of the pillion seat springs when we were putting on the top box, before the trip had even started.  It also suffered one broken indicator, but nothing else major.  The KTM duke, except for halfway along the way showing a false warning light signalling engine trouble (which started when we left Dausa), and never went away, was still in perfect nic.  And by now you can probably all guess that Santosh’s bike was in need of a serious carburettor cleaning.

We slept pretty good that night, and I was I was surprised the next morning when I woke up to hear that it was actually Saturday and my day to go home … sniff.  All three of us thought that I still had a day left.  Oh well, all good things have to eventually end.

India Road trip Take 6: Two days in Jaipur

First things first once we got settled in at the Narain Niwas Palace hotel, we did what was necessary.  We went shopping!  In the pink city!  The pink city is basically like ‘downtown Jaipur’ and  has streets and streets each with a specific kind of goods in a whole street, like in one street you will find only silver jewellery, another will be for clothes, another will be for gold jewellery, another for ornaments.  Its simply irresistable.  I was on a mission to find those colorful big scarves that all the Rajhastan ladies were wearing.  I found a bright Sari, which was kind of similar, but I did not find exactly what it was I wanted.  Apparantly, you’d only find that in the villages.   I did get a tradional village outfit which I LOVE  Here it is

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An irresistable village girl outfit

And here is Gaby in the shop trying to not die of boredom

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This shopping thing is so boring

And this then to prevent death by boredom she ordered some tea from the tea brewer on the pavement outside

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mmmm, spicy tea brewing on the pavement

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saved by delicous tea

After the shopping, we were really exhausted and went to the hotel snoozed, splashed about in the pool, lazed by the poolside, got massages and had some dinner and then watched these shows by the locals that the hotel organizes.  The one was traditional indian dancers.  Really skillfull traditional dancing.  Lots of spinning, lots of intricate dancing, by the beautiful ladies, all while balancing an ever increasing pile of clay pots on their heads.  And after that a puppet show which was also really good.  The sad thing about it was that it turns out the hotel doesn’t pay these people for putting on the shows.  They rely exclusively on tips from the audience.  And there wasn’t much of an audience that evening (or the next) and the audience (us) was a bit irritated  that the hotel didn’t pay the performers because the hotel was REALLY expensive (at least for me).

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Gaby dancing on stage with the performers at the hotel

Next day we set out to see some sites.  starting with the Birla Mandir temple.  This temple forms one of the major attractions of Jaipur.  The temple was built in 1988, by Birla Group of Industries, owned by large business tycoons in India. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu (Narayan).  I think India is one of the few places where modern buildings are still constructed in such intricate artistry.  Very rare in the modern world.

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The Birla Mandir temple

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Looking out over Jaipur from the Birla Mandir temple

Looking up to a hill from the temple is a fort.  The fort is closed to the public.    Most of the historical sites up on the hills are not open to the public,  and its such a pity.

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Looking over to the hill from the Birla Mandir temple is a fort up on a hill which is closed to the public.

Then just accross the square was the Moti Dungri Ganesh temple.  This temple was constructed in 1761.  Its so old!  I would not have guessed this.  When people enter the temple, they ring these bells that hang over the three entrances.  In the picture below, you can see one such entrance.  I asked Santosh why they do that, and he said its to let Ganesh know they are there.  The bells are constantly ringing because people are constantly coming in.  Also the path to the front where Ganesh sits is like a maze.  Interesting.

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Moti Dungri Ganesh temple

Coming out of the temple, I leaned on one of the orange poles and it turns out the paint was wet on the poles, which is usual I think.  Because people dot their foreheads with the orange paint, and its quite attractive.  I did it too.  I think of course there is some religious significance.

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Blessed by Ganesh, sporting an orange forehead spot –  posing in an auto-rickshaw

After the temples, we headed to the Jaipur museum.  They had some nice old things there.

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steps up to the second level of the Jaipur museum

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second level of the Jaipur museum

After this, Gaby needed to sort some dental pains out so Santosh and I carried on siteseeing alone without her.  hmmph.  lotsa tempation hey.  But in that heat, its hard to feel very shmexy.  So firstly we went to see some elephants

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Visiting the elephants in a little side suburb of Jaipur on a hill somewhere

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Some tourists getting an elephant ride

Then to Hawa Mahal.  The poet king Sawai Pratap Singh built this palace. This is  easily the most well-known landmarks of Jaipur and is also its icon. Located in the City Palace complex, it is best viewed from the road outside. This five-storey building overlooking the busy bazaar street is a fascinating example of Rajput architecture and artistry with its delicately honeycombed 953 pink sandstone windows known as ‘jharokhas’. It was originally built for the ladies of the royal household to watch everyday life and processions in the city from their veiled comfort.  Most people come here to get a view of the facade but they can also climb to the top for a wonderful view from the latticed windows. There is also a small archaeological museum there.

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Hawa Mahal

Then to Nahargarh Fort, which was beyond Majestic.  It is located on the Aravali Hills.  The fort overlooks the city.  It was built in 1734 and extended in 1868. Nahargarh meaning abode of the tigers was built by Jai Singh to bolster the defence of Amber.  It was used by members of the royal family for excursion in summers.

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Nahargarh Fort

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Nahargarh Fort

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Nahargarh Fort

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Nahargarh Fort

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A movie being filmed at Nahargarh Fort

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Giant Indian movie start

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mmmm SEXY Indian movie star!

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View from top of Nahargarh Fort

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View from Nahargarh Fort

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Our driver and his pimped out Auto-Rickshaw. The upholstry inside was all pink.

Then our bat boy took us past the Jal Mahal/Lake palace.  It was a sight to behold.  Jal Mahal (meaning “Water Palace”) is a palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur city. The palace and the lake around it were renovated and enlarged in the 18th century.

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Jal Mahal

Then for supper at the hotel, where we were reunited with Gaby, and then some more of the same puppets and dancing and then some rest.  There were peacocks on the grounds of teh hotel.  One cannot imagine the sounds they make.  They sound like they are laughing in a very rough, vulgar way, like drunkards.  ALL NIGHT LONG!  How we got any sleep only goodness knows.

India Road trip Take 5: Ranthambore to Jaipur Wednesday 11 September

On Wednesday, we left Ranthambore and headed off to Jaipur which took us a couple of hours, There is nothing quite like travelling on the road in India.  The landscape, farms, animals, and I love the people!  If you click on the pictures with people, and have a closer look, you’ll see the beaming smiles :D.  Yet they are going about their day to day hard work and still have this happiness to share with a stranger.  Wherever we interacted with people, they were friendly, helpful, and very hospitable.  Its something that lights me up inside and helps me to forget all my stupid imagined troubles in my comfortable life.

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On the road to Jaipur

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On the road to Jaipur

We passed through this town where the road was this red dust.  It was quite a mission getting through this town.  The town was much bigger and much more conjested than the other little towns we’d passed through.  I wish I knew the name of all these roads and towns we passed through, but the language in the little town are mostly Hindi, and there was not really time to stop and check on the GPS app that Gaby was using to check the names of these places.  Some where along the way, we stopped for a pic on this very very bouncy bridge.  Gaby used the ten second timer on her camera to take a pic of the three of us (see second picture below).  She placed her camera on the wooden railing.  And just as the shot was finished, a truck came past, and we realized what a stupid idea it was to have done this.  We were lucky her camera didn’t fall off the side of the bridge because of all the bouncing when the truck passed over!

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A town we passed through on the way to Jaipur

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Posing on a scarily bouncy bridge!

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School boys on a truck

It seemed as if my tyres were a bit flat.  My bike seemed to be weaving a little more than just for the dirt on the road.  So we found this place to check all our tyre pressures.  They used a little makeshift engine to pressurize the compressor that they used to pump up our wheels.  They physically started the engine by hand, kind of how one would kickstart the engine of a bike.

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A little smallholding next to where we stopped to check our tyre pressure.

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Having our tyre pressure checked.

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Another town we passed through

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School boys in the town

All week there were these festivities celebrating the birth of Ganesh, the elephant god.  Santosh says he is the god of prosperity.  Basically the one who you pray to for a good career and income and so on.  As part of the celebrations, people hand out food and water.  Below is a little banana and water stand where we decided to stop for the festival handouts.  It never occurred to us that the water was from the ground.  We just drank and ate without a second thought.

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they gave us bananas

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We got some sweet snacks from these religious festival peeps

Further down the road the religious festivities were in full swing.  We stopped again because it was a nice little village, and I think the gypsy caravan/dwelling caught Gaby’s interest.  

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Religious festivities

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curious young lady

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colourful ladies

The festival peeps offered us the murky looking liquid that me and Gaby were very nervous about.  But we took what they offered.  I remember asking Gaby if she thinks this was safe to drink.  With a worried look on her face she told me, “I don’t want to think”, and with that we both downed the murky stuff which turned out to be fresh lemonade 🙂  We saw them squeezing it on the side of the road where they were also pumping water.  Funny enough, we had no reactions to the water.  It must be clean enough in these farm regions.

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working hard pumping water for fresh lemonade

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Happy, dancing, colourful ladies

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Woman inside her home

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elderly lady does not want her face on a photo

The gypsies were very friendly, they showed us around their living quarters and let us take photos of them.  They are so beautiful.  What I love about these people and most people we found along the road.  They are so authentic.  They don’t put on a hollywood face for fotos.  They are just doing what they are doing, even when you take photos.  of course alot of women don’t want to have their picture taken, but they don’t get aggressive about it, they simply cover their faces (like the lady in the picture above).

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Beautiful teenage gypsy girl

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Gypsy girl smokes with her mom

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Gypsy mom confusing Gaby asking if we have any soap.

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Gypsy home
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Religious festivities

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Gypsy mom smokes Hookah

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Celebrations – happy people all around

When we finally got to Jaipur, we had some delicious curry lunch somewhere in the city , and afterwards went to book into a fancy hotel.  It was very fancy and also very expensive.

India Road trip Take 4: Ranthambore Later on Tuesday 10 September

Once in Ranthambore, we  found a nice hotel, freshened up and believe it or not, it was not yet 3pm… after ALL that we’d already experienced for the day.  We asked about booking a 4by4 tour of the tiger reserve.   The tour was supposed to be at 3pm I think, and after the hotel reception called to the people at the reserve to confirm whether a tour was still possible, we went there.  So this here is the so called ‘tourist office’  where one books the tours.

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Ranthambore tourist centre

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Ranthambore tourist center

We actually did the jist of the booking at the back of this building which was heavily under construction, literally with makeshift wooden scaffolding holding up the roof.  Here we had to hand over our passports for checking (this happens everywhere you need to book something, even at hotels).  I’m not sure why, perhaps for some kind of security reasons.  If you don’t have the passport with you, I think your life could become very complicated in India.

When we made the booking, we met this guy there, who was also there to book a tour.  And between all of us, we decided to do the tour altogether, as it would work out much cheaper that way.  As part of the package we were obligated to book a tour guide (who never said a word for the entire tour might I add).  Its worth a mention that Gaby and myself paid at least 3 times what the price was for Santosh and the other guy (because they are Indian and we are not).  This is the case everywhere, and I think its fair.  Its something that would work well in South Africa.  So, back to this guy who joined us on our tour.  He works in the Indian defence force and was on vacation and travelling around exploring India.     After having a nice jolly old conversation with Santosh and me, he asked us what our names are and we told it to him, and then I asked the same of him.  He introduced himself as ‘Leftenent Rohan’.  I found it hilarious and a complete put off.  And after that I could not take him seriously.  Also he was quite irritating.  Didn’t stop talking the whole time.   And the driver and his friend were very much impressed by the opinions and other stories that the leftenent had to blabber about, so the yap yap yapping never stopped.  It was very annoying.  In the end Gaby, Santosh and myself had a good old laugh mocking the leftenent.  He was so irritating.  He boasted about buying a book on tigers to prepare himself for this visit to the tiger reserve (rolling my eyes over here).  Here’s a photo I took just for memory of the honorable leftenent.

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In memory of ‘Leftenent Rohan’ (far left)

Once Inside the reserve were lots of day visitors.  People walking around in a tiger reserve!  You can probably guess that there were no tigers.  It was a VERY bumpy ride.  In fact, India is in general alot of hopping going on.  You need a strong flexible back for that country.  More than the tiger reserve was the religious temples.  the esscence of which cannot really be captured with an amateur camera.  We did see some of Bambi’s family, and birds and a very interesting and most unusual combination of vegetation Gaby says ;).  I think it may be due to people introducing vegetation from other parts of the world.  Here are some of what we saw in and near the reserve:

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typical small town Indian street scene

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Eye catching Geology and some temples and other ruins, and the usual litter.

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remnants of the past up on a hill

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entering the little town bordering the tiger reserve

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Some Indian politicians marketing themselves

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Interesting building, probably quite old

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I loved the soft slope of this hill

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The little town bordering the tiger reserve

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The road into the tiger reserve

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Day visitors (on foot) in the tiger reserve

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A gate, probably an old city gate in the reserve