Scott's Website   

Musings about bikes and such

Lesotho and South Africa  - 2012

Just before the end of the year, Harry (whom I went to Africa with in 2010) suggested a trip that he had been organizing with Darrell of GS Adventures (whom was also on the 2010 trip).   This was to take all of the best unpaved roads that Darrell knew across South Africa and Lesotho.....a real riding trip.  Harry and  I had done the game drives and safari cruises on the last trip, but the other two who joined us (Chris and Paul) had never been there before so it probably didn't end up being the ideal trip for them. 

We decided to rent bikes instead of sending our own this time so I ended up on an F800GS shod with Annakes and really had no complaints with the bike.   We had 13 days of riding and stayed in lodges this time.  Since no camping gear was needed, I just packed a Wolfman roll-top tail bag and a set of Aerostich tank panniers to carry my stuff.  Both worked well.

We flew Turkish Airlines from Toronto, through Istanbul and Jo'berg on the way to Cape Town.  We met Darrel and his wife Michelle at the Backpackers we had booked went out collect the bikes.

After a seafood dinner out at the port, we gathered at the pub to discuss tomorrows plan

We take off the next morning right after breakfast for a great trip.

Day 1 - Along the Coast - 270 Miles  (435km)

We started out easy and stuck to pavement for much of the first day, and ALL of the morning.  This is a great idea after a torturous flight and climbing on an unfamiliar bike.  In the morning , we hugged the coastal highway and made our way down to the Cape of Good Hope.  The views along the way were spectacular.

Of course, we had to pose for the obligatory picture

From there we made our way through typically aggressive South African traffic to the southern most point of Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, Cape Agulhas. ................of course, we had to have another obligatory picture taken.

We stayed at nice clean B&B, right off the beach - The Cape Agulhas Guest House.   I think they served us pork ribs for dinner, we had a few beers and went to bed early, still a little jet-lagged.  Tomorrow the riding is set to get more interesting.

Day 2 - Decent into Hell - 300 Miles (483km)

We got up to a full African fry-up and headed out on a mix of gravel and pavement for a mid morning stop a local landmark.

Ronnies is a bar that is only open when Ronnie is there...which is most of time....I think.  It just means there are no guaranteed hours.  It was open, but too early for us to drink....imagine that.  From there we kept working our way north past ranches and through beautiful landscape.  We would see the occasional ostrich, warthog or kudu but not the massive wildlife like in Botswana or even Namibia.  Darrell, Harry and I tended to ride a bit faster, while Chris and Paul (though excellent riders) preferred to sniff the there was a little waiting around here and there.

As we headed north, we took mostly gravel roads and found some to be fantastically smooth and fast so that you could run at 120kmh+ side-by-side.  Unfortunately at one point, when were well spread out, Harry was feeling out the performance of the R1200GSA he was on and managed to slide it off road, dinging one of the headers pretty bad.  Otherwise no harm done.  Great area to ride at speed.

I managed to catch a shot of Darrell coming up at speed. 

Mid afternoon we make it up the Swartberg pass 

Lot's of views like this on the trip. 

...and we began our decent into Hell.  There is a little valley that is only accessible by a 43km single lane dirt road hugging the side of the mountain.  The area is called "Die Hel" in Afrikaans.  Its not particularly difficult but there are may blind corners that would send you plummeting if you didn't make them.  Make sure the ABS is off, or you are very comfortable with its function.  On the 800, I found that it could be trusted, if not to stop, to allow you to make the corner even if you're a little hot.  Since it was late afternoon, we took the ~2 hour ride with sun in our eyes, wearing dusty face shields and sun glasses, visibility was limited at times.   It really made you stay on edge for the whole section.

The locals claim that since its so inconvenient to get down there, its populated by a bunch of inbreds....that may be true.  Despite the cabin being empty, and them expected a group on motorcycles, they didn't have the  name right so weren't sure if the reservation was really for us.  We let Darrell sort that and we had a well deserved beer before heading out to the cabin.

We made it to the cabin, just a ways down a little path, but Paul had trouble parking......wasn't the beer, but he was tired, as were we all. 

The Cabin had three rooms.  Two singles and a double, so after a high stakes rock-paper-scissors tournament, Harry and I were declared victors and had the private rooms.   Since we arrived so late, the kitchen was closed so they agreed to prepare the food and bring it to the cabin when ready.   That suited us fine as it gave us time to clean up and relax a bit.   I can't remember what they fed us, but I don't remember any0ne complaining either.  The cabin was lit by candles only and we slept with the place wide open.  Everyone really enjoyed the place....we're easy to amuse.


Day 3 - Cavemen - 206 Miles (332km)

After another African fry-up we head out on our own for the 40km ride back out of Die Hel.  Everything seemed much easier in the morning and since it was generally uphill, the precipitous drops weren't so intimidating. Still great views though.

Finally got to the end...or beginning as it were....

We had a morning break in Prince Albert.

We continued easterly along some twisty pavement and more ultra high speed gravel roads that allowed more side-by-side running up front on our way to Bavviaans.  The lodge where were supposed to stay that evening was a bit remote so we stopped at a shop towards the end of the day to stock up on critical supplies.

We also noticed this sign out front.  Apparently the dogs aren't really socialized with humans but are so with the sheep they protect.   They are used to prevent farmers for shooting leopards.  Of course...that also means leopards are around......

Finally we get to the lodge.  Darrell was really quiet about it and looked a bit nervous as he led us down a little foot path into the woods from where we parked the bikes.   It turns out that he had reserved a cave for us.

There were sleeping pallets that you could move around, a fire pit, propane lanterns and stove, running water and even a toilet across the small ravine with it's own geyser for a hot shower.

Darrell was relieved  when he realized that we really dug the place.   From past experience, some people are put off by rustic lodging apparently.

The owners came by shortly after we arrived and brought fresh bedding and tons of food for us to cook for both dinner and breakfast.  Unlike the last trip, we had way too much to eat.  I think there were 4 or 5 types of meats alone

We rode by several troops of baboons on the way in, but we were assured that they wouldn't bother us since they sleep up in trees at avoid getting eaten by leopards.......We all slept well though.