If you live in northern latitudes, as I do, you are probably by now in throes of cabin fever. I know I am.
To alleviate that, I am sorting through my collections of photographs from various trips - and found a whole bunch made during my outing to South Africa in 2007.
It is not a particularly daring, death-defying, hard-core run like those made in Siberia or Angola – but the season is ripe for some moto-photos to lift the spirit. So, enjoy the pretty pictures.
For many years now, I have been meeting up with my friend Lewis for a ride we call “Cappuccino Tour”. It all started in the Alps, the undisputed motorcycling and cappuccino capital of the world, and then progressed elsewhere. The idea is to enjoy the world – and the coffee, too!
For the 2007 season, I contacted SAMA Tours
, based in Pretoria. We spent a few months exchanging emails, completing all arrangements. Finally, in October of 2007, we flew into Johannesburg and met up in the picturesque city of Pretoria.
Here, we were met by Darryl Berman and his daughter, Nicole, who run South African Adventure Motorcycle Tours. We were renting the bikes from them and arranged for Darryl to accompany and guide us on the ride.
A few hours after arrival, we got on the bikes and went for a sightseeing ride of Pretoria. In retrospect, this was to “check us out” before going out on the trip.
From the left: Darryl, Nicole and yours truly.
We embarked on the basic tourist route, starting with the Union Building (office the President and winter home of the Parliament).
Next stop, the Voortrekker Monument, honoring the Great Trek of the pioneers, emigrants during the 1830s and 1840s, who left the Cape Colony moving into the interior of what is now South Africa. The Monument is surrounded by a circular wall engraved with wagons - a depiction of "circling of the wagons" under attack.
We still had some time to walk in the center of Pretoria – below is Lewis with Nicole and Darryl in Church Square in front of the Kruger Memorial – to enjoy the beautiful buildings and, of course, to sample some cappuccino.
Time to retire for the first night in South Africa. SAMA arranged for us a very nice place, The Farm Inn, overlooking the city. Accommodations had plenty of local décor – enough to keep us excited.
Next morning really brought us into the spirit of the continent: animals parading outside of cottage windows, kitties in enclosures.
It was time to load up, suit up and leave for the road. Derryl guided us out of town, heading east. First stop, an hour or so down the road, seemed utterly non-African: a humongous Buddhist temple complex – in the middle of nowhere. We were told that this was started as a planned religious or ethnic community, but the surrounding housing was never built, only the temple was completed.
Time for a stop. This was to become a steady routine during our trip. We had surprisingly nice lunches in the Wimpy’s fast-food places attached to gas stations (and I never eat in fast food places at home). Not very exotic, eh? Welcome to the New South Africa.
Terrain began changing slowly – from desert flatlands to lush mountains.
For this trip, we both rented BMW R1150GS. A year earlier, I have briefly ridden the next generation R1200GS on a German Autobahn, and came away very much unimpressed. I thought it was too tall for me and too unstable. During our ride in South Africa, the R1150GS showed me that I was wrong. I became enamored by the utility and comfort and, yes, handling of the genre. Needless to say, within barely a month after my return home, an R1200GS found itself in my garage…
The route took us into the hills of Mpumalanga province. This area appeared to be a favorite day-tripping destination of riders for the metropolitan areas. We stopped in a café in Sabie, which very much caters to motorcyclists. A big map mounted on the wall outlined local fun-runs.
Looks like some Harley riders took offense.
Well, it is a cappuccino tour, no?
In the café, a string of bras dangled from the suspended bike. Apparently, it’s good luck…
End of first day took saw us at a hotel in Hazywiev – where I made a new friend. Yes, before you ask, I do love cats.
Next morning, we headed for a loop ride, to sightsee more of Mpumalanga. Whenever I leave the psychologically safe confines of US and Europe, I am reminded how lucky we are to be born and to live where we do.
We were just on the edge of Kruger National Park – time to experience more of the unique nature.
We rode to the Moholoholo Rehab Centre, a haven for the rehabilitation and care of abandoned, injured and poisoned wildlife.
From their site: “Wildlife is brought to the center from all corners of South Africa, and once healthy enough are re-introduced into their natural environments. Those creatures who cannot be returned to the wild due to the nature and extent of their injuries, are cared for at the center and are used to educate the many people who visit us each year, both from across South Africa and abroad.”
Of our visitor group, the bird liked Lewis the most.
Student volunteers are bringing yet another resident.
Apparently, the trick is to have the hand flat against the fencing. Lick, not bite.
The baby is getting its sand rub.
OK, so how did it get its spots, again?
You talking to me?
You f*#king talking to ME?
Out of the Rehab Centre, into the beautiful country.
Derryl demonstrates the origin of common name given to these peaks.
The long day would not be complete without a native/folklore experience. After dark, we visited the Shangana Cultural Village. A total tourist trap, complete with a witch doctor and roof-climbing chickens.
Still, the dance performance, though corny, was beautiful and moving. The dancers depicted their history, from African warrior tribes to workers in underground Johannesburg mines.
To be continued…