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Old 05-10-2012, 02:06 PM   #241
pfdavidz
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1. I LOVE you guys!
2. I really dig your spirit and the photography is amazing!
The Congo stuff was amazing. I cant imagine how much stress you both went through and still kept everything positive. Thank you for taking the time to write so beautifully and describing everything in detail. I really hope the rest of the trip is amazing and safe for you.

Both of you are just great and beautiful people.
Salute!

David
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Old 05-14-2012, 01:55 AM   #242
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You make me sound like such a nice guy

Here is a picture of Hein's Tankwa jacuzzi I'm going there this weekend again.

You ARE a really nice guy. We should have spent more time together. Keep us posted about that jacuzzi, that place is something else! Internet was a precious commodity in Joburg so we are now working hard to update our story. Love, J + A.
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Old 05-14-2012, 02:00 AM   #243
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Originally Posted by pfdavidz View Post
1. I LOVE you guys!
2. I really dig your spirit and the photography is amazing!
The Congo stuff was amazing. I cant imagine how much stress you both went through and still kept everything positive. Thank you for taking the time to write so beautifully and describing everything in detail. I really hope the rest of the trip is amazing and safe for you.

Both of you are just great and beautiful people.
Salute!

David
Cheers! We are long overdue with a more personal report on Congo, especially what it felt like to be so intimately dependent and close to the people, we ll strive to collect our thoughts in a future post if internet is more forgiving.
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Old 05-15-2012, 02:52 AM   #244
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Edge of Africa

Cape Town - Cape Agulhas 01- 10/04



The first men who ventured into the southern seas were spellbound by the wild beauty of the peninsula: flowers, herbs, woods, elephants, hippos. Since the advent of pastoralists, the original peninsular Khoi vanished, the wild herds were wiped out and much of the endemic vegetation has been uprooted to make place for industrial and residential developments. But the city, one of the world's few, like Rio and Hong Kong, that enjoy an exceptional geography, has kept its charm. We almost grew roots in Cape Town. For many over-landers, it represents the glorious finale of a arduous journey down. For us southern hemisphere's most important container port meant more business than pleasure, a much needed logistic base camp to sort our stuff out. We tried to organize as best as we could our journey ahead, couldn't get any temp jobs though, not could we find sponsors, fix our leaking tent or patch the aluminum pannier turned harmonica in the Congo. But southern winter, with rain and cold winds, was an extra incentive to suck it up and get moving. Which we did, not before enjoying with James a final wine and cheese at the Fairview Estate, one of the many Old World-like vineyards in Stellenbosch.









A rich soil, a gentle climate and a permissive law, that allows mixing grape varieties and techniques means that even the cheap supermarket wines are seldom not very good in South Africa. After the gourmet hour, we took a fair well ride in the crisp sunset through Bainskloof Pass.



We took our last breakfast in Cape Town with Charl, who was keeping another ace in his sleeve: the best eggs Benedict in town.







When we were shopping for a shared room to rent in Cape Town, a guy had mentioned Clarence Drive as being more stunning than Chapman's Peak. From Gordon Bay to Hermanus and up Gansbaai we finally had the chance to see that for ourselves. The Indian waters are strikingly blue, the shores gently curved into successive gulfs, while the perfectly smooth tar keeps the adrenaline pumping.



Now and then we stopped to listen to the ocean and count clouds. Epicurean surfers were hanging out in the frothy surf and life seemed beautiful.





We continued on the R44 to Gansbaai, where we lunched on fish & chips. We were bored of tarmac and running out of time, so we cut it straight to our destination, across the Agulhas National Park. One would expect a dramatic view in such a landmark spot, but the shores of Cape Agulhas are flat and a simple wooden path leads to the famous sign.





We have been marching to this point for months, and once there, we felt joy, but also butterflies in our stomachs. Where the traveller imagines an extraordinary scene, the earth is flat, modestly dotted with juicy flowers, and the waves rhythmically pound into the indifferent shore.





We obliged for the mandatory photo at the Cape Agulhas, but gravitation is kind of weird around here…



The end of a chapter, so many faces, places and stories that have become memories we miss. From now on, our journey will took us only north… at least for a while.

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Old 05-15-2012, 05:14 AM   #245
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Now this is a first



Just for interest sake, a surfer was killed by a Great White shark here just after you were there.

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Old 05-15-2012, 09:40 AM   #246
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The Swastica, The Ironman, The Metal Jockey and The Magician - Part I

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Now this is a first



Just for interest sake, a surfer was killed by a Great White shark here just after you were there.

We heard about it... that's so sad and for sure related with the techniques used for cage diving, a very popular tourist attraction in the area.

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Couchsurfing: Garden Route, Port Elizabeth, Somerset East 11 - 15/04





We had left from Cape Agulhas in good spirits, but at that time of the year the day was short and evenings too chilly for our summer gear. I had lost my gloves long time ago, in Windhoek, and my spare pair had been baked by desert heat to the point of being unwearable, so my hands were freezing. Everybody had been saying how wild-camping was unsafe in South Africa, but the fact of the matter was that had not seen a single unfenced spot all day. We did try reluctantly a few campsites, none was open though, high season now over. We stumbled upon some hotel that was 60 euros for two beds in a dorm. When we arrived in Bredasdorp it was already pitch black. We saw a couple of power bikes parked in front of what looked like a cute pub, The Pink Piano, so we figured we could go in, have a drink and ask locals for advice.
If you're not in the business of meeting quirky characters don't bother to couch surf in South Africa. Here one must leave their prejudices at the door and step in expecting nothing. Which is what we did, and we were rewarded with hospitality, sense of humor and some of the most unusual encounters. The cocktail nation of South Africa may lack in the peaceful cohabitation department and may not be the jolliest around, but this very polarized structure has allowed all sorts of social specializations that are quite an eye opener for someone coming from a place like Romania. Not being judgmental is hard, so let's go.
In Cape Town we were hosted by a jewish guy who works in the film industry and his romanian girlfriend, then by christian Afrikaners, who couldn't be more different from the cocaine addicts we were warned about. The Cape Town motorcycling community provided the fun, the information and the rides into the veld. 300 kays from the Mother Town, in Bredasdorp's Pink Piano pub, we had a bad feeling that it was the right place to ask for directions. Three biker dudes and a goth chick were dressed head to toe in black leathers, sporting army style haircuts and swastikas pins. We sipped our tea and beer while the guys debated our situation in Afrikaans. Nothing good could come out if this, we thought, but we were about to be proven wrong. The guy sitting right next to us at the counter put down the phone and offered us a wide smile; his wife had agreed to welcome us for the night at their place! JJ is a mechanic at a testing facility for the South African military aviation. His wife teaches English at a colored school, and they have two kids, a girl and a boy. We enjoyed each other's companies and stories so much, it was hard to put an end to the night. In the morning we exchanged contacts and regretfully said good-bye. Cheers, JJ!



Midway between Ct and PE, on the East coast of SA, lies the scenic garne Route, named for its lush vegetation. Garden Route is hailed as one of world's best drives. Frankly, we couldn't see why: its basically a quite busy freeway running parallel to, but far from a section of the country's most beautiful coastline. The drive itself is not particularly thrilling, as the routes more a eco-tourism destination, for shopping, sunbathing and the odd celebrity spotting, a holidaymaker and the world's rich and famous paradise. It is a charming holiday area, not catering to the travelers on a show string, but to enjoy the beautiful views, the beaches and tranquil bays, one must leave the freeway and drive many kays to reach the resort towns. We had nor the time or the budget for this, so after a few off-road detours to smell the salty breeze and sink our eyes into the endless horizon we kind of got bored with the traffic.



In 1488 Bartholomew Diaz was the first european to reach south African soil in Mossel Bay. We stopped there in a cute cafe owned by architects, for a latte and internet. Later we asked some locals where to sample the famous Mossel Bay wild oysters, but they were not even close to the ones we had in Walvis Bay! The seafood basket at the Sea Gipsy was brilliant though, if not very cheap.



Garden Route, when it's not full of jeeps.



After Knysna we decided we had had enough, so we took a left towards Route 62, via Albert Pass. In a couple of kilometers we were again alone, riding on a superb gravel road that winded up rolling green mountains. For a while we remembered to take some shots of the stunning views and frigid waterfalls, but soon enough we were too spellbound to stop.















The road looked like that:


Once we hit the plateau again, we took Route 62 across the hilly countryside that cuts through several conservancies. It was already getting dark though, so unfortunately we didn't get to see much. At some lost filling station we bought petrol and some food.



It was after 8 p.m. when we arrived at our host in Port Elizabeth. Bernard had been following our thread on advrider.com since last year. But this guy was an Ironman. If you are not familiar with what is the toughest and most grueling athletic competition in the world, let us give you a few details. The numbers alone defy description: 3,8 km open sea swim, 180 km cycling, 42,2 km run; world record is over 8 hours, cutoff time 17 hours. Bernard has done it twice, in little over 11 hours! He has been training his body and mind for a lifetime to beat what is generally accepted to be humanly possible. And yet, with this ironman schedule, he invited us in his life, and boy, what a man we discovered behind the iron!


Bernard & Sharmyn are quite the iron couple really: she has also done the competition, twice!

PE is the third largest port for cargo, built around the Bay of the Lagoon and the 1799 fort, but officially named after the arrival of the 1820 British settlers, their ships carried ashore through crashing surf and confronted by a desolate sweep of sand and the uncharted bushland behind that. Today PE is - together with Uitenhage area - the heart of the motor industry where the largest automobile manufacturers are headquartered. Also PE's Nelson Mandela Bay is the venue for Ironman South Africa. The wind swept beaches are perfect for an intimate picnic, so we grabbed some barbecued chicken and a bottle of Merlot and hit the dunes.





The few rustic Dutch town houses that survive have been refurbished as souvenir shops and info points.



Malls and recreational areas line the ocean. From this wifi connected cafe we could see street-side african art dealers selling generic carvings and jewelry called 'curios' since Zambia.





PE is nicknamed 'the friendly city', and rightfully so. Terry, an architect and his wife Dorianne had also been online with our travels for a while and were keen to meet and host us. We shared many stories over a lovely dinner, a far too short opportunity to get to know each other. Hoping that we would meet again, we left PE the next morning, as Bernard had made plans to braai at his father's farm near Somerset East. We hoped on our bikes: us on the Tenere, Bernard on his 80s BMW R1100 S, and 150 km and a prickly pear road side snack later, we were in front of the Avon Heights gate.







The country estate is a collection of charming buildings and family memories: pliable chairs manufactured in the 30s for the British army, old photographs, vintage furniture and a lovely rustic kitchen & stove















Among the family treasures, a 1932 Harley, from a 1137 pcs. lot specially designed for the British army. One day Bernard will bring this baby back to life.









But the most precious secret on the estate is the waterfall that offers an astonishing background for braaing and swimming. We left our beers to cool in the crystal clear stream and made the fire.




Our chilled gang




Avon Falls, an impressive sight at over 30 meters drop into several pools


All that is good must have an end though



In our case that meant a trip to the public hospital in Somerset East, where Bernard's dad had to get a few stitches after injuring himself onto a rock. The three hour wait in the hallway was quite interesting for us: this sketchy countryside hospital is not much worse that our Municipal facility in Bucharest!

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Old 05-16-2012, 10:27 PM   #247
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wow!

words fail to describe just how epic this has turned out. Furthermore, your report is excellent, your photos are beyond words! It's been difficult for me to get my eyes off the screen and page after page I have read this without fail until now I couldn't help but skip to the last page. I followed the tracking device and found that it showed the frenchies are now in Turkana, Kenya. My heart sank thinking I had missed you guys. I just sold off my XT660X and can't wait to get a Tenere - for a serious trip - nothing like your adventure, but to see some more of Africa, at least.

By the time you come to Kenya, I sure want to meet you and share the experiences and catch a couple of Tuskers with you in Nairobi, so make sure you PM me. If you need anything at all in this region, let me know I can plan for you in advance.
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:10 AM   #248
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This is one of the best ride reports 've ever had the pleasure of reading. Fantastic writing, great photos, and I love the fact that you talk about food so much

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Old 05-21-2012, 11:27 AM   #249
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This is one of the best ride reports 've ever had the pleasure of reading. Fantastic writing, great photos, and I love the fact that you talk about food so much

This *IS* the best ride report I've ever read ;) Rarely do we see such a great combination of rider(s), photographer, writer and trip. When does the book come out? ;)
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Old 05-21-2012, 04:57 PM   #250
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Originally Posted by mrwwwhite View Post

It was after 8 p.m. when we arrived at our host in Port Elizabeth. Bernard had been following our thread on advrider.com since last year. But this guy was an Ironman. If you are not familiar with what is the toughest and most grueling athletic competition in the world, let us give you a few details. The numbers alone defy description: 3,8 km open sea swim, 180 km cycling, 42,2 km run; world record is over 8 hours, cutoff time 17 hours. Bernard has done it twice, in little over 11 hours! He has been training his body and mind for a lifetime to beat what is generally accepted to be humanly possible.
Having been there and done that, being an Ironman pales into insignificance compared with your epic trials and tribulations. I'd bet there's far more people in the world like Bernard and me, than there are like you two. Keep it up.
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Old 05-24-2012, 04:12 AM   #251
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It was great meeting you guys, and an absolute pleasure to host you. Enjoy the rest of your trip, I will be following every step.

Bernard.
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Old 05-24-2012, 11:44 AM   #252
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The Swastica, The Ironman, The Metal Jockey and The Magician - Part II

Couchsurfing in East London & Durban 16 - 27/04



We left Avon Heights on a chilly morning, wearing almost everything that we've got. Across the mountain, then through some farmland and rocky trails, the ride to East London took the better part of the day. We reached tarmac again in the afternoon, stopped for another barbecued chicken and veggies lunch, then rolled into Gonubie.



This poor fluffy jackal had been hit by a car, even in this lost land



A puzzle of suburban homes for coloreds and blacks. Something that in South Africa is called 'township'.



Our big hearted main man from Cape Town had been the first to suggest we should meet a certain Metal Jockey. In PE it seem to be unanimously agreed that that was a good idea. So we popped in, our only chance to meet the legend. And the man, not to mention the wife and the kid, were up to the hype. Their ride reports on advrider are a must read. Our encounter was brief, but rich. These people are keeping it real. One day, if I'll have a kid of my own, I hope I'll have the balls to follow MJ's example and strap him or her to my bike and keep on being myself and do what I love best. Cheers guys for the braai and book!

We left late morning and on the way we decided we would push the 675 km to Durban. Lucky that the roads are top notch! We zoomed across the picturesque Transkei countryside, stalled by STOP sighs and roadworks. In the background the Drakensberg and Lesotho lured us to future adventures. The sun followed its prescribed route and as soon as it fell behind the horizon a cold wind gripped. We arrived in the Kloof suburb of Durban metropolitan area late at night, after passing by a familiar industrial sight. It had become a habit to reach our day's target by darkness.



In 1497 Vasco da Gama named this stretch of coast Natal (Nativity), having reached it on Christmas Day. Today Durban is the municipality of KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa's biggest general cargo port and a mecca for holiday makers. We had come here invited by the most unlikely family that had accidentally learned about us. It looked like our couch surfing journey across South Africa would end among compatriots and now citizens of this land. Twenty years ago, Martin and Camelia gambled their life, left a newly freed of communism Romania, and won. Today they are living a comfortably if not wealthy life, which has allowed them to own property in exotic places and even indulge in the fantasy of overland travel. In a couple of days, they would be making the fantasy a 4x4 reality, taking the road from Cape Town to Cairo and Bucharest.
One of the coolest thing is that their son, Andy is a magician. A very young & talented one. To get your mind blown by some of the most new age magic numbers though, you must travel to Durban, before this guy will explode on the international scene.



Andy's sweetheart, the half woman, half fairy Candace, a massage therapist and healer.



We were received with Romanian meatball soup



Pork rind and red onion - another Romanian 'snack'



Romanians must be amongst the few whites who savor African maas or amassi (sour milk). Locals eat it with pap (maize meal similar to our polenta).



Audrey, the maid. She rents a room close to Kloof for 350 rand/month (about 35 euros).



Durban has a lot to offer: bustling city life, mild beaches, great surf, hiking trails in the Kloof Gorge and a heap of pleasant cafes along Florida Road.



















Atmosfera urbana







A funky way to recycle: making lamps out of discarded milk bottles



The new football stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup









The Scientologists couldn't miss to have a share of the pie



South African breweries are world's biggest.



While sorting our shit out and gearing up for the continuation of Into The World we had an attempt to do Sani Pass on a light set up, with just the tent and mattresses strapped to the bike. Even if we took the tarred road to Sani, the ride was great, the green mountains stretching forever.







Epic fail. 50 km before the border I noticed that the back Heidenau had been delaminating and soon a big piece of rubber fell off. We though we would give it a go, but at the border we decided it was too risky to head into Lesotho like that. Figure for yourselves:



So we returned to Durban, kinda pissed, even if the ride down was fantastic.













We would definitely give this place another shot





We were lucky to return to the city: the guys at Bike Gear in PE were fast in sourcing us a free replacement tyre. A quick visit to Gear Up in Umhlanga was all it took. We couldn't find another Heidenau, so, taking into consideration the state of the roads up the East coast, we decided for a Michelin Anakee 2. Hopefully we are not sacrifing our love for off-roading in vain and this tyre will last to Europe.





But a Travellers' life is the road, so off we went. Good bye Martin & Camelia and safe travels along the East coast of Africa!

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Old 05-24-2012, 06:55 PM   #253
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Thumb *****

Scroll up and down and watch the windmill spin. Cool!
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What an outstanding report in every aspect! I love your photography. Awesome!

It's so cool you two met the legendary Metaljockey, since that's the 5 star rating this RR deserves.
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Old 05-25-2012, 07:09 AM   #254
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We Do Lesotho



Landlocked Lesotho (which translates roughly into the land of the people who speak Sesotho) is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above the altitude of 1,000 metres (3,281 ft). Its lowest point of 1,400 metres (4,593 ft) is the world's highest. The kingdom's geological exuberance is possible thanks to massive tectonic events, that left the land disfigured by a jumbled mass of mineral scar tissue, peaking over 3000 meters. The most popular entrance to the kingdom is via an off-road legend, Sani Pass. This was to be our second attempt to tackle it, after having to forfeit with a faulty tyre. This time would be different: fully loaded bike & gear and on a road oriented back tyre, but what the hell!
Tipped by John @ Gear Up Umhlanga, we took a different, more scenic route, via Hella Hella Pass. The brisk morning and the empty bends cheered us up.





The place was just as stunning as we remembered it to be. Rolling mountains, cool springs, rocky steep trail. The wind though was another ball game: it was blowing hard this time, downhill.







The Sani Pass is as beautiful as they say it is, it's not the hype, it' s an addiction. Many succumb to it. As it was the 27th of April, so public holiday in SA, celebrating the first multi-racial democratic elections, the place was swarming with four-wheelers and bikes. Many 1200 GS and enduros, some of the guys visibly enjoying the ride more than me, on light set ups and full taps all the way!







Our beef was with the wind: blowing so hard that several times I was about to drop down on the loose rocks. It was a bit unnerving having the tour operators' 4x4s rumble and come past the bikers (and us) on the steep bends, clearly less affected by the strong winds. About 2 km before Sani we met a biker who was catching up his breath after the descent and kept worrying about his mates who had already taken a couple of tumbles and were lagging somewhere behind.



'I'm going to walk a bit" Ana said, determined to take some shots of me climbing anyways. 'No ways am I going to sit in these tracks and wind through the climb!' 'Try catch a lift from one of these cars if you can' I mumbled, then watched as she wobbled up, step by step, struggling to keep a steady pace against the wind. A couple of minutes later I gunned down the engine and hallway thru the second climb I realized that if I dropped my bike in there, all I could do was scramble up and hope for the best after impact with the hard rock. The inevitable happened a hairpin later: the road just too steep and the downhill winds just too strong not to lose traction. With the help of a driver I lifted up the 400 kg of machine and gear, while Ana hitched a ride up.



The last part of the climb kept me quite busy, those were some of the most intense minutes I have spent on this bike.



At the border we negotiated our entry to the kingdom african style. After that was done, a mandatory drink at the highest (priced) pub in Africa. In the courtyard it looked like a BMW and Yamaha reunion.







The beer effect took a while to wear off, so we took a bit of a tumble. That left a crippling scar on our left pannier. We could barely lock it now. The scenery was stunning though.





We rode by some scattered homes almost indistinguishable from the rocky environment. But already some of the villagers are dropping the traditional and very functional wind-resistant round shape of the house in favor of the more contemporary rectangle layout.









The local economy thrives on sheep and cattle herding, but since recent years has been gradually opening up to tourism. The operations are still small and mainly catering to the South African market. Here and there one can have a glimpse of how an invasion of large eco-tour operators and big hotels (the alpine ski resorts in the east for example) could change this fragile place and disenfranchise the locals, reducing them to street hawkers and parking boys. While scale economies can bring in significant revenues and commercialized tourism promotions can increase visits, the risk that this will reduce Lesotho's culture and lifestyle are high. Money always has its drawbacks. Some may disagree, saying that it's egoistical to keep countries in poverty just so some can enjoy their human safari; but it pays to have diversity, just look at Thailand, its got its posh beach resorts for the rich and lazy as well as the edgy, remote places for the cheap and adventurous. Lesotho is small and beautiful. It’d be nice to try and keep it this way.







People kept creeping up from behind the rocks: blanketed in their thick wooly attire and all sort of hats to protect them from the whipping wind. Some were on foot, wearing the same rubber boots.





6 p.m. and still no camping option in site: too damn cold to pitch our tent and quite a few people walking or riding their donkeys about.



The darkness hindered our progress on the rocky bends, but 6 km down the road we managed to navigate our way to what appeared to be a guest house. It had no electricity, but did offer gas heated water, so we enjoyed the warm candle lit shower and dinner (more SPAR chicken). To conclude a top day we downed a bottle of Fairview's vintage Cabernet Sauvignon, that we have been toting since Cape Town, when we had bought it with plans to drink it with our friends Harry and Laura. We were both mentally and physically spent: me from riding and manhandling the bike after each fall, Ana from walking on rocks in touring boots. We both slept like dead things that night, snugged under multiple wool blankets harvested from the empty beds in our dorm.



More riding excitement was to follow the next day, saving the best for last, as they say! We started fairly early, cooked some porridge and tea, packed our bits while a man came playing his setolo-tolo, and by 8.30 a.m. we were already getting into the swing of things.







First, we had to retrace our ride to the main road.





It was good African tar for a while.





Then we had to negociate 25 km of reasonably smooth flowing gravel, followed by 35 km of sketchy potholed tar filled with a crumbly mix, the hard edges masked by the dust and not easy on my front fork. Then we hit good gravel and finally some decent tar, which made the tight bends enjoyable again. Rolling down the road we chilled out, just taking in the scenery, the day so clear that we could see for miles on end, our Tenere surged forward in the cold air that was being forced through its throttle body.



Long day in the saddle - 10 hours. We spent all day crossing the mountains at between 2500 and 3283 meters. It was a breathtaking road, but it also meant it was freezing cold for 300 km. We wondered how the locals cope with this weather; must be that those blankets do their job quite fine.







The sun light smeared pink the fringes of cloud clusters. We crossed many streams, sparkling waters gushing through rocky gorges, many towering peaks, many rolling hills. In this stunning solitude few huts popped here and there and even fewer unconspicuous locals dared to walk closer. The people are sweet and timid, only a boozed dude barely mentioned 'gifts'.









Anyone that brags about fantastic fuel consumption and good tyre grip on these roads are not enjoying their bike to the fullest. Just look at this! Lesotho offers more than a stunning ride, I would do these bends any day! We stopped in this place to snack on our lunch, and stumbled in other people's lunch! KFC does have a tight grip on the southern sub-continent and one can find their greasy fare even in small villages.





Down at the border to South Africa our last image of this remote and fragile country was a herd of sheep munching on the brittle grasses. A few months from now the food will have payed off and the sheep's wool will be harvested to manufacture the new season's Lesotho-wear.

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Old 05-25-2012, 07:33 AM   #255
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>"a big piece of rubber fell off. We though we would give it a go, but at the border we decided it was too risky to head into Lesotho like that."

Seeing your pics of Lesotho, likely it was a good point for that tire to fail.
Great photos (as always).
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