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Three Dawg 01-28-2010 04:45 AM

South Africa, Swaziland and er...
Blimey, is it a year already? Since my last RR I sold the mighty (and very wonderful) Jota and bought a weird time warp has-it-ever-been-used 1100GS. Here it is parked up near Lochinver in the Scottish Highlands:

But tooling round up here isn't exactly adventuresome (there don't seem to be any off roading opportunities at all in Scotland), so I packed my bags and headed off to South Africa to see Mpumalanga (sort of east of Johannesburg), Kruger, Swaziland, The Zulu battlefields, the Drakensburg mountains and Lesotho.:D

We flew into Johannesburg. We were quite surprised to make it as the weather here wasn't exactly cooperating- minus ten centigrade and tons of snow everywhere. BA were having lots of trouble keeping up with the de icing.

First off, a quick word about SAMA tours who supplied our 1150GS. Really nice guys to deal with, very helpful during booking (unlike some I could mention) and even willing and able to pick up at Oliver Tambo airport for the transfer to their base in eastern Pretoria. Top guys and highly recommended. Of course, in my excitement I forgot to take pix of the guys...

We arrived early, got changed and packed up and with an escort from Jonathan at SAMA headed east on the N4 towards our first stop in Hazyview.

Lunch stop in Dullstroom, Flyfishing Central and 2100m above sea level. Nice wee place.

We rode the Long Tom pass, which I can highly recommend. This is the big gun at the top. The plaque giving the info was all in Afrikaans so I can't tell you anything about it, but it was a stonking run.

Our overnight was in Hazyview at the bottom of the 'Panorama Route' which took us in a big loop up the Blyde River Canyon. Anyway, that's tomorrow. Here's the Rissington Inn, our base for two nights.

Next day, The Panorama Route. Top road this and in excellent condition. Just right to ease us in to a longish trip.

Lisbon Falls where I tried (not deliberately) to pay for some souvenirs with Namibian money. Cue much merriment among the ladies manning the stalls when my mistake was discovered.

The Canyon and the 'Three Rondavels'

Bourke's Luck Potholes. River's been busy here.

We took a shortcut on the way back somewhere near Pilgrim's Rest, dirt at last!

Our last visit of the day was to God's Window.

And then back to Hazyview for a quick (outdoor) shower and 'dops'.

I can't remember exactly wwhere this was along the way, but eh???

drklr 01-28-2010 05:33 AM

Keep it coming. Absolutely stunning!

Thorne 01-28-2010 05:48 AM


zeroland 01-28-2010 06:17 AM

Very nice
Fantastic country...

Three Dawg 01-28-2010 06:25 AM

Next day we had to schlep down to Nelspriut to pick up a rental car as we were heading up to a game reserve in greater Kruger. Apparently there are wild animals that might regard bikers as lunch. I dunno, a GS is pretty quick to 100kph...

Anyway, with the bike tucked away at the Rissington we headed off to Balule Reserve in some hateful Hyundai 4X4. Hideous.

We were surprised and delighted to find we had the whole lodge to ourselves. This meant that the game drives would be much more enjoyable.

OK, so maybe a bike wouldn't be so sensible

Anthony our guide (and off road loon) and Richard our cool dude tracker preparing a snack on the Landy.

We saw plenty of animals:

Noble ones

Cross ones...

Big 'uns...

Small, ugly ones...

This thing is just showing off.

As well as lions and the rest, we saw giraffe, zebras, antelopes (various) baboons, eagles, owls and a leopard. No pix of that one as we had to go out in the dark to find her, but what a beauty.

Oh, and ridiculously cute animals too. This is Charli...

The great thing about the private reserves that border Kruger (no fences so they 'share' the animals) is that you can go off road to go where the game is. Anyway, River Lodge, we loved you.

We'll be back on the bike soon on the way to Swaziland, but I've got a few pix from our drive through Kruger NP to upload.

Three Dawg

Glenboy 01-28-2010 06:43 AM

Stunning. Keep it coming :clap

Three Dawg 01-28-2010 07:06 AM

In the Kruger proper you have to stay on the tarmac, but there's still plenty to see- hippos, Jackals, hyenas and these big fellers...

Back at the Rissington we spent a very enjoyable evening with the owner and some of his friends. The two young lads are English and were on their gap year. One had just finished at Sherbourne (posh private school) and the other had just left Harrow (super posh private school) I still managed to beat them to solving a puzzle on the bar, so one up to Egglescliffe Comprehensive, HA!

Chris, the owner (striped shirt with the money) was educated at Charterhouse (or Winchester, I forget), and I was beginning to get an inferiority complex. Fortunately I was also quite drunk (thanks to Humphrey, the smooth talking devil on the right) by the time I took this photo so I wasn't dwelling on my less glamorous education. Chris writes extensively for newspapers especially regarding Mpumalanga and is very knowlegable about the area.

The next day we ditched (not literally) the horrible Hyundai and jumped back on the bike for Swaziland.

Three Dawg 01-28-2010 07:39 AM

We were going to get into Swaziland via Barberton, but the road is apparently in very poor condition, so instead we opted for the Jeppe's Reef border post. On the way there from Nelspruit we took a dirt road shortcut from the N4 through Kaalrug. Beautiful run but muddy in places. The border was easy and we climbed up towards Pigg's Peak.

We stopped for lunch at a nice cafe with a view, but the girl who served us did some creative accounting with our bill. Could have argued, but couldn't be bothered. Must be relaxed:evil

GB 01-28-2010 07:45 AM

Wow!! :Thanks for the feast of pics! :thumb


Three Dawg 01-28-2010 08:28 AM

Ta, gnarly-er stuff coming up...

Three Dawg

Three Dawg 01-28-2010 09:04 AM

Swaziland is lush and there seemed to be plenty of logging activity going on. This is a lake created by a large dam on the way to the capital Mbabane.

Swazis are a very good looking people- cool dudes and sassy gals abound.

This is Xolile who looked after us at our overnight in the Foresters Arms near Mbabane. The 'X' is actually a click. Nice name, charming young lady. The Forester's is a hoot- great atmosphere and food.

A little local enterprise...

And some not so local... Pulp mill. Jobs and pollution. Horse and carriage.

We left Swaziland at the Sicunuza crossing and took the dirt road to Piet Retief. This was actually in better shape than the tarmac alternative which was full of potholes.

Gassed up in PR. I was pretty sure I was getting great mileage as most of that last few days was taken at around 80kph. How about 352km for 16.85 litres. Is that nearly 59 imp MPG. Someone help me here.

We were on our way now to the Zulu battlefields and Rorke's Drift.

If you say so...


Ha! No problemo! Rorke's Drift Lodge. Unusual...

Nice view over the battlefields from the deck at Rorke's Drift Lodge. We were there two days before the anniversary.

The rebuilt mission building at Rorke's Drift.

Memorials to the fallen on both sides. I read a history of the battle and watched the movie again before we came out. The movie is pretty accurate - guess Mel Gibson wasn't involved :-)

After finishing our tour of RD, we headed off towards our next stop in the Drakensburg mountains. Unfortunately the weather deteriorated somewhat.

Three Dawg 01-28-2010 10:32 AM

Pomeroy (?) was somewhat damp. The guy in the hoodie is making off having just stolen a pork chop...

The rain was pretty relentless. We were mighty glad to get to Giant's Castle in the Drakensburg. There it is, in the mist. Funny thing, last time I was here (in about 1973) the weather was the same Main difference from then is that we were constantly pestered by kids in rags in '73, now all the kids are wearing smart school uniforms - there are schools everywhere- so that has got to be a change for the better.

Nice place to stay

Useful woodburning stove in our rondavel.

The next day conditions on the road weren't good for a bike fitted with Bridgestone DeathWings. That wet clay was slippy We were due to try the Sani Pass, but I doubted by now that it could be done.

Bridgestone DeathWings. Useless on tarmac (I've got a set on mine at home) useless on dirt. Gimme TKCs next time!

If only this tarmac went for more than 100m in either direction.

Heading up the Sani Pass. This is OK!

Yep. definitely can do this...

Hmm, not looking so good.

Front Anakee looks reasonably OK, gonna try a set on my bike.

Looks real bad. Can you believe I dropped the bike in a car park turning round (sorry guys), not in this? Luck, not skill I can tell you..

Three Dawg 01-28-2010 12:12 PM

OK, at this point it started to rain properly (about 2K from the Lesotho border) and there was no way we were going to risk going further on those tyres. The photo doesn't do the gradient justice (honest!)

We met these guys from Pretoria University doing a survey of the roadside flora and they took the panniers and the missus down with them in their pickup. I freewheeled down slipping and sliding to the hotel at the bottom.

Slip sliding away. You know the nearer your destination, the more you're ya-de-da...

We were mighty glad to check in to the Sani Pass Hotel. Nice view from our room!

Three Dawg 01-29-2010 08:14 AM

Truth be told, we were a bit down after having to turn back (although it was inevitable given the conditions) Fortunately the managers of the Sani Pass hotel cheered us up over dinner. They've just taken over and are busy bringing the place fully up to scratch. They are top people (Boet and Bev) and I hope they succeed.

Anyway, the weather was improving, and we had a Plan B, head up to the Northern Drakensburg (on tarmac!) find somewhere to stay and then get to Clarens for our last night. We'd be able to see the Golden Gate National park on the way which would be a bonus.

It was all going great (our stuff was all dry) until just outside Bergville when we ran into a massive thunderstorm. At 10kph I couldn't see a thing, there was forked lightning massive thunder everywhere, it was positively biblical. This shows what it was like after the worst had passed.

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We sheltered on the verandah of a local hairdresser while people in cars drove past smirking...

Anyway, eventually we got going again and made for a place called Little Switzerland. This was in a spectacular spot and promised an eight (!) course buffet dinner. Just what the doctor ordered!

Moody Drakensburg scenery from our room...

The next day we headed to Clarens for our final night. Nice run through the Golden Gate NP, although a wee bit of sunshine would have helped the pics.

Clarens is an attractive place arranged around a square. Lots of cafes and shops seling arts and crafts. Funny place though, a lot of the shops were selling overpriced tat like fake Coca Cola signs and dubious art. We didn't see anybody actually buying anything...

We did see a couple of pillocks riding around the square on their GSs STANDING UP! Divs..

Anyway, our last day was a pretty straightforward run up to Pretoria. This next pic is only of interest to my family...

Have to say, once again SA delivered a great holiday experience. Could have done with a little less rain, but there you go. It's such an easy place to be, everyone is really friendly, the roads are so free of traffic (compared to the UK) and driving standards are good. A fly ride from Europe is so easys as there is only an hour or two difference in time, so you can just jump off the plane and on to a bike and go. It's still freezing here in Scotland...

PS. Why South Africa, Swaziland and er..? Well I didn't make the third country, Lesotho. I'll be back. With knobblies.

Mark950 01-29-2010 09:42 AM

Good to see my home country through someone elses eyes :D

I have had the pleasure of visting all the places you have shown and will vist them again.

Glad you enjoyed your holiday.

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